November 30, 2013

I failed before I succeeded.

I failed my first attempt to homeschool.  This takes a lot for me to admit... Many of my friends and family don't even know that I attempted to homeschool preschool for my two oldest girls.  The friends and family that do know either do not realize what a failure it was, or are kind enough not to remind me.  I failed for a couple of reasons.  Keeping this failure in mind, helps me avoid failure in our current home school.
The first reason for the previous failure was my husband wasn't totally on board.  He liked what we were attempting but it was my thing, and gave me something to keep busy with two littles at home.  As long as it didn't cost anything, it was fine for me to play school.  This time, he is not only on board but he is very supportive.  Our decision to home school came from a lot of prayer.  The funny thing is, he brought up the idea of home schooling without knowing that God had been working on me with the same idea. We realized that if this was God's idea, we better take in seriously.  
Another reason for failure the first time was I tried to do too much.  I had found a free online curriculum (letter of the week). The curriculum was great, but so full of great things, I tried to do them all.  Trying to do everything and pushing through even when my kids were not getting it, or not wanting to do it, lead to burnout at about the letter Q.  (To this day, my now 10 year old remembers that we only got to Q).   I didn't give myself and my girls enough grace.  I didn't give them enough credit for what they were learning, I was so worried about what they weren't getting yet.  We were all discouraged, so I just quit!
The final reason for total home school failure was that I tried to do it with little understanding or research.  I really didn't know this was a reason for the failure until I started to look into home schooling my elementary age kids.  This time, I researched extensively, I read books, any one I could get my hands on.  I read blogs, I found help.
I also found out that failure is part of the process.  Of course, I knew in my own mind that we learn through our mistakes... I guess I just forgot.  Now we fail from time to time, but instead of quitting, we adjust.  

October 21, 2013

Why do we home school?

This question comes up a lot... it's not a simple answer.
The immediate problem that we had at the time we made the decision to home school was that we were moving for the second time in a year and because we were only renting we knew there would be another move coming.  Continuity was being disrupted once again, and we were not completely sure of when the moving would stop.  The solution that home school offered was continuity.  They didn't have to start over every year.
Another problem we had was class size.  The girls went from being one of 22 to one of 32.  As a former teacher, this bothered me.  It became a real problem when I started noticing some issues with my then first grader's writing.  The teacher was overwhelmed, and could not tell me or even help figure out what my daughter's struggle was.  She wasn't a discipline problem and she was a good faker... so other than myself, nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong.
So these circumstances really pushed me to look at home school as an option.  I had always been attracted to the idea of teaching my own children.  After all, I was a teacher in my before kids life. However, I was afraid of failing my children some way.  When I began researching home schooling, it became apparent that my worries were unfounded.  Everyone worries about being a good enough teacher for their kids...I have an education and a background that should give me the confidence to overcome those fears.  Realizing this freed me up to really look at home school and discover if it would work for our family.
There are a few specific things that we really love about home schooling.  The flexibility in schedule, the opportunity to expand our children's education beyond standards set by the department of education, the teacher to student ratio, and the shared experience our kids have with us and each other are some of the biggest benefits.
The flexibility of the home school schedule is a HUGE benefit.  Our current state (WA) requires 180 days of instruction, just like the public school.  But we can use those 180 days at any time and in any way we want.  So rainy summer days become a school day easily, instead of a wasted day watching TV.  When I was pregnant with our little boy, we planned to take 4 weeks off starting mid-September for his birth (which ended up including a week long stay in the special care nursery).  The girls didn't miss an hour of school for it, we just started early and used some Saturdays.  We are planing a big move across the country in a few weeks.  Again, we will be pushing pause on the school year for a couple of weeks (though you can bet the drive will include some educational stops along the way).
We have also enjoyed going beyond what a public school education would include.  We have added Bible and character education to our curriculum.  Taking the opportunity to deepen their (and mine as well) understanding of our faith.  The girls are also starting Spanish lessons this year, an opportunity they would not have until later in our current school district.
Invaluable is the 1:3 teacher to student ratio of our home school.  Teaching my children has given me an insight into their learning abilities and struggles that I had not been able to see from outside of the classroom.  I understand now what my now 3rd grader's struggle is with reading and writing. I get to help her focus on her strength and the creativity that gets stifled in a large classroom.
The shared experience that all of the girls (1 year old boy is not yet being "schooled") have has brought them closer.  In the last year of public school I noticed that the girls would fight a lot when they came home but during extended breaks they were best friends.  They get along all the time now.  They are each other's best friend.  As a family unit, we just have more time together.  We spend fewer nights struggling through home work, because it's all homework, done during the day.  We go on adventures to explore something we are learning in school.  We look for educational value in everyday activities (something I wish I had done more of when they were in public school).

Home schooling fits our crazy family.  It works for us.

October 18, 2013

We are THAT family: We Home School.

First off, I want to apologize to our fellow home schooling families out there.  I was a judgmental public school teacher and public schooling mom.  I looked at home schooling families as kind of strange. I just didn't get it.  As a teacher in public schools, I had seen some bad examples of home school families.  As I moved out of teaching and into motherhood, I began to see some great examples of home schooling.  I saw kids who love to learn.  I saw families that know each other and get to spend many hours on adventures and in discovery together.  However, I still resisted the desire I had to be my children's teacher.  It took a few years and a set of circumstances to push me from public schooling to home schooling.
Home schooling is not the right choice for everyone.  And I have not flipped from judging home schooling families, to judging public school families.  It is an amazing thing that we have a choice in this country (a right that must be protected, by the way) and everyone's choice for their family must be respected.  So I can't understand why people on either side villainize the opposite side.  I know that our choice to step out of the mainstream has required us to have to defend our choice to friends and family, and I accept that task.  I am sure that because of my background in education, we probably get less judgement than other families, but it still comes.
I know that when we were researching the jump into home school, I benefited from many stories, blogs, books, conversations about and with home school families.  So my next few posts I thought I would explore our home school from the decision to take the leap to how our days go, maybe it will help another family looking into making the leap.

May 22, 2013

Making Baby Food

It's easy!  Who knew??

First I should apologize to my friends that I laughed at (behind their backs, of course) in the past when they said they were going to make their own baby food.  Seriously, I thought there was no way that making food for the baby on top of all the other baby duties and taking care of the rest of the family was easy. I was wrong.

I fell into making baby food.  A few weeks ago, my baby was approaching 6 months, my husband was out of town, and I wanted to start solids.  I had some frozen peas and one of those stick hand puree thingy bobbers.  I steamed the peas, pureed them, and voila!  Baby's first food.

Now I can't stop.  I found this great website: and I've been pureeing anything I can get my hands on! His favorite is Parsnips.  Last I checked, Gerber doesn't make that.  :-)

In the interest of full disclosure, I still buy the Gerber stuff for easy travel, but I try to use as much home made food as I can.

May 20, 2013

Sometimes I Hate My Self Esteem.

UGHhh!  I have a confession to make.  I'm only strong on the outside.  If you get close to my inside, you would see that I'm mushy.  I guess I'm like a banana.  Yeah, a banana.  Strong peel, but mushy inside.  (Just go with it)

So I pride myself on being strong.  I don't let myself get hurt by other's decisions to be my friend or not.  I take pride in not playing emotional games with my friends or husband.  In other words, I avoid drama.  But sometimes, if I'm real honest, I get hurt.  I see friends make a decision to hang out and not ask me along (facebook is fun isn't it) and I start to hear voices in my head tell me it's because I'm not good enough.  OR maybe they know me too well and just aren't comfortable with my mushy inside.  My true self esteem starts creeping up on me.  I have a good cry.  Then I'm tough again.

If I'm being really honest with myself, it's not all about me anyway.  :-)

March 23, 2013

She Hates School.

My 7 1/2 year old likes to tell people she hates school. I'm not going to lie, it hurts to hear her say that. But I'm a big girl and know not to take it personally. It's hard to hear her say it when people ask her if she likes home school. I immediately feel like I have to prove to the person that home school is still the right choice for her.
Something strange has been happening this week though. The child who hates school assigned herself a written and presented book report. She decided she wanted to do it. I guided her a little, but she did it all on her own. Then, this morning (Saturday and the first day of our Spring break) she decided to work on a math assignment. Again, she did this all on her own.
Could she be learning the fun of deciding you want to learn something, then setting out to do it? I hope so.

March 22, 2013

I'm All In Now!

I've only dabbled with consignment shopping in the past.
It started with a visit to a local shop back when I was expecting my 3rd girl. I walked in, looked around, walked out. I was overwhelmed and really didn't have a plan.
Last Spring, I went to a Just Between Friends event at the fairgrounds.  I was in a bit of a daze.  Again, I had no plan, I just really wanted to check it out.  I was pregnant at the time and about a week away from finding out the gender so I only bought a couple of maternity dresses.  I felt like I got a good deal, 2 dresses, one of them with tags for 15$.  One of those dresses became a staple in my maternity wardrobe.  I was a little late to the party though.  The toys were pretty much picked over.  Shoes were all but gone, and I stood in line FOREVER.
Then we found out we were having a BOY.  WOW, didn't know I can make those.  And since this fourth child would be our last, I had a TON of clothes to get rid of.
Unfortunately, the next event closest to where we live was a week before his due date, and he actually ended up being born then.  But I signed up for the one by my parents 3 weeks later.  Crazy?  A little.  I had just had a baby, but I was feeling good.  I dropped off my stuff, marked it all for donation.  And let it go.  Because of the baby I didn't have time to do any shopping.  I got my check for 120$ a couple of weeks later.  Now I was hooked.  My only regret is that a few things didn't sell that were in great condition, and went to donation.
This week is the Spring sale near our home.  I spent all winter gathering all of the clothes and items I could.  I signed up to volunteer this time, getting a bigger percentage and a pass to go early to the presale.  Volunteering during the drop off gave me a great perspective of what other consignors were bringing in and pricing their items at.  I also knew exactly where I was going to head when I got to the presale the next day.  I wish I could have changed some of my prices, but I just didn't have the time.  I did take one thing out of the sale that I had severely under priced. The next day at the presale, not only was it not crowded, it was down right blissful to shop, even with 4 kids with me.  I got some great things for our little boy, Easter dresses for the older girls and a bike for my 3 1/2 year old.  I spent $90, and feel like it was well spent.  I promptly came home and started pulling out things for the next sale in the area.  Nothing is safe.  Toys, shoes, clothes.  If the kids aren't using it, it may be sold.  I've got the consignment bug.  I don't yet know what I will make from this sale.  After one day of sales, I'm about even with what I spent.  There are 2 days left still.  I can't wait to see what sold today!  Whatever the difference is will go toward paying off the hospital bill from our latest addition.  :-)

If you haven't already, check out Just Between Friends, they are all over the country.

Any tips from seasoned consigners?  Sales or buying tips?

March 5, 2013

A homeschool struggle

The struggle between playtime and school time is a constant tension in our house. On the one hand, the benefit of homeschool is that my kids get a ton of imaginative playtime. I certainly want to encourage this time while they are still interested in playing imaginatively. But as the teacher/task master/killjoy of the house I feel like I am having to constantly pull the girls away from their fun play. It's the least fun for me too. If I could just get them to understand that if they get their work done at one time instead of stopping all the time I wouldn't have to nag them all the time and they would get more uninterrupted play time.

Any suggestions? What do other homeschool families do to keep kids on task?

February 1, 2013

Dear 3 year old.

There are a ton of perfectly good clothes in your dresser. However, you insist on wearing a dress every day. Today's selection was a spaghetti strapped little number in the middle of Winter.
Should I just take everything that is not a dress out and donate it all?

Your personal clothing coordinator (Mom)

January 22, 2013

Eating My Words

Shortly before my blogging hiatus, I blogged about my rejection of emealz, the meal planning program. Ha! Well. Four years later, I'm eating my words.
I <3 eMeals
At the time, we were eating pretty cheaply. I wasn't extreme couponing, but I was doing pretty well getting 3 meals on the table for less than 70$ a week for four people. At least I thought so.
The truth is, we were eating the same few meals over and over and as for the quality and healthiness of those meals, a lot was left to be desired. I finally decided to give emealz (now emeals) a chance. I was desperate to try new meals, and not to spend a ton of money testing out those meals. So about two years ago, we started emeals meal plans.
I was nervous about the money I spent on that first trip to the store. Not because it was a ton of money, but because I was trusting my food budget to this new system. What if my kids hated the meals?!! My worries were quickly squashed. The first week was a hit. We did have a couple if meals that we didn't love. But out if that bore a mealtime game of rating the emeals: one star, we hate it, two stars, it's ok but not our favorite, three stars, it rocks! I knew it was a hit with my kids when my mother's day card said "I like the way my mom cooks." There is no way hot dogs and mac n cheese would get that response! We have been on emeals ever since.
Times I have been really thankful for emeals:
1) while we lived with my parents for a year- mom was going through cancer treatment and I was cooking for 7, sometimes 9 people.
2) After having my 4th child, and living in a new town, too far from family and friends to provide meals (we did get one meal from Lance's work friend).
3) wanting to eat healthier, but not knowing how, we selected the 'low fat' option.
4) accidentally selecting the Paleo plan and discovering we really like it.

You should try it!  Follow this link:
eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

What is your biggest issue with meal planning?

January 15, 2013

Pinterest Makes It Fun!

Last month there was a post going around Facebook proclaiming that Pinterest makes people feel guilty for not being a good or creative mom.  While I understand that we as moms often feel like a failure when we compare ourselves to what others seem to be able to accomplish, I completely see it a different way.
I'm not a creative person, but I am great at being a copy-cat.  Pinterest has inspired me to do things with and for my family that I would not even have thought of on my own.  I don't feel guilty or even ashamed if my Pinterest inspired activity turns out to be a complete flop.  I tried something new.  If it worked, great!  If not, oh well!  My self worth is not tied up in if I can do a great pinterest pin.  I struggle with that in other areas, but not in my pinterest-worthiness.  
I have done several Pinterest inspired projects.  Most have had some sort of success, if not fully successful. But I don't put pressure on myself to have a project look as perfect as the pin that inspired it.  I also choose not to attempt pins that require a large investment of money.  That way, if it doesn't work, then OK, no biggy.
The funny thing is now, my kids ask right away if something new or fun we are doing is from Pinterest.  I've even had to defend a couple of projects I actually did pre-Pinterest.  They assume if it's fun, creative, or new, it had to be from Pinterest.  OH well, I don't need the credit if it is something they have enjoyed or even learned from.  Here are some great Pinterest moments:

This was the girl's Father's day gift to dad.  Modified from a Pinterest idea.  Each girl used one color for their hand print over tape.  We also made signs for Grammie (Brave) and Papa (Care) for their birthdays.  All of the signs were a hit, even brought tears.

Last minute teacher gifts.  Whew!  Was I glad to find this idea the night before the last day of school.

Play rice.  Worked well, but we didn't use it much.  I was planning on it for my then 2 year old.  Her hands took on the color from the rice.

I didn't have a picture of the final product here, but we made tealight holders that looked like turkeys to decorate Grammie's hospital room during her stem cell transplant that Thanksgiving.  Another big hit.

The minivan express complete with tickets, popcorn and starbucks hot chocolate - girls were in their PJ's as the minivan express took them to see Christmas lights in our area.  Shortly after this picture one of the girls asked "was this on Pinterest!?"

Cinnamon ornaments.  Actually turned out almost as nice as the Pinterest post.  Instead of glue and glitter I used glitter glue which was much easier and turned out just as sparkly.

What are some of your favorite successful  (or Not) Pinterest projects?

January 11, 2013

I'm Back!

So much has happened in the FOUR years since I last posted here.  Where do I start?  I haven't been completely blog free.  I blogged about my marathon journey here. Yes, I ran most of a marathon.  Stiff-legged the rest of it.  It was fun though, one of the highlights of my life, for sure. And sadistically, I want to do it again.
I have 2 more kids since the last post. Which brings me up to 4 for those who are counting.  3 girls and 1 sweet little baby boy.  As far as I know, we are done.   So I snuggle all I can with my last little one.
We are living back in Washington again.  This is where we grew up.  Though, it has been interesting to see how it is a little hard to try to fit back in, having lived in our adopted home of Texas for 6 years.
We are homeschooling.  YES!  I guess I am a glutton for punishment.  I like things like marathons and homeschooling to see just how strong I can be.
Other things have shaped and molded me over the last 3 years and beyond that.  Maybe, as I restart this blog, I will be able to get real with you all and share what I have learned about life, love, and poopy diapers. Though "getting real" like, really real, is a bit scary for me these days.  If you really knew everything in my life, my day, my head, would you still want to be my friend?  This is the question at the back of my head all the time.  I know it is Satan's way of telling me I'm not good enough.  I'm not very good at shutting him down though.  Something that I need to remember: I am a daughter of the King, and my Daddy loves me.

What do you need to remind yourself of throughout the day?