When Pop Comes Home

When Pop Comes HomeI frequently read lovely posts about preparing for Daddy’s arrival back home at the end of each day. The ladies might perhaps put on a pretty blouse, touch up their makeup, and spritz themselves with perfume. Moms are wonderful about making sure the house is straightened up, the kids are in decent order, and dinner is just about finished. I wonder though, what do those women do whose husbands are home all day?!

I find myself in this predicament and often wonder how many other women are in the same boat. My husband, generally speaking, works at home. There is no touching up makeup before he gets in the door, there is no sprucing up the house, or cleaning up of kids; he sees it all.

While we are together the bulk of every day, I would like to think there are a few things I can still do to bless him. They might not be astounding, but every little bit helps!

I make sure we are groomed. This might seem silly to some ladies; I mean sweats are clothes, right? While my husband doesn’t mind what I wear, I still prefer to get up before everyone else and get dressed. I put on “street clothes”, no sweats or pajamas. I put on just a little makeup and do my hair. I want my husband to know that I look nice for him, not just when I leave my house. Periodically I will touch up my makeup, as needed, to ensure I keep looking fresh. My kids are also trained to get up, get dressed, and be presentable.

I make sure the house is fairly decent. While messes can’t be avoided, we do try to keep things more livable. We have trained our children to keep their toys to one room or area at a time. This ensures that the mess can be cleaned up fairly quickly and if my husband walks out of his office, he is not overwhelmed by disorder.

I make sure to touch bases. While we might both occupy the same house, that doesn’t mean we are actually communicating. At various times throughout the day, I make sure to pop my head into his office and see if he needs anything. Perhaps he might like some fresh coffee, a snack, or a hug? Near the end of the day, we talk about when he would like dinner and I get busy.

When my husband does leave the house, I try to walk him out and greet him on his return. I want to be the last thing on his mind when he leaves and the first one to welcome him home.

While I don’t have the benefit of preparing our home before Pop’s return at night, I believe we are doing our best to make him feel welcomed and appreciated whenever he steps out of his office.

Your Turn!: How do you prepare for Dad at the end of each work day?

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There’s No Place Like Home

The GangSince having our second daughter, my husband has worked at home. We have grown accustomed to his unusual work hours, his popping in during lessons, and the occasional “let’s take the day off” mentality.

Recently, though, things have changed. Working from home isn’t quite as lucrative as it used to be (even then things were a little slim) and so he has had to find outside work.

Thankfully he has found work with a great friend, whom he gets along with very well. It isn’t in his usual field of expertise (which is art), but he enjoys hanging out with his buddy.

Unfortunately it does mean that he no longer works here though. With this job, he works all over the place and works a different schedule almost every week.

We have been doing pretty well adjusting to the change in our lives, but this week proved to be a little more challenging. This week they were gone for several days, handling business out-of-town.

I think this short time away from each other opened our eyes to how much he is needed. The kids are not quite themselves and keep asking when he will be back. My son especially keeps asking when Pop will come home to put him to bed.

I think what I missed the most was simply knowing he was here. If an emergency came up or a quick errand had to be run, it was all on me. There was no convenient baby sitter, strong back, or sharp mind for me to run to; I was it for the week.

After several days, the man is finally returning home! Hooray! I wanted to make sure that everything was set to rights and we would be free to simply enjoy his company, so today we did things a little differently.

After a good breakfast, the kids settled in to get their homeschooling done. It took us a little bit, but knowing Pop was coming home helped them to hustle along just a little.

We normally do our grocery shopping on Thursdays, so we decided that we would cut out electives for the day and instead get the shopping done early. We grabbed a quick bite, ran through our errands, and made it home.

The kids and I got the house cleaned up, the groceries put away, and ourselves to rights. Not only did we make it on time, but we actually have a few minutes to spare!

Working together was great and it taught them a valuable lesson (which was just as important as those electives we skipped); the merit in relationship.

Sure, we could have kept to our regular routine and possible not been home when my husband arrived, but that would have seemed wrong. I could have been home, but not filled our house with good food, but that didn’t seem right either.

I believe that a better lesson was taught today, the value of preparing our home and anticipating the return of Dad. I wanted them to see how important it was to be prepared and anxious for his return.

Now, the kids are checking the clock and keeping an eye on the door. I am making sure nothing is too out-of-place and no responsibilities will interfere with our evening.

It will be great having him back… It’s not quite the same without him.

Organizing Chaos

All week we have tackled various areas of organization; filing the old stuff, creating our new portfolios, and putting in the new school books. Today’s project… replenishing our art supplies!

Homeschooling is more than just reading, writing, and reasoning. While those areas are essential, I also want to make sure that my children have an opportunity to be creative and artistic.

The week before we head back to school, the kids and I make sure we do a thorough inspection of our art supplies and restock anything that might be low. Markers are taken out of the box and each one inspected, just to make sure they aren’t dry. Paint bottles are checked, ink pads are tested, and glue bottles are consolidated. We reduce all we can, before determining what needs to be replenished.

Once we have determined what is low (or out), we make a list of all that is needed in order to keep our closet stocked. Then, we thoughtfully add anything that might be wanted. We then head out to Wal-Mart or Target and take advantage of all the back to school sales, using as many coupons and promotions as possible.

Upon returning home, our loot is unpacked and organized into our homeschooling closet. We have a plastic bin just for our adhesive and scissors. We have separate bins for ink pads, card stock, decorative paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Each type of art supply has a separate container, making crafting and cleanup more organized. (It is also a huge time saver.) Each bin is clear so that the children can easily identify which box is needed and a step stool is placed in the closet to help them grab whatever they might need.

Our homeschool closet is now refilled, organized, and ready to go! The kids are excited to know that everything they need is available and mom is excited to know that I won’t be needing to make any last-minute runs to a craft store because we ran out of something!

Do you have a cupboard or closet that you keep your supplies in? How do you keep your’s organized?

 

Incoming!

Our homeschool closet is cleaned out, our portfolios are ready to go, and we are ready to tackle today’s project… putting in the new school books!

It seems all this week I have been reading posts by other homeschooling families who are getting their curriculum in place and are eagerly ready to start their school year. We, too, are getting things finalized, but with a slightly different twist. Unlike other families, I am not anxiously awaiting the arrival of our books; ours have been here since May!

I have found waiting until the middle or end of summer to order our books, to be stressful. There are several reasons why this doesn’t work for our family.

  1. I don’t enjoy summer knowing that I still have work that will need to be done.
  2. If I wait, I might not get the order in time or it might be backordered.
  3. If I wait, I will need to rush through the curriculum to set up our routine and determine how much work should be done daily.
  4. If I wait, I can’t take advantage of all the great promotions available for those who order early.

Usually, aBeka starts having demos of their curriculum around April. Once I receive their flyer in the mail, I highlight the closest location with a date that suits our schedule. I make sure to add the date to my iCal program and then I start researching. I don’t want to peruse at the demo; I might be led by impulse instead of through prayer. To ensure I am only buying what I need, I will look through aBeka’s website first. From there, I will write down any items that I know are necessary and compile a list with the item numbers and prices. If there are items that I have never seen or items of question, I will write those at the bottom of my list and highlight them. Those are the items that I will review with my husband and pray over. The day of the demo, I check out the items that I might have highlighted, sit down to fill out my form, and then check out. Because I have ordered at a demo, I will save 10% up front and avoid shipping costs. Usually, I save myself about $60 this way!

One of the main reasons I order our books so early, is because I don’t order teacher guides. (I have not found them to be necessary for the younger grades and don’t care to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere.) Due to the fact that I don’t order teacher guides, I must spend a little time planning out our year. I open each text and lay out our lessons, ensuring that everything gets covered. This is very simple but it still needs to be done. For very little work, I am saving myself a great deal of money. On average, textbooks for all four of my children run me $250 per year. Not bad, all things considered!

We usually end our school year just around the beginning of May. By the time we have finished school, our books for the next year are just coming in. I make sure they are all here, I take the time to go through each one (mapping out how many lessons get done a day), and then they get tucked away until the end of July. I am now free to enjoy my summer, knowing everything is here and we are ready to start come fall.

Now that summer is just about over, it is time to put those books on the shelf and do any last-minute reorganizing. I have double checked the books (refreshing my memory about lesson schedules), organized how I want them to be placed in our cupboard, and added any reference materials I thought would be necessary. Ah, what a beautiful sight!

Just two more projects and we will be ready to start on Monday.

When do you order your books? Do you order early? Do you wait? I would enjoy hearing when you choose to get your books and why!

The Art of a Good Portfolio

Yesterday, I mentioned that we planned a particular project for each day this week. When we start school on Monday, I want to be ready and relaxed. Today’s project… our portfolios!

When most people think of a portfolio, they think of an artist or professional showing their well crafted work in order to gain recognition or obtain employment. However, did you know that homeschoolers can have a portfolio as well?

When I first began to homeschool, I read everything I could on the laws of our state and ideas on how to keep ourselves protected. One great suggestion that was made were portfolios; simple, three-ring binders that hold all pertinent work and tests the student has done for the year. In the event it should become necessary, examples of the students’ work are on hand and available.

Yesterday, we cleaned out our homeschool cupboard and filed all of last year’s portfolios in a safe place. Today, we wanted to get our new portfolios ready to go and organized. We grabbed our three-ring binders, some dividers, pens, crayons, and markers; then, we got busy!

For the new portfolios, the first thing the kids worked on is the cover for their binders. I created a simple cover with some clip art that was available via Google. We all (I have a binder for this year too) sat down at the table and enjoyed some coloring. We had a great time, visiting and being creative.

Next, we grabbed our dividers and started getting things in place. I made sure the kids have one divider for each section:

  • Reading (I keep track of all the books they read)
  • Writing
  • Language Arts
  • Arithmetic
  • Geography
  • Spanish
  • KONOS

Lastly, I made sure to print out the children’s names and cut them into narrow strips. These were placed down the outside spine of the binder. This way the children easily recognize which binder is theirs and are able to grab them at will. Our portfolios are now ready to be filled with all sorts of learning projects and assignments. They are tucked into the homeschool cupboard, ready to be used come Monday.

Our children’s portfolios have really come in handy. When we have family over, it gives our children an opportunity to share all of the things they have been working on and how much they have learned. The portfolios have even been a great way for me to show new homeschooling moms examples of different curriculum we have tried or examples of different learning styles (as each of my children slightly vary). While I hope this never becomes necessary, in the event it should, our portfolios may also be used in court in order to show examples of our children’s progress.

Hooray! Our project for the day is complete and we are almost ready to start school on Monday. Let’s see what tomorrow brings….

Do you have “portfolios” of your children’s work? We would love to see examples!

Out With The Old

That time of year has come around again. The time to clean out the homeschooling closet and begin anew. The time to minimize, organize, and prioritize. All summer we have been doing projects, being creative, and having fun. Now it is time to prep for this exciting new year of our learning adventure.

Each day this week, we have assigned ourselves one organizing project that needs to be completed in order for us to be ready next Monday. Today, it was minimizing the amount of items we kept from last year’s schooling and filing what we wanted to keep. 

So, off to the homeschooling closet we went. We pulled all our files out and got to work. We went through our binders and set aside only our main tests, our writing assignments, and work that was special to the kids. We looked at any projects that were sitting out and took stock of them as well. All items that we wanted were carefully labeled and filed in the garage, in mommy’s handy filing bin.

Our closet is now emptied out of anything unwanted or not needed. Ah, that feels nice!

 

The High School Handbook

Our oldest daughter is in sixth grade this coming August. Not one to wait until the last-minute, I wanted to spend some time this summer reading up on Junior and Senior High. I want to be fully prepared for what lies ahead. I want to know what I need now so that I am not panicking at the last-minute, worrying if I am doing something correctly or not.

To this end, our ISP principal highly recommended The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield. In The High School Handbook, Ms. Schofield does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for Jr. and Sr. High. She provides a helpful, step-by-step process to organizing your students workload, as well as ideas on how each can be implemented to their fullest. She explains, with clear reasoning, why each step is taken and how it benefits both your student and yourself. To further assist you with each step, Ms. Schofield has graciously placed helpful sample forms throughout the book, showing how her family has organized each area. She has also included blank forms for you to copy and use at your own disposal, making your job even easier. 

Ms. Schofield covers every area of Jr. and Sr. High that you could possibly imagine. If you are unsure of how to organize your classes, this book will help. If you are unsure which classes are needed to attend a university, this book will help. Need tips on grading, courses standards, transcripts, and college? This book is definitely the one for you. From Language Arts and Arithmetic, to Driver’s Ed and Work Permits, this book has something for everyone.

On a personal level, I am extremely grateful that I chose to read the book this summer. Our daughter is still in elementary school (being that we are not including sixth grade as part of “middle school”); had I waited until the summer before junior high, I might have stressed myself out with the amount of paperwork and organizing that needs to be done. However, having read the book a full year in advance, I have plenty of time to prepare whatever forms might be necessary. I have the time to systematically lay out classes and to talk with my daughter about where she feels the Lord is leading her. I very much appreciated the sections on Missionary Opportunities, Apprenticeship, and College at Home, as each of these areas are of particular interest to our family.

Our HS Outline

The High School Handbook is highly recommended for everyone with a child going into Jr. and/or Sr. High. Even if you don’t homeschool, it will help you to better understand what classes your child should be taking in their studies. It will help you prepare them for ACT and SAT exams, College Applications, and other areas common to all students. I highly recommend this book. Don’t wait until your child is about to start their higher education, help them now. You won’t regret it!

For those of you with children already in Junior or Senior High, was there a particular book(s) that you found helpful in organizing the chaos? I would love to delve into a few more books. The more ideas, the better!

The Old Piano Roll Blues

My husband very much wanted our kids to learn piano. Unfortunately our budget couldn’t afford sending four children to piano lessons. I was also a little hesitant to add another outside activity to our list. My guy, very sweetly, suggested that I was “smart enough to do this on my own”. Off I went to conquer the unknown…

I knew how to read music, as I had played flute for several years and sang in high school, but knowing how that relates to a piano is entirely different. I needed a program that would start off with the very basics.

Teaching Little Fingers To Play by John Thompson worked wonders! This curriculum started with the most basic instructions of all; finger placement, hand position, and posture. From there, the children learned to identify basic notes on the piano and to play them, first with the right hand and then with the left. Once the notes and their corresponding keys were learned, songs were introduced. I found that I liked this curriculum for getting started and for teaching them the basics.

John Thompson’s curriculum goes far beyond Teaching Little Fingers To Play; there is also Modern Course for Piano. For those interested, they also have music for Christmas, Disney fans, and more!

Joining the ISP we are apart of now, I noticed that several of the other kids were taking piano lessons. Their progress was quickly achieved and they played more advanced pieces than our children had been exposed to. I asked around and was told that all of the other kids were taking lessons using the Suzuki Method of piano. I was highly impressed with the program and wanted to try it out for ourselves.

We still were not able to afford classes, but having already learned the basics from Teaching Little Fingers to Play, I felt confident that we would pick things up with this new curriculum. I was right! Our kids took to it immediately.

I appreciate that the Suzuki Method teaches children to focus on playing the music by ear and not relying on the sheet music itself. I also appreciated that the curriculum came with a CD so that we could listen to the pieces as our children played, teaching them to keep time and play along with someone else.

So far, we are more than halfway done with Book #1 and going strong. The kids are loving the program and enjoy learning new songs. I am loving the fact that we are learning without having to leave the house, spending time and money we don’t have. I enjoy the Suzuki Method greatly, but I am very glad we started off with Teaching Little Fingers to Play first. I believe it gave us a strong foundation for what we are now learning.

Do you have a piano lesson you do from home? I always love learning about new curriculum and would love to hear what you use!

Fair Competition

Well, we are finally done. All of our competitions for the L.A. County Fair are complete and, as of this morning, turned in.

The kids did a wonderful job creating all of them and did very nice work. They are proud of what they have done and that is always a good sign. In all, Trinity completed 7 projects, Noel and Angelina 6, and Joseph 4. Once the fair opens and the competition results come in, I will have to take some pictures to post. 

The only things left to complete are the Read-to-Ride book reports, which we have about halfway done. When six reports are completed, you get passes for 9 rides at the fair. With four kids attending, free carnival rides come in handy! There are two weeks left of summer, I am sure we will be able to get it done with no pressure to rush.

We are very excited to explore this year’s fair and can’t wait until it opens. Then we will be able to see what the judges thought of their work.

¿Usted Habla Español?

I am part Puerto Rican, but my father (the Spanish blood in my genes) left when I was a child and never looked back; thus, I don’t speak Spanish. My mother-in-law is Mexican by birth and my father-in-law Spaniard by birth. Coming to America they wanted to become fluent and so they only spoke English in their home, therefore my husband doesn’t speak Spanish well.

Despite the fact that neither of their parents speak Spanish, our children grew up becoming more and more interested in their hispanic heritage. They love listening to their yaya and yayo (grandma and grandpa) speak fluently and try to figure out what they are saying. They love listening to Spanish music and learning to dance. They even have dresses, brought over from Spain, which they wear as often as possible when they are having play dates at my in-laws. They love Spanish and Mexican cuisine, paella and tacos being the top picks, which makes my in-laws very proud.

It seemed natural when at some point my kids asked if we could start learning Spanish. Always willing to give a learning area a shot, I quickly looked up some good Spanish curriculum for young kid.

The curriculum that best met our families needs was Teach Them Spanish! This curriculum starts as early as PreK and covers a lot of ground. I like the fact that it starts off with everyday items that the children will use; colors, numbers, family members, and parts of their body, are just a few topics covered in PreK. Each new grade level stars off with reviewing what has already been taught and then builds upon it. If you learned 10 colors in PreK, you will review those 10 and add 5 more in K.

The best part of the curriculum, in my opinion, is the fun activity list that accompanies each lesson. Not only does the curriculum offer workbook pages to help you with learning, but it has Bingo games and other ideas to help make learning fun!

For those absolutely new to Spanish, like myself, there are also very helpful teacher pages. These pages follow each lesson, offering suggested questions to ask your student. For example: When studying colors, the teacher pages will teach you how to ask your student what color their shirt is, in Spanish with the English translation next to it. It will then teach you how your students should respond, in Spanish with the English translation beside.

This curriculum has been a lot of fun and we are learning a lot. Come high school, we are going to have to go with a more formal program, but for now this is working for us. The kids are having a blast and my in-laws are having fun supplementing what we are learning.

Do you have a Spanish lesson that you enjoy? I would love to hear suggestions.