Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homeschool Planning

So I have been working on my homeschool lesson plans for the upcoming school year all summer. I am still not done.  And I am planning for only three students!

To begin my planning process, I first had to clean out my entire schoolroom. I cleaned every single cabinet, drawer, shelf, closet, etc.  And this led to my wanting to clean and and reorganize every single bookshelf/bookcase in our house.  I did that!  I am so happy with the finished product. I grouped like books together in various spots in our home.  I cleared out two shelves of books in one of my schoolroom closets, and moved those books to the built-in bookshelves upstairs.  That gave me much needed room in the closet for teacher supplies, binders, current school resources, etc. As I went through the hundreds of books, I found many, many duplicate titles.  I kept all the duplicates, and I can share them with my children when they leave home.

After I got everything in order I began making a school supply list.  It was actually fairly short.  I think I have enough markers, pens, spiral bound notebooks, and glue sticks to furnish an entire elementary classroom. (Clearly, I am an over buyer in certain products!) Next I made a list of schoolbooks that I needed for each child.  It wasn't too long of a list either.  I ordered everything, and all has arrived except for my final (second!) Sonlight order.

I bought new crates for the children's schoolbooks and supplies and have put all their new school things in there.  I typed up their daily work checklists, and I think I have almost everything ready to go.  I am just finalizing my daily schedule.  When my Sonlight comes in, I will need to spend some time putting the new Instructor's Guide in my binder, sorting out the books, and putting stickers on them.  The last big planning task I have is mapping out my English IV class plans.  This is a senior level English class for Clay and five other twelfth graders.

About the Sonlight.....Lynn, Leanna, and I are taking a short break from our Sonlight studies this August-November to study the presidents, the election process, and our American Government.  I am also going to finish covering the 50 states with Leah and Sam.  Beginning November 7, I will start Sonlight Core F.  My original plan was to fly through this Core, cutting books here and there and still completing the Core by the end of May.  I spent several hours culling the books and typing a 100 day plan.  But I still wasn't satisfied.  I couldn't figure out how to fit in the books and content that I wanted to cover, and I also wanted to add some of the newer Core F books.  I first used Core F 6 years ago, and Sonlight has revised this Core since then.  Last weekend I had a new idea!  I decided I was not in a race to complete this Core. In fact, I decided to order the newer Instructor's Guide (at half-price since it was a reorder!) and the newer Core F books.  I am so excited!  I really liked this Core, and I feel so much better going through it at the intended pace. We will just work on it November-May, and pick up where ended the next school year.

I am starting school later than I have in years.  I will be having various houseguests (college students) during most of August, and then I will be driving Julie (Olivia has to go a week early for a class) to school later in the month, and staying there a few days. So, I have set August 26 as our first day of school.  That leaves me exactly one month to get everything ready.  Actually, I want to have everything ready before the guests start arriving.  :)

I'll share our curricula for next year and an outline of our daily plans as soon as I get everything ready.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Our Anniversary Trip

Back in June, Jimmy and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  This week we continued our celebration with a short trip to one of my favorite destinations--Seaside, Florida. We left early Monday morning and came home yesterday afternoon.  We left the children here at home....but we felt badly about doing so.  They assured us they were fine with us going on a little vacation without us.  All was well when we arrived home!

So what did we do??  Well, if you know us, you know that even on our "vacations" we are active!  Our tiny rental house (and it certainly was a tiny one bedroom cottage!) came with two bicycle rentals. After we parked our car upon our arrival, we never used it again until we loaded up to come home.  We rode those bicycles everywhere!  One of them had a basket on the front so we could carry our groceries home each day. We rode to the grocery store, we rode around the towns of Seaside and Watercolor, we rode on biking/running trails, and we even rode on one very, very difficult (and unoccupied--that should have been our clue) nature trail.  We logged many miles on those bikes!

Here we are bright and early the first morning--about to go on our bike ride.

In addition to biking every day, we also ran every day.  It was hot, but we tried to run either early in the morning or near sundown. 

After some biking and running each morning, we were ready to relax with books on the beach. The water was beautiful!  As clear as we have ever seen it at Seaside.




I read three books while sitting on the beach or back in our tiny house. (Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson--excellent!, Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan--it was okay....it held my attention, but I would not recommend it, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho--interesting....an allegory of sorts...not earth shattering, but an interesting read.  I was disappointed in the ending. I began a 4th book, but after reading the first few chapters and then skimming through the rest of it, I knew that I did not want to finish it. (The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion) (Some books are like that.  I think it's okay not to finish a book!) So I began a 5th book, and I hope to finish it here at home.  (Gilead  by  Marilynn Robinson) We will see. I am back to reality--which does not allow much time for reading for pleasure.  Gilead was recommended to me by one of the employees of Sundog Books, my favorite bookstore of all.  It's located in Seaside, and I love to look around there when we visit. On some of the shelves in the bookstore there are groups of books that are the favorites of each of the employees. I took a picture of another girl's shelf.  I could tell by the books on her shelf that I have read and enjoyed that I would like her other recommendations too.  What a neat idea!

 Here we are about to walk to town for supper.

This picture was taken on the crazy hot trail ride we did!  

All in all it was a super fun trip!  Jimmy and I enjoyed each other's company so much, and I came home very rested.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Time Management


I have been struggling with time management recently.  I have so much that I want to accomplish, and each day goes by without much of my list crossed off.  My goals aren't that impressive, it's just basic things that I want to do.  But somehow I always run out of time.

Here are some of the things forever on my "list". 
  • daily Bible reading/study/prayer
  • exercise (running and CrossFit)
  • meal planning
  • cooking our meals
  • housekeeping (cleaning and keeping the daily clutter under control)
  • visiting family (close by and far away)
  • having people over for a meal
  • school planning
  • deep cleaning my house
  • blogging
  • yard work
  • cleaning out closets, drawers, storage areas, etc.
  • laundry and ironing
  • reading
  • school preparation (in addition to planning)
  • errands
  • grocery shopping
  • bill paying/emails/computer work/etc.
  • doing something fun with the kids
  • doing something fun with Jimmy

I find that if I concentrate on one area, the other areas fall apart.  For instance, if I spend the morning working on school stuff, then I fall behind on the laundry.  If I spend 3-4 hours cleaning the house, I never get to reading or the yard work, and then it's time for supper!

I know in my head what to do.  Prioritize.  Make a list.  Work on lots of different things for short periods of time.  Figure out a weekly cleaning/shopping/computer work schedule, and then follow it. 
But I find that lately I can't even formulate a plan!  My brain is tired.

I have a short vacation with Jimmy coming up soon. We are going on a little getaway to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I hope during that time I can relax, regroup, and be ready to tackle life when I get home. I have several "just for fun" books that I'm taking with me.

Please feel free to share any time management tips or words of wisdom.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Running and CrossFit

So I have been going to CrossFit since February, and I have also slowly increased my weekly running mileage. It has been challenging!  From February until the first of June, I could only attend CrossFit classes twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. Since we are taking a break from homeschooling for the summer, when I have been in town, I have gone to CrossFit three days a week. That has made a difference!  I am getting stronger, but I am also more tired, especially on days like today when I do a long run in the morning and then go to CrossFit in the afternoon.  But, overall, I am pleased with my exercise routine.

But in all honesty, I am sore almost every. single. day. Sore in areas where I did not even know I had muscles!

The seven of us in our CrossFit class (6 students and our dear instructor) have an ongoing group message text/chat, and most of the dialogue is about how sore we are or what hurts or how we want to skip the workout that day because we looked online at what we were going to be doing--and we were dreading that particular activity. (For the record, we shame/encourage the complaining member into attending anyway!) The camaraderie and friendships built and maintained while we are sweating together (and there is a copious amount of sweat!) is worth all the discomfort.  My CrossFit ladies are my support group! (Lynn, Leanna, Leigh, Tracy, MC, and Season). Also Olivia is joining us for the summer, so she gets to have fun too!

Several people cautioned me about getting injured while doing CrossFit.  Our coach (MC) is very conscientious of the fact that I am weak (and not a spring chicken!), and she has been very thorough when instructing us the proper techniques. She also is kind and very encouraging!  She has her work cut out for her with six homeschooling mamas who are not natural athletes. (Well, some of my classmates are very strong and have progressed quickly!) At the end of each workout, after I pick myself up off the floor, I am so glad that I came!

Leanna and I are currently training for the Tupelo 13.1 Miler on September 4. We do have a time goal--we must be through by 7:25 so have time to get home, shower, and be at our church service which begins at 9:30.  Fortunately, the race begins at 5:00AM, so unless something really terrible happens, we should finish in time.  I have run this race several times before, and I have always made my time goal.

Running and doing CrossFit at the same time has been hard, but since I am not training for a marathon, it is certainly doable.  And when I begin my homeschool again in August, I will cut my CrossFit workouts back to twice a week.  Leanna, Lynn, and I are also running the St. Jude Half Marathon in December, so we will continue that training throughout the fall.

Our CrossFit class just ordered the shirts in the picture above...but in pink.  It will bring us such joy to all wear them on the same day to class and take a picture!

Keeping fitness fun.  That's the key to doing it.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Planning and Canning

Well. Summer is in full swing around here.  For me, summer means planning for the upcoming school year and also tackling projects that I cannot do during the regular school year--things like canning, cleaning out closets and drawers, and deep cleaning. All of these activities actually bring me great joy.

We didn't plant a garden this year.  After last year's traumatic experience with the deer eating my entire garden, I just needed a break from the commitment and work of having a garden.   However, I am still canning, but instead of fresh produce, I am canning jars and jars of dried beans.  I ordered 100 pounds of dried beans from Azure earlier this month.  I also had lots of bean from my order last summer....so I am going to can until I run out of jars.  I actually started today.  My canner holds 19 pints at a time, so today I plan to can two batches.  I am not sure how many jars I have, but I'm guessing I have at least 100.

As far as school planning goes, I have planned 10 weeks of one subject.  Lynn, Leanna, and I are going to do a "co-op". We are all studying American government and the presidents, and we have planned three group meetings.  During these meetings the children will give brief oral presentations about an assigned subject or president. We also planned various other learning activities and games to review what we covered at home.  Leah and Sam have never done a co op like this, and I anticipate they will love it!  When Olivia, Julie, and Clay were younger I participated in co ops similar to this for many years.  They have fond memories this, and I hope that Leah and Sam will as well.

That leaves me lots more planning to do!  I now have to condense Core F of Sonlight to roughly 24 weeks.  (Since we are spending 10 weeks on the presidents and government.)  I also have to make decisions regarding which curriculum to use for Clay's economics and American Government courses.  I am considering using something different from what I used for Olivia and Julie.  Then I have to make my shopping list for things such as math, worldly wise, daily grams, Apologia elementary science, etc.  I hope to place my order for school books and materials next week.

The timer beeped (the beans are ready to process), so I better get back to the stove!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Mop and the Shower Door

Well.  I finally caught up on camp/being out of town for a week laundry last night around 10:00.  I made some homemade laundry detergent, combining two different recipes, and so far, so good. I tried liquid homemade laundry detergent about 4 years ago, but I never cared for it.  This time I made a powder, and I really like it.  I'll give an update after another week (I have to see if our smelly running clothes will get clean and fresh enough).

After reading your comments on the blog and also on my Facebook page, I decided to buy this mop from Amazon. It was cheaper than some of the brands recommended to me. I did not want to invest a lot in a mop, so I felt like this one had really good reviews and was not too expensive either.  I did not want a spray mop, nor did I want to buy any special mop spray.  I am mixing up my own floor cleaner which is basically water, vinegar, and a few drops of very low cost (bought on Amazon for about $2/bottle) essential oil. So this is the mop I bought.


18" Professional Microfiber Mop | Stainless Steel Handle | Premium Mop Pads + 2 FREE Microfiber Cloths
(That's how it's listed on Amazon)
(I couldn't figure out how to copy and paste a link to the page.)

I love this mop!  The handle is all one piece and is made of stainless steel.  It also can get longer or shorter, depending on your needs.

The microfiber cloths are just wonderful!  I also bought a 3 pack of additional cloths, because I knew the two that the mop came with would not be enough for me to use at one time.  The mop head swivels, and just glides across the floor.

I mix up my cleaning solution in a mop bucket and put the 5 microfiber cloths in the bucket.  I squeeze out and use one at a time, and then I put the dirty mop cloth away and get out another clean one. 

Mopping can be fun!

The shower door.  No luck yet on any of my reader suggestions (via in person, this blog, or my Facebook page). I have yet to try one more thing....a paste of Bar Keeper's Friend.  I am about to clean the bathrooms, so I will try this. 
I have scrubbed all the filmy stuff off my glass shower door. What is left is like hard water droplets stains.  So the door is clean and shiny with whitish spots all over it.

I am determined to get that shower door crystal clear!

Monday, June 20, 2016

RYC Fun

We spent the last week at RYC (Rustic Youth Camp) in Alabama.  This was my family's seventh year to attend this camp, and it proved to be so much fun as always!

Lynn and I stayed with Mrs. Beulah (just like we have the past 6 years), but this time we had only 5 children with us--my two youngest, her two youngest, and her niece.  So, for the first time, we had to take only one vehicle to the camp each day.  Clay, Parker, and Carson were overnight campers, and Olivia served as a bunkhouse counselor for the girls.  She also helped teach the 5 & 6 year olds. I spent my week teaching the 3rd and 4th graders with four other wonderful ladies.  We had 27 children, 18 of which were boys! Over the years I have taught 3 & 4 year olds, 5 & 6 year olds, and 3rd and 4th graders.  For the past three years I have taught the 3rd and 4th graders, and that is my favorite class!  The camp preparation is brutal, but the week is always completely worth it!

Julie spent the week at home with Jimmy (she is too old for camp, and too young to be a counselor). Next year she can join the ranks of hard working counselors.  :)

Olivia's friend Brian also worked as a counselor in the boys' bunkhouse and a camp photographer. Julie's friend Sam came for a visit last weekend, and so we have have a fun house full since arriving home from camp Friday night.  I am still doing camp laundry!

There were many highlights of camp week-----3 girls were baptized in the lake, the Florida College Friends musical group gave a concert on Monday night, Jimmy and Julie visited us twice during the week, Julie and Big Sam came over to camp the last day, Mrs. Beulah braided our hair Thursday night, the kids swam and swam in her pool, and they took a record of 2 baths for the week! (Chlorine cleans dirty kids, right?) Many Bible lessons were studied, many crafts were made, and many friendships were established or rekindled.

A fun, exhausting week!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Running With The King 5K

Bright and early this morning all of us (except Clay who was still at Boys State--he's been gone all week) ran the Running With the King 5K. The "king" is Elvis.  Tupelo has a big Elvis Festival every year to celebrate the fact that Elvis Presley was born here. The race course runs right by his birthplace.  It has become a tradition for our family to run this race each year.

Sam and Julie both set a PR (personal record) in a road race 5K.  The rest of us were happy with our finish times too.

Jimmy and Sam


 We still look sleepy, don't we?

We found my nephew, Causey, at the race too!


Last weekend I made another quick road trip.  I drove 4 other ladies from my church to a wedding in Clinton, about 3.5 hours away.  We had a delightful time!  At the reception there was a photo booth (which was the cutest idea, by the way), and we laughed and laughed at our experience!  

Here is our printout!
Sheila, Lynn, Leanna, Mary Alice, and Me

What a blast!
The wedding and reception were both lovely, and we are all so happy for Josh and Emily. 



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Housecleaning, Soap Scum, and Mops

Back in March, my friend Heather W. shared with me her spring cleaning list.  It was from CleanMama.net. Although I did not do much spring cleaning in March (I mostly did yard work), I spent a good bit of time reading through the Clean Mama website.  I loved it!  I ordered her book, The Organically Clean Home, and I have tried several cleaning recipes from it.  I like the way the cleaners work and smell, and I have enjoyed making them too.  So far I have tried some of the bathroom, kitchen, and floor cleaners.

My next homemade cleaning project will be laundry detergent.  I made laundry detergent a few years ago, but it was liquid, and I really wash not happy with it.  This time I plan to make powdered detergent.  I'll let you know how it works when I make it.

Soap scum:  Yuk!  I have a build up of soap scum on my glass shower door, and I can not get it off. I have tried everything I can think of---ideas both from my new cleaning recipe book as well as ideas from Pinterest.  Here is what I have tried, that did not work:

  • a mixture of borax and hot water
  • a cut lemon, rubbed on the door
  • rubbing alcohol
  • magic eraser
  • vinegar
  • baking soda
  • vinegar and baking soda together
  • lime away cleaner
  • comet
  • bleach
  • windex

The soap scum is still there!  Do you have anything that you have used to clean a shower door that actually works?

Mops: I am searching for the perfect mop.  
  • I really, really do not like using a traditional mop and mop bucket.  After one rinsing of the dirty mop, I feel like I am mopping the rest of the floors with dirty mop water.
  • I have been through 2 steam mops over the years. (I like them, but I keep wearing them out).
  • I have tried making my own reusable wipes for a swiffer (and I really like these cloths I am making --recipe is in The Organically Clean Home, but I can tell that I will be breaking my swiffer pole soon.  It is so flimsy.  And my microfiber cloths are too big for the swiffer head (I actually cut and serged the edges of a couple to them to make them fit)
  • I think I want a sturdy mop pole with washable cloths that stay on the mop head (like with elastic or something). I need several of the cloths so I can mop many rooms at one time. 
Do any of you know of a mop and mop cloth set that works?  I think I want microfiber since all of my floors are hardwood.  Any suggestions?

Happy Cleaning!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Our Trip to Wyoming

Earlier in May our whole family plus Big Sam (Julie's friend) went on a week long vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  We spent most of our time at the Grand Teton National Park, but we drove to Yellowstone for one day. We packed a picnic lunch each day and spent the day hiking....most days 6-8 miles. Our most exciting hike of all was 10 miles. At night we just hung out at the condo--reading, talking, playing cards, and resting. 

It was a fantastic trip! Jimmy took hundreds of pictures, and I have narrowed them down to about 60 to share.

First of all, it was cold!  May in Mississippi is pretty warm, and my children have been swimming since April. In Wyoming, the temperatures dropped below freezing some nights, and there was still snow in some places. 

 Big Sam, Leah, Julie, Olivia, Me, Sam, and Clay

 Big Sam, Little Sam, and Clay
Throughout this trip, if there was a rock, the kids would climb on it.  No exceptions.  No matter how tall the rock was.

 There are very few pictures with Jimmy in them because he is our family photographer!

 Sam will climb on pretty much anything.

 Snow!
The snow we saw and played in was deeper than any snow our family has ever seen.

All 8 of us!

 Climbing a rock...

 Jumping off a rock.....

 Posing on a rock.....

 Hiking....

 Resting on a rock....
I'm guessing this was not a tall rock since I am on it too!

 The scenery was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.  We were in awe of God's marvelous creation every single day.  The pictures cannot capture the beauty!

 Leah and Sam playing in the snow.
There were quite a few snowballs thrown on this trip!

 Another rock climbing....

 I'm just pausing to take it all in....plus I am probably pausing to catch my breath!  The high altitude did affect me.

More risky behavior.
This whole trip was one big risk-taking adventure!

 On this day we visited Yellowstone.
Our family (which at the time included only Olivia, Julie, and Clay) visited Yellowstone once before--14 years ago.

 Sweet Sisters!

 Big Sam sliding down the hill.

 Leah

 Clay

 And Sam---head first, of course!

 Old Faithful!

Outside the Old Faithful Inn

 Julie and Sam



This rock was difficult to climb, so Jimmy gave Clay some assistance.

 Only Clay and Big Sam made it to the top of this one.
You can tell how big it is in relation to our car.

 Our family.
My kids are growing up!  Right now they are 21, 18, 17, 12, and 10. 

 The waterfall and canyon below were so beautiful!

 More snow

The following pictures somewhat document the most exciting/scary/near death experience day of all!
Since the snow is just now melting in Wyoming, some of the hiking paths were not completely clear.  Nothing was posted as "closed", so we just picked our hike for the day (called Death Canyon Patrol Cabin) and forged on.  As we began, I wondered out loud why the trail was called Death Canyon?  I was soon to find out.  We almost died by falling in a canyon more than once!  (Not really, but it was super, super scary!)

 Leah and Sam (on a small rock).
The trail started out harmless enough.  We covered many switchbacks down, down, down, to the lake overlook.

 It was so beautiful!

Then we got to the part of the trail that was blocked by snow.  I though we would turn back.  But no!  I was with the adventuresome family that wanted to keep on going. I think they wanted to get to the top of the mountain!  I couldn't very well stay behind and get eaten by a bear, so I bravely (or not so bravely) followed them.  I did text Lynn and Leanna several times with updates......







So here is Jimmy, making the path across the snow-covered raging river safe for us to cross.

 That is a hole in the snow where you could see the water rushing underneath.

 We made it across, and the kids found this neat tree to climb on.

 Wow!  What a view!
How much farther to Death Canyon?


Crossing more slippery snow

Just crossing another obstacle on the trail.

 We are crazy!

 Another rock picture.....

 And everyone else had to climb up there too.

 FINALLY. 
Destination:  The Death Canyon Patrol Cabin.

And now.....we had to go back the way we came!


 Headed back.....

 Playing in the snow

 This is how I felt for most of this hike!
Really? I'm climbing a mountain?

 Here is Jimmy after he slipped and fell on some rocks.
But he did not drop the camera!

 Posing for more pictures on the way down.

 Julie and Big Sam

 It's still precarious.

Wait.  Another rock.

And finally, 10 miles later, we were back at our car.  All in one piece!

On our last day we did one last (short) hike.  The weather was iffy that day--rain was looming, and we did not want to be caught up high on a mountain in a storm. So we chose a short hike.  Up to a peak to eat our picnic lunch, and then back down. Nothing like the excitement of the previous day......

 Headed up the trail

 At the top.
We ate our lunch, and started back down.  Big Sam was in the lead, and after a few minutes he calmly said, "Bear.  There's a mama bear and two cubs!"
I panicked!
 See the bear in the tree?

 Of course Jimmy got close enough to take pictures.
I was far, far away!

 Now the bears are coming down the path---toward us! Jimmy was hollering at the bears, and he and Big Sam both had a can of bear spray (to use to stun the bears if they got too close).
The rest of us just kept backing away....

And then finally, the bears veered off the trail and headed down the mountainside, away from us.
Whew!

All safe!

Another fun Johnson Family Vacation.