Thursday, April 29, 2010

No longer going to be using a spelling program

Well, so far this year we've tried 4 different spelling programs for my 8 year old and we are only 5 months into the school year. None of them were a success, meaning a lesson would start or end in tears. I'm not the kind of Mom that will push on through and say "keep on going". I want school to be enjoyable, even spelling.

I've never done a formal spelling program with her and this year was our first attempt. This is my least favorite subject this year I think.

Spelling Wisdom was mentioned by another Mom. So I was reading at today and watched the lovely video they have there on Spelling Wisdom and how to present a "lesson". What an amazing way to do spelling. Also they mention not starting until a child is 10. Well that makes so much sense to me especially given that many approaches have not worked here. And I think her not being ready is the key to what we have been up against all along.
She is going to keep a spelling journal of words that come up that she asks me how to spell. He reading is fantastic and I can only imagine how far spelling will come all on it's own by the time she is 10. She will still do daily copywork and one page of Climbing to Good English per day.

For anyone who has had a spelling struggle, I would encourage you to look over Spelling Wisdom. You can see samples. And watch the video.

So spelling struggles.... closed. : )

Monday, April 26, 2010

File folder games

I just made some file folder games for my son that I created from posters that I ordered from Rainbow Resource. The posters were $1.50 each.


Please spare some time to remember this family...

Today I spent the day with my own family, we shopped, had lunch, enjoyed time together.
I sat down while nursing Ember (soon to be 12 months) and clicked on the Sonlight forum tab to read.
A message was on top of the Sonlight forum, saying Sonlight's forum family remembers baby Gracie Lou. I clicked on the link to read about Gracie Lou and with that first glimpse, I began to weep. I called my husband and children in to hear about Gracie Lou. And we all cried for this small baby who fought for her 10 days of life and her family who mourns her. She is the grandaughter of John and Sarita, the creators of Sonlight curriculum.
As I read on, I held my now sleeping baby tighter and my husband and I reflected how our day was spent in normalcy and joy verses that of this family as they lost their own daughter.
We had been in shoes similar in praying for the life of our own daughter Skylar when she was two and awaiting a new liver.

Please offer a prayer for this family.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I found some great inexpensive copywork for my girls that I wanted to share

  Skylar is using: My First Ancient History Copybook I purchased the file download for $3.00 but you can get a hard copy of it for under $9.00

Summer is using McGuffey Primer Copybook which I purchased from as a file download for $4.50. It's normally $9 so this was a good deal.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Self directed homeschooling is working so very well

What an amazing year we are having so far.
Skylar (8) is reading so much, every time I turn around she is happily reading a book to herself. Oh what a joy to see this. Last year she hated reading. The change has been amazing in her.

She is reading so much on her own. But for school time reading (which she can do anytime) she chooses a book that is science, history or literature. All living books, from either Sonlight, Robinson, Ambleside online, Heart of Dakota or something I have found on my own and added to her "school reading" shelf. So far history wise she has read about Queen Elizabeth, King Tut and George Washington. We put them on the Sonlight book of time together. She reads one book all the way through. When she is done the book, she does one notebook page about the book. She draws pictures of something from the book and narrates to me. I then write in the page her narration.

We are going to be trying a new spelling and English, later today I think, waiting on those to arrive. So far finding a nice spelling has not been easy. Some of the programs are so dry and boring, others too teacher and time intensive. So fingers crossed we hit gold with the next one. This is our first year doing a spelling program.

She is doing copywork 4 days per week, a writing journal once per week, writing to penpals and making phone calls to distant family members. She has also taken over reading science to my 6 year old and then each of them notebooks about that.

For Math, she does her math very independently. I am available, watch the MUS dvd lesson when there is a new lesson with her, then we do samples and onto the pages. She also does the 2 plus 2 is not five pages as well. She is now doing a lesson on doubles in MUS and said "I learned all this already in 2 Plus 2". So she loved that.

She said this is her best school year ever. (This is her 6th year). So that is great to hear.

My 6 year old also does much of her schooling on her own without my direct input. She reads to herself (once a week to me out loud), does 2 pages of Explode the Code, her math is the same as how my 8 year old does it. She is not reading history, science or literature on her own yet. Once her reading is stronger she will take on doing that as well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On the go workboxes

So I needed a bit of a more compact system than I originally started with. I have those pictures up already. But I needed a bit more function as far as the file boxes I selected being able to hold not only the schedule strip but also a place for completed work, what goes in which workbox on each day, and pockets to hold the number cards from the schedule strip, file pocket and any picture/written cards.

This is what our math work folder looks like. Each of the girls has one for their math. I stick a number to one of the outer corner velcro coins and it does in the box as is. Inside each pocket is labeled with the day name of the week. I velcro a bag of the MUS blocks to the front for ease of use. I ask the kids to put the page back where it came from in the folder and then I check all work when the entire box is done. 

Here are some things I did for my 3 year olds boxes. I opted to give him a more compact system as well. 


Here is a sample of the notebook pages my 8 year old does after she has finished reading one of her history books or science books (these are from Bare books):

Here is one of the things Decklin has in his workbox that we created from bingo markers and lids from the laughing cow cheese wedge containers. The girls colored the lids for his sorting activity as part of one of their workboxes one day:

Here's a link up for Homegrown Mom who has a very neat blog with workbox info: 
Homegrown Mom

A fun day in the snow.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: our snowfall and some pics of kids
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I had shared pictures from my iphone before but these are from my digital camera, better quality.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two incomes down to one

I've had some emails recently from Mom's asking how on earth to go from two incomes down to one. I'm no expert on this. I can only share that it has worked for our family. And going from two incomes to one was not planned, but just sort of fell into our laps.

I am a college graduate and worked full time in my chosen profession up until October of my first pregnancy. It was very soon after the 9/11 tragedy and the company I was working for at the time was having to undergo a huge change. My boss didn't want to upset me at that stage of my pregnancy so called my husband and asked him to "let me go". Quite odd being "fired" by your own husband. I freaking out. But Bryon assured me that we would be okay. I was scared to death, but you know what..... we were okay. It's amazing how well you can buckle down when you just have to buck up and do it. We had no money in savings as a cushion. My losing my job has ended up being one of the greatest blessings.  Once I held my first daughter there was no way I could imagine leaving her even if it was only 4 days per week with my husband.
At that time of my losing my job, we had just downsized to a smaller apartment with a smaller rent, with the goal of saving for our first home, so thankfully less money going toward rent was already in place. Next thing we did was to sell my mustang a few months down the line, as it was not very user friendly for a growing family and we didn't want that $330 car payment. Since we didn't need two cars as I didn't need a vehicle to get to and from work, we went to one vehicle for a while. Of course we had to tighten our belts. Christmas we had a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and simple gifts. But we had our first baby, we were happy and I was able to be home with our baby full time, that was a great gift to our newly growing family for sure.

After a short time we moved to a new construction condo that we were able to purchase for very little money out of pocket, which was one of the main motivators for us in that move. I'm sure not the way Dave Ramsey would have told us to go into it, if we had been following Dave Ramsey back then that is, but we needed to be out of the small apartment and wanted to own for tax reasons. It was a good move for our family. We were very happy there. A chance purchase on a large single family home came up and we opted to pursue that and sell our condo. Since the condo we have moved twice. Once to our first single family home and then again to our present home.

As of a few weeks ago, we have no debt now except for our mortgage, thanks to reading Dave Ramsey's total money make over and putting his steps into practice. Folks we read about in his book and on his website were truly inspiring. Folks with a lot less income and a lot more debt than us becoming debt free, it was a great motivator.
We are also able to:
-Have money in the bank for emergencies. A cushion we had not had before.
-We save for things we want.
- Vacations are not crazy ones, simple but yet fun and we fund those from a small portion of our tax return and earmark that money aside just for vacation.
- Out of paychecks we set aside money for gifts for birthdays and holidays, and try to keep the focus for our kids on the meaning of holidays and the times spent as a family verses a focus on how many gifts under the tree.
-We do not have car payments. We do have two vehicles. One which is better on gas to travel back and fourth for my husband to and from work, the other a family vehicle that holds us all.
-We grocery shop with a set food budget, presently it's $300 bi-weekly. Though I might bump this up to $350 since food prices seem to be on the rise a bit. I make homemade desserts and treats on the weekend, none on the week days unless they are left over from the weekend.
-We use Dave Ramsey's zero based budget system (meaning each paycheck that comes in we assign each penny to something).
-We also use his envelope system for some of our monthly expenses. I don't use actual envelopes because things like getting gas here are much easier on a debit card. So we use large size index cards on a book ring, each card has a title for what it is, Gift fund, groceries, Bry's work money, gas money, etc. I keep a tally on the card with the date of how much is there in the bank for each. I know Dave Ramsey prefers cash but this is working for us so I'm not fixing what isn't broken.
-We set aside money for clothing, and when we need to shop, it's there.
-We have money set aside for retirement and continue to contribute to that.
-We have health benefits, life insurance, etc... already in place.
-We do have satellite TV, though a bare bones package and prefer to use Netflix which is super cheap and fantastic, we can watch many things instantly through our xbox 360 or Wii or computers. We do have our cell phones but use those for long distance as well so that covers the price we'd pay for home phone long distance fees.
We could cut the cell phones, TV and netflix but we are doing okay so keeping them is in our budget. But we'd cut all that if I had to without blinking an eye if any of that was keeping me from being home with the kids. We'd also downsize our home/mortgage if it meant being able to have me home with the kids.
-We also live on 8% less income less than my husband's actual paycheck. So the actual income that comes in for now goes to our emergency fund, next it will go to our mortgage. He will lose the 8% in June so we will already be well adjusted living on this lesser amount. It feels much better and we feel more secure knowing that we can live without that money when the time comes.
-I make everything from scratch. We use organic milk, fresh produce, not huge on buying red meat, don't really use much in the way of canned food items. I use cloth diapers which do save tons of money. Though I'll admit to doing both those more for health reasons verses money saving benefits.
-We also use all eco friendly personal care products which are funded in our budget. Cost is the same as other products.
-I make our laundry detergent which is fun and easy and make homemade cleaners (these things are fun for me, better for health and also do save us money).
-We use cloth cleaning wipes and cloth napkins so paper towel use is minimal and we don't buy paper napkins or paper plates.
-The kids each use colored coded Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles verses using glasses or paper cups. This has cut down so much on how many glasses are in the dishwasher, now it's far fewer than before and the kids do tend to drink more. I really only give the kids water or milk (milk non in the kanteen). We don't really do soda's or juices except once in awhile.

I think that's about how it works for us. It's always a work in progress. I am always seeing where I can trim money and be able to use it for another cause. It has become a bit of a fun challenge.

I hope that anyone who truly wishes to be at home full time, can make that dream a reality for them.

We began a new typing program

We have quite a few typing programs in our arsenal. I was looking for something that didn't need to be used in front of a computer keyboard or laptop so that the girls could use it outside under the gazebo, in the car on a long road trip, or in bed when they can't sleep at night.
I came across a delightful discovery called Zoom-Type. This is such a very different set up than anything I had come across before.
Essentially how it works is there is a spiral bound book. The student learns by typing on the keyboard in the book. First they type all of section A. My 6 and 8 year old did the lesson along with the included CD. We did opt to do a trick they mention in the book for young children, of using masking tape to color and place on their fingernails to correspond to each row of letters, they have four rows and four colors. To mark the left hand they mention for younger children to use masking tape with a red "x" on it to help them know the difference. I found both those tips great. My 8 year old did the lesson twice with the masking tape fingers as we called them. And then last night took the book to bed with her and while she had begun at the A section, ended up showing me this morning she had worked up to the G section (it goes up to section H). There are some drills as well and paragraphs, practice words etc as you move from learning the lessons. By the end of the book they say you will be typing 44 WPM I believe it is.
This is such a neat concept and neat approach.
My husband is a hunt and peck kind of typer and has recently been doing typing lessons using another method. He will also be trying the Zoom Type, as he and my 8 year old have agreed to a typing challenge and so far it seems she will be beating him hands down.
I have to say anytime a child asks if they can take a typing lesson to bed to work on, that has to speak volumes of how enjoyable and user friendly they find it.

The same company also has piano lessons in a similar format which I will be purchasing in the near future. My kids have been using Piano for Preschoolers and though it's a great program I think they are ready for more progression.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Today the girls schooled before even getting out of bed

I filled their workboxes last night and handed them their workboxes while they lounged in bed (they were awake already playing Nintendo and reading). They each had only 3 things to do: Read, Math, and play piano. Then we had a nice family breakfast, they made any corrections of their school work, played with the baby and then went outside.
I am tweaking a bit so they can take their workboxes outside to use under the Gazebo (or Cazebo) as my girls have been mistakenly calling it LOL. I am thinking of ways to be able to package the MUS blocks into a small box that will fit in each of their workboxes. So far thinking hard cased pencil cased might work best. That way each has access when needed and I don't have to bring the whole MUS wood sorter case outside as well. Love that case but not practical for lugging around.
I'm also adding some colored divided type tab in their workboxes so they can put empty folders behind that area when they are done. My older daughter likes the visual of the empty box and we can't manage that outside, as I want to keep it all contained in one box, so I think the divider tab that says "you are all done" will work well enough.

Gosh I just love workboxes! So much fun tweaking the system to fit us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hope everyone had a nice Easter

Our holiday weekend was very nice.
Friday we had a very light school day, made some Easter crafts, girls did Easter related copywork and math that I found free online. While we were cooking lunch together I got a call from Bryon, he had a  problem with his engine in his fairly new car. This is the 3rd engine they've put in, the problem is under warranty, thankfully (though thanks to Dave Ramsey's emergency fund step, we didn't have the worry of "how would we afford this" if it was something out of our pocket. He got stuck on the way to work and had to wait for a tow which took awhile. However he was able to be home for a whole extra evening which we all enjoyed despite the car issues. That night we made a great homemade pizza for dinner which was a hybrid pizza of things we just threw together. We also made one of Jaimie Oliver's chopped salads. Dinner was great and it was fun making pizza with dad for the kids too.


Saturday, Bryon, with the help of two neighbors, put up a gazebo on our back patio. It looks great and will be a great place to sit once it warms up again (for some reason it's been windy and freezing since Saturday.) I spent the bulk of Saturday cooking in preparation for Easter, nothing crazy, just some rice pudding and some appetizers. That night Bry and I made a homemade coffee cake together and watched a movie while it was baking.

Sunday, my brother came up and joined us about lunch time. We had appetizers for awhile and then dinner at about 5. It was a great day and my husband said the best Easter he thinks we've had so far. That was so nice to hear. Also it was just a nice relaxing day, no running around like crazy.

The kids and I have been doing a lot of cooking together, pretty much every meal we cook together. After the meal is ready, they like pretending I'm the chef and one of them is the server. We make it a fun time. My kids really play this up coming and saying "Chef Melissa, one of the customers wants to know where her food is, or there is a little boy there who is singing loudly at the table." They like when I pretend to be Chef Ramseyish LOL.

Today we are only doing a bit of math. I recently purchased a new journal to keep track of our schooling/unschooling and want to get everything copied into there and I also have some homemade chicken strips I want to make and freeze for the week.

I did make a bit of a curriculum change. Though I love Queens for Language arts it's really not working to use a CM type LA right now for my 3rd grader. She needs a bit more of review of concepts to cement things, specificially spelling. And spelling via their copywork was not a nice fit for her as she was more focused on the copywork being perfect verses getting the spelling words down pat.
What I find to be a great fit for my style is not always a great fit for one of my kids and vice versa. Which is why I have no hesitation to try to tweak and then if that does not work to find a much better fit.
We looked at Samples together of a few things and talked them over, and I went ahead and ordered Spectrum Spelling. I really don't want to have to bog her down with heavy grammar at this point, when spelling is where her focus needs to be. Plenty of time for that down the line in regard to grammar.
So it should arrive on Thursday. And if it's not a good fit, luckily there is much more out there to choose from. We are very lucky in that regard for sure, so many great materials to choose from.

Today is day 7 on the "No S Diet".
The holiday weekend went great. I was actually glad to get back to Monday and to eating just three square meals, it's so much simpler than an "S" day, which I know sounds weird but I like the comfort of 3 meals and no more : ).
I definitely think this could truly be a keeper. I ordered the book and had it sent to my Mom who is going to read it over.

Well enough of my rambling. I hear the baby stirring.
~Happy Homeschooling~

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 2 of the "No S Diet"

I was doing The 3 hour diet with a touch of the Flat Belly diet thrown in. I am just wanting to lose about 10 lbs. I needed something simple that allowed me a bit more freedom. Too much work makes it hard for me to get to eat my meals with four kids in the mix and meals to prepare for the rest of the family. And I am breastfeeding Ember on demand.
I remembered that a Mom on a homeschool forum had posted about this diet. It had a name I could not forget so I ordered the book from Amazon. Everything is on the website free but I'm a book in hand kind of girl.
The "rules" of this diet are so very simple:
-No Snacks
-No Sweets
-No Seconds
Except on days that begin with "S". So you can eat snacks, sweets and seconds on the weekend and on Special days, which are birthday or holidays. (No more than two special days per month).
Eating plan. You eat three square meals a day. You fill one plate with your choice of food, no sweets and no seconds. You can have sugar in your tea or coffee and enjoy fruit. But the fruit (which is a healthy sweet) must fit on your plate as part of your meal.
He has a neat idea bout using Red and Green to color on a calendar. I'm using the academic single page planner from Homeschool Classifieds for that.

As someone used to snacking on other diets, this is a totally new concept to me.
I have to say, yesterday (day 1) was so simple. I had a nice hearty yet healthy breakfast, I felt full for about 5 hours. Had a great lunch and then a great dinner. Best of all I was able to eat what the rest of my family was eating. No measuring or calorie counting or eating at a different time then that rest of my family.

I think this is a way of eating for those of us who hate to diet.
I'm excited and looking forward to day 3 tomorrow. With so many little ones, this is something which seems so much simpler than anything I'd ever tried before. So simple I am smacking my head as I read the book and saying, "duh" LOL. No counting, no measuring and no giving up things I like to eat. Yes some foods I have to put on hold, like a nice piece of cake for dessert. But I don't eat dessert daily so saving it for weekends or special occasions will work fine for me. Frankly I'm just happy to be able to enjoy cheese, a piece of bread, a potato or pasta as part of a meal instead of having to run away from those things as other diets have urged.

Also a show I recently watched called Jaime Oliver's food revolution, really had a great eye opening impact on me. I don't fed my kids bad foods, much junk or sweets but I still felt drawn to improve on some areas. I'm sure many parents watching the show have felt the same.

Wish me luck!