The “busy” season

We all have them.  Those times of year when responsibilities seem to be non-stop and you have to make a list of the most important things to accomplish impact all of us.  And then, there are those times when it feels like  you are always in the “busy” season.  I work hard to stay consistent with blogging, but the reality is that it just doesn’t always happen.  I am taking classes to complete my doctorate, I am teaching an online course, and I am working hard to educate my children.  Throw in some behavior challenges and attempting to blog and I’ve got a crazy full plate.

Prioritizing is essential for homeschooling moms.  We have to decide on activities for our children, curriculum/lessons to cover, and our own sanity.  I have knitting projects that I’ve been working on for two years.  My husband and I haven’t had a date since A-Man was born, which has been 8 years now (A-Man’s 8th birthday is this month).  Crazy, I know.  The point is, we have to decide what is the most important thing to focus our attention on.  Obviously my children, their schooling, and my work responsibilities are at the top of my list.

I love writing and blogging is my chance to feed that writing itch I have always have; however, it doesn’t always happen.  I am one of those people who always has ideas floating around in her head.  Book ideas, project ideas, activity ideas, crazy ideas.  There is never enough time to accomplish all the ideas, let alone write them down, but I’m trying.  I’m cutting myself some slack.  I’m not perfect and in order to keep my sanity, I have to make choices.  Sometimes those choices involve omitting things to do what is essential during the “busy” seasons.  

I’m still here and I will post as often as I can.  When my course ends, I suspect the “busy” season will let up some.  When it does, I have some awesome things to share (once I get those things out of my head and on screen).  I will share things that I find.  I will drop in to say hello from time to time.  So hang in there with me!  I’m still here. 

Can’t we just freeze time?

Can’t I just freeze this moment?  This is the question I asked myself this morning as I watched my boys snuggled up on the couch reading together. Big brother was reading little brother a lift the flap book.  There was patience.  There was respect.  There was love.  There was snuggling.  Most importantly, there was NO fighting.  NO bickering.  NO antagonizing.  It was glorious.  It was beautiful.  I just wanted it to last. Forever.

I know that is not realistic, but in what felt like the constant bickering, antagonizing, yelling, and crying of late it was a nice and welcome break.  Yes, there are glimmers of peace scattered in there. It doesn’t always feel like it because it generally is easier to focus on all the stuff that drives Mom crazy.  Surely, my kids are the only ones who do this to each other.  My brother and I were five years apart and, while we had our fights, it wasn’t like this.  Maybe it was the boy/girl dynamic?  Who knows.  Bottom line, no other kids act like this, right?  Wrong.

It is easy to focus on the posts and pictures we see scattered on Facebook and other blogs that show peaceful homeschooled children in perpetual states of happiness, helpfulness, and cooperation.  It is also easy to forget that these are snapshots and every moment does not look like this.  Reading is a calm time (usually) in our house.  There are always days when I feel like we don’t do enough, but these sweet moments of brotherly reading are ones that I will hold with me forever and hopefully the boys will as well.  So, yes, I want to freeze time.  Not because I can capture a picture of my boys getting along, but because it is a sweet moment of brotherly bonding that can’t be replaced.

 

Easy tactile numbers and letters

As I scour through preschool curriculum and various Montessori based items, tactile letters and numbers are a common theme. If you’ve ever really looked at what is expected, it can be extremely overwhelming. Many require sandpaper and stencils cut to the desired letter and number and then glued onto cardboard,a wooden block, etc. I have been on a quest to imitate the tactile number in a much easier form.

When A-Man was preschool age, I used twine. I drew the letter or number on a piece of file folder, outlined in glue and then glued down a piece of twine. It created a nice bumpy letter but it was not preschooler friendly. I ended up doing most of the steps while A-Man watched. That defeated the purpose for me.

This time around, with T-Man, I knew there had to be an easier way. The inspiration came to me after a trip to BJ’s. I was organizing my cupboards and finding things that needed to be tossed. You know, those things that get shoved behind cereal and you forget are there. In doing so, I found a box of Cheerios. No one was really eating them and based on what I have discovered about Cheerios and GMOs (research if you need to), I didn’t really want to keep them. That’s when it hit me (not the Cheerios, the inspiration!).

I decided to try crushing the Cheerios into a powder and using it to make tactile numbers. In my mind, it would mimic sandpaper. So, I whipped out rolling pins, spoons, and a gallon size freezer bag and we all got involved. The first time we didn’t crush it enough so there were still some fairly big pieces, but the idea is still the same.

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After crushing the cheerios, I gave T-Man a printed number. This was part of the curriculum we are using but the number could probably be found anywhere. I gave him some cotton swabs and liquid glue. He painted the liquid glue on generously inside the lines of the number. Then, he grabbed handfuls of crushed cheerios and spread onto the number. When it drys,dump off the excess and it mimics sandpaper.

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This number includes the Cheerios that were not crushed small enough but once we pulvarized it, the Cheerios turned into a powder. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be heavy handed when tracing over the dried number/letter or the cheerios will start to come loose. However, it is an easy and hands-on version that kids can join in with.

Homeschool Math Made a Student Out of Me!

One of the exciting changes to our homeschool this year (2014) was the addition of a math curriculum. I decided upon Math U See based on what I read about it. We started with the Beta level and after some work on place value, started it this week. I spent some time last week reading the first lesson in the instructor text and hit a point that was a bit unclear to me. Steven Demme instructs students to start counting with O instead of with 1. By doing this, you can only fit 9 units into each place before moving to the next “place”.

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As I read this, I started wondering how I would explain this to my A-Man when it didn’t really make sense to me. Naturally, I was falling back on what I was taught. We all know that 0 is a number; however, counting starts with one. With that logic, I’m thinking that each “row” goes from 1-10.

As I start writing out this new way of counting on the white board it clicked in my mind. For those of you who got it way before me, just humor me here! I’m an English person. The point is that I never thought of how the place value makes more sense this way. I just based everything on what I was taught and I somehow just figured it out. Yet, as I watched the first lesson alongside A-Man and worked through the manipulative blocks alongside A-Man, I can’t help but wonder if a lack of these types of distinctions contributed to my struggles in math. These struggles eventually led to a severe dislike of math.

As I go through day after day as a homeschooling mom, I fail to reflect upon just how much I have learned on this journey. Some things I knew and forgot, others I learned newly along with my children. As our interests lead the topics that we study, I continue to grow as my children’s teacher and as a person. It is through small realizations like today’s math lesson that I am reminded of just how much I am gaining as well.

A new start to 2014

Here we are 13 days deep into a new year.  We started back to school today after a much needed 3 week break.  With the back to school, comes some welcome and necessary changes for our homeschool and home.

1.  I did it.  I actually bought a curriculum!  With A-Man deep into second grade, I felt that it was time to purchase a math curriculum.  Math is not my strong point so I wanted to make sure he had a strong foundation.  I decided on Math U See.  Our first two weeks will be focused on place value since that has already been covered in the Alpha version.  Then, we will dive right into Beta!  Already A-Man is loving using the Math U See blocks.

2.  A-Man’s school will not be so independent.  Yes, that makes things more difficult for me in terms of keeping T-Man occupied, but A-Man is so easily distracted that I think this will work better in the long run.

3.  We have a white board!  I finally whipped out the power drill and hung up a white board passed along from a friend…during the summer.  It takes me back to my classroom teaching days so I love this addition to our homeschool.

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4.  Mom is a student again too!  I finally re-enrolled to finish my doctorate.  I decided it’s time to get it done.

5.  Mom is a doTERRA independent product consultant.  I am extremely excited about this one.  I love essential oils so the ability to partner with a company that deals in essential oils is exciting.  This will also give birth to a new blog that will focus on essential oils and ways to use them.  

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6.  We have a character curriculum.  I got lucky on this one.  I had been scouring the internet looking for a free character curriculum that I liked with no success.  The very next day I got an email for a subscriber freebie for a character curriculum.  God was definitely at work there!

We are refreshed, renewed and ready to rock 2014!  Can’t wait to share with you all this year.

Enjoy the break and savor the season

I have been in and out of the blogging world for the past two weeks.  Christmas break officially started on Friday for our homeschool.  I will be taking that time to plan for the spring and prepare myself (mentally) for my newest crazy challenge.  I have been in and out of school working on a doctorate and finally decided that it was time to get it done.  So, December 30th will mark this crazy journey.  I will still be blogging but probably once per week or maybe twice to keep my sanity!  Lots of fun changes in store and I’ll touch on those in the new year.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year to you all.  See you in 2014.  May it be blessed for you!

Ancient Rome Unit Study

A-Man just wrapped his unit study of Ancient Rome.  We enjoyed exploring the many aspects of Ancient Rome through gladiators, aqueducts, and Roman gods and goddesses.  I used a variety of sites to put together this unit study but the bulk of it came from Homeschool Share’s Ancient Rome Lapbook and Unit Study.  This includes most of the information needed to complete the lapbook pages.  We used the book list from Homeschool Share as well.

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<<<Download the unit study and lapbook here>>>

In addition to this, I tried to include some additional activities that were more hands on.  I found a great site that shows maps and geography of Ancient Rome. 

Ancient Rome maps and geography

Another favorite resource was this unit study from Oklahoma Homeschool.  Most of the materials are on the internet but they are great to supplement the Homeschool Share lapbook.  You could also use this as your unit study on the topic.   I am partial to Homeschool Share!

Ancient Rome Unit Study

We also used a few activities to make a keystone and build an arch out of sponges and then out of wooden blocks.  This tested A-Man’s problem solving skills and logic skills to build an arch that would be sturdy and not fall down.  
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There are many different activities at this blog but we focused on the arch and keystone activities.

Arch and Keystone Activities

We made a baking soda volcano after reading about Pompeii.
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A-Man then painted a volcano.
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The activity that took the cake was building an aqueduct.  Because I didn’t have a wrapping paper roll, I took paper towel tubes and cut then in half longways and helped A-Man tape them together.
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We then covered the tubes in plastic so the water would run down the tubes instead of soak into them.

It was time for A-Man to build his structure for the aqueduct.  It was definitely a challenge to keep T-Man from “helping” as he used the foam blocks.

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Finally, it was time to test the structure and pour the water.

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You can also find more Ancient Rome resources on my Ancient Rome Pinterest Board.  Enjoy!

 

Free Curious George Preschool Pack

T-Man has a love of all things Curious George.  We usually have to clear the display of Curious George books at the library and it doesn’t matter if we’ve read half of them already.  So, when I came across a Curious George Preschool Pack from 123 Homeschool 4 Me, I was ecstatic.  This will come in handy for after the holidays.

 

 
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>>>Get the Curious George Preschool Pack here>>>

Getting Down and Dirty about Parenting

I was all set to blog today about not getting over-scheduled and overwhelmed during the holiday season.  However, a friend shared this blog post and I just thought it was too good not to share!  We all struggle with how we parent.  We may have an idea of the kind of parent we want to be and then children come along and we find that we are not doing things exactly how we had planned.  I strive towards attachment parenting.  However, my strong-willed A-Man can send me into a frenzy like no other.  I then spend the rest of the day/evening thinking about what a horrible mother I am and how I have ruined A-Man for life.  Surely, he will be a heathen who refuses to listen to people and will end up in jail.  Am I the only one who’s been there? We spend so much time beating ourselves up over what we are doing wrong instead of embracing some simple truths that many of us are probably doing.  Yes, the kids will resist.  They will cry, scream, argue, and stomp (at least in my house!).  But despite all of this, they are being parented well and they are being taught useful skills.  We are not perfect and neither are our children.  When we strive for perfection, no one is happy.

Check out this great blog post that keeps it real for us: http://www.soulseeds.com/grassroots/2013/11/ten-ways-to-make-sure-your-kids-dont-grow-up-all-moany-and-dependent/

Is there anything you would add to her list?

The Body Image Trap

This is not the typical homeschool geared post, but I feel like it is something I need to sound off about.  I know I am not the only one who is affected but I think it will be therapeutic for me to write about it.  All during my childhood and throughout college I played soccer.  All the time.  It wasn’t until I was in high school that my issue with self esteem and my weight was an issue.  Maybe because I began comparing myself to other girls.  I constantly hid my stomach by blousing my shirts because it wasn’t perfectly flat.

This carried on into college.  I was a size 8 and though that I was heavy because my stomach wasn’t as flat as some of my teammates.  As I approached my senior year of college, I was burned out and decided to not play soccer my senior year.  With that came a desire to stray from everything exercise related because I no longer had to do it.  That year I must have put on 30 lbs of weight.  Since that time, I have always struggled with my weight and I was still struggling with my self esteem.  This was all in my own head.  My husband’s feelings for me never changed.  It was all about my feelings about myself.

I dropped some weight prior to becoming pregnant with A-Man.  I stayed fairly steady until I had T-Man.  All of a sudden, I was smaller than before I was pregnant with him.  Obviously, I was ecstatic.  I didn’t have to beat up on myself so much anymore.  I was finally wearing a size smaller.  Obviously that was important, right?  Wrong.  Yet I still didn’t see it.

When Hubby had two job layoffs during T-Man’s first year, I put on weight again.  The stress took over and I did not watch what I was eating or how much of it.  Now that T-Man is approaching 3, I’m beating myself up again.  I look at friends of mine and even strangers and compare myself.  I look at what I’m not.  What size I’m not.  How thin I’m not.  How pretty I’m not.  That is what goes on my own head.  Ridiculous, right?  Yet, how do I get it to stop.

It was listening to some sermons in church that got me thinking about what I was doing to myself.  Am I where I want to be with my weight?  No.  Is constantly beating myself up about it going to make that change? No.  While health is important, the appearance is what I was focusing on.  We eat healthy food.  We hardly eat fast food and we do not eat foods with a lot of preservatives or artificial dyes.  However, I do make treats at home from scratch.  I don’t want my children to struggle like I have. As a child, my brother and I were not allowed many sweets.  Naturally, when I got out on my own I made up for lost time.  This is something that I struggle with now. I want my children to understand that you can have certain foods.  They just have to be eaten in moderation. I want my children to love themselves no matter what they look like.  In order to send that message, I have to walk the walk.

It is time to accept and love myself for who I am and where I am right now.  Is it more important that I am wearing a size 6 or that I am educating my children and giving them a loving and explorative home environment?  Is it more important that I run to a gym for 2 hours a day or sit down and read a stack of books while snuggling on the couch?  With that being said, I do incorporate exercise into my day.  However, it works with my schedule.  That means that in my 30 minutes of exercise, I probably won’t drop weight and be at my “dream” size in 3 months.  That’s okay. There are two boys who hug me and tell me I am beautiful no matter what I look like.  My husband still sees the woman he met almost 18 years ago.  It is time that I start seeing those things too instead of dwelling on the negative.  

This post is not just for me, but for all of the women who are struggling with their weight and any other aspect of their appearance.  I see woman who are heavier than me carry themselves with so much confidence instead of trying to hide and I envy that.  We need to see ourselves for the beauty that we possess, regardless of our clothing size.  So for those of you who are struggling alongside of me, hear this.  You are beautiful!  You are strong!  You are loved!  Don’t hide yourself because you think people are judging.  If anyone is judging you because of your weight, it is those people who have the issue.  Love yourself!  Love your body even if it is not where you want it to be!  You’ll get there but love yourself every step of the journey, no matter how long it takes you.  You are worth it!