Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12 in 2014

Linking up with Dwija over at House Unseen for an end of the year photo review.  So here's 12 pictures from 2014...

Happy Birthday Soccer Boy!!
Soccer Boy's birthday is in early January.  This year we were trapped in the house for the celebration due to a bad ice storm blowing through the area.  (It would not be the last winter storm in 2014).  I did a Paleo Whole30 eating plan this month and lost 30 lbs. in the process.  We also had some repair issues, with the computer, washing machine and van all breaking down at the same time.  Home ownership for the win!!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
We spent most of this month inside the house.  It was bitterly cold outside, the kids could only go out and play in the stuff for minutes at a time.  The amount of time it takes to get the little ones bundled up in their snowsuits, boots and gloves is more than the actual time spent in the snow!  The area schools were on constant snow days, which made my homeschool kids insanely jealous.  Due to being under house arrest we did end up getting lots of homework done.  The rest of the neighborhood went to school until June.

Happy Birthday to me!!
March starts our family birthday season, with four landing in this month, including mine.  I hit a milestone as this is the year I turned 40!  (Princess just told me I "look like a teenager" in the above picture, how sweet)!  Basically it's all cake and parties every weekend.  The cold weather started to thaw this month as we traded snow storms for tornado warnings.

Happy Easter!
This Easter we had one with a stomach bug so we had to skip the extended family parties.  It's also Firstborn's birthday month and I finally managed to get his birth story posted.  I also did a post about my miscarriage, with 2014 being the ten year anniversary of our baby's heavenly birthday.  Soccer Boy also played on a spring soccer team, with Doug as his coach.

Firstborn's 8th Grade Graduation
Finally, some great weather!  Lots of pictures, we spent some weekends out in the country visiting our folks.  Mother's Day, Memorial Day and Eighth Grade Graduation (where we all managed to dress up and arrive on time).  We started a bathroom remodel (which is still in process) and God used the time to teach me about JOY.  I was bored while waiting for Jen's book to arrive, so I did a post about sex.  The pool opened at the end of the month which led to...

Swim Team!!
The entire month seemed to be dominated by Soccer Boy's swim team schedule.  Daily practice and two late night swim meets each week, which requires one adult (me) to work each meet.  It was a cool month, weather wise, and we had a few meets in the rain (if it wasn't storming) or rain delays.  It was a great learning experience for Soccer Boy, he enjoyed the process and did well for his first year on the team.  This does not surprise me, as physical stuff always comes second nature to him.

Princess in a parade
Lots of swimming and summertime fun.  Princess and Game Boy got to be in our hometown parade with their Dad.  The older boys went to a fishing church camp for a week.  Soccer Boy competed in the Midwest Swim Conference.  The entire family had a round of influenza that threw me for a loop.

Last day at the pool
We spent the month enjoying the end of summer.  We headed to the pool almost daily, with the younger kids learning to swim and the older ones doing flips off the diving board.  Our homeschool year started near the end of the month, and I did a post about how I homeschool.  Ironically, this is also the first year Princess is attending the local public school.

Toddler Boy at petting zoo
We attended my niece's 3rd birthday party, which was at a park with a petting zoo.  Our Trail Life troop had their beginning of year Trail Roundup ceremony, in which the older boys were awarded their staffs.  This is also the year Firstborn crossed over to the Adventures group.  I was on a blogging break during all of this, so no posts to link.

Family Pic 2014
This was a busy month!  We did our family pictures out at Doug's folks' farm.  There were field trips and pumpkin picking and Halloween.  We also spent a weekend in Peoria with Doug's brother and his family.  Our niece had a part in Shrek the Musical so we attended one of her performances (which was really good).  Amazingly, Doug and I sat with our five kids plus two cousins for the play and they all did well.

Princess in costume for the Dinner Theatre
Princess was in a Madrigal Dinner Theatre performance, which technically was in December.  I'm putting it under November because that is when all the practices took place.  Lots of mommy and daughter time as I went with her to all the practices.  She also came down with Flu A right before Thanksgiving and missed a week of school.  We spent the holidays with my in-laws, my parents were vacationing in Florida.

We celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary this month.  I sang with the choir for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass (technically 10:00 p.m. for my church).  Princess came down with pneumonia and we spent Christmas morning in the hospital, causing me to reflect on the meaning of the holiday season.  Doug, Toddler Boy and I are now sick ourselves and spending this week recuperating at home.

Doug and I still managed to make our big turkey meal on Monday that we missed on Christmas day so we've been eating leftovers all week.  We picked up Princess a new bed yesterday and we're almost finished remodeling her bedroom.  Tonight our family will be watching movies and eating Smokey Bones nachoes as the kids attempt to stay up until midnight to ring in the new year at our house.  Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

When Christmas Doesn't Go as Planned

We had a little "detour" in our Christmas celebration this year...

Princess in the E.R. Christmas morning
She had caught what appeared to be a cold and slight cough last Wednesday.  Sunday night it took a turn for the worse with her starting to run a fever and up most of that night coughing so bad she had a hard time catching her breath.  We took her to the doctor Monday, who sent her home on antibiotics.  Still no sleep Monday night and by Tuesday her fever was spiking 105.  I'm not sure I've ever had a kid run that high, we actually took it three times to verify it was right.  Called the doctor to get some steroids to help her breathing.  By 2:00 a.m. Christmas morning she was running over 104 and starting to wheeze in-between coughing fits.  It was time to take her in to the children's hospital.  Tests and x-rays confirmed pneumonia with a double viral infection, including RSV.  They were able to get her fever down and her wheezing under control and her oxygen levels looked good.  We headed home later that morning with a script for a nebulizer to help her breathing.

As of tonight it appears she is finally on the mend.  We've only had to give her ibuprofen once today for fever, considering she's been on it almost non-stop since Sunday that's improvement.  We've not had a solid night's sleep since last Saturday.  Christmas night she needed two breathing treatments to get her through and she needed one this morning...

I'm praying tonight is better.  (It was, she finally was able to sleep through the night, praise God)!

We had plans to celebrate Christmas with family but Princess was too sick to even consider attending.  We had plans to attend Christmas Eve services at our Protestant church but those had to be laid aside too.  I had last minute gifts to purchase but I was needed at home.  We were supposed to attend Doug's office family party but only the older kids went with Dad this year.  The lack of sleep has been such a contributing factor.  I become a different person when exhaustion starts creeping in, and I don't like it.  Doug and I have struggled to take turns and give each other grace in the moments but nothing really makes it easier to bear.  This was not the holiday I was envisioning just a few short weeks ago.

My friends and I joke that the Christmas season was much more fun when we were kids.  As an adult, it just seems like so much work.  Parties to plan, gifts to make (or purchase) and wrap, trees to decorate, cookie baking and holiday meal planning.  All the phone calls and coordinating for the different holiday events.  It seems I need a vacation!

Princess' illness has forced the entire family to slow down, and with it comes the reminder that Christmas isn't about all of the above.  It's really not about the parties, presents and the perfectly decorated tree.  Christmas is about Him.  It's only about Him.  He came to us when we weren't perfect (when we were so, so far from perfect).  Every year, we can work on preparing for Him through the Advent season, but we can never do it perfectly.  And He comes to us anyway.  His coming never depended on our readiness, thank God!  It only ever depended on His love for us, which is perfect and knows no bounds.  His birth was the only ever truly perfect Christmas gift, we are blessed!

I received an email yesterday from our Protestant church, it read "only 364 days until Christmas".  I had to smile at that when I thought I get to celebrate the Christmas season for another 12 days, until the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6th.  Some churches celebrate Christmas for 40 days, until the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  My Catholic church will have a Christmas tree up and we will be singing Christmas songs for the next two weeks.  My thoughts on the 12 days of Christmas.

I'm very thankful that my daughter is on the mend and hope to apply all the lessons God has taught me this Christmas to future holidays.  I am hoping to do a post about some of those lessons when I've had a bit more chance to reflect and catch up on some sleep!  Wishing your families a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Getting Back in the Game

So, where have I been??  My last post was almost five months ago.  I really did not intend to take a blogging vacation and I can sum it up in two words..."real life".  I've been through a season in my non-virtual world that has caused my hobby blogging to take a back seat.  As I was finishing up the family Christmas letter that we send out with our Christmas cards it occurred to me that I needed to update the blog.  So in one lengthy, picture filled post I will attempt to catch everyone up on the last few months...

First up, swim team.  Soccer Boy became "Swim Boy" for a season and joined our pool's summer team.  He did pretty good for his first season and even got to compete in the area Midwest Swim Conference.  It made for a bit of craziness in our family life because of the two late night (and occasionally out of town) swim meets per week plus daily practices.  He had a lot of fun with it and I got to be a swim parent for a season, which means working as a time keeper during part of all the meets.  A learning experience all the way around and we both got to make some new friends at our pool.

Midwest Swim Conference 2014

Then there were the fun summertime activities.  Doug's office had a float in our hometown parade this year.  Princess and Game Boy enjoyed being part of that one and got to throw lots of candy.  Toddler Boy watched from the sidelines and worked on collecting lots of candy to share with his siblings.  I was with him to make sure he didn't get run over by the crazy motorcycles!  Good times, the older boys missed out on that weekend because they were camping with their Trail Life troop.

Blurry shot of Game Boy running with float

Church Camp
Speaking of camping, the older two spent a week at church camp over the summer.  They went to fishing camp for the first time and got to come home to tell us stories about the ones that got away.  Firstborn and Soccer Boy also brought the stomach flu home with them from camp and gave it to the whole family!  Not a fun season in la casa...

Taken on the last day pool was open
Spent lots of time meeting friends at the local parks and of course had fun swimming in the pool almost daily.  Princess learned to go off the diving board this year!  Game Boy learned to swim last season but really became a much stronger swimmer this year (read...I did not worry about him drowning all summer!!)

Lining up all the beach balls!

Go Cardinals!!
Our Cardinals made the playoffs again so we watched lots of post season ball on T.V.

We've spent lots of time at Doug's folks' farm this summer.  Grandma was wanting to break in some of her new horses so Firstborn is taking horseback riding lessons.  While he's riding the other kids have fun running around outside, fishing, and playing with the animals.

Hanging with Harley

Princess went off to school!  Yes, we are still a homeschooling family but Princess is attending first grade at the local public school this year.  She is loving going to school and making new friends and I am enjoying delegating some of her reading work to other teachers besides myself.  It frees me up a bit to focus on the other kids and especially Firstborn, who is now in high school.  There has already been field trips to the pumpkin patch and Halloween class parties.

Princess' first  day of school!
Playing in the corn pit

Of course, our family went pumpkin picking too...

Walking in the pumpkin patch
Brothers & best friends!

Game Boy is a good shot!

Enjoying target practice

The boys are taking classes this fall with our homeschool group, including their favorite, archery!  We have settled into a nice rhythm with our schoolwork (good, considering the year is almost half over).

Last but not least, we had our first snowfall before Thanksgiving, which is a bit rare around here...
Sledding in the backyard

Toddler Boy enjoying the snow

That ends my roundup post, hope I can keep more up to date during the holiday season but that might be wishful thinking on my part.  Doug is "officially" on vacation next week so we're looking forward to some family fun.  Have a good weekend!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Mom's Life in 7 Quick Takes

We had the flu here this went thru the entire family.  The weather was really nice so it's kind of a pity we were all stuck inside.  Firstborn and Soccer Boy brought it home from church camp last week.  Soccer Boy was sick Saturday, Game Boy on Sunday night, Princess on Monday night and Toddler Boy was sick Monday night and Tuesday night.  By Tuesday night, after three nights of no sleep I finally succumbed and was sick that night and all day Wednesday.  It got pretty bad, but after Mom was totally out of commission for 24 hours my family came to a new appreciation for what, exactly, I do around here all day long.  Because my role in the family is so "behind the scenes" you really don't see it unless I'm totally taken out of the equation.  A mom has to be pretty ill to be totally taken out, here's 7 Quick Takes on what I currently do on the daily...

1.  Meals

One of the bigger things and obvious, someone had to make food for the remaining six people in our family.  Doug went in to the office yesterday morning while the older two kids held down the fort.  They made scrambled eggs for breakfast and Doug came home and made turkey sandwiches for lunch.  I recall him asking me sometime that afternoon what he should make for supper and I suggested just picking up a rotisserie chicken from Schnucks when he was out getting me Gatorade (a red one from the refrigerated section, because I could only gag it down cold).  I think he made baked potatoes to go with it, but since I didn't leave my bed all day I can't be sure.

2.  Home Maintenance

Someone has to do all those dishes the meals are creating!  That person isn't just me, we have a chore system in the house.  I am the one who makes sure the chores are getting done.  The world won't end if the recycling doesn't get taken out for one day.  However if we don't do dishes for a day we won't have any clean ones for the next day.  We have a dishwasher but the cups and plates for seven people will usually take up all the room.  Which means the pots and pans will have to be done by hand or you run another load in the dishwasher.

3.  Calendar

When I went to pick Soccer Boy up from swim practice this morning he mentioned that we missed the team picture.  Whoops, picture day was today, it was on the calendar and they sent out an e-mail reminder at the beginning of the week.  However, my family is not used to checking the calendar.  It seems at this point the calendar exists for my purposes.  I keep the family calendar at home and Doug keeps his at work and we coordinate them every so often.  Today I realized I need to teach my older kids the calendar system so when I'm out of commission they can keep everything on track.

4.  Chauffeur

His first swim meet went until 11:15pm
due to rain delay!
Speaking of swim team, Soccer Boy missed practice yesterday morning because I was just too sick to get out of bed to drive him to the pool.  In a couple years this won't be an issue because Firstborn will have his driver's license, but for now if Dad is at work and I'm sick you're not going.  I guess I could have called one of my girlfriends and asked them to take him but it was just one practice so not worth the inconvenience.  He has a swim meet tonight and our family is scheduled to work.  I had to tell them we wouldn't be able to work it because I'm not up to it and Doug appears to be coming down sick today.

5.  Take care of little ones

Toddler Boy loves his hot dogs!

Soccer Boy:  Toddler Boy wants hot dogs all the time
Me:  Yes
Soccer Boy:  I'd cut one up and heat it
up for him and then 5 minutes later he'd want another one and I'd have to do it all over again!
Me:  Welcome to my world...
Soccer Boy:  Luckily I have skillz so I was totally on top of it.
Me:  You need "skillz" to cut up hot dogs?
Soccer Boy:  (gives thumbs up)

Beyond the whole "getting snacks for the little kids all day long" there is the "taking Toddler Boy to the potty" which ranks a close second.  The youngest two in the house are not nearly self sufficient so a big part of being the mom of little ones is just that.  They need help getting dressed and fixing their hair (I'm pretty sure that didn't happen yesterday).

6.  Homeschooling

If it had been me, I would have let this one drop for the day but Doug wanted to do their math with them...

Princess:  I want to go to school next year.
Doug:  Why, didn't you like doing your math with me?
Princess:  No, you're not a good teacher because you say stuff like "you're            doing it wrong".

7.  Laundry

I guess laundry could have been stuck under home maintenance, but I figured it needed a whole section unto itself.  Because when dealing with the stomach flu we go thru an insane amount of laundry.  Normally I do one or two loads a day, but I need to double that this week.  Plus, Soccer Boy and Firstborn had just come home from a week at camp so I had extra from them.  I know Doug threw in at least two or three loads yesterday, we're running out of clean laundry baskets because he didn't have time to fold or put away any of it.  That's my project for today.

Hopefully next week will be a bit healthier!  Click over to Jen's to see more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How I Homeschool

Micaela at California to Korea is doing a link-up series for homeschoolers.  I thought I'd give it a go, so here are the answers to her questions...warning:  long post ahead!

How long have you been homeschooling?

We are coming up on our 7th year homeschooling our oldest child and the 5th year for everyone else.  We started out with the public school system from preschool on up thru 2nd grade.  I had wanted to give homeschooling a try at the end of first grade but Doug wasn't on board until the end of 2nd.  Our boys were struggling readers, so that was the original catalyst to take them out of the traditional school system.  Our oldest took to homeschooling like a duck in water, it naturally fit his personality.  After two years of "living in both worlds" I finally convinced Doug that we needed to bring them all home.  Soccer Boy was going into 3rd grade and Game Boy was entering Kindergarten at that point.  This coming year we will be doing high school at home for the first time with kids in 9/7/4/1 grades.  Now homeschooling is more of a lifestyle choice for our family and I'm very thankful we took the plunge early on in our kids' education.

How were you educated?

My husband and I are both products of the public school system.  Doug comes from a line of great public school teachers, with his mom and grandmother both working in the field.  He went on to get his Bachelor's in Finance and an MBA.  I graduated in the top of my high school class and went on to get a Bachelor's in Accounting.  I worked full time as an accountant for 5 years before I decided to stay home with the kids when Soccer Boy was born.  All these degrees are not necessary to homeschool your kids, but they do come in handy when doing your taxes!

As an aside, I do not think the public school system is "evil".  It is actually necessary, because not everyone has the opportunity or inclination to educate their kids at home.  I was actively involved in our local public school when my kids attended there.  I was a room parent and a parent volunteer, I applaud our teachers because they are doing a fabulous work, it is not an easy job they undertake.  I have come to view homeschooling as more of a "lifestyle".  I like the fact that our school revolves around our family life and not the other way around.

How many kids are in your family?  How are they schooled?  Are any more traditionally schooled?

Guess I sort of answered this questions above.  We have 5 children, the youngest is three so he's not "officially" in our homeschool yet, but it's amazing what he'll pick up just listening in on his siblings' lessons.  We do belong to a very large homeschooling group in our area, which gives us access to a variety of lyceum lessons.  For example, Firstborn did his Apologia Biology class with them.  It was great, he did his reading and homework at home and did the experiments with the group.  Translation - I didn't have to dissect frogs at home!  It was great, and since science is my weak area (due to all the experiments) this helped keep us on track.  Because there is a large network of homeschoolers in our area and there are so many great things offered the temptation is actually to get involved in too much.  I just have to laugh about the socialization question.  We could be out of the house "socializing" almost every day of the week, but then we wouldn't be home to get their homework done!

What laws, if any, are there in your state?  How do you comply?

This is where we are blessed indeed, because we live in Illinois, the most unregulated state of the union.  We have to actively lobby to keep it that way.  Every year there is a homeschool "cherry pie" day in Springfield, where the homeschool families deliver home made pies to all the representatives and speak to them about issues related to home education.  Every time homeschooling regulation comes along homeschoolers show up by the 1,000s at the capital!  It's amazing to see.  Homeschools are considered private schools in our state.  There are no compliance laws, when we decided to homeschool I notified the public school in writing and that was it.  I wasn't even required to do that, but since my kids were in the school system and we were taking them out I wanted something official in their school file.  I administered the CAT test myself when were first brought them home so I had a baseline when we started.  I had Firstborn take the IOWA test offered thru our homeschool group this year because I wanted him to have practice taking standardized tests.  He'll be taking the PSAT and ACT in a few years and we don't normally do those type of tests at home.  Drivers Ed will be coming up in a couple years and our state does regulate that.  My kids will have to take an outside class in order to get their driver's license but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Switching gears here; if you could summarize your homeschooling philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?

Wow, digging deep.  The theme bible verse of our homeschool is Colossians 2:2 "that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in love, to have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge"

Ultimately, we want them to come away with a love of God, family and their neighbors.  We also want them to have an excellent education to prepare them for college and life in general.  We think our family does that best thru home education.

What is your homeschooling style?  Do you follow any set curriculum?

I would say eclectic.  When we first started I used a boxed curriculum that did all the grading for you.  Since I was teaching a 3rd grader, it didn't take long to stop sending the bubble tests in to be graded when I could grade them myself instantaneously.  The curriculum didn't work for us because I had a child who was ahead in some stuff and behind in other areas and I was constantly substituting what he needed.  What's the point of homeschooling if you can't tailor it to the particular child's needs?  That's one of the biggest benefits of this educational choice.  The second year I did more research and started piecing together our curriculum from different sources.  I still do that today.  I review what is working for us and what isn't and go from there.

We currently use Tapestry of Grace, which is an all inclusive type curriculum.  It encompasses everything but math and science.  I like it because it teaches all age levels the same subject at the same time.  This means when we're studying Ancient Egypt, everyone in the family is studying it at their own level.  So the kindergartner may be studying the pyramids while the older students are writing papers on the Egyptian legal system.  However, I'm still doing what works for our family.  Even though art can be included in the lessons I'm considering using the Meet the Masters curriculum next year.  You make the curriculum and schedule work for you, not the other way around.  I also started using All About Reading last year with my younger kids and really liked it.  I'm thinking about adding All About Spelling this year.  We've been doing Saxton math for a couple years now but next year I may move to Alpha Omega's SOS on-line math course because I need math to be more independent so I can spend more time on reading and phonics with the younger ones.  We love Apologia for science, we've used that for years.  Last year I discovered Donna Young, which practically gives you lesson plans for Apologia for the entire year, a great resource.

What do your best homeschooling moments look like?  What do your not-so-good moments look like?  How do you stay on track?

Staying on track can be difficult, especially when juggling 5 kids!  I make a broad yearly schedule at the beginning of the year and then I do a weekly lesson plan at the beginning of every week.  The Tapestry curriculum almost requires that, because of all the reading involved I have to plan a few weeks out to get the books we need ordered from the library.  If a book is used a lot or looks really good we might just buy it to have on hand for a resource.  One of the benefits of the lyceum classes is that it keeps us on task.  My kids make sure they have their homework and reading done for those classes because they don't want to show up unprepared!  There have been years we didn't finish in May and had to work thru the summer months.  Regardless, I have found that we at least need to keep up reading and math in those months.  We still "do" school in the summer, it's just way more relaxed.  This is where the library's summer reading program comes in handy.  During the school year we use the Six Flag reading program, Raging Rivers reading program, and Book It program as incentives too.

Baby sea turtles!!
Some of our best homeschooling moments...when the kids look forward to and get excited about what they're learning (like studying a certain subject, or doing certain experiments).  When I see the older kids spontaneously read their favorite books to their younger siblings.  Field trips always make great family memories.  Using our family vacations as learning tools, like visiting the Mote Aquarium in Florida after we did a science study on marine animals the semester before.  We even scheduled our vacation around the time the sea turtles hatched, so the kids got to see sea turtle nests and baby sea turtles!  Being able to explore in detail the kids current interest (like when Firstborn went thru a fascination with the Red Baron, which led to many studies about WWI and WWII, aviation, the industrial age, morality and theological implications, the list goes on).  Because he was interested in the subject he soaked up all this information like a sponge and retains it to this day.

Not so good moments, when you have a plan and the kids don't cooperate.  Yesterday, I made a sand pudding dessert for a meeting the younger kids and I were attending.  I chose that dessert specifically because the younger kids could help me with it, a fun dessert that involves some measuring of ingredients.  I figured having fun and giving the kids some hands on math practice at the same time.  After breaking up the third or fourth argument, the last one fighting over "who gets to get the butter out of the fridge" (like, really, this is worth arguing about??) I exiled my kids from the kitchen and finished the pudding myself.  You can set everything up and still the kids might not cooperate.  On an everyday basis, our days are usually more average.  You have the awesome days and terrible days, most days fall in between.  When you're dealing with six people chances are someone is not in a good mood.  You have to press thru despite a negative attitude here or there, then get up and start fresh the next day.  It takes discipline, perseverance, and prayer...homeschooling has forced me to develop and abundance of all three.

How do you keep any non-school aged kids busy?

Caught writing on brother's homework!
This is a biggie!  I do have some activities for them that I keep put up unless we are doing school.  Stuff like a small water table that we set up in our kitchen (which always buys me an hour but then I have to mop my floor afterwards).  Play dough, stuff I only get out to buy quiet time.  If I get really desperate there is always educational videos he can watch.  If an older kid has scheduled free time I might assign them to keep an eye on the little one so I could finish a phonic lesson or make lunch.  This is something that is always evolving because little ones grow so fast.  The most difficult time for me is the under 1 time because they need me to nurse so frequently.  I've never been able to master the "read a book to another child while nursing" thing.  Around age 1 I would set up a playpen in whatever room we were schooling in, but that may only buy you 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  On those subjects you need large, uninterrupted blocks of time...nap time is your friend.

How do you organize your day?  Your year?

We currently run on a 9 month calendar, with 3 months off in summer (although we still do light homeschooling all summer).  We always plan our vacations in the off seasons, so we take time off for that and holidays.  Because Fridays are our lyceum days the other four days of the week are front loaded, we do more homework on those days so we can take Fridays off to go to classes.

What is your strongest subject area?  Your weakest?

History and math are my strong areas.  I really love teaching those subjects.  I like science to a point, I just don't like doing all the experiments (because I'm not a fun mom).  One of the great things about older students is teaching them how to think logically and make rational arguments.  I love being able to have deep discussions with them on current events, to be able to debate with them.  To see them form their own opinions about issues and be able to explain their position.

Although I love to read I don't particularly like to teach phonics.  I think my first year attempting phonics with Firstborn did me in.  I recall looking at the 3rd grade phonics book and trying to figure out what sound matched the picture (then asking Doug who also couldn't figure it out).  That first year curriculum was challenging!  I just don't have the patience, but there's no other options for it because they have to learn to read somehow.  So I "occasionally" grit my teeth thru phonics lessons.  Art is not high on my list either.  I'm basically a stick figure person and I have a love/hate relationship with glitter (I love seeing it on their projects but not on my floor).

Looking back, what are you glad you did?

In the early years, one of my favorite times of day was the early morning.  Everyone would still be asleep and I would be sitting in my bathrobe drinking a cup of coffee when I would see the schoolbus drive by out my window.  I would always think "I am SO glad we're homeschooling" in that moment as I not so fondly remembered how crazy hectic our mornings were to get everyone ready to head out the door!  I'm glad we brought them home while they were still young, I think the adjustment would have been harder if they were older, for both them and us.  I'm also glad we got plugged in with other homeschoolers right away.  The support is so critical, because there are days when you think that school bus looks like a really good option.

And what do you wish you could change?

I wish I would have pushed the phonics lessons harder, we brought home struggling readers and I had to do a lot of remedial work with them.  Occasionally we will still come across some basic stuff that needs fixed.  We thought in the beginning that bringing them home would automatically correct some of these issues, because they would be getting one on one attention.  However, if they struggled with it in a school setting they may continue to struggle with it in a homeschool setting.  Just because your child is homeschooled that does not mean he's going to be 2 grade levels above his public school peers.  I wish I jumped on some of those learning glitches faster instead of taking the advice that it was a maturity issue.  I heard that when they were in public school too because Firstborn was one of the youngest boys in his class.  It's easier to correct the issue from the get go than to fix a bad habit.

Firstborn's 8th Grade Graduation
If you could give any advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be?

Pray about it and make sure your husband and you are on the same page because you'll need his support.  Even if you start on the same page you could discover you have different homeschooling philosophies.  Working out these differences is what makes marriage interesting!  Find common ground and work on compromising, give and take.

If there is a local homeschool group get connected.  If not, find some homeschoolers in your area or at the very least join an on-line group.

Practical advice...math curriculum can either be "mastery" or "cyclical".  We've used both, be careful when switching between the two or you could end up with gaps.

There is no "perfect" curriculum, the key is consistency.  Making time to do the homework day in and day out.  Do your research, make an educated choice at the beginning of the year and run with it.  However, don't be afraid to change something that is definitely not working for you, even if it is mid year.

Consider joining HSLDA.  Even though we live in a free homeschooling state we still join because it helps keep us up to date on current homeschooling legislation.  Plus it provides legal backup in case your neighbors decide to call a truancy officer because your kids are taking a recess outside during school hours (I've not had this happen, but it's the kind of thing every homeschool mom worries about).

If you think this is the route your family should take just try it.  You will probably never feel like you are totally ready to undertake this, prepare the best you can and then jump in and learn as you go.  Our family continues to make the decision whether or not to home educate on a year by year basis.  You'll find your rhythm and some day years later you'll find yourself writing a ridiculously long post about the ins and outs of life as a homeschooling family.  Many blessings as you start your journey!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

First off, I want to start with the fact that Memorial Day is a holiday we have to honor and remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today.  I saw this post from last year floating around on Facebook and she says it better than anyone I've heard so far...

Memorial Day vs Veterans Day

My family has been blessed in that Doug and I do not personally know anyone who has given their life in combat.  We both have family who have, distant relatives we have never had the blessing of meeting face to face but whose memories live on in the people we love.  We spoke of them yesterday and prayed for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, especially the ones in our own family.

And then we honored their lives by spending time with our families this weekend, both immediate and extended...

Enjoying ice cream at Doug's folks' house

Shortcake was my sole contribution to
the menu...but it was great with strawberries!

Princess spent the day with her cousin at
my sister and brother-in-law's house

Pool time!!

Dominoes, a family favorite

My Mom & Dad's new grill, those are the kid's burgers
we had steak!

We had a wonderful weekend, it only rained for a brief period on Monday at my folk's house.  Firstborn got to take his first horseback riding lesson with Doug's parents' horses.  No pictures from that because I was watching the little ones inside the house, maybe I'll get some from the next lesson.  I cantored Sunday morning at Mass and then had cantor practice while Doug took the other kids to our Protestant church solo.  For some of the kids this was their last week in their Sunday school class, next week is "graduation" week when the kids move to their new classrooms.  We still haven't got the family logistics totally worked out yet.  Firstborn will probably attend the adult worship service with us for awhile until we get it figured out.

I imagine if our fallen loved ones were with us and they got to choose how to spend their time, that this is exactly how they would spend it.  Enjoying the love and fellowship of their families.