30 March 2017

A (long overdue) Homeschooling Update

Coming off of the girls' birthday last week, I just had to laugh when I saw this.
Hey, this isn't entirely true. We did an hour of "school" on their birthday.... but we also could have shined it, too. 😁 #perks

I've been wanting to do a homeschool update for a long time now...Come on, it's practically APRIL! These days, I don't have long periods of time where I can sit and just write but I love looking back on our schooling journey to see what we were doing, how we were doing it, and just laugh at myself sometimes. 😜 #sheesh

First of all, I am just so grateful to God for the opportunity to be able to school the girls at home this year. In case you're new here, last year, the girls went to school, mostly out of necessity. It was the only year they went to a brick and mortar private school and it was a year we will never forget. We followed God's lead (reluctantly, at first) but it ended up being a great year of growth for us all. The girls really enjoyed going to school. They had some amazing teachers, breakthroughs, and accomplishments. We wouldn't trade that year for anything.

That being said, there are a few things that drove me batty about school, in general. First, can we just talk about the amount of homework kids have? Goodness gracious. We were busy every night until bedtime. And next, the dreaded T-word...Tests! Every Friday was test day and the mindless mounds of homework was geared for test taking, not actual understanding or comprehension. Coming from a homeschooling background, I teach for understanding, compassion, relatability, and eventually, that should lead to retention. This can all happen through a simple conversation. At home, we have weekly spelling tests and short quizzes but in my opinion, testing a child each week is not an indication of actual learning. I realize there isn't enough time in a traditional school setting so they use testing as a means of understanding.  

Lastly, speaking of time, I missed my girls. I missed uncovering their discovery. Most of all, I missed the heartfelt discussions about anything and everything. We all know that time is a commodity. Between the driving, the homework, and preparing for tests, our quality family time was seriously lacking. No wonder why people look so forward to weekends!

All this to say, I have a newfound appreciation for parents who do the daily grind and the teachers who give their very best. We had some good ones at JCA! One day, God may ask us to send our kids to school again. He has definitely humbled me to that idea and I'm so glad He did. But for right now, I'm just so very grateful.

OK, on to the update!

Our Schedule:
Throughout the years, we've just naturally adopted a year-round type of schooling. This seems to work well with our philosophy on education. It allows us to take longer breaks when we want to and still move along quickly. Besides, taking more than a month off just feels impractical and counter productive. Who wants to spend months reviewing when you can get through a review within a week? The girls started most of their 5th grade work last summer. During the summer, we school 3 days a week for a few hours each day. This still allows for plenty of time for rest and fun, while keeping the mind engaged. They typically start their day around 8am. At this age, they are mostly self-sufficient. They know what needs to be done and they manage at their own pace. I make their lesson plans, review their work as they complete it, help them with any questions, and try to supplement their learning with other experiences. During the regular "school year", we like to finish up at a decent hour but some days, the girls can in fact, be doing schoolwork until 4 or 5 but examples of this might include: putting the final touches on an oral presentation, making a drawing for their report, completing a puzzle of the United States, reading a biography, or writing a letter with possible solutions for an imaginary problem.




Our Pace:
Because of our year-round type of schedule, we tend to get through subjects fast. For example, the girls finished 5th grade math last week and they're taking a week long break from math to focus more on science and history. At this pace, they'll naturally finish grade levels in a shorter period of time but that isn't necessarily my goal. My goal is simply to engage, inspire, equip, disciple, and have time to share other fun and interesting experiences together.


Our Help:
In case you're thinking, "How in the world does she do it all?" Let me assure you that I don't. I have no shame in telling you that I get help and I am so grateful for it! A while ago, I realized, there isn't going to be a prize at the end for those of us who can stand up there on graduation day and say, "I did it all by myself."
My motto is: Need the help? Take the help. 😁 God brings people into our lives for a reason.  


Two days a week, the girls go over to Lyndi's house. She has them for 3 hours each day. Lyndi is not only my friend, she is my sister in Christ, and my lovely neighbor. She's also a gifted teacher. She helps me specifically with math, grammar, and writing-- all very important but time consuming subjects for me. Honestly, I don't know if I'd be able to homeschool without her. We love her and her family dearly. She has such a sweet relationship with the girls, too. While the girls are at her house, I have time to engage with Zach, read, do puzzles, preschool stuff, go run errands, or grocery shop. Such a huge blessing! Bonus: it only takes the girls one minute to walk to her house. #Godsend #loveher

Community Bible Study:
CBS is pretty much a no-brainer on our weekly schedule. This is my 7th year attending and Lord willing, we will be back next year, too. This is our one-stop-shop for me and the kids where we get our fellowship and most importantly, we study the Word of God, together (but separately). The girls love their Junior Class, Zach happily attends his preschool class, and I have my core group of multi-generational women. It keeps us all accountable to study God's word each day and we look forward to our Thursday mornings each week. CBS runs from September through mid-May. We miss it in the summer but it gives us time to do other things and we all get excited to start again come fall.

Co-op:
This was our first year attending our local co-op and it was great. Co-op also runs from September through May on Mondays. There are 3 sessions (fall, winter, and spring). Each session is 8 weeks long. We have breaks in between so this wasn't a huge commitment but it does require us being away from home for an extra half day on most weeks. The girls have really enjoyed the enrichment type of classes, like PE, Karate, and Art. This spring session, they're taking an Answers in Genesis class on Astronomy as well as a World Cultures Class called Games around the World. Zach also benefits from his preschool classes. He likes playing, painting, music, gluing, and creating crafts. I've enjoyed helping teach in the kids' classes and watching them explore new things that we wouldn't necessarily do at home. I'll be praying over the summer to see if the Lord would have us go back in the fall but at this point, I'm thinking yes. It's a large co-op with some great people, opportunities, and resources. I would say 90% of the families there are Christian. This has also been a wonderful place for us to share the Light of Jesus and be a witness to all. #winwin


Summer Goals:
At the moment, I'm putting together a list of our goals and priorities for this summer. The girls have already started on some new curriculum and I'm compiling a list of must read books and audios. Summer slows down for us in that we don't have many commitments or places to be each week. Inevitably, we get some of our richest reading done during these months. Love it! The girls will continue going to Lyndi twice a week and I'll have certain projects for them to work on at home- all fun and relaxed, of course. I'm also starting to think about some goals for Zach as he officially enters preschool come fall. Lord willing, our summer will be filled with lots of reading, swimming, visiting with friends, family, and exploring new places and things.

So, that's it for now. For us, our homeschool is a mix of what we would consider the essential "have-to's" with a whole lot of "get-to's." We love the freedom it gives our family and the opportunity we have to grow closer to each other and to the Lord. Believe me, I don't claim to have it all together. Like everyone else, we have our good days and bad days. What I've learned over the years is that there's no magic formula, method, or curriculum. Through prayer, discernment, and a whole lot of grace, we do the best we can for our family. We leave the rest to God and I thank Him for this very day and the opportunity to grow, alongside my kids. When all is said and done, I know my kids will have seen my worst and my very best days. They know I'm not perfect (far from it!) but they know my heart for them and that I'm trying to be faithful and obedient to the calling I have from God. By His grace alone, each day I get to parent these three human beings that call me mommy.

What an enormous privilege and gift that is. #thankyouJesus May I never take that for granted!

  

27 March 2017

Meal Plan Week #26


Hello again, Monday!

Is it Spring Break yet?? I don't know about you but I could sure use a week (or two) off from all things school. With Easter being a little later this year, looks like I'll have to wait two more weeks. Can't wait!  

I'm a little late posting my meal plan today but it doesn't mean I don't have one. The weekend was busy so I didn't have time to go grocery shopping until today. I know I've said it time and time again but these weekly meal plans are just great for keeping me accountable. There seems to be less trips to the grocery store and consequently, more money saved, too. So, without further ado...

Here's what on the menu this week:

Meal Plan Week #26
  • Sausage & Corn Chowder
  • BBQ Chicken & Pineapple Baked Tacos
  • Greek Chicken Salad
  • Shrimp Tacos
  • Chili with Cornbread Waffles

Rock Climbing Party!


My girl, Holly did another amazing job creating invitations for the girls' party. So fun!
Just a heads up: There are an insane number of pictures coming up. Here we go!


 The girls put together these cute gift bags for all of their friends.


 What's inside?
A Cliff bar, a small Gatorade, a bouncy rock ball, and rock candy! 


 The girls wanted Strawberry Cheesecake for their birthday so I made these mini versions in a cupcake size.


They were scrumptious!


Let the party begin!



Look at my boy!


 Zach and Sylvie. Totally adorable little friends! #theirsmiles 😄😄


Daddy, always a kid at heart.


 Time to get Zach all geared up!


 Our little rock climber!


 Just hanging out.


 Levi, Jacob, Ellie, and Grace.

23 March 2017

Happy 11th Birthday, Faith & Grace!

"A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves- a special kind of double." -Toni Morrison

This quote could not be more true of Faith and Grace. Yes, they are twins but they are also very different in so many ways. Being mirror-like twins, they often have characteristics and strengths that are opposite from one another, which makes them compliment one another and definitely stronger together.

I woke up this morning and gave them the best present I could think of on their birthday... a mother's prayer.

I prayed so many things for their future but mostly, I prayed that as they grow, they would also stand firm on the quiet confidence of knowing just how much they are worth and loved by God and by their family. Knowing that truth and being anchored by it will make all the difference in the world. It will help them to navigate life, choose joy in difficult circumstances, be brave when they need to be, and serve others with compassion.

I trust God to take care of the rest.

ELEVEN.

The years just flew by and yet, I realize time is only moving faster. I know I've said this many times before but Morgan and I are just so grateful for the privilege and joy of being their parents. These are two very special girls!

They are fun, creative, joyful, smart, brave, sweet, adventurous, silly, compassionate, kind, loving, thoughtful, and a whole lot more! They are two of the very best gifts we've ever received.

We're having a fun party to celebrate with friends on Saturday but here's a little glimpse into how they spent their actual birthday.

They started the morning with their favorite drink: A peanut butter and banana smoothie. We use almond milk, oats, and plenty of cinnamon.


Daddy also wrote each of them a letter and had it waiting for them on the breakfast table.
Isn't he just the best?! 😍


He also decided they needed new scooters. These should last for years to come.


Of course, Zach wanted to try it out for himself.


After a morning of light school work, we met our friends at the McCallum Theatre for the last performance in the Field Trip series for this school year. We saw The Pianist of Willesden Lane and it was wonderful!


Stopped for a photo at the "pool". That's what Zach calls it.


Then I took them out to lunch at Aspen Mills Bakery & Café.
It was our first time there and it did NOT disappoint. The fresh breads, salads, and baked goods were all delicious! We really enjoyed it.


And last but not least, my 11 year olds and I went to a nighttime showing of Beauty & the Beast.
It was terrific!  

A fun day was had by all!

(Well, except for daddy who was in sick in bed with a cold but thankfully, he's on the mend!)

Happy 11th Birthday, Faith & Grace!
You are loved beyond words!!


20 March 2017

Meal Plan Week #25


Happy (official) First Day of Spring!

Of course, here in the desert, when the weather warms up in February and we have plenty of 90 degree days in March, it feels like Spring has already sprung!

Spring is becoming my new favorite season around here. The mornings and evenings are still cool and on most days, playing outside during the day is still very doable. I guess when you have three kids who love being outside, you just learn to cherish those kind of days.

I'm not gonna lie, this week, I'm trying to keep things relatively simple. After all, it's the girls' BIRTHDAY week!! We're celebrating as a family during the week (their actual birthday) and then again, on Saturday, with all of our friends and a fun PARTY!! Can't wait!

Last week, I made two special seasonal things:

The first were these Dirt Cups. Since we're off from CBS this week, the girls celebrated an early birthday with their CBS class. Instead of cake or cupcakes, they wanted these sweet treats and I happily obliged because not only are they ADORABLE and very Spring-like, they are also incredibly EASY to make! #winwin


Next, in honor of St. Patrick's day, I made these corned beef sliders with Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. We had ours with a side of cabbage slaw and spicy pickles. Such a yummy and kid friendly version of Irish fare!

Speaking of St. Patty's day...

Who needs luck when you're this BLESSED?! #potsofgold

And last but not least...

My mom sent me this picture of herself on St. Patrick's Day. How cute is she?! 😄

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Meal Plan Week #25
  • Spicy Thai Chicken Salad
  • Turkey Sausage & Peppers
  • Pizza
  • Japanese Fried Rice
  • Tacos

Have a blessed week!

14 March 2017

Revolutionary War Field Trip

 The girls were ready for the morning.


 The "muskets" were lined up.


 Each township reporting.


 The actors were amazing!


Making biscuits and butter.


 Zach kept himself busy around the farm.


 The mock trial was one of the girls' favorite parts.


 This young lad is GUILTY... of stealing hearts! 😍


Best buddies for life.


 Naughty boy. 😨


 Naughty daddy! 😠


 Colonial games.


 Hoop and stick.


 Zach wanted to play, too.


 He loved it!


 The General preparing his soldiers for battle.


 Some of the kids were more into it than others. 😮


Zach just making sure the general was staying in line. 😉


My little soldier.


 Cute little thing!


 Peek a boo!


Taking a rare break to feed the ducks.


The girls received their soldier's ration: cheese, beef jerky, cornbread, an apple, and lemonade.


 Cheers to vintage Huckleberry Soda.


 Me and my baby.


Picnicking in the shade.


 Beautiful spring blossoms.


 Taking their posts for battle.


In conclusion: Reminding everyone of the sacrifices made and the cost of freedom.


 So fun!


That's a wrap to a fantastic family day!

Riley's Farm always does an amazing job with their field trips. We really appreciate the work it takes to re-create colonial life, while making it fun and interactive for the kids. The actors were terrific and we felt it was well worth it for our whole family. Thanks to daddy for taking the day off to join us!

We recently studied about the people of the Revolutionary War so this was just the icing on the cake. I love experiences like this where history is not just dry information in books but it becomes LIVING HISTORY!

The field trip is geared towards 5th graders but kids of surrounding grades would enjoy it as well. Zach did not participate in any of the stations with the girls but he sure had a blast exploring around the farm with daddy.

For our family, Riley's Farm is a very special place. It's where we go to enjoy all the seasons. It's where we've picked apples, pumpkins, and berries. It's where we celebrate special occasions and remember those who have gone before us. Honestly, some of our best memories have been made there. And we're so thankful for yet another fun day, filled with many more sweet memories!

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