Finish line!

Woohoo! We made it through our first year of homeschool! Even better, my husband also finished his PhD. this May! I’m so proud of our family, and excited as we look to the future. Seriously, SO MUCH has happened since my last post – surgery for me, an ER trip for baby girl, wrapping up kindergarten with T-man, it has been a whirlwind these last few months to say the least. I thought I’d just share a little re-cap of our adventures in picture form:

Field trips to the Children’s Museum and our local library. I just love where we live and all the resources around us!

Sister loves the library! Apparently this is her signature pose. She is too much, y’all!

The weather has been ah-mazing! We’ve been soaking up these long days. We’ve enjoyed hiking, park times, strawberry picking, and some good ole’ honeysuckle in our backyard.

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So proud of herself, using her shoe as a rock collector! Too cute for words.

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Golf cart drivin’!

THIS HAPPENED!!! I couldn’t be more proud! He has worked tirelessly for this moment, and I haven’t always been gracious and understand, yet he persevered. I’m so so so proud of my Dr. Hubby!

More graduation pictures!

Sister whacked her head on the corner of a door frame in our house. The result was A LOT of blood, a trip to the ER, and three stitches. Also her darling little pink monogrammed dress was ruined, but I’m so glad she wasn’t hurt worse. She was a total champ through the whole thing! My baby is BRAVE!

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We had pizza and a movie night at our sweet friends’ home. Turner and Timm had to hide behind the pillows during the “scary” parts of Moana. We are so thankful for friends that love on our kids!

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Lots of play dates! I love this pic of T with my friends’ little girls. He is so kind and gentle with them, it makes my momma heart melt.

We enjoyed story time in The Grove – a beautiful, natural play area in our community. They read four cooking/food related books – included a favorite Dragons Love Tacos, and made a taco craft after. There were a lot of kids, so they also had a big parachute, balls, and hula hoops to entertain them if they had to wait to get to the craft table. It was so much fun, and FREE!

Mostly this summer, I plan to enjoy fun days with my kids! Turner got to a pretty frustrated place with school and reading toward the end of our year, so I’m just taking a few steps back, and enjoying them. In addition, we will be taking a trip to St. Louis in a few weeks, and are gearing up for that! What are your summer plans?

Preschool and First Grade Curriculum!

Preschool and First Grade?!? No way! I can’t believe it. We are wrapping up our kindergarten year here, and looking forward to starting first grade and also preschool with my littlest love. This year, Liza Jill would sometimes hang out with us for calendar time and stories, but she was always free to walk away and play at any time. Soon, I’m going to start some more formal ‘preschool’ with her and I’m super excited! It should be a lot of fun.

I’ve gotten all of my curriculum and materials in the mail finally, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Preschool: 

Language Arts

Liza Jill is three years old, turning four in October. She doesn’t yet recognize any letters of the alphabet – I’ve not introduced any formal academics with her. She’s just a baby, and I’m not concerned with her reading early. We will be learning a letter per week, and having fun with it! I didn’t purchase a full language arts curriculum for her this year, instead I’m just making my own. I’ve created a list, pairing each letter of the alphabet with a theme, books to go along with it, and activities. For each letter, I’ve tried to have at least a couple books and activities and we will read together and complete the activities throughout the week. I tried to list a good variety of activities – crafts, baking, little science experiments etc. In addition, I did purchase the preschool Handwriting Without Tears book, and also have the wood letter pieces. We will go through it slowly together, putting it on pause if she gets frustrated or overwhelmed – at this stage, I want school to be a fun and joyful experience for her! I created our “curriculum” mostly from books we already have. There are three of four on my list that I will either purchase or check-out from the library.

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Math – Farmland Math 

farmland math

I purchased this curriculum from Timberdoodle, and oh my stars, y’all! It is SO MUCH FUN! It’s a little on the pricey side – around $40 for the set, but totally worth it. It comes with a farm play mat, jumbo animal counters, and the book. Each week you read a little story, they listen and move the animals around on the mat, learning counting, sorting, patterns etc. We’ve started using it a couple times a week, and it’s a big hit! She does her little lesson so well, then I let her play with the animals for a few minutes, you can see her in the below pic lining up all her animals on the mat. You can watch a full demo video of the program here.

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That’s pretty much the extent of preschool! Just a little introduction to homeschool for her, keeping it light and fun! She will sit with us through calendar/weather, pledges, and Bible time as well. We have a “weather frog” made of cardstock, and we dress him up according to the conditions outside. She already enjoys participating with that and singing her days of the week.

First Grade: 

Language Arts: Explode the Code, Handwriting Without Tears, & BOB books

Turner started out Kindergarten eager to learn to read, but has gotten frustrated as the year has gone on. He will just be six years old in August, so I’ve taken a bit of a step back with him. He recognizes all letters and sounds, and can read simple words and sentences, so I feel like he’s just fine. I want to give him a little more time to solidify those concepts and build some confidence. We will be continuing our Handwriting Without Tears journey – we LOVED the kindergarten curriculum! First grade builds off of that foundation(in the pick below, the yellow books are first grade, and the green one is LJ’s Preschool book mentioned earlier). I got the first three Explode the Code books and teacher’s guide at our local used homeschool supply store. I decided to start at the very beginning, even though they are a bit below his level. I think he could use a confidence boost! We’ve already started the first one, and he is really enjoying it so far and I think he’s starting to feel better about reading. I like that they are inexpensive, so I can move through the series at our pace without stressing over cost. We also read BOB books together daily, and will continue to do so. I may add some spelling later on in the year.

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handwriting

In addition, for reading comprehension, we are doing some read-alouds. I am starting with Charlotte’s Web. I’m using this teacher’s guide just to help me with some comprehension questions and vocab ideas; I read a chapter then ask the questions for him to answer orally. I figured he can read it again independently in a few years and fill out the workbook himself.

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Math: Singapore 1A & 1B, Usborne Math Activity book

We are giving Singapore Math a try this year, and will supplement occasionally with the Usborne addition and subtraction book.

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Science: Interactive Science

I am really excited about this Science curriculum! I’ve looked at a lot of different Science curricula and none of them (in my opinion) had the foundation I was looking for with the fun! I feel like Interactive Science fit the bill for what I want him to get out of Science this year. Note: It is not Christian based, and does touch on evolution. It is not, however, the main focus and I still felt like it was our best choice.

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History: Bede’s History of Me

We are starting off with Bede’s History of Me, and will move on to something different after. This curriculum teaches them what a timeline is, about their family tree and what we actually mean when we say history. In addition, it covers the history of major holidays, and a little U.S. history as well. It will probably only take us a couple of months to finish this book, and I’m not quite sure what we will move on to after just yet.

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Bible: The Jesus Storybook Bible

I love love love The Jesus Storybook Bible. It is simple and beautiful and full of truth! We already had a copy at home, but I went ahead and bought the deluxe version with audio CDs on Amazon – it was super cheap and a really good investment. I’ll read the story one day, then we will listen to it the next. I also purchased the handouts on Amazon, for around $6 a set. We will use those to further discuss the reading. In addition, we’ve been working on a catechism together.

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Art: Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools

I am so excited about this! My little guy is all about art, so I really felt like I needed to bulk up our art experience at home. I’ve done a lot of reading and research on Waldorf education, and while I don’t like 100% of it’s philosophy I DO love the approach to art. This book goes all the way through grade 8, and is very comprehensive. I can’t wait to see the beautiful creations he comes up with! Liza Jill will probably join us for some art time as well.

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Music: Piano Lessons

Turner has been taking piano for a little while now. Admittedly, we haven’t been too consistent, and it’s definitely not his favorite thing in the world at this point, but that’s okay! His teacher is the SWEETEST, and I just want him to gain an appreciation for music and some basic concepts. If piano isn’t his greatest passion in life, that’s fine by me, but at least he will have had the exposure and opportunity.

Aaaand, that’s it! I’m hoping for a more peaceful and fun year this year. I’m toying with the idea of schooling year round (nine weeks on, four weeks off), but haven’t quite decided on that officially and when precisely we will begin. We are going to be participating in a co-op on Mondays, and look forward to that. For the younger grades, this particular co-op is mostly the “extras” – P.E., Art, etc. I know the kids will have a lot of fun and learn so much with that. I’m also hoping we can have more experiences and take more field trips this year, which is always fun. And, we are planning on participating in a Poet-Tea with some other homeschool families – learning about and memorizing a little poetry together. I’d love to see your favorite preschool and first grade materials! Comment, and share away! Thanks for reading!

My Kids’ Capsule-Inspired Wardrobe

I am THE WORST at laundry. I hate it. I’m forever ironing wrinkles into things instead of out. My poor husband frequently says something to the effect of “Hey, um, I’m wearing my last pair of underwear, do I have any clean for tomorrow?”

And, yes, he can do his own laundry. He can do laundry better than I can. But, he literally does not have time. Maybe once he finishes this PhD he can help out a little more in that area, but for now the laundry is my job. I have found myself drowning in dirty clothes, unable to keep up, and I only have two kids! Now, it’s a fact that I, my husband, my two kids, and two dogs create a lot of things that need to be washed – especially when you think about sheets, dog blankets, kitchen towels, bath mats etc. I have to do at least one load a day to somewhat keep the baskets from overflowing.

Even though a lot of laundry is pretty expected for my family, I truly found myself in a place where it has become so burdensome that it is causing me stress.

Then I read this post about a capsule wardrobe for children. If you don’t know what a capsule wardrobe is, I highly recommend reading the linked post to start. In a nutshell, a capsule wardrobe is a minimalist approach to dressing. It’s made up of few, high quality pieces, that can mostly be all mixed and matched. It reduces the amount of stuff in the closet, and the amount of laundry. I’ve written about our journey to less, and how we are reducing the amount of stuff we have, so when I read that post I thought “THIS! This is what I need!”

Where I began:

We have been fortunate enough to  have been given TONS and TONS of hand-me-downs from some sweet friends. I cannot express how grateful I am for hand-me-downs! I first went through all of my children’s current clothes and bagged up anything they’d outgrown or just plain never wear. I went through all the hand-me-downs for the upcoming season. Anything I felt I couldn’t use was handed down to a bestie of mine. I’m lucky to have three sweet friends with little girls, our girls are like stair steps, and the clothes just get passed along.

I got rid of so much outgrown clothing! It felt awesome. Once that was finished, I evaluated what we had and what we needed to purchase.

Finding the missing pieces: 

Normally, I shop for kids clothes all year long, looking for bargain and clearance items. Well, my kids are at stages where this doesn’t quite work as well as it once did. I can’t truly know how big they will be next season or next year, so I’ve stopped a lot of my shopping ahead. Once I evaluated their spring and summer needs I went to the mall. I happened to pop into Gymboree. I NEVER shop there. Their clothes are beautiful, but way out of my budget. However, since we are going for less this time around, I thought if I bought a few higher quality pieces, that the kids would get more use out of them. Lo and behold it was extra 50% off clearance day, and they had some things PERFECT for my boy!

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Part of having a capsule wardrobe is creating a color palette that works together so you can mix and match easily. Bonus: for kids, you don’t have to send them back to their room to change because they chose a mismatched outfit. These shirts were perfect for my little sea & pirate loving guy, and they are all in the navy-red-gray color palette. They were $6 each, y’all! They are so soft and Turner loves the designs. I also bought him some coordinating shorts. I spent a little more on the shorts than I normally would (around $11) but they are nice fabric and I think he’ll get a lot of wear out of them. He happened to already have some plain red and gray shirts at home.

For Liza Jill, she had plenty of dresses, but almost no play clothes. I didn’t have much luck for her at Gymboree. I wanted to get some solid tops and shorts/capris for her, so I first checked out Primary.com. I thought the prices were pretty good, but their clothes are a little too plain for my tastes and I just wasn’t sure about the sizing. I briefly considered getting some shirts and having them monogrammed to jazz them up a little (I love a monogram, y’all!), but then I’d be spending way more than I wanted. In the end, I ordered her clothes from Kohls.com. I found plenty of solid tops that still had some fun details – eyelet flutter sleeves, pom-pom trim etc.

Putting it all together: 

There were a few other things I had to purchase – Liza Jill needed a swimsuit, and dressy sandals for church. They both needed a pair of outdoor sandals for spring and summer hikes and outdoor play. All-in-all I spend about $180 for everything – all the clothes, swimsuit, and shoes. I felt like that was pretty good, still a good chunk of change for our budget, but I was able to use a lot of the hand-me-downs and things we already had.

The last step, once I filled in the gaps, was to bring it all together – this is where capsule-inspired comes in. I can’t claim that my kiddos have a true capsule wardrobe because of this:

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LJ’s dresses! I did get rid of a few, but she really will wear most of these! A few of those in the pic she hasn’t quite grown into, so they are for future wear. We attend church regularly, and I try to make sure she looks nice. She also wears the cotton dresses on a regular day very often. In addition, I kept a stack of big t-shirts in Turner’s drawer – he sleeps in them a lot, and I’ll throw them over regular clothes during art projects, or if I know they are going to play in the mud or something dirty.

The end result: 

Turner’s Wardrobe:

  • 7 shirts (in the red/gray/navy color palette)
  • 6 shorts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 pairs of athletic/sweat pants (these as well as the jeans will probably go away once it gets really hot)
  • 3 dry-fit outfits (shirts & shorts) for outside play
  • 3 pairs of pj’s
  • Several button-downs and polos for church or nice events
  • socks & underwear
  • 3 swimsuits
  • 2 pairs of tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of play shoes to get dirty
  • 1 pair of fuzzy slippers
  • Stack of big t-shirts to sleep in or art projects
  • 1 sweatshirt & 1 light jacket

Liza Jill’s Wardrobe:

  • 8 shirts (pink and purple color palette)
  • 6 shorts/capris
  • 2 skirts (jean to match any shirt)
  • 4 leggings (either black or jeggings – to wear with shirts or under dresses)
  • 10 dresses (some nice, some play)
  • 6 bike shorts for under dresses
  • 3 pairs of pj’s
  • socks and underwear
  • 2 pairs of tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of outdoor sandals
  • 1 pair of dressy sandals
  • Slippers
  • 1 sweatshirt & 1 light jacket

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And that’s it! Well, mostly. There a few miscellaneous items we kept, such as our homeschool group t-shirt.  I love that things are simplified. Laundry is easier, there’s less clutter, everything matches so my kids can dress themselves – it’s a win-win-win. They still have plenty to wear, and let’s be honest, they want to wear the same three items over and over anyway!

If you find yourself being suffocated by stuff, or drowning in laundry, I highly suggest the less is more approach. We are still on our journey to less, but I’m learning and growing all the time! Now, does anyone have a fabulous laundry system/schedule I should try out?

 

The Pain in Parenting

I’ve been mulling over how to share this part of my heart for awhile now. You see, a couple weeks ago I had string of a bunch of really really bad days in a row. It was the week following the time change, and my girl was STRUGGLING. Every day, multiple times a day, she would explode into a horrible, nasty, uncontrollable meltdown. The trigger was always something small (of course!), but she would spiral out of control and it took nearly an hour every time to calm her down. I was so at a loss with how to deal with her. I was exhausted. My husband was exhausted. It seemed like nothing we did helped. I felt incompetent as a mother. I really can’t describe how bad it was, for awhile I was seriously considering the possibility that maybe she had some kind of psychological issue. I couldn’t get homeschool done with my older child, or much of anything done at all. I felt like I was in a war and she was the enemy.

Did you catch that? I started to view her as the enemy. 

I didn’t even realize that was how I was seeing her until that Tuesday morning. We had had a no-good very very very bad morning trying to get her up and ready to go to our CC homeschool group. She refused to get dressed. She refused to potty. She refused to eat anything for breakfast. When we finally got in the car, she screamed the whole way there. I arrived late and in tears. A sweet friend hugged me, and we commiserated together because one of her sons has had some similar moments. She is the one who said those words to me “it got to the point where I started to view him as the enemy.” That’s when it hit me, I was doing the same thing!

No one prepared me for the pain I would feel sometimes as a parent. Parenting hurts at times. I mean really really wounding, painful, hurt. When you feel overwhelmed, at a loss, and unequipped, it’s HARD. Of course, many people told me over my lifetime that parenting is work, but mostly people talked about how joy-filled parenthood is.

  • No one told me about the emotional exhaustion I would experience as I have a child struggling, and I have no idea how to help or discipline. No one told me how helpless I would feel when all my options seem to be striking out.
  • No one told me how ashamed I would be when my head hits the pillow at night and I realize I’ve barely said two words to my husband, because at the end of the day I don’t have anything left to give.
  • No one told me how confusing it would feel to love a little person so so so much, and yet feel angry, upset, and exasperated with them at the same time.

Because the truth is, as bad as girlfriend’s behavior was over that very long week, I was absolutely not responding in the right way. So when my friend made me realize that I was viewing her as the enemy, something in my heart shifted. I had a good talk with her, and another friend who gave me some practical advice that I’ve been applying. My husband and I talked at length about what to do, and I prayed. And as I prayed, I realized something very powerful – this pain, this exhaustion, it’s a refining process. Nothing in my life has brought me to the feet of the Father more than motherhood – not my marriage, not my personal struggles or other relationships, but my kids, man have they drastically improved my prayer life!

I stopped seeing my little girl as the one I’m fighting against, but rather the one I’m fighting for. I care about her little heart because she is not the enemy. I realize that these struggles, though so difficult, are for my good and His glory. I’ve been working hard to implement some things into our lives to make our days go smoothly, and set a standard of expectations. I’ve apologized to my kids for losing my temper at times. And, since that day, thankfully mercifully we’ve not had any more full-blown extreme tantrums. We’ve had difficult moments for sure, but things have improved greatly. I know eventually it will happen again, but I don’t live in fear of it.

It’s easy to feel jaded and bitter and like you’ve been dealt an unfair hand of difficulties. Why does my kid have to be that kid? You know, the one screaming in the grocery store!  Before I had children, I definitely said out loud “my kid will never act like that in public.” Let’s all take a moment to laugh about that together. It’s hard to feel blessed in the midst of a grocery store meltdown; however, I’m reminded of my friends that have lost children, the ones who’ve been trying to get pregnant for years, the ones hoping to adopt. I’m reminded of my friends who’ve had foster children that they love be taken back to poor circumstances. I’m reminded of my friends who’ve miscarried over and over again.

I would never want to dishonor their loss and their longing with my undue frustration. I’m sure they would endure a week of horrible tantrums to hold a sweet baby in their arms. And I get that their pain is not caused by my own parental struggles, but when I think  about them, I’m so utterly grateful that I can’t help but feel guilty for my complaint. My children are one of the biggest joys of my life! Each day, I’ve started making it a point to tell them something specific I love about them, for example:

Turner: 

  • I love that he’s a bookworm and will sit with me for endless amounts of time while I read to him. Since he was a baby, we’d devour stacks of books together.
  • I love that he is becoming a little artist. He doodles and draws constantly, and his art is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!
  • I love that he is a foodie. He loves shrimp, and brussels sprouts, and olives.
  • I love his kindness and tender heart.

Liza Jill: 

  • I love her cute voice and how she phrases things.
  • I love her hugs and how affectionate she is.
  • I love to watch her take her doctor kit and give all of her babies and stuffed animals check-ups.
  • I love that she makes up adorable songs, mostly about whatever objects she’s seeing in the room, and sings them for me.

That horrible awful week has brought me to a place of gratitude. I’m so thankful to be home with these two little ones. I’m so grateful to be on this journey of homeschool. I don’t know if we will homeschool forever, but I’m sure going to try and soak it up while I can! This pain that I experience at times is so worth it.

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Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll stay with me. I know my posts have been few and far between, but I’ve got some exciting things planned! Stay tuned for more on our journey to less with a post about my kids’ capsule-inspired wardrobe. AND, I’m planning a super fun curriculum post! I’ve just ordered everything for preschool and first grade, and I can’t wait to share my haul with you, sneak peak below!! Full post coming soon!

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Our Journey to Less

Hello world! It’s been QUITE awhile since I’ve posted, and I’m so happy to be at it again. It’s just been crazy around here, and I feel like maybe I’m kinda-sorta recovered from the holidays and sickness and finally back into the swing of things. I’m not gonna lie, we’ve had some rough days! Liza Jill is going through this lovely 3-year old stage of defiance and daily meltdowns, which is a lot of fun (ha!). My husband is knee-deep in dissertation writing, he’s got a BIG deadline coming up very soon, so he is working super hard on that. These things combined mean I’m pretty exhausted most of the time, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

All of these “life” things we have going on, lead me into the topic of this blog post. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking and praying the past few months, and I’d like to share a bit of my heart with you.

Every year, in the weeks leading up to the holidays I clean out my kids toy closet because I know they are going to get a mountain of stuff for Christmas; if I don’t make room they won’t have anywhere to put their new things. This year was no different. I’d been feeling a little convicted about the amount of stuff we have around here before beginning my yearly clean-out, but once I started going through the toy closet I was even more convinced we need to make some drastic changes!

I have started to feel suffocated by stuff. Clothes, toys, household items – overall we just have wayyy too much! Our house is medium sized, I wouldn’t call it small, but it is definitely not large. We have more than enough space, yet it seems every corner is full! So, here are the steps we are taking to less:

  1. Purging: we are trashing, donating or selling all the “extra.” I’m on a mission to get rid of any clothes that don’t fit, toys that make noise/require batteries, and stuff we don’t use. I’ve taken boxes to our local charity thrift-store, handed down items to friends, and trashed so much broken and useless junk it’s embarrassing. I’ve sold a few things online, and am participating in a friend’s yard sale in a few weeks.
  2. Only acquiring toys that are quality, educational, and/or made of natural materials: I’m all about some wooden or natural toys that inspire open-ended play! I have gotten rid of much of our plastic toys, with a few exceptions – we still love legos, zoobs, and our castle set. But, the plastic toys I’m keeping are the ones that my kids actually play with and have stood the test of time. If it’s been sitting in the toy closet collecting dust, it’s out!
  3. Getting Outside: Part of not missing all the “things” is watching how we spend out time. This includes making sure we are enjoying nature instead of our possessions. Luckily, it’s been crazy warm this winter and we’ve easily been able to play outdoors most days. I’ve found when the children are able to play outside for at least an hour everyday it seriously helps with everyone’s mood. Sometimes we go to a park or nature trail, other times we just play in the back yard. Either way, the fresh air does us good!
  4. We’ve quit TV: Okay, okay…I guess I should say we’ve “drastically reduced screen time.” The kids still occasionally watch a show or movie, but not everyday, and I try to make sure it’s something educational or really well-done. We love magic school bus, storybots, and how-its-made. Our family is pretty into super heroes (especially Batman), so we allow Batman or Justice League, but it’s something we enjoy as a family. I also love to read a book to the kids and then watch the movie – Turner’s favorite right now is The Spiderwick Chronicles. Since TV isn’t my go-to anymore, the kids have mostly stopped asking for it! They used to watch a little bit in the morning, and it’s like they’ve forgotten all about it.
  5. READ: We’ve always read a lot together, but I’ve tried to kick it up a notch! I’ve started doing a little circle-time (or triangle-time, since there’s only three of us) in the mornings. We do our days of the week wheel, catechism, memory verse, pledge, and then we read a few stories together. I sometimes try to fit the stories into a theme, sometimes not. I had all of these winter books lined up about snow and snowmen, and it’s been 70+ degrees this January, ha! In addition to this time in the mornings, we’ve been devouring some chapter books. This month we have read The Kingdom of Wrenly books 1-6, it’s a super fun fantasy series for little children. There are mermaids and trolls and wizards, which my kids love, but it is very light hearted and age appropriate; I plan to continue our reading through these. We read the first Boxcar Children book, Turner liked it, Liza Jill tolerated it. She’s just not quite ready for something as advanced. As mentioned above, T has been enjoying Spiderwick as well.
  6. Getting Creative: We are spending more time on Art in our homeschool. We’ve been painting with watercolors, modeling with beeswax, and drawing a lot more.

It’s a process for sure. I’ve got closets and drawers and shelves to clean out. I’ve got toys to get rid of, and a wish list of items that I want to be the “staples” in our school and toy closet – I know that makes it sound like I’m replacing stuff with more stuff, but I see more value in a library of books, and a few really nice play things than a whole room of junk. I’m being really selective about what we get rid of and what we acquire, if that makes sense. Below are some photos of how we are implementing these changes.

There’s sister enjoying some wet-on-wet watercolor painting. We have been painting with two primary colors at a time, so no matter how the kids swirl it around, they turn out pretty and they are learning how different colors are made. I tell them a little story about “Tippy Brush” while they paint for them to learn how to properly handle art supplies. It has been a lot of fun! On the right is a pic of some peppermint play-doh that my sister in law made for Christmas, we have played with it a lot! I tape some freezer paper to the table, and let them enjoy it. While they play, the whole house smells like peppermint goodness! I’ve been amazed at how much they have loved the peppermint smell.

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This beautiful baby cradle was made by my hubby’s dad, and both of my babies slept in it when they were tiny! It is a precious family possession, and now it sits in LJ’s room for all of her “babies.” This thing used to be crammed full with stuffed toys and dolls, and she hardly played with any of them. I got rid of all but what you see – the brown bunny rabbit her Uncle made with her at build-a-bear for her second birthday, the two grey rabbits are favorites she’s picked up along the way, the puppy dog was the first stuffed toy her dad and I ever gave her, there’s Clifford the big red dog, two cloth dolls – a sweet baby from London that Jared’s aunt gave her one Christmas, and Raggedy Ann, the little green octopus I made out of some scrap fabric, and then two plastic babies she has loved and played with for a long time. As soon as she walked in and saw this she was so excited! She’s been playing with them so much! It’s amazing how much they play when there are fewer choices.

The children are playing with blocks a lot now, which is so wonderful! I’ve also got a basket full of sheer scarfs and fabric, and it’s become something they play with a ton too! We’ve made tents, and baby blankets, and hats!

We’ve enjoyed lots of outside time, and made a little fairy garden one day.

Adding wooden/natural toys to your home doesn’t have to be expensive. I picked up the wooden clock for $4 at Goodwill! I ordered the little Waldorf-style dolls on Amazon, they were a little pricey, but Turner LOVES them! I got them to be “story buddies” for the kids during circle time, but T has played with them non-stop. I think he was excited to have a doll-type toy that isn’t super girly. He’s named them Super Red and Super Blue, and they’ve gone on lots of adventures already!

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They did this all on their own – I’m not even joking!

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Liza Jill was invited to the sweetest princess tea-party birthday a couple weeks ago, and all the girls were sent home with these precious ceramic tea sets. We have had so many tea parties! The tea set was one of the things, in addition to the toys in the cradle, that made the cut when we cleaned out her room.

So, there you have it! This quest is long from over, as the battle against excess is a long journey. I’m feeling better already with the few changes we’ve made and can’t wait to see what happens from here. What about you? Have you ever felt like material possessions were taking over your life? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your ideas and tips! Thanks for reading : )

Things I’m Loving Lately

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Life’s been crazy, and I’ve had a couple little computer issues. I think everything is worked out now and I’M BACK! Today, I thought I’d share some things I’m loving right now.

  1. Essential Oils. Y’all, I’ve known for awhile that this is a “thing” but I would just roll my eyes. I went over to a friend’s house, and she had a diffuser going, and I thought it smelled SO GOOD! This lead me to dabble a little bit with a few scents, and do A LOT of research and reading. Now I am hooked! My brands of choice are Plant Therapy and Eden’s Garden. I love you, Young Living and Doterra people, and I am certain your oils are wonderful, however I just couldn’t stomach the prices. They are outrageous! I researched and discovered some brands that are great and much more affordable because they aren’t multilevel marketing companies. Anyway, there are so many oils and blends out there it’s amazing and I WANT THEM ALL! I’ve started a good little collection, and have a loooong wishlist. There are a few I use specifically during schooltime, and they’ve really helped! unnamed-77

 

2. Library books. I’m a book nerd and hoarder, and I could spend our entire budget on books. I really could. But, obviously we need food and toilet paper, so my book budget is limited. I do buy used books fairly frequently, and also have an Amazon Prime account that I use a lot (our UPS man knows us well). I really do try to only buy books that I know we will read again and again. We have TONS of Children’s books, but we really do read them over and over. So, to curb our book addiction without spending dollars we hit up the library a lot. We’ve read some gems this school year for sure. Our library also has a great storytime and lots of events and activities for little ones. Yay!

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3. Legos! What is it about these little pieces of plastic that I seem to step on in the middle of the night?!? They are so fun, and just good educational entertainment. If we can’t get outside, I tell the kids “go play with your Legos.” They usually obey, and have built so many fun things. We also love the duplos, and the big chunky mega-bloks too. Any building toy is a hit with my kids.

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5. This Advent devotional by Naptime Diaries . This is actually last year’s edition, and I’m not sure if you can still get it. I bought it last year with a friend, intended on going through it, and FAILED! I’m hoping to be more successful this year – so far so good.

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6. Leggings. I live in them.

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7. My Yeti cup. I love this thing! Not that I need a fancy cup, but it’s really motivated me to drink more water because it keeps it ice cold for a loooong time. They are pricey, but you can find them cheaper on Amazon. Also, you’ll notice mine has a scrape down one side. Yeah, I set it on the roof of my car and then drove off, but that’s another story for another day.

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8. This peaceful corner in our home. It’s a nice place to read, pray, write, or reflect. My husband can be found here (if I haven’t snagged the spot first!) working on his dissertation.

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9. Our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It’s kind of pitiful, but it’s part of our family’s story. Before we lived here, we shared a tiny two-bedroom apartment. We loved it! I admit, I was itching for a bigger space those last few months, but looking back, those times were so precious. This little tree was all we could fit in there, and we keep intending to replace it but never do. The kids love it, anyway.

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10. Cute kitchen helpers. These two love to “help” in the kitchen. Admittedly, many times I have shooed them away so I could just get it done! I’m trying to be more intentional and embrace these years, plus cooking is a skill I want them to learn – homeschooled or not. It’s hard not to be frustrated, because I’m cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and with a hot stove and sharp utensils, sometimes little hands get in the way. But, those little hands are eager to learn, and eager to help. I know if I don’t soak up this time, I’ll deeply regret it. So, here’s a snapshot of baby girl with a stick of butter and a butter knife, and T-man beating some eggs.

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So, there ya go! A little tour of things I’m loving lately in our world. I know life isn’t about things, it’s not about all the stuff you have (that’s why some of the “things” listed are spaces in my home or my children’s helpful spirits). I don’t intend for this list to say “look at all the things I have!” I’m just trying to share some items I’m grateful for, and honestly to remind myself of all the good gifts I’ve been given. Life lately has had some bumps, it’s been rough, there have been struggles. But, in the midst of those struggles, we are so blessed!

What are you loving lately?

 

A Quick Update of Lately

We’ve been busy busy around here! I have to say, I finally feel like we’re in a pretty good routine and getting into the groove of homeschool. Just in time for the holidays, right? I think Turner has gained some confidence, which is great! I haven’t been having to fight him much at all to get his school work done. In a twist of events, handwriting is his current favorite, while reading? Not so much. It was like pulling teeth to get a reading lesson finished for awhile. He’s doing much better, though. If I can get him started, we’re pretty good. He’s doing very well, just doesn’t want to sit and do the hard work at times. We’ve slowed down on our math considerably, which was expected. Our curriculum started off very easy and he would blow through 8-10 lessons a day, now we usually only work through one, maybe two if we’ve got good momentum.

So, now our homeschool day consists of the following:

  • CC Review
  • Math U See: 1-2 worksheets
  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: 1 lesson per day, sometimes doing the same one two days in a row if needed
  • Handwriting Without Tears: 1-2 lessons
  • Calendar/Weather/Pledge/Bible Memory Verse
  • Activities on special topics – we did a week on fire safety, a week of pumpkin related things around Halloween etc. This is the time I pull little sister in and we do something a little more fun – sensory bin, art project and so on.
  • Lots and lots of reading together
  • Piano (either in his books, or actual practice)
  • Play! Outside, Legos, Play-doh, dress up etc.

Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to the past couple weeks:

We’ve been soaking up this fall-ish weather. It’s still been pretty warm, with a slight breeze most days. I’m living outside as much as possible before it gets too cold. The kids love to “climb” trees.

Pretty much the only time I take selfies – per request of these two cuties!

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A little fall crafting! I am NOT an early Christmas decorator. I LOVE LOVE LOVE all things fall (except pumpkin spice coffee – blech!), and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. We will enjoy our Christmas decorations after. The kids started off helping make this wreath, but were over it in about two minutes.

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Okay, y’all. I’ve started something I never thought I would – essential oils! I’m new at the whole thing, but am really enjoying their benefits. PLEASE share with me your favorite oils and favorite ways to use them! This particular one in the photo above, I use (diluted in coconut oil) on Turner before we start school. I just rub a little on his chest, and maybe I’m crazy but it really seems to help! My other favorite is lavender/peppermint/chamomile diffused…lovely!

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We took one day off school, and I cleaned all day. The house looked like this! It was a magical fifteen minutes.

 

Some more short-lived clean house photos. I know I will miss my kiddos running around when they are grown, but I promise I will not miss the mess. I just love a clean house! I do my best, but it’s a daily struggle. And laundry? Oy! I’m the WORST when it comes to laundry. I promise you. THE. WORST. If you have a magical cleaning and laundry routine/method, help a sister out! I’d love to know your tips!

That’s pretty much it! Nothing too exciting, just normal homeschool life. We are so very blessed.

A Real Homeschool Day

The question I get most often from other moms is “what does your day look like?” To be clear, this is not because I have it all together. It’s not because I’m some sort of expert, we are still very very new at this whole thing. We are still growing and learning. I also ask other homeschool moms the same question frequently, it’s helpful to get ideas from others.

I should also say, I’m not as organized as I wish I were. I like to say that I’m not type-A, but have type-A ambitions. I want to have a set routine, and cleaning schedule, and set aside time to read etc. But, I just don’t! I have a general routine for how our day should go, and most of the time things sort of go according to plan, but never exactly. Here’s what today looked like – a pretty typical day for us.

7:00am – Turner woke up and got in bed with us. He usually snuggles for a little bit before he’s ready to get going for the day. Today, he was still pretty tired so he fell back asleep for a few minutes.

7:45am – I took a shower and got dressed. Both kids were awake by then. They headed into the den/playroom and watched a little TV. I do limit the kids’ screen time, but I let them watch a little in the mornings. They’re pretty slow to wake up, so this time helps our mornings go a little more smoothly.

8:30am – Daddy told us all goodbye for the work day. I set up our first activity on the kitchen table, turned on my essential oil diffuser, and started the coffee. I listened to a podcast while I unloaded the dishwasher and sipped my coffee.

9:15am – I called the kids into the kitchen, still in their pajamas. I poured them some cereal (Turner’s with milk, Liza Jill’s dry), and had them start a little school. I’ve really been trying to incorporate little sister into more of our homeschool activities. She’s starting to want to be involved more, but yet isn’t ready to sit through a reading or math lesson. Today, we did a few do-a-dot marker sheets that went along with what we’ve been talking about this week – fire safety and community helpers.

I knew it’d be a little below Turner’s level, but thought he would enjoy it and it’d just reinforce things we’d been learning. What I didn’t expect was sister to fly through it like a pro! After they finished these worksheets, I let them color while we went over our CC material.

We are loving Classical Conversations so far! I’ve had moms tell me they thought CC was just “too much” for their kids. The main complaint I hear is that it’s just too intense and lots of work. I just want to share, our experience with CC has been SO EASY! Turner is just five, so I’m not concerned with him having everything memorized. It’s more about being exposed to this information, and memorizing what he can. He’ll go through this cycle again in a few years, so I know this is only his first introduction to the material. We don’t even review every single day. And when we do review, we don’t go over every piece of information. Usually, we review about three times a week, and a lot of times I do it in the car while we’re on the way to wherever.

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This week our science memory work is the eight planets. I happened to have these flash cards that I picked up a few months ago, so I used them while we reviewed. We also went over the memory verse we’re working on right now.

10:00am – I told the kids to go play while I straightened up and got a few things done. Today, they played with their Lego duplos. During morning playtime, I love for them to build or create, so duplos fit the bill! We also try to get outside most mornings, but today I had several things in the house I wanted to get done.

11:45am – We got out of the house for awhile. A dear friend of mine and her husband are down to one vehicle right now. He has to take the car to work, so she’s stuck at home most days. We are actually in the same position, but my husband can walk to work. We went and picked her and her sweet toddler up, and went to lunch and to run a few errands. It was a sweet time to catch up and let the kids play.

2:45pm – We got home, and the kids relaxed for a bit and played some more while I did a little more cleaning. I took the dog out, and checked the mail – Turner’s piano books arrived! He starts piano lessons next week and we are just a bit excited!!

3:45pm – I called the kids to the kitchen table so we could finish our schoolwork and have a snack. Turner did letter “V” in Handwriting Without Tears, 13B in Math U See, and we worked on sight-words for awhile. Sister did a little scribbling and scissor cutting during this time. She also had a melt-down that had us all wanting to pull our hair out – just a normal day!

After she calmed down from her tantrum, Liza Jill played on the magnet board in our school room while Turner finished up his math. Both T and I were thankful for the quiet time to concentrate a little better.

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5:15pm – The kids got shoes on and ready to meet Daddy for dinner. He works at a university, and we eat at the cafeteria a few dinners a week. Tonight was a caf night!

6:40pm – I dropped Daddy and the kids off at the house, and ran to Hobby Lobby for a bit. They played outside and then got ready for bed while I was gone.

8:00pm – When I got home, the kids were in bed but waiting for goodnight hugs and kisses. I was happy to oblige. And now, it’s 9pm and I’m going to relax with Jared for a while then head to bed.

This is a pretty typical day. Sometimes we don’t do any school until the afternoon; my kids just aren’t morning people (a trait they positively received from me). But, today we did half in the morning and half in the afternoon. Like most days, we didn’t get everything done I wish we would have. I wanted to spend more time reading, get out the map for some good geography time, and practice tin whistle, but we did the best we could. I’m learning to be okay with that! Also, as you can see we do most of our work at the kitchen table. We actually do have a designated school area, but end up at the table anyway, it’s just what works for us!

What about you? I’d love to know what your schedule is like? Any advice or resources you love to keep a three year old busy during big brother’s school time?

Lately

I haven’t posted in awhile because we’ve had a lot going on! Here’s a little summary:

We were displaced for a little over a week while our kitchen was being remodeled. During that time the kids and I stayed with my parents (they live about 1.5hrs away) and managed to keep up with school. It was a lot of fun, but I’m super happy to be home and in our new kitchen. Since being back, a lot of time has been dedicated to getting things back in order and cleaning/organizing.

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We’ve been wishing for cooler weather and decorating for fall!

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I’ve mentioned our tight budget before. I used to do a lot of couponing and stocking up, which helped our budget a lot. Recently, I had kind of lost the motivation to do so because it does take time and planning and dedication. I’ve found the motivation again and am doing all I can to help our financial situation. I still have a ways to go, but this is helping!

We’ve taken some time to get outside and gone on a few field trips. We are all happier people when we get out and enjoy learning outside.

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Baby girl turned THREE years old! Crazytown, you guys! I had the realization that my kids are truly not babies anymore! I’m super happy to be in this phase of no nap schedules and more fun, but it’s a little bittersweet. They grow so fast! We didn’t have a party this year, just spent some time with family and enjoyed the day together. It was low-key and nice.

Then, sweet girl came down with a fever and was pitiful for a day. I can’t say I hated the snuggles, but I’m very glad she’s doing much better!

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Daddy had a couple days off work, and we soaked up the family time! Jared has a really demanding job and is a full-time doctoral student. It was so wonderful to have a few days together to relax and enjoy being with each other. I wish we could re-wind and do it again. With dad around, there were plenty of light saber fights and rough housing. I’m thankful to have a husband who does those things with our kids.

So, that’s what we’ve been up to! What about you? Our you enjoying fall weather at your home? If so, could you send some our way?

Next I’m planning a post about our home library and some of our favorite fall books. Stay tuned!

 

Curriculum Chat

It has been a long journey to the curriculum we are using. Disclaimer – I am NOT a homeschooling expert! Our decision to homeschool came so unexpected and so quickly, that I didn’t really have a lot of time to research and choose materials. Besides that, I think it takes A LOT of trial and error to discover how your child learns best and what curricula fit those needs.

We started off using My Father’s World – it’s an all-inclusive open and go curriculum. I chose it to begin with because of the fact that it was everything – reading, science, math etc. I didn’t feel educated or confident enough to be able to piece together different materials from different publishers. But, after about six or seven weeks in, I started to feel like it wasn’t a very good fit for us. There are many good things I can say about MFW, but for some reason I just felt like it wasn’t what we needed. Therefore, I decided to go in a few different directions to make some changes in curriculum. I sold my teacher’s guide, but kept our student worksheet and I still use some of the activities.

Before I talk about what we are using, I want to make it clear that all of these materials have been purchased with budget in mind! It can be costly to buy curriculum only to change your mind and buy something else! Our local used homeschool curriculum store has saved me a lot of money! In addition, I’ve watched for deals online and borrowed from friends. Here is my curriculum list:

  1. Math-U-See. I’m listing this first, because it’s probably my favorite thing ever! Turner is pretty good at math and it is enjoyable for him. We love this curriculum because it’s multi-sensory and teaches the material a variety of ways. Turner loves the hands-on aspect of building with the blocks. I bought the teacher’s guide/DVD/block set from our second-hand store, and ordered a new workbook online. We have the first set – Primer. T has flown through the first ten lessons very quickly, which has helped build his confidence. We are starting to slow down a bit now that the concepts are getting more difficult. Unless something changes, I plan to stay with Math-U-See as we level up in math.

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2. Handwriting Without Tears. This has been a lifesaver! Handwriting is T’s least favorite and also his biggest struggle. I love love love HWT and we’ve only been using it a short time. We used the materials to build mat-man this week, and the kids loved it, such a good help for body awareness and pre-writing! I use the wood pieces with him to build and trace letters. I haven’t started going through the workbook just yet, it’s on its way to us in the mail! I plan to do it about three times per week. A sweet friend graciously lent the materials to us (thanks Janel!), and I ordered a new workbook. If you don’t have a friend to borrow from, and don’t want to buy the materials (they can be pretty pricey), there are tons of HWT ideas on youtube and all over the interwebs.

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3. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This is an awesome resource! It’s so simple and it really does work. We try to do at least 4 lessons a week, sometimes more if we can fit it in. I mentioned in my last post that we did have to take a break from it for a bit due to some frustrations, but we’ve picked it back up and it is going well. In addition to the 100 lessons book, I use BOB books to reinforce reading skills. Turner loves them because there are more pictures, and they have been really helping his reading confidence.

4. Classical Conversations. I have a lot of thoughts about CC that I will have to write about sometime, but here is a brief synopsis. If you are interested in the Classical method of education, you need to check out CC. We go to community group once a week, and T is in a class of 8 students. At the foundations level, CC is mostly memory work. The children memorize facts that will be beneficial later on when they put them into practice. They memorize math laws, history sentences, science facts and so on. Whatever Turner is curious about, we will explore and research throughout the week. It’s super simple and we are enjoying it!

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5. Various Workbooks and activities. I love the Kumon thinking skills series. Kumon has a series of workbooks for young children that explores different thinking skills such as logic, differentiation and creativity. I love these workbooks, because these aren’t skills that are specifically explored in a traditional school setting, but they are super important! In addition to these workbooks, we do tons of other activities and experiements that relate to either what we are learning in CC or what the kids are curious about.

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The only other material I consistently use is The Big Picture Story Bible for our Bible time. I love it because it has less text than other children’s Bibles, and the kids really get into the stories. We will explore further – like building our own Jericho and knocking it down after marching around it. We pray together and talk about Jesus.

Other than that, we read read read. Sometimes I feel like my lips might fall off!

As I’m beginning to think about next year, what are your first-grade favorites?