Reorganizing – A fresh new start

I don’t know what it is about moving furniture, but I love that it makes me feel like I’m getting a new start!  I’m not a decorator by any means!  And I’m visually challenged…by that I mean that I can’t picture in my head how something will look.  I have to actually move things around.  This drives my husband crazy!  He’ll say, “Well, do you want the bookshelf here or over there?”  “I have NO idea!” I say, “Move it here…then move it over there and I’ll let you know which one I like!”  Needless to say, he doesn’t enjoy helping me reorganize a room.

My school room is a room the size of a large bedroom (maybe even extra large bedroom).  It has NO closet though! It has a door to the backyard and a sunny window!  I love it.  But since it doesn’t have  a closet, storage has been an issue.  We have this awesome large wooden wall unit that is divided into 1ft x 1ft squares.  It’s perfect for those square baskets.  I like it because I can divide up all my things by type or subject.

Here is my large wall unit. I have everything stored here. I used those K12 curriculum boxes for storing their school work/samples from past years. I don’t use K12 anymore, but I love their boxes! It’s still junky. I want to add more containers, baskets, etc… to contain each square. But I want to be able to see things too.

Ikea desks. These come separate….legs and top are mix-n-match. What I love is that the tops are like $5 so when they get all yucky, I can just replace the tops! Each child has one of these on either side of the sunny window. The guinea pig is in between them.

The kids have ikea desks that are just flat top tables with 4 legs, and I have a corner desk from ikea.  I originally had (all last year) my desk in the corner and the 2 kids on each side of me.  However, I just felt totally cramped and claustrophobic!   My corner desk was just too small, and I needed more desk space.

Well, for whatever reason, our July 4th was spent reorganizing the kids bedrooms and the school room.  It was a complete overhaul. Each of the kid rooms looked SO much better, but by the time we were done it was time for fireworks!  We got the kids to bed and then my husband (as wonderful as he is) stayed up with me till 2:30am rearranging the school room!  It is so much better now!!  I got another table next to my desk to give me my own large desk space!  The kids still have their own ikea desks but they are on the other side of the room.  Ahhh… breathing space.   The large wall unit got moved as well.  I  love it.

Chalkboards vs. Whiteboards

Now I have to decide where to put the large whiteboards.  I have a couple options.  However, I’ve had this desire to put up chalkboards too (or maybe instead?)  I have experience using chalkboards while teaching in public school (although I switched to whiteboards after my first year).  I just love the look and feel of the “old” chalkboard.  Plus, I bought a big thing of chalkboard paint and I’m dying to try it out!! 🙂

For now the school room is in better shape than before.  I feel that I have more room and a larger work surface! 🙂  The only problem now is that we have added a kitten (she was a wild tiny little kitty that we found sleeping with our chickens and rabbits outside).  We saved her and she’s living in our school room now.  So I’ve added a litter box and a kitten.  Oh well.  More on that later I’m sure!

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My Homeschool Plan – Using Classical Conversations – PART 1

I’ve recently led (or co-led) a few meetings with Classical Conversations families in our area.  These meetings were held to discuss how Classical Conversations could be used at home as a full program.  Many people have misconceptions when it comes to CC, and I’ve been working to help expose the myths and present the truths about using CC.  I’ve come across many parents who are interested in CC but felt they still had to purchase and use a whole other curriculum for their studies at home…that CC was a “supplement” that they could add to their schooling.
Classical Education Made Approachable
To read a FAQ about Classical Conversations….click here.

CC is a very flexible program.  If a family wants to join CC and use our program as a supplement only, they certainly can do it that way.  However, I suggest using the Classical Model of Education and using CC the way it was intended.  I admit that learning this was hard for me.  I tell people all the time that it wasn’t until I was starting my 3rd year of CC that I really understood HOW to use it to the fullest.  Retraining my modern education brain to understand the Classical Model of Education took some time!

Options are everywhere.  Even when using CC in a “classical” way, there are lots of paths one could take.  I wanted to simplify my life as much as possible, so I looked for ways that I could use what I already had on my shelves, what I was already learning at CC, and how I could combine those things to create a predictable schedule and pattern for us to use at home.  With that, I also wanted to incorporate some key parts into my home: copywork, read alouds, love of literature, etc…

I can’t say what would work for everyone, but what I can say is what I found works for  us.  I have rising 5th and 2nd graders.  If I explained each subject in detail (which is what I plan to do), it would be a very long post!  So this is part one!

Copywork:

I found this definition of copywork from a website (www.homefires.com) under their “Dictionary of Homeschool Terminology for the Totally Confused

This technique is used to help students learn to write — from the initial skill of forming alphabet letters, all the way through learning to write sentences, paragraphs, poetry and more. Once students have the ability to copy sentences and paragraphs, they usually copy excerpts from good/classic literature. The idea is that by copying, they learn the techniques of great writers that they can then apply to their own original writing. 

I totally believe in the importance of copywork!  At first, I admit, that I wasn’t sure how much of an impact copywork would make for my children!  You can read all about my trials and accomplishments of copywork here.

Memory Work Review:

This part of our day is dedicated to practicing our memory work.  The source for our memory work comes from our Classical Conversations program.  The entire Foundations Program at CC (4-12 years old) is made up of Memory Work in each subject.

To read more about what the Classical Conversation’s Foundations Program is….click here.

We spend one day a week with our CC Community learning the copywork for each subject for that week.  Even more than that, we also see the tutors model for us (the parents) how to teach the memory work in a fun, fast-paced way!  Watch this video to see some clips from a CC Community.

Memory Work Review at Home

The time each day at home is spent orally reviewing, playing review games, and singing our Memory Work.  I spend anywhere from 10-30 min doing this each day.  Okay….okay….so I don’t do it EVERY day.  Don’t tell anyone!!  But…I am able to say that we do this at least 2-3 times a week at the house.  To give me some credibility, we also listen to all our Memory Work on CD in the car during the week whenever we leave home!  So we actually review this A LOT!  I mostly just use the ideas that I saw modeled for me at CC.

Math:

I’m going to start the with the math as the first subject. I felt it was best to talk about math first just because math is one subject that is not fully incorporated into the CC program.  We have math memory work to work with each week, but it’s not a math curriculum.  The math memory work is awesome and should NOT be neglected no matter what!  However, you will want to find a math curriculum that works for you (or if you feel confident, you can piece together your own stuff…especially for the younger years).   We use Math U See.  I love this program.

To see my post about Why I Love Math U See…click here.

To be continued… in my next post I will discuss Science and History!

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Valentines Day – Belated

So, I have been looking through all my photos that still need to be blogged, and I found these cute photos from Valentine’s Day!

I can’t believe I totally forgot about these.  Well, I can believe it since I’m SOOOO behind on my posts!

Here are a few cute pictures of my kids making cards for Valentines Day 2012!

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Getting Ready for School

Well, we are in the middle of summer now and us homeschoolers are thinking about the start of the next school year.  Usually around this time I am very busy researching curriculum, buying books, looking through that gigantic Rainbow Resource catalog, and becoming stressed out.  How do you choose?  How do you know that you’re not leaving something out?

After all that research and purchasing of books, I would spend the next several weeks planning out our lessons for the year…or at least trying.  Often times, I would be up to the wee hours of the night since that was the only time I could work in silence…and you know I needed to concentrate with all those important decisions.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of Classical Conversations.  At first, I didn’t really understand how the program would work for us.  I knew it would be great, but I had no idea how much help this program would be! It has taken all the guess work and stress out of our homeschool!

We meet once a week with the other families in our CC Community for 24 weeks.  During that time, we are able to be introduced to the memory work for the week (in Math, English, History, Geography, Timeline, Latin, and Science).  We also spend time doing Science experiments, Fine Arts, Oral Presentations, and Review Games.  CC believes that the parent is the ultimate teacher and helps come along side you, as the parent/teacher to equip and support you!  The day at CC becomes your springboard for the rest of the week.

The other day, I was talking with some other homeschool moms (and great friends) about the upcoming school year.  “So, are you guys all set for school again?” These moms are wonderful homeschool moms with great kids!  I knew that, like any good homeschool mom, they would be very busy getting their supplies and curriculum together.  We talked about curriculum, resources, and even laughed at how big that Rainbow Resource catalog is!! When they asked me how my plans were coming…and what things I would be getting for next year….I paused and then said, “Great!  I don’t have to do anything to get ready!”  I almost shocked myself!  Wow.. I really don’t have anything to do!  That’s incredible!

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I don’t need anything.  That’s the beauty of Classical Conversations!  I will say, though, that many people who participate in CC don’t use it as their complete curriculum.  They simply use it as a supplement to other things.  That’s okay, but if you want to get the most out of CC, then I suggest that you learn all that CC really is!  The only thing I add to our CC curriculum is a separate Math curriculum.

I have learned to use CC as my entire curriculum and it’s wonderful.

Let me say that CC does not come with text books for each subject.  Many people realize this and then figure that they need to go and purchase text books/resources for each subject!  I’m saying that you don’t have to (except for Math).   I use CC and the ONLY “text books” I use  (if you want to consider it that) are Encyclopedias (History & Science), a Math curriculum (we use Math U See), and books to read (like children’s stories, read alouds, library books, books from my shelf)

That’s it!

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As you can tell, I’m so excited about how simple CC has made my life.  I understand that not everyone is part of CC though.  But, I have learned a lot about simplifying homeschool while getting the MOST out of your time and efforts!  That is what led me to writing my book “The Not-So-Perfect Mom’s Guide to Homeschool”  I believe that many of the things I’ve learned in my experience with CC, can be used by anyone!  I hope it will help with anyone feeling like I used to feel.  Now that I’m not spending all my time planning and researching, I can spend more time crocheting! 🙂 I will be posting some of my crochet projects on my other blog, Hoot N Owl Homestead, soon!

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The Not So Perfect Plan – Chapter One – What Plan?

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post about writing a book.  I’ve actually started many writing projects that I haven’t finish or just give up on.  Over the last year, I’ve worked on writing an article/book about homeschooling.  It’s geared toward new and seasoned homeschooling parents who just feel frustrated with how they are organizing their curriculum or their school year.  I’m still working on a name for the book.  So far I came up with “The Not So Perfect Mom’s Guide to Homeschool”  with a subtitle: “One homeschool mom’s advice for creating a plan that works” Here is the beginning of my writing:

Chapter One

Plan…What Plan?

One of the hardest parts of homeschooling is getting a plan of action together…and then sticking to it. Well, the sticking to it might be the hardest.  But this first step is by far the most important step we must make.  This becomes our foundation upon which our homeschool year is built.  So why do we overlook it?  Why do we make it then forget about it?

Life Happens

If you ask my friends they will tell you that I often talk about my “utopia” homeschool.  It’s the homeschool world I would live in if I had total control of everything around me.  But reality is, I don’t.  Life happens.  Schedules change, people get sick, cars breakdown, and we get worn out.  I know that my “utopia” is not my reality.  I probably wouldn’t really want my utopia anyway…it would most likely be boring there with nothing changing. 

The truth is we need some changes in our life.  It helps to make us who we are.  Our children need to learn how to deal with unexpected things in their lives too.  So it’s a good thing that life happens, right? 

Yes and no.  Life does happen, which is why in all other areas of our life, we need to create order.  When things are in chaos, nothing can be successful.  We’ve all been there with too much on our plate.  We want to be involved and we want to help out our friends.  Then there are play dates, and co-ops, and sports, and clubs.  Is this just “life happening?”  No.  This is us creating a chaotic world for ourselves and our children.  But it’s hard.  Where is the balance?

Here is the reality (which is no surprise to any of you).  If we are too busy, or if we make our children too busy…no plan or curriculum will work.  If we stretch ourselves too thin, we will do poorly at everything we do.  I am the worst at doing this.  I get so excited about new things and ideas and want to just jump right in and do it.  Not only do it, but be the leader, start the group, organize the trip.  I take on so much that I am too busy to be a wife and a mom….let alone a teacher for my children.  

The result?  A whole lot of misery for me and my family and in the end I can’t be successful at any of it.  I mean you just can’t be slave to all those masters!  I get cranky, tired, anxious.  My kids feel the worst of it because they are the ones that I end up getting short with.  And they are tired too.  All that running around from activity to activity is hard on a kid. 

But what about socialization?  That’s the question we get, and that’s the issue we try to prove wrong as homeschoolers.  We try to show THEM that our kids are WAY more socialized than their kids.  Our kids do more, with a variety of age groups in different settings, than any public school kid would be able to do.  Which is great.  But at what cost? 

Does that mean I think we should just stay home all week?  No! I’d lose my mind if I did. But find a balance that works for your family. Help your children find something they have a passion for and only get involved in that activity for right now.  If you have a large family, you might want to alternate between the kids.  I know of families that rotate each sporting season.  One season child #1 will play a sport. The next season a different child will choose something. And so on.  It’s kind of fun because then the whole family gets behind that one child and his/her activity to support them.

Do what works.  But if you feel like a taxi and you and your kids are stressed out over your hectic schedule, then maybe it’s time to re-think it.  Don’t create stress…reduce it.  So when “life happens” for real and something unexpected comes up, you can handle it.  Remember, there is no plan for homeschooling that will work if you’re not home to implement it!  So take time to be home, be with each other, and learn together!

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Well, that’s the first little bit of my book… actually that is just the beginning of chapter one!  I continue on as we learn what type of planner we are so we can see where we are strong and where we need help! From there I go on to talk about the HOW behind creating a plan that works for your family by helping you to understand what is important.  Creating a Christian Classical Education at Home (or any homeschool plan) is not hard.  The hard part is getting rid of all the old habits and ways of thinking in our own brains! Really, it’s much easier and more peaceful than the old way!  In my book, I hope to give you a humorus and very honest picture of what I have learned so that we can learn on this journey together!

But wait…I know you’re saying that you have that BIG book about being Well-Trained.  That big book is overwhelming and reminds you that you just can’t attain your goal right?  Well at least it was like that for me.  Look, I like that book.  I read it over and over.  But truth be told, no matter how much I tried, I could not replicate what was in that book in my own home.  Maybe I was too lazy?  Maybe I was not organized enough? (I know those who know me are laughing at that one…I love to organize).  There were many reasons why I couldn’t get that book to work for me.  I talk about some of those reasons in my ebook.  If you have that book, keep it.  It has wonderful information and works as a great resource.  Just don’t let the weight of that book weigh you down!

More to come!!

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Hoot’N Owl Homestead

Okay so I think it’s SO cool that some people have “official” names for their farms.  I have been attending the Ladies Homestead Meetings at Lazy B Farms and just love the people I’ve met there.  We recently did an all natural first aid remedy swap (is that enough adjectives for you?).  I noticed that on all the labels, they put a cute name for their farm or homestead or business.  I loved it.  I don’t really have a farm since I just live in a regular house in a cul-de-sac, but I do like to consider myself a small homesteader!  So I decided to be “cool” like them and have my own name.  Hoot’N Owl Homestead was created!  Do you like it?  Well, I LOVE owls so I knew it had to have an owl in it! I plan to market a few things as I learn to make all-natural products, so now I can put my Hoot’N Owl label on them.

For now I’m starting with my homemade face wash, toner, and tooth paste.  I’ve been using these products for a while now and just love them.  I would also like to help advertise other people’s homemade products, so if you have something you’d like to share or sell, please let me know!

I also want to learn more about homemade soy-free chicken feed.  Now that I have 4 hens, well they are chicks right now, I’ve been learning about how to make your own feed.  It seems like it will be about the same price as buying it elsewhere without the hassle of shipping or driving to pick it up.  Today I made up a big batch of homemade feed and they seem to really like it!  I need to get some grit (oyster shell or something) since they are no free-ranging yet.

Update on the homestead: Chicks and bunnies are 3 weeks old now.

The chicks have almost all their feathers already and are getting huge! I think they are outgrowing their brooder (or is it brooding?) box.  However, we haven’t built their chicken coop/tractor yet!!  Actually we have a wonderful friend who is giving us her old chicken tractor.  She is out growing it (with a new batch of 20 chicks!).  They are switching to a PVC chicken tractor…so we get their old one!

The bunnies have also grown so much!  They have all their fur and look just like miniture rabbits! I still can’t tell which ones will have regular ears and which will have lop ears, and we have no idea which are boys and which are girls!  We are going to keep one girl and sell the rest.  I think I have 4 sold already! They are totally cute and so sweet.  In the last couple days they have all come out of their nest inside the “coop” part of their tractor and ventured out into the “run” area.  They are all happily eating grass with their mom!  They are so sweet and cute!

The garden is growing and looking delicious!  The cabbage looks like a cabbage patch baby will be born any minute. 🙂  I can hardly wait to harvest them.  I have never grown cabbage or cauliflower since I have never had a spring garden.  The spinach is finally starting to grow, but the lettuce isn’t doing so well.  Radishes are almost ready for harvest and little carrot tops are poking out of the ground.  I had to battle with earwigs, but I won!

Compost pile is growing and doing great as well.  But I keep forgetting to keep it moist. 😦

That’s about it for now.  Next plans:  Make more homemade products, get my other garden area ready for summer planting, and get some seeds started again!

 

 

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The Bunnies are Here

On Monday, March 12th at around 11PM our mama rabbit, Rose, gave birth to 6 beautiful babies.  We were checking on her over and over because we noticed that she was acting a bit anxious.  Sure enough, she had her babies when we weren’t around.  I don’t blame her.  She has been an excellent mom.  She kept them all nestled in a small corner of the nest that she crafted so carefully.  She pulled her fur after they were born and covered them completely.  When I checked on them, they were all warm and toasty!

A couple days ago, I moved them all into our Rabbit Tractor that we built.  It’s been very warm outside and they were all so crammed into the small cage, that I figured she’d be happier.  Carefully, we got Rose settled into the “run” part of the rabbit tractor.  Getting her in there was hard because she was very grouchy and didn’t want you to reach into her cage and grab her! Once she was settled, and blocked off from the “coop” part, we moved the nest.  It was time anyway because the nest was SOAKING wet with their urine.  I tried to keep as much of her fur as possible to keep her scent intact…along with any dry hay from the nest.  Once they were all nestled snug in their bed, we opened the door and she quickly ran in to check on them.  She ended up rearranging them (like any good mother would).  She continues to be wonderfully attentive to them.  They now have fur and most of them have their eyes open!  They are 13 days old today.

Rose pulling her fur to cover new babies

Baby bunnies in their nest at around 1 week old.

My daughter holding the silver bunny.

The baby bunnies in the Rabbit Tractor. Mama rabbit is happily grazing outside in the "run". 2 weeks old.

 

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