Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday, Nov 6th

This week, we're working on science to prepare for our trip to the beach. We're reading the following books:

We started by reading a section on oceans in the Encyclopedia of Animals and then read about the different types of worms: segmented, round and flat worms. They think parasitic worms are gross, but segmented and tube worms are pretty cool.

I'm hoping to mow through a three weeks of material this week so that we can have a good understanding of the ecosystem that is the beach. 

Here the kids are drawing giant tube worms that live around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. 

Tube worms near hydrothermal vents at EPR (2004)
Image: Here
These are what we started with and you see what they are drawing. 

These are what we started with and you see what they are drawing. I love their creativity. We needed to accomplish a bit more than we did today, but they'll have Math and Language Arts at Granny's house. 

Photo by: Paul Sutherland, National Geographic

Emma did see these in the image list on Google and thought they were the coolest things (aside from a furry snail) that she'd ever seen. I think that is the origination of her spiral.

On the list for later this week: 
Hopefully, we'll get it all done!
Make good choices ^_^

Monday, November 5, 2012

Treading Water

Some days, you wake up and feel invigorated and you accomplish everything on today's list, tomorrow's list and things you thought you'd have to pay someone else to day, right? Ok, me neither. Some days, you just want to sleep in. Unfortunately, I had a week of that last week. The kids managed to do nothing but language arts and math all week long last week. They did a bit of outside reading and they outlined their next blog post, but otherwise, nada...nil...bupkiss. I need a bit of motivation to get back on track, so I signed up to review products via my blog. Homeschooling stuff and other things I guess. I hope they approve me, I think it would add some spice to our schooling AND would keep me moving forward.

I'm going to say that Mommy just had a bad week last week and we're going to get our act back together right now, tomorrow. I hope so. We're going on vacation next week, so that's going to be less productive. We're doing some science and history while we're down there. We're calling it an educational field trip ^_^

Mark keeps telling me to relax and just keep plugging along, it will all work out fine. I take this schooling thing very seriously though. I'm already trying to figure out how we can use some of Matthew's middle school classes to take CLEP tests (I can't, btw). I know he's right, but I just have so much I want them to know, so many things I want to teach them. I feel like time is running out and I worry if I can get them prepared in time.

Big Picture Time: the most important thing I can teach them is that they are loved and wonderful and smart. All I need to impart is a love of learning and they'll teach themselves more than I ever could pour into their heads. I know this...in my head, maybe on one side of my head. The other side tells me that I'm going to fail them and they're going to only play video games and watch tv forever.

But no, this week will be better. I have it planned out. The kids are going to blog about the great state of Maine and finish up studying it this week. We're going to mail our pen pal's letters now that we've found her new address again (sorry Charlotte, that's my fault, I misplaced your envelope the last time), we're going to plow through science and study the beach and the ocean as habitats, plus we'll throw a bit of history in there.

Plus, we'll have to celebrate my oldest monkey's birthday, so birthday cards will have to be made and lovey birthday poems written. Good times!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

With little power comes crushing responsibility...

Anyone else feel like they're about to pop a vessel this week? No, it's just me? Well, I'm glad it's not everyone, that would be a whole lotta negative energy!

I am feeling like a failure, a poor excuse of: a mom, a teacher, a worker bee, and a human being. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and as much as I'd love to give it all over to God and stop worrying about it, the last time I did that, he didn't edit the order packs the way Paul likes them. So it's back to me then. I don't feel like we're doing as good a job at schooling as I should. We're covering about 1/2 a week in history and science every week...ok, perfectly honest, we're covering 1/2 a week in science ever 2-3 weeks. There just aren't enough hours in the day right now.

We're at critical mass with the point of sale system at the store. It's still running in DOS. Nothing runs DOS anymore and we have killed another computer this week. I don't know what we're going to do to replace it at the moment. I think it's time to have a serious discord on replacing the whole system. The thought of that makes my stomach turn over...twice.

Then there are these kids. All they do is bicker and fight. They won't split up and they won't get along. I'm not sure what to do, their attitudes are terrible. Course, it all flows from the fount, doesn't it? My attitude could certainly use improvement, Mark's too.

Maybe we just need a vacation.....beach, sand, no phone, a good book, maybe that would fix it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of Home School, August 27, 2012

Welcome to Homeschooling, Year 2. Please remain seated at all times and keep your arms, legs and books inside the car at all times...ok, I guess we don't have to remain seated.

This year, I wanted to make their first day more memorable. We had made a personalized backpack for everyone in the family. It has the store logo and their name printed on the front. These were a little surprise for the monkeys who didn't get to see them until this morning. I also bought a few new supplies for each of them,  a cool journal, some little medals to color that said "Super Star" and I had their laptops set out just so they remembered that those were new this year as well.

All in all, the morning went well. We eased into school a bit, just Language Arts and a tiny bit of Math.  Mom slept about an hour total last night, so I woke us up at 8am instead of 7am (caffeine is both the bane and the basis of my existence). Tomorrow, we'll get up a little earlier and hit that grindstone a little more roughly. I'll have that crazy math DVD figured out and we'll do a little welcome to a new year writing as well.

Here are some photos:
Here's what the table looked like when they came
downstairs this morning.

Here they paw through their stuff, checking it out. Neither of them are
"morning people", so their excitement level was understated to say the least.

Emma did get enthused when she saw that they
each had their own set of highlighters in a little case.
She likes little more than to spend hours wasting the ink
of every highlighter in a 100 foot radius of herself

I found these little signs last week and was as pleased as the kids when I saw how well they turned out.

My handsome Sixth Grader, Matthew

My third grade fashion plate, Emma

This is the face they make when Mom
makes them put their arm around one
Lily was LESS than enthusiastic about
having school in the morning. She just
wished we would all be quiet and go
back to bed.

Humphrey celebrated by throwing up a bear that he
had eaten. It was wearing a bunny suit. On a slightly
different note, NO ONE in the house recognized the bear.
If YOU or a family member are missing a bear...let us know.

Really, throwing it up, although unpleasant, really was the
better alternative ^_^
I meant to have a family prayer this morning that our homeschooling would go well this year and that God would bless our efforts, but we were caught up in figuring out how their LA program worked on the computer and didn't remember.

~make good choices

What are we using? Curriculum for 2012-2013 school year

Today was our first day of the second year of our homeschooling journey. We began with a light day, just introducing part of our new curriculum and familiarizing ourselves with our new tools. We changed  things up this year. Here is the rundown of tools we're using for the school year.


The only thing that stayed the same is our science curriculum. We will finish Animals & Their Worlds this year. We definitely enjoyed going through it last year and did not finish the materials. We will start it in about 2-3 weeks. The kids study each major type of ecosystem for 5-8 weeks. It covers biology, zoology, writing, and many other topics. They've enjoyed the areas they've covered so far and I know they're excited to finish what we've started.


We're adding in history with Winter Promise's All American 1. Both kids will go through this together each day however Matthew's writing requirements will be more stringent than Emma's.  The kids are very excited about journeying through American History this year.

This program is filled with great reading and projects. We will also start Timelining with each of the kids. Part of the reason public schools don't teach linear history in elementary grades anymore is that children that age don't grasp how one thing happens after another and because of another in time and space. Using timelines and maps, they get a three dimensional representation of history so that they can order their thoughts. It turns into a huge learning scrapbook of everything they've studies. I'm very excited to start pasting in dates and historical figures. I think tonight, we may paste in baby pictures of everyone ^_^

I had hoped to do an extended election unit along side the Presidential Election this fall, but I don't think it will fit into what we're studying at the time. By October, we should be at the end of the Explorer's Unit and heading into the Colonial Unit. Fitting government in as well would just be too much. I do plan on adding in some extra reading when we can. Now if I can figure out how to work that goofy book widget thing that goes along the side of my blog...


Although we loved Singapore Math last year, it only goes as far as 8th grade. I didn't relish switching Matthew at the end of middle school so we switched this year. We also needed something that if the kids were doing math with the grandmas, they could have a back up plan. Enter Math-U-See.

Things that drew us to MUS were numerous. First, it is based on a mastery approach to math. You don't flit from topic to topic (as spiral programs do). You start a topic, learn the ins and outs, try out the variations and finally master that topic. Then and only then do you move to the next topic. It also has DVD lessons. Although Mark & I feel confident in our math skills until we get up to calculus and beyond, our moms do not. Since last year, our moms were helping the kids go through the lessons after I set them up, we thought having a dvd lesson to watch and reinforce the day's lessons would be easier on the them. Finally, their presentations at the convention just blew Mark's mind. The way they explain math, using the manipulatives really removes confusion and makes math more concrete. With the kids, having the hands on portion holds their attention on task more than just a page full of problems ever could. We looked at many other programs (including Life of Fred, Teaching Textbooks, and Saxon Math) but preferred MUS over each of the others.

Emma is starting the year with Gamma it will reinforce her multiplication and division skills that she started building last year and expand her into doing multiple digit multiplication and division.

Matthew is beginning with Epsilon. It will cover fractions and factoring. Although we covered fractions in depth, we hope that the new approach and angle used in MUS will clarify the parts that he found confusing and give him a solid foundation to move forward into decimals and pre-algebra.

We are all a bit nervous because the first 2 videos on the dvd are 2 hours and 2 hours & 45 minutes long. Hopefully, those are not the norm because I am certain that none of us will sit through that much math each week.

Language Arts

Here's where we really changed things up. This year, we went with Switched on Schoolhouse for LA. Mark really loved the idea of using the computer and a completely on-line school for both kids. I hesitate that they need quite that much screen time. I worry about absorption of information and retention of information. However, as we both work full-time (40-50 hours per week) outside the home, at some point, I need some help getting everything done. Grading was a real problem last school year as was maintaing a grade book. The compromise we reached was this, we will try the LA section of SOS and see how it goes. If I feel like they learned and retained enough material, maybe next year we'll expand the subjects we teach with it.

I've discovered there is a huge learning curve to the software. I'm sure that we'll get it figured out but at the moment, I've managed to assign a couple of things and set up the school calendar, sort of. The kids did very well at working their way through the tutorial this morning and figuring out the various tools they have at their disposal through the software.


We went with Horizons Penmanship Book 3 and Book 5 for the kids. I was so mad at myself when I opened these last week and realized I had bought the wrong books. My intention was to get pick up Book 2 as that is where cursive is "taught" from beginning to end. Emma is just beginning in cursive and Matthew has no confidence in his ability with cursive so starting over seemed like a good idea. I know what distracted me. I started looking through the 6th grade book and talking to one of the ladies in the AOP booth. She told me if I was doing American History, I should use the Book 5 for Matthew rather than Book 6. Book 5 is a lot of American History speeches, documents and information. Then I just grabbed Third grade with out thinking.


I have a fantastic book I found that is an art curriculum called Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. I plan on this being daddy's contribution as he has his BFA in Fine Arts Graphic Design. Sounds about right, huh? We also have tons of projects and hands on pages in our history program (750 + pages in one part and 300+ pages in the State Study sections). We also supplemented with some great classes ran by a family friend over the summer, the kids loved them.

All American 1 also includes 3 great American artists studies. These are fairly in depth and take artists who painted scenes of great battles or historical figures. What I've read so far has been very exciting. Can't wait til the kids start trying to recreate George Washington Crossing the Delaware or some of the other amazing paintings.

Health & Nutrition, Physical Education

I am slowly putting together my own Health, Nutrition and Kitchen Home Ec program with a variety of resources I've found on-line. I want to teach my kids the reasoning behind choosing good foods over junk foods. I'll eventually do a separate post where I organize the sites, blogs and worksheets I've found  on the subjects.

Physical Education will be bolstered by playing Upward Bound Basketball this fall/winter. The kids also want to take karate and gymnastic lessons. Sounds pretty busy, but can't wait to see which activities the kids like best.


Our history program (AA1) has included as part of it a fantastic resource for Bible study. It is called Christian Character Traits for Kids. We will cover things like:

  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Leadership
  • Insight
  • Sacrifice
  • Loyalty
  • Diligence
  • Compassion
  • Commitment
These character traits are paired with stories from great American historical figures and their stories. We learn about George Washington while studying leadership and Bible verses that support the qualities a leader displays. It includes writing prompts that encourage a depth of thinking and study that I hope will prompt the kids to look inside themselves and contemplate their own decisions from a more thoughtful place. I am excited to start sharing this with them.

Seeing it all in black and white makes me wonder how it will all fit in to our week. All we can do is our best, I suppose. 

I know I'm forgetting something. I guess I can always edit the post at a later date.

~make good choices

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Things I've done instead of getting the kids' curriculum figured out...

So, tomorrow's supposed to be the first day of school. I have most everything I'm supposed to and we have a schedule or the beginnings of one. All that's left to do is figure out how to create assignments in SOS (Switched on Schoolhouse) for LA (language arts) and make sure I understand how Math-U-See works. That was the goal this weekend...the ONLY goals this weekend. How many of those goals have I accomplished? ZERO  zero. 
Let's list what I've done instead:

  • Cleaned out the fridge
  • taken out the trash x4
  • planned meals for the week
  • organized the kids' dvd collection and matched up discs with their boxes
  • dusted the shelves on which the dvd's reside
  • straightened the bookshelves to move baskets around in the computer room
  • played a game with the kids & some friends
  • laundry, even folding half of it!
  • recycled a bunch of stuff
  • organized part of the school shelves
  • watched a grown up movie with my hubby
  • gave the puppies some time (too much)
  • decided to start collecting bottle lids to make stamps out of
  • checked facebook 97 times
  • set up a YouTube for Schools page
  • searched out numerous extra materials to add in to what we're studying
  • made Heather macaroni & cheese
  • made a grocery list
  • promised to cook dinner for tonight
  • promised to cook breakfast for the kids this week
  • promised to cook lunch for the week
  • oh, and of course, written this blog.
I keep thinking that I should KEEP putting it off, look at how productive I've been!

Guess I should quit and get to work on figuring this out before the old man gets back with fixings for dinner! 

~Make good choices ^_^

Friday, August 24, 2012

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times

Well, this summer has been a madcap ride blurring by us in a flash. I had great plans and schemes in mind, a great many things to take care of before we started school back up. Those things never happened and now it's AUGUST! Three days past when I WANTED to start school. I know what you're going to say...it's ok, there's plenty of time, you homeschool, start whenever you want. I'm not really built that way.

Realistically, both kids have a terrible cold and I wasn't feeling 100% myself, if we had started Monday, it would have been a horrible first day. Therefore, this Monday has been declared a school day.

Yesterday, I cracked open All American 1 from Winter Promise (at least what I have so far) and started sorting. First putting the Instructor's Guide together with some numbered dividers, then sorting the 1500 pages of projects that come with it (enough for two kids together).

Today, after fighting valiantly with the printer, I gave in and just used the USB cord to print the 150 pages for our state study and the beginnings of our character study. I think I'm just going to let the kids read those digitally on their laptops though, that's a lot of ink.

I looked through Horizons Penmanship and cursed myself loudly for buying two different levels. The intention was to start them both at the beginning with cursive. By buying 3rd & 5th, neither book has the how to for cursive. Guess I'll see if the Parent Teacher Store carries those :-/

The big to-do list now is to get Math-U-See figured out before Monday. I also have to learn how to create assignments in Switched on Schoolhouse. That's totally doable, right?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Instant Gratification...not included

So after months of waffling and studying, we ordered our history curriculum two weeks ago. Dozens of wonderful books, hundreds of pages of  educational resources and activities just waiting for us to explore, all shipping to us from the great state of Michigan! Shipping via a caravan of three-toed sloths who have narcolepsy. I LOVE Winter Promise Publishing and the materials they put together...I hate the wait for them to get us our stuff. I know, I know, I should have placed the order in March or April. I can't expect them to get everything here overnight, BUT I WANT MY STUFF NOW!

They offer eBooks this year and those are kind of awesome. The next day I got links to download 10 of my resources/books immediately. I can read about all the cool stuff I'll eventually be getting, start some of the planning process, and even read several of the books ahead of time. I didn't get the "spine" or "spines" of our program though and that makes it tough to move forward too much. I'm so bad at "hurry up & wait", I want everything right now!

Friday, I received the giant packets of projects that the kids will get to do this year. 500 + pages of notebooking, cardboard construction, and who knows what else x2 so each kid has their own. I was disappointed that they were the only contents of the box.

Today, I just opened box #2 (while typing this blog, BTW) and was very excited to see our timelines, a selection of books, our printed Instructor's Guide. That's more like it! Still no spines, but the promise of them helps. Now I can plan for what size binders we need for our timelines and the IG. I know that we need some cardstock for things the kids print and want to add to their timelines. I have the reassurance that perhaps, we can start history by September 1st, which is when I hoped we would be able to start.

I always like to ease the kids into school. We start with math and language arts first. After a week or two, we add in the other subjects: science, history, health, and geography. This year we're going to start basic keyboarding with some typing games too. I'm still looking for some organized resources to add MS Office basics in to our mix. Matthew has a basic idea of how it works, but Emma hasn't had too much. The kids want to start a foreign language and I agree that it's important, I just don't see us having time to fit that in unfortunately.

To add insult to injury, we bought a new van...sort of. It also is being delivered by a pack of narcoleptic sloths. They can't tell us exactly when it will show up or when we can have it. I guess God thinks I need to work on my patience...I'm sure he's right.

~make good choices.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Last Sun-Filled, Hazy Days of Summer

Today we celebrated the end of Emma's softball season with a soirée at Silverlake's outdoor water park. All in all it was a pretty great season and a great party. We haven't been to Silverlake in a couple of years and I think we enjoyed the water park more today than we did the entire time we were members.

Tomorrow is another crazy day, we're headed to a Cincinnati Reds' game. They planned a Peanut Sensitive Day for tomorrow. Of course, even with the extra precautions, Matthew & I are a nervous wreck. They're playing the Pirates and today's game was contentious, hopefully it will be action packed enough to keep our minds occupied.

On other fronts, we finally ordered our other curriculum. Mark & I never really agreed, but he admits that I'm doing most of the work and I should be happy with what I'm using. Now begins the long wait until it starts trickling in. This year is a little different as I got several ebooks already and the Instructors' Guide (thank God for those innovations). I can start laying out weeks and fitting together how it's all going to work in the next couple weeks when we start school...couple weeks?!?!? Guh. Still have to send my letter of intent :( meant to get that out last week. Much to do, sleep must come though...here's hoping it rains tonight & not during the Reds's game!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Welcome to the Lazy Days of Summer...almost

Originally posted May 2012
So, summer break began for the public school kids this week, the kids thought they were done...not so true. I explained to them that when they finish their books, we'll say second & fifth grade is over. I worry that may take until November. They have found a little motivation with those words though. "When I finish this book, I'm done, right mom?" Matthew then proceeded to do an extra lesson as did Emma. As we are reading through Joann Calderwood's book on self-teaching for next year, it does give me some hope that it will work.
Meanwhile, Lily & Humphrey think summer is pretty awesome.

Little Miss Sunshine...well, not quite

Originally posted 6/5/12
Funny little bit of insight into my youngest's psyche...
Arby's has new toys in their kid's meals from the Mr. Men Show (apparently). This has led to my children wanting to eat there more than usual. It took me two weeks or more to notice that it was all about the toys. Inside each small plastic bag is the character and a checklist.
A couple of Friday's ago, both kids were staying with Mark at the store to play D&D. They were very excited. I, who had been at the store for 9 hours, was less than enthusiastic. I wanted to leave, but I felt guilty at leaving Mark & the 'rents with both kids at work for another hour while I ran off free as a bee. To mitigate this guilt, I decided to take them for a quick dinner and bring them back closer to closing time. Where, you might ask? Arby's. As we ate, the kids enthusiastically played with their goofy looking little smiley-faced toys. They ate very well though, so I didn't think about it too much. I noticed as we were leaving, both kids grabbed their little advertisement/checklist off the tray.
Once we were back to the store, Matthew grabbed a pen and started writing on his checklist. Emma copied her brother and soon they were engrossed in assigning names to the character on the sheet. They finish their character assignations and excitedly exchange their lists. The conversation goes something like this:
"Aw Emma, thanks for making me both Mr. Strong & Mr. Happy! That's really nice of you." ~Matthew
"Matthew, you made me Little Miss Chatterbox? I don't like Little Miss Chatterbox! I don't chatter. I don't like her. You know my favorite is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE! Did you make me both like I did you? Why would you make me Little Miss Chatterbox? I don't like being called a chatterbox!"
"No, I thought I wo...."~Matthew
"What's going on here, Emma? Why are you hitting your brother in the gut?" ~Me
"We were telling who we thought each of the characters were like and he put me as (**POONK**) LITTLE MISS CHATTERBOX (**POONK**) INSTEAD OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (**POONK**). HE KNOWS LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE IS MY FAVORITE (**POONK**)!!!" (weeping ensues).
"Oh my gosh, Mom! She won't stop hitting me!" ~Matthew.
"Well Matthew, I think you need to admit that your sister is more of a Little Miss Sunshine, than a Little Miss Chatterbox. (quietly, under my breathe)~Before she pummels you into dirt." ~Mom
"Emma, maybe your brother would think you were a little more sunshine-y if you weren't punching him in the gut so much all the time?" ~Mom
"He knows I'm SUNSHINE-Y (**POONK**) ~Emma
"Emma, no more punching!" ~Mom
"Emma, you can be Little Miss Sunshine, I'm sorry I put Payton there where you should be. Can you please quit hitting me now? (**OW**) Stop it!" ~Matthew
Yes, eventually, I addressed the hitting is wrong aspect of this scene. Yes, she had consequences for punching her brother, but first, I had to go in the back room and laugh til I cried at the irony of this:
Here's the little slip out of the toy:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homeschool Conventions and Contentions

Originally posted 4/25/11

So, we attended our second ever Great Homeschool Convention-Midwest last week. It is always overwhelming. There are so many great ideas & curriculum materials, all of a sudden you're thinking about buying something that 10 minutes earlier you didn't even know you wanted to teach! Violin, Chinese, Music Theory, Latin, dozens of others all sit in their respective booths screaming, "I thought you were going to do this right, this whole teaching your kids thing, but here you are and you don't even have a circuitry and electric work curriculum!" Wait a second, my second grader is a little young to be wiring real breakers, maybe next year.

We knew about the overstimulation this year though. We went with a list of goals (ie things we needed for next year) and tasks (things we were researching). Out of that 12 item list, we were able to cross one thing off, ONE. C'est la vie. It was a biggie. We bought Math-U-See's math curriculum. Math-U-See. It's pretty cool, all hands on and brain-using. Hopefully, it'll give the kid's some better tools for learning going forward. We were using Singapore Math. I do really like it but it only goes through sixth grade and Matthew needed a little more guidance through the concepts. I'm hoping the dvd's that come with the program provide that.

Contentions came in at the history section of our list. I love WinterPromise. We've been using their "Animals & their Worlds" curriculum for science this year. I am planning on using their "All American 1" curriculum next year. Shown here:

 My fabulous husband loves this one:

I am trying to be a good Christian woman, an obedient wife...but I'm not pulling it off very well. His is cheaper, mine is better. Oops, that's not what I should say. I'm so torn, POE looks good, but not great. AA1 looks great but WP is slow to ship and it'll drive me crazy til I get it.

In the Weeds

Originally posted 2/7/12

Welcome to February, we're behind and I'm frantic. I'm disenchanted with parts of our curriculum, can't afford new curriculum and have too much invested time-wise to start over anyway. To top it all off, I think I have iPad neck, you know, where you sit in a bad position too long staring down at a screen?

We have a Valentine's Day party Sunday. The house is a disaster, like some kind of 1970's B-list actor studded burning building disaster. Like the Mayans quit counting because they saw my house in their nightmares. Like...well, you get the point. So much for making a good impression on the homeschooling crowd :-/ There's only a few people coming anyway. I just wish we could get the whole place vacuumed, mopped & the dogs washed first. Oh, and laundry...16 baskets currently take up my living room. Course, Emma is starting multiplication this week. So I'm going to have to teach her extra and Matthew is having issues which I need to figure out if it's laziness or he's lost.

I'm in the weeds at work, too. Why does it all hit at once? I wish I could call my aunt to come clean. Man do I miss her. That would eliminate me working 6 hours after work every night.

Guess I should sleep...goodnight.

"Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story..."

~Quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald

Originally posted 8/19/11

I feel poised on the edge of a precipice. We sent our official letter to the school district last week, our "official" letter. My head keeps screaming, "There's no turning back! THERE'S NO TURNING BACK!" For the most part, my heart says, "You're doing the right thing." I know that I need to quit looking for confirmation in our decision and realize that I make my own path. I still get a catch in my chest from it though.  I feel poised on the edge of greatness as well. If this works and it goes well, my two littles will have an incredible variety in their education, they will have limitless possibilities for expanding their intelligence and an education that is hand-crafted for them with their interests and learning styles solely in mind. The edge of a precipice, indeed.

I do worry though, it's what I do; who I am. I realized while looking through some grammar lessons that I don't believe I've ever heard of a gerund before...how can I POSSIBLY teach grammar and not know what a gerund is???? (it refers to the usage of a verb (in its -ing form) as a noun).  The non-lizard part of my brain acknowledges that I quickly figured out what a gerund was and how it fits into the lesson at hand. Additionally, it's part of a seventh grade lesson (which I'm currently teaching fifth and second grades).

We have taken a slight respite from our weekly schedule after having made the decision for sure. We wanted to allow the kids that last fluttering days of summer to play with friends, ride their bikes, and drag their grandmother to the creek.  Matthew needed a little more deschooling to bleed off some of the massive anxiety that he has built up around all things school. We got a postcard from his teacher yesterday, introducing herself and welcoming him to her room. I felt guilty, as though I could have gotten my letter in sooner and they wouldn't have held out a spot for my kids. I know that I couldn't have, but I still felt bad.  I may email her a note though so she doesn't give him a desk and put him on the cubbies, etc. The Homeschool groups tell you  that you shouldn't, but it just seems like a courtesy from here.

Time for work...or lunch anyway, more crazy later ^_^

Somedays, you need some umph!

Originally posted 7/25/11

I feel like we were making great strides, only to grind to a halt. I know my husband would say I'm exaggerating and in return I would argue, "You're right, we weren't really making great strides."

We made it through 2 weeks worth of lesson plans in 3-ish weeks. Since we're starting slowly and easing into it, I felt like that was acceptible. Then, we just made no progress last week. A tiny bit of independent reading that was more like dental surgery than happy homeschooling.

I feel like I'm floundering a bit. I'm second-guessing myself again and questioning whether this is all a good idea. Maybe I'm just dreading sending the letter and making it official. Then, in the same thought, I'm cursing myself for not pulling them all out when heather was a sophomore. Matthew would never have built up all this anxiety and Emma wouldn't have had to go to school. WHY do I think this will work again?

Then my parents, who earlier in the summer made it clear that they needed to cut back to one day a week, just had a breakdown on the phone because I was making sure they knew we were keeping them at the store tomorrow.

Idk, some days it's just too hard.

Welcome to Homeschool!

Originally posted 6/23/11

My Facebook today summed it up nicely:

"Welcome to homeschool...
Rule #1: There's no crying in homeschool.
Rule #2: There's no fighting in homescool.
Rule #3: There's no whining in homeschool.
Rule #4: There's no yelling in homeschool.
Now that we've broken all the rules, maybe we could open some books."

It actually went very smoothly (I'm sure it never will again). I kept putting things off until everything was perfect and the lesson plans were combined and on and on and realistically, it will never be perfect. So my parents bailed on watching the kids today & instead of calling my MIL, we took them and two huge bags of books to work and we just started.

Was it perfect? No. We had left Ereth's Birthday at my parent's house Monday night and I pulled the wrong independent reader for Matthew, but by golly, most everything else got done.

The kids did their reading together (mostly Matthew who's 10 did the read alouds). We discussed the readings, did our lesson in World of Animals and then did Spelling and LA. After a break to watch a movie, they came back individually and finished up LA and did their first lessons in Singapore Math. Emma (7) even did tomorrow's math because she enjoyed it.

We didn't make it to the Habitat book, but Tuesday's my busy day at work and I had to focus at the end of the day when UPS showed up 3 hours late with my big shipment for the week.

I let the kids mark off their assignments as they finished them in my book and that made them so excited. Next week, I'm gonna try that with the chore chart.

Here's hoping that we manage to fit in more lessons this week and that the kids are as agreeable when the grandparents are at work too.

While we were finishing up at work, my 7 yr old shot a podcast about homeschooling with special effects. She was playing with the built in camera on my Mac & just started doing this PSA about how great homeschool was. Once I figure out how, I'll post it. It was funny and sweet. She also interviewed her brother, but that devolved into chaos.

The Hungry Ipad

Originally posted 6/15/11

Apparently, my iPad has been eating the posts I do at night. I've posted at least 1-2 times per week since May and I have 3 posts showing from the last two months. Not pleased, not pleased at all. Perhaps the app is not that cool.

We have missed the first deadline for starting school. Partly,  I felt like the monkeys needed another week to deschool and partly, I want to compile the LA, Math, and AW curriculums into a single page per week.  I don't know HOW I'm going to do that or with what program I'm going to do that, so at the moment, I'm not doing such a good job as a teacher :-/ I also have to make copies of some of the materials, get everything out on the table and sort it out, and label everything.

Anyway, probably tonight, we're going to start reading our first book from AW which is Ereth's Birthday. We may do a little Math since I figured out how the Singapore outline works today at lunch. {{{Groan, shouldn't have mentioned lunch}}}.

Humpfrey is feeling under the weather. Has a goopy ear that's got a fever in it. We may have to take him to the vet soon. They both need to get to the vet. Not sure how to get them there with work, games, practice and schooling, teleportation possibly.

Plus, I need to schedule a date for a board game day at work, guess I need to grab a calendar and get that under way.

There's my to do list, any volunteers for helping??? Beuler? Beuler?

Baby Steps...Man, I Hate 'Em!

Originally Posted 6/9/11

So, with our deadline looming, we've made some decisions. Although the kids wanted to each do a separate curriculum, we are officially doing one at a time. We may break each up into 5-8 week blocks & study one, then the other, but I'm not going to blend two full year curricula and do it in a year. Between the language arts, the math, and the "everything else", I dont think anyone would enjoy that blend. 

So now I have a goal, a small possibly attainable goal...get the first 7 weeks ready (that's the length of the first section of Animals & their Worlds. My brain is so rusty, atrophied, I feel like I'm thinking through mud. I think I'm going to cut out sweetener soon, that should be fun.

Speaking of which, gotta find a nutrition curriculum for grade school...

One More Day...

Originally posted 5/27/11 on Wordpress

One more day...one more day of school and I'm petrified. IS this the kids LAST day of school ever? Are we really going to do this homeschooling thing? Will we succeed? Fail? Wimp out? Will we return to Stephens next August having the most stressful and tumultuous summer on record. Return with our tails between our legs and our eyes on the ground?

Matthew told everyone today at school. Made a huge deal of it. I wasn't going to in case it didn't work out. Then only a few people would know of our failure...

I'm so torn, I LOVED school. Can't imagine missing the things that happened at school. At the same time, did I? I loved my close friends, I got into fights, was bullied and mocked and left with a broken heart crying on the phone. I was pushed by my peers to grow up too fast. What if I could have been a kid? Relaxed and learned to like myself? 

What if I had gotten that positive feedback at home instead of by being the teacher's pet? I know I would have finished school early if given the chance. I loved learning.

Do I have enough positiveness in me to nurture the kids while teaching them? Can I keep them from killing each other while we're doing school?

My ulcer is NOT liking this homeschooling thing, he's definitely against it. Course, we had another bullying incident today. Bully brought axe body spray to school & sprayed Matthew. Set off his allergies & then joked that it had peanuts in it. Wow, thats funny. Wonder if I'll get a call from the nurse tomorrow too.

On the upside, he's apparently getting an award for the honor roll tomorrow for the first time, he'll be very excited about that for sure. His own medal.

This weekend...organization, cleaning & blending the curriculums. Huzzah!


Originally posted 5/11/11 on Wordpress

Small victory, middle of the road defeat. Tuesday, we did receive a small box of books...not a large box like we were hoping, but something anyway. It had the Animals & their worlds lesson plan which was number one on my list of needs so that I can get to work laying out our year. Significantly missing was the books for the first section of work. Disappointing. They will get it fixed asap, which I'm sure will not be as fast as I'd like for sure.

Anyway, I find myself oscillating more than a Georgia fan on a stand about whether we CAN get this done. My head understands that it's going to work out, but my heart is full worry and doubts. Maybe it's the reverse, head heart...IDK, some days it seems insurmountable. Other days, it seems like its going to be easier than sending them to school. 12 more days...12 more days! The kids, the grandparents, us, even the dogs are looking forward to an end to this interminable year. Testing is finally over. Course, they did four tests today to get it finished. FOUR, THAT wont eff up the results or anything, I'm sure.

Today, I think we can do it. Two curriculums at once, I can't swear to, but we're going to give it the old college try. I decided for handwriting, they're going to write to their godparents & other assundry uncles, aunts & such. Letter writing is a wonderful hobby and who better to spend time on than uncle mark, aunt Jackie & the rest of the people they love. I can even make pretty stationary with decorated computer paper & printed primary paper templates. Good times :) if I add pictures at the bottom, they'll have a little keepsake of the kids too. I'm pretty excited about this idea for handwriting. Copy work seems painfully dull, even if it's great speeches or poetry. They may still do a little of that though.

Next stop, trying to decide between Farsi & Mandarin Chinese for a language program. I would like to learn Farsi, then get hired by the government pulling down big money to sit and translate all day. That would be good work...you think? Guess the kids want to start with sign language, we can do that too...
Now if I can just go without sleep, I'd get twice as much done.


Hurry up and WAIT!

Originally posted  5/2/11

So, we are at the hurry up and wait stage of our homeschooling adventure. We have one curriculum in and ready to start and are waiting on the other. Adventures in Sea & Sky is sitting on a shelf and ready to be figured out. We also have the fifth grade LA stuff waiting to organize. Both the second and fifth grade math curriculi are lined up on my "school shelf." we are still waiting on the Animals & their Worlds stuff. The web-site said it would ship by tomorrow, but the truth is, I was really hoping it would get here early. Like now!

My work should have already began, but I've been dragging my feet a little. We must organize the house. We must clear out some stuff and make room for our schooling area. The key to our success will be keeping it all together.

On top of organizing, I need to pull together a master list to combine fifth grade and second into a master lesson plan, week by week & day by day. I have been reading the Kentucky Scope & Sequence in my free time. I'm trying to devise a checklist, for lack of a better word, to make sure I cover everything the public school would cover. I don't want to do them harm by homeschooling.

Guess I need to get back downstairs and give my rotten dogs some scratching, they've been neglected this weekend. Everyone is excited to start, even the kids who realize they'll be doing school in the summer. 

My Lightly-Taken Decision

Originally posted 4/21/11

I have to say, I've been questioning lately the impression I leave on my friends and acquaintences. Apparently, many people believe me to be shallow and think that I take critical decisions very lightly. Mark & I have decided that we want to be in charge of our children's education. The last couple of years, I thought by being more involved at school volunteering/joining and being active in the PTA/being in the kid's classrooms that I would know more about what was going on and how to help my kids deal with their stresses. However, being more involved has shown me that I don't want my kids dealing with these stresses. There is a fundamental problem in the education system today, many fundamental problems. No, I don't have my degree in education, but I do believe I know my children very well. I know their strengths and weaknesses and I believe that I am capable and qualified to teach them. I'm already teaching them. I spend an average of 22 hours per week either in their classrooms or at home helping them with homework/projects/etc. Plus, there must have been 10 field trips this year. 16 hours per week. If I add 8 more hours in, that is the amount I agree to instruct my children if I pull them out of school and home educate them.

30 hours. Let's examine this. At school, part of their day includes lunch...ok, 30 minutes per day for lunch, got it (2.5 hours). They inevitably listen to an audiobook (1.5 hours). Often (2-3 times per week) they watch an educational dvd (2 hours). They read silently at their desks (20 minutes per day at least) (1.5 hours). They have recess (20 min/5 days per week) (1.5 hours). That's 9 more hours for a total of 25.

Mark & I work full-time (40-50 hours each per week). We do work at the family business though, so we can take the kids to work with us and keep them close to us. We see our kids currently after work (I get home around 6:30, he gets home around 7:45). All together, including busy morning time and after work time, we get to see our kids for 1 hour in the morning and 3 hours at night for me and an hour and 45 minutes at night for Mark. I guess we're weird, but I WANT to see my kids. I WANT the majority of their time to be spent with me and their father and their siblings. I MISS them when they're at school. They're at school for 7 hours, they're with a babysitter another 2-3 hours, 9-10 hours a day, 5 days a week that I don't get to see them, but other people do.

Friends of ours, people I thought knew me pretty well, act as though I'm
a.) An idiot who has no idea what it takes to teach a child
b.) Trying homeschooling as though I'm switching sandals
c.) Not even considering what's best for my children

If you've been paying attention, I've been researching this every waking non-working moment for 3 months. I've read the entirety of the Kentucky Core Content for the kids' current grades and the next two grades for each of them as well. I've read Virginia's core content/scope and sequence/curriculum documents and Iowa's. I've looked at no less than 300 different boxed homeschool curricula and compared them one to another. I've read reviews of each of them, discussed them on yahoo groups/company forums/other homeschooling parents. I've had several meetings and discussions with people who have homeschooled successfully. By successful, I mean parents who homeschooled "normal" acting children who were well-spoken and pleasant kids who eventually went to college. I've discussed homeschooling with those same college going kids (do you feel like you missed out on things? Were you deficient in anything heading into college? etc). On top of that, I've read or digested no less than 30 homeschooling how to books. I would have read more, but I maxed out my fines at the library, so I'm cut off at the moment.

Does that sound as though I'm taking this lightly?

I am very aware that I DON'T have a degree in education. I also know kids who are homeschooled who have no social skills. MY kids are NOT like those kids. They are extremely social. We're playing baseball, softball, soccer and we're going to start art lessons/gymnastics/karate in the fall when those other commitments slow down.
No, dad, we are not going to let him lay on the couch playing video games 8 hours per day.

Being able to keep the kids on a schedule that matches our work schedule will give us more time with them. Not having to put them to bed as soon as I get home at night, will give us more time with them. I want to be with my kids more. I want to show them what the family business is like and share that with them. I want them to have my values and Mark's values not their friends' values. I want to teach them about God and the Bible as part of their schooling without paying $10,000 a year in private school tuition. I want to teach them how to LOVE LEARNING instead of watching them from the sidelines learn to HATE TESTING.

Will it work? Time will tell. Being irresponsible idiots, we've decided to start as soon as the kids get out of school. We're going to try it throughout the summer, if it doesn't work, we'll just send the kids back in the fall. If it does work, then we send the letter to the superintendent and we don't look back.

If you are one of our friends and you think we're crazy, keep it to yourself. If you have concerns and you feel like you really have to share them with us, do it in a manner that doesn't scream "YOU'RE GOING TO FAIL MISERABLY AND I CAN'T WAIT SO THAT I CAN SAY "I TOLD YOU SO"." I don't mind hearing your reservations, it helps my resolve to talk through them, but when I think you're my friend (maybe even one of my best friends) and you intimate that I'm going to fail AND damage my children, that's crossing some lines.

I have thought about the consequences.
I have considered how difficult and time consuming it's going to be.
I do understand how frustrating my children can be.
I have thoroughly and completely investigated other options.
I do plan on socializing my children.
I know that it is a second full-time job (guess what, kids are always a second full-time job, I'm just choosing now to remove the middle men).
I am prepared for the possibility of failure BUT I am also prepared for the possibility of success.
Yes, homeschooled kids CAN and DO get accepted to college and I'm aware of WHAT I need to do to make sure they're prepared for that.
I am committed to this path. It's a shame I don't have more support from the people with which I'm closest.

Filled with crazy and stuffing more in

Originally posted 3/14/2011 on my Wordpress blog.

I started this blog probably two years ago and never successfully completed a single post. Now, as my life is even more hectic, I've decided to revisit blogging as a method of organizing my thoughts and the links I find useful. Our newest endeavor is homeschooling our two youngest kids. After a stressful school year and much discussion, we've decided as a family that we want to be in charge of our own kids' education. Little Missy is less than keen as she loves school and everything about it but Little Mister is really warming up to the idea. Hubby and I have discussed this for some time and we just feel like the time is right and we want to spend more time with our kids than random strangers do.

That being said, we both work a minimum of 40-45 hours per week. How can we take on this additional full-time job with all that we already do? Well, that is what we keep asking ourselves over and over and over and over... We really feel strongly that it is the right decision for our family however and we are at this point about 90% sure that come June, we'll be "THOSE" people. 

Despite what some of our friends think, we are taking this very seriously and we do realize how much of a responsibility this is. I also realize that I currently get to spend maybe 4 hours a day with my kids. Their teachers spend 7, their grandparents spend 2-4. I want to have more influence on who they become as people than their peers and their teachers. I want them to know the basics that are covered under the core content as tested by the standardized tests, but I also want them to have time and freedom to explore subjects that interest them and be inspired by great works of literature and art. Right now, they're being taught like rats in a maze to pass a standardized test without even the promise of cheese. My fourth grader is under so much stress "practicing" for the written section of his standardized tests that  I swear I found a grey hair on his head last week.

Our current plan is to start our school year, right after school lets out. However everything goes, we should know by August if we are going to be able to successfully homeschool while working. If everything is going well, we write the letter and officially pull them out, if it's going poorly, we send them back and they're a little ahead for the start of their next year. I sound all non-chalant, don't I? Yeah, my ulcer would disagree with that statement. Time will tell.