Friday, April 29, 2016

Week in Review 2016: #17

Life

Last Friday night we were supposed to go camping with our church group, but the activity was cancelled due to thunderstorms. The children were disappointed so I told them that they could have a campout in the living room that night in their sleeping bags. That evening, we had hot dogs for dinner and for dessert, I layered graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows and put them in the toaster oven (it was raining at our house too, otherwise I would have had my husband fire up the grill for the hot dogs and marshmallows).


After we got the older children set up in the living room with their sleeping bags and a movie, we let Liam stay up for a while longer with them. First the children watched Robin Hood. They were still awake after that, so I put on Cinderella. Somehow, they still had not fallen asleep, so I put on The Little Mermaid. Finally, George fell asleep but Bridget was awake even after the third movie. By this time, it was after 11 o'clock. I turned off the television and told her to go to sleep. Finally by midnight, all three children were sound asleep and I headed off to bed.

We also planted our summer garden this week. We kept it small this year with only tomatoes, bell peppers, and marigolds.



At bedtime on Tuesday evening, George discovered that he had gotten a splinter earlier in the day when he was playing outside at Papa and Granny's house. His finger was red and painful. This was the very first splinter we've had to dig out of any of our children and it was a long and painful process. Every time I'd get it close to the surface to pull out with the tweezers, George would snatch his hand back, thus pushing the splinter right back in. Daddy, with far more experience with splinters than I do (and the strength to hold George down), took over while I held George's other arm and his head and sang to him. Bridget went into the hallway to say a prayer for him. Finally out came the splinter. The children were amazed at how tiny it was. George was mostly relieved. He insisted on a Band-aid, even though there was no blood involved.


We've had no word on the new house this week. We were told it takes a month or so to get permits and to do other 'behind the scenes' work. My husband is not convinced that it will be ready by November, but I'm hopeful that we will be in there before the holidays.

Homeschool

After my major re-do of the schedule and having everything printed out and ready for the remainder of the school year, we've been doing well and staying on task. I started a mini-project this week (nothing like the major undertaking I did earlier) and began making their Morning Time binders. We used to do Morning Time, but as Liam got bigger he made it almost impossible to get it done. If I was reading something, he was fussing and grabbing at the book. If the children were reciting something to me, he was making so much noise that I could not hear what was being said. Now that he is almost 2, he has become less clingy and fussy and more cooperative. I look forward to having Bridget and George do memory work again. They've always loved it.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our Last Little Garden

The first of many "lasts" in our current house: planting our summer garden! 

The children love working in the garden with Daddy. Bridget and George went with Daddy to the plant nursery while I stayed home with Liam as he napped. No more than five minutes after they returned home, they were all out in the garden! This year, they are keeping things very simple by only planting tomatoes, bell peppers, and marigolds.


Liam was not too interested in planting anything, as he was too busy playing with the water hose.


George loves being out in the garden and often refers to it as "my garden". He is completely in his element when he is working out there. He does a fantastic job of digging holes and gently putting the plants in the ground and filling in the soil around them. He does it with such great care. I know he is looking forward to our new home and hopefully a much bigger garden.


Bridget is mostly an observer now, though she did want to be the one to plant the marigolds. She does not seem to want to get dirty in the garden anymore. I don't know what I've done wrong, but I was the complete opposite as a child. I'll need to work on that with her.


In our garden, we also have strawberries that have returned year after year, that the birds usually get to the strawberries before we do. Daddy's experiment with growing onions is also continuing from last year. We have another small section of the garden with nothing in it. I suggested squash, but I don't think anyone heard me.


We have enjoyed our little raised bed garden. I do hope our renters enjoy it as much as we have!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Developing Good Habits, Accomplishing Goals

Goal Setting

Many of us set goals at the beginning of the year and often times by the end of January, we've failed. Perhaps the goal was unrealistic, or perhaps we did not take the necessary steps to achieving that goal. For example, I've made a goal to always have a clean house. Have I met that goal? Of course not! Why? Because I did not properly develop the habits I needed to clean my house regularly.




Developing Good Habits

The key to accomplishing goals is to build good habits that will assist me in doing just that. If I want to have a clean house, I should develop the habits of making my bed each morning, tidying the kitchen at the end of each day, making sure all of my dirty clothes are placed in the dirty laundry bin, ensuring that every toy and book has a spot to be returned to, and so on.

In the October 1974 General Conference, Elder Delbert L. Stapley's gave a talk titled "Good Habits Develop Good Character". In it, he states,

"Good habits are not acquired simply by making good resolves, though the thought must precede the action. Good habits are developed in the workshop of our daily lives. It is not in the great moments of test and trial that character is built. That is only when it is displayed. The habits that direct our lives and form our character are fashioned in the often uneventful, commonplace routine of life. They are acquired by practice."

The habits that we develop should be life-long changes we make to our daily routine. It would be a very large and difficult undertaking to assume that these habits may be developed all at once. Instead, we should take a select few and work on them for a week or a month before we attempt to develop another good habit.

Two years ago, I was sitting in a women's meeting at church and one woman stated that she makes simple goals each year, like remembering to make her bed or to sweep her kitchen floor. She said that she had always hated these tasks and very seldom ever did them, but one year she made the goal to make her bed every morning, and it has worked for her. Guilty of this same offense, I went home from the meeting and resolved to include this as a goal for myself as well. Now I make my bed about 95% of the time, though I admit that it is often not made until the early afternoon.

A habit that we developed as a family was to kneel down in prayer each night in our living room before sending the children off to bed. It ended our day on a good note and the children expect this as part of their nightly routines. I cannot tell you how good it feels to announce that it is time for family prayers only to have the children run to gather in the middle of our living room, on their knees, and arms folded. This includes my one-year-old. It is a simple habit that we developed that has made a huge difference for our family. (This is not a substitute for personal bedtime prayers; the children still say their own prayers on their beds.)

"Maintaining good personal habits which are pleasing to our Heavenly Father will strengthen our character, increase our influence for good, improve our example, bless our loved ones and friends, enrich our lives, and enable us to accomplish those things that yield true personal satisfaction and build peace and happiness in our hearts." - Elder Stapley

Now the question is, what habits should I develop to reach my goal?


Accountability


This is where I announce to the blog world what my intentions are. I have chosen to start very simple. Before moving on to develop a new habit, I feel that my current habits need some fine-tuning. This week I am focusing on three habits. I have more goals than having a tidy home. I have a desire to be physically healthy, to keep my mind active through reading and constant learning, to stay organized, and last but not least, to improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father through prayer and scripture study. Doing these things, I hope to become a better example for my children and to feel the sense of accomplishment and peace that comes from doing what I should.


Habits for Week One


1. Make my bed each morning
2. Clean the kitchen before going to bed
3. Drink 100 ounces of water daily


Again, these habits are fairly simple for me. I already make my bed most of the time, but I do want it to be something that is done first thing in the morning. I drink a lot of water, but there are days that I'll forget until later at night when I realize how thirsty I am. The most difficult habit for this week is to clean my kitchen each night before bed. At the end of the day I am tired. I am guilty of leaving dirty dishes on my counter over night only to have them staring at me first thing in the morning. That is no way to begin a cheerful and productive day. 

I hope that we can all find something to improve of ourselves and to develop good habits (while hopefully breaking bad ones) so that we may achieve all that we hope for.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Week in Review 2016: #16

Life

We did it!!! We signed a contract to build our new house. It only took about a year to do, but it's a done deal. A 5% non-refundable deposit has been made, and we're totally doing this.

This week we also went strawberry picking and visited farm animals. The weather was beautiful and we all had a fantastic time.

Bridget and her basket of strawberries
George telling us how to pick strawberries
Liam and his new chicken friends

The children have been most excited about going camping this weekend with our church group, but last night we made the decision to cancel. The area where the campground is located is expecting thunderstorms today and tomorrow. I promised Bridget and George that they can still have a campout in the living room tonight and sleep in their sleeping bags. While living room camping is not as much fun as a campground with canoes, a fire for roasting marshmallows, and lot's of friends to play with, this did at least soften the blow and they're now looking forward to it.

Homeschool

In order to catch up, we're now doing both science and history daily rather than on opposite days. For history, we're in India. In order to help us study India this week, we borrowed a few fun books from the library.

     

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Farm Friends

The farm that we went to for strawberry picking also has many farm animals to visit with. There was a pig, turkeys, peacocks, goats, alpacas, a donkey, and many, many, chickens. The children enjoyed getting to know each animal. 

This was also Liam's first experience seeing so many of them in one place and his reactions were priceless. He made good friends with this chicken that had gotten over the fence and so badly wanted to get back in. Liam would follow it, then it would follow Liam. Big sister had to intervene to keep Liam from getting too close.


George enjoyed getting to know the goats best. When we got there, they were resting by the fence but once George got their attention, they were jumping on the fence and walking around trying to say hello. I really beginning to like goats. They always look as if they are smiling!


The farm also had two alpacas! They were enjoying the shade during our visit. North Carolina is a lot warmer than their native areas of the Andes mountains. Bridget and George both loved the alpacas because we learned about their close cousins, the llama, in science this year. Unfortunately, the alpacas were not active enough to get Liam's attention.


One highlight for me was seeing this huge turkey. It had its feathers puffed out the entire time and looked just like the turkeys they show in children's books about Thanksgiving. He was trying his very best to impress his lady friend, who was only trying to get away from him.


We made a second visit to say goodbye to this lonesome pig. He was trying to chew at something outside of his pen. Liam was very unsure about him, though he seemed friendly enough. As we were leaving, he began rolling around in the mud.


We will have to make a return trip to visit with the animals again before the season is over.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Strawberries!

Strawberry picking season is the official start of warm weather season around here. We recently enjoyed a 'family day' at the strawberry patch. We were able to go on a weekday and had almost the entire field to ourselves. The weather was beautiful and the kids had a grand time. 

We let the children do most of the picking. They're old enough now to recognize which strawberries are ripe and ready to be picked. I was able to step back and enjoy the moment, and take pictures of them all having a great time. 

Bridget was off to a great start, finding many nice red strawberries to fill her basket. She is so sweet and is never able to hide the excitement from her face. 


George does things differently than his sister. He is a hard worker and would not stop and look at the camera for me. He did, however, have a lot to say on the process of picking strawberries. Here he is talking about the strawberry he just picked.


I did manage to get this picture of him with his last basket full of strawberries. 


Liam, being only a year old, enjoyed his first real experience picking strawberries. He caught on very quickly and I was impressed at how well he was filling his basket. I did pick a few of them and helped him when his basket started getting too full.


After their baskets were full, they unloaded them into the larger basket that Daddy was holding, then went back to pick more.


Look at all those rows of strawberries!!! I love living in a place where we can pick fresh fruits and vegetables each year, and having the children discover where their food comes from. I imagine that we will be making another trip to the strawberry field before the season is over!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Recipe: Chocolate Mousse Pie

My first memory of chocolate mousse was at the Malolo Lounge at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had been walking around after our dinner (at Imari Restaurant) and my sweet tooth kicked in. Malolo Lounge was one of the few places still open at that time of night and the live music caught my attention. Everyone else was enjoying their evening cocktails while I opted for the dessert menu. It was so delicious and by far the most expensive dessert I think I've ever eaten.

Years later, with children, serving chocolate mousse in a fancy glass isn't going to work. So I have turned it into a pie. (I do still make the chocolate mousse portion during strawberry season. Who doesn't appreciate a fresh picked strawberry dipped in chilled chocolate mousse??)


The kids go absolutely crazy over it. They rush to finish their dinner so that they can hurry up and have pie! This chocolate mousse recipe is much healthier than your standard chocolate mousse (but should still be consumed in moderation). I can also make two pies for the price I paid for one serving of chocolate mousse in Hawaii!


Chocolate Mousse Pie

Ingredients
1 16-oz. container of silken tofu (Nasoya Organic Silken Tofu)
1 1/2 c. vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (melted) (Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Chips, Semi-Sweet Chocolate are my go-to vegan chocolate chip)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. agave
2 Tbsp. soy milk

Store bought chocolate cookie pie crust.

Vegan whipped cream (I love So Delicious Coco Whip Light. If your grocery store does not carry this, there are many recipes online for making your own coconut whipped cream.)

Directions
Add all of the ingredients into a blender and mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour the chocolate mousse into the pie crust. Cover the pie and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream. Drizzle with chocolate syrup because one can never have too much chocolate.

*****


WARNING: Children have been known to sneak samples. You may find small finger-sized portions missing from your pie. 

They have also been known to stay up later than usual due to a chocolate buzz. Serve at your own risk.





Friday, April 15, 2016

Week in Review 2016: #15

Life

We have had to make some big decisions this week. Okay, they really are not that big. But the kids thought they were. We had intended to stop gymnastics lessons for Bridget (6) and George (4) during the summer to save a bit of money, and then re-enroll George in the fall and have Bridget be done with it and focus more on dance. I told my husband that he would have to break the news to Bridget, so he did, and both children will still be enrolled in gymnastics for the summer. That went well. When I asked him what we're going to do about the fall season, he said that we will just take one season at a time.

Today is my husbands last day of a busy tax season. Taxes this year are technically not due until Monday the 18th because of a holiday in Washington, DC, but my husband's boss said that he's not going to force the employees to work extra hours after the 15th, since the clients should all be responsible enough to get their paperwork in on time, regardless of any holidays. Have I mentioned that I really like my husband's boss?

We're also ready to sign a contract for our new home. The numbers have been agreed upon (sort of) and now we're going back to the bank for the official pre-approval. That'll be some time next week.

Homeschool


At the beginning of the month, I posted our mid-year check-in of how things have really gone this year

This week, I am so excited that I have my new system up and running (for the most part). I had created it to begin our next school year, but thought I'd do the test-run now. I've mentioned previously that I have expanded our school year from 36 weeks to 42 weeks. We're basically homeschooling year-round with week long breaks throughout the year. This is so far going really well.

First, I made a 'Weekly Plan' and then I planned everything out by day. This is the general plan for where we should be next week. (We are a little behind in history and science, so we will not be learning about Shi Huangdi or The Circulatory System next week, but it will be there when we get to it.) Boxes are left blank for our book selections, as I have not yet made the trip to the library. It is a lot easier to write those in when we're ready, as the library does not always have the books available that we need.



Next, I made folders for the work that needs to be completed. All color-coded and orderly to satisfy my OCD.

I have been filling the folders with all subjects. I will finish that this weekend. I still have math worksheets to print out and handwriting pages to make. Once I am done with those, the entire rest of the year's preparation is complete. All I'll need to do is teach the lesson, read the book(s), and assist in the usual daily work. I cannot say enough how glad I am to finally have everything prepared in advance. I should have done this a lot sooner. Weekends and Monday mornings are already a lot less stressful.

Now Miss Bridget can look at her weekly plan, take the paperwork out of the folder, and complete it. We've been behind in a couple of subjects so there is catch-up to do. For that, we start with the earliest folder with something in it. Bridget has no problem with this, as it usually has something to do with science or history. For the folders with multiple subjects, I'm letting her pick what to complete first.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Our Mid-Year Check In


We're a bit past the half-way point in our first full year of homeschool. My oldest is in the first grade), and so I did expect that I would be making some changes once we got in our groove. Little did I know, I would be doing a major overhaul.

Schedule

My biggest change has been with the schedule. I set up our homeschool to run 5 days a week from August to May (36 weeks) with a few breaks in between, coinciding with our extracurricular activities vacation schedules, which coincided with our local public school systems schedule. Big mistake. This worked at first, but we ran into a major problem. My husband, 9 months out of the year, has every Friday off or works only half-day. I thought that I would be able to homeschool while he was home on Friday (he could watch the boys for me while I gave Bridget my undivided attention) and it would work perfectly. As it turns out, my husband did not like the idea of watching the boys by himself and not being able to go out and do things as a family. Bridget did not like the boys spending so much time with Daddy while she had to do school.

I gave in and put my family first, which is something I should have done all along, and we enjoyed many day-trips/weekend trips together. Which meant that everything I had scheduled for Fridays was pushed back to the following week, and we kept getting further and further behind. This was a major scheduling blunder on my part.

The light at the end of the tunnel continued to get dimmer, until I finally decided to re-do the entire schedule. I switched our school year to 42 weeks, schooling on a 6-weeks-on, 1-week-off schedule, except during Christmas and the beginning and end of our 'summer term' where we have two weeks off. So far, this is working well. Our breaks come right when we need them. We're still not completely back on track, but I am pleased with our progress and feeling less overwhelmed.

Curriculum

I have not made any changes in our curriculum, meaning I have not purchased anything new to replace something that didn't work. We are still very happy with our choices and they work well for us. I'm glad about that considering I spent many, many hours researching curriculum choices. I have, however, not been covering a couple of subjects due to lack of time and poor preparation. I may try again next year, but who knows.

Spelling

Spelling Workout A
Spelling Workout B

We started off strong in spelling and completed the first 5 lessons of book A with no problem. They were very simple lessons. Once Bridget began working on lesson 6, she had some trouble. Bridget could read some, but she became easily frustrated and mentally shut down. Realizing that this would be a major problem moving forward, I stopped spelling lessons immediately and we did a "reading boot camp" of sorts. We borrowed a few Dick and Jane books from the library and her reading abilities improved greatly. We did this for a couple of months and we finally started back on the spelling workbooks after Christmas. I don't think we will get to Book B this school year, but Bridget has set a nice pace for herself and has been completing lessons faster than I expected. Looking back, she simply was not ready.

Grammar

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Audio Companion Levels 1 & 2

The lessons are short and simple, which I appreciate. We are behind some, because I had scheduled grammar for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and you've already read how well our Fridays turned out. But we're sticking with this curriculum. Bridget enjoys the picture narrations best.

To be honest, we have not even opened the audio companion. I purchased it because it was a great deal at the time, but we do not own a CD player other than the desktop computer or in the minivan. It is on my list of things to buy.

Reading

First Grade
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
The Harp & Laurel Wreath (Poetry and Dictation)
BOB Books

We have not completed The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading like we should have. Our daily lessons became weekly lessons, though we were still reading either BOB Books or Dick and Jane books from the library. I have every intention of finishing it but life happens. Often.

With a 1-year-old, "Morning Time" did not turn out how I had planned and so The Harp and Laurel Wreath got dropped. I am trying to find a way to work this in for next year, as Bridget and I enjoyed it when we used it for kindergarten. The little one will be two by then and hopefully much more manageable.

Preschool
My First BOB Books: Alphabet
My First BOB Books: Pre-Reading Skills

At the end of January, George turned four, so I began reading My First BOB Books with him. He loves being read to but had no interest in learning to read the letters himself. I am not worried about it at this point, as he will only be starting "Pre-K" with us in August. He has another two years before he needs to be able to read for school.

Writing

The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade 1

The Complete Writer workbook was written for a 4-day-a-week schedule, and it is the only subject that we are fully caught up on (we never got behind!). I love the format and have already purchased the level 2 workbook for next year.

Mathematics

First Grade
Math-U-See Alpha

We still love Math-U-See.

Preschool
George really loves counting, and he's very good at it for his age. He also recognizes patterns easily. He does simple math (using pictures, not numbers) and explains it to me well. The Easter Bunny gave him a workbook to further work on his math skills.

History & Geography 

Story of the World: Ancient Times
MapTrek: The Complete Collection

Story of the World was one of the main reasons why I had to overhaul my schedule and expanded to a 42-week school year. I was trying to cram 42 lessons into 36 weeks and it was not working. History lessons felt rushed because I was trying desperately to keep up. We're still behind where I need to be even for the 42 week schedule, but it is running much more smoothly and we are back to enjoying it.

Science 

Elemental Science: Biology for the Grammar Stage

Biology for the Grammar Stage is broken up into 3 units: animals, the human body, and plants. Bridget has a huge interest in learning about as many animals as possible, and the curriculum was lacking in that. It is set up for a 36-week school year and so when I re-did our schedule, I also expanded the animals unit and made my own notebook pages. We still do some of the science demonstrations from the animals unit along with the coloring pages. The human body and plants units will probably stay the same, except done later in the school year. We will be covering plants during the summer, the same time that we'll be working in our garden! I also plan on using Elemental Science's Earth Science and Astronomy curriculum for second grade, because I like their format and lessons overall.

Art Skills and Appreciation 

Drawing with Children

This totally didn't happen! We did not do even one lesson from this book. We just never had the time. Maybe in the future (summer perhaps?).

Music Skills and Appreciation 

Piano
John W. Schaum Piano Course Pre-A The Green Book

We did not have the time to do a weekly piano lesson like I had planned. The youngest was either sleeping or wreaking havoc. He either wants to climb onto the piano bench with big sister and pound on the keys or have me hold him while he throws his body weight down towards the piano trying to escape my grasp (but screams if I put him on the floor).

Lately, however, Bridget has taken up an interest in teaching herself the tunes to her favorite songs. After dinner some evenings, I have left Liam in his high chair to finish eating while I help Bridget at the piano. She's now reading some notes, does well with using the correct fingers, and also understands how to count out the correct beats. It is not the piano lesson I had envisioned, but it works for us.

Conclusion

I have learned that homeschooling is not what we sometimes expect it to be. We can plan and schedule and hope that things work out, and sometimes they do. So far, the new schedule is working great for this stage of life. I have every intention of using it for next year. Subjects will get harder for Bridget as she moves up, and I know that I will have to allow for that. We will also be welcoming new students into our classes; George begins Pre-K in August, and Liam will soon be participating in various subjects as well. It won't be long that I'll be juggling a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and a 1st grader each day, planning group lessons and assigning work appropriate for each student. 

Homeschooling is anything but predictable!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Week in Review 2016: #12 and #13

Life

The children had a special moment with Daddy one Sunday evening before bed. He often reads Bridget and George a bedtime story in their room, but Liam is finally old enough to sit still and not play with the book too much while it's being read. Daddy has only been home at bedtime on the weekends, which made this moment that much more special. We look forward to having him back home with us again after the 15th.


The weather was beautiful again this week. The children have spent a lot of time playing outside. Sometimes with me, but most times with Papa so that I can get some things done around the house. One evening as we were getting ready for bed, George informed me that his feet were dirty and needed to be washed. I told him that I would wash his feet for him in the tub after I got Liam in his pajamas. George didn't feel like waiting and I walked into the bathroom to find him like this. He is quite the little problem solver.

He ran the warm water in the bathroom sink, and once it was filled enough he sat there soaking his feet. He was too cute not to get the camera to take a picture.



I do love that he is very independent and can take care of himself, but there are also many other times that he runs off and does something dangerous that he thinks he is old enough to do but he's not. This darling boy stresses his momma out!

We also had an enjoyable Easter holiday last weekend, which you can read more about here.

Homeschool

I am in a homeschool mom funk, which I have read is quite normal at this time of the school year. Bridget has been doing her basic studies but we have not done any fun projects lately. I feel like I don't have the time or energy to put something together for her. The good news is that she has not complained about it. She does the work then goes off to play.

Perhaps my lack of time and energy has to do with the fact that I have been spending a lot of time planning for next school year (curriculum has been purchased and lessons are being planned) and I have been attempting to become better organized for next year so that I am not printing off worksheets five minutes before Bridget is working on them. 

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