Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Clean Pantry

Last Saturday as I opened my pantry door to check my inventory before I made my weekly grocery list, I decided that I could not deal with the messiness of my pantry another second longer!

So, I grabbed my camera to document the before and after, and then I got busy!

I filled 3 trash bags with out of date food. Three bags! I have periodically wiped the shelves and rearranged items, but this is the first time that I took everything out, vacuumed the entire thing top to bottom, and purged!

Here are a few before pictures.

an almost floor to ceiling shot--my pantry is built in a corner of my kitchen

a shelf full of packages and packets of all sorts of things

the floor

another picture of the floor

the baking shelf

After a couple of hours of work, this is what my pantry looks like now--so clean, so organized! I enjoy just opening the door and looking inside!

In this picture: top shelf--baking goods; middle shelf--snacks, oatmeal, and canned goods; bottom shelf, appliances, cereals and other boxed goods, and the pared down box of packages and packets

another view of those shelves

the other side of the baking shelf. I re-alphbetized my spices. I don't know why people can't put them back in ABC order after they use them!

I tried to get a picture of the whole pantry, floor to ceiling.
Doesn't the floor look so much better?

another almost top-to-bottom view

After cleaning out the pantry, I did my weekly grocery shopping. I supervised closely as the children helped me put away the groceries. I wanted to make sure everything went in its proper place!

I hope it stays clean!

Monday, August 30, 2010

This Week's Menu

I have been serving a lot of cereal and smoothies for breakfast lately, and our lunch menu has basically been whatever, so when I made my grocery list for this week, I took the time to plan for breakfast and lunch too. I know my children will be so happy!

Have I mentioned that school is taking me all day this year?

Here's the menu:

  • pig in blankets
  • sausage and cheese muffins, scrambled eggs
  • pancakes (made from scratch)
  • cereal/smoothies
  • eggs, bacon, grits, biscuits (frozen ones)--this breakfast will be served on Jimmy's day off
  • pizza packets (pizza sauce, chopped pepperoni, mozzarella cheese rolled up in crescent rolls) (2 different days)
  • sandwiches, chips and salsa
  • leftovers (2 different days)
  • tuna salad sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches
  • grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, baked plain or sweet potatoes
  • cheeseburger crowder with hamburger bun croutons
  • shrimp pizza
  • penne pasta with spinach and bacon, garlic bread
  • Sunday's supper is always cereal or oatmeal
Please visit OrgJunkie.com for more delicious menus.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Yesterday, Olivia, Julie, and Clay ran in the first 5K of our fall season, the Blue Mountain College 5K. Our homeschool running team, the Spartans, were well represented. I am guessing that the Spartans and their parents were about 1/3 or more of the race. Green shirts were everywhere!

Danielle, Catherine, Julie, and Martha at the starting line

Julie and Becky

Olivia, stretching and getting ready to run

Anna Beth and Julie

As always for these races, the children had to get up very early, and we left our house at 6:00 AM for the one hour drive to Blue Mountain. I baked banana applesauce muffins for the children for breakfast--I think that may be a tradition now--those muffins on race mornings.

The night before a race I always pack everything: watches, snacks and drinks for the little children, ponytail holders, brush, camera, blankets, and clothes for Leah and Sam. Normally, we just get Leah and Sam from the bed and put them in straight in the car. I dress them when we arrive at the race.

Jared and silly Sam

The siblings of the Spartans always amuse themselves during the pre-race activities, the actual race, and afterwards while awaiting the awards. The Blue Mountain College campus provided lots of entertainment for the children--trees to climb, large grassy areas to run around in, and a bridge to play on. They occupied themselves well.

Leah and Avery

The race course was hilly, including an uphill stretch to the finish. The faces of the runners reflected the toughness of that finish line hill! Still, the Spartan runners had a successful race. Many Spartans won awards and a couple of Spartan parents did too! Olivia won 1st in her age group, Julie won 1st in her age group, and Clay won 3rd in his age group.

Olivia and Catherine

Alec and Clay

Jimmy had to work the morning of the race, but he was able to join us later on. We visited with other Spartans while enjoying a hamburger lunch and various games and activities on the Blue Mountain campus.

When we arrived home, everyone rested, and I cleaned out my pantry (pictures later) and then Clay and I bought groceries. Sam took a four hour nap!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Edible Cell

Clay's science course this year is Apologia Human Anatomy and Physiology. He will be completing the first lesson tomorrow, which has covered the history of the study of anatomy and a simple study of the human cell. I am really enjoying this science book. The conversational tone of the text makes difficult science concepts easy to understand.

Today all of the children made an edible cell!

I mixed up yellow jello with added gelatin this morning, and allowed it to jell in bowls for several hours. After lunch while the children were playing outside, I set up the lab.

Each yellow blob on the paper plate is a cell, made of jello. The various candies served as the different parts of the cell. Yum!

A close up of the supplies

the cytoplasm!

This is Clay's drawing of a cell. He worked on this for a few days while I read to him about each part of the cell. The notebook is sold by Apologia too, and it goes along with the textbook.

I asked Clay to explain each part of the cell--its name and its function. Then I told the children which candy to use to represent the cell part, and they inserted it into the cell. They had to use a knife to cut a slit or hole in the jello. If they just poked the candy in the jello, it would pop right out! Adding the cell parts caused a little bit of frustration to some of the children!

This is Clay adding mitochondria to his cell.

Olivia adding mitochondria to hers

Julie and Sam made one cell together. She is adding the centriole.
Sam mostly ate cell parts.

Leah working hard on her cell. She is inserting the endoplasmic reticulum.

Sam and Julie, almost done!

Clay's finished cell!

Serious scientists!

After completing the cells, Leah, Sam, and Clay proceeded to eat their cells! Yuk! They all enjoyed the leftover cell parts (candy).

To wrap up this two week science lesson, tomorrow Clay will review all that he has learned by making a mini-book on the parts of the cell, completing a vocabulary crossword puzzle, and finishing up narrating the various chapter parts in his lapbook. All of this wrap-up will probably take two days. Then we can begin lesson 2 on Monday.

I really like this science course.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Counting the First 100 Days of School

Today I have a blog post over at The Homeschool Classroom. It's about counting the first 100 days of school. I did this the year before last with Leah, and we all enjoyed it so much that I am doing it again with Sam. We are on day 9. My post includes directions for counting the days as well as ideas for celebrating when you reach day 100. It will probably take until April or May for us to complete 100 days of preschool.

I have been so busy with our new school year as well as our homeschool running team, that there have been days that I have not even gone online beyond checking my email.

Schoolwork is still taking most of my day. Olivia (10th) is working 100% independently, and Julie (8th) completely independent except for listening to me read the Sonlight books. Clay (6th) has pleasantly surprised me with his independent reading. This is the first year I have assigned him novel type books to read, and he has risen to the task. He has kept up with the Sonlight read alone daily schedule, and he is comprehending what he is reading! Leah (1st) is loving first grade, and Sam still spends most of his time asking me when will Clay be done with school so they can play.

Don't forget to visit The Homeschool Classroom. You can click here to get there.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Food That's Good For You

Here are a couple of healthy recipes that my family enjoys. Both are good for both breakfasts and snacks.


1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2-3 cups nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine brown sugar with water in a 4 cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 5 minutes--until it boils and sugar is completely dissolved. Add vanilla and salt to sugar water mixture, stirring to dissolve salt. Put oats, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl. Pour sugar mixture over, and stir until thorough mixed. Spread onto cookie sheets and cook for 45-60 minutes. Let granola cook completely, then store in airtight container.
(This recipe is from Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen, by Kathleen Daelemans)

Fruit Smoothie

8 oz. yogurt (plain, vanilla, or fruit)
1 banana
1/2 cup dry non-fat milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango, etc.)

Combine all ingredients in a blender.
This serves 2-3 people, depending on your cup size.
(adapted from Lose Those Last 10 Pounds by Denise Austin)


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Good Day! A Good Day!

YES! I think I have a workable plan!

Yesterday we followed the schedule that I outlined in my last post, and we had success! No tears. The day flowed smoothly, and we left on time for our piano lessons. The children really liked my reading aloud to them first thing after Bible lesson. We have done that for so long, and it works really well for us. Leah and Sam listen too, usually drawing or playing with Legos. Whenever Sam had to leave the room to go get something he needed, he would say, "Don't read until I get back". I also know that he and Leah are listening because of the questions they ask.

Another successful change I made was to work with Julie and Clay individually instead of together for their language arts instruction. Yes, I had to give the same information twice, but the trade-off was super! While I worked with Julie, Clay took Leah and Sam outside (they love this), and while I worked with Clay, Julie did a painting activity with them. She plans to do various craft activities with them each day, drawing ideas from Leah's Sonlight books.

I have read Leah's read aloud book at bedtime the last couple of nights, after I have read a couple of Sam's Sonlight books, and on most nights all five children gather in and around Sam's twin-sized bed to listen. I save the longer read loud (right now it's The Boxcar Children) for last, and Sam usually falls asleep while I am reading it.

I want to encourage you, if your days are not going like you want them to. Whether it's because of poor planning, sickness, bad attitudes, or if you just can't seem to find the right plan, keep on trying. Don't give up! Pray, pray, and pray some more about the situation. Seek wisdom from God's Word, and also from godly and experienced friends. Try to remember the big picture, your ultimate goal for yourself, your children, and your whole family, and then do what you can right now, to achieve that goal. As Christians, we are to live our lives in daily service to the Lord. We need to remember that, whenever we get overwhelmed by our lives.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33 (NAS)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yesterday Was Better

Yesterday was a better school day for us, but we are still not there yet. I talked to three dear friends over the last couple of days, and they all offered basically the same wise advice.

  • Remember the most important goal (it's not academic)--raising children that love the Lord and want to serve Him with their lives. Their spiritual training and instruction is the most important.
  • Find ways to reduce, consolidate or eliminate some of the children's schoolwork. They all three agreed that I am trying to tackle too many different subjects at the same time.
  • Being a pleasant, loving, kind, and sane wife and mother is important too.
So, I am going to try again on Monday with a few modifications. If Monday and Tuesday don't go well, I will reevaluate again and make the necessary changes.
Here are some of my changes.
  • Drop the Apologia Astronomy with Leah. The book does seem to be above her interest level, and I have a whole box of solar system picture and simple information books that I plan to use instead. Once or twice a week I will read some of these books to her. I plan for her to construct a simple lapbook about the solar system, at a relaxed pace.
  • Break up Leah's instruction time into two sessions, instead of one long 1.5 hour session. I also may move her read aloud book to bedtime. Session one will include her basic subjects: phonics, math, spelling, etc. Session two will be when I read aloud to her (her Sonlight history/geography) and work on our solar system stuff---as we want to.
  • Teach Julie's and Clay's language arts (basically dictation and creative writing instruction and assignments) separately instead of together. When I am working with Clay, Julie can play with Leah and Sam, and then they can switch. I will also use this time to check their work (any work they have done so far that day plus what they did on the previous day that I have not checked), assign corrections, and briefly go over any subject they haven't done. I think that this one 30 minute session will go very smoothly with the other child entertaining Leah and Sam.
  • Move the Sonlight Core 5 read aloud to right after Bible lesson. I have read aloud first thing in the morning for many years now, and it has always worked for us.
  • Put Leah's handwriting, phonics, and math pages in daily folders so she can work independently while I am doing preschool with Sam
Here is the schedule I am going to try.

8:00 Bible lesson with all children in kitchen

8:45 Sonlight Core 5 read aloud in den. I will read until 9:30. Leah and Sam can play quietly on the floor with legos, dolls, drawing, etc. The girls usually crochet and Clay usually plays legos too. Listening to these books will be optional for Olivia.

9:30 Mark map and do timeline in schoolroom. All children begin independent work. I'll do a 15 minute preschool time with Sam.

10:00 Work with Leah. Sam with preschool activities in schoolroom. Other children work independently.

10:30 Snack break for everyone. (I work on laundry for 15 minutes or so.)

10:45 Work with Julie. Clay play with Leah and Sam.

11:15 Work with Clay. Julie play with Leah and Sam.

11:45 Read aloud to Leah. Julie and Clay finish their work. Olivia is still working too. Sam can listen, play in schoolroom, or play somewhere else.

12:15 Check on Olivia. Others get ready for lunch. Olivia and I will join them for lunch later.

I am not sure how much work the older three will have after lunch, but I am hoping not more than an hour or so. I plan to let Leah and Sam watch a video of some sort after lunch while I finish up school with the older three.

On a different subject--I am training for a 14.2 mile race on Sept. 5th. For some reason, my long runs have just worn me down. I ran 13.3 miles this morning (with my friend Lynn), and I felt ok until the last mile. When we were done, I was exhausted! I mean more tired than usual after a long run. I could hardly get out of the truck when Jimmy and I got home (he ran 18 in not much longer time than I ran 13!) I have been trying to rest today (between buying groceries and cooking for our family Bible study tonight). I have one more long run before the race--next weekend--and then I plan to back off my mileage until the actual race. My time goal is to be through in time to get home and get ready for our church service. The race begins at 5:00 AM, and I need to be though running by 7:30. Last year it took me 2 hours, 15 minutes. I will be happy if I can get close to that time this year. I seem to be much slower this summer.

I'll post again about our school day after Monday---I am anticipating a great day!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Third Time Was Not the Charm

Yesterday was our 3rd day of our new school year. While I don't plan to blog about every single day of our school year, I do want to paint a realistic picture of homeschooling. I am confident in my choice of homeschooling, and I truly love homeschooling my children. However, it is not always easy. But that doesn't mean that I will quit. Just because something is hard doesn't mean that it is not possible or even enjoyable. It just means that it may be hard. Life isn't always easy.

I have had other hard years in my life as a mother. The year that Clay was born and I also had a 20 month old and a 3, almost 4 year old. That whole year was hard. But then the next year was easier. The next hard year for me was when Leah was a baby, I had 3 children to homeschool and we were building a house. We moved in our new house two weeks before Leah's first birthday. The next year was much easier. My most recent hard year was the year I was pregnant with Sam and the months after his birth. Overwhelming. Then I enjoyed a few not so hard years.

I think that this year is going to be a hard year. Doable, enjoyable, but hard. That's ok. I am up for the challenge. I am determined to find a routine for our school year that will be beneficial to all.

Yesterday I tried doing Clay and Julie's Sonlight history, geography, language arts, and read alouds first thing after our Bible study time. The day didn't go so well. Leah wanted to do her school, but I was occupied with Julie and Clay. She and Sam didn't do so well on doing their morning chores unsupervised, and then they quickly tired of the preschool activities I set up for them. They were in and out of the schoolroom. I didn't have a good plan for what they needed to be doing. Then Olivia had a problem with her Rosetta Stone Spanish. (That program gives me fits!). I had made a mistake when typing up her daily checklist, and I had to spend about 30 minutes figuring the program out! Clay needed me, Julie needed me, Leah was still waiting to do her school, and Sam was needing me too.

Julie decided to take everyone out to play in the barn, but since I was through figuring out the Spanish, I was finally ready to do school with Leah. Well, her eagerness was gone! She wanted to go to the barn too. She asked if she could do her school really quickly and join them. Sadly, I knew that her school would take over an hour, and by then the others would be back for lunch. She cried. I cried. I didn't know what to do!

So I sent them all to the barn to play. I ran 5 miles on the treadmill and mentally regrouped. We all had lunch. I put Sam down for a nap. I did school with Leah. Then I finished Sonlight with Julie and Clay. Then I helped Clay finish his school. Then I checked Julie's and Olivia's schoolwork. And then it was 4:45! We had started at 8:00. What a long school day!

I cooked supper, showered, got everyone ready for our church service and went to church.
I was exhausted!

Today Jimmy is off work, so it is a no school day. He and the older girls left at 6:00 AM for a long run. I ran on the treadmill. I plan to think about first three school days, look at my notes, and make a new plan for tomorrow.

I will work on it until we get it right!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to School Pictures

I took these pictures on our first day of school, but I forgot to include them in my First Day of School post. So, here they are!

Olivia--10th grade

Julie--8th grade

Clay--6th grade

Leah--1st grade


Our second day of school went pretty well too. It didn't take us quite as long, but I didn't do science with Leah, and I still haven't done science with Clay yet. I had planned on doing science with Clay two days a week and with Leah two days a week, but now that I have looked at the content of the lessons, I think that it will be too much material for one day doing it only two days a week. Leah is using Apologia Astronomy, and Clay is using Apologia Human Body. I am beginning Clay's science book with him today, and I will also do Astronomy with Leah too. We are going to have to read in both of their science books every school day---I think the more frequent yet shorter lessons will work out better for all of us.

Yesterday we had our first cross country practice of the season. We will be practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:00, and meeting up with other xc runners to run on Mondays at 4:00 through mid-November. We also have piano lessons on Mondays from 2:00-3:30. This all begins in full force next Monday.

I am still working on our school day schedule. I have not found the best routine yet. Both days I have worked with Leah and Sam (yesterday) first thing after our Bible lesson. It takes me about 1.5 hours to do this. Julie and Clay (Julie more than Clay) end up having free time during the latter part of this time because they have completed all of their independent work, and they are waiting for me to do all of the Sonlight reading and language arts with them. They would rather me do the Sonlight with them right after our Bible lesson, so they can then do their independent work and be done. I am not sure that I want Leah and Sam to play the first 1.5 hours of their school day while I am working with Julie and Clay. I may try this today....I am still not sure.

Celee asked me why I didn't run the morning of our first day of school! Well, I had just run 12 miles on Sunday, so I rested on Monday! I don't run every single day. I did run yesterday (6 miles) before we began school. Today I plan to run this afternoon when we are done with school. I run 4 or 5 days a week, usually just 4.

I am really enjoying using Sonlight with Julie and Clay. All of the books I am reading to them (and Leah too) are excellent.

We are going to learn a lot this year!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Our Actual First Day of School

I took notes today as we had our first day of school. My plan was to use those notes to see how long each subject took, where we could be more efficient with our time, and how I could arrange our day differently.

Now that I have looked back over my notes from today, I have decided to share my day. Our actual first day of school--so you can see what a real homeschooling day can look like.

5:10: I woke up, drank coffee, read my Bible, fixed Jimmy's lunch, showered and dressed for the day, and started a load of laundry.

6:30: I checked to see if the older girls were awake (they were: Olivia just getting up and Julie had been up since 6:00) They read their Bibles and did morning chores, dress, had breakfast. I cooked breakfast.

7:00: I woke up Clay. He did the same things as the girls. I set a deadline of 8:00 for everyone to be at the kitchen table, ready to begin our Bible lesson.

Can't remember what time Leah and Sam woke up, but it was in time for them to watch a Little Bear episode and do their chores.

8:10: We began our Bible lesson.

8:45: Olivia, Julie, and Clay did schoolwork independently, I did Leah's school with her, and Sam played with 3 preschool activities on the schoolroom floor. Sam also climbed all over me and drug out tons of Little People toys, and Julie and Clay both had to stop me for questions about 10 times. Both of them also finished all that they could do alone before I was finished with Leah, so Julie made homemade bread, and Clay took Sam outside to play.

10:00: Now finished with all of Leah's school except for Sonlight read alouds. Began her read alouds.

10:20: Finished with Leah's read alouds. Total school time for Leah=1.5 hours.
Snack break for everyone. I also transferred the laundry to the dryer.

10:50: Sonlight read alouds for Julie and Clay. We also did their Sonlight language arts activities during this time, as well as the timeline and markable map. Leah played around, Sam played some with the Little People and then sat in my lap and fell asleep while I was reading.

12:30: Lunch break. I tried to lay Sam down in my bed, but he woke up. He watched another episode of Little Bear (I know, too much TV for one day, but some days it happens!). I also know that I have still not done preschool with Sam yet! Our lunch break lasts one hour. That is longer than usual, but we all seemed to enjoy the break.

1:30: School with Clay. Olivia has been working independently all day. She has the occasional question, but so far is managing alone. Julie is still cooking! Leah is playing. I'm not sure what Sam is doing.

2:10: Through with Clay's school. Go over Julie's schoolwork for the day with her.

2:20: Meet with Olivia to review her day's schoolwork. I discovered that she did not know about her questions to answer after her history lesson. She works them now.

2:30: The children have all vanished, and I clean up the schoolroom. At some point during the day Sam has gotten out a lot of Little People.

2:55: I find Sam, and we do preschool. It takes 15 minutes!

3:10: Read aloud to Leah and Sam.

3:30: Help Julie with her homemade bread, read email, do some paperwork and phone calls for the Spartans (homeschool cross country team). This "office work" wouldn't have taken so long if I had not been interrupted 14 times. Ate some of Julie's delicious bread.

4:40: Started supper--pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and sliced tomatoes. Cleaned the kitchen (partly). Sweet Julie is ironing for me!

5:15: Fold all the children's clean clothes. Julie folds all of the towels and sheets.

5:30: Clean the kitchen some more, check on supper.

5:45: Call all children to do afternoon chores. Help Leah and Sam do their chores. Cleaned boys' bathroom. Finished supper.

7:00 Jimmy comes home. We all eat supper and enjoy lively dinner conversation. I ask all the children to share something that they learned today.

7:40: I clean the kitchen while Jimmy and all 5 children do some cleaning in the barn.

7:55: Fold the last two loads of clothes and put them away.

8:30: All of the children are back inside. They bathe and get ready for bed. I read to Leah and Sam in Sam's bed. We are joined by all of the other kids....4 kids plus me in Sam's twin bed and one child on the floor. After reading our nightly Bible story, I read 3 chapters of a Junie B. Jones book (I know! Quality children's literature! But, if you have ever read Junie B., you have to admit that she is hilarious!).

9:30: All children are in bed! I prepare for bed myself--with my laptop.

A Few Things to Differently Tomorrow:
  • do preschool with Sam immediately after the Bible lesson
  • have Leah's math, handwriting, and phonics pages ready for her to work on independently while I am doing preschool with Sam
  • make Sam clean up the schoolroom before he escapes
I also plan to take notes again. I wrote down the actual time it took to help each child with each subject while I was working with them. I think I can ease us into a predictable routine after a few days of taking notes.

How was your day?

Back to School Treasure Hunt

The children went on a Back to School Treasure Hunt yesterday afternoon. I was extremely tired all day yesterday, and I just didn't take any pictures. The reason for my tiredness was this: I woke up at 4:55 to do my long run. For a variety of reasons I had to do my 12 mile run on our treadmill. Sam woke up at 5:20, just when I was about to run, so I had to lie down with him until he went back to sleep. I got a late start, 6:05. I ran a little faster than normal to make up for the lost time. I needed to be through running by 8:00 in order to have time to get ready for church service. Anyway, by the end of my run I was dying, and I felt fatigued and sore all day!

We still had a fun treasure hunt, even though I sat in a chair while they did it instead of following them around taking pictures! I prepared 10 clues, two clues for each child. They worked together, solving the clues and running around the house to find the next clue. The 10th clue led them to a basket of goodies--school related of course!

I bought Smencils for all of them. I bought two 10 packs of the regular lead Smencils, and I gave each child 4 of them. I also gave them a couple of Chinese newspaper recycled pencils, and each of them got one more little item.

Olivia--intricate coloring book
Julie--cute journal
Clay--visual tricks book
Leah--cute journal with stickers
Sam--Look and Find book

The children were excited about their new treasures! We spent the rest of the afternoon before our evening church service playing a singing game on the Wii and enjoying healthy snacks--homemade smoothies and homemade granola.

We are beginning our official school day in 5 minutes! Julie has been up since 6:00, and she has already completed all of her independent school work plus her Bible reading and morning chores. Clay has done his math lesson, Bible reading and chores, and Olivia is finishing her Bible reading and chores right now. Sam and Leah are currently doing their chores too. I have breakfast ready (sausage and cheese muffins), and we will begin our day with our Bible lesson.

I am still not sure how our day will flow. I will post our schedule after I figure out the best flow of the day!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Those Last Minute Preparations for School

I have spent this week tying up all of the loose ends so that we can begin our new school year on Monday, August 9th. So much to do, so little time!

The older three children have running camp this week, so I have made the 5 hour round trip to running camp twice already this week, and we have to go back one more time, Saturday morning, to pick up the girls. Actually, Jimmy is going alone to pick them up, so the little ones don't have to make that trip again. The reason that we have gone twice already is that the boys had camp from Sunday night until Wednesday morning, and the girls have camp from Wednesday lunch until Saturday morning. It is hotter than normal around here. The heat index on most days is 110-117. HOT! The bunkhouses at the camp are not air-conditioned, so after one night of misery, the campers moved their mattresses into the air-conditioned dining hall to sleep.

While the different children have been gone, I have worked busily getting ready for school. Monday, the girls and I cleaned house for 4 hours. We really cleaned! I am thinking that I won't have time for such deep cleaning again until December!

On Tuesday, I mowed the grass. Now this is monumental, because I have never mowed the grass in my entire life! But Clay was at running camp, and our yard was beginning to look like a jungle. For the past week, it has come a downpour every afternoon, so neither Clay or Jimmy could do their mowing. Jimmy does all of the riding, edging, weed eating, and blowing, and Clay push mows the smaller yard around our house. Tuesday morning after I got home from my run with Lynn, I decided that since I was already extremely hot and sweaty, that was as good of a time as any to attempt to mow the grass. It took me 2 hours! I think it was 110 degrees by the time I was done. I also figured out how to start the blower, and I blew off the sidewalks and patio. I also mowed a small portion of our steep hillside, but I wasn't strong enough to do much. When I was finished, the yard looked fantastic!

I have read two of the readers for Core 5 Sonlight this week, Henry Reed, Inc. and Call It Courage. I am going to try to read all of Julie's and Clay's readers so that I can discuss the books with them, and also so I can determine how well Clay is comprehending what he is reading. This is the first year that I am requiring this much independent reading for Clay. I am about halfway through Olivia's first required literature book, Mere Christianity. I am really enjoying this book. I also want to be able to discuss the books that Olivia will be reading too.

I typed the last course assignment sheets for the year...a daily schedule of how many pages/chapters to read for Julie and Clay. I didn't want them asking me every day, "How far do I need to read today?" It really won't be an issue for Julie. I suspect that she will read more than enough each day, and finish each book way ahead of schedule. However, I also suspect that Clay will read the minimum amount required each day, and I want a little box that he can check off when he is done.

I shopped for our Back to School Treasure Hunt treats. Typically the day before we actually begin school, we have a pre-school day. On this day we begin with a treasure hunt. I make 5 sets of clues, one set for each child. They start with the youngest, and one at a time follow their clues until they find the treasure. The treasure is a school-related item. I will blog all about our pre-school day after we do it! This year we will have our pre-school day on Sunday afternoon. I also use this day to show the children their new school books and explain to them how they will be doing their schoolwork.

One more thing I did this week was to update my calendar. I have a calendar on my phone and laptop, which are synced and very handy, but I still like to write everything down in an old-fashioned planner. I began by noting all of Jimmy's days off for the upcoming year. Since we don't do school on those days, I need to know when they are. Next I transferred all of the events from our local homeschool group's yearly calendar to my calendar. I added all weekly lessons and practices, vacation weeks, trips, appointments, etc.

I think the last school-related item is to buy a few science supplies. I have purchased various science kits throughout the years, and they are labeled and stored in a closet in our schoolroom. These kits have basic science experiment items. I printed out the supply list for each module for all of our science courses, and most of the items I still lack can be purchased at the grocery store. I will buy what we need for the first few weeks of school this weekend while I am grocery shopping.

Today I plan to finish up my "to-do" list, play dolls with Leah (she asked me to do this today when I was putting her to bed last night), make my grocery list, and catch up on all laundry so I will be ready to wash the girls' sweaty running camp clothes when they come home tomorrow.

I think I will be ready on Monday!

One last thing....
Courtney over at Living Peacefully Less Stressed (I love that blog title!) asked me to link my Schoolroom Tour post to her Yay For Me blog carnival. So click here to see the Mr. Linky. I also recommend that you spend some time browsing Courtney's blog. She offers many practical tips about organizing (my hobby!) and reducing stress in your life.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Being a YES Mom

As mothers, most of us are really good at saying, "No". I say it frequently myself.

No, you can't jump all over the furniture.
No, you can't climb the door facing with those filthy feet.
No, you can't eat another cookie five minutes before supper.
No, you can't carve wood inside the house.
No, you can't watch Little Bear with your younger siblings before you complete your morning chores.
No, you can't ride your brother on the back of your 4 Wheeler.
No, you can't use the stove while I am not here.

Saying no is a good thing. Telling our children, "No" to some of their requests is actually protecting them or teaching them delayed gratification or simply good character. However, I suspect that sometimes we tell our children, "No" not because their desires are harmful or selfish, but simply because they are inconvenient for us.

So, as much as I can, I try to be a Yes Mom. Even when it means that the children will make a huge mess in my freshly mopped kitchen. Even when it means that I have to use my discretionary time (sometimes I actually have that--you know time to blog, check Facebook, email, etc.) to play a game or activity with them. Even when it means I have to rearrange my schedule to accommodate a reasonable (and usually fun) request.

Yes, you can bake homemade cookies.
Yes, you can cook supper tonight.
Yes, I can help you figure out what is wrong with the sewing machine.
Yes, you can drag all of the kitchen chairs into the den, get out a million blankets and make a fort.
Yes, you can paint.
Yes, I will play Play-Doh with you.
Yes, I will play a game with you.
Yes, I will just sit down and hold you for a little while.

Saying yes to requests like the ones listed above are sometimes hard for me. I have my list, my agenda for the day. But children don't always fit into our neat little to-do lists. I can see the days flying by with my children, and I truly want to have no regrets. I want to look back and remember that although I worked really hard at running my home, I also worked equally as hard loving and nurturing my children.

So, I am going to say Yes today. I hope you will too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Is Rapidly Ending!

This is our last week before we begin a new school year, and I am not sure that I am ready for summer to be over. In fact, I know that I am not ready for summer to end. This summer has flown by faster than any summer before, and I have accomplished less than I ever have before on my Summer List!

However, we have had a fabulous summer! Last week the children and I spent 4 days visiting my parents. My children absolutely love visiting Mims and Pops. My mother is a serious seamstress and crafter, and her house is like a fabric store. Trim, buttons, patterns, fabric--anything and everything my girls need to design and complete a variety of projects---it's all there. Olivia made several stuffed bunnies and bears, while Julie made a doll and doll clothes. My mother was readily available for sewing advice, instruction, and creative ideas. She has two sewing machines, and she set both of the them up for the girls to use.

Leah enjoyed painting, coloring, cutting, glueing, and sewing, and the boys played for hours with Legos and cars, and they also spent a lot of time throwing balls in the backyard. I relaxed too! I updated my blog (a little bit), and I played many, many hands of Phase 10 with Clay and my mother (Julie played with us some too). Each afternoon when my daddy arrived home from work, he played with Sam and Clay--whatever they wanted to do.

My parents recently added a huge covered porch to the back of their house, and we spent almost all of time out there. We ate all, and I mean all of our meals on the new back porch too. This delighted the crafters, because they didn't have to clear the kitchen table, where their projects and sewing machine were, every time we needed to eat. The new porch is equipped with several ceiling fans plus some other fans too, so even though the temperature hovered in the 90s all week long, the porch was still pleasant.

Another fun activity while visiting my parents was running. It is always nice to run in a different place. I needed to complete a 10 mile run the first day we were there. Fortunately, a thunderstorm passed through town just before I had planned to run so the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. It was still very hot, but definitely bearable. I took the girls with me across town to my former high school. We ran in the neighborhoods all around the school for 6 miles. Then my mother brought Clay to us about an hour later, and picked up the girls. Clay ran my last 4 miles with me. I am really afraid of dogs while I am running, so I was happy to have my children with me to protect me! We also got up at 6:00 two other mornings while we were there to run shorter runs.

We came back home last Thursday, and I took the older girls straight to a serger/sewing class. Jimmy bought me a serger machine 16 years ago, and since I never took an instructional class, I rarely use it. I decided to have it serviced and let the girls learn how to use it! The owner of the local heirloom sewing store gave them a private lesson, and now they now how to use it!

The rest of last week and the weekend was filled with running errands, my weekly grocery shopping, taking the girls to and from a friend's house 45 minutes away, unpacking, doing laundry, playing Skip-Bo with Clay (Clay and I both really like to play games, and I just squeeze it in whenever I can), and getting Clay ready for running camp.

Yesterday we took Clay to our homeschool cross country running camp. The campsite is located about 2.5 hours away. I get to go back to the camp Wednesday to pick up Clay and drop off the girls (the boys and girls have separate camps), and then go again Saturday to pick up the girls. That's a lot of time on the road! Of course we have to pack the whole house, and they will come home with extremely stinky dirty laundry! The bunkhouses are not air-conditioned! It is August in the south. 100 degrees is the high this week, and the heat index is much higher. But, I know that they will have a fabulous time! They have been looking forward to this running camp all summer long!

I will give them one day to recover from running camp (next Sunday), and then we will start school bright and early, Monday, August 9th!

I hope I am ready!