Thursday, September 29, 2016

Daily Schedule Chart 2016

I really like having a visual representation of our daily schedule so the kids know what's coming.  I come up with something new every year based on our needs.  

This year we all know the basic drill (snack of fresh fruit at same time every morning, science or history directly after snack, lunch at same time every day, literature after lunch, etc) pretty well.  So I didn't need to make up a detailed, rigid chart for the week, like in years past.  Most days will be the same, but we are comfortable with change and spontaneity.  Especially with the classes we have planned to attend, not every Wednesday, for example, will always be the same the whole year.  And I'm horrible at getting around to printing new schedules out when classes change.

This year I simply drew vertical lines on a 12X18 piece of thick art paper.  Then I got it laminated so I would have a good dry-erase surface.  To the right of every section there is a small piece of velcro.  

Every day I can use whiteboard pens to write up our schedule for the day.  Then for Tertius' and Quartus' benefit, I found little picture representations of the things we do frequently.  They have velcro on the back of them so I can attach them next to the correct words on the chart as needed.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Quartus Wants to Cook, Too

Since the big kids are learning to cook, Quartus doesn't want to be left out!  He has taken it upon himself to be the official chocolate-milk maker for dinner.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Homeschooling Means...#23

...attending free kids' workshop events at the local hardware store on the weekend definitely gets counted on the learning record as "wood working class."

(This series is meant to be mostly lighthearted and fun.  Some may be serious, but most will be silly, braggy, or of the keepin'-it-real variety.  Not every homeschool is the same.  And some of these things could be said by public school parents.  This is just to highlight MY experience with MY homeschool and MY children.  Enjoy these little insights into our life and feel free to share your own "Homeschooling means..." in the comments!)

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Communism Fail" or "Teaching Personal Responsibility"

All of our school supplies (markers, colored pencils, crayons, pencils, erasers, scissors, glue, tape, pencil sharpeners, etc) used to be community property.  This seemed like an efficient way to organize and store these items.  Also, we like to encourage sharing and working together as a family.  

For several years I dealt with kids leaving art supplies laying around, not knowing who to call back to clean it up, and constantly throwing away markers because they dried out.  It became clear that sounding like a broken record ("Click the marker lids!  When you're done with something, put it away!  Why are there so many pencils just laying around where the baby can get to them?!") wasn't making for a peaceful home and wasn't encouraging the kids to take personal responsibility for their stuff.  

Things had to change.  Last year each of the kids got their own school supplies and we started to teach them the new mantra, "If you don't take care of your nice stuff, you won't have nice stuff."

I bought these rolls of washi tape so I could label everything.  Each kid is assigned their own color.  That way we all know what belongs to who.  No more arguing about who's drawer that random pencil should go in.

See the little labels?  I think when this tape runs out I'm going to buy some that's more opaque.  On some of their things it's pretty hard to see the color.  I even labeled each and every crayon!

This year I'm taking things a step further.  I was still wasting too much breath on constantly reminding them to put things away.  Now, if I find stuff laying around, then it gets confiscated (depending on circumstance, they may get one additional opportunity to clean it up without penalty).

So here's the kicker: if your scissors, for example, get confiscated then you have to buy new ones the next time you need them.  You have to buy them back from mom with real money.  If I didn't take care of my scissors and lost them, then I would have to go to the store and buy new ones.  The idea is to enforce real-life consequences.  If you don't take care of your stuff, you won't have your stuff.  If you need stuff, you'll have to buy new stuff.  

In the month after this new plan was introduced, Secundus and Tertius each had to buy new scissors.  Twice.  Money is a big deal to them so hopefully it will be a good motivator to shape up!  Mommy's serious.

Now, if the kid is broke or needs a color of marker that Mommy owns that didn't come in their set, then they have the option to simply borrow from me.  And then that allows for another lesson.  If you borrow someone else's stuff, you had better be respectful and take good care of it!  If you don't take care of someone else's stuff, they're not likely to let you borrow from them again!

How do you encourage personal responsibility in your kids?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dish Towel Book Bags

We may homeschool, but that doesn't mean we always school at home.  

For example, for part of last year we did music class on Wednesday mornings and took basketball, soccer, or dodge-ball classes in the afternoons.  So in the morning we would pack up lunches and a few books so we could eat and do school work at the park in between classes instead of coming home.  That kind of situation happens at least twice every week.  

Every kid owns a nice backpack, but I found that regular backpacks are just too big and bulky for transporting what we need and things get lost and crumpled in the bottom.  Last year we ended up using these canvas bags.  Though it would have been nice for the handles to be a bit longer, they were the perfect size for a clipboard, a couple workbooks, and a pencil case.  A friend had added the Inside Out picture and given them as birthday party favors.  I'm not sure where she found the bags, but I'm pretty sure I had seen similar at the dollar store.  

Sadly, by the end of the school year, much of the stitching started to come undone.  So the search was on for replacements.  

Sadly, I was unable to find the perfect bags for the right price (I was only willing to spend a dollar or two on each.)  But then when I was at the Dollar Tree I saw all these cute dish towels and was inspired!

These are the perfect size and everyone got to choose their own favorite design!

And since I didn't have to do any measuring, cutting, or hemming for the bags, I was able to whip up 4 in only about half an hour!  The dish towels are just folded in half and sewn down the sides.

 The handles are what took the most time.  I just bought a fifth towel and cut it into four even strips.  Then each strip was sewn in half (right sides together), flipped right side out, and attached to the bags.

 I'm so pleased with how they turned out!  They're cute, perfect size, personal, really soft, and machine washable.  Now let's just hope that they end up being durable enough to last us the whole school year!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Settlers of Catan and Creative Art

This summer we taught the kids how to play Settlers of Catan.  Hubby's family used to play it (usually the Cities and Knights expansion) all the time.  Multiple times per week.  This board game was involved when he proposed to me.  So it was only a matter of time before we exposed the kids to this classic.

Primus has played with us once before, but this night we decided Secundus and Teritus were old enough, now, too.  It took us about 3 hours, but a great time was had by all.

A favorite past-time when playing board games with multiple pieces like this is to arrange our pieces artistically while we wait for our turn (and then of course trying to destroy each others' creations.)  Usually this consists of towers or snowflake-like patterns. And given the fact that Settlers of Catan is of German origins, it is alarmingly easy to make a perfect swastika out of 4 city pieces.  Inncocent Primus thought it was a Shuriken (throwing star.)

But tonight we got more creative.  Hubby came up with a striking likeness of himself, with full beard and mustache.  

That easily became Santa, if Santa had died his white facial hair to look young again.

 And don't forget that bad guys always have facial hair.  Red cities make great devil horns.  


Secundus was pretty proud of the person she made.

Her duck-man was pretty creative, too.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Curriculum 2016-17

In case you're interested, here's our plan for this school year.

This science book won't take us the whole school year to complete.  I haven't decided yet what to do once we finish.

This will be our third year working on Story of the World volume 2.  We've been distracted with learning about early US history and about Native Americans the past two years and so we've been making extremely slow progress through this book.  But I am determined to finish it now!

Primus is in 5th grade.  
She only has a few sections and activities left in her California History book from last year.
She's also almost done with the math level D book and will be starting level E soon.
I'm doing All About Spelling with both of the girls together.  Primus could definitely handle going faster, but I switched her to this method relatively recently and want to ensure that she has no gaps in her knowledge of spelling rules.
The Physics curriculum we'll be doing is written for "K-4th" because I originally bought it last year and never got to it.  It's not totally "beneath" Primus, but I definitely wanted her to have a rich science experience this year.  So she'll have opportunities to do some extra activities.  She specifically asked for chemistry sets because that's what we studied last year and it sparked her interest.

Secundus is in 3rd grade.  
She is about half way through with her math level C book so will be well into level D before the end of the year.
She will also get a chance to explore with a Snap Circuits set I have because she's pretty sure she wants to be an electrical engineer when she grows up.  Now she just needs to learn what that means!  :)

Tertius is in 1st grade.
 I can't remember where I found that My Vocabulary Journey packet, some random online source years ago.  That will be a fun way to practice spelling some commonly used words.  When he's done with that, then we'll move on to All About Spelling.
Quartus will be joining Tertius for his Literature curriculum.
I don't know if we'll actually get around to it this year, but I've got written down that he'll do some extra science learning from the Evan Moor science curriculum that I used with the girls at this age.  I really enjoyed that curriculum.

Finally Quartus is our 3.5 year old preschooler.  His plan for the year is to play with toys (educational and not), listen to his brother read, participate with the other kids' studies as he's interested, work in various workbooks, and do some preschool craft projects whenever he's in the mood.
He's a very bright little guy and has always been one to think, observe, and absorb everything.  As soon as I think he's ready, we'll pull out the Distar stuff and start working through that.  Until then, he'll have very casual interest-led days.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Healthy Breakfasts for Lazy Summer Mornings

*I found this sitting in my Draft folder since summer 2015.  I have no idea why it never got posted!*

This summer I have found it very hard to wake up before the kids.  I sure am enjoying these lazy mornings where I get to sleep in, if only for a few minutes!  I do not, however, enjoy rolling out of bed to see that the kids (who are perfectly capable of getting themselves cereal and milk) have eaten goldfish or pretzels from our snack box for breakfast.  They're also perfectly capable of waiting for me to get up.  They won't starve, but good luck getting them to believe that!

So here was my solution (because expecting me to drag myself out of bed any earlier is unrealistic):
I made 72 Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins!  I plan to do a huge batch of banana muffins, too.

Don't they look great all bagged up and ready to go in the freezer?  I try to remember to grab a bag (each bag has 5 muffins) out of the freezer (which is in the garage) and throw it in the fridge each night.  But if I forget to, Primus knows where to find them.  I like them warm and have taught the kids how to put them on a plate in the microwave, but they ate them frozen this morning and loved them.

The kids have also been instructed to get themselves glasses of milk.  Even Tertius is perfectly capable of (and usually the first to remember to) put the gallon of milk on the table, even if it's completely full.  All of the kids know where the clean cups are and can reach them.  Secundus is capable of pouring everyone's glass if the gallon isn't too full.  Primus can do it if her sister can't.

So if the three big kids work together, which they're pretty good at doing, then they can make sure that everyone, even Quartus, will have tummies full of healthy goodness early in the morning!

An important part of homeschooling, and parenting in general, to me is preparing our kids to be independent adults.  In these few minutes before I'm alert and ready to face the day, my kiddos get a chance to practice important life skills!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Can't Win 'em All ;)

Yay! I got our learning record for our first two weeks of school typed up and sent to our supervising teacher already (seeing her tomorrow). Usually I get this thing done very late at night the night before or early morning right before she comes.

Getting it done "early" feels like a great way to start the school year!

Of course, that means that it's almost 7 and I still haven't fed the kids dinner...Oh well, can't win 'em all!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sit-Still-Squeezer (Part 2)

Two years ago I posted about the Sit-Still-Squeezer that I made for my active boy to play with to encourage him to sit still.  Just flour in a latex glove.  

He loved it.  It filled it's purpose.  And then it broke.  Flour everywhere.

I remade it a couple times.  I even made it in a rubber kitchen glove.  Since it's thicker, it lasted a really long time before it ripped open.  But even that was not indestructible.  So he's been without it for at least a year now.  

Thankfully, Tertius is maturing and doesn't really *need* this motivation to sit quietly as much anymore.  But I know it was a much loved toy.  So I finally made another one.

I actually made two this time.  And both of them are made with two rubber kitchen gloves.  Double layer hopefully means twice the life span!

The tops of the gloves are tied tightly with string.  One squeezer is full of flour again.  I had Tertius help me decide how much to put in and he wanted it full.  It's like a stress-ball consistency.  

The second one is popcorn kernels.  That one is not as full so it's got an interesting texture and you can squish the kernels all over.  

I've got one very happy boy.  He tried to convince me to say that these could be everyday toys instead of being saved for sitting quiet times.  I didn't go for it but am letting him play with them any way he wants for the rest of the day.  And now he's enthusiastically introducing his little brother to the simple joy that is playing with a glove full of dry food.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are people thinking about you? What are they saying?

People don't think about you as much as you think they do.
People think about you more than you think they do.

Those two are completely contradictory.  But both completely true.  Some clarification is in order.

People don't think negatively about you as much as you think they do.
That giant pimple that you're so embarrassed about?  No one notices.
That stupid thing you just said?  Everyone forgot about it.

You can't assume that every flaw you feel you have is being scrutinized by everyone you come in contact with.  Because the fact is, that's not happening.  That's not reality. Everyone's too busy spending their mental energy on more important things. And the small handful of people that do talk about you behind your back for having a ketchup splotch on your t-shirt are not worth your energy!

I wish I had realized this sooner when I was a teenager!  It's so freeing to live your life for yourself the best you can and not spend even one minute worrying about what others think of you.

People think positively about you more than you think they do.
Recently I ran into a girl from my Stake growing up.  (In my church, each individual congregation is called a Ward.  Several Wards are grouped together to form a Stake.  Most activities and church services are done in individual Wards.  But often the Stake will join together.)

She's a couple years younger than me, we were from different Wards, and had different groups of friends.  I knew her name, but we never really interacted.  I assumed she would have no reason to remember me.

But she did remember me!  She didn't share any specific memory, just that she loved girls camp and she always knew I would be there.  For whatever reason, I was a positive part of her teenage memories.

If you are just living your life, trying to be a nice and good person, people will notice you.  People are drawn to good people.  Even just a quick smile to someone in the halls can be enough for that person to tell her friends, "Do you know so-and-so?  Yeah, she seems nice."  If you're trying to be your best self, you can't help but radiate a light.

If you feel alone and without any friends, don't assume you're invisible or being purposefully shunned.  It's hard for all of us to go outside our comfort zones and reach out to new friends.  So be that person.  Be proactive.  Assume that others noticed you for the good and would like to get to know you better.  Be the one to reach out first.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Screen Time Points and Behavior Chart

We've been using the following motivation method for over a year now. It's working out great.

The kids earn screen time by doing extra chores.  (Some chores they are just expected to do as a member of the family-put away your own laundry, clean up your toys, keep your room clean, help set the table, etc.)  Also, on school days they get a point once all of their schoolwork is done.  These are written up on a whiteboard where it's easily reached.  One point equals half an hour of screen time.

We also have this colored behavior chart hanging in the kitchen. Every morning their personal clip starts in the middle (white.)  Good choices move you up.  Bad choices move you down.  If you reach the bottom, you're "busted" which means you lose some privilege or get extra chores.  If you reach the top and are still there at bedtime, then you earn a bonus screen-time point.

Now that Quartus is 3 and a half, he is on the behavior chart and point system, too.  Though, we are less strict with him about it still.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Are you going to have any more children?

I really like blogs like this,  this , and this about having big families and how to respond when people ask you about them.  Some women get very annoyed and defensive when they hear questions like,

"You have your hands full, don't you?"
"Are you going to have any more?"
"Why do you have so many?"
"You know what causes that, right?"

Those types of questions just don't bother me.  Maybe it's because I'm naive or have just been lucky to not have rude encounters with strangers, but I think every time I've been asked about my family size, I've personally seen it as an innocent way to start conversation.  And while I value privacy, I also enjoy open conversation.

Anyway, the following is my usual response (or rather, the long version if the other party is interested in listening) to the question, "Do you think you'll have more children?"

My husband and I have always wanted a "big family."  My husband was an only child and feels like he missed out on some experiences he wishes he could have had.  So he's dreamed of having 8 daughters.  And I came from a big family, 9 children, so having a lot of kids seems very doable and not scary at all.

But our financial situation is awful.  When we decided to conceive #3, my husband had just been given notice that his company was leaving the state.  But we were not worried because they gave us an awesome severance package and job search training and assured us that companies would be knocking down our door wanting to hire him and his colleagues.

But then we got pregnant with Tertius six months earlier than we expected and Hubby wasn't having an easy time getting hired.  It was also really hard being pregnant when Secundus was still so young.  But it was a blessing that Tertius came early because if God had waited even one month to send him, our medical insurance would have run out before he arrived.  

After that, financially things were only getting worse.  I still felt like Heavenly Father wanted me to have my "big family," (and stay home to raise them) but I got comfortable with the idea of not having anymore for a while.  I thought it might be fun to have three close together now, and then another group of three later on.

But once again, Heavenly Father had other plans.  We were surprised to be blessed with a fourth pregnancy.

I really struggled this time because we've had to rely so much on our family and government assistance to get by.  I HATE being dependent!  I babysat starting at age 12, worked from age 16 until I had Primus, was a part-time nanny until I had Secundus, and I had saved every penny.  After our marriage and as our family grew, I remained incredibly frugal.  This allowed us to build quite a large savings, even on only one income.  But now all that savings was getting used up.

But for some reason, Heavenly Father really wanted Quartus to come to our family. That's why he's here.  I was even blessed with a miraculously "easy" pregnancy.

Now Quartus is three-and-a-half.  That's older than Tertius was when he was born.  Our littlest is not so little anymore.  This is the longest time that we have been without an infant in the house.  I miss having a tiny baby to snuggle on my chest.

"So, are you going to have any more children?"  

We have close friends that have a two year old and a 4 month old and we have thoroughly enjoyed loving on them.  But even still, we're starting to feel "baby-hungry."  No matter how sweet it is to hold someone else's little one, it's not the same as snuggling my own.  My own infants just fit in my arms perfectly.  We feel (or hope?) that Heavenly Father probably has more to send us.

But it would still be irresponsible of us to try to have a fifth child right now.  Hubby has one more semester of school before he can get a full time teaching job.  Further, some health issues are making it so that we have infertility to deal with, too.

Will we have more?  Maybe.  How many more?  I don't know.

Something my mom always told me that has stuck is, "Take and love as many babies as God will send you."  We're going to joyfully welcome all the children that Heavenly Father will entrust us with.  And we're going to love and cherish all of them.  

Maybe that means learning to be content with four.  Maybe that means we'll miraculously be blessed with 4 more (and the means to provide for them).  God often seems to have different plans than we do.  So we just have to wait patiently with faith to find out what His plan is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Student ID Cards

I found two cool sites for making FREE homeschool student ID cards:

This is the third year that I have made student ID's for the kids.  I put them on lanyards with the idea that they would wear them when we go out on field trips.  The kids love them and are always so excited to see how they turn out!  

But then the novelty always wears off and they get lost or forgotten.  Oh well.  It's fun for a little while.  Maybe we'll keep better track of them this year.

Monday, August 15, 2016

First Day of School 2016

Even though we all stayed up really late last night, these three were awake before 6:30 am and playing card games, waiting for me to get up.  They were just too excited for the first day of school!  

I'm so glad to be able to say that every year they look forward to the first day of school and their schultuten just like Christmas morning and stockings.

Primus, 5th Grade
Secundus, 3rd Grade

Quartus, Preschool

Tertius, 1st Grade
This year in their school cones they got sugar cereal, Carnation Instant Breakfast, chocolate pudding, apple sauce squeeze pouch, a pencil sharpener, and an Angry Bird Yowie.

We spent some of the first day of school decorating our new school baskets with stickers.  I got these plastics baskets at the 99 cent store for about 2 bucks each.  I had to use Mod Podge to make sure some of the stickers stayed stuck.

Then we put together our wooden Thor toys.  Lowes Hardward Store puts on free kids' workshops a couple times per month.  I noticed last Saturday the project was a Black Widow (Avenger) toy.  We love the Avengers so we all went.  And then we found out that they had been doing a different Avenger each time for the past several weeks.  We had missed 4 Avengers and if you have all six, they link together in a cool way.  So sad!  Thankfully, they happened to have left over Thor kits from the last workshop.  So today we built them and at the end of the month we'll be able to do Hulk.

Today we also did some little mazes, word searches, and educational games.

 Our first day of school 2016 was capped off with a surprise field trip to get frozen yogurt.  I love starting the school year fun and laid back!

What's your favorite first day of school tradition?