Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Butterflies. Ladybugs and goodbyes

Some days of homeschooling are just plain fun!  Last week, our official last week of school, had several of those days.  We have just finished up our Nancy Larson Level 1 Science, the last unit being about insects.  Our family has raised butterflies before but that was before Colby came home, so this was all new to him.  He loved every minute.  Except the letting them go part.  Oh, how that sweet kiddo did NOT want to say goodbye to them.  All five were named.  And he really thought all five could live with us forever.  Luckily we were able to work through it and finally celebrated their freedom.  

To make the moment more magical, two butterflies landed on Colby's hand and one even stayed for a while.  It made his day!  And mine!

Next up, the ladybugs.  Luckily for us, there were too many to be named and grow attached to! ;) They too decided they liked Colby and at one point there were several climbing all over him.  Too cute!

So yes, we have finished a fun science for the year.  And yes, we will continue Nancy Larson Science next year.  Our plans are to work through Levels 3 and 4 for Colby's 3rd grade year.  I don't think we are raising more insects, but it does look like there are some fun projects to come!

Just another fun day in homeschooling!


Monday, May 25, 2015

First Steps to a Capsule Wardrobe- Guest Post

After talking about capsule wardrobes the past three Mondays, we have been amazed at the number of people who have decided to give it a try.  This week I am thrilled to be able to share with you a post from a blogging friend, Cristi!  Not only has she braved the 34 Weeks of Clean with us, but now she is braving her closet as well.  Make sure you hop over to her blog Through the Calm and Through the Storm and show her some love!   Thanks Cristi!  If you have a story you would like to share, let us know.  We would love to have you!

For the past twenty weeks, I've been tagging along with Michele as she's issued 34 Weeks of Clean challenges. A few weeks ago, she started talking about closets and clothes.

Based on her recommendation, I pulled every single article of clothing out of my closet and ended up with a huge mess of clothes piled on my bed. All of the clothes that didn't seem quite right (too small, too faded, out-of-date, etc) were set aside to go to Goodwill, and my newly organized closet was finished by the time my husband returned from his weekend hiking trip.

Just as I was sitting back admiring my newly organized closet, Michele and her daughter Ashton started to talk about capsule wardrobes. Uh oh. I had a sinking feeling they were fixing to suck me into another one of their crazy schemes.

I've actually thought about a capsule wardrobe before. Two summers ago, I set aside thirty-three clothing items and resolved to only wear those things for the next 33 days. I remember loving the plan when I was doing it, but I can't remember exactly why I stopped using my capsule wardrobe. My best guess is that I kept adding clothes when the season changed, and thirty-three items became fifty-something items and then I quit counting and let all of my clothes options take over my closet.

Since I was inspired by Ashton's and Michele's posts about their capsule wardrobes, I've revisited the idea in my own closet.

Ashton's idea to divide her favorite clothes among her four capsules was pure genius! I've always packed away winter sweaters when summer rolls around, but I've never thought about rotating through items that can technically be worn year round. Just because I love a particular t-shirt does not mean that I have to have it in my capsule throughout the year.

That idea was just the answer I was looking for when it came to my overflowing basket of t-shirts. (Can you believe Michele questioned whether I had a t-shirt problem? There's only 25-30 of my favorite shirts in there.)

Seriously, though, I always lumped my short sleeve t-shirts together and kept them out year-round. I wear them by themselves in the summer and under cardigans in the winter. (Arizona winters mean that I rarely needed to worry with long sleeves under cardigans.) 

Dividing up the basket of shirts was far less painful and a lot more practical than giving away half of them.

Some of my choices were easy. I wear black and white v-neck t-shirts often, especially the ones I have that are made out of a nicer quality cotton. They definitely go into my current capsule. I put the white crew-neck and black/white polka dot t-shirts away to wear under sweaters later this fall or winter.

Other choices were more difficult. I have a small collection of "fun" t-shirts to wear on lazy days when I want a bit of a pick-me-up. I can wear them out of the house, but I rarely do. Instead of keeping the Superman (SuperMommy) shirt, the "I run to burn off the crazy" shirt, the Mrs. Incredible shirt, my OU t-shirt to wear during college football season, and an Oklahoma Christian t-shirt all in my closet at the same time, I just picked two. Actually, I could probably get by with one, except that I'm afraid my running t-shirt is shrinking funny and will have to be thrown away before long.

I also divided up my favorite Life is Good brand t-shirts into two piles. I love all four of them, but two for now and two for later in the year works just fine.

I had grand intentions of going through all of my clothes, dealing them out into four capsules, and then neatly putting back this season's chosen items. I was then going to share with Michele and all the Family, Faith and Fun readers what my final capsule for this season looks like. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder of a project than I thought it would be.

I really did try on all my clothes when I cleaned out my closet. Trying them on does not however ensure that I really love them. I sometimes put on an outfit and then decide a few hours later that I don't really like it after all. The dress I wore to church a few weeks ago turned out to be a few inches longer than I'd like. If I felt frumpy wearing it that morning, it needs to go in the giveaway pile. Similarly, today is the last day that I'll wear the peach shirt I pulled out of the t-shirt basket this morning. As the day went on, I became increasingly frustrated by the way its stretched out hem was hanging loosely.

Because I can't make decisions based simply on a marathon session of trying on clothes, I'm postponing the final reveal of my complete summer capsule wardrobe. My goal this week is to try on some of the clothes that I haven't chosen to wear in quite some time. Maybe I'll find a few new favorites -- favorites worth keeping in my capsule.

If Cristi had to describe herself in 25 words or less, she'd write:" Follower of Christ. Military wife. Nurse (via on-the-job training). Homeschooling mom. Allergy-friendly cook. Aspiring photographer. Chauffeur. Blogger. Runner. Friend. And much, much more."

Her blog, Through the Calm and Through the Storm, started six years ago as a way to record her youngest daughter's wait for a heart transplant and continues as a way to record all the crazy days she loves.


My Joy-Filled Life

Friday, May 22, 2015

34 Weeks of Clean! Week 21- Hall Closet

This week's assignment, the Hall Closet!

I know some of you have already gotten to this room when you did your entry, but mine is nowhere near my entry AND, until recently, we still had need for the heavier jackets and such.  If you are ahead of us, good for you!  Take this week to either sit back and gloat or go back and finish up an unfinished project! Or how about revisit your kitchen and see how you are keeping it up!

So, yes, I did actually think I was a bit behind on cleaning out this hall closet.  I mean, summer is here right?  Well, maybe in your neck of the woods, but here in South Dakota someone did not get the memo.  As I stated in our Capsule Wardrobe post, we have had a few days last week and this week of 30s and 40s again with a few snowflakes thrown in for good measure.  The reality is that I am not as behind as I thought I was.

Luckily for me, this was a pretty easy week despite the fact that we had this tiny space pretty packed! How many coasts does one really need per season??!

So first things are first.  Yep, you guessed it - pull it all out.  Our mess ranged from too many coats to a pool bag, drawers for hats, scarves, and gloves, the vacuum, and a few containers for seasonal decorations!

After you pull it all out it is time to sort!  What are you really using or wearing?  What have your kids outgrown?  Do you really need four coats (just saying)?  Is one lone glove really helpful when it gets cold?

After we determined what made the cut and what didn't, it was time to wash!  Yes, you need to do this!  After playing in the snow and such all winter, trust me, that stuff is grimy at best!  Here is one of our piles for the wash!

Coats get washed too, or sent to the cleaners if needed.  That way they are clean and ready to go for the next season.  To make our lives a little less crazy, we do store our winter stuff in the basement during the off season, except for the hats, scarves, and gloves that stay in the rolling plastic thing in the bottom of the closet.  Just works for us, but you decide what works for you!

A note about these containers.  Two are marked for Easter and hold our...wait for it...Easter decorations.  One is marked Christmas and just holds a few little things that I can take out easily before I manage to pull out the big boxes. The one marked candles is my holding on to the past.  I used to have and burn candles everywhere all the time.  All. the. time!  But since our oldest was diagnosed with severe environmental allergies we have stopped burning candles.  So yes, this is something I need to let go of.  There used to be a Valentines box as well, but I managed to give that up last year.  I do not mean to be a party pooper, really I do not, but I am just past the "decorate for every holiday" stage.  Call me lazy, but I just don't have the time nor the energy.  See, it isn't laziness, it is just plain I'm too old and and have no energy! ;)

I vacuumed out the closet and the rest went back in.  The pool bag was consolidated and now hangs on the inside of the door so we can just grab it and go!  And yes, those light weight jackets are still there just in case.  I am no dummy!

Not a very exciting week, I admit, but one we all should be able to get done easily!  Some weeks we need a quieter project, right?

Let's see how you did last week!  Remember, one week at a time - every little step is progress.  Keep what you need and love, pass the rest on.  You will be glad you did!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Homeschool Legacy- Schoolhouse Crew Review

Homeschool Legacy Review

There are many ways to homeschool.  It's not that one is better than the other, it's just that some styles fit some people better than others.  Unit Studies are just one of the many styles out there but I see more homeschoolers using it lately than ever before.  Homeschool Legacy has created a plethora of unit studies to meet the demands. These "once a week" studies, in digital or hard copy form, devote 4-9 weeks to a particular history or science topic.  Examples include Horses, Weather, Early Settlers, and even Holidays.  While concentrating on one particular theme, unit studies provide a breadth of subject ideas, often including Bible, Art, Literature, and Field Trips.

Homeschool Legacy Review

We were recently blessed to be able to use and review the digital versions of Forest For the Trees Once-A-Month Unit Study.  Forest For the Trees is a 4 week unit study that emphasizes the study of trees, appropriate for grades 2-12.  Week One is about Tree Identification, Week Two - Tree Anatomy, Week Three -What Trees Provide and Week Four - Forests and Forestry.

While I often prefer hard copies of our curriculum, one of the advantages of the digital download version is that it has embedded links your student can go to for additional information.

How we used this program -

Science - Each week has at least one science experiment. We learned things from how trees get their nutrients to leaf transpiration and photosynthesis.  Of course, anything that involves water is a favorite here, so add food coloring and yes, that famous celery experiment was Colby's favorite, of course.

Art - Projects included various ideas from taking pictures of the things you cooked to sketching trees you see.  Bark rubbings were our favorite.  We just happened to have a cross section from a tree that was recently taken down in our yard that we used for art as well.

Bible - Each week a different family devotional is presented.  Though they are related to the theme you are studying (in our case, trees), each week is a little different.  A quick paragraph is used as an opening to get you ready to tie in the Bible, then a passage is given for you to read and discuss on your own.  We were able to talk about God's creation, Jesus being living water, fruits of the Spirit, and the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.   This is just one of the fun ways Homeschool Legacy gets the whole family involved and requires no prep work on your part.

Field Trips - This is one area we opted out of for now because of our busy summer schedule. However, activities such as visiting an old growth forest, a nursery, or an apple orchard to pick apples were suggested.  I will say that after discussing the Great Sequoia Redwoods, we would now like to visit California!

Literature - At the beginning of the study is a literature resource list of books you can gather for non-readers.  Additionally, at the beginning of each week there is a list of books and/or videos to be used at your discretion.  All books and videos listed have been screened for objectionable content, but always be sure to check them out for yourself to be safe.  A quick trip to your local library or even your own bookshelf can fill your days and nights with reading.  There are also read-alouds listed so the whole family can be engaged.

Other areas of study included Science/Research, Language, and Physical/Fun/Life Skills. Yes, that is a lot to do.  But remember, you can do as much or as little as you want or are able to do.  That is the glory of unit studies and of homeschooling.  The publishers encourage you use these studies to fit the needs of your family.

What did we think?
There is a lot to like about these unit studies!  While Homeschool Legacy does have a suggested schedule you can use in which you concentrate on the biggest part of the week's information on one particular day, they also encourage you to be flexible and make things fit for your family.  There is so much offered to do that even if you decide to use this daily, you will not run out of ideas, trust me.

Another fun way that these unit studies seek to engage a whole family is their Stump Your Dad trivia. Each week has a fun trivia fact for the kids to try to stump dad, or another important person in their life with to help a child in sharing their new  knowledge learned.

A bonus to Homeschool Legacy's Unit Studies is that they have closely matched many of them to requirements for Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girl Badges. Each activity in the study is clearly marked with a separate symbol for each to designate what activities fulfill those organizations' specific badge requirements.  On the website you can also print out a list of the studies that meet the requirements for quick reference.  Because homeschooling can take up a lot of time, it is a huge blessing to be able to also fulfill Scout badge requirements at the same time.  I am all about killing two birds with one stone and look forward to doing additional units because of that alone!

Another HUGE advantage I see to using the Once-A-Week Unit Studies is that they cover a wide breadth of ages in their information and activities.  While I kept Salem, age 13, busy with research and leaf identification, Colby enjoyed the art and science projects more.  As with any time we use living books in our homeschooling, there is often reading that they can do together.

Quite honestly, the biggest reason I have steered away from the unit study model in the past was the great deal of time it typically takes to plan them on your own.  It often requires a lot of research and energy to match all of your subjects up with one theme.  With a company like Homeschool Legacy doing all the leg work for you and putting it into their well organized, easy to use studies, your prep time has just been cut down to almost zero!  Sounds like a great deal to me!

Fellow crew members reviewed different units on the series so I encourage you to read all about their experiences by clicking on the banner below.

Homeschool Legacy Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Using the Motivate Your Child Action Plan in Our Life (book review, coupon code, and giveaway link!)

What motivates your child to do what is right?
You?  Consequences?  Fear?  Rewards?

I have to admit, that answer is probably different for all of our children. We have  used and seen a little of all of those motivators.  Because our children range from 21 years old down to 7, our parenting has changed though the years.  Let's face it, so have we!  We expected order and obedience from our oldest three at early ages.  We got it.  We taught parenting classes and sweetly told everyone how easy it was to raise obedient children.  It was for us.  Then.

But then our fourth child entered our life in a whirlwind and parenting has not been the same.

Peace turned to chaos.
Obedience to struggles.
And confidence to doubt!  OURS, not his!

Oh, he is loved fiercely!  But, oh, is he a challenge.  Daily.  Sometimes hourly.  And honestly, sometimes the joy of parenting gets lost in the battles we face.

But God never promised easy.  He just promised Him.  And with His help, and now the valuable insight and coaching of Dr, Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller RN, co authors of Motivate Your Child Action Plan, we feel like we are on a better path headed towards success.

It may be a slow and winding path, but I know it is one worth the travel.

I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Motivate Your Child back in January.  It was then that I fell in love with and was sold on the concept of Heart Parenting.  This involves putting rewards and consequences and such on the back burner and reaching the heart of the child.  The real place that motivates your child and their behavior.  Then and only then can and will your child be able to regulate and choose to change their own behavior.

Yes, my son will become obedient while in the direct line of consequences, but then what?  Or what if I am not there to be that regulating factor?

The bottom line is that our children, and well as us all quite frankly, need to be able to regulate our own behavior based on our conscious and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We must look in our heart, choose what we know to be right, and then do that right thing.  We must teach our children to be internally motivated.  Easier said than done for some of us, but make no mistake, teaching character is important!

Motivate Your Child Action Plan takes those basic concepts and more and fleshes them out in a 12 chapter step by step guide.  Each chapter builds on the previous one to help you, the parent, identify the problems you feel your child needs to work on, match them with a positive character trait that will help you move forward and then come up with a specific and measurable plan to do so.

  • Chapter 1- Change in Forty Days
  • Chapter 2- Where Do You Want Me To Go?
  • Chapter 3- The Map To Get There
  • Chapter 4- Working Together
  • Chapter 5- A Place For Firmness
  • Chapter 6- Visioning Moves You Forward
  • Chapter 7- Teaching Shows The Way
  • Chapter 8- Spiritual Energy Provides Strength
  • Chapter 9- Coaching Sets Attitude
  • chapter 10- Building Motivation From Within
  • Chapter 11- Growing Together
  • Chapter 12- Good Theology Makes it Work

At the end of each chapter is a section call Have a Meeting with Your Child, that encourages you to have a meeting with your child about where you are in the plan.  It involves a lot of positive reinforcement and allows your child to know that you are a team working together to help them move forward.  Instead of focusing on all of the negatives, you will be focusing on solution and long term goals.  There is then a place for you to write down thoughts and ideas you may have.

I have to tell you, after reading Motivate Your Child Action Plan I was initially discouraged.  At the very beginning you are asked to write out specific behaviors and incidences that you identify as a problem in your child's behavior.  Guys, my list went on for pages.  Seriously, it sent me to bed that night in tears and overwhelmed.  But one of the things that Dr Turansky and Joanne repeatedly emphasize is prayer and asking the Lord to help you and your child.  So I went to bed praying that night for clarity and a renewed spirit.

I would like to say that it has been clear sailing since, but that would not be reality.  What is reality however is that I am far less overwhelmed and much more determined to make this work.  I KNOW I believe in the concepts.  I just know we have a lot of work to do.  That is one of the reasons I love that this book takes the system and breaks it into small steps you can work on a little at a time.  Then once you get that step done, you add a little more.  Think of it as layering of sorts.  Slowly, we are working our way through this plan. Each day we discuss the character traits we are working on and why it is important for us to work on them. Each day we look for reasons to celebrate our progress. And each day God reveals a little glimmer of hope to hold on to!

The other thing I love is that in the front of this book you will find a link to audio downloads that correspond to each chapter.  I needed these!  While I loved the book and am now re reading every chapter, I also love that I can listen to the authors.  There is just something about hearing their own voices and additional comments that have encouraged me to stay in the rink and keep fighting.

If you too see areas of weakness in your child's behavior or character and would like concrete methods to use to work on those ares, Motivate Your Child Action Plan is a great book to help you and one I highly recommend!  Did I mention HIGHLY?  Plus, until the end of the month it is on sale!

Let me also take a minute to encourage you to check out The National Center for Biblical Parenting Website.  I have found, and ordered, more than a few additional resources that I am eager to get started using.  You will find VBS curriculum, parenting books and more.  There are some great resources on anger, one of the issues we are dealing with, as well as information on how you can get one on one coaching via phone from Dr. Turansky.

There is also still time to enter the drawing to win a copy of Motivate Your Child and Motivate Your Child Action plan, as well as an iPod Touch and many other cool prizes, by going to this link!  Quick, it ends tonight and the winner will be announced at the FB party tomorrow night!  Don't forget to RSVP!

You can order Motivate Your Child Action Plan at a discounted price using the discount code below!

It is my heartfelt prayer that God will use this book to help many struggling parents out there who, like me, love their children greatly and want to see them become the confident and loving individuals God intends for them to be.