Monday, December 9, 2013

I'm starting a new project! Go check it out!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Five Things I Learned in my First Year of Homeschooling

Oh my! The school year is over. (By the way, we will probably school year-round with a lighter summer schedule.)  Really? I didn't notice. Haha. That's normal, right? For a homeschooler? 

So, here are the highlights of the year:
1. It didn't look how I thought it would. Not for the most part anyway. And if I held on any longer to how it should look, I wouldn't do it another year. I had a planned curriculum, written out, neat and tidy, text books lined up under subjects galore, ideas and pictures in my head, blah, blah, blah. The year came and went. I forgot about the written curriculum, went by what I saw my kids needed and God's grace. The other day, looking through some stuff, I find the curriculum. Would you believe it if I told you we had covered every. Last. Textbook? Yup. Did it all. But not the way I had planned. Homeschooling is messy. Messier than I had thought.

2. School happened in the midst of life. I had a baby this year. I also had to get tested twice a week for high blood pressure for eight weeks while pregnant. The kids went with me. God knows better than I do what they need to learn. Looking back now, I recognize those moments as pivotal in my daughter learning the beginning steps of obedience.

3. My kids learned all the time. Not just during school hours. That's a scary thought. I love and hate schedules. I love that they seem so controllable and the kids find then predictable but I also hate being an automaton. So although I like them I feel the need to break them. Unfortunately, if I break them too often I feel like I'm not doing enough when sometimes I'm not required to do much at all! They're not learning just when I'm teaching, they're learning even when they're playing. I know because I get the odd question (while I'm harried and crazy making dinner! Why is it always while I'm making dinner?) that tells me something has clicked into place!

4. It doesn't take a rocket scientist but it does take energy. Tons of it. And I can't pour it all out either at the gym or in my social life or even in supposedly planning the perfect curriculum. It needs to be available for them, for teaching when they're ready to soak it in.

5. I'm the teacher and the student. This has perhaps been the hardest year spiritually speaking for me so far. God has broken my pride, bent me in ways I never thought possible. But I have seen more blessings than I can number. He has shown me His faithfulness. I have learned more patience, more mercy, more grace than I thought I could muster. I have learned how much my husband loves me. I have found out how much more my children can learn about loving each other if it is expected of them.

Today, my daughter recited Philippians 2:14 to me: "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." Yeah.That reminded me, as it does, every time I've said it to her that I'm definitely the teacher and the student. Definitely.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to clean polyester micro fiber couches

Guess what I did before I knew I was sick last weekend? Yup. I cleaned my couches. We've been through a few illnesses already this spring and I do after all have THREE kids. Under five. All this to say, Don't judge. Because you're going to see my dirty couches. See that shine in the before pics? That's grime and dirt and goodness knows what else. But... But... They're clean now! See the after pics?
I found the solution almost by chance. Or necessity. Well, I did tell you we had a stomach bug, right? Let's not get into those details. Let's focus on how the couch for so clean. You're going to love this! Because not only is it cheap and natural, it works far better than the job the professional carpet cleaners do, or at least mine did.
Okay, here's how to do it. Mix together baking soda, peroxide, laundry soap and water in a 1:2:1:4 ratio. Then smear all over the couch with a wash cloth. (Oh yeah. Test a small area if you're not sure your couch can handle it. Also, you might want to try this on a warm, sunny day so you can use your couch again sooner!) After you've smeared it all, get plain water in another large-ish container and use the same washcloth like a mop to wipe off the soap with water. Be sure to wring the washcloth often in the clean water and be aghast at how filthy your couch really was. And then, let it dry! Voilà! Not only are your couches cleaner, you did it yourself and saved yourself a nice bundle of money.
You're welcome.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Microwave peanut butter cookie in a cup

Yes, yes, I did make one. And it's soo good, you guys! Yum. Here's the recipe.
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
5 or 6 crumbled Graham crackers
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder

Mix well with a hand blender. Bake in microwave for about 45 seconds until fluffy. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sweet Potato Bread (Gluten-Free, Egg-Free)

I've been on a bit of a baking kick lately. So I thought I'd attempt to make some sweet potato bread. We had quite a few sweet potatoes lying around that would go bad soon. So I made sweet potato three ways, so to speak: regular sweet potato bread for the kids using this recipe, gluten-free, egg-free sweet potato bread for James (recipe follows) and sweet potato and oatmeal protein bars (recipe coming up in a different blog post) for me for a late night treat.

Surprising thing about the two breads? I like the gluten-free, egg-free version better. It's more moist and tender! Frustrated with the lack of recipes for good gluten free sweet potato bread, I made my own. So, here's the recipe:

1 cup almond meal
1 cup gluten-free flour (Bob's Red Mill All Purpose)
1 1/4 cups roasted and mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
Ener-g egg substitute (equivalent of 2 eggs)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, adding egg substitute last. Bake at 350 in an oil lined bread pan for about 45 minutes to an hour until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Voila! I think he's going to like it. :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Our Schedule for Preschool Homeschool

A very wise woman whose name I now forget (such is the postpartum life!) once told me that I shouldn't get too attached to a schedule because as the children grow up it will change. Constantly. But you still need one, I think she added, hurriedly. Well, it's true. You still need one. So now that the baby is almost six months old and the older children are inching closer each day to (home)school age, we're desperately working on one. Or changing our old one, depending on how you choose to look at it.

What amazes me (again!) is how blessed we have been in that God cares about our family and our homeschool infinitely more than I do. And I care a lot! However, you know you hear about it all the time - "Pray about it," "He will provide," and so on. In the last three weeks or so, I've personally experienced His care in terms of the smallest things of our homeschool and especially when it came to scheduling. A few weeks ago, I met Carmon Friedrich, who has homeschooled TEN children and she directed me to reading this article. While it does not talk specifically about how to schedule the day, it did help me structure our day. Also, I'm a firm believer in training the children in household cleaning activities. And I count that as part of school, at least at this level. In that, I learned a fair bit from another speaker at a group who is currently homeschooling six children ranging in ages from preschool to high school. She talked about making chore charts. As soon as she mentioned that, I knew my kids would just love that.

So, with all that said, what do our days look like currently? Well, I really like the idea of teaching the three Rs and having everything else flow from that. So, we begin the day with chores and then read the Bible in the morning. Our chores include feeding the cat, sweeping and starting laundry. The kids help with these. I wash the breakfast dishes and then we head out if we're going to the gym. (I'm currently debating if we should continue with this since we go with my husband three times a week in the evenings anyway.) If we don't go to the gym, Bible reading time then overflows into other reading time. On those days, Bob books are great. The pre-reading books deal with shapes and sequences. We also get lots and lots of story books from the library and the children love it when I read to them. Sometimes the baby joins us on my lap. But on most days, he naps through this morning session.

Then the kids get some free time to snack or run around in the backyard and at about 11, I plan for a small craft that focuses on math, like counting. The picture you see was the kids playing math bingo. Then it's time for lunch and clean up. (And feeding the baby, who is turning into quite the fussy thing lately. Anything can set him off and then we have to listen to him complain. Loudly. Sigh. It's a good thing he's cute.)

After lunch, the baby goes down for a longer nap, so we have quiet time for an hour. I set the oven timer for this one. During quiet time, the children work on writing. At this point, it's pre-writing, so they've been coloring, tracing letter worksheets for letters and cutting. And hey, another homeschool preschool day is done! This schedule is workable, I think. It allows me time to make those necessary phone calls for dental and doctor appointments, keeps the home looking relatively clean, involves the children in housework and educates them as well. So far, so good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Vacation

Grandma was here! So we took a vacation from doing hands-on crafts and more dedicated school time. After some adjustment time, the kids loved hanging out with her and even made her read to them. Clearly, even though there was no formal teaching, learning was taking place because, suddenly, Hucksley is counting! He placed his trucks in a row and counted them. The day before my mother in law came for a visit, we had made a counting book together as a craft where I had them count out stickers. It was fun to see all that percolate through his head. Bombie is a little more reticent to count even though she can; I have heard her do it. She will not do anything on demand unless she is absolutely certain she can do it perfectly. My little perfectionist.