Saturday, March 31, 2012

HSV Garden Challenge 2012

I am participating in The Homeschool Village's Garden Challenge again this year. My updates will be posted on Taulman Times, however. Head over there to see our PITIFUL before photos!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ YAWN!

Getting back into school after a relaxing week-long vacation in Florida.

Two dentist appointments for Dawson. Lots of tooth pain.

Two field trips. One that was two hours away.

Girls and Boys Club on Tuesday afternoon/evening.

Practice for children's musical at church on Wednesday night, when we don't normally do anything in the evenings.

Birthday party tonight.

This was our week. I am exhausted! I have expressed on numerous occasions that we are a homebody family! We don't leave our house unless we have to. Many weeks we have school Monday through Thursday and only leave the house on Friday mornings to go to Co-op.

This week was so full of activity that I feel like a ZOMBIE tonight! Lots of traveling. Lots of fresh air. TI-RED!

Here's a collage of our lessons and activities at home this week.

1. Brynne finished her very first REAL chapter book. It is from the Puppy Place series, and it had 10 chapters. She is now on Chapter 3 of another book in the series.

2. Our squirrel friend who hung on our office window for two days squealing! He was annoying, but the kids loved watching him. They named him "Fox". 

3. Dawson started an experiment growing Fungi.

4. Brynne made Treacle, a molasses syrup to put in oatmeal for an English breakfast like that eaten by Mary in The Secret Garden.

5. Our projects completed from our studies of The Secret Garden: A twig trellis sitting in the area where we will be completing our garden, and garden rock labels we painted. We did this while listening to a couple of chapters of the book. They turned out so great!

6. A paper I found that Eli had done at school around Valentine's Day. I just thought it was sweet ... No. 8 on his list of words that mean LOVE ... "God".

My Favorite Resource this week was definitely Inside the Secret Garden: A Treasury of Crafts, Recipes, and Activities by Carolyn Strom Collins. This was where we got our Treacle, twig trellis, and gardening stone label ideas.

On Tuesday night, Brynne and Eli had Girls and Boys Club. Although I was not there to take pics of Eli (I think it's good for him to be there without his mommy), let me just say that he had a great time playing dodge ball! He was a red, hot, sweaty mess when I went to pick him up. Brynne had a much more subdued time decorating birds nest cupcakes and making water bottle aprons.

On Wednesday, we went on a fabulous field trip to a fully sustainable nursery in Tulsa. I wished I had a million dollars so I could recreate that "green barn" in my backyard. We bought some items we need for our The Secret Garden unit, some Stevia plants to grow for natural sweetener, and some organic tomato plants and pumpkin seeds. Then the kids got to plant wheatgrass in Easter buckets to create a "Live" Easter basket.

On Thursday, Dawson had some preparatory appliance work done for his oral surgery and orthodontic treatment he is having in a couple of weeks. He was in extreme pain, so he did some reading, finished a movie, and took it easy for the rest of the day. (The rest of the week, he just worked steadily on his basic subjects, started Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, started DRIVER'S ED  **gulp!**, finished up his unit on Early American cities, and finished up his reading of The Way Life Works in Biology while starting a Fungi experiment. Next up: The Boom era of the U.S. and dissection!)

On Friday, we drove two hours to Enid, Oklahoma, to Leonardo's Discover Warehouse. It is a huge community playground and children's museum.

I think Dawson had the most fun of all of them. He's really just so great with the kids. He loves them as much as they love him.

And, like I said, tonight we are exhausted! I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend .... except that I have tons of clothes organization, garden preparations, dinner with friends, grocery shopping, and church activities to do. Oh well.

As always, linking up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and Learning All the Time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

E is for "Easter" Resources

Easter is in just a few short days. I always like to incorporate some Easter studies into our lessons, as I'm sure many of us do. So this week at Blogging Through the Alphabet, E is for "Easter" Resources.

Photo credit

I have come across some great resources this year that I wanted to pass along. I don't know if we will do everything, but you might see something you like.

A free Celebrate Easter Lapbook from Scripture Adventures.

A free Easter H-O-P-E printable from Amanda Bennett.

A free Amanda Bennett Easter Lapbook.

A Resurrection Plant. You just water the "dead" plant before you go to bed on the night before Easter and in the morning "It's Alive!"

Every year we hunt and find Resurrection Eggs. I made my own one year, using this resource.

My kids also love to do Resurrection Cookies and we will do them this year as well.

Last year we made this Hill of Calvary. We loved it!

Jesus is our main focus this Easter season. But, we do also "do" the Easter Bunny fun, too. So, we will be reading any book we can get our hands on.

And we will be making a Live Easter Basket on our field trip to a green nursery today.

Have a wonderful and happy Easter with your children!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Countdown ~ Goals to End the Year

It looks as though we have about 30 days of at-home book school left to do this school year. Dawson has expressed some desires of things he would like to study before the school year is over, so I have planned some fun things for the month of May. We also have some things I would like for us to get done before the end of the school year, so I have made some goals. This has also included a few tweaks to our curriculum.


* Complete Handwriting Without Tears Printing Power (one lesson per day)
* Get through Lesson 45 of Copywork for Little Girls
* Get through Lesson 75 of Math Enhancement Programme
* Complete goal of independently reading 100 books
* Get through Lesson 115 of Easy Grammar
* Complete The Secret Garden unit
* Finish 5 more state studies and focus on U.S. Geography


* Finish Life of Fred Beginning Algebra
* Finish Critical Thinking book
* Stop Easy Grammar for now and complete GrammarKey Parts of Speech curriculum (next year he will redo the Parts of Speech component for review and then do Punctuation)
* Complete this current unit in American History and two more units between now and the end of April to complete America: The Story of Us
* Do a unit on Knights in the Middle Ages and Renaissance period in the month of May
* Complete the chapter on "Community" in The Way Life Works (not going to cover "Evolution") and get prepared for our dissection unit in the month of May (7 weeks of lessons)
* Complete Driver's Ed course
* Read Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
* Complete three more lessons in IEW and do a research project in May

We have a lot to accomplish, but I am confident we can do it with diligence and hard work! Then we will be on summer break and I'll be planning our next school year with ALL of my kids home!!

(BTW ... it was SO hard to send Eli back to school yesterday.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

What My Kids DON'T Do Much of in Their Spare Time

Extra-curricular activities.

The TOS Cruisers are talking about extra-curricular activities this week. At first I thought, "My kids don't do ANY extra-curricular activities." But then I realized that isn't totally true. What is totally true is that we don't do many.

All of my children are homebodies. Once they have their school work done, they are ready to just play, get on the computer, or play video games. They play outside, ride their scooters, run in the backyard, swing on the swingset, play with the dogs, etc. Extra-curricular activities, to them, is just something else to take away from their play time.

Our kids are not involved in regular sports activities. Yes, we have dabbled in them at their request. But, it's obvious that we do not have the next big sports star, so we don't push it. My philosophy has always been that I will allow my children to be involved in anything that they want to do bad enough that I don't have to beg, plead, remind, or force them to practice, do, or attend. So far, there hasn't been anything like that.

For a while, Eli and Brynne were really into bowling. So, Rick took them each one evening per week. They still like to bowl, but not enough to do it on a regular scheduled basis. So, we do it for fun when they get a hankering to do it.

Dawson took guitar lessons this year. But, once he learned how to read music, he didn't want to go to organized lessons anymore. Instead, he just prefers to set aside some time each week to practice and build on what he has already learned.

Brynne has talked about doing dance, and she seems to do a lot of it at home. So, we might give it a try next year if she's still interested. She has also said she might want to take piano lessons. We'll see how she feels about that after the summer months are over. But if she never mentions them again, I likely won't either.

The only thing any of the kids regularly do is Boys and Girls Club. One afternoon a month, some wonderful mamas (one of them being a fellow TOS Cruiser), invite all girls and the other all boys to come do fun activities. The girls do lots of cooking and sewing and crafting and other girlie things. The boys do boy stuff like make swords and shields, play dodge ball, and have water fights. They both love these clubs so much! The clubs are sponsored and funded by Modern Woodsmen of America and are free, except for a $7,500 life insurance policy that you have to purchase for $24 per year.

Next year, when all of the kids are being homeschooled, we might participate in some extra activities that are sponsored by our Co-op. There is golf and Lego club and other things. But, with all of the field trips and regular Friday Co-op activities we already do, I don't know if the kids will want to do anything else.

For our family, we don't like to be running to and from town, living in the car every night of the week. Once we are done with school in the afternoon, we like to settle down and just enjoy our home life. I think we are much more content because of our lack of desire to always be doing something. We would probably do more activities if the kids really wanted to. But, I'm kind of glad they don't. It gives us much more family time.

On Tuesday, be sure to see how involved other Cruiser's families are in extra-curricular activities. I would bet they run at both extremes, and everywhere in between.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Study America Saturday ~ Ft. Barrancas, Pensacola, Florida

Some accidental American History occurred this week for Eli and Brynne. While in Pensacola, Florida, on Spring Break, I took the kids to tour Ft. Barrancas.

According to the National Park Service, "European colonization, American expansion, and threats of invasion led to the building of coastal forts along the northern Gulf Coast. Situated on the bluffs (barrancas) overlooking Pensacola Bay and the gateway to the outside world, Fort Barrancas served as the lock on the gate from potential foreign invaders."

"The forts of Gulf Islands National Seashore span almost 150 years, from the Spanish colonial Bateria De San Antonio (1797) to the World War Two-era Battery 234. This reflects the historic value of the anchorages at Pensacola Bay, Florida and Ship Island, Mississippi. Most striking among these are the American Third System forts: Fort Pickens, Fort Massachusetts, Fort Barrancas, and the Advanced Redoubt, all of which saw action during the Civil War."

"On Jan. 8, 1861, United States Army guards repelled a group of men intending to take Fort Barrancas in Pensacola Harbor. Historians say that this event could be considered the first shots fired on Union forces in the Civil War."

There are excellent materials for teachers at the Gulf Islands National Seashore site at One such resource is a "Parks as Classroom" pdf download. For instance, there is a lesson on "How to Build a Fort" with instructions how to do it. This comes after lessons about important figures in the Gulf Coast area and the changes of the flags of ownership of the Gulf Coast area. The entire download is a couple hundred pages long. (We might use some of this download as lessons before Spring Break next year, because we will be coming here again.)

When you are on vacation, check where you are going for a nugget of American History. Chances are, you'll find something!

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Learning While on Vacation

We are on Spring Break this week. It was our intention to shut down our brains and just relax for a full week. But, the one thing about homeschooling  is that it's impossible to shut off teacher brain, especially when you are in a completely new environment so full of learning opportunities.

Like seeing hermit crabs while at the beach.

And going to the the naval aviation museum.

And watching the Blue Angels do their practice runs.

Then stopping off to tour Ft. Barrancas.

Learning just cannot stop when you have so much living education around you. Life is my Favorite Resource this week.

No, we didn't touch a book this week. (Well, I did. I read two ... HA!) But it becomes more and more apparent to me how learning is an experience, not a planner of assignments. The richness of learning that occurred this week without planning has been amazing! These are things I am certain my kids will remember for the rest of their lives, not just long enough to regurgitate on a test.

Next year we are planning to take two weeks for Spring Break with our new schedule. But I realized this week that even some of those days will likely be counted as school days. How can we learn so much and not count it as a school day?

I wasn't counting on having a Weekly Wrap-up to link up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, but I do.

If you would like to look at a ridiculous amount of pictures of my cute kids in Florida this past week, and read in more detail about what we did on Spring Break, you can read posts found here, here, and here.

Moments to Remember ~ JOY!

This was my favorite moment of our non-schooling week in Pensacola, Florida. We went to the beach to take some gorgeous photos, and ended up drenched in the ocean instead. The smiles, laughter, and joy out of them and me was something I will never forget.

I am linking up this week at 1+1+1=1.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where is my husband?

Do you ever feel that way?

I know that when I spend day-in-day-out with my kids, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., teaching and caring for them, I am extremely guilty about squeezing out my husband. And then when they all go to bed and I am finally fully available for Rick, I am oftentimes so exhausted that he gets what's left of me, which is not much.

I am fully concious of this, and I try to stay on top of it. But I do not do nearly enough to make my husband the priority in my life that he should be.

My priorities are (or at least I try to make them be):
1. God
2. Rick
3. The kids
4. Myself
5. Outside activities

Because Rick is so loving and accommodating to me, he seems to be the one that drops down my priority list before anything else.

Here are just a few things that I try to do to help that not happen:
  • Go on dates during unconventional times and on unconventional days. Most of our dates these days are on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon (going to the movies or to eat lunch). We also take advantage of "grocery store dates". We go have dinner and get groceries together. I enjoy his companionship and help! I try to be spontaneously available, like if Rick calls during the week and wants to go have dinner when he gets home from work. Now, having a teenage son makes this much easier. He is always willing to stay with the kids so that we can do this.
  •  We make everybody go to their rooms at 8:30 p.m. so that we can have some time alone. We even put the dogs in bed with Brynne. We usually watch a t.v. show or two that we have DVR'd, have a snack, and just spend time together.
  • I try to do little things for Rick that make him know that I am thinking of him. It might be just making sure his laundry is done, or making sure he has some Hershey kisses or pistachios to snack on, or make sure he has a good meal when he gets home from work. 
  • I try to limit my outside activities. I try to only be away from home one evening a month with ladies from either church or homeschool co-op. I would prefer to be with my family in the evenings.
I look at this list and it just doesn't seem like enough.

One other area that I feel like it is important to have Rick involved, is in the kids' education. I am certainly the teacher of our kids. But, I recently read about one other family's science lessons with dad on the weekends. That got my wheels turning. Science is not my strong suit. Sure, I can teach it. But I am not passionate about it. Rick LOVES science! He loves weather and astronomy and lots of other things. I have asked him to take over the majority of science instruction for our kids by having "Science Saturdays". The kids and I are very excited to have daddy joining us in our learning.

The TOS Crew is weighing in on this issue this week. I cannot wait to read what they have to say. I am hoping to get some great tips about how to better include my husband in my busy days and nights.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ High Fevers

We have all had a high fever this week .... Spring Fever! Our Spring Break officially starts ....... NOW!

Oh my goodness, it was hard to push through this week. But we did it! There were no bells and whistles to our week .. just steadily getting necessary work done. I didn't take one picture!

Dawson and Brynne covered all the basics every day: Math/Algebra, Grammar, Critical Thinking, Writing, Copywork, and Literature.

Our art this week consisted of lots of free drawing. We haven't done one of our artist studies in SUCH  a long time and I was planning on getting us back into this week. But, it never happened. After Spring Break, that is going to be one of my goals for the remainder of the year. I will have a Goals post coming soon.

Dawson learned about feedback mechanisms in cells: fight or flight responses, homeostasis, and chemotaxis. He is also learning much about the condition of New York City in the late 1800's after the Statue of Liberty was constructed, Ellis Island was opened, and all of the immigrants started arriving. There were slums, crime, and lots of gangs. He watched a documentary on The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the movie Gangs of New York (WARNING: this movie is VERY violent, VERY bloody, and has some nudity. Yeah, moms, I know. But, WOW, does it depict the condition of the people in the Five Points District during that horrible time. Rick and I watched this movie several years ago, and I didn't really get it. Now that we have done this extensive American History study this year, I TOTALLY do!)

Brynne started her unit on The Secret Garden. We had intended on making some treacle and orange marmalade to use at a tea party, but just let our days get away from us and didn't get them done. She actually got invited to a tea party for a friend's birthday on Wednesday, so we will postpone our own tea party. We are loving the book and are making plans for our own "secret" garden in our favorite spot outside. She will also finish her FIRST EVER real chapter book today! And she's got the next one lined up and ready. She is loving the Puppy Place series.

And today I kept Eli home from school so that he could go to Co-op with us. They were doing NOTHING at school, except reading to give everyone an opportunity to meet their AR goal (that he had already met). I wanted him to have a chance to see what Co-op is like at a regular meeting. And he really enjoyed it!

And that's it for us!

All that's left now are empty desks ...

My planner tucked away in my basket ...

And all books back on the bookshelf until after Spring Break ...

See you in a week! (On that note: there will be no "America: The Story of Us" lesson plan post this week or next week. I will resume that series in TWO weeks. We are on vacation!)

We are linking up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

D is for "Driver's Education"

(** I'm posting this today, instead of next Wednesday which is my usual time. I'll be away on Spring Break next week and sometimes my auto-post feature works, and sometimes it doesn't.)

Oh my, yes, in just one month, this young man will be ... gulp! ... DRIVING!

It makes me sad to think that in such a short amount of time, he'll be driving up the street to his friend's house instead of riding his RipStik with his dog at his side. He will be able to test for his permit at 15 1/2, which is next month. Until then, he and I will be launching into our new homeschool elective: Driver's Education.

We will be using the "Take the Wheel" parent taught driver's education program. And we will be counting it as school!

I ordered the dvd set and workbooks today. Rick taught Kyndal to drive, so the stress was minimal for me. But, I'm taking on Dawson. I have already taught him how to back out of the driveway in my Suburban, get turned around and up our steep driveway, and out the driveway without hitting our headwalls. That's an accomplishment because our driveway is tricky!

It always felt like Kyndal was old enough to drive because she just has that go-get-'em kind of personality. But, I have to say, I am a little torn up about Dawson being old enough to drive. It just means he'll be driving out of my life sooner than later. ** Sigh **

But now it's time to put on my teacher hat and educate Dawson on driving. Wish me luck!

Linking up at Blogging through the Alphabet at Ben and Me.