Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Take advantage of free stuff

It's that time of year again. Everyone is in a buzz trying to work out curriculum for the next year. I thought this would be a great chance for me to plug one of my favorite FREE resources.


I'm not much of a "busy work" teacher. I teach, my kids do enough work to learn and they practice the skill long enough to master it. I try not to hand out worksheets to the point that they exhaust a subject. But I really do find sometimes worksheets are very necessary to practice and master new skills.

Education.com makes it easy to access worksheets easily so that I do not waste my day looking for work online for my kids. At the top of the page you can click on "worksheets" and refine your search by subject and grade. If you like their stuff, there is an option to buy workbooks and stuff, but I tend to get by on just the free stuff. I love that it is such a fast and easy resource during weeks like this week. My daughter Nevy (8 yrs) is working on multiplication and division and simply needs some extra work. I was able to go in and find some supplemental worksheets in 2 minutes. No messing around. I love it. Not to mention, this website has the cutest graphics! I just love it.

My favorite worksheet that we are using today is a writing prompt, "Who is your favorite fictional character?"

 Homeschooling can be so expensive. I really love getting a break when I can. I also love things that engage my kids and keep them interested in learning and their assignments. The graphics from these worksheets are super cute and the kids seem to really enjoy them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

School photos

Mommy guilt. I battle it every day. Am I making the correct choices for my kids? What am I sacrificing on their behalf when I choose this path? What are they missing out on?

The silliest things that I dwell on are those ridiculous school photos. Those landmarks in time that we all love to hate, and mothers love to display proudly. I regret every year, second guess myself, and start to worry and reevaluate my choices.

Reevaluating is not always a bad thing. Upon further introspection, I realize that for every school photo that is absent on my wall, I have about 50 photos that I have taken myself: a reflection of the time we shared together. I realize that the cost of those school photos would be much greater than I am willing to afford. It would cost me the many memories that we spend each day creating. It might cost my children the amazing education they are currently receiving. And the list goes on. I don't know if this revelation means that I will not continue to feel a twinge of self doubt when I see my friends post those horribly cute school photos of their kids online, but maybe each time I see them I can continue to reaffirm my choice instead of fill myself with mommy guilt. Because when it comes down to it, I know that I've chosen the perfect educational path for my kids. For now.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Santa: A Myth?

I usually post these types of things as facebook status updates. But a comment from a friend reminded me that I have a blog. Ha. And my blog will allow me to elaborate on things. So, I am going to try to venture over here to post these.

Nevaeh is doing a lot of investigation this year into the whole "Is Santa Clause real?" dilemma. I've been very careful to this point in how I answer her questions so far and I let her imagination take over. Usually our conversations sound like this:

Nev: "Mom, is Santa real?"
Me: "What do you think?"
up until this year, this was enough. She would always say, "I think he is real." And that would be the end.

Nope. Not this year.

This year has been different. My previous methods of deferring this conversation just aren't working any more. You see, I have this weird thing about lying to my kids. I just can't bring myself to do it. Even over things like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Our family participates in the traditions and I value the aspects of the traditions that play on the kid's imaginations, but when it comes down to it, there is something deep inside me wants the kids to know the REAL story. I want my kids to focus on the REAL Christmas and not get caught up in the fantasy. I'm just conflicted on how to get them there. So I just carefully use my words to see what she does with them.

Here is our most recent conversation:

Nev: "Mom, is Santa real?"
Me: "What do you think?"
Nev: "I want to know what YOU think."
Me: Sigh. I pause because I have been dreading this moment for the past couple of years. "Well, you know the story of Saint Nicholas, right? The Santa Clause that you see in cartoons and stuff is the Americanized version of Saint Nick."
She processes that for a moment.
Nev: "But I know that Saint Nicholas is real. But he died and lives in heaven now. I'm talking about the Santa that comes down the chimney and brings us presents?!"
Me: I'm disappointed that she's still pressing for a straight up yes or no. Why does she have to be so smart!?! I think to myself, she's only 8. I don't want her to let go of the mystery just yet, but I want to have a grasp of the reality. So I say just that, "Nevaeh, don't you want to leave just a little bit of mystery. I've told you what I know. You know the history of Saint Nick. And you know what Saint Nicholas asked us to do? He asked us to be happy givers. So lets rememember that this Christmas and leave the rest to mystery and let's just enjoy the mystery this year."
Nevaeh thinks on that for a minute or so. The expression on her face looks critical, but you can also see a lightbulb go off. I feel like, for a moment, she got it without me having to say straight out, "Santa Clause is not real." Because I feel like, in a way, that is a lie too, and I feel like the idea is too complex for her to grasp this young. Or maybe I am not ready for her to grasp it.

She asked this every day last week. A couple of days passed by since she's brought it up,  and I thought I was in the free and clear. Today, I allowed her to pick out any movie she wanted on Netflix. She picked Santa Clause (that movie from 1985). And when it was finally over she ran into the living room shouting, "He's real! I knew it! Santa Clause is real!"

Ha. Well. At least I'm good for another year.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dealing with Interruptions

Our life is full and amazing. I love where we live, I love my job, and I love the opportunity to stay home with my kids. But working and schooling in your home has it's drawbacks. Especially when your home is in a neighborhood, with lots of other people, and in the city.

Imagine this scenario:
You are at home with 4 kids. You have been busy all morning with school, playing with kids, etc. You finally get two of your children down for a nap, and have the third quietly playing and temporarily distracted long enough for you to give instruction to the oldest who needs some assistance with a school assignment. The moment you sit down to start a lesson, someone knocks loudly at the door. Luckily the dog isn't roused, so you try to ignore it and get on with the lesson. Your neighbor peeps through the window in your front door and sees you. They think you might not have heard them, so they knock louder and ring the doorbell repeatedly. This makes your dog VERY angry. He barks LOUD. Nothing you can do will make him be quiet. This makes your 3 year old VERY excited (the one who you finally had quietly entertained in the other room). Your three year old runs in the room and starts squealing with excitement and starts running laps around the house with his new burst of energy rustled up by all the excitement of having a random uninvited person at the door. The commotion wakes up your toddler and baby. They are both upset because they did not get enough sleep. The baby will go back to sleep, but your toddler is stubborn and has decided he has had enough nap for the day even though he was only out for 10 minutes. You will have to battle and negotiate for another 45 minutes to an hour to get your house back to the peaceful rest that it was at before the door was knocked on by the intruder. You finally get your neighbor pacified about whatever they felt was important enough to knock on my door for (asking for my husband when his car is obviously NOT HERE? REALLY?!). 

Repeat scenario when the UPS guy knocks and disappears and leaves the kids mystified by the mysterious box that magically showed up on the doorstep. 

Now that we have had our fourth baby, and have just recovered from the infancy of our 3rd, I think it's really time that I crack down on distractions. I hate to say it, but I don't often feel the sanctuary of my house as a home until the late hours of the evening. Taking a shower is an obstacle I'm not always sure I want to endure. Aside from the normal millions of things that can happen with my children, it seems that the moment I jump into the shower, the doorbell rings, my dog needs to go out, my phone starts ringing, the neighborhood kids want to play, etc. The fact that a shower is such a challenging thing, makes me wonder how we even get school accomplished some days. There is seriously someone always calling, always knocking at our door, someone always needs something.

My husband is a pastor and we do our best to be available to the community and to be a light in our neighborhood. We do not mind feeding the needy, helping those who need help, listening to those who need to talk, having friends and family over, etc. I love that we've always had an open door policy. But our family has very important needs as well.

I am actively learning how to place healthy boundaries that protect and appoint value the needs of my family. I am now learning that our "open door" needs hours of operation. My kids education would not be interrupted and compromised by neighbors, solicitors, and friends if they were away at school during the day. And I need to do a better job protecting their learning time. I also need to do a better job protecting our family's private time. You know things are getting bad when a bi-weekly shower is an impossibility if my husband is not home.

My first step to helping establish boundaries around our homeschool day,  to hopefully preserve the peace at home, and to help preserve the flow of the day, is to make a sign for the front door. One side will be the "No Solicitors and do not disturb" side and the other side will be the "Welcome" side. I feel like this will give healthy boundaries to our "open door" policy, will help preserve the sanctuary of our home, and will help protect that sanctity of our school/work day. I'm going to go hit up the dollar store today to see if they have a simple lap-chalk board that I can use a paint pen on. I'll post a photo of my finished product when it's finished, and will post about the results. I hope and pray that this is a gentle and kind reminder to those that we love in our life to give my children and my self the space we need to thrive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

ASL as a second language

Last year I allowed Nevaeh to choose her second language to start learning and she chose American Sign Language. Over the year, we built a basic foundation  for her vocabulary and had a fun introduction by the use of random Youtube videos, cartoons, and online games. It was a fun way to get started and she learned a lot! I wanted to share her favorite resources from last year and share what we are using this year as we move on more in depth with her ASL skills.

Kidcourses.com was my favorite resource to get started. They had great videos with rhymes and had printouts that Nevaeh could use every day to go along with the rhymes that were built around the letters of the alphabet.

We were also able to find episodes of Signing times online and Nevaeh had a great time watching and learning from that show while being entertained. This was a great relaxing activity that she got a lot out of. Nevaeh really likes interactive television shows, so I was super happy to find something that applied to her current curriculum.

We also lucked out by having a friend who is very active with the Deaf community and attends a Deaf church. One of her friends lent her a huge pile of children's books with accompanying signs. I was so happy when she brought that pile of books over and we spent the day making copies of those story books which we used as coloring sheets to help build vocabulary.

This year, I am very excited to start using an actual curriculum. I have gone through it myself quite a bit after I found it through a random google search last year. http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/lessons/lessons.htm
I really like the vocab building aspects of this curriculum and the fact that it presents cultural aspects and history of the Deaf community as well. I am really looking forward to spending the next year or two with Nevaeh using this curriculum to help build her skills.

My goal for Nevaeh is that she feels comfortable enough by the end of the year with ASL to use it in conversation with a fluent ASL speaker. My friend who I mentioned earlier has told us about a Deaf church that she attends with her friends and I would love to take Nevaeh there to meet some folks and practice her skills.

 I'm very interested to see what she ends up doing with her second language. I think it was a very unique choice and I pray that I can help her foster that interest and make the most of her learning.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Yay! Soccer season is here! I am so excited this year because Aidan is old enough to join in the soccer fun. I have enjoyed our lazy days during winter filled with monotony and routine (apart from the craziness surrounding the holidays). But it's time to rock and roll, get moving, and soak up some vitamin D. Our first games were this past week and the kids had so much fun:

The kids are having a great time making new friends and I really think they needed an outlet for their energy. It's like they behave so much better when they have something to look forward to and a place to run of their energy. I had my first glance at Aidan trying to act cool for his friends, and I have learned that Nevaeh has no problem being singled out as the jokester of the group. And their support for each other is really amazing. Nevaeh really loves her brothers and had such a great time cheering Aidan on at his first game. Seeing them involved in a sport with other kids their age really makes my heart swell with pride. They are such good kids. They are both so loving and so passionate and so much fun! 

I thank God for the amazing little people that they are. And I am looking forward to the amazing spring we have just begun and all of the fun we can fill it with! 

Along with sports, our schedule of homeschooling is really filling up and both of the kids are having a great time with lessons. I have much more energy and motivation for their lessons when the sun is out, and I feel like the good weather inspires and sparks our imaginations to help us learn so much more. I may be one of the only people in the state of Georgia who really loves and appreciates our sweltering hot and long summers. Here's to long hot summers with so much to do and explore!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our New Foundation: Time4Learning

About 2-3 months ago, I was pretty burnt out, and needed some help. The hubs kept bringing up the idea of sending Nevy to a charter school or something like that. He could see I needed a break. I knew this was just a phase. A moment that would pass. I knew we could make it through. I just needed some support and a helper. I had known a few families who had tried a web-based curriculum called Time4Learning. I went online and read some reviews, and decided to give it a try. There was a free trial period and I could cancel anytime, so I thought it would be great to give it a chance.

There was a learning curve the first couple of weeks. Nevy, who is 7, still needed me by her side. She was still gaining confidence in her reading skills, and needed my assistance in helping her read the tests questions to her and some of the modules. As far as navigating the modules, she did fantastic. She loved the characters on the modules and every day, she'd ask me, "When can I do school?!" She was so excited about the program. So, it didn't take long for her to fall in love with the program.

As for me, I was skeptical at first, but now I know it's a full time part of our homeschooling. At least for now. Let me start by giving a few points on the things that I love:

  • I love that I do not have to do very much pre-planning. The lessons are there. I do not have to prepare. This is really one of the breaks I was looking for. This is what I needed right now. I am so very thankful for that. 
  • I love how involved she gets when she is learning in her modules. I think the fun aspects to the lessons really do a great job at keeping her involved. 
  • She's learning a lot. I love how she incorporates her lessons into every day conversation, so that I can tell how much she's learning.
  • I like how I can view her progress online. 
  • She's gaining so much more confidence in reading. Before we started this program, it was a battle to get her to do any sort of independent reading. Now she reads by herself at least one hour every day. I believe a love for reading helps foster a love for learning and will really make an impact on how homeschooling works out for us. I am so thankful that this program did such a great job at this. 
  • She can do her lessons from anywhere. We've gone out of town, and she stays at her grandparent's houses regularly. It's so nice to know that she can work on her lessons no matter what my schedule looks like.
  • I like the worksheets that accompany the lessons. I was worried about Nevy doing a web-based curriculum, because I was afraid that she was not going to get enough practice in writing and off-line lessons. But the curriculum has printable worksheets that allow her to practice her writing and work on her lessons off of the computer. This has helped her tremendously. Now she is writing more and more on her own, and even keeping a journal. 
  • Time4Learning has online support forums where you can ask questions and discuss homeschool issues with other parents. This is a great support for me.

Some things that I don't like about the program (for Nevy. These things may not apply to every child):
  • Well, it's a web-based program. So she does spend quite a while in front of the computer. She started out spending about 4-5 hours trying to do just a few things, but now she has it worked out so that she can get her lessons finished in just around 40 minutes to an hour (which is what I was hoping for). 
  • She wonders. Time4Learning has a great concept of "Recess" where your child can take a break and go "play" online at an approved website, which is listed through the program. This option comes up after the parental-appointed amount of time. My daughter tends to get side tracked and sucked into the games. Time4Learning has the Recess timed through their program, but she will open a new window with the game and I walk in and realize she's been playing on some other website 15 minutes longer than her appointed time. This is simply something that I'll have to set better boundaries for. 
  • I wish the worksheets were easier to find. I may be doing something wrong, but currently it's a bit of work to figure out what worksheets to give her every week. As it is right now, it seems sort of difficult to figure out what pages to print out for her, since she is not old enough to print the pages on her own yet. 
  • I wish the tests and quizzes were all read aloud at her age level (at that she had that option, if needed). Every once in a while, there are words in the tests and quizzes that she just doesn't understand. 
  • This is an expensive program if you have more than one child in school. It's about 20 bux a month. Since I have 3 (soon to be 4) kids who will one day all be in school, it's overwhelming to think of what our monthly bill will be like. But as for now- I can handle the price for one child. I do wish it were more like $10 or $15/month. I could make a longer commitment and say, yes we will do this for quite some time, if it were that price. But we don't have cable, and we cut other corners so that we can make it happen right now. 
All in all, this program is doing exactly what I needed in this point in time. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm able to actually get everything accomplished in my household without feeling like one thing is being overlooked. This program is giving us opportunities to learn and explore other things with a lot more joy and I really appreciate that. I still have to supplement here and there to fit Nevy's needs but it is a great foundation for her daily education. And she loves it so much, she'd be torn up if we got rid of it! 

As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.