Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom-Goals

For this week of Seeds of Wisdom-


I set goals, thanks to the 3in30 Challenge!! I find them more effective than resolutions that I generally forget in a few weeks!


I have never set a resolution. Well, maybe once when I was 8 to do better, but that didn't last more than a few minutes... Seriously, I think goals are a fabulous way to plan and motivate, and I have witnessed women accomplishing many amazing things with the help of goals, but I have not set any. That's not to say I have no plan, or my life lacks direction, but setting specific goals doesn't help me. Perhaps I have never learned how to really make and utilize them well.


My husband and I always sit down together and plan our goals at the first of the year. Family goals, physical goals, spiritual goals, and training goals for our children are among the things we discuss. Then together we talk about the steps we will need to make it all happen. It has been one of the most meaningful traditions we have as a family.


Resolutions were a tradition my own family kept as I was growing up. It was a wonderful way of starting fresh with self-improvement in mind. I no longer do 'formal' resolutions as an adult, but I often set goals (more often at the beginning of the school year) and find the key to keeping them is writing them down. Happy New Year!


I regularly set goals for myself, but not necessarily at the beginning of the year. As I see areas where I need to improve, I set personal goals, as well as steps for achieving those goals. Doing so throughout the year helps me from being overwhelmed by numerous new goals every January and challenges me to self-improve year-round.


My husband and I set goals for the year, things we want to accomplish as parents and Christians. I also participate in the 3in30 Challenge, which has made for a year of goal setting. I have enjoyed the constant push to do better, as well as the friends I have made along the way.


Yes, I/we do. My husband and I set down and discuss the past year and then talk about the changes we'd like to make. The typical areas we discuss are children, finances, health, household management and spiritual health.

What goals are you setting for 2012? Do you have any advice to share about goal-setting?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finding Time for Yourself

Welcome to our Homeschool Holiday Open House!

This week we are opening up, discussing details related to our homeschools.
So far, several ladies shared how they schedule and manage their days,
organize their homes, and tackle technology.
If you haven't read these posts
and the excellent ideas readers are posting in the comments,
then might I encourage you to do so today.
The giveaways end on Saturday, December 31 at 11:59 PM.

Today, for our final Homeschool Holiday Open House post,
 we focus on finding time for ourselves amongst these busy days.
Jessica, Tracy, Sam, and Ralene share about this important issue...

"This is such a personal and interesting topic.  Each family, and each member therein, has different needs.  Every mother I have met has different ideas of what constitutes time to herself and how to make a bit of that happen.  Since I became a homeschool mother (we were in a school system for several years first) the #1 comment I receive is 'I could never spend all that time with my children!'

However, I found it has really freed me from the schedule we were so tied to before.  I am much better able to savor time to myself because I spend most of my time participating in quality interaction with my kids.  Because of this, I can take (guilt-free) opportunities I used to pass up!

There are several ways I find time for myself.  I have dates with my husband every chance I get.  I schedule my children's activities to coincide when I can so that I have an hour to pick up groceries or scan clearance racks in clothing stores without helpers.  I get up very early in the morning so I can have a run and be back before My Farmer leaves for work.  I also stay up late to blog a few times a week, and rely on technology (like blogger, facebook, and twitter) in order to have snippets of virtual adult conversation for short periods during the day.

In the end, homeschooling has not made finding time for myself difficult.  Having very small children is what made that hard for me!  Now that they are older (six, eight, and ten) and more independent, I am enjoying the freedom it has brought to me as well."

"I have really struggled with the topic of 'me-time' for awhile, simply because I often feel guilty for even considering time for myself.  But I do have a small moment in my day that I don't feel the least bit guilty about setting aside.  I love to keep a short devotional book in my bathroom.  My favorites have been Lydia Brownback's devotionals Joy and Purity.

When I desperately need my 'mommy break,' I'll head to the bathroom and grab my devotional.  The short 3-5 minute reading is just what I need to regain perspective and to refresh me for what awaits outside my bathroom door."

"Every evening after dinner I take 30-60 minutes to workout.  I don't really feel the need to get away other than that, and nothing makes me feel better than doing something good for my health.

Not only is it good for my body, but it helps me to relieve stress, lots and lots of stress!  My favorite workout is kickboxing.  It is too much fun!

If you ever stress about taking some time for yourself-just remember that it makes you better for the rest of the time you give to your family.  Now go grab a DVD and kick something!"

"First, let me say that God has blessed me with a wonderful family!  My husband is so supportive of all my endeavors, from homeschooling to writing.  He often has no issues with giving me some time to myself.  Now, let me say that every parent, regardless of jobs/responsibilities/etc., deserves time for themselves.  A common complaint, probably more prevalent among moms, is that they feel they have 'lost themselves' in the throes of family and other obligations. 

So how do I find time for myself?

The initial step is realizing that I need that time to recharge, that it will not take away from my time with my children/husband/household/job/insert obligation.  Everyone needs a way to decompress and allow their spirits to be refueled.

The next thing I did was talk to my husband.  The biggest hurdle is having your family on board.  I explained the situation (although he already understood, so it didn't take much of an explanation), and we talked about what seemed appropriate.  At first, it was just sporadic time for myself--a shopping trip here, a movie night with my friends there.  But the more I took that time for myself, the more I saw how it benefited my life in other ways.  Now, I make sure that I have some downtime every week--be it 30 minutes or a couple of hours.  Sometimes I go out and do something, sometimes I stay in and read a good book.

The trick is not using that time for 'other obligations'.  At first, I found myself using that time for stuff like sorting through the clean clothes that needed folded, or working on my blog posts/novel/editing.  That time is not supposed to be about anything else but myself.  I had to force myself to see and experience the refreshment that comes from doing something that is just for me.

Here's a few things that I do (and some that other women I know do): Read (book/magazine), shop (not grocery), walk/exercise, Ladies' Night, get hair done/manicure/pedicure, invest in a new hobby (scrapbooking, knitting, crafts, hiking, sports), take a class...the list goes on.  Some can be done in a few minutes, some in a couple of hours--all important to our mental/emotional (and sometimes physical) well-being."

  And, now, we want to know how you find time for yourself as well. 
What ways are you refreshed?
Leave a comment telling us,
and you will automatically be entered for today's giveaway.

Today's giveaway:
a $30 Walmart GC
perhaps spend it on something for you!
~courtesy Ralene~
This giveaway is open to all residents of the USA
and ends Saturday, December 31 at 11:59 PM EST,
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.
Winner will be announced on Monday, January 2, 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Technology and Social Media in Our Homeschools

Welcome to our Homeschool Holiday Open House!

This week we are discussing a few homeschooling specifics.
On Monday, several ladies shared how they schedule and manage their days.
Then, yesterday, a few of us discussed how we organize our homes.

Around the table today,
Marla, Aurie, and I are discussing technology and social media. 
How do you use technology and social media for your homeschool? 
What are the benefits?  And, how do you find balance?

"I use technology extensively for homeschool planning and preparation.  I create my own curriculum (I make some of my own activities and also use activities created by others).  In order to create my activities, I use Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, so I spend hours on my computer making activities.  I use the internet to find other activities to supplement what I create.  I have found that there are a variety of websites and blogs with fantastic ideas and free printables for preschoolers and have also found great ideas on Pinterest.

In our homeschool, we do not use technology much yet.  Since Abigail is only 3, she is still young for most computer activities (and I prefer hands-on learning to computer learning).  She does, however, use the Starfall app on the ipad as a part of our letter-of-the-day lesson and plays a math game on the ipad a few times a week.  During our weekly animal units, we watch 1-2 minute clips of the animals we are studying in the wild (generally on the National Geographic website).  Additionally, I use my Spoitfy account to access songs that are related to our current lessons (for example, during our unit on the continents, we listened to 3 songs about the continents every day).

As a homeschooling mom, I also love the internet as a means of connecting with other homeschooling moms.  Being a homeschooler can be isolating when everyone you know sends their children to school, so being able to interact with other moms via Facebook and blogs is wonderful.  It is amazing how the internet can make the world seem so much smaller and you can share activities and ideas with moms all over the world!"

"In the very beginning of our homeschooling journey, I swore off technology.  We used nothing related to technology. 

Over the years, we have slowly added technological elements to our homeschool.  Each addition has been planned and purposeful.  Using a computer based program, our children begin learning Latin in the third grade.  Next year, our oldest son, will begin French with another computer based program. 

Another fun application for technology has ironically been during our nature walks.  When we find something we cannot identify (because we don't know or don't have the right reference books along) we take a digital photograph of the item.  Later, we upload the picture and search through books or the internet to identify or classify the unknown item.  This has been perfect for large scale items and for those times when we have visited parks with rules about removing flora and fauna.

Because we live in a technologically based society, we have begun to systematically introduce our children to computers in general.  We have an old computer in the school room that is not connected to the internet.  On it, the children learn keyboard skills, how to navigate through computer programs, photo uploading and editing, etc.  Slowly, as they age, we will add internet usage and social media.

For me, as a homeschool mom, I use technology for various planning related activities.  The internet is a great place to research curriculum, resources, and potential field trips and ideas for our homeschool.  

Our local library is networked throughout the county with all the public libraries.  By visiting their website, I can request a library book, CD, or resource from any of the networked libraries.  This has resulted in a tremendous amount of options for books. 

Also, connecting with other moms through technology has been extremely beneficial.  Whether we are planning a play group or organizing a class for co-op, technology has definitely been a time saver and convenient way to communicate with other busy moms.  Social media like blogs have also been a source of encouragement for me as well.  Though I don't have too much time to peruse the vast array of blogs, I do enjoy and benefit greatly from those I read and the communities I participate in."  

"As a new homeschooling mom, I am always looking for advice and support.  Having access to twitter, facebook and email makes it easy to find help and encouragement right when I need it!  I've also found some amazing free resources online {and who doesn't like free!} which allow me to see what methods will work for Sophie and what might not be best for her right now.  Sophie doesn't use the computer much at all right now, but she's learning to. She is more hands on, so I think computer based learning will be something that might be nice in the future, but not for her right now. 
I balance social media by limiting the amount of time I am online.  I have 2 hours each morning before the girls are up/dressed/school, and then I hop on again during naptime/quiettime.  I also do most of my blog reading at night after the girls are in bed.  Also, I stay away from social media on Sundays - everyone needs to be unplugged just a little bit!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Feel free to join our discussion as we would love to hear
your opinions and suggestions on using technology
and social media in your homeschools.
By leaving a comment, you are entered in today's giveaway.

Today's giveaway:

a second copy of
Educating the WholeHearted Child -- Third Edition
Educating the WholeHearted Child
by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson

~courtesy Aurie~
This giveaway is open to all residents of the USA
and ends Saturday, December 31 at 11:59 PM EST,
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.
Winner will be announced on Monday, January 2, 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Organizing Our Homes

Welcome to our Homeschool Holiday Open House!

This week we are discussing some of the most frequently asked questions of homeschoolers. So far several ladies have shared how they schedule and manage their days. Today, Sam, Ralene, and I are discussing how we organize our homes. And, of course, we'd love for you to join the discussion.

I have a separate space for homeschooling-so that helps.  Everything school related lives upstairs and the main living area and my bedroom are on the first floor.  I am pretty organize-driven.  I love to purge and clear out things.  I also love to find new storage solutions for the things I do keep.  We use all the vertical space we can, and purge often.

We have an evening rule that the main downstairs rooms be cleaned up by 8:00 family time in the evening, the last clean of the day, but we try to stay on top of things throughout the day as well. The vacuum is run again at 8:00.  I like waking up to a clean house!

"The biggest thing that changed in our house is that we set aside a large chunk of the office as the homeschool area. We found a neat table that wasn't full size, but not like tiny-tot size either. My husband sanded and refinished it, and that's what we use to work at. I have a shelf that has our daily curriculum and work boxes on it. Then two book cases full of art supplies, books, workbooks, and lots of resources. We don't have a lot of wall space, in that room, so I bought an easel to hold a large white board, and on the back of the white board, I glued a world map. We did have just enough room to put up a calendar on the wall. 

Around the rest of the house, we've made little changes. The kids have a chore chart on the wall in the hallway. In the living room, there's some art supplies and books for them to look at/play with in their free time. In the living room, there's also a computer that we bought mainly just for homeschool and household purposes. It has learning games and internet access. The girls are still at that age, for me, where they don't use it without me, but it's still another tool that we can use.
Cleaning/organization-wise, I know a lot of homeschool moms (including myself) have a hard time keeping the house together. Very rarely will someone show up (especially without notice) and see a tidy home. However, I have developed my own system to keep things from getting too out of hand. It started with, and then I had to make my own tweaks. So, every room gets attention at least once a week (major traffic places like living room get twice a week)."

"We have a separate room designated for homeschooling.  However, we didn't start out that way.  When we first started homeschooling, we lived in a tiny house.  Our school books were stored on a shelf and I taught our preschooler at the same table we had meals. 

Later we moved to a larger home.  Once we purposed a room for our homeschooling, we arranged the space and brought in a few organizing tools.  We have multiple shelving units, with a variety of drawer and shelf options.  Learning games, puzzles, globes, maps, reference materials, and books fill our shelves.  We brought in a desk for me and one for the children's computer.  We also set up tables for the children to use.  A free standing chalk board and white board are used daily.  The electric drums and keyboard are in one corner, and art supplies are stored in another area of the room.

Despite a designated room, other rooms in our home are used regularly for school lessons, as well.  With a sink and stove top readily available, the kitchen is our main area for science experiments.  Each of the children's rooms has book shelves, and our living room and family room have baskets of books. 

For the most part, the children are free to move about the house as desired throughout the day.  Sometimes, they bring their bean bag chairs down from their bedrooms, and cozy up with a good book in the living room.  Other times, in warmer weather, they may head outside with a blanket and work under the clear blue sky.

To keep a full house clean is challenging.  Adding homeschooling to the day, and a clean house seems impossible.  For us, we maintain a clean house by following a routine and using a children's chore chart.  Daily, we strive to have all items in the downstairs rooms put away before dinner.  For our homeschool room, we typically clean it on Fridays so it is ready for Monday morning."

How do you organize your home now that you are homeschooling?
Are your rooms allocated differently? 
Are you keeping supplies in one area or all through the house?
Do you have a favorite organizational tool?
{By commenting, you are automatically entered in today's giveaway.}

Today's giveaway:
A Preschool Pack of
Transportation Counting Cards
(numbers 1-10)
~ created by Marla

This giveaway is open to all residents of the USA
and ends Saturday, December 31 at 11:59 PM EST,
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.
Winner will be announced on Monday, January 2, 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Schedules, Planning, and Managing Our Time

Welcome to our Homeschool Holiday Open House! 

This week, we are opening up a little bit more
about the details of our individual homeschools. 
We'll talk about how we organize our homes, manage our days,
tackle technology, and still find time for ourselves!
No, we certainly aren't superwomen,
but are simply sharing what works,
or doesn't work, for us in our homeschools. 
We hope you find encouragement in these posts,
and invite you to join the discussions
and enter the giveaways. 

When homeschool moms get together, several topics always surface.  One I've asked and been asked often is 'how do you plan your time to include all the tasks of life plus homeschool?'  Sometimes this question is worded slightly differently, but the intent remains.  Most people want to know how homeschoolers plan their days.

When asked, Aurie, Jessica, and Tracy responded with
planning techniques and schedules that work for them.

"I use a schedule that has some flexibility, but for the most part stays the same.  The girls get up, are dressed, have breakfast and play by 9am. {while they are playing I get the breakfast dishes washed and do any lunch or dinner prep}  Sophie starts school at 9am, with Bella still playing in the other room.  We break for snack time at 10:00am, and then Bella comes in to color while we finish up.  Lunch is at 11:30am, and the girls are down for naps/quiet time from 12:00-3:00pm.  Since Sophie is preschool, we don't generally do school in the afternoons.  We'll work on some crafts, some fine motor skills, or go outside and run around.

What really makes this schedule work is me getting up an hour before the girls do in the morning.  I have my quiet time, jump online to check email, blog posts & twitter and then get ready to start my day while the girls are still asleep.  This change has really helped to keep me on track!"

"I do my scheduling in small, adjustable blocks.  Our school year is 36 weeks long, usually beginning in early August and ending in late April.  (State requirements would come into play for homeschooling families here; my state requires a similar number of days and the same required subjects as public school.)

Next, I plan a month at a time.  Each month offers an opportunity for me to tweak the scheduled extracurriculars my children participate in.  My oldest son is in band at the public school, which has an already set schedule, but most of the other lessons and sports are scheduled on a monthly basis.

Each Sunday, I catch up on bookwork for our Farm and plan for the week ahead.  I have a school binder where I keep all our plans and papers for the week.  Each child has a section of the folder where I keep their work yet to be done, and a pocket where I keep their finished papers.  I check off items in the lessons plans as we complete them.  At the end of the week, I remove all the papers and file them (I also keep an item or two that is an example of their best work separate, which we then display at our end-of-the-school-year party) and place next week lesson plans into the binder.  I front-load our week, with most of our activities and heavy academic work Monday through Thursday.  This way, Friday is a short academic day with more time for whatever we need that week (catching up around the house, meeting friends, going on a field trip, decorating for Christmas).

Each evening, I set out all the assignments and materials for the next day at their places.  I also set out my own supplies, the read aloud books we are working from, maps and tools.  I like to set out craft items or coloring supplies as well, if we are going to have a lot of 'listening only' activities the next day.  I also like to set up a CD to play the geography songs, memory verse songs or math facts songs we work on.

I also use the evenings to look ahead at what activities are the next day, and pack the items we need to take along with us.  I also think about (and if I have time, prep ahead a bit) what we are eating the next day.

The most important part of my planning is flexibility.  If we are behind on an assignment, or something comes up, or someone is feeling poorly, or a friend needs our help, we can adjust what we are doing.  School can start earlier and end later (in a day or in the year!), we may push some work back to the end of the week, or we may work ahead if we know things will be busy the next day.  Having a general outline and being able to change it each day is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling for my family."

"We typically have a very structured homeschool day.  I plan exactly what we will do, and because my children are small, I allow for about 15 minutes per activity.  We use hanging file pockets to organize the activities.  Each pocket will include the worksheet, reading book, or other activity, along with all of the necessary tools to accomplish the task (scissors, crayons, pencil, etc.) I set a timer, and we work our way through the pockets one at a time. Sticking with a strict schedule has taught the kids to work hard even on tasks they don't prefer, because they realize it's only a short amount of time before the next activity.

However, I have had to organize differently this year since becoming pregnant.  For instance, I have become very flexible with our start time, often starting our school day close to 10 or 10:30.  And when I do have a rough day, we work only through the essentials and skip our opening pledge and calendar activities.  It's really forced me to evaluate what my priorities are for each day, what must get done, and what can wait for another day.  It truly is amazing how flexible you can be, even with a structured school schedule!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Every homeschool operates on a slightly different schedule or routine.
We'd love to hear how you organize your days to teach your children,
clean your home, cook meals, and visit with your neighbor?
{By commenting, you will automatically be entered in today's giveaway.}

Today's giveaway:

Educating the WholeHearted Child -- Third Edition
Educating the WholeHearted Child
by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson

~courtesy Aurie~
This giveaway is open to all residents of the USA
and ends Saturday, December 31 at 11:59 PM  EST,
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post.
Winner will be announced on Monday, January 2, 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom--Christmas Eve Traditions

Does your family have a Christmas Eve tradition each year?


For Christmas Eve, we always attend church service. This year, one of our daughters is singing the solo part for the children's choir song.


We also spend Christmas Eve in church. Often the children receive special gifts (like a tie or hair ribbon) to wear to the services, which they get to open before we leave. Afterwards, we like to eat at our favorite chinese take-out restaurant, but we actually sit and eat it there. Finally, we head home to set out cookies and hang stockings.


We celebrate by having dinner with my in-laws, as well as my husband's aunt, uncle, and cousin. After dinner, we open gifts and stockings before heading to bed.


We travel to Ken's grandparents and exchange gifts. Then we hurry home to get the girls ready for bed, and Ken over to church for the Christmas Eve service. This year I'm hoping we'll all make the service!!


Every year we make cookies and decorate them. The kids exchange their gift exchange gifts, and we watch Christmas movies. Rick and I always watch "It's A Wonderful Life" while we wait for the kids to go to sleep. We don't do Santa, but we always wait to bring the presents out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gifts We Give

The Christmas rush swirls about, outside, with the snow. Within, all is quiet.

We are Waiting. I revel in the freedom I have, as a homeschooling mother!

No school parties, no forced obligations. You know, the ones that add up to leave you all Christmas’d out by December 26th! It isn’t Christmas here yet. Nope. It is the season of waiting. Every day the excitement grows; everyday the secrets and surprises are built up.

Isaiah is furiously knitting to finish the scarves he’s making for his little sister and brother. Rosie is secretly earning pennies for gifting to family members.

No one is doing math, except the scanning of grocery ad sales as we plan our special meals. Oh, and paper airplanes and origami. (Ya, that's all math!)

I'm reflecting, as I wait for gingerbread in the oven to beep, over the gifts I'm giving my children this year:

I'm giving them a pressure-free childhood.
I'm giving them courage to explore the world.
I'm giving them a relationship with books.
I'm giving them knowledge and the experience of prayer.
I'm giving them a love of drawing, dance, and piano.
I'm giving them unstructured time to be. Just be.
And they need these gifts more than anything else.

Homeschooling is an amazing gift. It's given to me and I give it to my family.

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."
~Roy L. Smith

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beginning Again After a Holiday Break

Eight o'clock at night rang on the chimes, but I was still finishing up the day.  To describe the day as hectic would have been an understatement.  However, the day was not without some positive aspects.  We did finish a day of school.  It was sporadic and patched together, but a day of learning took place and progress was made.  There were very few complaints, and even some laughter. 

It was our first day back to our school routine after a ten day holiday break, and I declared this would not happen again. 

How do you begin again?  After taking some much needed time off for travel, family visits, holiday celebrations, rest, and relaxation, just how do you get back into the smooth homeschool routine you had already established before your break?

At our home, we have tried everything to make it an easy transition.  Some techniques and tips work well for us, other things, not so much.

Three successful suggestions I try to follow in our home are:
  1. Let the children know when the first day back to school lessons / homeschool routine will occur.  Our children like to know ahead of time, when their vacation is over.  Sounds simple, I know, but honestly some breaks I have inadvertently surprised the children with a day of school.  Though it was an honest mistake, it did not go over well. 
  2. Allow the first day back (or the first few) to progress at a slower pace.  There is always a few hiccups in our routine, especially after a long break.  We may not finish every lesson the first day back.  There may even be some lessons we won't get to do that first day as we ease back into the routine.
  3. Be prepared to review some lessons.  It doesn't work for us to jump back into our lessons without some review.  Instead, I allow for some discussion and review of what they have already learned and then proceed to the new lesson. 
These are some of the tips and techniques that work for us, and help ease us back into our homeschool routine.  How about you?  What do you do to ease back into your homeschool routine after an extended break?

Next week:
Join us for A Homeschool Holiday Open House
with encouraging discussions and fun giveaways!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Invitation for You

With the holiday season in full swing,
we wanted to share some holiday fun with you.
So, we are hosting our first
Homeschool Holiday Open House,
and we would love for you to attend!

You are invited
 to join us next week for

A Homeschool Holiday Open House
with encouraging discussions
and fun give aways!

Where: Growing Your Homeschool
When: December 26-31

Reflecting on Our First Few Months

I've been reflecting back on our first few months of homeschooling, and it's amazing how far we have come in just a few months! So, since this will be my final post here for 2011, I wanted to share what I've learned in our first 4 months of homeschooling.

10. Glitter glue rocks.  So do wonder color markers and washable crayons. 

9.   Don't worry about not keeping up with the local schools. The main reason I'm homeschooling is to NOT do the same things.

8.   Each child learns at their own pace. Do not compare them.

7.   Just because I think it's a wonderful idea to color code the craft drawers does not mean the preschooler will agree. {ahem}

6.   Craft supplies can be anything from a cardboard tube to a stash of colorful *bling* from my scrapbook drawer.

5.   Go with their learning style. Sophie is going to be interest led, while Bella {at the moment} is leaning all planned out {like me!}

4.   Take a break if you need to. There's nothing wrong with taking a fun day so you can all step back and breathe.

3.    Going with #4....breathe.  Just breathe.

2.    Involve others in your homeschool! The girls love it when Daddy is in charge of school.  Grammie Aury also did school with the girls while we were on vacation - it's good to switch it up!

1.   You are going to have good days.  You are going to have bad days. Write out why you are homeschooling and post it. Refer to it on one of *those* days {we all have them!} and remember that you are in this for the long haul - it's not a sprint.

Next week will be full of fun here on Growing Your Homeschool with giveaways scheduled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday! 

Aurie Good is a pastor's wife, a "retired" youth minister, and probably the most relaxed mom that you'll ever meet!  She blogs at Our Good Life with quips about life as a stay at home mom to two girly toddlers, two wild & crazy dogs, and one cranky cat.  She is married to her best friend and consider the simple life that they've created absolute bliss!  They are currently embarking on a new path of fostering to adopt medically fragile infants and are thrilled to see where God leads them!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Simple Christmas Crafts for Preschoolers

We LOVE doing art projects in our house!  I especially like the art projects that take little preparation on my part and Abigail can do mostly independently.  Thanks to Pinterest and blogs, I am constantly finding new ideas for simple preschool art projects.  Almost daily, we do one of these activities.  Today, I would like to share some of my favorite simple Christmas art projects for preschoolers.

Cutting practice Rudolph 

Handprint and footprint Rudolph 

Torn Paper Christmas Tree - you can't see it, but I drew the outline of the tree and had Abigail tear paper and glue it on top.  She got overzealous and glued too much paper!

Paper Size Sequencing Christmas Tree

Gingerbread House

Homemade Wrapping Paper

Cotton Ball Candy Cane

Each of these art projects was simple for me to prepare and fun for my girls!  

What Christmas art projects have you done this year?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom --- Christmas Break

Today, our panel answers the question, "are you taking a homeschool break this month and, if so, what will you do during your break?"

Since we will be traveling in the beginning of January, we are going to work straight though until the 23rd. Most of our school is Advent themed and fun so the girls are enjoying it!

Our plan is to continue our formal lessons through the end of next week. We will take about ten days off and start school again after the new year. We haven't made any definite plans, except a routine trip to the dentist and a birthday dinner (December birthdays can sometimes be tough!)

We were going to take the week between Christmas and New Year' off, but due to all the stuff we missed while being sick in Oct and Nov, we probably won't. I plan to have short days, though, just focusing on core subjects and Bible verses.

Yes!! We are off starting this Friday! We will still be doing our advent, and our daily memory verses, but taking a break until the 2nd. I will get some deep cleaning done, some blogging commitments, and 6 weeks of lesson planning during this time.

We will be breaking this Friday and spending time with family that we haven't seen in a year or more! I will also be getting things together for our next 6 weeks of lessons and trying to clean and organize while I still feel like moving; I'm heading into the third trimester of my pregnancy!

What are your plans for this months?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homeschooling With Pinterest

In my last post, Assessing Your Year, I mentioned taking the holidays to ponder on changes that you want to make to your homeschool. Today I want to give you an idea about how you can benefit from other moms.

I will take for granted that if you are reading this post, you have a reasonable amount of tech ease. If a blog idea has ever helped you, how many more may be out there that you are missing out on?
Google searches work-but they aren’t visually helpful. You may miss an idea all because the title sounds boring; perhaps the introductory words don’t sound like what you are looking for.

The solution? Pinterest!

Using the search feature, you will be drawn into rooms, see curriculum, be inspired by crafts and storage solutions.

You can also search for homeschool blogs. Pinterest addicts love to share their favorite everything. {I even used Pinterest to choose my latest haircut-I shared my board with my stylist right from my phone!} I prefer Pinterest to homeschool magazines. You can find everything there!

But you don’t have an account you say? I am sure you know someone who does! Even if you don’t-get your email to me and I will personally send you an invite.

Be careful though-it can be pretty addictive. Happy pinning!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Memories of a Homeschooled Homeschooler: the schedule

I have memories of my mom surrounded by books and tons of paper in the corner of our home that was her "office." Usually, she was either in the midst of taxes and bookkeeping or scheduling our homeschool. We went through a lot of schedules during my homeschool years, and like any great master, Mom was always sure we could do something better or more efficiently. Tweak this subject here, add a little more time there, take out this activity and move it to that time slot.

But we were kids, and school was—well—school, no matter where we did it. And I know we didn't give her an easy time, in spite of her schedule overhauls. Because of all that scheduling though, we did have time for a lot of really unique experiences that have made for fond memories.

As little kids, we did four day school for a long time. So as early as second grade, I learned how to take five days worth of assignments and work to get it all done in four days. Each one of those four days, I'd work ahead one assignment in at least one subject until I'd earned my extra day off. We loved those three day weekends!

When we got older, working ahead was much harder to accomplish each week, but we still plotted out our assignments and worked ahead where we could for that end goal: to finish school as early in the year as possible. When other kids took extra holidays, spring breaks, and snow days (in Texas, snow days rarely had the same significance as they might in other states), we worked tirelessly, though sometimes reluctantly, toward that goal. And it paid off. We often had the bragging rights of the neighborhood, having finished all of our school books in mid April or early May while everyone else plodded along for another 4-6 more weeks.

In high school, Mom's scheduling paid off significantly as she helped us plan our extra-curricular activities into our school day. My junior and senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to work part-time at our local newspaper office and have my own ballet studio where I gave lessons and planned performances.

Then, the real test came—college. All of Mom's hours surrounded by stacks of books and loose paper finally culminated in one great overall success. After watching my mom plan scores upon scores of schedules through the years, my first freshman college schedule was a breeze. Seventeen years old and 12 hours from home, I remembered all those lessons of scheduling and planning and breaking down large tasks, lessons that my mom probably wasn't always aware that she was teaching me.

And when I began to teach college English and writing classes, I was more often teaching my students how to schedule their time than I was tutoring them in the rudiments of grammar.

So for all of you homeschool moms who think you are "ruining" your children or their homeschool experience with all of your tweaks and overhauls to the schedule, take heart. Include your kids in the process. There's some valuable learning going on behind those wadded up pieces of paper.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Giving Begins at Home

I love a good surprise. My husband is forever trying to tell me what he got me for Christmas or dropping huge hints and, honestly, I just don't want to hear it. I LIKE being surprised. Even more than that, though, I love to give. It warms my heart to see the looks on people's faces.

Now, how to I teach my girls, 4 and 5, to have the same kind of spirit--the whole "it's better to give than to receive"? All I've heard this year is "I want that".

I have a couple of thoughts, but am by no means an expert. 

Ralene's Non-Fool-Proof Ways to Help Develop a Giving Spirit in Young Children (NFPWHDGSYC for short)

1. Make it tangible for them. Yes, it is important to support programs like Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, etc., but the fact is, the kids don't see anything that comes of it. They're toy gets shipped to some foreign place they can barely comprehend to a group of children they can hardly relate to.

2. Make sure their input counts! Let them help make decisions--what gift to buy, what kind of cookies to make, how to decorate a card/wrap a present.

3. The more hands on, the better! The more the kids can do to hel, the more they'll be invested in it, the more they'll appreciate what happens to it at the end. If you purchase a toy, let them wrap it (with your help, of course) and then make a card for the child. Let them make the cookie dough, roll it out, cut the cookies, and, of course, the best part--decorating them!

4. As you're going through all the different parts of the process, be sure to explain to the kids what you're doing and why. Emphasize the difference in needs and wants.

5. Have them give of themselves. Help them understand how blessed they are by having them choose a few toys of their own to drop off at a charity. Then take them to drop it off! Let them put it in the box and take it in with you. This completes the thought process in their little heads. It didn't stop with putting it in the box and Mommy hauling it off to Goodwill.

6. Of course, they need to see you model the giving spirit. The giving spirit we harness during Christmas time should live in our hearts all year long. When they see us giving of our time, money, resources, and when we help them understand what we are doing and why, the more they'll develop that same sense as they grow and mature.

Giving can be as much of a gift for us as it is for those who receive our gifts. So, get in the spirit, and watch as you light up the faces of many with your blessings this year!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Seeds of Wisdom --- Christmas in Our Homeschools

Today, we share how we are incorporating Christmas into our homeschools.
We are doing Truth in the Tinsel as well as Jotham's Journey.

We have an Alphabet Christmas printable book--we do one letter a day and talk about the different holiday traditions. We also have a Countdown Chain where each link has a different activity for our family to do together.  And not to mention the many different Christmas books we either own or have gotten from the library.  My girls are learning some carols, too. I picked one Christian and one secular song each week to learn. Last week was Away in a Manger and Here Comes Santa Claus. This week is Joy to the World and Rudolph.

We are using The Truth in the Tinsel, and talk about the Advent story each day. I'm trying to keep it low key this year, and so far the girls are really enjoying it!


We are doing the Coming of the King advent calendar and devotionals for our family time, but anything specifically homeschool will be spontaneous. I don't have anything planned into my lessons.

For the month of December, we are completing a Jesse Tree, learning some carols, and reading a great variety of Christmas books. We add in other activities when we are inspired and have time as well.

I change material on our coffee table every month, so with December came back-issues of our magazines and our winter or Christmas-themed books. The kids have been spending their break time or crafting time to work on hand-made gifts for babysitters, teachers, and special friends. This year they are making perler bead ornaments and soap carvings.

We have a picture book for each day of December. Our favorites are by Tomie de Paola. We also have a Jesse Tree book that takes us through the entire history of salvation up to the birth of Jesus. We read a story from it after dinner each night and then the kids make ornaments for our paper Jesse Tree. It is their favorite holiday tradition!  We always make some fresh ornaments for the real tree and use writing cards for 'handwriting' all month.


Everything that we are doing this month is Christmas-themed.  We are counting Christmas objects (nativity scenes, pictures of Santa, putting stickers on paper Christmas trees, etc.), using Christmas alphabet flashcards, spelling Christmas words, writing Christmas cards, and doing Christmas art and cooking projects.  We are also doing a Jesse tree, and Advent calendar, and giving a daily gift to Baby Jesus.  So far, it has been a fabulous month in our homeschool!

What Christmas-themed activities are you doing in your homeschool?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Meditation on Gentleness, at Christmastime

Once, my great-grandmother was speaking of the trials of being a mother of 6, to a minister. The minister said to her, “Dear lady, take the holy family as your model.”

“O yah,” she retorted, “them and their one!”

Just a little levity there, to get me started today!

There is a beautiful picture hanging in my living room: a young woman carrying a baby in her arms. This image is commonly known as the Madonna of the Streets. I only recently heard the story:

A young woman wandered the streets, say it’s New York City, and it is getting cold. It’s coming on Christmas. The woman is driven to distraction, worrying about how she will care for her child tonight, let alone for the next 20 years. And as midnight nears, and she begins to despair, Mary appears to her, with the baby Jesus in her arms and says, “Here, I will take care of your baby- if you will take care of mine.”

It is incomprehensible, the mystery we grasp at during this season of waiting. The Boundless, bound by a womb. The All-Powerful, helpless in a feeding trough. Eternal Beauty, wrapped up in rags, breathed on by oxen and asses.

He is given to us. If only we would carry His Image with us- everywhere!

One of the many reasons prayer is so necessary to a homeschooling mother is that I need to “carry His Image with me.”

When it’s 9 am and I’m already frazzled.

When it’s 2pm and a math book is floating in the sink of soapy water(?!),

The toddler is climbing the bookcase,

The preschooler changes her outfit for the 9th time today,

And my big kids are suddenly nowhere to be found- least of all at the table where I left them over their books 3 minutes ago,

It’s HIM I need to see before me…

BEFORE I open my mouth.

Prayer for me, as a mother, a homeschooling mother, who maybe gets 3 hours a week to herself, is how I knit the veil. The veil, of the child Jesus’ sweet face, that I (try to) throw over each child’s face whenever I look at him or her. BEFORE I open my mouth.

Because I resolved, as a brand new mom, that yelling might happen, but it would never become status quo in my relationships with my kids.

And I swore (through often-gritted teeth), as that first child and I negotiated that first year of kindergarten, that homeschooling would not change that resolution.

I had other mothers, homeschooling and not, tell me this resolve was ridiculous. That I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. That kids don’t listen if you don’t yell. But in my heart, it was never a question.

Gentleness is what God gives to me, at Christmas and every day of the year.

He is infinitely patient with my stubbornness.

He never rushes me, no matter how slow I am to learn his ways.

He gives to me, even when I am selfish with Him.

And He is the only Parent against whom I will model myself.

Every year as Christmas nears, when I see the babies in the mangers, I renew my commitment to gentleness. I use my prayer time to remember each child of mine, as a dimpled newborn, and thank God for these great gifts. I fail so often, committed as I am to gentleness, and I beg for the grace to do better in the year to come. I meditate on the patience of the Mother of Jesus, her humility, her quietness, her acceptance of the Will of God.

I want to give my children not just knowledge of God, not just the story of Christmas, but the experience of the gentleness and peace of God. And I pray for the grace to remember that- to see Jesus-

BEFORE I open my mouth!

“Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.”
~Christina Rossetti

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts For Homeschooling Families

Do you need some holiday gift ideas for a homeschooling family you love? Are people close to you stumped about what you might like to have? Here is a list of suggestions which would make wonderful presents for anyone who is homeschooling.

1) Memberships

Does this family live near a great zoo? A children's museum? How about a YMCA with free family activities and classes? A year-long membership to these types of local attractions will be used and appreciated year-round.

2) Lessons

This is one of the best gifts our family has ever received. Our children were given 'gift certificates' from my parents for any lessons they would like to try. It was a wonderful adventure just seeking out the different types available: ballroom dancing, water polo, piano, guitar, rock climbing, martial arts, gymnastics, ballet and horseback riding were a few that were seriously considered. One of my children is, three years later, still participating in the original activity he chose.

3) Books

Homeschool families love all things literature. Just make sure you are considering the ages of the children when you make your purchase. Most sites online will have recommendations by age. Nonfiction is going to be preferable - you can even ask the families what they have been studying recently. They will appreciate your interest as well as your investment in and support of the lifestyle they have chosen.

4) Outings

Homeschool families LOVE a good field trip. Is there a fantastic place they would love to go? An air and space museum? A mine of some sort? An historical marker with attractions? Find a way to help them go, whether it is passes to the location itself, a place to stay while there, or a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant.

5) Magazine Subscriptions

There are mountains of wonderful publications in circulation for all age groups of children. You will want to be sure you dig a bit before you subscribe - often the most popular magazines are not the meatiest. Homeschool families are going to prefer very high-quality content, and they will thank you for it every time it arrives in their mailbox.

What is the best gift you have given or received that pertains to homeschooling?

Christmas Across the Curriculum

Looking for a way to include the Christmas season into your homeschool lesson plans? 
Perhaps a few of these simple ideas will help...

Literature and Writing
a character study of Scrooge from A Christmas Carol offers a dramatic example of change
ask the children to write a family newsletter, or articles for one

devise a simple Christmas budget including gifts, decorations, and food
use sale advertisements to determine the best prices (find actual cost of individual products and compare)

interview older relatives, asking them about specific holiday traditions of their childhood and local areas
research Christmas traditions of the historical time period you are currently studying

explore another culture and learn how they celebrate Christmas
study time zones to find out who in the world celebrates Christmas morning first

observe various pine trees or learn about the animals in the stable of first Christmas
make cinnamon and applesauce ornaments, as they dry learn about evaporation

research composers of your favorite Christmas carols
watch a performance of The Nutcracker

do a picture study of paintings like Christmas Homecoming by Norman Rockwell
     or Christmas at Home, by Grandma Moses
find out what is meant by "a Norman Rockwell Christmas"

memorize and recite a poem like "The Gift" by Christina G. Rossetti

The Gift
Christina G. Rossetti

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
But what can I give Him?
Give Him my heart.

These are only a few ways to incorporate Christmas.  Please feel free to include more ideas in the comments.  I look forward to reading them, and possibly using them in our homeschool days as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homeschool Laws?

I live in Central New Jersey.

New Jersey has no law on the books regarding Homeschooling.  There is no call to register, no portfolio to prepare, no medical exams to prove.

When we first starting researching homeschooling, I was a little taken aback by the lack of legislation for families in NJ who homeschool.  I work best with a plan, so being given a clean slate was very scary to me.

After reading other state requirements and listening to some parents trying to get everything ready to prove what they did in school, I was pretty excited that NJ is a little more laid back.

A few months ago, a child in foster care who was being homeschooled was tragically killed, and the foster parents charged with neglect. I'm not going into the entire sad story, but this case has catapulted homeschoolers onto the NJ legislature, with new laws being proposed to protect children from being homeschooled.  The case is pitting DYFS against homeschoolers.

I'm not sure how I feel about the proposed laws. I can see the validity of having some guidelines, but at the same time, the wording in the proposed bill scares me.

Do you live in a state that is rigidly controlled? What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homeschooling Myself

When we first decided to homeschool preschool for Abigail, I thought about the numerous ways that she would benefit from learning at home.  I never stopped to consider how I would benefit from being Abigail's teacher, but over the past year and a half, I have learned so much!

I have learned about my girls - spending all day with them and teaching them helps me know and understand them more thoroughly and appreciate them more.

I have learned a lot about myself - taking on the new challenge of teaching my girls has revealed some of my own strengths and weaknesses.

I have learned about God - preparing bible lessons for the girls has led me to explore those stories more deeply and spend more time in prayer asking God for help in teaching and in understanding.

I have learned about cooking - doing regular cooking projects with the girls has led me to exploring new recipes and techniques that I would never before have tried.

I have learned about the world around me - we have done unit studies on a variety of animals and I have learned about the animals while teaching

While I never expected homeschooling to lead to learning for me as well, I am so glad that it has!

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