The Last-Minute Rush

The end of the week is here and we are ready to tackle our two final projects before starting school… printing and library!

Imagine waking up to start school; everyone is at the table ready to go. You pull out your books, ready to begin. You pray, you open up your Bible, and then… you remember that you forgot to print out the lesson you prepared! Rrrrrr….

In order to avoid this annoyance, I make sure to set aside at least a half an hour every Friday to do nothing but print any documents that I might need for school in the coming week. This will save from last-minute rushing on Monday morning and afford me the opportunity to double-check anything that might be needed.

As we are starting on Monday, this morning I made sure to do just that. Any worksheets for Spanish, Bible, and our unit study are now ready to go. I have proofread them one last time, printed them, and tucked them into their corresponding books. Come Monday, I can relax; knowing that I am as fully prepared as I can be. 

Our other project is library time! Every Friday, I make sure we head to the library and get ourselves a stack of new books. The kids are allowed to pick their own reading materials and I have the opportunity to grab literature that pertains to our current unit study.

When we are at the library, I have made it clear that books are our goal. Our library features an activity booth and computer terminals, but that is not our purpose in being there. We have computers at home. We have games and activities at home, we can play when we return. Now, is the chance for them to delve into some good reads; the rest can wait. (Every once in a while, I do let them play at the activity booth but only after they have picked some good books first.)

Today is no exception! We are ready to head out to our library, grab some awesome reads, and then perhaps enjoy some ice cream. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for the coming year!

Off we go….

 

Advertisements

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!

Date Your Children

Having four children, homeschooling, running a home-based business, and serving in ministry, it can be difficult to find quality time with each child. A few years ago, the Lord showed me the perfect way to build up our relationships; dating my children!

Every Saturday, the children and I head over to my mother-in-laws’ house for a visit. I drop off three of my children (who excitedly run into the house and announce they are ready for fun and food), then the fourth child and I head on out for a date.

When on our dates, I usually allow my children to decide what they would like to do. Sometimes we go for a walk or visit antique stores. At other times, we have gone for fancy tea parties or ice cream. It doesn’t matter where we go, what matters is that we are spending time together.

I think one of the greatest joys of our “dates” is getting to know who my children are. I am often surprised by their observations and questions about life. I have learned so much about their dreams, their fears, and their struggles.

Right now, being that summer is a little crazy, our dates have been on hold. Getting back to school in another week (and a more settled schedule), we are looking forward to resuming our Saturday “dates”.

I pray that the Lord would use these days to strengthen our relationships and unify our family. That He would use these times to teach me about my children and how I can better minister to their needs. Sometimes I wonder if my children will look back on these days fondly, remembering all the little things that really meant nothing and yet everything.

How do you “date” your children?

Another Exciting Year of Ministry

Most mommies look for creative ways to teach their children life skills, I am no different. Several years ago, having expressed an interest in perhaps trying Girl Scouts, my Bible study leader brought Keepers of the Faith to my attention.

Now, you might ask, what is Keepers of the Faith? Keepers of the Faith consists of two separate programs; Keepers at Home (for girls) and Contenders for the Faith (for boys). Both are Bible based clubs that focus on teaching young people to be Godly men and women. The clubs are run similarly to those of Boy/Girl Scouts; the children attend group a few times a month, they earn badges, and they learn life skills. The difference with Keepers is that we center all we do on the Bible. Our focus is Titus 2; training these young people to be all that God has called them to be.

When Keepers was presented to me, my children were a little young, so I set the idea on the back-burner and set out to pursue other things. However, about two years ago a friend and I began to seriously consider Keepers at Home and actively look for a group. We were made aware of one group, meeting at a local church, but the group seemed a little less active than we would have liked. We were invited to attend a smaller group, consisting of mutual friends; which we tried. As it turned out, that group was mostly preschool girls and their activity level wasn’t quite what our girls were looking for.

On the way home from our second meeting, I asked my daughters what they were looking for. My daughters excitedly replied, “We want to do some sewing. Oh, and some baking! And don’t forget the jewelry making, cooking, and flower arranging!” When I relayed this to my friend, her prompt reply was, “You know the Lord is telling you to do this, right?” I staunchly denied that I needed to have any involvement with running a group. I simply wanted to participate and help out the current leader!

When I got home, my husband asked us how this meeting went. He was treated to the full story and the responses of our girls. He then replied, “You know the Lord is telling you to do this, right?” Oh, man!! It seemed like the Lord really was going to have me step out on a limb.

With much prayer, the Lord showed me what He wanted from the program and how we could make it happen. We started with just some close friends in our home, eight girls in all, and followed what the Lord wanted us to do. We learned a lot in that short five months and my girls were hooked!

Jump to now… We have had so many girls join the group we are now part of church ministry, with about thirty girls in attendance. We meet twice a month, exploring God’s word and learning new skills to help us be better keepers of our homes.

This morning, I had the pleasure of sitting with my pastor’s wife. We went over the upcoming year and all that the Lord has been preparing in our hearts. We shared our vision for the program and where the Lord might be taking it this year. We prayed over the ministry and the girls who will attend; that the Lord would be the center of it all. 

Please join me in praying for this ministry as well! Not just for our group, but for all the groups who will be meeting. That the Lord would be honored and glorified in all we do. Please pray for me, that I will continue to listen to and obey the calling He has given me. Also, if the Lord is willing, that a gentleman from the church would step up and lead Contenders for the Faith. We have not started a boys group yet, but I feel the Lord is leading in that direction.

Do you have a Keepers group? Please let us know, if you do! We would love to hear all the exciting things you have been learning!

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!

¿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.

Summer School: Science Fun

It wasn’t until high school that I developed an appreciation for science. There, we were able to do fun experiments; mix chemicals, dissect frogs, and other fun things like that. I wanted to make sure that our kids had the opportunity to truly enjoy science at a much younger age. During summer, we step outside our regular curriculum and shake things up.

Our “rubber” egg

As I mentioned in Summer School: Geography Fun, we do ten weeks of summer school. One day each week is dedicated to science experiments and over the last couple of years we have found some doozies. Some are from my school days, some from my husband’s, and some just from a basic search on the internet.

Homemade Crystals

When picking experiments, I try to ensure that each week covers a different area of science. So, for example, one week we might be covering magnetism and the next, micro-organisms. This keeps us interested and ensures that more topics are covered.

 

Not sure where to find just the right experiment or what to cover? Try Kids Science Experiments! I have found this website to be very helpful and organized. There is something for just about everyone.

Lastly, make sure to let your family know your plans. They are wonderful helps when it comes to ideas. My father-in-law added the crowning touch a few summers ago when he had us over to do a rabbit dissection. The kids learned so much from him and he loved being able to be involved.

Volcano time!

“Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not.” Jeremiah 33:3  The Bible reminds us that the Lord will show us His might hand in all of His creation. If we seek Him and ask Him to show us the wonders of His work, we will truly be amazed at what a wonderful God He is.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Five

Fail-to-planI love it when a plan comes together. That is how I feel when I set about planning my routines. Once we put them into place and they start working for us, it is a beautiful thing.

Now that I have my chores, events, and schooling organized; I need to put them all together and get moving. Once the school year starts, I will need to put all of my organizing together and make these separate schedules work together smoothly. This will help me, once again, see where I might need to do some last-minute rearranging and restructuring. It will also help to see where I have some flexible hours, in case anything should come up.

The first things I want to combine are my chores and my schooling. As I mentioned in Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One; my first ministry is to be a keeper of my home. If the house and my kids’ education cannot be merged smoothly, events need to wait. My weekly schedule with both chores and schooling combined usually looks like this:

Monday:

  • Start load of my laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Tuesday:

  • Start load of kids’ laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Wednesday:

  • Start load of linens right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Thursday:

  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time
  • Mommy does grocery list and menus
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids
  • Grocery Shopping for Mom

Friday:

  • Testing on all core subjects (All of our testing is done Fri.)
  • Collect Library Books and Straighten up House
  • Library
  • Errands
  • Lunch
  • Homeschool Co-op or other Homeschooling Event
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids

Normally we are finished with school anywhere from 2-3pm each day, with the exception of Friday. Friday is quite a bit shorter, but I plan it that way on purpose; counting our library time and our homeschooling events as part of their education.

Once this list of chores and schooling as been combined onto one master schedule; I can now add my events. Knowing that I am pretty busy Monday through Thursday, I usually avoid planning events on those days. Should the need arise though, I am free after 3pm and know I am available. Fridays are usually the days that I try to plan anything special or extra.

With life more organized, we are free to have fun events like this one… Renaissance Night with the homeschool group!

As with most things in life, this schedule isn’t perfect. There are days when we take longer to school or there is an unexpected event which causes us to rearrange our schedule; field trips during the week can cause a temporary change for example. This schedule isn’t meant to be concrete and final, simply a structure that I put into place; one that I am free to move around and fit to my family’s needs.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in having obeyed His Word; that my family would be a living example of what He has commanded us to do; that He would be glorified and honored through the keeping of my home, the education of my children, and the ministry we accomplish in our free time. It is not for our own name that we do these things, but His.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Four

Fail-to-plan“Mommy, can you explain this?” “Mommy, I don’t get this one!” “Mommy, is this supposed to look like this?”  “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

There are moments when I wish I could figure out how to be five places at once. This way when I am homeschooling my kids, I could stand by each one of them and help them with their needs. (Why five places when you only have four kids, you say? I would be sitting on my husband’s lap, having a fun conversation about his latest piece of artwork.)

While it may be summer time and school won’t “officially” start until August, this might be a good time for me to sit down and figure out an easier way to balance my kids’ schoolwork; since being in five places isn’t logically possible and being in one place can be stressful enough without trying to be in five!


The first thing I want to do is list all of the core curriculum that needs to be covered. 
Each of the kids have a certain amount of schoolwork per day. It helps to list each person’s work separately and then compare. For example:

Trinity – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Noel  – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

‘Lina  – Bible, Spelling, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Joseph – Bible, Spelling, Handwriting, Language Arts, Arithmetic, Geography, History & Science

Just looking at the list above, I can see that most of the subjects are the same, it is only the level of work that will change.

The second thing I want to do is figure out which subjects can be taught as a IMG_8068group. Having the kids come together on a subject cuts down on my teaching time and on my stress level. I usually make a point of doing Bible, History, and Science together. We do the initial lessons together and then work is handed out to each child based on their skill level. The other subjects I will need to balance.

The third thing I want to do is put my curriculum in order of how it will be taught. It always helps to know what direction I am heading in and to set up a routine; it is good for me and the kids. This will also help me figure out the pace at which each of my children will progress. For example, I know that Noel, Trinity, and ‘Lina will be working on Spelling at the same time, but JAG will start with Handwriting. This will make him slower at getting to Language Arts than his sisters, which will buy me some time. Between Trinity and Noel, Noel’s Spelling list is shorter, so I know she will progress to Language Arts faster. Knowing how fast they progress will help me to determine the order of the subjects and how much “bouncing around” I am going to have to do.

The forth thing I want to do is add in my electives. On top of my core curriculum I often have electives that either I or my children would like to cover. Our family has chosen to add Typing, Spanish, Piano, and Coding. Our electives are done in what I call “rotations”. Each of my children will be at a “station”; any one of our three computers or the piano. They are given a certain amount of time at that station and when they hear Mom call out “Switch!”; they know it is time to change.

The last thing I want to do is make sure I schedule in breaks and lunches. Once I know what needs to be covered and the general order of how it will progress, I need to make sure that I start figuring out where to give my kids some breathing room. Schooling is necessary, but having scheduled breaks gives them something to look forward to and a chance to reset their minds for more learning. Our schedule usually goes something like this:

Breakfast and Short Free Time                                                                                        Bible, PE, Spelling, Language, Arithmetic, Geography
Break
History & Science
Lunch Time and Short Free Time
Chores, “Rotations”

Notice that I don’t put down a time for each of these. Our family works on a routine, not a schedule. If we start at 8am, great! If we don’t start till 9am, no sweat! My kids don’t have a certain amount of time per subject, they are only told how much needs to be done. How quickly they work through it is entirely up to them. The faster they work, the sooner they get done, and get to have free time.

While our routine isn’t perfect; it certainly works for us. With much prayer (and much trial and error), we have finally come to a place where the kids are learning at a wonderful rate and Mommy isn’t feeling like a rubber ball.

 

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Three

Fail-to-planThis week is full of activities; yesterday we had a field trip, today I had a doctor appointment, tomorrow is grocery shopping and dental appointments, and don’t even get me started on this weekend. Not every week is this busy, but when it is, there are some key things that I can do to ensure events are as stress-free as possible.

Before planning out an event, there are some questions I should ask myself:        

•Did I pray about this? (Perhaps the Lord has other plans?)                                            •Did my husband say it was okay? (As a Christian wife, I respectfully keep my husband   aware of all that I plan to do.)                                                                                            •Will it take away from my first responsibility? (My first job is to be the Keeper of my home.  If this event will prevent me from doing that, I need to rethink going.)                               •Will my family benefit from the event? (Not all good ideas are good for us.)                  •Will I stress out trying to make the event possible? (Do I already have too many events planned on the same day?)

If my event has passed “inspection”; off to the calendar I go. I prefer to do my scheduling on my computer, there I can schedule email reminders and sinc with my iPod. It will also allow me to add notes regarding the event, such as “pack swimsuits”.

Prep for the event by getting any necessary materials ahead of time. Certain events, such as potlucks, often require me to bring along some food. When putting the event on my calendar, I will make sure to add these items onto my grocery list. If I have a birthday present to purchase, that will be added to my errand list. (See Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One) The day before the event, I usually try to make sure my car has enough fuel; it is always a pain to get in the car and realize I now have to stop for gas… talk about stress!

On the day of the event, I map it out. Knowing what time your event starts is helpful, IMG_8050but (especially having kids) that information isn’t always enough. How long will it take me to get to the event? How long will it take me to get out the door? How long does it take to straighten up my house and kids before heading out the door? Do I have anything else going that morning that also needs to be done? See what I mean; lots of factors will determine how the day goes. I don’t like leaving things to chance; therefore I like to “work backwards”. It looks something like this:

Event Time:          3:00pm (With a drive time of 1hr.)

Leave Time:         1:45pm ( I like to have extra time.)

Kids shoes on:     1:30pm (Plenty of time to brush teeth, hair, shoes on, and get in car.)

Straighten House:1:00pm(If not decent, I don’t leave.I can’t tell you how often that pays off.)

Lunch:                  12:00 (Plenty of time to eat in peace, wash up, and grab food/presents.)

This schedule works very well for morning events too. I simply plug in my start time and “work backwards”. This will help me determine what time I need to wake up, what time my kids need to be up, and everything else that needs to get done before heading out the door.

Because my event was organized to the best of my ability, I am not rushing around trying to do things last minute. Everything I need is set in place and ready to go.  Barring any last minute changes, I am free to enjoy my day and anticipate a wonderful afternoon.