Monday, September 29, 2014

Glosser Chronicles: Summertime Review

Well, if you follow my blog at all, you know that I've taken the last three months off from my monthly reviews to soak up the summer with my husband & kids while we adjust to being a family of six! Then last month we started our new school year, so my last few posts centered around homeschool. I hope you enjoyed the peek into our family's education! If you missed it, you can catch up here.

But now the summer months are over and autumn's official beginning has taken its place. While we transition to a new season, it sounds like a good time to reflect back on the past few months and thank God for the many blessings He so richly bestowed on us this summer! Sit back, relax, and prepare for a multitude of photos as you ride along down Nostalgia Lane with me.

I have to begin this photo series with the biggest event our summer: the addition of our sixth family member (seventh if you believe in dog-children)! Madelyn Chara Glosser was born to us Tuesday, June 17th. And our world will forever be changed for the better.
(I posted a blurb about her on Facebook, which I will share below.)

Pictured here visiting her Great-Grandpa George
for the first time. (He is my paternal grandfather, 
whose wife Madelyn was named after.) 

The newest member of our family joined us on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at 11:20pm. Weighing in at 7lbs, 13oz, and measuring 20in long, she's the second largest baby of our four. Labor & delivery was THE BEST experience we've ever had thanks to, literally, my team of helpers. My husband, mom, and 3 sisters (one joining us via Facetime in Reno, NV) were my incredible support team who I am intensely thankful for. In fact, my midwife wants to hire them to be at all her births! :) 

The Name:
She gets her namesake from my paternal grandmother, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful women of God I have ever ever had the pleasure to know. She has been an inspiration to me in many areas of my life and a pillar to my spiritual walk. Her death when I was in sixth grade was a pivotal time for me and a driving force that finally sent me running to the loving arms of Jesus. I pray that our little Madelyn will love the Lord & serve Him all the days of her life as my Grandma Madelyn did.
A note about her middle name, Chara, (pronouced kar'-uh): The Greek word chara means "joy" and is from my personal devotions in the days following the hard news that she was transverse & then breech in my eighth month of pregnancy. The Lord led me to John 16 & Luke 11 where I was encouraged in the Spirit to simply remember to ASK. I was worried and frustrated and had completely neglected asking my most gracious heavenly Father for a good outcome & a healthy baby! Now I know that God's will is perfect, but, as I so often do, I had placed my own will above His. I had to surrender to Him and take comfort in the fact that He gives GOOD gifts to His children! It only when I had surrendered my will that His Holy Spirit brought me such amazing peace and comfort... and gave us our baby's middle name: Chara (John 16:24). Madelyn is a beauty and a blessing! And I can honestly testify that our joy is indeed full.

June is insanity at our house. No joke. You know the definition of insanity, right? It's "doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results." Well, apparently, that's our approach to family planning, because all but ONE of our kids was born in June. Oh, and it's also the month of my birthday... aaand our wedding anniversary. So yeah. Kind of busy. It wasn't on purpose, but it certainly would appear to be "something utterly foolish or unreasonable."

But you know what? June is a big party! We get to celebrate the precious lives of three of the most amazing people this world has ever known AND the union of a certain super handsome, unbelievably gifted, agape loving man to this certain goofy, giggly girl. And I get to blow out candles and eat cake. We may be utterly exhausted come July 1st, but who can complain? June rocks!

Berry picking and nature centers were top picks for summer fun this year. I am so thankful we have such a fantastic U-pick farm not-too-far from home! We had PERFECT weather (for the first time ever?!) so we spent the morning out there and loaded up on blueberries... that will hopefully last us through the winter. My husband's been begging (politely) for a blueberry pie ever since!
We also enjoyed a splendid day at a nature center near our home where we learned about local habitats and wildlife. We'll definitely be revisiting soon! 

We followed up our nature exploration with a picnic lunch and some "beach" time just down the road from the nature center. (In Iowa, that means lakeshore.) The kids LOVE anything involving dirt, so the majority of the afternoon was spent digging in the sand. :) However, I do have one little fish that enjoys the water very much, so she spent a lot of time going back and forth getting the best of both worlds.

My grandpa lives on a farm down in southern Iowa, so when harvest time came my dad drove down, picked some sweet corn, and carted it back here for us. Yep, my grandpa still farms -- at the ripe age of 86 & still going strong!
Even though this year with the new baby wasn't a great time for corn-picking, I tried to involved them in the shucking process. (You can imagine how well that went.) Actually, my oldest did very well & persevered even when she thought she'd had enough! That may have had something to do with the quarters I promised for every bag she shucked... Shhh!! There's a place for bribery in parenting, I tell you.
I have so many great memories of times spent growing up down on the farm. I hope to impart the same sweet fondness of the country to my kids!

Mmmm. Some Sunday mornings we like to do Dunkin'. Because they're donuts, people. And we're donut people.

Some of my favorite highlights of the entire summer were spent with our families. Have I mentioned how incredibly blessed we are to have both sets of grandparents and {most} aunts & uncles within a short driving distance? Much leisure time was spent with them: popping by Dairy Queen on a whim some hot summer evening for a frozen treat and chasing bubbles, snuggled up on the couch reading a good book, family night dinners with games & great conversation. It's absolutely wonderful.
But I would be remiss not to mention the fantastic time we spent with our far-away-family! My older sister and her family (including my only niece and nephew) came to Des Moines to spend over a week with us. We had a blast soaking up every ounce of time we could with them before bidding adieu. We miss them every day but are thankful for the delightful memories created this summer!

This summer was one of frosty heat. Ok, mostly heat. So we cooled off the way many families do... in the water! With so many littles and no swimmers (yet), we don't do the public pool much, but we do enjoy our share of backyard water play! 
And as a special treat, we attended the Frozen festivities at Barnes & Noble one evening. It was a pajama story time, complete with make-your-own snowflakes & face paint!

OUTDOORS! That's why we love the summer. So much to be done in the midst of God's glorious creation! We drink it up 'til we're full to the brim with summer goodness, and it lasts us through the frigid winter long enough to soak up the spring rains.

Oh... how did this get in here? And who are these weirdos? ;) Eh, this is just how we do.

I had the joy of passing down a summer tradition to my family this year. Snookies is one of those community landmarks and one of my favorite places to dip my finger (and tongue, as it were) in summer's sweetness. I used to frequent it with my besties in the "good ol' days," and now I hope to do the same with my kiddos!

My summer could never be complete without at least one trip to the Iowa State Fair. It is for sure one of the best summer pastimes! I think it improves every year, too. They have a magnificent team working year-round to make certain that "Nothing Compares." I think they've nailed it!
This year's visit actually corresponded with our first day of school and, not-so-coincidentally, the Fair's Homeschool Day! The kids explored and discovered many different things about Iowa culture, including agriculture, sustainability, leisure activities, and the arts. There were many many hands-on opportunities, and the girls even milked a cow!

August just wouldn't be August without Dows Corn Days. I've been going since I was a little (and I mean little!) girl. It's a simple farming community sweet corn and watermelon smorgasbord, but it excites me every year and I'm so glad I can pass on the tradition!

Well, I hope you've enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane with me! Truthfully, August & September have hit me like a ton of bricks as we've been dealing with what seems like difficulty after hardship after grueling challenge. So I needed this more than anyone. It has been both refreshing and encouraging to review what Good Things God has given us, and my soul feels uplifted! This was just the boost I needed. Thank you, Jesus!

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." 
-- James 1:16-17 (NKJV)

What did you do this summer? Have you taken a moment to thank the Lord for the Good Things He's given you?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Get Organized! Using Workboxes for your Homeschool

We've been using workboxes in our homeschool for two years, and they've been extremely helpful in keeping me organized and helping us stay on task through the homeschool day. They have also been useful to promote independent learning with my first-grader this year (which enables me to spend more time with the three littler ones)!

I LOVE this system and I've received a few questions about it, so I wanted to share with you all how we use them in our homeschool. I'm a visual learner and I know there are more of you out there like me, but sometimes photos just aren't thorough enough for me. I benefit greatly from someone walking me through something and showing me how to do it or at least how they do it so I have a better idea of where to start. For this reason, I put together a video tutorial! Now, this is my first video ever, so please be gracious. It's far from perfect. :) However, if you bear with me, I hope you will have a better understanding of Sue Patrick's system and maybe even walk away with some ideas of how to make it work for your family. I broke it up into two videos so you wouldn't get too bored. ;)

In the first video, I share with you exactly what is "The Workbox System." It's mostly informational, but very important if you want to give workboxes a try. After I talk about Sue Patrick & her work a bit, I show you our workbox carts and introduce how they work.

In part two, I walk you through how I set up for each day the night before and get our workboxes ready to go!

Here are some links for things I mentioned in the videos (some are affiliate links):

Sue Patrick's Workbox System: A User's Guide
Ten Drawer Cart
Calendar Notebook
Elementary Daily Learning Notebook
Velcro dots
Task Cards
Subject TRIO

If you would like access to my own subject/activity cards, shoot me a comment and I'd be happy to share my link! I'm also happy to answer any questions you may have.

For more information on this system, or to order Sue Patrick's ebook, go here.

To look at my other homeschool posts, look here:
Our Curriculum, 2014-2015
Tour Our Homeschool Room
First Day of School, 2014-2015
Our Typical Homeschool Day

Have fun discovering this new way to organize your homeschool days!

Do you use workboxes in your homeschool? Have you modified them at all to fit your family? Share in the comments below!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Breaking Dawn: A Mommy's Midnight Musing

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. - Dr. Seuss

But if it's not, I'd be okay with it. It's been quite a night... 
A late start for sleep around midnight insured a tired morning to follow, but I was surprised to wake much earlier than expected when Madelyn needed a diaper change at 1 am. And of course she was wide-awake after that. (Could this have anything to do with my rare non-decaf coffee treat at 4:00 that afternoon?) So I lay with her and nursed her on one side, and we both fell asleep. Fast forward a bit to 3:30 am when M is getting restless again. I slide her over and roll over myself to nurse her on the other side, but she won't latch & then projectile vomits all. over. my side of the bed. Nice. I mop up, lay down cloth, remove both if our pjs, change another diaper, burp baby well, wrap her up and lay her in her bed before returning to my resting spot. But neither of us can get comfortable and the dog is busy shaking her head over an itchy ear in the next room. It's now 4:15 and we're both still restless. I cave. I pick up Madelyn, swaddle her tight and attempt to nurse again to fill that emptied belly. This time I'm sitting up. I read an article on exercise & hormone balance on my phone. I must post this to Facebook. Click. 4:30 rolls in as I type this. Husband is snoring, baby is lolling off to dream land. And I am awake. Now I have to pee and am starting to feel hot. Did I turn the air back on before turning in for the night? It was such a cool evening. Get up one more time to check... and turn it on. Ahh. It's Sunday: the Day of Rest. Back to bed I go. 6:30 alarms are going to come all too quickly. Good morning mommies of the world. Happy Sunday.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Our Typical Homeschool Day, 2014-2015

The final week of iHomeschool Network's "Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop is here! So take a seat, grab a cuppa, and join us for a day in the life of this homeschool family!

"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."

This famous quote by the poet, Yeats, inspires me. It extinguishes all the formality & drudgery that can be associated with traditional learning and kindles the excitement and passion that I desire to be the trademark of my children's learning. It's what drives me to teach my kids every day.

Don't misunderstand, I know plenty of excellent teachers that work in the traditional school setting and do an amazing job at making learning a fun adventure! (I'm sure they would agree with this quote as well!) However, I love the freedom that comes with homeschool. We are not bound to a particular district, a building, a room, a desk. I have a "superintendent" (my husband) that is on the same page with me 100% of the time, because we took the time to saturate our decisions in prayer, lay out short term and long term goals for each of our children, and he inquires of our progress daily so we can discuss any changes that may need to be made. He does not micromanage but is a constant encouragement & pillar of Biblical wisdom and strength. If we have a disagreement, we can sit down together over coffee and pour over Scripture til we are pointed in the right direction... together. I have freedom to choose our curriculum (praise the Lord!!), to alter it as I see fit, and formulate a scope & sequence suitable for each one of my children so they can learn at their own pace, in their own way. We schedule field trips and outdoor activities, playgroups, and co-ops. But we are free to be flexible -- changing our plans at a minute's notice because the baby got sick this morning or there's a need in our extended family or attitudes need adjusting so we focus on training good character & instilling good habits instead of doing the day's "book work." It's something I'm even willing to fight for. As William Wallace so memorably said (albeit in a slightly different context ;)), "FREEEEEDOM!!!!!" And I love it.

With this freedom, you can imagine that not every day looks the same for us. As we add more precious babies to our crew through the years, I'm finding that it's much more difficult to hold to a rigid schedule. So we roll with it. Each day flows a little differently, but they are usually fluid nonetheless. With a general plan and some preparation, we can easily move from one thing to the next, embracing the bumps along the way without completely giving in to them and losing focus altogether. No, I am not perfect, nor are my children, nor is our schooling. But every difficult day leads to an easier future, even if it is not the day immediately following. And that's okay. Great comfort is steeped in the words, "...for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13)

Our Schedule

Still, I'd like to share what a typical day looks like in our homeschool (and I use the word "typical" loosely). Walk with me...

7-7:30 a.m.           Children are waking, Mom nurses baby
8-8:30 a.m.           Breakfast/Bible reading
8:30 a.m.              Morning chores
9:30-10 a.m.         Begin school day
11:30-1:00 p.m.    Lunch/Bible reading/Finish up school work, if necessary
1-2:00 p.m.           Free time, Afternoon clean-up
2-4:00 p.m.           Naps/Quiet time
4-5:00 p.m.           Reading/Free time, Mom nurses baby & begins dinner prep
5:30 p.m.              Daddy's home!!!
6:00 p.m.              Dinner
8:30 p.m.              Bed time/Family devotions

I hesitate to assign specific time frames to our day, but I think I can honestly say this is generally how our days go, with lots of wiggle room. When you're nursing a baby, you're at her beck and call 24/7, so other things have to give way. Thankfully, much of our learning is done through reading, so the other kids can just pile around me on the couch while I nurse and I can read aloud to the group or big sis' can read aloud instead.

Our Subjects

I like to try to begin at least every other day with "Circle Time" -- a time to gather all the children together to pray and work on our Calendar, Morning Board, memory verse, sing a song or two, and discuss our virtue/habit. Then, big sis' will begin working in her Daily Learning Notebook independently while I read some picture books to the younger two. If she finishes before we're done, she just joins us on the couch! Once we're done reading, the little ones go off to play and the first grader and I get some time to work alone together.

As far as subjects go (see Our Curriculum here), I took a cue from The Unlikely Homeschool and we are working in TRIOS this year. Meaning, we break our work up into subjects like this:

1. Core (Language Arts or Math -- requires Mom's assistance)
2. Living literature (Reading, Read-Aloud, History -- reading based)
3. Project (Science, Handwriting/Copywork, Handicraft -- hands-on or independent)
BREAK (short, 5-min), Repeat with another TRIO

So far, I'm loving this method as it allows naturally for brain breaks and the work doesn't seem to pile up and overwhelm any of us.

Now, things will be changing up a bit next week as we start integrating more preschool work into the day. I have a stack of ocean books we'll be reading, & we'll begin a little math and pre-reading practice with workbooks and games! I'm a bit nervous for this transition and am praying things go smoothly & that my toddler doesn't begin to feel left out... She is welcome to join us for anything, but it doesn't take much for her to become hard-up for some Mommy time! Hopefully, I can figure out the best way to help her stay involved and close by without boring her, stifling her own creativity & sense of adventure. It will just take more practiced planning on my part, I think!

There you have it! A quick look at these precious days at home. I hope you've enjoyed this journey into our homeschool life. Don't forget to pop by the iHomeschool Network's "Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop to check out what other families are doing this year! It's been a pleasure to be a part of the adventure.

Come back next week when I hope to share more about our workboxes and delve into more of the nitty-gritty of how we do school! And, get this... there might be a YouTube video or two!!

Thanks for joining us this month! Now I'd like to hear how YOU do things. Share in the comments below!

Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day of School, 2014-2015

We've been back to school now for two whole weeks. I wasn't even 100% ready for the school year to begin, and we've already put in 2 weeks?! Yikes! Time flies.

Like many families, we like to commemorate our first day with a fun photo. And, though bad hair days and pajamas are frequent and even welcome parts of homeschooling, we do try to "class" it up for that first day. (My kids still pick out their own clothes & dress themselves, so matching, trendy outfits are definitely not guaranteed but at least they're not on backwards *today*. And maybe, just maybe my daughter combed her hair... Ok, I'm not that classy peeps! Still keepin' it real.)

At any rate, we pull ourselves together for the day, then Mommy frantically positions the children in various loci around the front yard, trying desperately (and rather unsuccessfully) to avoid the glaring sun and subsequent shadows and sweeten any souring attitudes (and faces... gotta have gorgeous smiles for that "special day!") The results of this race? See for yourself.

My new 1st grader was beaming all morning. Praise the Lord for one who is excited about school!

This guy is starting pre-school this year. (Curious what that means for us? Check out our curriculum this year.) He seems pretty happy about it. :)

Here are the sibs together! Jenna was insistent on getting one with her brother and specifically directed him where to stand, how to smile, etc. Our little bossy-boss. But I'm glad she did.

And, of course, little sis had to get in on the action. She's not in school yet, but as I was scooting everyone inside, she struck a pose and said, "CHEEEEESE!" I couldn't pass that up, now could I? Sadly, her pose lasted only as long as her "cheese," so I missed it. Ah well.

Now our days aren't quite so "put together" as that first day (if you can call that put together), but they are getting more and more enjoyable! Boy, do I love this homeschool thing.

Cheers to a rockin' school year! Whether you're just now starting, have been at it for weeks, or are still kicking up your summer heels. Whether you school at home, co-op, on the go, public, or private. Whether you send them on the bus, carpool, or do all the shuffling yourself. Here's to bright mornings and smiling faces (and even those gloomy days and not-so-smiling faces). Have a great year!

This post is part of week 3 of 4 weeks on iHomeschool Network's "Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop. Don't forget to check out Our Curriculum (week 1) and the Homeschool Room Tour (week 2) too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tour Our Homeschool Room! 2014-2015

We did it! We officially have our first two days of school under our belt. The first day was pretty much a breeze... Daddy was home and it was Homeschool Day at the Iowa State Fair, so FIELD TRIP!!! We had such a great time seeing all the animals and learning about agriculture in our great state. They've done a fantastic job of making exhibits hands-on so there are literally new and different learning opportunities around every corner. Such fun! Our second day was more low-key and "ordinary" as we schooled at home. We tested out a lot of our new curriculum, and I (still) think it's going to be a great year.

The last couple weeks have been a flurry of paper, books, and pencils as I have organized and re-organized our homeschool materials... maybe twenty times. I think I've got everything just about how I want it, so now I can finally get around to sharing our homeschool space with you!

Come on in, please take your shoes off at the door...

Our back door opens up into our dining room, which extends into our homeschool room. Here's what you see as you walk in:

Not a huge space, but it is SO nice to have! I love that it is connected to our dining area (because we used the dining table a LOT last year), and it's literally 5 steps away from the kitchen and living room. (We don't have a large house by many people's standards, and I like it that way! Less to clean = happy mommy.)

I'll take you around the room clockwise, because I'm American and that's how we do things. :)
The first thing you'll see is our chalkboard cabinets and puzzle/game storage. The cabinets we purchased years ago and are just white kitchen cabinets from IKEA (which, if you don't already know, is my favorite place in the world... I could live there, and practically do, as you can tell by my home furnishings!) I painted the door fronts with chalkboard paint & have always loved using them. Now that we're homeschooling, they have a specialized purpose! Below the cabinets is our old TV storage unit (BESTA from IKEA, I believe... See? You're noticing the trend already.) The tube TV we have bowed the top shelf, but it works great for our puzzles and games. It also houses a basket for library books. Above the cabinets I keep my own notebooks & lesson planner, magazine files that store magazines for art collages, homeschool catalogs, and various curriculum and workbooks that we don't use regularly (i.e. past NaturExplorer units & kids' cookbooks).

Inside the cabinets...
On the bottom shelf (L): my daughter's personal notebooks, a 3-hole punch, our cans of pencils, scissors, and dry-erase markers, boxes of markers and crayons, do-a-dot style markers. Middle shelf (L): dry-erase boards and games, a box of basic co-op supplies. Top shelf (L): my kids' VTech games and handhelds, VTech laptop, and Hot Dots cards & pens.
On the bottom shelf (R): library books for assigned reading or read-alouds pertaining to topics we're currently studying, books on DVD set (these are GREAT!!), a letter tray with construction paper and workbooks. Middle shelf (R): box of flashcards, Spanish sticker set, reading & spelling games. Top shelf: math games and manipulatives, jars of magnetic letters.

Next to the cabinets is kind of my "hub" for now. It has a metal rolling cart where I store manipulatives,  calendar time supplies, workbox supplies, pocket chart items, our collection of rocks, and a basket of prizes. There is a drop-leaf table from IKEA which I adore (NEW this year for us!) that will eventually serve as our homeschool table so that I am not having to constantly clear off our dining table, but right now it houses our computer and printer since our office is without internet access. (Great planning on our part, huh?) Behind that is our Circle Time board, and to the right is our calendar and workboxes.

Yes, I sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. I put it out to use while pregnant, but have left it there because I've come to prefer it! And the kids like to play with it, too. :)

Close up of my rolling supply cart.

Below our Circle Time board is a large pocket chart that I hope to use some day... Right now it is pretty much blocked off because of the computer/printer set-up. Ah, well.

Our workboxes! More on these later.
Keep roaming about the room and you'll see two small desks under the window. We were gifted these by my best friend. Her grandfather built them years ago for her two children, but they've long outgrown them (her oldest is in our youth group now!) We're so happy to give them a home and know they will get used well. Our kids love them!

In the corner of our room is the only bookcase in our space. *GASP!* How can a homeschooler only have ONE bookcase?! Well, naturally, like most other homeschoolers we do not stay stationary in our learning. We're all over the house, outside in nature, in the van, etc. So are our books! Well, they're not outside, but you'll find books in every single room of our house... and probably the van. These are just mostly curriculum-related books and such, my laminator & laminating sheets, large construction paper, plus our CD player & some CD's. The bottom two shelves are more toddler-friendly and are home to a small assortment of picture books, some coloring books and crayons, magnetic & large dry-erase boards, and a box of busy bags.
Next to that is a hamper full of games (more adult-friendly). A craft paper roll, fine-motor monkey, and play-doh station sit atop the hamper.

Not seen in this picture, but possibly worth mentioning are the large curtained windows along this side of the room. Our brute of a black lab broke through not one, but TWO of these windows since we moved in 2 1/2 years ago. We have replaced some of the glass, but they were still leaking air badly. As new windows are not in our budget, we have redneck-fixed them with insulation and wood plinth. It's not beautiful, but it's doing an efficient job for now. The plan is to buy a large piece of hardboard (or shower board) to place over it. Then we will have a massive white board to use as well!
Below the "mended" windows, is a comfy chair for reading or relaxing and these two IKEA LACK side tables. We've had them for ages too, and they keep getting shuffled around the house. This is where they've landed for now and just serve as extra table space. Underneath are two wooden boxes with toys for toddler (& big kid) play.

We've made it full circle around the room now! Just above as you look into our dining room, you'll see this curtain wire from IKEA. It's where we proudly display things we've been working on. Right now, there are still art and co-op projects from last year up there. We look forward to filling it up with this year's work!

There are a few other storage solutions I'd like to share with you, but I am thinking of doing a video update as I am able to change a few things through the year so I will just include those then! Tune in regularly so you don't miss it!

Thanks for checking out our space! I hope it was useful or at least fun for you. :) To sneak a peek into other homeschoolers' homes for inspiration or encouragement, go on over to the "Not" Back-to-School Blog Hop at iHomeschool Network!

How about you? Do you have a homeschool room or do you prefer to spread out all over? What are some of your favorite tools and spaces for learning? Please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Futurecast: A Reflection in Mommydom

I don't know about the rest of you, but here in central Iowa, we have been enjoying unseasonably mild weather. And I'm loving it! Today was no exception, and as I stepped out onto my back porch this afternoon I was happily greeted by a cheery blue sky, delightfully warm sunshine, and a cooling blessed breeze. Since my mother-in-law had already swept my three oldest children away for play and "quiet" time at her house, it was just me and the babe, who was getting restless for her afternoon nap. So we embraced the beautiful day and went for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. As we walked, I talked with her about the sights around us and calmed her with sweet sentiments from my mommy heart to her tiny ears. (And I'm sure all you mommies out there know that when I say I talked with her, I really mean I talked at her, though it truly felt as though we were holding a genuine conversation.) In my musings, I mentioned to her how I love these precious days of infancy when she is so perfectly innocent, and I treasure watching her grow and discover and achieve milestone after milestone as her mind and body develop... But I am just SO excited for her to be two like her big sister, when she will become more independent and not so tied to this eat/sleep routine. When we can, as a family, envelop ourselves even more in glorious days like this one -- soaking in the golden rays of sunlight until they fade under a rainbow horizon, together digging our hands into the rich, fertile soil of our garden to work the ground and keep up with the weeds (now overgrown in our present-day garden plots) & harvest the great, nutritious fruits of our labor, climbing fences & trees, hiking forest trails, and picking prairie wildflowers. My soul longs to commune with the creation around me and I desire my children to all know the same longing and seek to satisfy it daily. I was explaining all this as she sweetly listened, never interrupting. "Doesn't that sound lovely?" I said. "And then your sissy will be eight, so she will be such a big help. And your brother will be six, so I'm sure he will be much more helpful as well..." My voice trailed off. Suddenly the realization of my aging little ones started to sting. My bright & shiny forecast for our family's future became overcast and dim.

Have you ever gauged your life by your youngest child? You know what I mean...  "When my youngest is finally weaned, my husband and I can start having date nights," or "When my youngest is finally in school, I will finally be able to spend time excercising regularly and get fit." Or in my case in this instance, "When my youngest is two, I will be able to spend more time outdoors and keep up with my garden." It's an easy thing to do, especially when you are in the midst of a season of little ones. I know that I go through this very thought process every time I have a new baby. They just take so much out of you! And when you're having them Every Other Year, it can feel endless. Oh, the things you can do without a tiny baby in tow who is dependent on you for every basic need! But the problem with making plans for when your youngest gets older is that... your older children are also getting older! 

When I caught myself daydreaming about the glorious future we will have, the numbers eight, six, and four dropped like an anchor to the bottom of my stomach. Immediately I began backpedaling in my conversation (or soliloquy, as it were). "But you can take your time getting there, my Little Bean. Two does not need to hurry. Let's enjoy this quiet walk on this glorious day, and well get to two when two gets here." Because I'm not ready to give up 1, 3, 5, and 7. Not yet. Not even for more sunshiny days, afternoon walks, or the largest green garden in the world. Not ever.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Our Homeschool Curriculum, 2014-2015

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Images

Summer's end is rapidly approaching and the new school year is right on its heels. Has it caught you unprepared?

We bade farewell to kindergarten in the spring, which means... First Grade! Perhaps it is the old state laws that required homeschool families to report their students' work and progress at this particular milestone that lit the fire of urgency in my mind, but for some reason "first grade" meant "business" to me. So I really began my planning for this year before we even ended the last school year. And as silly or unfounded as my first grade apprehensions might have been, it was beneficial because it got me thinking and set the ball rolling before our new baby arrived at the beginning of the summer. (Before I continue, can I just throw my hands up & get a "Halleluyer!" for our new state homeschool laws!! NO REPORTING NECESSARY! Praise the Lawd.) So I searched the public library, read books, scoured online blogs and reviews, and asked questions of other homeschooling friends regarding their favorite curriculum and homeschool materials. I was able to take advantage of our homeschool support group's buy/sell/trade used curriculum event and attend our state homeschool convention, which included both a used curriculum sale AND a fairly packed vendor hall FULL of amazing resources and homeschool wisdom. As June (and Baby's due date) closed in, I could almost say that my purchasing for the next school year was complete! Phew.

Enter: Summer. Now I can kick my feet up and relax poolside with an icy, refreshing tea and a great book while my well-sunscreened children splash playfully and... Oh, who am I kidding. I am the mother of four young children! This kind of scenario never. happens. Instead, I find myself in the never-ending balancing act that is motherhood (precious bliss as it is!) -- changing diapers, potty training, cleaning up spills, washing sheets after the *ahem* third accident of the day, wiping faces, fixing meals, and nursing an infant, oh, pretty much constantly. But I digress. :) Truly, this summer has been wonderful and I do enjoy all the habits of mothering (most of the time). But there is definitely no time for idleness! I have found myself multitasking as much as possible to continue laying out the plans for our 2014-15 school year. More blog browsing, Pinterest pinning, review reading, catalog combing, and ledger logging. It sometimes seems never-ending! However, I think I have finally nailed down what curriculum we will be using. Let's here it for this mama! *hooray!*

Not only will we be doing first grade with my oldest daughter, but we will also be doing some preschool work with my son who is now 4-years old. He is a boy (obviously), and at four he has boundless energy. As of yet, he has really shown no interest in school, though he LOVES books like his sister does and is especially enamored with all things bat, whale, squid, and/or invariably every deep sea creature ever discovered. Wait. I said he has no interest in school... So why are we doing preschool? Well, I use the term veeeery loosely, but what I really mean is intentional, focused reading in the areas that interest him (something we always do anyway, but now we'll do more of it), introducing letters & sounds, numbers 1-20, some fine motor practice to prepare him for writing, games, games, games!, and simply allowing him to be a part of what big sis' is doing in her schooling.

Now, down to the nitty gritty. THE CURRICULUM. bum-bum-buuuuum! I'm very excited about what we are going to be using this year! Come take a peek. (This post contains affiliate links.)

First Grade


Language Arts



We have family Bible time most evenings before bed when we read from a storybook Bible, sing Psalm 23, and pray as a family. However, I like to begin each day in the Word with my kids as well, because God's Word is SO IMPORTANT, and I want them to immerse themselves in it so that they grow to love it. Mornings are important too, because I want them to form the habit of first beginning each day with the Lord. I want them to have a heart like David, who said, "O God, You are my God. Early will I seek You. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water"(Psalm 63:1). To foster this attitude, I will read aloud a chapter in the Bible (Psalms & Proverbs are our favorites) or we will listen to a chapter using the YouVersion Bible app on my iPad.


We Choose Virtues - We will be using these handy flashcards to reinforce what we learn with Laying Down the Rails. (See Preschool Curriculum.)



Sonlight, Core A - This curriculum uses living literature, maps, and timelines to explore and learn history & geography. We love this approach and are looking forward to adding this bit to our schooling!



Language Arts:

Math: As I mentioned before, we are simply focusing on very basic math concepts. To count, recognize, and begin writing numbers 1-20. We'll use various workbooks, manipulatives, and fun games as desired to learn and reinforce ideas we discover & discuss in real life.


Laying Down the Rails - This may be the highlight of our formative learning for me. Charlotte Mason strongly emphasized the importance of forming good habits in children, and I have observed the same in my own parenting experience, especially in my son. We will focus on ONE habit for six weeks before moving on to the next, going back to reinforce habits as needed. This will be a year-long endeavor, not just a school year subject, which means we should have 8 new habits every year! We 
will begin this year with Attentiveness. Have I mentioned how pumped I am about this? Woo!


That about sums it up! We will be sprinkling different unit studies & field trips throughout our year as well to keep learning delight-directed and fun. I'll probably share bits of those as they come. Also, we are participating in a homeschool co-op again, which I am very excited about! More on that later too. :)

Happy learning!

Oh, and hop on over to iHomeschool Network's "Not Back-to-School" blog hop to see this post and check out what tons of other homeschoolers are planning this year!

I'd love to hear what your school plans are for the 2014-15 school year. Please leave a comment & share!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Build Your Bundle Homeschool Edition Sale begins TODAY!

The homeschool web world has been abuzz for weeks, and now the day of unveiling has arrived... the Build Your Bundle Homeschool Edition Sale starts TODAY!! This sale runs one week only (7/21-7/28), so check out the deals and nab yours today! We are big on Charlotte Mason education in our home so I am highlighting that one here, but check out ALL the bundles to find one that's right for you and your homeschool (links below). You can't beat these prices!

The "Build Your Bundle" - Homeschool Edition sale is going on for one week only (July 21-28)! There are so many wonderful products and amazing deals! We are highlighting the Charlotte Mason Bundle below.

Take a look at the Charlotte Mason Bundle:
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!
$377.35 ONLY $49.00 Save: 87%
Amazing things await you in our Charlotte Mason Bundle! This bundle features a complete curriculum using the Charlotte Mason Methods for language arts, handwriting, and reading, a full geography curriculum, a plethora of resources for studying nature, artists, poetry, and a variety of "extras" just for mom! Learn all about Charlotte Mason and enjoy a special bonus (a $90 value all by itself)—the top 5 best selling G.A. Henty audio books from Jim Hodges Productions. This bundle is jam packed full of amazing resources your family will love!

Buy more & save more! Purchase 2 pre-assembled bundles and get the 3rd one 50% off! See site for details.

Checkout the items in the Charlotte Mason Bundle:

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Write from History - Retail $22.95

With modern writing programs, children's weaknesses often overshadow their strengths, but with the Charlotte Mason Method of teaching your children to write all those frustrations will fly out the window. The Write from History series teaches children to write via the Charlotte Mason Method, children find writing to be easy and even fun. And when they are asked to put the various writing skills together, they do so easily and naturally.

Write from History is an easy and effective way to teach writing, supplement history, and reinforce proper handwriting.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Sheldon's NEW Primary Language Lessons - Retail $14.95

Sheldon's New Primary Language Lessons is a beginning grammar workbook for students learning the 8 parts of speech and the fundamentals of sentence and paragraph writing. This language arts curriculum is a gentle introduction to grammar and composition for students in the elementary grades. Writing exercises are in cursive and print.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

50 States and Where to Find Them - Retail $30.00

50 States and Where to Find Them teaches children the states and capitals region by region through mapping exercises and quality literature. Children fill out a map of the region as they learn about each state. State lessons include historical information about the state and coloring pages of the state flower, state bird, and state flag. Each region wraps up with a crossword puzzle, a word search, and a bonus lesson pertaining to the region.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

The Charlotte Mason Way Explained - Retail $6.99

The Charlotte Mason Way Explained ebook consist of 30 chapters, 53 pages written by a veteran home educating mother of four, who has used the Charlotte Mason way to teach her children from preschool through high school. Practical insights of how to simply implement each of Charlotte Mason methods into today's homeschool, a reader will gain inspiration, clarity and focus on their own homeschooling journey.

Click here to learn more!
Recommended for you and found at this price only at the
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale
in the Premium Products Section:

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!
*Not included in the Charlotte Mason Bundle, available for purchase individually at 60% off.

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Handwriting - Webster's Syllabary with Phonics - Retail $15.00

This first book in the Handwriting Lessons Through Literature program teaches cursive handwriting through Webster's syllabary and seventy-five phonograms. Students also learn capital letters and numbers 1-100. Included in this file are both a vertical and a slant cursive workbook, each with its own unique set of writing instructions.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Fine Art Pages Collection 1 - Retail $14.95

This fabulous artist study program that will aid you in studying famous paintings plus information about each work and the artist.In addition to the art pages, you will also receive some practical tips and suggestions about how to utilize the Fine Art Pages and get the most out of them for both you and your students.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Reading Lessons through Literature - Retail $25.00

Reading Lessons through Literature is a pick-up and go Orton phonogram reading program organized around the stories in The Elson Readers. Like other Orton phonogram programs, it focuses on teaching reading through spelling. First children learn the basic phonograms. Then they begin writing their spelling words, analyzing them, and reading them for practice. And finally, they begin to read stories which include the words they've learned. RLTL teaches 75 basic phonograms.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Level 3 Old Testament Overview Part 1 - Retail $28.00

On this trail Bible students will learn about the Creation, the Promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and much more. Along the path they will also learn basic Bible geography through mapping exercises.

Students will draw the timeline, identify biblical locations on a map, and recite memory verses and important facts from the Bible. Students who take this trail will be able to identify the people and places of the Bible!

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Jim Hodges Audio Books - Retail $90.00

Download the top 5 G.A. Henty Audio Books of all time! These exciting, historically accurate, uplifting stories in complete, unabridged recordings by Jim Hodges Productions will have your children begging for more! The titles include: With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom's Cause, Beric the Briton, For the Temple, and Winning His Spurs.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Notebooking Pages: Trees & Plants - Retail $11.90

The Plants & Trees Basic Study contains 49 notebooking pages includes diagrams and pages designed to complement your child's basic study of plants and trees. Also included is Trees of North America, 344+ notebooking pages covers 43 of North America's trees. Wonderful coloring pages, choice of primary or regular lines, and a variety of layouts are included for each tree in this set.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Notebooking Pages: Complete Birds Set - Retail $23.80

This is the entire collection of nature study birds notebooking sets! You will be amazed at all of the pages you will get in this bundle! This bundled purchase includes: All About Birds Basic Study Notebooking Pages, Birds of the World Notebooking Pages, North American Birds Notebooking Pages, and Tropical Birds Notebooking Pages.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Notebooking Pages: Wildflowers, Weeds, and Garden Flowers - Retail $12.95

This set was created to compliment a nature study of flowers using the Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock. There are 8 designed notebooking pages for each Wildflower, Weed, & Garden Flower named in this study (over 45 plants in all!). Included are both regular-lined and primary-lined so they will work for all ages.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

NaturExplorers Fruit & Nuts - Retail $8.95

This unit will not only have you observing and examining fruits and nuts, you will learn to observe insect and animal behavior, watch for the effects of disease or weather on plants and be challenged to create meals, make models, create history reports and so much more!

Also included is a slight focus on the Fruits of the Spirit in the Bible section with additional book, music and activity ideas to follow through with Biblical character training. This is a well-rounded unit chock-full of lessons to fit every academic area!

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Words With Wings - Retail $39

Introducing Words With Wings, an exciting new poetry curriculum and contest for kids. Each monthly lesson includes the simple explanation of a fun poetry form and poetic devices, a writing prompt, examples from the Words With Wings poets, easy 'how-to' tips, and samples from famous poets.

Bible verses are woven through each lesson in a relevant way that inspires a love of language, as well an understanding of the language of His love.

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Discipleship: A Character Curriculum Using Scriptures - Retail $14.95

Discipleship: A Character Curriculum Using Scripture is a one, two or three year curriculum geared toward children who are learning to write and all the way to a high school curriculum. Each year curriculum has assignments for a 5 day week, however if you desire to take longer with this curriculum, just turn it into whatever year curriculum works for your own family!

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Because I Said So - a Biblical Study of Obedience - Retail $4.99

This is a brand new 26 page Bible study that teaches HOW and WHY we should obey through scripture and study of biblical people who struggled with the issue of obedience. Also included is a bonus hymn study on the beloved hymn, Trust and Obey. The study is perfect for family devotions, quiet time or homeschool Bible class!

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

When I Survey - a Hymnological Journey to the Cross - Retail $4.99

When I Survey is a 12-day hymnological journey to the cross. Students and families will dig into the Bible and then support their learning with the study of a hymn. This study will empower you to set truth deep into the hearts of your children in a simple and easy way!

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Breakfast Stations Pack - Retail $2.99

This pack is just what every busy mom needs. You'll find 60+ days of breakfasts that your kids can make themselves in less than 3 minutes. They are healthy, fast, easy, and best of all...FRUGAL!

Click here to learn more!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

How to Build a Strong Christian Home - Retail $4.99

Most of us love our families very much but we struggle in so many different ways, and sometimes we just need a little help and guidance to become the family we know the Lord wants us to become. Our families are a blessing and worth the patience, love, and time to invest in building a strong Christian home for God's glory and we can do this one step at a time.

Click here to learn more!


Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

*Lots of ways to save!

  1. When you purchase ANY 2 pre-assembled bundles you will get the 3rd pre-assembled bundle of equal or lesser value for 50% off!
  2. When you purchase ANY 2 "build your own" bundles you will get the 3rd "build your own" bundle of equal or lesser value for 50% off!
  3. Tell your friends about the "Build Your Bundle" - Homeschool Edition Sale using our referral system that is found on the top of the website! When 10 of your referrals visit our site using your unique link, we will give you a code to save 10% off your total purchase!

*The B2G1 50% off offer applies to pre-assembled or "Build Your Own" Bundles only. Discount taken off the lowes priced bundle. See site for complete details and FAQ.
Prefer to pick and choose what you want?
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale: July 21-28 Save up to 92% on Popular Homeschooling Curriculum, Many from Cathy Duffy's Top 100 Picks!

Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!