A blog about homeschooling, frugal living, books and life. Grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time4learning Review

I have posted a few times about time4learning and I thought I would write  a review about our experience with it so far. Time4learning is an online program for grades Pre-k to 8th grade. In the lower levels all the lessons are animated. In Pre-k 1 through 2nd grade pretty much everything is animated. I really like this because most of the time my kids don't really think of it as school, it's just fun computer time. Lily is using the Pre-k program. She has access to all of Pre-k 1 and all of Pre-k 2 lessons. The lessons cover things like the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, safety, manners, and so much more. There is a different topic for each week of school. One of the great things about Time4learning is that the parent has complete control of the program. There is a parent forum where parents can discuss and swap ideas. The way we use the program is I pretty much just turn Lily loose on it and let her do what she wants. She can jump between level 1 or level 2. She can repeat her favorite lessons as often as she wants or skip lessons that she doesn't want to do. I don't require her to do it everyday, some days she plays on it a long time, some days she doesn't play on it at all. Some of the other mothers on the forum have their child follow the sequence as it is laid out for them, and supplement the lessons with art, books, trips, crafts, etc. to coordinate with the topic they are learning that week. I think that would be a lot of fun, I just never get around to doing it.

Lacey started doing Time4learning in Kindergarten. So far she has done kindergarten and first grade and is working on second grade now. Another great thing about T4L is that when you pay for one grade level you actually get access to 3 grade levels. You get the grade below and the grade above. So if you pay for first grade you get kindergarten and second grade also! A lot of the lessons at this level are set up to either look like a cartoon that you watch or a game you play. Lacey loved the animated science lessons. She has learned so much. She can repeat lessons that she doesn't understand and sometimes, especially in math, I will let her skip a lesson and go back a couple of weeks later. One lesson I let her skip was the lesson on  money. She really struggled with that lesson, so I just had her skip it. About a month later we went back to it and she flew right through it. Another great thing about T4L is that it grades all the work, has quizzes and tests that you can have your child do and grades those too. Again, you don't have to make them do the quizzes or tests. Lacey doesn't take all the quizzes in Science and Social Studies, but she does is Language Arts, Language Extensions and Math. If she doesn't pass something she can go back and repeat it or if she scored really low she can do the whole lesson over. There are lesson plans, reading lists and even spelling words. We don't use any of that, but it's nice to know we have access to it. I'm still pretty flexible with Lacey. She has to do computer work on computer days but I let her have a lot of breaks and if she really isn't in the mood to do something one day I will usually let her do it on the next computer day. We school year round so she has plenty of time to get through the lessons.

Kyle is in 5th grade. He started in 3rd grade on T4L. At 3rd grade the lessons start requiring more reading, but there are still a lot of it that is animated. One complaint I have now that he is in 5th grade is that he can't do some of the lessons unless he has the book that goes along with that lesson. The books are ones that you can usually check out at the library, but it still aggravates me. Up until 5th grade nothing else was required and I found that a lot easier. Now I gotta make sure I look over his lessons so that he will have the required book or let him skip the lesson. Sometimes though I will have him google the answers. I don't think of it as cheating, he is still learning the information plus he learns how to find information on the Internet. One of the lessons I let him do this on was a lesson about Thomas Jefferson. Another great thing about T4L is that you can generate all kinds of reports, attendance reports, grades, and even duration report, where you can see how long your child spent on each task. There is an icon on their desktop where they can check their grades and what work they have done. I am a lot stricter about Kyle's work than Lacey's. He has to do 1 lesson a day in each subject. If he finishes before three which he almost always does, I have him work extra.

Time4learning also offers an Art program. The Art program is free for the first six months then you have to pay extra for it and it's only offered for 3rd grade and up. The art lessons start with an animated introduction, then moves to a short history of the art concept being taught. They kids then can play one or two games that reinforce the lesson being taught. Finally, there is one or two options of art projects the kids can do.

We are blessed to live in Texas where no record keeping is required, but in states where you have to keep a record this program would be invaluable. You can just print off a weekly or even monthly report that would show how often the child logged in, what they worked on, and what grade they made. I love that T4L has their phone number right on their home page and when you call you actually get a live person that can help you. I have called dozens of times and never been on hold for more than a minute or so. The people in the office have always been helpful and friendly. This isn't a Christian program so I'm not thrilled with everything taught. Sometimes there are references to witches or evolution but it's not really an issue for us. Sonlight kind of taught us how to deal with such situations, so it's not a big deal. But I do want to mention it. Now for the price. It's very reasonable, twenty dollars a month for the first child and only fifteen for each child after that!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dead Phones and Fish!

Blah! Today has been a frustrating day. Actually it started yesterday. I was taking all 5 kids with me to run errands and get groceries, of course I was running late, of course everyone was talking to me and I wasn't paying attention. I drove through our goldfish pond. Actually I got stuck in our goldfish pond. Naturally the older two jumped out to take pictures to post on facebook, while my son offered all kinds of tips and advice how to get out of the pond and the two little ones yelled and cried that I was killing the goldfish! After I walked next door and woke my dad up we managed to get my van out of the pond with only the front license plate torn off. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and proceeded with my day. Disaster averted. Until I got home with the van full of groceries and two tired kids. That's when I realized I had torn the pond liner and the water was dangerously low. So I refilled the pond to buy some time while I tried to figure out what to do.     Later that night I went out to check on my fish and see how low the water had gotten. And I dropped my phone in the pond! Yikes! I fished it out and tried using a blow dryer to dry my phone out. I put my phone in a bowl of rice to absorb the water and ran back outside to add more water to my pond. This morning Shane told me the pond was almost completely empty so he refilled it. By now of course I'm thinking my goldfish probably aren't going to make it. So I was laying in bed wondering what to do. I think I remember reading somewhere that someone had turned their above ground pool into a fish pond in the winter. So I think maybe I can do that. I woke up early and began trying to catch my goldfish and put them in our pool. It's been dead for at least a month now so hopefully there isn't any chlorine left. I managed to catch all but a little black goldfish. But as fast as I am catching them and throwing them in the pool I am fishing them back out. Dead.  Well, now I sit here and most of my little goldfish are dead. I have four big goldfish that I have had for about three years. The prettiest one looks like it is dying,one is MIA and two look like they are doing OK. And my phone will not come back on. BLAH!

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Why I Let My Five Year Old Ditch School

I've been meaning to write about the kids schooling for a few weeks now, but I wanted to wait until the house was quiet and I could focus 100 percent on what I was writing. Well, I realized today that's just not going to happen. So if I'm going to write about it I may as well get to it. Right now Kyle, Lacey and Lily are using Time4learning. It's on online program. This is completely different from what we have used in the past. I began thinking about how much our homeschool has changed over the years. When I started out homeschooling, my oldest daughter was in kindergarten in public school. She hated school and cried almost everyday. She had already gone to Pre-k, which she also hated. What finally convinced me to take her out of school was when I realized that she was writing her name wrong. She wrote some letters backwards and left one letter out completely. I started working with her at home to write her name correctly but she wouldn't do it. She was convinced that her way was right because her teacher said it was. This made me feel like in her eyes her teacher knew more than I did and no matter what I said I couldn't convince her otherwise. I was already having a lot of issues with her going to school.  For one thing their Friday movie day had already bled over to Tuesday and Thursday movie day. I know it was only kindergarten but I felt like I wasn't sending her to school to watch movies. My other major issue was how the teachers and other workers talked to the kids. Many of them spoke to them with no respect, I remember thinking I don't talk to my kids this way, why is it ok for them to? Anyway I went to the school to talk to the teacher about the situation with her name, which brings up the other problem I had with the school. I absolutely hated, dreaded and got sick to my stomach just going into the school, it was horrible. My own school experience was miserable, I guess I'm traumatized. I still hate walking into a school. LOL. Still it never occurred to me to homeschool. I got up the nerve to talk to her teacher and she actually told me that she doesn't have time to teach each kid individually to write their name! I was like that's kinda basic, if you don't have time to teach them to write their name how are you going to teach her to read or do math?  I don't remember what all was said but when I asked her advice she advised me to pull her out of school and work with her at home. She said since Kindergarten wasn't actually required I should pull her out and put her back in in first grade. To be fair another reason she advised me to withdraw her from school was her age, she was the youngest in the class and the teacher felt she wasn't emotionally ready.Well, I did withdraw her but I never put her back in public school. I had no idea how to teach her, My first attempt was a mess. I say that but looking back now I didn't do such a bad job. I did teach her to write her name and to read. I taught her for 3 years at home then I enrolled her and my younger daughter into a private school. She went into second grade and my younger daughter went into first grade. I really loved their private school. I volunteered up there quite a bit. I loved how the teachers treated the kids, I loved their cute little uniforms. The classes were small and the school was Christian  But after two years I realized I wasn't going to be able to afford private school. The tuition had gone up twice and was being raised again for the third year. So I deiced to try homeschooling again. Since I had substituted up at the school some I felt much more confident in my ability to homeschool. That first year I bought the complete Abeka student pack and the complete parent pack. I basically set up a classroom in my home complete with desks and a chalkboard. In the second year I ditched the lesson plans and just gave them the worksheets. By the fourth year I had ditched Abeka for everything except Math. I started leaning more towards literature based learning. We used Learning Language Arts through Literature and the Beautiful Feet guides, I strated doing unit studies and lapbooks. It was great fun. I loved it, I think the kids loved it. I read aloud to them everyday. We did a good bit of hands on stuff, cooking, making giant maps, holding Greek festivals, we got involved in the Flat Stanley geography program. A lot of our days were spent playing games like the Somebody Game, Scrabble, Math Mouse, Phonics Bingo, to name a few. But by this time Shane was a pastor and I had two more kids with another one on the way. It was getting harder and harder to play games with little ones under foot, it was harder doing all the cutting and coloring for lapbooks. So we switched again and started using Sonlight, which I really loved a lot! I still think the two years we did Sonlight was my favorite years. I'm not really sure I remember why we stopped doing Sonlight. Burnout maybe? By then I had 5 kids, with the church and the house it was a lot. I don't remember feeling overwhelmed or anything. Maybe it was simply that I heard about unschooling and was fascinated by the whole idea? I read a bunch about it and decided to give it a try. Then we moved up north to pastor. And life got weird and busy. I had to get a job. People can say what they want about unschooling but it takes a lot of time, in my opinion. To me the whole idea behind unschooling is providing your kids with as many real life experiences as you can, but to do that you gotta be with your kids. So I found Time4learning through a friend. I planned to just do it while I was working but the kids learned so much and really seemed to enjoy it, we've kept on with it. Now though things have changed again. We are back home (Thank You! God) and I'm not working. We are keeping T4L as our core but now we are pulling in stuff from the past years as well. We do computer work 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday  and Friday usually. Tuesday and Thursdays are for group work, games, library days, lapbooks, and all the fun stuff I used to do with the older kids. We incorporate a lot of real alouds leftover from our Sonlight curriculum and other books that I have collected through the years. I also try to use the ideas and lessons I learned from our unschooling years. We talk all the time, about everything from politics to religion to legos. I think it's meshed and melted and blended into a really fun, educational lifestyle. Homeschooling has evolved from something that happens from 10- 3 although that is still the official time, to a way of life. It's not just a part of our life it's our whole life. It's funny how different what we do now is from how we started out. I think one of the best things about homeschooling is that it is so flexible, it changes when life changes. Nothing stays the same and I'm glad.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Drafted by Edgar Albert Guest

The biggest moment in our lives was that when first he cried,
From that day unto this, for him, we've struggled side by side.
We can recount his daily deeds, and backwards we can look,
And proudly live again the time when first a step he took.

I see him trudging off to school, his mother at his side,
And when she left him there alone she hurried home and cried.
And then the sturdy chap of eight that was, I proudly see,
Who packed a little grip and took a fishing trip with me.

Among the lists of boys to go his name has now appeared;
To us has come the sacrifice that mothers all have feared;
And though we dread the parting hour when he shall march away,
We love him and the Flag too much to ask of him to stay.

His baby ways shall march with him, and every joy we've had,
Somewhere in France some day shall be a little brown-eyed lad;
A toddler and a child at school, the chum that once I knew
Shall wear our country's uniform, for they've been drafted, too.

Edgar Albert Guest

Dedicated to all our soldiers and their families.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Frugal Friday- Meal planning made easy

We have really been working on living within a budget since June. So with that in mind I began making a biweekly meal plan. It took some time tweaking to come up with a system that works for us. One problem I had with other meal plans is that they schedule what to cook each day of the week and I always ended up not really following it. Sometimes I didn't want to eat what was on the menu for a certain day, or I didn't want to cook what was on the menu. I'd end up cooking Monday's meal on Friday and Friday's meal on Thursday and pretty soon my meal plan was a mess. Most other plans I felt were to rigid. Some days I want an easy meal and other days I'm just in the mood to cook a more complicated meal. I wanted flexibility. So what I  did was write up 14 dinners numbered 1 through 14. I try to add a variety of meals, easy, crock pot, cheap, nice dinners and at least one new recipe or one we don't eat very often. Then I make my shopping list. I write the meals on the top half of the paper and my shopping list on the bottom. It's really easy making my grocery list because I have my menu right in front of me. Then I add the breakfast and lunch items to my grocery list. What I like about this plan is that each day I just pick whichever meal I feel like cooking and afterwards I cross that meal off the list. I always know that I have the ingredients on hand so I don't have to make any hurried trips to the store. I buy enough of everything for two weeks except for milk. I tried buying enough milk for two weeks but Shane doesn't like the milk once it's been frozen. This really cut down my trips to the grocery store, which cut out a lot of the impulse buying, which ended up saving us money. Below is a sample.

1. Meatloaf/mashed potatoes. 
2.CJ casserole                            
3. Spaghetti                              
4. Chili Cheese Burritos             
5.Smothered Pork Chops/rice   
6. Tacos         
7. Sloppy Joes/Chips                 
8. Barbecue Chicken/potato salad

9. Chicken spaghetti
10. Hamburgers/French Fries
11. Roast/potatoes/carrots
12. Tator Tot Casserole
13. Beef Stir Fry
14. Mexican Casserole

Grocery List

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Great Science Resource

One of the books I bought years ago that I still love and use ALL the time is the Giant Science Resource Book. This book is really, really great. I bought it when I was really into lap booking. It covers plants, animals, human anatomy, space and so much more. There are pictures to color, cut and glue, and you can reduce the copies for mini books. We have used it so much I really consider it invaluable. There are over 290 reproducible activities!  It's just so much more convenient to have something on hand when the kids get interested in a topic instead of having to search the Internet for an activity or coloring page. This book is especially good if you have a kid that likes hands-on-crafty type of stuff! 

 It isn't from a Christian point of view. Just wanted to let you know.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Setting Up A Fish Habitat

We set up our fish habitat. We didn't want to buy any fish so we just took 3 of the little goldfish from our goldfish pond. Lily just reached in and grabbed the fish! I'm telling you that girl isn't afraid of anything! We want to get some glow in the dark pebbles and plants. But here is the fish tank so far.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Father's Prayer by Edgar Albert Guest

Lord, make me tolerant and wise; 
Incline my ears to hear him through;
Let him not stand with downcast eyes,
Fearing to trust me and be true.
Instruct me so that I may know
The way my son and I should go.

When he shall err, as once did I,
Or boyhood folly bids him stray,
Let me not into anger fly
And drive the good in him away.
Teach me to win his trust, that he
Shall keep no secret hid from me.

Lord, strengthen me that I may be .
A fit example for my son.
Grant he may never hear or see
A shameful deed that I have done.
However sorely I am tried,
Let me not undermine his pride.

In spite of years and temples gray,
Still let my spirit beat with joy;
Teach me to share in all his play
And be a comrade with my boy.
Wherever we may chance to be,
Let him find happiness with me.

Lord, as his father, now I pray
For manhood's strength and counsel wise;
Let me deal justly, day by day,
In all that fatherhood implies.
To be his father, keep me fit;
Let me not play the hypocrite!

Edgar Albert Guest

I LOVE this poem! I think Edgar Albert Guest is quickly becoming my favorite poet.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Frugal Fridays- Staying on budget and Christmas Shopping

I love Christmas but this year I'm really trying to stay on a budget. And I know how easy it is to blow a budget around Christmas time so I have come up with a plan. First, I know how caught up I can get in the season, not just the presents but the whole season. I love all the activities of Christmas, getting and decorating the tree, baking cookies, looking at Christmas lights and yes I love shopping for presents. To get rid of any impulse buying I may feel, I sat down with Shane and we made a shopping list for all of the kids. Then I went in September and put everything that I could in Lay-A-Way. One thing I have learned is that the best way not to spend money is to stay out of stores! So now all I have left for the little ones is one present for Lily and three for Kyle. I can pay for the Lay-A-Way through the checkout or maybe even online. I put Donna's present in Lay-A-Way. I need to get gifts for my sister's family, brother's family and my parents. I'm not sure what I am getting Ashley. When I figure it out I'll either put it in Lay-A-Way or buy it straight out. I plan on two more shopping trips this year. I usually buy individual gifts for all my nieces and nephews but this year I plan on buying 1 gift for the whole family. Some of the ideas I am kicking around are games, a family pass to the zoo or museum, or gift certificates for dinner and a movie. I'm really excited to be starting early this year. And I'm really determined to not get carried away with presents.

How do all of ya'll stay on a budget during Christmas time? 

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Pine Cone Bird Feeders

We finally got around to making our pine cone bird feeders. The kids had a lot of fun with this. Becca and her kids came over. Oh and they brought the COOLEST thing! A dead lizard! The coolest thing about it was that it had been dead a good while so it was mostly a skeleton. Oh my goodness the kids were absolutely fascinated by it! I wish I'd had a magnifying glass so that they could really examine it. Then we worked on our science notebooks. The kids made their amphibian pages last week so this week we worked on our bird pages. We are learning about animal classifications and habitats, since the two kinda go together and overlap. We checked out some pretty neat books from the library. After we did our science notebooks we made the bird feeders. They were just pine cones smeared with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. Super easy! Then the kids hung their feeders in our pear tree. 

Noah and Hannah making bird feeders

Lacey rolling her peanut butter covered pine cone in bird seed.

Kyle and Noah goofing off.

Lily making her bird feeder.

Kyle climbing the tree to hang the feeders.

Noah hanging up his bird feeder.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Animal Habitats

Lacey has been learning about habitats in school lately and so we have been setting up different habitats up in our living room. We set up our toad habitat  last week. Lacey and Lily set up an ant habitat all by themselves. They got a jar and filled it with dirt and ants. The ants have been very busy burrowing little tunnels and carrying food. We wrapped the jar in black paper today to encourage the ants to build some tunnels against the glass. I know I have an ant farm in storage somewhere we may go get it out and see if we can get some ant eggs and maybe a queen ant. For now though they seem satisfied with the jar. This week we set up a lizard habitat. We have two lizards so far. All the kids love watching the animals but Lily loves playing with them. We googled lizards and I think what we have is a Mediterranean House Gecko and a Green Anole. The green lizard is really cool because it turns from green to brown very quickly. Lily is still very sad about losing her turtle so we look for a turtle almost every day. We hope to find a another turtle and to set up a turtle habitat. I'm going to try to go to the library tomorrow and check out some books on lizards, ants and toads. I'll put the books by the coffee table so the kids can flip through them while they are watching the animals. We have fish in our pond but we are thinking of setting up a fish tank in the house. The fish pond is kinda murky so it's hard to see the fish except at feeding time. I'm seriously running out of room for all these habitats though! Right now we have the frogs in a pretty big aquarium, the lizards are in a smaller aquarium and the ants are in a pickle jar. All of them are on my coffee table and I'm running out of space. I was thinking about moving the coffee table against the wall by the t.v. but I like having a coffee table by the couches. I bought a bunch of aquariums and critter keepers at a yard sale a year or so ago and now I'm glad I did. They have really come in handy.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Creed by Edgar Albert Guest

Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those around me,
Let me praise a little more;
Let me be, when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery,
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for.

Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver,
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be;
Let me be a little meeker
With the brother that is weaker,
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me.

Let me be a little sweeter,
Make my life a bit completer
By doing what I should do
Every minute of the day;
Let me toil, without complaining,
Not a humble task disdaining,
Let me face the summons calmly
When death beckons me away.

I love this poem. The first time I read it was in a book written by 5 missionary wives and it really touched me. Many days it's a prayer I pray over and over in my mind. When I am impatient, tired, when I feel overwhelmed by kids and house I pray to be kind, to be sweet and most of all to see these little ones through the eyes of Jesus. I am so thankful for my home and my kids and I'm so thankful that I am able to be with them all day. I know that I'm blessed and I am thankful for the blessings in my life. This poem sums up motherhood and homeschooling to me. A mother knows how hard it can be to not scold and fuss at all the little accidents, spills and messes children make, the temptation to plunk your child in front of the television so you can have a moments peace or the temptation to put them in school. Motherhood is a series of humble tasks, toiling, and weariness. The weariness of staying up all night with a crying baby or a sick child, the weariness of reading the same book for the tenth time. But at the end of the day my life is more complete, more fulfilled because of the little ones God has placed in my lives.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Frugal Friday- Budgeting, finances and living simply

Our family is on a mission to live on a budget, get our finances in order and live a simpler life. My goal is  to post at least once week about how we are doing  that. We started in June, and this is what we've been doing so far. First we began to seriously pray about our finances and our desire to live debt-free. Then we sat down and made a plan. We figured out exactly what expenses we have. We included everything we could think of. Our house payment, van payment, loans, cell phones, electric, gas, groceries, tithes, offerings, etc. Next we figured up what Shane makes each month. And we realized we are not living within our means. We pay out more than we bring in. Bummer! So Shane decided to work one of his off days each week when his bosses will let him. Once we knew where our money was going we made up a very strict budget. And we started using the envelope method of budgeting. This is basically where we make up 1 envelope for every expense we have. So we have 1 for gas, 1 for groceries, 1 for loans and so on. We've tried several methods of budgeting but we really like this one. It really helps me see exactly how much money we have available and keeps impulse buying down. At the end of the month any money left over in envelopes can be put toward savings, bills, charities or whatever we decide to do with it. That's a huge incentive for me not to spend all the money in the envelopes. It really encourages me not to spend money on things I don't absolutely need. We decided extra money would be put in a Christmas envelope. It took a few months before we saw any real progress but by September all our bills were current and we bought our first Christmas presents in August. With 5 kids the earlier you start the better. Also I realized in June that Shane would be getting 3 paychecks in August. So we decided to pay all our bills with the first two paychecks and be very, very determined that all of August bills would get paid out of the first two paychecks so that the third check would be completely free. Man! That was hard and took discipline! It was so tempting to roll bills over to the last paycheck especially since Shane wasn't able to work as many of his off days. But we continued to pray about it and on August 31st we were able to pay extra on our loans and on Shane's truck note. So going into September we only had a half payment on the truck and no payments due on the loans! Yeah! In all this we have had a few setbacks. The biggest one being that his car began having motor problems and we had to trade it in for a used truck. Which added another expense to our budget since his car had been paid off. He works 30 miles away and the only other vehicle we had  was my 12 passenger van. We considered him driving my van but that meant I would have no way to church for an indefinite amount of time, plus gas for the van is crazy high. The other big obstacle was that he wasn't able to work as many of his off days as he had hoped. But all in all I'm optimistic about our plans and goals. 

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Super Heroes, Toads And Home School

Today was such a great day! It was like my ideal homeschool day.I woke up this morning and the three younger kids all piled in bed with me. We laughed and talked and played around a while, then we got the idea to make up a story about a family of super heroes. So I got out a notebook while we brainstormed ideas for our story. We all made up our own super hero. I was so impressed and surprised by all of their ideas even Lily made up a super hero. We talked about their powers and costumes and made a description for each of them. We gave them names and weaknesses. We made up the villains for them to fight and the setting for our story. We talked and played around with the story for an hour or more before we finally put it up and got out of bed. I'm not sure if the story will ever get wrote, I hope so, but it was fun making up our heroes. After we got up and dressed and fed Becca and her kids came over and we took the kids to SOSO Park to look for pine cones. We planned to make the bird feeders we didn't get around to making last week. At the park the kids found three toads. They quickly decided they were a family so we brought them home and I dug out our Pets In A Jar book. We set them up a pretty good habitat and read a few paragraphs about toads from the book. Then we let the kids just watch them and touch them awhile. We set the aquarium up on my coffee table so the kids could see and reach it easily. Here are some pictures of Lily playing with the toads, she was the only one really brave enough to hold them.

Lily played with the toads off and on all day. she made them hop and swim, she watched them burrow in the sand and she dug them back up. Long after the other kids bored of the toads she was still fascinated by them. I think the daddy toad is Jump, the mommy is Hop and the baby is Skip. After the kids had played around with the toads awhile Becca helped the kids make color wheels out of paper plates while I went up to the store to print out some stuff about birds and amphibians for our Science lesson. We planned on studying about birds today, learning the characteristics of birds and then making the bird feeders but after finding the toads we decided to study amphibians instead. So while the kids colored different amphibians we discussed what an amphibian was, and how they were different than birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals. The kids cut out the amphibians and glued them in their Science notebooks. Then Becca and her kids left and Lily, Lacey and Kyle played outside while I cooked lunch. While we were eating lunch we decided to play a Dutch card game that our friend Tess brought down with her. I'm not sure what the game is called, it's kinda like Go Fish! After lunch Kyle got on the computer while me and the girls put together puzzles of the world. I bought a book a few years ago from somewhere, I don't remember now where I got it, but it's like a board book that has puzzles built into it. You can take each puzzle out and put it together then store it back in the book. It has different things to look for on each map, like find the train or find the pyramids. Well, I thought it was a pretty cool book so I bought it but nobody ever really payed any attention to it so it's just sat on a shelf collecting dust. I came across it the other day and thought the kids might like it. I left it out on the coffee table and the kids found it and began playing with it, putting the puzzles together and looking through the book. So today the girls wanted to take all the little puzzles out of the book and make the whole world map. We spread it out on the dining room table and put it together. We played with the puzzles until they got bored with it and went out to play. We didn't do any of our computer work but I think we still learned a lot and we had fun. As a bonus it was neat to see Lacey and Hannah get so excited about amphibians because they had already been learning about them with their time4learning.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning with Legos

Today we pretty much played with Legos all day, which Kyle of course loved. We began by making up math problems for each other to figure out. Stuff like can you build a tower that is 5/17 blue and 7/17 red? What fraction is left over? Can you build a tower using 5 different colors? What are the fractions? How many different colors do you need to make 40 if you use each color 5 times? Are any left over? We all came up with problems for the others to solve. Lily mostly just tried to build really tall towers. Then we played Kyle's Lego Challenger game but we changed some of the challenges into math challenges. That was Kyle's Idea. I think he figured I'd let him play the game if he could make it educational. He was right. It was kinda hard though because we had to make the rules up as we went and it got kinda confusing, plus Lily kept taking the Legos. I tried to distract her by telling her to make letters out of the Legos but then Kyle and Lacey decided that looked more fun so they quit the game and we made Lego letters instead. Which led to us making our names out of Legos. Then Kyle made a Minecraft Lego dude.

 Sorry about this pic. I couldn't get it to rotate.

So that was our school for today. Plus we read 2 chapters of Follow My Leader which Kyle loves, Lacey and Lily like it but they only wants to read one or two chapters at a time. With Stories from Sideways School we would read five or 6 chapters at a time and they would still beg for more! We are doing school a little different now. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are computer work days and Tuesday and Thursday are no computer days. Plus once a week we are doing group work with my sister and her kids.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Punishment by Edgar Albert Guest

Their childhood is so brief that we
Should hesitate to spoil their fun,
We should be very slow to see
The things that they should not have done.
For such a little while they play
Before the rough, long roads they tread,
We should be careful every day
To send no weeping child to bed.

So soon they'll women be and men,
With all the cares that grown-ups know,
We should be slow to punish, when
Their little feet in mischief go.
Our whippings should be very few,
Yes, very few, and very mild,
We should be careful what we do
In dealing with a happy child.

So few the years that are their own,
So brief the time to romp and play,
So very quickly are they grown
To face the battles of the day
That we should hesitate to mar
With punishment, however slight,
The days that oh, so precious are,
And turn to grief a child's delight.

Too soon will come the long days when
They'll often heavy-hearted be,
And they'll look back on childhood then
And think of you and think of me.
And we should have them then recall
When we are sleeping in the grave
Not how we punished children small,
But how we kissed them and forgave.
 I  love this poem and many of the poems by Edgar Guest. Childhood is so short, soon the kids are grown and you wish for one more day. Just a little more time. I try to remember one day my house will be clean, I won't have fingerprints on all the windows and doors, I will be able to soak as long as I want in bubble baths. And I know I will miss having my little ones little. Lord help me enjoy them now and not be in such a hurry for them to grow up.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Frugal Friday- Planning to Fail

It's my first Frugal Friday! I thought it would be fun to share ideas and tips. Also I thought it would encourage me to stay on plan if I had some accountability.

I read once, If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, it's really stuck with me. Maybe because I'm such a planner. I love planning things and making lists and setting goals. When I first started homeschooling every year I would sit down and make out a detailed plan for each kids curriculum. I would spend hours looking through homeschool magazines and catalogs until I had the perfect plan in place. I've made school goals, parenting goals, and goals for my marriage. But I really don't ever remember sitting down and making any financial goals. No goals for retirement. Not anything beyond pay the bills the best we can and maybe some short range stuff like repair the roof or save money for a vacation. Wow! No wonder my finances are a wreck! Well, no more we now have our goals firmly in place:
  1. First get out of debt! Pay off as many bills as we can. 
  2. Get our credit in better shape.It's not horrible but it could be better.
  3. Cash on the barrel. (don't buy on credit).
  4. Start saving money.
  5. Live below our means, we would like to eventually get where we live on 70% of our income. The other 30% would be for giving and saving.
We are trying to not only change our spending habits but also change our view of money and teach the kids to be more responsible with money than what we have been. I don't think we are frivolous with our money, we hardly ever eat out, we almost always buy second-hand clothes and furniture. We own one t.v. and one gaming system. We aren't frivolous. But we do have cell phones, and Internet. The van is a BIG expense not only the payments but also the gas! I think our biggest problem is that we don't have the patience to save for the things we want or need. So we are trying to learn patience. Oh, and I'm a collector, I'm always starting a new collection of stuff I really don't need. I love shopping at places like Goodwill or garage sells. I love finding old things, repainting them and fixing them up. But I am trying to learn that if I don't NEED it, it's not a good deal no matter what the price tag says. It feels good to have a plan in place. To set little goals and begin to reach them. I'm fully confident in our ability to do this because I know I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens me.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Benjamin Franklin's Top 13 Week 3

Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Day 1-
Memorize 1 Corinthians 14:40
Discuss how God created the world with order. The sun rises and sets at a certain time, there is order to the seasons, etc. Discuss order in our lives
Orderliness with our belongings, Orderliness in our appearance, Orderliness with our habits  

Day 2- 
Memorize 1 Corinthians 14:40

Day 3-
Memorize 1 Corinthians 14:40
Discuss second part of virtue; let each part of your business have it's time. Discuss importance of schedules. Pray

Day 4-
Memorize 1 Corinthians 14:40

Day 5-
Memorize 1 Corinthians 14:40
If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our House Rules

While I was reading blogs I read one about house rules over at intentionally kate's blog that inspired me to post about our house rules. This is a great blog with lots of inspiration and advice. Definitely check it out. Before I get into our rules let me say first a little about how I came up with these rules. If you have read my blog at all you know that I lean a lot toward unschooling. I think it's great as an education philosophy not so much as a parenting method. So I feel like from a Christian standpoint (and to keep a peaceful home) rules are needed. There was just way to much bickering and bad attitudes. It had been a hard year with lots of moves and changes and I really felt that we were in a bad place in our lives. One Sunday at church (I can tell you the exact Sunday in fact, it was April 15th) our preacher preached out of Joshua on the verse As for me and my family we will serve the Lord. Of course I had heard and read this verse many times but for some reason this was a life changing sermon for me because while I serve the Lord I also genuinely want to respect my kids and their thoughts and feelings. I don't want to force my beliefs on them but I want to gently lead them to Jesus though love and my personal life as an example. So I am always at war between being the parent (homeschooler) and letting them make their own choices (unschooler).  One day I'm going to post more about this but not today. After church I came home and prayed and did a Bible study and thought of each area of our lives that I felt we were lacking or falling short as Christians and as a loving family and I made a plan to do better. Okay, so that's the story behind how I came up with our house rules.We had used house rules before usually The 21 Rules Of This House so my kids were familiar with the concept. These are more personalized to what I feel our family needs right now. We begin our family rules with our family policies, Then we move to our family rules and finish with our family motto. We quote the words in black the word in blue are my explanations. 

Family Policies:
1. No Tolerance
2. No Warnings
This means breaking the rules won't be tolerated and warnings aren't guaranteed. I had to put the warning policy in place because they thought that they shouldn't be punished until they had been warned they were about to be punished. So I was always having to say if you keep doing this or that you are going be grounded or lose your phone or whatever.  But my theory is if you know the rule and you are breaking it you should know that you are in jeopardy of punishment. So no one is entitled to a warning if you get one great if not too bad.

Family Rules:
1. Respect: We respect each other in words, actions, and attitudes. We respect each others feelings, space and belongings.

2. No name calling. No rudeness. No annoying behavior.

3. No roughhousing. No wrestling. No rowdiness. (not indoors)

4.No bad attitudes, not in actions, facial expressions or body language. (we talked a lot about this and had the kids act out or give examples of bad attitudes until they really understood what a bad attitude is, Examples: whining, fussing, folded arms etc.)

5. We obey immediately, the first time we are told, without attitude. We obey everyone in authority over us.

6. Chores will be done immediately with a good attitude. Bedrooms will be cleaned before bed. (I'm not as diligent about bedrooms as I should be)

7. School is from 10 to 3. No phones in school. We will begin with prayer and Bible. We will be up, dressed, and ready to work by 10. (we don't always school until 3. If they get done early we stop early and Ashley works more on her own time schedule. On the other hand if their lessons aren't done by 3 we do work late sometimes. Kyle wakes up early alot of times so it's not a hard and fast rule)

8. Church Rules:
No Phones!
Sit straight up, no slumping or laying down.
No feet on pews
Face preacher,pay attention and participate in the service.
Do not leave without permisisson.
We will all go to the alter when called
Sit with me or on front row with teens

9.Bedtimes are 12 for Ashley, 10:30 for Kyle, 9:30 for Lacey and Lily. Staying up late is a privilege not a right.

10. 2 hours screen time! No t.v. during school. (could be enforced more. We don't have cable or satellite they can only watch whatever dvds or vhs movies we have so t.v. isn't a huge problem.)

11. Be active and productive. If we are being lazy, unproductive or misbehaving we will be given something to do. ( this sounds harsh but it's not, I'm not saying they always have to be doing something but laying around fussing and fighting will not be tolerated)

12. No gross or inappropriate behavior or speech. (Sorry it had to be said)

13. No whatever attitudes, not in words, behavior or body language. (if you have a teenager you will know a whatever attitude. They are hard to explain but easy to tell when you are being given one)

We are going to have an atmosphere of love, respect and gratitude. For each other, and most importantly for God.

After I came up with our new rules I called a family meeting to discuss them. This isn't actually the original version I came up with it's the revised final draft that we all agreed on.  Then we talked about and decide on what punishments would be implemented if the rules were broken. One of their ideas was physical punishments such as push ups, laps, sit ups, I have no idea where they got this idea, I don't know anyone who uses this but hey, it works so go figure. The other ideas were early bedtimes, loss of screen time or phones, no company, and extra chores. Spankings and loss of phone privileges are very rare. We recently added writing memory verses and/or the broken rule down.  I really wanted them to understand that the reason we have these rules in place is to teach us to live for Jesus the very best that we can. So we began learning a verse a week. I tried to find a verse that went along with the things we were learning. I listed some of the verses :
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous word stir up anger.
This is good for sassing and back talking. (Also good for rude or annoying neighbors)
Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.
Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 
This is one of my very favorites- if at all possible make peace, my son has really become a peacemaker after memorizing this verse, not just in our family but with his cousins also. We talk about and discuss this verse acting out different scenarios and how they can bring peace to the situation. 
Ephesians 6:1-3 (obedience)
Philippians 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputing.
(no complaining)
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. 
I focused  on the giving preference part and we talked about letting the other person having their way. I actually told them the kind of fights I should hear should go like this: "Here Kyle you can sit up front". "No. No Ashley you go ahead." No it's OK Kyle I sat up front last time you go ahead". NOT "MOM MAKE KYLE GET IN THE BACK"!!! Hey, I can dream right?
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the.
Treat each other how you want to be treated not necessarily  how you are being treated.
Romans 12:21 Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
Excellent verse! If someone is not being nice don't respond in the same way. Respond kindly. 

I really do believe that as Christian mothers we are called to train a child in the way that they should go. I have seen such a change in their hearts and attitudes since we started doing this. I believe kids need structure and rules. I read a book one time that said when children are born into a family it's like a foreigner coming into a strange land. They don't know the customs, they don't speak the language, they are trying to fit in without knowing what is expected of them. The same way with children without rules and guidelines they don't really know what is expected, they sometimes feel insecure and confused. I think one of the biggest mistakes I made with unschooling was throwing so many of our rules out the window. Not all of them of course, but too many. I don't want little robot children but I think we owe it to our kids, to God and to society to teach them to be respectful and obedient. I feel like our family motto pretty much sums it up. If we all treat each other with love, respect and gratitude, we can all get along in peace and harmony. I hope this helps someone and I would love to read about your house rules in the comments.

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lily's self portait

Lily's self portrait

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

My Best Friend- A Poem by Lacey

My best friend.
We can hop and bend.
We can go for a walk.
She cannot talk.
She cannot change her clothes. 
She has no toes.
She cannot get wet.
She's the best friend I ever met.
Except for Hannah

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!

Monday, October 1, 2012

To Martyr Our Lives- Jesus Freaks by D.C Talk

I found this quote a few years ago in a book by d.c. Talk. I read a lot of books, blogs and articles but I think this is one quote that really stayed with me as a principle or idea to live my life by. I reread it many times, I write it on slips of paper and I think about it often. 

While we may not be called to martyr our lives, we must martyr our way of life.

It is taken from a paragraph by Michael Tait. The book is 'Jesus Freaks by d.c. Talk'. I think this is one of the most insightful, profound things I have ever read. I heard a lot about this book but because of the title I didn't read it. Now I've read it several times. This book pulls at my heart, it makes me realize how selfish I am, how little I've really sacrificed in my life. I have so much while others have so little. While others are dying for Jesus what am I doing? Will Jesus say to me "Well done, my good and faithful servant" or "Depart from me, I never knew you"?

Our Mission may not involve hanging on a cross, being jailed, or being burned at the stake here in America, but we have other, more invisible obstacles. Ours is a society built by pride, materialism and dedication to the status quo. In a world built on free will instead of God's will, We must be the freaks. While we may not be called to martyr our lives, we must martyr our way of life. We must put our selfish ways to death and march to a different beat. Then the world will see Jesus.  -Michael Tait

If you found this post interesting or helpful , please share it!