Friday, December 21, 2007

I'm Back!

These past couple of months have been the busiest ever! It's this whole time of year that always keeps me busy. There's Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We recently went home for Thanksgiving and for my sister's wedding. It was a difficult and fun trip. I got to see my sister get married and all the relatives I haven't seen since MY wedding! A big plus was getting to see some cousins that I hadn't seen since I was about 14. It was great!!

Now we are in holiday mode and getting ready to celebrate the birth of Christ. In-laws are visiting soon and I have to get the house ready. The kids are getting very excited with all the presents underneath the tree. Plus...what is Santa bringing this year? It's a fun time to spoil everyone with love, laughter, and fun.

Homeschool is moving along and I can't wait to be well into January. For now, we are having fun with Christmas unit studies and the usual MFW routine. I'm already starting to shop around for first grade materials...but that's a whole other story!!

I hope that you are all enjoying the season!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Funny Song for Moms

This is a video clip that all moms can probably relate to. I can hear myself AND my mother in this song!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

MFW: Creation to Leaf

I'm going to start documenting all the neat stuff we are doing with MFW. Most of the fun ideas already come in the Teacher's Manual, so if you never had time to look up extra activities, you would already have the basics set up for you! My kids thrive on always staying busy and they love crafts, so I try and add to the lessons in order to extend the fun. I will take note of any extra books that we read, although I tend to forget to write them down!

Please note that many ideas can be found on the MFW boards at: http://board.mfwbooks.com/viewtopic.php?t=50

CREATION
We read "God's Love Story" from Catholic Heritage Curricula to go along with this unit. We kept this time nice and simple and the activities from MFW were enough to introduce us to the curriculum.

SUN
  • Go outside every couple of hours and trace your shadow.
  • Make shadow art. If going outside, find different objects and place them somewhere above the ground (we used a clothes line and put leaves, a t-shirt, and some toys on it). Trace their shadows onto paper. Same idea for indoors. Just use a light bulb and get creative!

MOON

  • Make a clay mobile featuring a sun, moon, and star.
  • Make a paper mobile of the different phases of the moon.

LEAF

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

MFW

As we continue with our kindergarten curriculum, MFW, I'm beginning to add more and more to our list of things to do. It seems like the kids can never get enough of the activities that are provided and recommended within MFW, so now I spend some time printing new activities out. I love the Evan Moore Teachers Box website and Enchanted Learning. They both require a paid subscription, but you can get free stuff from Enchanted Learning. My favorite, however, is the Teachers Box.

Since I'm always looking for ideas to do for our weekly themes, I will start posting all the activities that we'll be doing for the week.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My Baby Turns 2 Years Old Today!

It's amazing how fast time goes with kids and how much they grow! Today, Anthony turned 2 years old and we spent the day at a farm. I felt horrible due to the weather being so hot and the kids didn't enjoy themselves as much as they could have because of it. We still ended the day on a happy note, however, as we had some friends come over for pizza and dessert. Anthony got to play with his friends and everyone had lots of fun.


Here is a picture of my little guy. He's looking so serious as we take a hayride on the farm to the playground area. Happy Birthday!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fun Video.

I came across this video from YouTube on the WTM boards. I thought it was great! Reminds me of life with children. Something all parents can relate to.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Our Family.

I thought this was fun! Here is our stick family picture.



Monday, September 10, 2007

New Baby, New Schedule? Not Yet.

Things have been going so well with homeschooling and the new baby. If anything, it's Anthony who makes homeschooling a little difficult. Having to keep him entertained while we do our lessons is quite a challenge and I find myself having to rotate toys a little more frequently than before.

So we are not on any new schedule for schooling. I'm glad since I'm not sure I could handle having to turn things upside down to accommodate a new way of doing school, housework, and everything else. Thankfully, we are moving right along! The only thing that has changed is my sleep schedule. But now that the baby is sleeping for about 4 hours straight during the night, I'm kind of awake in the morning. So I'm definitely looking forward to more sleep hours at night!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Grocery Game Update.

It seems that my game is off. After trying the Grocery Game for a couple of months, I have decided to finally give it up. It is definitely a great idea and well worth it in savings. My problem with it? The list only gives you 3 days to shop. It comes up on Sunday and you have until Tuesday to purchase the items before the stores change their prices on Wednesday.

I did do it for the first month and I saved SO MUCH money!! But I also had to work hard to save that money! Planning my week around grocery shopping is not the ideal way for me to run things around here. Add on top of that, having to go around town with 3 kids within a limited amount of time (have to be home for lunch and nap time!). It just didn't work. But I did learn lots and it was worth it to try it out.

Now I make my own list. Every Wednesday I check out the ads, list what I need for the week and what I need to stock up on. Then I just cross reference my list with the coupons I have available. I still work a little, but I have a whole week to do my shopping. In reality, I just never have been good with coupons and sales. I'm not good at waiting for things to go on sale and having to look around and scavenge drives me nuts! So, although I am using the sales and coupons, I still just buy what I need regardless. I figure I can save money in other ways.

Do I recommend the Grocery Game? Certainly! If you have more time and patience than I do, it will keep that money in your pocket!! Here are some of the things I was able to purchase and stock up on during my time with the Game.
  • Toothpaste purchased for about $0.33
  • Venus razors purchased for FREE
  • Several food items (veggie dips, milk, etc.) purchased for FREE
  • Mouthwash purchased for about $1

I made several other great savings on shampoos, hair products, and other toiletries. So I'm set for a good 8 months!! From here on, I just need to keep my eyes open and keep matching those sales to coupons (if I have time!).

Saturday, September 1, 2007

An Update on My "To Do List"

Since Christian has arrived, I'm proud to say that I accomplished so much more than I expected. I'm glad that my nesting syndrome gave me the energy to reorganize and declutter. Here is an updated list on the things I have left to do.

* Organize upstairs school room (bookshelves, school supplies, drawers)
Furnish school room with new bulletin board & supplies cart
Rearrange school room to better hold our flip chart, book basket, MFW files, etc.
* Organize downstairs school room/play room
• Get rid of couch
• Organize bookshelves and desk
• Arrange toys in baskets/bins
• Create easier to use arts & crafts center
• Create reading corner to replace the couch area (new floor pillows, book basket)
• Reorganize bathroom storage
Clean up outdoor toy bin (get rid of unused toys, balls, etc.)
Finish with decluttering and donating of items
* Reorganize master bedroom closet

Since posting pictures of school rooms is a much requested thing; I will post the pics of our upstairs school room by the end of the week. As for pics of the downstairs school/play room...I won't be doing that until all the organizing and cleaning has been taken care of!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome New Baby!!!

After much anticipation and waiting...our new baby is finally here! Christian was born last week after being 5 days past his due date. It was exciting to finally see his face and hear his wonderful little cry!

We waited and waited, and still no baby. I finally went in for my post due date visit where they did a stress test and an ultrasound. Everything went well, except for a couple of decelerations in the baby's heart rate. That is what ultimately sent me directly to the hospital for an induction. I was scared to death of being put on pitocin, since I've heard that contractions are stronger and more painful than with natural labor. Towards the end, I experienced the increase in pain and it turned out that the baby was facing up, contributing to my extreme back pain. But in the end, everything turned out well and I was able to survive without any medication. Labor lasted only about 4 hours.

Christian was born healthy and my mother was able to participate in the delivery. It was exciting to see her expressions as the baby was being born. She had never had that experience before and she was great in helping DH rub my back and get me comfortable during the most painful part of labor. In the end, she cut the umbilical cord and DH and I were happy that we were able to share the moment with family.

Now that we are home, it's nice to get back into the swing of things. The kids are loving the new baby and I'm blessed that none of them have ever been jealous of a sibling. Marco and Isabella are truly enjoying the big sibling roles they have. Anthony is still a little clueless, but is constantly kissing the baby and saying things like, "Aww...baby cute. Kiss baby." In all, we are truly one, big, happy family!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Accountability.

Well, today I finally had the opportunity to keep a promise made to my daughter a long time ago. For the past year, we have been attending classes at the YMCA. On our drive to the Y, we always pass by the Academy of Dance. For a year now, she has been asking to take dance classes and I have told her that she had to wait until she was 3 years old.

Now the time has come where she is old enough to take the classes and I am dreading it! Classes start on the 20th of this month! That means that I will be taking along a newborn to her first class. Luckily, I'll have family in town and I'll be sending them off to take her for her first class. The baby will be at most a week old. I don't think I can handle that right now. I'll be exhausted!

Anyways, I figured this was a good lesson to us that we need to stay accountable to our kids and keep our promises. I know that sometimes life might get in the way, but when your kids see you do everything you can to follow through, I believe they really learn something from it. I also feel like we owe it to her, since this summer was mostly dedicated to Marco's activities. Now it's her turn. We'll see how it goes!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Finished with MFW Creation.

We have just finished with our introduction to MFW. We did Creation and used Catholic Heritage Curricula's "God's Love Story" to supplement in our reading. The kids LOVED it! It was great fun for them due to all the cutting and pasting that they got to do. In the end, we created a nice little book describing all the wonderful things that God created.

This means that beginning on Monday, we will be starting with Lesson 1 of MFW. I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure that the kids will love it just as much as they did the Creation unit. We are still doing Saxon math along with all our other curriculum choices for phonics, handwriting, and enrichment.

Isabella began Saxon K and she is moving through it at a faster pace than I expected. I do anticipate her slowing down once we get into more difficult material, however. She also began Phonics Pathways and has surprised me with how well she is blending her sounds. She has been able to read some 3 letter words now without my assistance, so I thought it was a good time to start her on the program. Overall, she is really enjoying finally being able to do "school" with big brother!

Marco is also happy to have a new partner during his school hours. We have set up a file folder system where he picks something while I do one-on-one with Isabella. This past week he worked on his doubles and plus one facts. He is finally slowing down during his math, but I also anticipated that happening. As for everything else, he seems to be enjoying our time working together as a family and has even volunteered to help Isabella learn to read. It's really cute to see them together and reviewing all the sounds and blends!

I suppose having siblings be so close is a great advantage to homeschooling and I'm loving it!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Project Lists.

The lists I made are working (thanks for the idea to itsmejanet @ the WTM Boards!). I have divided up all the tasks I want to accomplish and they are actually getting done! It's great to be able to finish something without jumping from project to project. So far this is what I have done:

* Redecorated the master bedroom (New comforter, curtains, blinds, pillows, pictures, etc.)
* Organized the kitchen (Created a new mail center and organized the office cabinet)
* Decorated the top of kitchen counters
* Cleaned out filing cabinets by computer
* Donate all unused toys, clothing, etc. to Goodwill (this one took A LOT of time and several trips to the Goodwill donation truck)

It doesn't seem like much, but I feel like I'm decluttering and accomplishing something! Next on my list of things:

* Organize upstairs school room (bookshelves, school supplies, drawers)
- Furnish school room with new bulletin board & supplies cart
- Rearrange school room to better hold our flip chart, book basket, MFW files, etc.
* Organize downstairs school room/play room
- Get rid of couch
- Organize bookshelves and desk
- Arrange toys in baskets/bins
- Create easier to use arts & crafts center
- Create reading corner to replace the couch area (new floor pillows, book basket)
- Reorganize bathroom storage
- Clean up outdoor toy bin (get rid of unused toys, balls, etc.)
- Finish with decluttering and donating of items
* Reorganize master bedroom closet

TA DA!!! Not much, huh? Well, even if I don't finish all the list, it will definitely keep my mind busy! The good thing is that I have most of the supplies I need to organize, it's just getting to actually doing it. Just reading my list gets me all excited about having it all done!

I won't get into the projects that I can't actually do myself (all remodeling stuff). But they will get done soon enough, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nesting.

Today has been quite an emotional day for me. I am heavy into this "nesting" syndrome caused by pregnancy. I have 3 weeks until my due date and I am getting very overwhelmed by all the things I want to do before the baby is born. Unfortunately, due to my current size (not to mention having to tow 3 young kids around) I am unable to do many of the things I want to do.

Having vented over my stressful day today, I got a wonderful recommendation from the ladies at the WTMboards. Make a list, separate them into 3 categories: must do before baby, try to do before baby, and can wait until after baby. So here I am, spending my day making a 3 column list of all the things I want to get done. So far, it seems like I want EVERYTHING done before the baby. Hmm. Guess I will have to reevaluate.

I usually do get into this nesting thing before all my babes have been born. It seems like this time, however, the urge to organize, redecorate, and declutter has taken over me. It's been hard to concentrate on schooling the kids while I'm thinking about what color I should paint the room. I'm sure it can all wait. It just feels like the whole world is waiting for me to do something to it before our little guy arrives.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Schedule Posted!

I have finally finished my new schedule before my deadline!! I prayerfully considered all the choices and decided to go ahead with My Father's World K for Isabella and Marco. Isabella will be moving at a slower pace, finishing off within 2 years. Marco will be moving at a faster pace, since he has already started his kindergarten year. I am in no rush, however, so I will just enjoy the ride!

So far MFW looks wonderful and it will be so easy to incorporate our Catholic faith into it. We are going to continue with our Catholic readers, storybooks, and in September we will be going to our kindergarten and preschool co-op with the local Catholic homeschooling group. We are really excited about it!

I wonder if it's normal to keep revamping your schedule in the middle of the year. I suppose since I'm just an amateur homeschooler, I am allowed. It's so hard to find the right fit for your family in the beginning. Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don't. So far I think that our new schedule is going to fit nicely into our current routine. We will be keeping a lot of the stuff that we are doing now such as math, phonics, handwriting, and music. Once Marco is finished with the year, we'll be adding a more formal art program and continuing with spelling and grammar. But first grade is still a bit away, so I'll worry about that later!

If you are interested, take a look at our updated schedule. It's a fill in the blank kind of thing that has worked really well for me. I plan 2 weeks at a time and I have the whole thing set up in a binder that I had made at Kinko's. I use it over a 2 page spread which gives me plenty of writing space.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

As we approach the beginning of a new year for Isabella, I keep wondering what I will do to keep Marco entertained while I do one-on-one work with her. Not that he can't find something to do on his own, but I really want him to have some productive time. I decided to create a file or a pocket holder that I will put a variety of file folder games and mini-offices in. That way he can choose what topic he wants to do without me having to help him through it.


I started today and so far I have created an addition file folder game as well as a math mini-office. I have already printed out what I need to make a few more file folder games to add to the collection. I found some great websites that have all the information you need and I recommend that you check them out!

http://www.busyteacherscafe.com/mini_offices.htm
http://www.teachingheart.net/minioffice.html
http://www.childcareland.com/free.html
http://www.amug.org/~jbpratt/education/theme/filefolders.html
http://www.kn.att.com/wired/fil/pages/listkindersu.html

Hope you find them useful. Once I get a good amount going, I'll post some samples.

Dinosaur Unit Completed!

It's been a few days, but we finally completed our dinosaur unit! After taking a few days off from dinosaur activities, we had to extend our 2 week unit to end today. It was great fun and the kids woke up every day asking what dinosaur craft we were going to do. I don't think they even knew that they were learning in the process!

We began our unit with a study of "long ago." We made a poster-sized mural depicting the landscape and studied several pictures from books in order to get the background just right. Every day we added a different dinosaur to our landscape and learned a little bit about that dinosaur as well. Another concept we studied was that of extinction and the different theories behind what actually happened to the dinosaurs. It was fun to chart all the plausible and not-so-plausible explanations as to why the dinosaurs disappeared. My favorite? "Aliens came and put a giant bag over the earth and all the dinosaurs suffocated." I guess we'll never know!

I loved that all the books we read together got the kids asking questions and wanting to learn more. We were able to head outside and compare the size of a 50 ft. diplodocus to the size of each one of us using paper chains that we made. We asked questions and made hypotheses; then we tested them. How many of us would it take to reach the top of the dinosaur? About 14.5 of Marco. If the dinosaur was lying down, how many steps would it take for us to walk from it's feet to it's head? 43 steps. Exactly what does 50 feet look like? Really big! It was lots of fun! And the best part is that all the kids got involved, not just Marco; Isabella was learning right there with him and even Anthony got a good lesson in listening during reading time and following directions!

Our other favorite activities? Dressing up as paleontologists and then looking for fossils through the sand. They learned how to carefully use brushes to dust fossils off (chicken bones) and how to transport them to a museum. We also had a dinosaur hunt through the house where we followed the dinosaur tracks to a big pile of bones (made of paper). After finding them, they had to figure out how to glue them together to make a dinosaur. The list goes on and on. All the paper crafts went into the dinosaur folder and all the other big stuff got put up around the room. It will be a little sad for them to have to take it down this weekend.


As we reviewed all that we learned today, I realized how much kids can retain when you use playtime as learning time. I'm already looking forward to setting up another unit study for them. So far the contenders are horses and cowboys. But for now I'm not sure since we'll be busy preparing for the beginning of our new curriculum with MFW.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

What Happened to My Deadline?

So I had promised myself that I would have our Konos supplemented into our schedule in a week. That week has come and gone and I'm thinking that my thoughts were a little ambitious for what I actually have time for! Therefore, I am now extending my deadline and reevaluating what actually fits into my family. I keep forgetting that we will have a new baby soon!

I am taking a second look at all the curriculum I used for Marco's preschool and am leaning towards something a little simpler. I think I will be needing something that is planned out for me. I don't think I'll have a lot of time to schedule things the first couple of months after the baby is born. I still love the look of Konos, but now I am swaying towards My Father's World, which also uses a hands-on approach. The difference is that with MFW it is all scheduled and written out for you. With Konos, you have to do all the leg work! Both curriculum, however, would be tweaked to pull towards a more Catholic teaching.

So I feel like I have come to a cross road. Isabella needs to start her own thing soon and Marco is advancing. There will be a 2 year old to look after, as well as a newborn. Hmmm. I will keep researching and looking around. The good thing is that I now that realize I can't do all my planning in a week. With God's help and more prayers to help me on my path, I'm hoping to have everything ready by the end of July. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Kitten to a Good Home.

We are currently in the middle of a change. Besides expecting a new baby in about 6 weeks, we are new parents to a kitten! I'm not really a cat person, and we have been holding off on getting a dog until sometime after the baby is born; but this little kitten found us and apparently likes us as a family.

As we all were playing outside a couple of days ago, DH spotted something near the forest. I thought it was a squirrel sitting there looking at us, but I was wrong and along came this little thing of a cat. He quickly ran to us and would stop once within a couple of feet. He didn't look so sure, but was obviously unafraid of the children as he leaped through the grass to them. There is a stray neighborhood cat and we have concluded that this kitten must belong to her. We know that none of our neighbors have cats, so being the good-hearted people that we are (*smile*), we took the kitten in a fed her some milk.

We looked and looked and never found the mother or a litter, so we came to decision that this cat must go to the animal shelter. The kids began to cry after hearing news that we were not going to keep the small cat. So after talking about it (for about 2 minutes), we decided to adopt the kitten. I ran off to the store and got some kitty litter, food, and a flea collar. Now we are just waiting for an appointment to take her in for shots and a general exam.

How did we come to have a cat?!! This kitten is so enamoured with us and rarely wants to leave our sides. He plays with the kids and lets them pick him up. Marco had him wrapped up like a baby and that cat couldn't look any happier. So I guess we are a family with a pet now. Not exactly the pet I would have chosen, but he's cute none-the-less. Next stop? A puppy! Although when that will be, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's Happening/Our 2 Week Schedule.

So this week the kids are in Vacation Bible School (VBS) and due to the cold/bronchitis I now have, I have been banned from volunteering at the nursery. This has given me an extra 3 hours in my day to spend with Anthony and my thoughts on scheduling school for the remainder of the year. I haven't been so great in keeping with my routine for a couple of weeks due to slowness on behalf of my pregnant mind and the race to keep up with housework.

But I have stayed on top of our basics (math, phonics, writing) and we are plugging along. This week has actually been a great school week for us. It seems that since the kids are at VBS for a given time, we are crunched to get stuff done for the rest of the day. We get home at 12:30pm, eat lunch, and then Anthony goes down for a nap. During this time I enforce a one hour quiet time, just to give me some time to rest (I tend to be getting sleepier as my pregnancy progresses!). After the quiet hour is over, we jump right into our lessons. So far I have had no complaining or whining. It must be a miracle! We are done by 4:30pm, which then turns into TV time for 30 minutes followed by some dancing or music listening while I prepare dinner. By 5:30 dinner is done and we eat! It's great!!

I'm not sure how our transition back into school work in the mornings will turn out next week, but I have high hopes. I have the next 2 weeks planned out and we'll be busy from morning to late afternoon. This should be fun for everyone since we will be working on our prehistory/dinosaur unit after our quiet time. This means projects, art, and hands-on learning!! After our dinosaur unit is over, I'm not sure in what direction we'll be headed in terms of afternoon activities. I'm taking a lead from Konos and keeping all afternoon lessons to be hands-on learning and fun. It will make our morning seatwork more satisfying to finish since we will all be looking forward to something different in the afternoon.

Click on my link to see what my 2 Week Dinosaur Unit Schedule looks like. As you'll notice, I have left out some subjects such as music, art, and literature. We'll be taking a more relaxed approach to these until our unit is over.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Adding Konos to Our Schedule.

Being the curriculum junkie that I am, I recently purchases Volume 1 of Konos. Not sure if you know, but it is considered to be the "Granddaddy of Unit Studies." I fell in love with this while at convention and hearing Wade Hulcy (one of the creators) speak. It seems like a perfect fit for anyone with young children, since it is a complete hands-on way of learning.

The problem now lies in scheduling it into our own curriculum. For the time being, I am not ready to drop what we are doing and switch entirely to Konos. I am planning on using it as a supplement to what we are doing now. I am currently in the process of reevaluating what we want to do and then looking through the GIANT volume and picking and choosing the activities we want to incorporate. This is quite a daunting task!

I am setting a goal for myself, however. I plan on having this done by the end of next week. Otherwise I am bound to drive myself crazy. Part of the difficult task is finding something online to help me with the planning. Hopefully I will be able to accomplish this and then I'll be able to put it all on my schedule and show it off! Wish me luck!

We Are Staying!

It has been an exciting week so far. This Wednesday, DH matched into his specialty and it seems that we are staying where we are. We are not moving! At least not for 4 more years, after that who knows! I was a little worried and excited; but I knew that whatever the outcome, it is all part of God's plan. And if there is one being that I trust, it is God!

So now we can finally take a deep breath, and dig our feet in the dirt! It will definitely benefit us in that we don't have to worry about selling a house, buying a house, or even packing! Now we can look forward to more home improvement projects, updated appliances, and some fun extras. Not only that, but we will be able to get settled into homeschooling without having to worry about looking for a new group or get used to new laws. It seems that things just worked themselves out!

Well, with all my cheer it is difficult to see that there is a small downfall to staying where we are. I will continue to be far away from family. Something I've hated for the past 8 years. Thinking about all the moments that we are missing together really gets to me. I'm not sure why fate has kept the distance between us so far! But my only consolation is that we remain as close as ever regardless of how far away we are. It is in this that I know God's hands are at work. I have complete faith and although I miss my family dearly, I know that everything has a reason.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Camping Was a Success!!

We returned from our camping trip late in the day this Sunday. It was a great success! The kids had as much fun as we did and were upset when we started packing up our tent for the trip home. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Father's Day!

We were able to get lots of stuff done with the few days we were in the mountains. After getting off to a rainy start (it rained A LOT on Friday night when we arrived), we woke up to a beautiful day on Saturday! In the morning we enjoyed chocolate pancakes, eggs, and sausage. We then packed some snacks and headed to Linville Falls for a hike. It was great to have all the kids walking together while the dads carried the little ones on their backs. I was surprised that I was able to keep up and I felt refreshed after our hike was over. I highly recommend visiting the Falls as it is a beautiful sight!

After hiking, we visited Linville Caverns where we had a small picnic by the stream. The kids loved climbing on the rocks and eating on our blanket. I'm not sure they fully enjoyed the caverns, but we parents thought they were great and our tour guide did a wonderful job of narrating! It was also a nice escape from the hot sun outside, since the temperature dips to about 54 degrees once inside the caverns.

Of course, as we headed back to camp, Isabella and Anthony dozed off in their car seats and we let them sleep while Marco and firend Ethan played. All the while, DH was itching to get some fishing in and once the little ones woke up...we headed back out to do some fishing! It was great to cast out and the kids got all wet chasing minnows in the river. Unfortunately, although the fish were biting, we didn't catch anything. Tummies were rumbling for food so we gave up and headed back to camp.

We were lucky to have a great outdoor kitchen with our cabin, while the tent was set up nearby. Once we got back from fishing, we started the fire and had fun roasting hot dogs for dinner and marshmallows for dessert (Smores!!). It was truly such a great experience for the kids to sit around the fire holding a stick with their dinner/dessert on it! Their faces were beaming!!

Sunday began with another great breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, and toast. We packed up our tent after a while of relaxing and watching the kids run around. We couldn't just leave the beautiful mountainside, so we decided to head back to Linville Falls for another hike and picnic. This time we took the longer route and headed to the top overlook to get a better glimpse. It was worth the extra effort and we all enjoyed the views.

I'm extremely grateful that we decided to choose this as our Father's Day gift! It not only proved to us that we can head to the outdoors with the kids, but that doing this type of family activity strengthens the bond between us and creates lifelong memories!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Getting Ready for Our First Camping Expedition.

Tomorrow we will be off on a new adventure...camping!!! This will be the first time for the kids and DH; I haven't gone since I was a teen. We will be heading out with some friends and their two young kids as well. This is all a part of a Father's Day weekend getaway surprise, so the dads don't really know where we are headed. They are just in charge of packing the cars! The nice thing we have going is that we could easily be heading to the beach or to the mountains. But where exactly...nobody knows (except us moms, of course!).

The kids and I are really excited and I've been working on getting things all squared away with camping gear and food. We are not sure how the toddlers will handle sleeping in a tent, so we did reserve a small cabin where my friend and I will be sleeping with them. I don't expect any problems, but I'm still trying to prepare by packing some small comforts from home.

On top of our secret mountain retreat, we are planning on making a visit to some popular caverns on Saturday along with some fun hiking trails and fishing. I'm not sure how I will handle it, being 7 months pregnant and all, but I'm feeling completely wonderful and the thought of "roughing it" doesn't scare me in the least. Having medical professionals at hand is a plus and always puts me at ease!

For the time being, I'm making sure to pack extra batteries for the camera and some extra film for the kids' Polaroid. There will be plenty of opportunities to catch something exciting on film and I will be sure to post some pictures here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Year From Now.

I wonder how things will be a year from now. I got to thinking this while I planned our first grade curriculum. Not that Marco is ready for first grade by any means, but I like to have things lined up so that when we do get there I don't have to stress too much about it.

In one year we will no longer be schooling just one child. Marco will be in first grade and Isabella will be doing her own kindergarten thing. Anthony will be well into his "terrible twos," and we will also have moved from being a 5 member family to a 6 member family. How will our lives be different from today? Will we be a well-adjusted, homeschooling family or will we turn into a house full of crazy children (and adults!)? Will we be planning a move out of state or settling into the thought of living here for a few more years?

It's hard to plan our lives so far in advance. At least for me it is. So many things are going to be happening within the next few months that will ultimately affect the direction of our future lives. It seems that we have reached a point in our path that will put many things into place. Thankfully, we know we are never alone as we tread through these waters! Thank you God!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Strawberry Picking.




This was fun! We went strawberry picking not too long ago and the kids had lots of fun. Anthony decided that it was best to just pick a spot, sit down, and munch on some fresh strawberries! This is definitely something all kids should do!

History Project Revisited.



It's been a while since we finished our first history project and now that I finally got around to taking pictures of our poster, here it is! It was fun to introduce this to the kids. I think for a young child, the concept of the past can be a tricky concept to understand, but Marco did really well and he was excited with every project that we did.

Favorites for our personal history unit were the "Family Tree" and the "Places I've Lived." He also enjoyed picking out pictures for our time line and it was fun to try to remember things that happened in the past.

Our next move is to prehistory!! I think it will be twice as fun, as the unit incorporates lots of projects and dinosaurs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Are You Game?

So on a recent grocery shopping expedition, I decided to go ahead and use some coupons that were about to expire. I NEVER use coupons, mainly because I'm lazy and they seem like such a hassle. I do clip them on Sundays, however. I guess it gives me something different to do, but I always end up just throwing them away. This time I decided to use them and guess what? I saved close to $20!!! That's pretty impressive!

Now I'm determined to save a little extra cash every week. After hearing about the Grocery Game on a local news channel, I became curious but never actually checked it out. Well, today was the day I visited their website and signed up. I'm not expecting to save tons of money right away since I have to start saving some coupons. But after a few weeks, I should be able to put a nice dent in our grocery bill.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to cutting down on our grocery bill; and with all my savings, I can put the money into something else (like a nice day at the spa!). Interested in becoming a gamer yourself? You should check out their website! www.grocerygame.com

Monday, June 4, 2007

How Do I Keep My Littles Entertained During School? Here's a List!

So after struggling daily during our morning lessons, I decided to go ahead and invest some time in the ever recommended school box! I have heard about this idea from several homeschoolers, at convention, from the WTM boards, and from just books on parenting, but I never put it into use. Now that my youngest is entering his two's, I'm finding it more and more difficult to keep him entertained while we are doing our school lessons, but this has helped tremendously. I even have a box for my 3 year old (who is usually content with looking at books and coloring) in case she gets a little antsy.

If you are like me and have more than one preschooler that you need to keep entertained, I would suggested getting each child their own box. I purchased some cardboard file boxes at an office supply store just for this reason. You can have your kids decorate the outside with stickers and paint to make it really special. Make sure that this box is ALWAYS put away completely out of sight! This will make it that much more special to the child. It's a good idea to rotate the things inside the box every week or every other week. This keeps interest in the box fresh.

Following is a list that I use and I keep it with my lesson planner. That way, every Sunday when I write out our weekly schedule, I know that I have to rotate the things in the preschool box and I don't have to think about what I'm going to put in it next. Although many moms are into the scoop and pour items, I stay away from these just to make my clean up easier.

  • Wooden Puzzles (no more than 2 puzzles per box)
  • Lacing Beads
  • New Coloring Books (in order to keep them new, just tear out unused pages and staple them together)
  • New Crayons (I always try to keep the crayons fresh. It's a good idea to sharpen them or to melt old crayons and make new ones in fun shapes)
  • Ikea Train Set (or any other small set that doesn't require difficulty in setting up. Ikea's is small enough to fit all the pieces in a plastic Ziploc bag)
  • Shape Sorter
  • Books (make sure to pick some out that are ONLY used for the box so that they always seem new)
  • Color Wonder Paper and Paint/Markers
  • Magnets and a Small Cookie Sheet
  • Small CD Player, Headphones, & Fun Music
  • Peg Boards
  • Lace & Link (made by Lauri)
  • Fit-a-Space (made by Lauri)
  • Lacing Cards
  • Chalk & Small Chalkboard (you can get them at craft stores for about a dollar)
  • Stickers & Wax Paper (they can reuse the stickers that way)
  • Envelopes, Paper, Stickers, etc.

This list is always a work in progress since I am always getting new ideas. I'll keep updating in the future. In the mean time, I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me. Remember that older children can be extremely helpful to you! Get your kids used to entertaining little ones by having them read books or playing with them. Although my 3 year old doesn't know how to read words yet, she still enjoys making up her own stories to the pictures and then reading them to my 20 month old. It keeps both of them entertained for at least 15 minutes!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Planning. I Think I'm Addicted!

So this past week I've been recovering from "I Want Everything I Saw at Convention" Syndrome. Now that my list has been narrowed down and I have purchased most of what I want, I'm on to a new type of addiction...planning. Normally, I am a plan-a-holic. I love having my spreadsheets, log sheets, lists, and schedules. I actually even use them! I have my pocket PC synchronized with my computer so that my schedule is never off. I have my homemade planner sitting on the table ready to be me looked at at any given minute. My reminders for lessons, trips, and appointments are set to go off 15-30 minutes before the actual event...just in case I forget to check what's on my schedule for the day.

But don't let all that fool you! I am indeed the most flexible homeschooler ever. I know that my kids depend on a routine, but not an hourly schedule. I bend and flex things daily with school lessons, errands, and housework. But having all these things really helps me to focus on what needs to be done. It helps me set goals and accomplish them! Hopefully, as we go from a household of 5 to 6, it will help keep the flow going in our home. I counting on it!

The unfortunate thing lies in the amount of time I have spent looking for all these organizational materials online. I make sure that my online time is done only during bedtimes and quiet time. I don't like cutting into the time the kids have to spend with me or the time that the housework needs to be done. But overall, I have scoured through so many websites trying to find the perfect lesson planner or organizer. With all that I have found, I realize that there is nothing that is perfect out there to suit my needs. So what has happened as a result of hours and hours spent on the computer looking for the perfect planner and failing to find one? I have made my own! Of course, my own planner is ALWAYS a work in progress. I just wouldn't be me if I did something and never went back to modify it.

I've recently gone from using Microsoft Word, to the more recent Excel version. So far, I'm really happy with the outcome of my spreadsheets. I've incorporated a material needed list in order to help me when I'm planning the week out. I usually always forget to buy something (specialty size construction paper, jars, etc.) for the many projects we do, so this little extra has proved to be extra helpful. Included is also a reading and field trip log.

My conclusions?? Well, I have come across some helpful online sites. If you are interested in visiting the ones that proved to be the most helpful to me in my quest, just plug them in and check them out! These sites are not all inclusive to planners. Some of them are extremely useful for organizing your home and other aspects of your life. I often check back on them just in case I missed something. Of course, I will be eventually posting a sample of my own organizational materials. I'm here to help out any other planning junkie!

www.donnayoung.org
www.printablecalendar.ca
www.lifeorganizers.com
http://organizedhome.com/
www.librarything.com


Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Convention is Over!

Convention is over and I am so excited about all the information I acquired! I feel so inspired and our decision to homeschool has been definitely been solidified by all that we learned! I am so glad that I decided to attend the sessions this year, as opposed to just going to the book fair. I would like to thank my wonderful husband for all the support he gives me everyday in this decision to teach our children at home (and for all the support I get from his wallet!).


It would be nearly impossible to write about how many of the topics at convention were done as if they were speaking directly to me. I found myself close to tears during a couple of the talks because I kept thinking, "That's me! That's what I feel and that's what I'm going through!" It was pretty amazing to look around the room and see so many women nodding in agreement. I know I'm not alone! Even better, I was able to get tips from parents who have been down this road. Parents who've been there and done that, and many who are still doing it. The great thing is that many of the topics pertained to new homeschoolers like me, as well as homeschoolers who have been doing this for years.


A nice plus was the book fair. I was able to browse through so many books that I would otherwise be buying blindly online. I found all the materials I wanted to add to our kindergarten year and I was also able to purchase and browse through our first grade curriculum plans. Now I feel like I am an armed consumer, ready to purchase a plethora of new books for my kids (and myself).


I must end in saying that I really did come away from convention with truly useful information. Everything from helping myself and my household; to being a better teacher, mother, and wife. I even came away with a new perspective on how my kids actually function and learn. Overall, I had a great time and I'm glad I was able to enjoy without having to drag the kids through the whole thing.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting Ready for Convention!

As convention day approaches, I find myself getting more and more excited about attending! This will be my first official year attending, since last year I only went to the book fair. I'm looking forward to all the speakers and, of course, purchasing new stuff for the remainder of the year and next year!

So far, our year has been going well with few bumps; but I am looking to change some things and add some new material. I have compiled a new list of things to add to our schedule and I'm so excited to be able to thumb through all the material at the book fair.

The first list is things I plan to incorporate to our current year (and if material spills into 1st grade, that's fine).

  • Choreganizers (or other chore program for kids)
  • Literature Pockets: Nursery Rhymes
  • Beginning Geography: How to Use a Map
  • Beginning Geography: Landforms & Bodies of Water
  • Drawing with Children (to replace Draw Write Now)
  • Daily Math Practice, Grade 1
  • Math Memory Songs
  • Wee Sing Bible Songs
  • First Favorites, Volume 1 (to begin at the end of our phonics and blend into 1st grade)

I already have many of the things we will be using for 1st grade. When I see something that I'll be using on sale, I usually just buy it. This includes Story of the World and First Language Lessons. I'm still compiling a list of what I'll be using next year, and since we tend to begin our year at an odd time (between January and March), I might just buy things at convention this year. I'll post my tentative 1st grade curriculum choices once I'm done researching and scavenging through my resources.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Seatwork With Two Young Kids.

I love reading about this subject on the WTM Boards! It's amazing how different people's opinions are! Currently, my thoughts on seat work are changing. I firmly believe that young children need to learn through playing, drawing, and letting them run around freely. But I also believe that once they get to a certain age, they need to learn to be able to sit down and pay attention.

I recently read a quote that I really liked and believe. It states that "absent discipline equals absent learning." Now what they want it to mean, I'm not sure. But for me, it does mean that if your child is used to being squirmish and non-attentive, then that's going to make it that much more difficult for you to teach them. Eventually, all children need to be able to sit down for a certain amount of time without being constantly distracted. Once they come to kindergarten age, children should really be able to sit down for at least 15-30 minutes. This means that you can read them a book for that long and they won't get up and run away or start doing something else.

Of course, all children are different and I'm sure that other parents' experiences differ. I've slowly worked my way up with Marco and now he can last about 45-60 minutes on certain things. Examples would include sitting at Mass on Sundays, going to a movie, and on the more academic side, being able to sit through a math lesson. If after 20 minutes there comes whining and complaining, then I'm the first to say "let's take a break." But if after only 5 or 10 minutes there's whining, then I don't bend so easily.

It also seems to set a great example for Isabella, who is constantly asking to do "school" with Marco. It's fun to include her, but she still has a problem with following directions. I can't tell her to do something and then have me leave. I have to stay with her to guide her and direct her...which is a given, since she is only 3 years old. But I have always seen a big difference between her and Marco at this age. Maybe it's her personality or maybe it's that she's a girl, but is so more willing to please and listen.

Anyways, as the summer months approach, I will be making sure that Isabella gets some good seatwork along with big brother. I'm aiming to start with 1 hour total in 10-15 minute increments. I'm sure that by the end of the summer she'll be ready to jump into her own little "school" schedule and I know that she will be all the happier for it!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Our First History Project.

It's been fun as we've journeyed through the meaning of history with Marco. We just introduced the concept and we are working on the history of his life. Currently, we are working on a time line and have just chosen the pictures to depict the events that have been important (like birth, baptism, walking, etc.) and those events that he remembers (getting a certain toy for Christmas, sitting on Santa's lap, Easter, etc.). Children really are visual learners and this project is helping him grasp the concept of time.

Once we are done with our time line, we will move on to a larger time frame to really use as a comparison of how long he's live compared to other things. Hopefully he'll have as much fun doing that as he is with this! So far we've compiled some great things to put on our history poster board and we should be done with it within the next couple of weeks. Beginning with his life, we have made a map of places he's lived; a family tree along with a picture he drew of his family; a copy of his birth footprints compared to his current footprints; and of course, our time line.

I am not such a good planner for unit studies and happen to be one of those persons who has to have everything planned out, broken down into a schedule, and then I can do it. It takes me a while to get it all organized! But we are using History Links and it's giving me some great ideas and so far I am enjoying the program! I already started planning our prehistory unit and although the actual unit study does not include the study of dinosaurs, I'm going to incorporate them in a 2 week study. I'm excited about all the great stuff I'll be adding and I know that both Marco and Isabella are going to enjoy it!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

My Kids Need to Be Around Other Kids. A Socialization Ramble.

It's amazing how much conversation can be made by just mentioning that you are homeschooling your kids. Since Marco is getting older, people frequently ask me why he isn't at school. Actually, they ask him! "Shouldn't you be in school? What grade are you in?" At first, Marco never knew what to say, but now it seems like he's getting used to the questions. He always answers "I do school at home." Of course, that always opens a new bag of questions, mainly geared towards me.

Since we've made the decision to homeschool and since I've come to meet more and more moms, the whole socialization thing keeps coming up. What a myth and wrong use of vocabulary! My latest common comment is, "I couldn't homeschool. My kids need to be around other kids. He needs that socialization." Ackk! Does that mean that that my kids don't need to be around other kids or socialize with others? Of course they do! And they do!

I don't ask people for reasons why they don't homeschool, yet it seems like they are very adamant about defending their choice about sending their kids to school. It's OK...really. I don't want a list of why you send your kids to school. Yes, I understand that you could never do that. Fine, you want your kids around lots of other kids all the time. OK, you don't have the patience. You really don't have to convince me because I know that every family makes the choices that are right for them.

Sometimes I wonder if they carry on these conversations because they think I'm making the wrong choice. It really doesn't matter either way. The point is that yes, my kids love being around other kids and just because I homeschool them doesn't mean that they are being isolated at home. And socialized? Well, socialization by definition is simply a process of learning interpersonal and interactional skills that are in conformity to the value's of society. Do I think my kids actually need to go to school to learn this? Of course not! What could another 5 year old possibly teach my kid about being socialized? If you ask me, it's the adults in the child's life that really teach these values to their kids.

"Yes, but you are keeping them from learning how to handle things in the real world." I'm afraid to say that in the real world, you don't interact with people that are solely your age. I am really not interested in having my kids mold into what a big group of kids thinks is right. For now, I just want them to be "socialized" enough to be around all kinds of people...not just other kids their age. I want them to learn the real values of a society...not the values found within the culture of young kids and teens.

So please...don't assume that because I keep my kids at home, they are completely unaware of how to behave, follow rules, listen, and even conform to the norm. Don't assume that because I keep them at home they don't need to be around other kids. And please, spare me the list of why you don't homeschool. It really is OK (and come to think about it...I don't care)!

**This ramble is brought to you thanks to the recent outpour of similar comments made to me by strangers.

Our Garden Revisited.




It's been fun tending to a garden with the kids and they are amazed at how our vegetables have grown. Planting a garden is probably one of the best outdoor projects for kids ever! It teaches patience and responsibility. Once harvest time comes around, everyone is so excited to finally taste the fruits of their labor! Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for that to happen. Our lettuce has been growing so fast that we've been able to feast on many salads. The kids are so proud of their vegetables that they eat them like candy. If I would have known that growing a garden helps kids eat more veggies, I probably would have done it a long time ago!
For anyone just starting out, I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening method. It's easy and has high yields. We haven't had to pick out any weeds out of gardens yet! We also don't have to use a whole packet of seeds to get something growing, so it's a good idea to partner up with someone else and do some seed swapping. There are so many good ideas in that book! It makes row gardening seem like a thing of the past. Our smaller box isn't even on the ground, so it could be considered somewhat like container gardening. The larger box is still not completely planted and has about 8 squares left empty. But overall, I think it's a good beginning to our first year gardening with the kids.


Here is our larger box. Many of the veggies here were just recently planted due to the late frost. Hopefuly the plants will take off growing soon!













This is the smaller box by the fence. Things are growing here faster than I ever imagined! Our broccoli, however, is being attacked by fruit worms (as you can see the damaged leaves) and we are working on an
organic solution.












Monday, April 23, 2007

Our New Pets.

It's so much fun to surprise the kids with something new. As we were shopping yesterday, I decided to buy them their first pets. Now the last thing I need right now is a pet that requires lots of attention and looking after, so I decided on Beta Fish! The kids were so excited when we brought them home! Marco immediately named his fish "Vampire" (although I'm not sure why), and Isabella is still deciding on a name...she's switched from "Princess" to "Deeno Dino."

We'll see how long the fascination lasts, but for the mean time the fish are looking nice on our piano. Maybe it will be a motivator when we start our piano lessons!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Memorization and Recitation. A List.

We have finally made a list of material to be memorized for the year! Our goals are lofty, but if we get through half of our list, we will be happy. I've included poetry, prayers, and verses from the bible. You will find that some are in Spanish and others in Latin. We are planning on having a small poetic recital every 6 weeks or so. Thanks to all the people who helped guide me towards good books (WTMboards)! At the bottom of the list, you'll find some great poetry books I came across to help me compile the list.


  1. A Thought, Robert Louis Stevenson
  2. Happy Thought, Robert Louis Stevenson
  3. How Doth the Little Crocodile, Lewis Carroll
  4. Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll
  5. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
  6. The Purple Cow
  7. Good and Bad Children, Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. Cucu Cucu, Spanish nursery rhyme
  9. El Patio de Mi Casa, Spanish nursery rhyme
  10. El Barquito Chiquitito, Spanish nursery rhyme
  11. Various Mother Goose Rhymes
  12. Padre Nuestro
  13. Ave Maria
  14. Angel de Dios
  15. Pater Noster
  16. Gloria Patri
  17. Angele Dei
  18. Requiem Aeternam
  19. Anima Christi
  20. Signum Crucis

I'll probably be adding or even taking away some of these...all depending on how we do. I will keep this list updated as we go along. If you are interested in looking at some good poetry books for children, try these.

  • A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Honey for a Child's Heart
  • When We Were Very Young, A.A. Milne
  • Now We Are Six, A.A. Milne

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The List Never Ends!

It's coming close the weekend and another week has passed that I have failed some of my home organization and improvement projects. Our hallway bathroom stands half finished with only part of the wallpaper being down. We have been planning on painting it for a while now and redoing the lights, fixtures, and flooring. Although we have all the things we need to actually get the project done, the bathroom sits there in practically the same state. All I have to say in my defense is that I hate wallpaper and just the thought of finishing taking down the last of it is driving me crazy!

Our basement is another story. Although it's really already finished, we still need to carpet the stairs and finish the full bath. But since we need to call the plumber to do all that stuff and the carpet guy, we are just putting it off until we can get ourselves together to actually finish painting the staircase walls. Another thing on our to-do list!! As for the functionality of the room...it's working out well. It serves as our playroom and schoolroom. I'll have to post pictures of it in the future since I know many of your homeschoolers are always looking for ideas for your own schoolrooms.

As for the organizational matters of the home...I'm working on it. I would ideally like to get the upstairs bedrooms a little better decorated and organized before the baby arrives. Luckily, I don't have much to decorate since the rooms are pretty much done. Just a few more pictures and shelves to go in the kids' room, some new curtains, and a closet system for my room. Not too bad for the top floor. The kitchen, dining room, and living room are well taken care of. Besides needing some serious new flooring in the kitchen, the organizational matters are done. Now if I could only get my housework and schooling down.

It amazing how much you can actually do to a home. I'm happy with ours, although I know there are some other major improvements we have planned for the future. For now, I just want to get that darned bathroom done.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Preschool Curriculum *Update 3/15/08*

I have updated this list due to changes we have made to our curriculum. I am no longer planning on using Phonics Pathways for phonics or Who Am I? for religion. In wanting to keep things simple, I'm doing mostly read alouds and prayer memorization for religion and keeping with ETC for phonics (for the moment).

Math
Saxon K is really great for this age because its lessons are fully integrated with manipulatives. There's lots of use of graphs, counters, linking cubes, etc.; so buying the manipulative set is a must!
Phonics
We are starting out with the primers to the Explode the Code series. Although the letters and sounds of the alphabet are already known, these books help solidify that knowledge and make the transition to reading smoother.



Religion

The Beginners Bible is an all-time favorite read! We do this daily at bedtime and sometimes during free reading time. The perfect bible for children 3-6!!

The early years are full of play and fun. Because there is an older child doing school, many times Isabella will sit in and participate (this is especially true during science!). Reading time is always done together and I allow plenty of music time and art (gluing, painting, coloring, etc.). The important thing is not to burn your little one out before they actually really start school!

My Little Mess Maker.

My camera is taking funny pictures, but here is my little man making a mess on the table. Kids.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Updated Kindergarten Schedule and Curriculum!

I just finished updating our kindergarten schedule and curriculum. I've posted a picture of what we are using along with a small description in our curriculum link. I also posted a rough schedule of our days. Check it out and enjoy!!

Curriculum Page:
http://hfclassicalacademy.blogspot.com/2007/03/our-kindergarten-daily-schedule.html

Schedule Page: http://docs.google.com/View?docID=dzn4739_0j3szff&revision=_latest

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Freezer Meals

As I go deep into my second trimester, the thought of having a newborn and 3 kids running around while I make dinner is starting to scare me. I have now discovered something that promises to save me on those days when things are too hectic to even think about what to make for dinner. Freezer Meals! Some call it freezer cooking or once a month cooking. But whatever you call it, I think it will make my life a little easier.

Inspired by the idea of the Dream Dinners chains found all over the country, I went ahead and purchased their recipe book. I also discovered 30 Day Gourmet online. Now that I get the idea on what I can freeze and how to alter some of our favorite recipes, I'm planning on doing my first big freeze this weekend! Believe me...I need all the help I can get. Last night we had Dino-nuggets for dinner. It was so sad that not even the kids ate them and we all sat down to a nice bowl of cereal instead!! Yeah. It was one of those days.

I'm not planning on making 30 meals, but a smaller 7-14. I'm starting with some favorites and staples and then seeing how things turn out. I don't want to burn myself out on my first try. Since dh leaves for conference on Sunday, I'm thinking of enlisting some help so that I can cook while the kids are being watched. If things go well, I might just double up on some recipes once or twice a week in order to keep my freezer nice and full.

Dh is excited about the idea of having a decent dinner after a Little League game. I've been falling behind on dinner on t-ball practice and game nights. As much as I want to be and try to be super-organized with homeschooling, cleaning the house, watching the kids, cooking, and the kids extra-curricular activities...I sometimes fail. I don't know how moms with bigger families do it. I guess that in a couple of years I just might be able to answer that question!!

I will definitely post my freezer recipes once I have tried them out. In the mean time, if you are interested in simplifying your own life, here is a website that I recommend for those starting out.

http://www.30daygourmet.com

You can also purchase their book at any book store. Dream Dinners is another book you might want to check out. So far, it's easy to follow and offers some nice recipes. Regardless of what book you decide to get, it is definitely worth purchasing one for reference.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Happy Easter!

Now that we are in Easter season, it's great to look back on how Lent has changed us. I'm always inspired by others and their actions. I feel that I've learned so much by just talking with other moms about how they instill these ever important values in their young children. In the past, I think I would have been a little more relaxed about teaching our faith to the littles; but now I know that even the youngest child can learn the most important basics! Anthony, who is only 18 months, has been actively participating in all (or mostly all) of our prayers before and after meals for a solid 3 months; Isabella has a great memory and has been reciting all the major prayers for over a year now; and of course, Marco has been then prime example that children learn by imitating...he's learned more than I thought he could and he serves as a wonderful teacher and example to the rest of the children!

Faith is such a wonderful thing and it seems that so far, it has been the funnest and easiest thing to teach! Believe me...there's plenty of complaining when we do our lessons, but I never hear anyone say anything negative about prayer time! It's easily one of the best parts of the day.

For the time being, we are going to keep the Easter spirit alive. It's great to enjoy many of the things we have deprived ourselves of during Lent. Everything always seems a little more meaningful this time of year!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

My Life Revolves Around My Children. Is that Bad?

Recently, I spoke with a friend who is a new mom-to-be. It seems that her life if very active and she and her husband enjoy having their time together. This being their first baby, she asked me several questions about what to expect, what to buy, and things of that sort. I answered as best as I could.

The funny thing happened when she began talking about how she refused to be "one of those moms" whose only life is their kids. "Playgroups? Not me. I couldn't stand it! I need to have my own life." I held my breathe as I listened to her talk about how she was going to be the same person after her baby was born. It was while she was talking about her plans on staying the same that I realized that my own life revolves around my kids! But the funny thing is...I LOVE IT!!

I do playgroups, I'm a leader of a moms' group, I homeschool, I take the kids on trips....everything she said she would never think to do. What really got me was that I used to think that my life wasn't going to change that much after having a baby either. But it did. And the older that baby got, the more my life changed. Now that I'm on my way to having 4 kids, I would never even think to go back to my life before children. Dh and I love that our lives revolves around our kids simply because we love our kids that much! They have made us better people. They have taught us to love in a way we never imagined possible. They have made our marriage stronger and we love each other more because of them. They make God seem closer.

I do complain about never having enough time to myself and being overwhelmed with childish things to do. But if I had to choose this life over another, I prefer this life a million times over. Their little laughs, their sweet "I love yous," and the wonder you see in their eyes. I experience that every day. There is no better reward in life. And every night as dh and I go to bed, we laugh at all the wonderful things that the kids did and said that day and we always thank God that we decided to have children. Maybe that's why we dream of having more. Because they complete our lives in a way that nothing else can...in a way that only God can provide.

Monday, April 2, 2007

It's April Already!!

Well, it seems that someone forgot to tell me how fast time goes by when you have kids! I can't believe that we're in April already. I'm thankful that the weather has been so nice lately, however, and I realize how much I was looking forward to winter being over. The grass is green, the trees have bloomed, and the kids are playing outside nearly every day. It's great!

For the time being, I'm having to make a major adjustment to scheduling my days around Marco's lessons. I don't like falling out of routine since the kids are so much better when we actually stick to one. I guess that means a little less play dates and more "field trips." The kids don't seem to mind and it's fun seeing them blossom as best friends. I'm truly blessed when I see how well all three of my children get along. Of course, there is the occasional fight; but overall I love seeing them interact with each other the way that they do. I'm sure that when the baby is born, he'll mesh right into everything!

Now I just have to get ready for a big 5 year old birthday and Easter!! Marco is really excited about turning 5 and both he and Isabella are doing really well in understanding the whole meaning behind Easter. I refuse to let it be about an Easter bunny!! I must admit that they love reading their little bible book and it's helped me tremendously at getting some points across. Since it's Holy Week, we are also doing a little more than usual with crafts and stories. It makes waiting for the resurrection of Jesus so much more exciting for the whole family.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nashville, Tennessee

Here are the kids posing after our lunch at Cracker Barrel.















Marco and Dh are going fast at the go-karts!














Poor Isabella couldn't really see over the steering wheel!














My 3 kiddos enjoying some candy at Opry Mills and loving the shark.



We are finally home after spending a weekend in Nashville. My dearest husband (dh) had an interview and the children and I tagged along for the fun of it. Well, now I see the big deal behind the "are we there yet?" question. Marco was asking every 10 minutes. Being the home bodies that we are, we never really travel more than an hour away, so that question was never a nuisance. But after this trip, I think we are planning on staying closer to home when driving...at least for a while.

Nashville is a really nice city. It's definitely bigger than I thought it was! We got to do a little exploring and the kids were excited to find that there is fun stuff to do when you are driving around. In Music Valley, we took the kids to the go-karts and mini-golf. It was fun for everyone, although I think Anthony was upset at the fact that he was too small for riding in the fast cars! We also drove by the Grand Ole Opry...not too exciting. I guess you'd have to go to an actual concert to get the full effect!

Anyways, as dh was interviewing, I got to spend a whole day alone with the kids. It was difficult getting them out of the hotel because the did not want to leave...they were having too much fun playing hide and seek! But we made it out eventually. We explored the Nashville suburbs and Vanderbilt University. After driving around, I decided to hit the stores and do some shopping. We ended up at Opry Mills (which is pretty much like any other Mills mall) and did some serious walking. I found some great deals on clothing for the kids and we made a few pit stops at the candy store, the ice-cream shop, and the toy store. After our sugar high, dh called us and we went to pick him up. We had a quick dinner and then headed for home.

Driving through the mountains at night is not my favorite thing to do, but given that I get seriously car sick, I gave dh no alternative but to let me drive. We finally got home after midnight last night and it feels wonderful to be home!! Now I just have to do some laundry, squeeze in some lessons with the kids, plant some seeds in our new garden box, go grocery shopping, and hopefully get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Garden Phase I is Done!



Whew! Our first 4x4 box is finally done. The box is in place, the dirt has been put in, and the veggies have been planted! I even put a little plastic fence around it to keep the rabbits and other critters out. We'll see how that goes, but so far we have had no problems. The pictures above are the same box, just different angles.

Here is what we planted in our box. Column 1 (on the left in the picture) is romaine lettuce (8 total heads) and onions (24 total of those). Column 2 is broccoli (1 per square). Column 3, top square are seeds that I planted today of rhubarb (4). In the second square I planted spinach seeds (9), the third it's cilantro, and then I have rosemary in the last square. The final column has a tomato plant in the top square followed by 2 squares of corn that I just planted today (the seeds). The last square has bush beans (9).
Hopefully my seeds will sprout and I'll be successful with those plants. So far my other plants look pretty good and the kids and I are really excited. This upcoming week we are planning to soil and plant our 4x8 box. I'll post those pictures once it's done.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Our Garden Is Almost Done!


We finally finished the boxes for our Square Foot Garden. The kids were a great help in building them and have been interested in every step of our planning. Marco did the nailing, Isabella helped with measuring, and I did all the cutting and drilling. We made two 4x4 boxes and what we finally decided to do is to place one of them on the slope by the fence (we made a bottom for that one), and the other we actually are going to convert it into a sandbox.

Since the current sandbox is next to the driveway, it would look much nicer as a garden. It measures 4x8, so there would be lots of space for planting. The kids don't need such a huge play area (and I don't need so much sand to clean!), so we are exchanging boxes. They happily agreed after we convinced them that having a sandbox by the swing set will be so much more fun.

Our next step is to fill the boxes with dirt and then plant. I'm planning on finishing this by Wednesday. We'll see if it gets done. Tomorrow I'm going to Lowe's to get our stuff. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and warm up a bit. I'll be posting pictures as soon as this little project is done. I can't wait to start getting my hands in some nice, organic soil!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Our Kindergarten Curriculum

Here are the basics of our Kindergarten curriculum and schedule. We are doing year-round schooling and typically do a Monday to Friday schedule. Be sure to check back as I will be adding readers and other books as we finish the current list.

Math
Saxon 1: We decided to do this grade level after taking the placement test. We also use the manipulative set made to accompany the math series. Although many decide to skip out on the math meeting book included in the homeschool kit, we use it daily to solidify calendar skills and practice other math skills.


Phonics
Explode the Code: We used the primers A-C as a review before starting on book 1. So far they are favorites and we tend to move at a slower pace in them in order to let our phonics lessons really sink in. We are averaging about 3 pages per week, although at times we may do one more or one less. I think it's a good idea to take a placement test if you are not sure where to start with the books. Although Book 1 is recommended for first grade, it seems completely doable for kindergarten. I really recommend these books to anyone looking to supplement their phonics program!



Phonics Pathways: After spending a long time looking at different programs, we finally settled on Phonics Pathways and we are loving it! We are working through this book daily. Sometimes we might spend more time on a page reviewing and other times we might do more than one page per day.



Bob Books: We will be using these to start out and then progress into something a little more advanced. So far, these books are great because your child can actually read a whole book all by himself after only a few lessons of Phonics Pathways! They are great confidence boosters!





Handwriting
Handwriting Without Tears: This is a great handwriting program that is very gentle and fun! We have been using it since preschool and we love that it works by using not only notebooks, but manipulatives as well. We work on a minimum of one row of letters per day, depending on the difficulty of the letter.



Religion
Who Am I? (Image of God Series): This program is intended for children ages 3-5. It offers such a gentle approach to teaching religion that we've been enjoying it since preschool. The program includes a teacher's manual that is full of stories and crafts to correspond with each lesson. There are also special sections to correlate with the liturgical calendar (advent, lent, Easter, etc.). The kindergarten workbook is fun and easy...mostly coloring, cutting, and pasting. We enjoy doing one lesson per week, alternating workbook pages with crafts.




God's Love Story: This is another exclusive from Catholic Heritage Curricula. The book covers all of creation through the birth of Christ and beyond. It is in a coloring book format, which is great because your child can color a couple of pages per week as your read along. We tend to read this book in sections once a week.


Beginners Bible by Zonderkidz: This is a super easy book to read to your kids! We have been enjoying it for a few years already. We read this daily before bed and it's always a struggle to stop because the kids enjoy it so much that they always want us to keep reading. It is also often their book of choice during our free reading time. They love the pictures and the stories!




The Catholic Children's Bible: This bible is a wonderful read during morning prayer time or after church on Sunday. The language is a little more advanced than The Beginners Bible, so I choose a reading to go with what we learn on Sunday.




Fine Arts
Drawing With Children: I just currently changed our art curriculum from Draw, Write, Now to Drawing with Children. After reading several reviews, I thought the this new book would fit our needs nicely. So far, I'm very impressed and am looking forward to teaching my kids the fundamentals of being able to draw and create their own works. I haven't created lesson plans on my own for this, but I'm planning on using the weekly plans on Paula's Archives (http://www.redshift.com/~bonajo/dwclp.htm).




How to Introduce Your Child to Classical Music in 52 Lessons: This program is new to our kindergarten schedule and we love it so far! We cover one lesson per week, which mainly consists of an introduction to a piece (such as Peter and the Wolf) and then we listen to the same piece every day. Sometimes we accompany what we are studying with picture books or other recommended material.



Music for Little Mozarts: I had been waiting to start this piano instruction curriculum and it comes highly recommended! It is definitely a gentle and fun start to piano and we are enjoying it. Once we finish with book 1, we are planning on starting piano lessons with a private instructor and possibly continuing with the series.




History, Geography
History Links: This is a great Catholic-based, unit study curriculum. I like that I can use it from preschool to high school if I wanted to. The books are set up so that you can teach to children at different levels at the same time. My plan is to cover the General Studies book and Creation book this year before we go into our classical approach to history in first grade. It does take a little more preparation time than many of the other history programs I researched, but I really liked the flexibility of the program. We are doing this on a daily basis, although some days are a lot more relaxed than others.








Science
We are taking a very laid back approach to science during kindergarten. Although we are doing simple science experiments from Mudpies to Magnets and More Mudpies to Magnets, this is not a weekly thing. Mostly we are reading books, taking nature walks, maintaining a garden, and visiting plenty of science museums. On a monthly basis (only through May and starting again in September) we visit SciWorks for homeschool classes on different subjects.


Literature Enrichment
Literature Pockets: This quickly has become the favorite part of our schooling! We are beginning with Nursery Rhymes and then going into Fairy Tales for our kindergarten year. I highly recommend it to anyone! We are doing this on a weekly basis, 4 times a week. If possible, I think that the kids would sit around the table making stuff for their pockets all day long!