Friday, August 23, 2013

Being a Responsible Parent

Well, at the end of the school week I decided to go ahead and restock the kids' pencil pouches with newly sharpened pencils.  And go ahead and sharpen all the dull ones in our supply box as well. The biggest hurdle in any given school day CAN become the dilemma of finding a sharpened pencil, a situation which we have so far been able to avoid due to buying PRE-sharpened pencils in abundance, and  maintaining a good electric sharpener.  The way to maintain a good sharpener is to avoid using it for colored pencils and "novelty" pencils.  Only good brand pencils allowed, and only mom is allowed to use the sharpener.  I take this entire situation very seriously.
So...I'm just minding my own business, sharpening pencils.  Ruby was brushing her teeth in the bathroom with her Nanna.
Then, Nanna comes out of the bathroom.  Without Ruby.
"Is Ruby still in there with you?"
"No, I haven't seen her since she was brushing her teeth."
It doesn't take long for us to find her.  She is SO VERY GOOD at being quiet.
I mean, I remember it wasn't that long ago, that quiet meant something completely this:

or this....

Now, this time, the quiet meant some very different "busy-ness"

" 'S PITTY SEE?!" -Ruby (it's pretty see?)

And yes, my first reaction was to get a photo.  Because it wasn't like I could quickly intervene and prevent a mess.

At least it wasn't on carpet. Or a bedspread.
Technically I guess I've never told her to NOT do that.

But I have now.

She got a good twice over with some nail polish remover, and a bath.  It will take a while yet for the rest to wear off.  And the floor came clean with remover as well.
But I did get a bit woozy in the process.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Challenge Results!

I just realized today that I never posted the final results from my Advocare 24 Day Challenge!

Among many accomplishments throughout that time period, I took Katie and her friends to Cici's, and did not eat one single bite of pizza! Two plates of salad is all!  And, to celebrate the first day of school, we made ooey gooey layered cake cookie bars, with sprinkles and white chocolate chips, and OH they smelled so good, but I did not even lick the bowl or have a bite! (though I DID put a piece in the freezer to have after my last day weigh in! ha!)

So....the final results were....

down 11.4 lbs, and 8 1/2"!

When I first started, the thought of ONLY losing around ten pounds made me feel sad.  But as the days went on, I realized how hard it was to drop after that first five.  So, to actually surpass ten lbs was good enough for me!

Although I have been cheating more with sauces, and I had taco bell this weekend, so that number has hovered right back up to the ten lbs mark! ACK! But I'm back on the wagon, and restocked with some meal replacement shakes and ready to get the next ten dropped!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Busy Boxes: August

I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to "keep Ruby busy" ideas.
I got a few ready in time for our first full week of school.

The first is a modified "paint swatch match" game.
I thought that matching shades of the same color would be just entirely too difficult and frustrating for a toddler, so I had the idea to make the matching part of decorating a butterfly.
I cut the butterfly shape from cardboard, then cut various shapes from the paint swatches and matching pieces on the clothespins.
It didn't turn out to be quite as pretty as I wanted, ha ha.

And, the shapes are pretty fragile, especially one I did in the shape of a moon.  I've already had to repair three clothespins. But it's an okay game.
I also did one on a circle.  

I would have liked to cover the entire circle, but it turned out to be more complicated than I was willing to work with on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  So, it turned in to a kind of smiley sunshine looking thing.
She likes it!

Here are all three color matching activities, and a smile photobombing me.
I do have to keep the clothespins separated into baggies because if they are all dumped out it's way hard for her to match them up.

This one is more like the original idea, but again, 5 shades of pink or green is just too hard, 
so I modified it by cutting and pasting different colors on a small strip of cardboard.
I really think the color matching game is so cute, but she played with it for a while and hasn't asked to get it out again. :(

This is what she REALLY loves.....

The most simply put together activity.  Magazines, safety scissors, and glue.
It only took about 3 minutes for me to realize that a two year old can't cut pictures out of magazines, ha ha.
So, I started cutting them out for her, and Katie and Noah helped as well.
We cut out pictures of kids from old sewing magazines, and then a bunch of food and household items from sales ads.  So now she can "cut" them a little more if she likes, then she glues them on pieces of cardstock.
I cannot stress enough how much she loves this and will ask to do it over and over while I get things done with Katie and Noah!

And the number 2 favorite busy box:

OF COURSE! Can't go wrong with play-doh!
She has played with some of the tiny party favor ones during her potty training experiment, but I'd picked up this play set for half price at Target which had the play-doh scissors, cutters, and stamps along with it.
It was the first box she wanted down on Monday and she alternates between this and the glue box constantly.

Here's a shot of one of her photo collages.

And, I have been guilty of not getting together many of the other ideas (other than the apple theme box that was pictured on our first day of school post), so I haphazardly threw this stuff in a box for her.  An ice tray, plastic tongs, and various tiny *things* for her to play around with.
I got it out once and she didn't even try it, ha ha. I guess the play doh and glue is just TOO fun!

My plan is to rotate out some different activities. I think the glue collage will stick around for a while as well as the play doh, but I guess this last one needs replacing pretty soon, ha ha.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Day of School (last Friday!)

Here are Katie and Noah on our first day of homeschooling, sometime in September, 2007.
(2007 also happens to be the year I started blogging!)
They were dressed for tumbling class they would have later in the afternoon.
Noah was 3, and Katie was 4, almost 5.

And here they were on Friday, their first day of school, 2013.
Katie is almost 11, and starting fifth grade.
Noah is 9 and starting fourth grade.
At the risk of sounding redundant......

And I am SO VERY THANKFUL that we decided to homeschool them!
First and foremost just because of all the time I have been able to spend with them every single day!
If my reasons for homeschooling were simply contained to that very reason, 
it would be reason plenty and enough!

Here are some more photos from our "first day."

okay, so I took mostly pictures of Ruby playing with her new busy box! ha ha.

Art: drawing outlines of shapes

Some handwriting.
There was also some Math thrown in, but I didn't take more pics of paperwork going on.

The busy box before Ruby got hold of it.
It has lentils and split peas, red pom pom "apples", some actual craft/decorative apples, "trees" made from toilet paper holders, a cinnamon stick, some buckets, scoops,cups, and a spoon.
She LOVED it!

Katie and Noah honestly enjoyed this as much as she did! ha ha.

Working on an internet scavenger hunt about Mexico.
I prepared questions that I'd found the answers to on pre-selected websites made for kids (time for kids, national geographic kids, some classroom websites created by kids), they searched and had a blast.  This is part of our history we are doing before starting our "official" curriculum for the year. They each picked a country. Katie picked Russia, but I didn't get in to get a photo of her working on hers.
Their favorite part of this was browsing the translating and listening website for their country.

More playing.

And yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
We will be working on our third day when this posts, and I wasn't sure how I would feel about just "reviewing" and making stuff up until our curriculum arrives, but I kind of like easing in to the year this way!
Get them back in the swing of having things to do before we get to the heavier new stuff.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Change in Programming

Well, of course as soon as I print several organizing sheets for my planning binder, something doesn't work out the way it was *printed.*

I was getting ready to order the Teaching Textbooks materials, when I decided to look at some reviews.  WRONG.

Hmmm...I know every method and curriculum gets good AND bad reviews.  But I was reading more and more comments about kids being "several years ahead" in this program, and then being behind what they should know.

NOT good for me, who is trying to CLOSE UP some gaps by switching math programs this year.

I decided to actually look closely at the placement tests I had printed for the kids to do this week, just to be sure we were going to order the right stuff.  I remember actually printing the Math 6 placement test because I thought it might look like Katie could move on up to that level.

What I saw I wasn't pleased with.  It very much looked like even Noah could almost breeze on up to Math 6.  BOO! I was so looking forward to a hands-off completely automated Math program this year.

Instead, after much review of materials online, and reading reviews, and looking at all the scope and sequence materials for several math programs, I decided on Horizons.

Both of these I ordered from Sonlight, (along with some timeline figures I wanted for our American History study this year).  Yes, they look like they have a lot of repeated items in the kits, but yay they offered "fill in kits" for just ordering the things that were different between Math 4 and 5. I also priced out the items on Amazon thinking I could put together a set more cheaply since there are things like scissors and paper included that we already have, but even for just the "math-y" stuff we didn't have, it was way more expensive on Amazon.

So, where do I find myself this year but on the complete opposite side of the spectrum in every single subject!? ha ha!  Not only are we not doing a dvd or computer program, but now we are doing a completely hands-on, lots of manipulatives, math curriculum!

I truly am excited though.  I am mostly excited just to be finally expecting some school materials in the mail soon! We did already get some of the history and science so we will be going ahead and starting that (we did today!). And language has a lot to review already, some lessons on dictionary and thesaurus skills. And we started our first "key word outline" for writing today as well.

So far so good, and Ruby LOVES her busy boxes so far!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back to School!

Well, it's August and I've decided we are going to go ahead and plunge into schooling for 2013/2014!  As I looked at the calendar, the desire to have breaks throughout the school year and still finish in May won out over the desire for a few more weeks of summer break!  I have not ordered all our curriculum yet, as the refund is still processing (BUT HAS been initiated yay for something done right!), but I have compiled the list of what we will order.
For the first two weeks of school I will be doing some placement testing for their new math program, review, start new writing lessons, and basically use review to get a schedule somewhat worked out.
As I always love to do, here is what we have chosen for this school year, for 4th and 5th grade! (I cannot believe I just typed that!)

I did not upload these pictures in any particular order.  Here's something new I hope to accomplish using regularly! We used Artistic Pursuits in 1/2 grade I think.  The 4/5 grade book has a very simple supply list so I plan on doing some FUN art with the kids this year!

For grammar, we will still use First Language Lessons.
It's scripted, and LOTS of review after the basics, but it is really giving a good foundation in parts of speech and sentence structure. Can't argue with results!

Isn't that a very practical looking method for writing cursive?
I want to encourage Katie and Noah to use more cursive writing this year, so we have another practice book to use. Plus, I think it's just good for their brains to do something like this and copywork!

We are going back to Abeka for American History this year.  They have a good year of it for their fourth grade so that's what they are both going to use.

For literature/reading this year we are going a very different route!
Memoria Press and Veritas Press have literature guides for various classic novels.  I just gave Katie and Noah the choice of many of their titles ranging from 2nd grade to 6th grade and they chose two to start out the year.  I made them choose at least one from the "recommended" titles for their grade level (which I believe are pretty advanced!).  Katie chose Little House in the Big Woods and The Hobbit.  Noah chose The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a book called Adam of the Road.
When they finish these we will order again for what they choose next.
The guides seem to be very thorough, taking them chapter by chapter through learning new vocabulary, "sayings" of the time period, plot, themes, and comprehension. I am very excited about this new approach and I think it will help them really understand what they are capable of reading.

We are going a complete new direction with Math this year.  Up until this point we have used Math-U-See.
And I have had no issues with it whatsoever!
But, I was thinking toward them being exposed to a little more each year at this point, and to be honest, I felt that they were getting a little bored with the same person on the DVD lessons all the time.
At the expo I went through a demo of teaching textbooks and think it will be wonderful!
The lessons are on computer disks and walk them through "teaching" the lessons and doing problems on the computer for each lesson.  It also automatically keeps up with their grades and the parent can easily see how many times they attempted a problem, if they viewed the explanation when they DID miss one, and all sorts of interesting things. 
I'm excited to switch things up a bit!
There's also the book which they can use to write in for a change of pace from the computer every once in a while.

Science in back on my plate this year, so we are making it simple with a return to Abeka.
I know science is supposed to be interactive and fun, and this is more of a textbook approach, but oh well.
It was good enough for me in 4th/5th grade, ha ha.

I love this spelling program.  I have to be honest, when I bought the workbooks last year and started going through just reading out lists for them to spell every single day it was pretty boring pretty fast. 
But I have never seen so much improvement in their spelling skills over one year! I most definitely agree with this approach and that just memorizing a list every week is far inferior to this method! This year I am ordering the student workbooks as well (as opposed to just writing the lists on notebook paper every day).

Abeka History for 4th grade includes working through a "State Notebook" project.
I know Katie and Noah will enjoy this, they LOVE to work on "projects."

We used Wordly Wise last year and I think it's a great program for exposing them to new vocabulary! Higher level application and using it in a testing format are included in these workbooks too.

And finally, my most favorite homeschool curriculum of all time.  
This is because it takes something that I just could not wrap my head around how to teach and makes it SO ridiculously simple! I LOVE THIS!
I now understand why on any Q&A or forum, if a writing program was asking for, the overwhelming response was IEW.

Change to our schedule:
We are signing up with the local church co-op again this year called CHAT.  We participated in it when the kids were preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade-ish.  We took a break for a while to do science classes at Education Play Station, but for many reasons it seems that this will be a better fit for us this year.  I am looking forward to the mommy social time as well.

I am also going to try a daily theme schedule.  Math and Reading, as well as vocabulary and spelling and handwriting every day, but taking one day per week to spend a couple of hours on each of Language, Writing, Art, Science, and Social Studies.  Rather than do all of those every day I hope that taking one day to work solely on one of those areas will be productive and help us get more done.  It's difficult to work through so many transitions and subjects every day and I truly hope this will solve that issue!
Math and Reading will be almost completely independent, as well as handwriting and vocabulary. This means my daily instructional time can be easily accomplished through spelling, and our daily "Theme" subject.
I am excited at the prospect of this resulting in more quality instructional time during Ruby's nap!

That's pretty much it! I'm looking forward to a productive year, Katie's last year as an elementary student, and Noah's fourth grade year!

Oh, and HERE is a link to my pinterest board with all the ideas for Ruby's busy boxes! I think she will have a fun year too!

Monday, August 5, 2013


You know, there have been times in the past, and even more that have not made the blog, where I learned to trust my gut.  AKA, the Holy Spirit.

It seems last weekend, I ignored that gut panicky feeling, and it has caused some inconvenience again to our family.

You see, all the way home from the homeschool expo a couple of weekends ago, I had that panicky feeling.  I attributed it to a combination of fear, pride, and some supplements I'd been taking that contained quite a bit of caffeine.

And on Saturday evening when I got the chance to look over the receipt and noticed the billing information was wrong, I considered it a fluke.

On Sunday when I read some reviews which suggested buying the pre-printed teacher resource materials, another $40 worth of stuff, I wasn't thrilled.

On Monday, when I talked to the representative and she pointed out a pricing error which resulted in an increase of our already over budget total by another $80, I sighed and went along.

Then, when the shipping address was wrong and UPS had to be intercepted with an address change, I was really starting to get annoyed.

And when I noticed, after the items had shipped, that the incorrect grade level of science was being sent, I was quite upset.

During my conversation with the customer service representative, when I was attempting to actually GET the address changed, and inquire about the incorrect science that was being sent, and the lady *so nicely* explained to me that it was "too late", "it's already on the truck" and "there's nothing I can do about it," well.... my mood was far from happy.

And the icing on the cake was that she was so kind as to explain to me how to weigh a box of materials so that I could call them with the figures (step on a bathroom scale with the box, then step on the scale without the box, then figure the difference to find the weight! in case you didn't know).

It took me about two hours after that last conversation (during which I priced out all the stuff I really wanted to get before going with this company and it turned out to be $500 cheaper!) to call them back and cancel the entire order, every single piece, and send a lovely feedback email to their customer service department.

And oh yeah, the garnish on top of the frosting on the cake: "It's our busy season, so it could be 4-6 weeks before a credit is issued back."


School will be starting this week.  I've got plenty of review material for starting out the year, plus some new Art lessons and handwriting practice, and of course our awesome Institute for Excellence in Writing program. We will keep busy until we can get our new supplies for this year, and it will not be with a DVD curriculum program!