Thursday, November 8, 2012

When nobody to wants school

We have awakened to a very cold morning for our neck of the woods.  Low 40's for NE FL, plus windows left open over night, and the heater left off leaves us....well....brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Nobody wants to get out of bed.  Nobody wants to head to the school room.  What to do??

Hot oatmeal, with a promise of hot chocolate after school time, was a great starting place for us this morning.

Next, I evaluated what do we really need to do, and what can we learn that isn't in the books?

Here's what we actually did today, and yep, it all counts!

  • We cozied up on the couch while we read about groundwater for Science.
  • The boys each read from their current readers.
  • Thoughtful made a grocery list.
  • I went over special sounds (digraphs) with Spunk.
  • The boys worked on Thank-You-cards since they just had birthdays pass.
  • We played Rummy, Scrabble, USA Bingo, and put together our USA puzzle.
  • We looked up our new weekly memory verse, highlighted it, discussed it, and memorized it.
  • They had a pull-up contest and practiced their Tae-Kwon-Do forms.

When I told the boys that all of this counted as "school" they grinned.



"But it was too fun and easy!"

Sweet!    It's 12:24, and school is finished.  Mission accomplished!  I wonder how much more learning we'll squeeze in for the day?!?!?

Monday, November 5, 2012

In this season...

In this season, I haven't been blogging.  I've been enjoying my family instead of being worried about taking pictures at every turn of our days to add to a scrapbook or blog post. 

In this season, we've had little family time in the evenings, but we are so proud of Hubs for venturing out to learn a new trade as he switches career paths.

In this season, I have had less sleep but more work (at home).

In this season, we've gotten "behind" in our Science and History in our school, but we are enjoying our relaxed days together oh so much more.

In this season, we've reminisced about the boys' younger days, as we've watched them grow another year older.

And in this season, we are counting our blessings.  THIS, right now, happens to be my favorite season.  Autumn is beautiful, even in Florida, where few trees have changing leaves, the weather is simply gorgeous!  I love all things pumpkin and spice, reading on the front porch, chili for supper, breezy afternoons in the hammock with my giggly family, windows open, school at the park, and listing those things for which we are thankful.

Right now, I'm enjoying the tiniest of moments.  I have those bittersweet feelings of watching our children grow, looking back and ahead all at the same time.

My top five "things" to be thankful for are:

1.  Jesus Christ, my Lord, my Savior, my healer, my Redeemer, the Great I Am.  His un-ending love, mercy, and strength flow freely to me.  I am so undeserving, but He has named me an heir to His kingdom.  Oh, how He loves He loves me so......

2.  Hubs.  I've known him for half of my life, which means he has put up with me through so much.  We've watched each other grow, and he's continued to love me through the trials of life.  I pray that I can be the helper he needs to push ahead stronger than ever.

3.  Thoughtful.  He is the sweetest kid!!!  He, of course, has his moments as a human being, but he truly has a kind, tender heart.  I will always see him as my baby.  He wears his heart on his sleeve, and I pray that I can lead him gently, with the patience he deserves.

4.  Spunk.  My silly boy brings such joy to our lives.  He knows how to brighten any one's day, and takes great measures to help when he can.  He's clever and intuitive and has no fear.  I love that he'll try anything once.

5.  My parents.  Their role in my life can't be explained in a quick statement here.  But their marriage is an honorable example of commitment  for 30+ years.  Have they always liked each other?  Most likely not.  Have they always LOVED each other - a resounding ABSOLUTELY!  I am blessed to call them Mom and Dad.

And just like that, I see that my top five "things" aren't things at all, but people (and the Holy Spirit).  They constantly shape me and mould me into who I am and who I will be.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that for everything there is a season...and I'm thankful to have all of these folks throughout the seasons of life.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Poo, I thought my kids' disobedience was something that I could conquer.  No, I'm finally seeing it for what it is.  Sin.  Sure, they're great kids, but they're KIDS.  As in people.  Human beings, creatures with selfish desires, and wants, and they'd rather have fun doing whatever their little hearts desire in the moment, rather than be obedient to their parents.

This has been a season of disobedience.  Me pulling out my hair in frustration, crying out "Why didn't you do what I asked of you?"  or "Why do you think its okay to react that way?"  and my personal favorite, "Do you hear me?"

And The Lord has slowly been nudging me.  Did I see this?  Nope.  But hindsight is 20/20 as they say.  He's been working on me, but I wasn't exactly listening.  Why would I?  That might be construed as me being obedient to my Father.  He's been asking me, "Do you hear me?"

The answer has been a resounding "YES!!  I hear you!"  That sounds great right?  You're wrong because that's not the end.  It's more like "Yes, I hear you, but not right now okay?  I'd rather ignore You.  I don't have time for You.  I have my own plans, Yours will have to wait, Okay?  Now, please bless me, and I'll get back to ya when I can."

Oh my, how selfish I am.  When will I learn to do what He says, when He says it?  Perhaps until I do, I shouldn't expect my children to obey me immediately.  A sweet friend shared something she heard (which I'd love to cite for you, but truly don't know where it originates), and it rings so true to my heart. 

"Delayed obedience is the same as disobedience."

It applies to our children following us, but more importantly, it applies to all of us following Jesus.

I'm always amazed at what God teaches me through my children!!

So, I'm working on me, and I'm being more patient with my children.  This last part is kind of big, as I'm not exactly known for my patience.  I'm thankful for the undying mercy that Jesus continues to give me.  His grace is enough, and therefore, my grace should be enough for my kids.  He renews me daily, giving me more opportunities to hang up my sin.  I should give my children the same.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  What is that area of your life that you know doesn't line up with God's word?  What is He trying to teach you through your children?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Workboxes, updated.

I recently posted about how we use Sue Patrick's Workbox System, but I've since received many questions.  You can read the original post here, which is mostly a "how to" in setting them up. I'm going to attempt to fill in the gaps that I may have left out.  So, this is how we work through our boxes.


Here are our boxes for a day.  They start out like this.  They are numbered 1 through 9 with a taped picture of the child's choice.  Next to each taped picture number, is an identical removable picture number.  These are attached with Velcro.

And work cards start out like this.  Empty blocks, also numbered 1 through 9.  Note the Velcro here too.

The child opens box # 1 to find an assignment. After the box is complete, he puts the assignment in his letter tray on top.

Then he pulls the #1 tag off of box #1 and attaches it to his work card on block #1, signifying he's completed his first assignment.

Now, he'll move on to box #2, and do the same. 

He works through all 9 boxes until they're empty and his full card looks like this.

His completed assignments get piled up in the letter tray on top of his workboxes.  The kids see the quantity as an accomplishment, (and since they didn't see it in a stack at the beginning of the day, it wasn't overwhelming).

One other little tip, we use a lot of Post-It notes for instructions.  Just stick it to the front of a workbook, telling the child which pages to complete.

Questions that have come up:
(1) How do you stagger work between your children?

Thoughtful's work with mom work goes at the beginning of his workbox stack.  Reading (he needs to do this out loud with me still), math lesson, and LLATL, for example, might go in boxes 1, 2, and 3.

Meanwhile, Spunk is working through independent stuff in boxes 1 through 4.  Then by the time he gets to box 5, he'll find his work with mom subjects while Thoughtful gets his independent boxes from 4.

The trick is this staggering, but also remembering not to bog them down too much.  Clumping together all of their least favorite work will leave them feeling discouraged.  So fun items need to be woven in too.

(2) How do you schedule which supplements they get in their boxes?

First, I look to my planner, which I've written notes such as "adjectives" or "multiply X 5," so I know what they're working on in their curricula.  Now, I'll include games, connect the dots, worksheets, or other fun activities in the boxes to help enforce their lessons. 

Sometimes, they'll find an activity that goes with one of our group studies, such as, a piece of a lapbook.

I also know what they're having difficulty with, and I'm able to continue reviewing that material until they've got it.

And there are the "extras."  Spunk has a few Kumon workbooks that we rotate.  Thoughtful gets a mapping workbook some days.  Sometimes, Spunk gets cray-pas with blank paper and a note instructing him to draw a picture which tells about the story he read earlier.  After Thoughtful finishes a book, sometimes he gets a book report outline to complete in one of his boxes.

Active boxes are necessary as well.  "Practice your Tae-Kwon-Do form" or "soccer ball headers" are great ways to burn some energy from their reserves!

(3)  How do you keep a record of what they're doing?

I have a separate notebook dedicated to each child within my planning binder.  I number 1-9, and write a quick note as to what went into the boxes.  Later, I record things like, attitude, difficulty level, etc.  I'm hoping our portfolio evaluator will appreciate this piece of recording since she specifically asked for something more last year.

(4)  Do you fill the boxes everyday?!?!

Yep!  I know, this is the downside of workboxes.  It truly only takes a few minutes, and in the big picture, this mundane job is completely worth it.  My children aren't looking at a stack of books, and asking "How much more school?"  This has caused many tears in the past, and since we incorporated this system into our days, they haven't even asked the question once!! 

<insert my happy dance here>

We do boxes Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Wednesday we have co-op in the morning, so they each read and do a page of math before we head out.  That's it. 

(5)  How do you go through their work if they simply stack it up?

After their boxes are empty and their cards are full, we go through each completed assignment together.  I circle any mistakes, and ask them to try it again, looking for them to correct their own work.  If they completely don't understand, then I know I did a poor job of teaching the material or they didn't fully absorb it.  This needs to be addressed before we move on tomorrow.  If they easily know what they did wrong, we discuss distractions and not taking our time.

We're currently beginning a reward system for our days, to include schoolwork, behavior, and other parts of our day.  I'm granting them a credit for each properly completed workbox. 

More on our credit system later, once we've tweaked it!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week 11, October 12, 2012

In my life this week,
Hubs is working on a career change.  This should be a nerve-wracking experience for me, but I'm really just fine following him on this.  Not that its uncharted territory for me, but the ease of following him is sort of new.  It must be right.

Also, Spunk's birthday was last weekend.  We are celebrating with together parties this year, so I was afraid his day wouldn't feel like HIS DAY!!  But I think he felt the love :)
This should've been breakfast in bed, but he awoke before I was finished cooking.  So, breakfast on the couch will have to do.  Please note the orange juice that we only ever buy for special days.

I'm cooking,
I've carefully planned meals, based on our schedule and weather.  Also, I've been snacking on some Texas Caviar this week.  Its designed as a dip, yummy with tortillas or pita chips, but I can eat it alone with a fork!  I also threw it on my salad, and once, ate it with some cold grilled chicken breast for lunch.

Ingredients:  1 medium sweet onion - chopped, 2 avocados - diced, 1 can of black beans (rinsed and drained), fresh cilantro - chopped, Italian dressing (OR a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried oregano), 1 green pepper - chopped. 

Mix all ingredients and enjoy.  Yumm!  You could spice it up with other peppers if you wanted.

Places we're going, and people we're seeing,
We went to lunch one day with Gramom and Pop, so they could deliver the boys their birthday gifts.  Here's Thoughtful.  He's realizing that the Disney World gift card, must be spent AT DISNEY WORLD!!

This is UBER-exciting, ya'll!!
In our homeschool this week:
Dinosaurs:  We're reading through What Really Happened To The Dinosaurs, by Ken Hamm.  The boys are adding to their lapbook-like folders, a little at a time.  This week, our focus was on the fact that dinosaurs were animals, which God created at the same time that He created the other animals on Earth.  I especially loved watching them put together the time frame facts; that is the young age of the Earth, and the fact that dinosaur fossils were only discovered about 150 years ago.  It was like I could actually see the lightbulb come on over Thoughtful's head.  Spunk will get there.  His concept of time is still somewhat confused.  Here's a look at a part of the study from this week.
Earthquakes:  We do Science with a cooperative learning group.  This week's at home time was slightly boring, with lots of vocabulary.  We supplemented with library books, but still, boring.  If not for the IMAX movie that we visited last week, I don't think the boys would've retained much information.  But they did remember a lot about that!
So, I was really counting on co-op to help me out with this lesson, and the Mommas didn't disappoint!  Spunk's class  created an earthquake out of Jell-O and mini-marshmallows which made a tasty treat afterwards.  More on the seismometers that Thoughtful's class created, later.
Extra:  We read about Christopher Columbus, not nearly as much as I would've liked, but enough to get the boys started.  We were happy to read excerpts from his diary.  Apparently, even though Columbus didn't know exactly where he was going, he felt that God was directing his path.  Later, he wrote that he strongly felt that God's plan for him all along was to bring Chrisitianity to the undiscovered lands.
In Art class they finished up their Hanawi sculpting projects.  They're off to dry out and and get fired before coming home.  I can't wait to share these with you!
Thoughtful also learned about South Carolina, how to read through a literature passage to answer questions, Bats, multiplying by 9, and some All About Spelling Level 2.
Spunk also learned about grasshoppers, adding by 8, the suffix -ing, 4 new digraphs, some syllabication, and apparently a mapping coloring book from the Dollar Store is currently a favorite.
I'm praying about/for:  some family members.  I can't elaborate a whole lot without airing their dirty laundry, but I AM praying for them. 
Also, our lead pastor of 13 years is moving on to other endeavors.  Our church is going to be tested a bit through this transitional period.  I pray The Lord might continue to use our pastor in his new church, and I pray that He peacefully holds our home church together.  I pray the body of our church will see that God is with us, and that He will provide!
My favorite moment this week:  I bought the boys a Slip-N-Slide on clearance for $4.50.  We're in Florida, so we'll have plenty of time to use and abuse this baby before we get our few weeks of cold weather.  The new purchase  alone was great, but we placed it at the bottom of the slide and added some cooking oil.  THEY WERE FLYING!
How was your week?  You can share at the Homeschool Mother's Journal or Weekly Wrapup too!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On this struggling day....

Now, I know that you've never had a tough day schooling right? 


Me neither.

I plan my heart out, carefully coordinating which reader goes nicely with our history. 

Then my sweet, literature-hating Thoughtful decides that this book is just too hard!  Forgetting the fact that his last three readers were leveled higher, he gave up. 

tears included, free of charge.

Now, I know that this little story is pulling on your heart strings, and obviously, the Momma should compassionately and patiently help him work through the stumbling block.

I didn't want to.

We were barely into our schooling for the day, which began late by the way.  As I looked at the clock, yet again, and my schedule, again, Thoughtful caught my eye.  He was giving up on himself.

Fine. <deep sigh>

Let's go for a walk.  We have beautiful weather this week, so we might as well soak it up.

In the first few steps of that walk, I realized that my boy was sinking in his frustration.  If I don't tread carefully, he's going to hate reading forever.  Worse than that, I see him disappointed in himself, over reading.  How dumb is that?  Isn't this one of the main reasons that we wanted to home school?  So that we could lovingly encourage our children in their studies, those desired and undesired equally?  yes! 

OK so, walk finished.  All smiles re-entering the house!  Yes, we can get back to it.

Roughly one assignment later, Perfectionist-Spunk's day falls to pieces because he can't draw the perfect grasshopper.

Oh my word!!  Why are my children so dramatic?  Everyone went to bed early last night.  Nobody has had a behavior-triggering food this morning.  What's the deal?  Inside, I'm screaming that I just want to throw in the towel for the day!!!  My fake smile is plastered on my face, while I explain to Spunk, that we can take a picture of his grasshopper, and he can paste it into his notebook.  That is, of course, not the right answer, and tears spring up in his little eyes.

Lunch time.  There are exactly four slices of bread left to fix two sandwiches.  One such piece is the end of the loaf.  Nobody wants it.  In fact, we call it "the butt."  Please don't judge, its a twisted family tradition.  You know you have them too.  Anyway, I make them flip a coin.  Spunk wins, Thoughtful's day is ruined all over again.

After lunch, (we are normally done with assignments before lunch, but on this day, there's plenty left to do), we return to hopefully finish the planned work.

In this moment, I realize there is no saving the day.  I look around, and decide there are still too many books to get to today.

 This stinks!!

I quit.  Not entirely, but no more books.  What can we do to save the day?  Just read-a-louds may, we're past that point.  A HA!  A hands-on activity to the rescue!

So I dug out this 3-D puzzle that I wasn't ever sure we'd really get to, but it fits in with our current dinosaur study.

I buried some of the pieces in a bucket of dirt.

Then the kids had to dig them out with pain brushes and play dough forks.  No hands aloud.  No pulling out the bones until they were completely uncovered. 

They had to work together so they didn't bury each other's found pieces, causing them to start again.

Then they read the instructions to put the whole thing together.

VOILA!  FUN IN A BOX!  And an hour and half killed, smiles return.  School is done.

It almost looks like we had a good day, right?
What did Momma learn today?  Well, I know what I was supposed to learn, but I'm sure to forget tomorrow.  The Type-A thing stinks.  If another Momma was telling me about this day, I'd tell her to CHILL OUT.  Have some peace about your day, and don't sweat the small stuff.  Enjoy your time together. 
But me?  Not so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed our walk and watching my boys work through this activity.  But I certainly didn't rejoice in watching my children struggle today.
What can I do?  I will plan, its in my genes.  I can't help it.  BUT, I can set aside the plans when needed.  It'll be okay.  I know.  I hope that next time, I remember this sooner.
But oh, how far I've come.  I can rejoice in the fact that I showed patience today (even if I didn't feel it).  I did not raise my voice.  I know you're completely shocked that a mother might have yelled at her children out of frustration before, but I'm guilty.  Not this year!
So, thank you, Lord, for holding me together today.  For reminding me of your mercy and patience, that I might reflect your light, and be a better Momma for it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A week off

We are loosley following the "Sabbath Schooling" this year, and I think that if I followed it more closely, I'd love it.

Basically, its school 6 weeks, rest a week, as modeled by God's Creation of work 6, rest 1.  Taking the time to chill out and not think for a while, resetting our brains, feels good.  However, we've been schooling for 10 weeks, and yep, we could've used this break a month ago!!  I will change this when I'm planning next year!

We had some fun together, but I know a planning space when I see one!  I used this week to prepare for the next 6.  My Type-A-self can't help it.  Its a flaw, I know, but I'm a planner.

I cleaned out spaces in our home, making donations around town between friends and organizations.  I deep cleaned those areas that haven't been super-scrubbed since June (you know, on top of the upper cabinets in the kitchen, YUCK!). 

I caught up on work that I was behind on.

I planned dinners for the next month and a half, including loose grocery lists, so those needed ingredients will all be here, and I can just add to them on a weekly basis.  This will be extremely helpful during this busy season of Tae-Kwon-Do belt-test prep and Baseball practices and games.

And I planned some school! 

Ten weeks in, and I had zero papers pulled for the boys' portfolios and zero pictures printed as I would have liked.  So first up, start putting those babies together.  I am cropping with an online digital scrapbook company, Heritage Makers, and I couldn't be happier with it!  I threw together some field trip pages first.  Then, I went through all of those pictures that I take of manipulative-based school stuff.  Spunk's spider tangram, or the like, can't exactly be inserted into a notebook.  Science experiments and any other hands-on object lessons are documented by pictures in our home school.

Then, I looked at what we'd like to cover during the next 6-week block, and I planned away!  Actually, I had already written this out during the summer, before we started school, but we are ahead or behind the original plan, (depending on subject and child), so this needed tweaking.  Lesson-learned, only plan the six weeks at a time.

When this block is up, it'll be the week of Thanksgiving.  We will take off from our traditional curricula from that point to News Years.  We'll still school, but it'll be fun-filled lapbooks and holiday-themed stuff.  We're also looking to try out Life of Fred during our "off" time, and of course, lots of reading!

What kind of schedule do you follow during the year?  What have you found the benefits vs. drawbacks to be?  I'm always looking to improve upon our own.