Thursday, August 21, 2014

Post Kindergarten Review

The great, big, gignatic school post . . . if you aren't interested in homeschooling, skip . . . this is basically my school summary of Kindergarten, to print and put in Shannon's portfolio for her review.  Homeschooling is pretty easy in Florida- we have a choice of yearly testing (seems pointless in K, huh?) or portfolio review by a certified teacher.  Easy-peasy!  This year was such a good learning experience- and as I told a friend this week, mostly for me!  (lovely pictures from my Instagram account)

I learned . . .
*  to be disciplined and diligent each day.  I hear too often in the homeschooling world "oh you're tired?  take the day off!  Oh, you guys are sick?  Don't worry about it!  Oh you want to go do something fun?  Why not?"  And yeah, those are all legit at times . . .but if you do that every day, you'll never get school done!  Seriously, I could come up with a "reason" not to do school just about every day!!!  So instead, my philosophy was to push through. If she went to public school, I would expect her teacher darn well better be there most every day!  And so this teacher did too ;)

*  That the hard part of homeschooling (at this age) is NOT academic . . .it's behavioral!  I tell you what, there were plenty days it sure would have been tempting to let someone "else" discipline her all day!  And feed her lunch and entertain her!  But that's what God has asked me to do . . especially the training in character!  We had plenty of struggle days- working through obedience or attitude issues. And in the end, I'm glad we did.  I'm glad I can help her learn now, while she's young!

*  That it's hard work to make it a learning environment AND a fun one!  Hope to get better at this next year.

My goals for K were . . .
*  For Shannon to learn to read.

*  For her handwriting to improve and for her to know the alphabet easily enough to write.

*  Math foundations- numbers, etc.

My "philosophy" of sorts . . . 
*  Simple, quality vs quantity.  We did not do pages and pages of work each day, but rather simple, very well done work.  One very well written page verses many poorly done pages.

What we actually did . . .

Singapore Essentials A and B-  Loved these!  We flew through book A, which is what most people say their kids do.  Book B took longer and we did very slowly, sometimes one page per day (it's where they begin adding and subtracting).  We learned to use an abacus or manipulative to help visualize adding and subtracting.  Shannon learned to skip count 10s and 5s, we are still working on 2s.  She can easily count to 100 on her own.

Handwriting Without Tears book-  we worked slowly through this book, focusing on quality writing.  It may have been "too" easy but my hope was that we were making her foundation of neat handwriting VERY firm.  One day at the end, she wrote this page . . . and I was amazed at how nice and neat she wrote!

For practice, she writes notes on her own all the time and asks to "copy" things that I write.

100EZ Lessons- we finally finished this spring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Wow, that was a challenge . . .not sure if it was the book or the process of learning to read or a combination of both.  But by the time we were done, she was asking to read the lessons twice, she liked them so much.

Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading-  We started this after finishing 100EZ.  Actually we started around lesson 46.  I like the style of this much better already and when it's Forest's turn, we may skip 100EZ and try to start with this.  I like the short sentences it has the student read, Shannon seems to like the silly factor and the parent repetition seems very effective.  We'll just keep on with this through the summer and into next year.  Supposedly takes kids to a 4th grade level.

Explode the Code-  We started these workbooks in January.  Shannon has a love-hate relationship with these- doesn't mind the reading (seems fairly easy after some of the big words in 100EZ), but isn't always happy about the writing.  I consider this reading and handwriting in one, because I expect neat writing from her.  She likes the cute little pictures and often wants to color them.  We made it halfway through book 2 before our summer break.  Not sure that we will continue this after book 2 is done- trying to discern if this is something we need to work through for discipline sake or if it will exasperate us both.

Read Aloud-  What homeschool wouldn't be complete without these, right?  My kids love stories, so I gave up halfway through the year, trying to write down everything I read them! We worked our way through a lot of the books on the "Sonlight" Curriculum's list, as well as reading what we wanted.  We're up to book four in the Ramona Quimby series, by Shannon's request.  We did the library as able (a baby threw a few kinks in here), read zillions from around our house a million times and really got into our library's EBook system.  We have an amazing, amazing library system here, and the EBooks are almost unlimited.  We had a lot of fun picking out books and reading them on my ipad . . . well, except the one time Forest picked out a book and by the end I realized the story was all about  a boy who wanted to wear dresses and he finally found someone to tell him it was okay to be "who he truly was."  Um, okay.  Thankfully my kids were clueless.  Eeek!  I printed our list of books we read, for our home school review . . . and stopped the printer after page 19.  HA!

Some other favorites this year:
*  Secret Garden  (3/4 of the way through)
*  Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (on reading 3 or 4 of this . . .)
*  Charlotte's Web (read this several times already)
*  My Father's Dragon
*  100 Dresses (read several times and read it in two days they liked it so much)
*  Boxcar Children (they LOVED this and wanted bread & cheese for lunch!)
*  Jame's Herriot's Treasury for Children (will be a family favorite, my kids adore animals and especially the horse stories.  We love Scotland and the pictures take me back there every time)

Other Stuff
Bible-  We have read several different versions of Bible stories, watched some videos, etc.  This is just part of our day.
Memory-  We memorized verses for letters A through T, are working on our address, did the months of the year, days of week and some poems.
World-  We read a book about "Children of the World," quite often.  Also reading some amazing (FREE) PDF books from Voice of the Mayrters, called "Courageous Kids, " about kids in countries with persecution.  We did North Korea and the kids loved it- very well written.  Hope to continue this.  We have memorized contients, and use our globe a lot to talk about the world.  YouTube and the internet are my friend- we hear about a country and we look up videos to learn about it.
Science-  Hours outside, piles of nature books- easy peasy.
IPAD- We use the ipad weekly, we got the Hooked on Phonics app, which Shannon loves.  Also a handwriting one (mostly for Forest), Starfall of course and a few neat puzzle apps, to keep those minds sharp!

Hey Lovelies!

Hey Lovelies!  Thanks for all the sweet words last week . . . but I really would NOT be a good mom if I had to work 8-5.  Nope!  I am "man enough" to admit I would just totally stink and my kids would be in the Ranch.  HA!  Gives me great appreciation for the strengths he puts in other women, to give them the strength and grace to do the job they need to.

As for me, thank you Jesus that I work . . . . but in the home!

Speaking of . . . this has probably been our best week since vacation.  It's calmed down in some ways (last week was nuts, through and through).  In other ways it's still like a zoo around here . . . not only do we have three new boys (training, training, training) but we are training a new couple.  They happen to have three little boys, so I believe the total in our house tonight was 18!  Eeek!  That has to be a fire code violation, ha!  And Jeremiahs' mom is en route to the Ranch as I type.

We are praying for a good visit for her.  There are many complications in the relationship, but since she is largely alone after the death of Jer's dad, we wanted to fly her here for a visit.  I'm sure she will have a great time with the kids and will enjoy seeing them in their "native habitat," as well as getting away from home for a bit.

School has gone great this week, kids are really enjoying the new scheduling tool I put into place.  It's also eliminated a lot of questions and potential complaints, since "if it's on the chart, we do it."  Hoping to keep momentum going with Jer's mom here.  I'm thankful for you home school friends, by the way!  I have a few "real life" friends around, but a few of them are more of the "they don't need to learn anything other than ABCs and how to write their name until they are 10" variety.  While I agree that little kids need more time to play, I still think they need to be learning certain things at this age!  So I'm thankful for you friends, who challenge me with good ideas and encourage me by watching your diligence with your littles!

That's my quick update for now . . . I leave you with this stare-down from my just-turned 11 month old!  Eeek!

Thursday, August 07, 2014


I had a bunch of things written, but I'm having a hard time making the words look the way I want . . . and in reality, it can be summed up like this for now . . .


HA!  I know, I know . . . we just had vacation.  But then we had two weeks of training . . . which was wonderful, but working 8-5 with three kids to take care of after?  Let's just say I'd have to put my kids up for adoption if I had to work a full-time job, that's how inept of a mother I am!  Our boys came back on Sunday (five returning from last year) and this has been a hard and long week.  They are only in school four hours each day, and the remaining hours they are with us (and the heat index each day is over 100, enough said).  I'm a little discouraged about the reality of some of their issues and what kind of year this is going to be.  Trying to be better about praying specifically for some of their issues.  Three new boys come next week, bringing us up to 8!

Today is our family day and I'm beyond the moon happy.  Well not happy- there is no smile as I limp around the house.  But I'm needing it for sure- to rest, to get prepared for the weekend and the following week.  We plan to start school Monday, which should be interesting.  We are all in need of school routine but I'm sure reality will smack us in the face!  Shannon is also supposed to start Ballet on Monday.

I don't even have any cute pictures to show you because they are on my camera and that's too much work to get off right now.  But I wanted to pop in and say hello . . . hope to be back around more once we are back to normal routine around here!

Love ya friends!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rest for the Weary Soul

I think I could type for hours . . . I had a post started a couple weeks ago, in the midst of LIFE at its fullest.  The final weeks of school are always intense and this year was no exception.  By June 5th, I felt like I was dragging my body from place to place . . . and by June 12th it was like watching a horror movie of my life.

I was completely and 100% exhausted, then I got another cold (perhaps from being exhausted, do ya think?).  The last week with our boys was just stepping from moment to moment, doing the minimum to survive.  (My dear friend Janet wrote a great post on life in survival mode- because, let's face it, there certainly ARE times when we simply have to survive, not thrive.).

And then the boys left on June 19th.  And I began to breathe.  And then on Tuesday we arrived at my mom and dad's house in NY.  And I was able to take full breaths of air again.

Today it's Friday and I feel a million times better.  These three days have been that balm for my soul.  Wednesday it rained all day and we just relaxed inside.  Yesterday was a beach day, followed by an overnight camping trip with the grandparents, while Heidi and I returned home alone.

This morning Heidi got up at 5:30 and in the quiet of the morning I realized I didn't HAVE to do anything.  Not only that, but there wasn't much FOR me to do.  At 6:30 we headed out on a fantastic two mile walk.

THIS is what I need- to have nothing that requires being done.  And nothing really TO do.  I'm not good at "not doing."  Part of being a mom- there is always that requires some attention.  I have a hard time just sitting around when I'm at home.  I don't do that, ever.  But here on vacation?  No projects, no organizing, nothing.  Doing my laundry is a novelty because it is something to do.

I'm so extraordinarily grateful for this time to be away and to have my soul refreshed.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May is Moving!

May is moving right along, eeek!   Instead of a rambling of words, how about pictures?  We've had lots of fun the last couple weeks with random outings and stuff around here.  And I've managed to get some pictures of it too!  The big things coming up for us-
**  19th- Jer's birthday (tomorrow)
**  TWO and a half weeks of school left for Shannon!  Last week was probably our best week ever . . .but I tell you what, THIS mamma is looking forward to a nice break!!!!!!!!!!  This homeschool thing- wow, not easy at all.  More on that another day
**  2 1/2 weeks left of school for our boys . . . and then the dreaded schedule where they only go to school from 9-1 each day.  Gonna make it, gonna make it.
** ONE month until summer vacation starts!
**  Five days after that, we fly to NY for 2 weeks of wonderful vacation!  Counting!!!

BLACKBERRY PICKING has been the activity of choice lately . . . the boys have picked so many that I have FIVE gallon bags stuffed to overflowing in my freezer, a big jug of blackberry syrup and two bags of blackberry pie filling made.  Along with countless blackberry cobblers already made and consumed by the boys.  This was one of our evening hikes out there.  And don't even get me started on that horrible shirt Shannon has on . . . someone gave it to her . . .

A Birthday in the cottage (the guy in blue is our case manager and friend)

A playground trip

A trip to Sea World (me and the kids while Jer went golfing.  Yes, I am proud of myself.  No they weren't tired, because I was the one pushing the stroller ;) )

Then Jer remembered he had a friend who could get us here . . . any guessess????  Don't let the shorts deceive you, it was soooooo cold . . .  

Just kidding.  
It was a zillion degrees at Universal: Islands of Adventure! (this is Harry Potter world)

And a few more . . .

Okay, I think that's it!  Those were the fun things . . .that book-ended lots of school work, house cleaning, chasing baby . .  .who is now crawling like a mad woman! Eeek!  I don't have enough time in the day to keep the house clean enough for this little spy!  Crazy!  

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Pressing on

I wish I knew best how to share . . . ladies . . . it would be so much easier if you would just come visit and we could chat!!!!!!!!!!!!  Every single one of you . . . a cup of tea and swinging on my front swing under the big oaks?  Or relaxing on my back swing, listening to my new fountain bubbling and seeing the sun sparkling on the lake?  I dream . . . if I could have one wish, it would be for my friends- YOU to be close!

Instead you're not and here I sit in my darkened room (Heidi just went back to sleep in the other corner, again), staring at my glowing screen and listening to the computer hum loudly.  I look past the mountain of things on the desk that scream to be finished- letters to write, papers to file, camera to charge, napkin and bowls to return to the kitchen, washi tape waiting to be used . . .

I'm walking through a journey with God, fighting against the call to be disciplined, self-controlled.  Right now my "self" is screaming- it wants to stay up late reading and doing whatever I FEEL like doing.  To eat anything I want to eat (be SO thankful you don't live where you get huge donations of junk food daily).  To never stress my body with exercise.  It wants me to forget the dishes that need to be done before bed and ignore the school activities that should be prepped.  I want to be selfish and lazy.

And yet, something inside, that spark of life from God, reminds me that I wouldn't truly feel good doing all that.  It would be temporary.  But wow, it sure is hard to do the right thing day after day.  I'm super good at short-term changes and things, but long term is so hard.

We are in our final push of the year.  Eight weeks or so until vacation and mountains to cross before then.  We are dealing with some pretty huge things in our cottage.  We're tired and worn out- emotionally, physically, mentally.  Like most staff, we are ready for a break NOW and have to push on through until June.  I'm in the final push of finishing our Kindergarten year WELL.  Wrapping up some things, planning out the rest of first grade and figuring out how to squeeze my eager to learn boy into the mix.  And on and on.

I'm feeling the urge to get my Bible out more, to be more tuned in to the truth, to keep my mind fixed on things above NOT on earthly things.  We're gonna make it ladies, we're gonna make it.  And if by chance you find yourself in Orlando, let's have tea and sit on the swing!!!!!!!

I leave you with baby doll.

Edited . . . after I wrote this, I went to wash the dishes (joyous occasion, I know).  And I was reminded of a verse I memorized 14+ years ago in college . . . it was what I needed and hopefully is an encouragement to you, too.  Wow- we are being trained by our discipline . . . and it brings righteousness and peace!  What more could we long for and work for????

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


A quick share . . . one of the families that we work with, has the loveliest daughter.  She is 17 and is one of those girls you want your son to marry and daughter to be like . . . she is the babysitter for our kids and just an amazing young lady.  Her parents asked me to snap some prom pictures for her this year.  I spent some time on Pinterest and was HORRIFIED at what I found when searching "prom pictures."  They looked like wedding pictures . . . revealing dresses, kisses, body contact to the point where I'd be so embarassed if I was 17 and my mom saw those pictures.  What is going on with teens these days?  Anyway!  NOT the kind of pictures I wanted, so I was quite nervous going into this "shoot,"  not really sure what to do and how to capture these lovely friends.  And besides, who knows the mind of a teen!?!?!?!

Anyway . . . I was SHOCKED when I pulled these pictures off my camera . . . the lighting was amazing and the kids were so relaxed, that I literally had to do nothing to the pictures.  I wanted to share a few, proof that there are some Godly teens out there who can be beautiful and appropriate!  (these are NOT fixed up for internet- no sharpening, etc. just fast and easy upload!)

A girl and her mom- as precious as can be!

Isn't she lovely?  And just as beautiful inward as outward!

Almost makes you wanna be a kid again, huh?  Okay, maybe not!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April already?

Oh my!  Has it really been since February?????  Wow!  We've just been busy doing life . . . our days start early and end late . . . filled with boys and school and baby!  Nothing out of the ordinary going on, just life!   How about a picture post today?  That's more fun than words anyway . . .

Over spring break I was able to take Shannon out on a date- a trip to the mall to wander around, look at stuff and chat!  Our days are so full, we don't have much room for just "wandering," so this was great!  She told me it was the "best day EVER," so I guess the purpose was fulfilled!

Trying out furniture at the Pottery Barn store.

As sweet saleswoman asked if she could take our picture.

Shan and her cinnabon . . . that was bigger than her face.! 

Random mall landscaping!  Does your mall look this pretty?  ;)

Beautiful weather and a baby who is becoming more portable = lots of playground time!

Our two oldest "boys" were in a Ranch drama . . . fun times!

My BEST friend from college happened to be in town visiting and I got to spend three precious hours with her and her cute kiddos!  Always leaves me wishing my friends lived closer . . . 

Jer made Forest this amazing bed with a climbing wall on the end!

Little Lovebug plays with toys now!

Typical homeschool morning!  Check out my READER!  Yes!  We crossed the line from hemming and hawing and fussing over reading, to being able to pick up books and enjoy them!  So glad to be there . . . and yes, her lips are blue.  Don't ask.

And that's a wrap . . .or at least a little update!