Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fairy Dolls-Handmade by Our Friend

My friend's 12 year old daughter started her own business and I am beyond impressed.  She makes these little fairy dolls, complete with names and backstories, and sells them on Etsy.  She's so creative!

My girls thought these were the coolest little dolls and both decided to place custom orders to support their friend.

Primus got hers for a birthday gift for Secundus and had it made to look like Secundus' character in the make believe game they play.

So go check out StorybookKingdom.  They're all so sweet and reasonably priced.  Support a young entrepreneur!

Monday, October 17, 2016

2016 Family Theme: The Refiner's Fire

At the beginning of every school year, Hubby gives us Fathers'/Priesthood blessings.  They're always special, inspirational, and awe-inspiring.  I have a testimony that the things he says doesn't come from his own mind.  They are words that are given to him to say from our Father in Heaven.

This time something that was talked about a lot in my blessing was trials and enduring with faith.  At one point Hubby said, "There's a scripture in Malachi that you're familiar with."  I was quite puzzled. That evening I opened up my scriptures.  There are only two things that I highlighted in Malachi: the verses about tithing, and the verses about Elijah turning the hearts of the children to the fathers.

 Neither of those seemed to apply to the topic at hand. At the end of the tithing verses, it says,
"...prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."  
That's a great reminder of God's unending love for us and of His desire to bless us.  But it didn't feel like that was the one I was supposed to keep in mind this year.

So I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to guide me, to help me recognize what He wanted me to learn.  Then I started reading.

When I came to Malachi 3:2-3, it hit me.

2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

The Refiner's Fire!  I am familiar with this symbol! 

However, even though these verses are quoted two other places in scripture, I don't feel it's the most helpful reference.  Malachi seems to be talking about a specific group and event, rather than general instruction to a wider audience.  And it doesn't give much clue in itself of what it means, what the significance is.

Of course, that didn't stop me.  I felt prompted to look up other places in the scriptures where it talks about the refiner's fire and found these great ones.

 1 Nephi 20:10 For behold, I have refined thee; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (Quoted almost word-for-word from Isaiah 48:10)
Zechariah 13:9  And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.
I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for this reminder.  Life is meant to be a test.  The tests and trials we endure are like the refiner's fire.  They hurt.  But in the end, we will come out better for it.  We can be more pure if we submit ourselves to the Master's plan.  And then, as quoted earlier, if we are faithful through our challenges, then the windows of heaven will be opened to us and our loving Heavenly Father will bless us beyond our imaginations.

This experience I had also strengthened my testimony of the Priesthood Blessings.  Hubby is not a scriptorian.  He doesn't put any thought into what he's going to say before giving blessings.  He largely doesn't even remember what he said afterwards.  If this was just him saying things to me, he would not have told me to look up a scripture in Malachi.  That would be totally random.  If you were to ask him to name 5 books in the Old Testament, Malachi would not be one he would say.

The counsel to remember something from Malachi clearly came from God.

But why was I told to look in Malachi?  Clearly those other two scripture verses I found are more edifying. But the book of Malachi is short.  Only 4 brief chapters.  Very easy to read through in one night.  And the topic I was supposed to find really jumped out at me quickly.  If I had been prompted to search Isaiah, 1 Nephi, or Zechariah, I could have been reading for weeks and still not be sure what I was supposed to find considering they're filled with so much good stuff!  Plus, I needed the reminder about blessings pouring through the windows of heaven from Malachi.

But why wasn't I just told in the blessing, "Remember the parable of the refiner's fire."? Sometimes we need to work for it.  I wouldn't have gained the aforementioned testimony of this coming from God if Hubby had simply said that.  Also, when we have to go searching for greater understanding, we're more likely to remember what we learned.

I've read several bloggers that pick a theme each year for their family.  A guiding principle that they constantly reflect on and internalize.  I'm going to do that for the first time this year.

I'm going to be teaching the kids about the refiner's fire and making a poster so we constantly have a reminder.

Life is hard.  But if we endure with faith, we will learn and grow and be better for it.  The kids aren't too young to start learning and understanding that.

You can watch a great, short video about the spiritual implications of the Refiner's Fire here or here.

And here are three YouTube videos about the history of gold and the refining process:
Modern Marvels documentary
Short video of refining by hand
How It's Made clip

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to Prep for State Testing

I got the following message from the Assessment Department of our charter school with a link to a survey:
"The Assessment Department is seeking help from our parents. Every year we get questions about how to help with testing anxiety in students. We can direct parents to online resources but thought it would be better to get some input from our own families. 
"If you have any tips to offer to your fellow families about easing testing anxiety or general tips about preparing your students for testing, please share them! We have created a survey for this purpose and will consolidate and share your feedback with our families. "

The picture below shows a couple of my responses.  Maybe I was too honest?  ;)

I don't mind jumping through the necessary hoops to be a part of the charter school.  For us, the benefits of the charter outweigh the hassle of things like testing requirements.  But I refuse to act like the state testing matters.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Memorizing with Music

Music is an excellent tool for memorizing things.  Here are a few of the things that the kids and I have committed to memory through the use of music over the last few years:

All 13 Articles of Faith
The Books in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Book of Mormon in order
The names of all 50 states in alphabetical order
The Preamble to the Constitution
The United States Presidents in order

This year we already learned all the states' capitals.  We practiced it 2-3 times per school day and after practicing only 2 weeks with the video and 1 week with only the printed lyrics, the girls already can quote the whole thing.  It took Tertius a bit longer.  It was adorable when Quartus started singing the Presidents with us last year.  I can't wait until he attempts to sing this one, too.

Eventually we'll memorize the entire Family Proclamation and even the whole Periodic Table of the Elements!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Forgiveness Is An Act of Love

When we discussed forgiveness in our Spouse and Family Support Group (for those who have a loved one in addiction), I came to the conclusion that,

Forgiveness is largely an act of love for oneself.

Loving and taking care of oneself is often something codependents struggle with.  If you love yourself, you will forgive others, regardless of if they ask for forgiveness. I forgive so that may gain peace.   Also, if you love yourself you will set boundaries and protect yourself.  This concept is not at odds with forgiveness.

The following quotes are taken from the Spouse and Family Support Guide, chapter 12:

"Forgiveness includes a process of letting go of burdens that keep us from experiencing the Savior's peace."

"We will find healing as we forgive others."

James E.Faust: "The Lord requires us to forgive all men for our own good because hatred hinders spiritual growth.  Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts."

"Forgiveness does not mean that we condone our loved ones' poor choices or allow them to mistreat us."

"As we forgive, we leave behind feelings that...have the power to canker, fester, and ultimately destroy."

"Forgiving someone when we have been wronged or hurt can be very difficult-especially when these offenses are regularly repeated.  But this is part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ."

James E. Faust: One reason for postponing forgiveness "is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them.  Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours."

Monday, October 3, 2016

Our Learning Spaces

Welcome to our Homeschool!  Come on in and get a tour of where we do our learning!

Ever since we moved into this house, I have hoped to get the kids outside more and use this awesome covered patio in the back yard for an additional learning space.  But that just hasn't happened.  I occasionally have declared an "outside day" and gotten them to sit at our small outdoor table or on blankets on the grass.  But it's never become a habit and not something they choose to do on their own.  

This year I was determined to change that!  I needed to make the patio more inviting and comfortable.  So first I got some leftover carpet from a friend and then moved our school table out there.  Now, if someone needs a large table space to spread out on to do a project or we're doing group learning, we'll have to do it outside (because, let's be real, the kitchen table is never clean enough.)

You can see to the right of the table in that picture above I have foam squares that link together to make another comfy place to sit and play or work.

Here's our school room.  I'm standing in the doorway from our living room, next to the kitchen.  You can see that every wall is just filled with books and educational supplies.  Tertius is sitting on a beanbag chair where the school table used to be.  We all usually prefer to sit on a couch or the floor to do our work, anyway, so a table really isn't needed in this room.  (Not pictured: the living room is a great place to do school work.  But all of our stuff lives here in the school room.)

Considering so much studying is done on laps all over the house, we have several boards and trays tucked beside a bookcase for easy access.

If anyone wants to work at a table but doesn't want to clean the kitchen table or go outside, then we have 3 desks.  This one is Primus' favorite spot to be because her legs are just getting too long to comfortably sit at the little school table anymore.

This cool little desk has a bunch of storage space, which I love.  It used to live outside on the patio but wasn't used very much, except by bugs making homes.

Finally, this tiny desk converts to an easel and isn't really big enough for anyone but Quartus.  He loves having a little space just for him to do his preschool workbooks.

What does your Homeschool look like?  Do you have a dedicated school room?

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!