Monday, January 31, 2011

My perspective on homeschooling while pregnant

Pregnant with twins; 25 weeks
Every pregnancy is different just like every homeschool family is different. Similarly, no two combinations of pregnancy and homeschooling will ever be the same, even within the same family. My family and I started homeschooling 2 years ago and being that my youngest is nearly 4, this school year is the first I have ever attempted while pregnant. For laughs and perhaps a little bit of insight, I thought I should put fingers to keyboard and pen my thoughts and feelings on this homeschool year as I attempt it with my ever expanding belly.

I should begin by telling those of you that do not regularly keep up with this blog that we are expecting not one, but two daughters in just over 2 months from now. I am 25 weeks pregnant with identical twin girls so my pregnancy thus far has not been a typical pregnancy for me. Despite the struggles and the challenges however, my kids and I have done our best to get school accomplished to the best of our abilities on any given day.

After moving to a new house in late September I was already in the beginning stages of all-day sickness. I was approximately 7 weeks pregnant when we completed our move and faced the daunting task of unpacking, organizing, sorting, and purging. Soon after moving however my constant nausea ramped up to a whole new level that I have never experienced with my previous two pregnancies. I was essentially bed ridden for days on end and relied heavily on my oldest son to feed and hydrate myself and my children. He would bring me breakfast and water/gatorade as I requested. He would also make breakfast and lunch more days than not for himself and his younger two siblings. He was an incredible blessing for those couple of months when I was unable to even sit-up or walk around much less make a meal for my family.

Despite the severe nausea I tried my best to still get some school done more days than not during the week. For my oldest who is in 4th grade this year getting school accomplished was much easier than for my first grader and preschooler who rely more heavily on me to guide and teach them.

For my 4th grader, 1st grader, and preschooler I relied heavily on the following tools and personal attitudes to get us through the toughest part of this pregnancy:
  1. a student spiral-bound organizer. At our local homeschool convention this past summer, before I even knew I would be homeschooling this year pregnant I purchased the student planner from Christian Light Education (CLE) for my oldest. CLE's planner is simple yet very effective, especially for upper elementary students who are just learning to be organized and take responsibility for completing their assignments with a little less guidance from Mom.
    1. I would write weekly assignments for my son with as much detail as I could muster considering my nausea. He always knew he could ask me a question at anytime to clarify the assignment or get help on a problem.
  2. relax and be flexible. When I began to feel down or that I was failing my kids by not being able to actively teach them like last year I had to remind myself that this is a season in our life. Not engaging in the most elaborate lesson plans or unit studies this year is OK, this is where God wants my family and I to be right now and despite everything going on around us my kids are still learning. Even if not one book got cracked on a particular day, I can guarantee that each of my 3 kids still learned a few important life skill lessons.
  3. taking a few months off to get through severe pregnancy nausea will not make or break my children's homeschool education. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can get school work and learning  done at anytime. We are not constrained by the public school clock. Despite doing relatively light book work the first few months of this school year my 4th grader completed his math curriculum for this year today. Yep, you read that right. Once my nausea subsided and I came back to the world of the mobile and able I was able to ramp up his assignments and get him back on track, so much so that he is now actually ahead of the game this year. Homeschooling on the weekends, later in the day, and doubling up on assignments are all great ways to get back on track from a season in your life where you find yourself falling behind on schoolwork a bit.
  4. don't stress! Honestly, I know this is easier said than done. Personally, I am only a couple of months past those months where I was stressing over failing my children because I was laid up with this pregnancy, unable to fully devote myself to them and their education. It all worked out beautifully though! I should have never stressed over what I wasn't providing for my older children but instead should have focused on what I was able to provide for them; namely a loving Mother deeply devoted to them, a warm house, and the ability to teach them compassion and caring for one another even if I was relegated to the couch 90% of our day.
Homeschooling while pregnant has two distinct perspectives. There is the perspective of the children which I have covered above. However, as I have progressed along this homeschooling while pregnant journey I have also learned that my personal perspective is equally important in this process. Not only do I have to think of my children that are growing and talking in front of my eyes and ears but I also need to think about the two precious girls quickly growing in my belly. Namely, I need to also take care of myself for their sake in addition to caring for the needs of my other children. This was a tough lesson to learn at first. As my belly continued to grow I found myself needing more and more rest. Throughout much of this pregnancy I have found myself  "winging it" through our school day. I do not have the energy to plan, print, and implement beautiful lesson plans and the materials required to execute these lessons. But that is ok!! My kids are still learning despite all the pretty bells and whistles that we did last year. To some extent this year has been better than last year because we have been more relaxed and I have allowed my children to self-direct a bigger portion of their learning. We have learned about things like inventors, beetles, birds, and much more that I know I would not have planned otherwise if I was "directing" our learning for the year. What a blessing this adventure has been! 

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TOS Crew Review: Times Alive! by City Creek Press

Do you have a child that is struggling to learn their multiplication facts? Is memorizing multiplication facts just not coming easily to your child despite repeated drills and fun math games? I can relate!

My 9 year old has been learning his multiplication facts for nearly 2 years now and still struggles with even the simplest facts. This struggle has proved to to be frustrating for not only me and his teacher but he was at the point of frustration with himself as well. As he advanced in his math curriculum he was required to recall more and more multiplication facts more quickly and more often. His inability to recall these facts was slowing down his overall math learning and progression.

As a result, I was thrilled when I found out we were going to be reviewing a math program specifically aimed at helping students quickly and easily recall their multiplication facts. Times Alive! by City Creek Press is a software program available for both PC and Mac users and can be purchased or downloaded on the City Creek press website. City Creek Press was founded by former Sylvan Learning Center owner Judy Liautaud.

The Times Alive! software is a compilation of tests, entertaining multiplication cartoons paired with catchy songs that teach multiplication facts, multiplication worksheets, and a parent specific area where students' progress and performance can be tracked.

How we used this product:
Times Alive! was incredibly easy to incorporate into our regular math curriculum. After my 4th grader finished his regular math assignment for the day I would set him up with the Times Alive! program. I never set a time limit on these drills I simply let him set the pace and do as much or as little as he liked. More often than not he was still working on, listening to, and enjoying this software after an hour or more. I have to admit that the cutest part of this whole review opportunity was hearing him sing the catchy songs around the house and seeing my younger two children gathered around the computer listening in and watching the cartoons right along with their older brother.

After completing the Times Alive! software program I reviewed my son's progress and achievements. I was excited to see he scored in the upper 90th percent on all of his tests. It has been a couple of weeks since he completed this software and I can honestly say that I have noticed a wonderful improvement in his ability to quickly recall his multiplication math facts and his confidence for "pop quizzes" throughout the day has skyrocketed. My oldest has always been a visual/auditory learner. I have never been able to just explain something to him verbally, I always have to follow-up my explanations with visual instruction. This multiplication software combines both aspects of his learning needs in one program. The catchy songs coupled with the entertaining cartoons has helped my son remember the mnemonic tricks of multiplication.

If your child is not ready for multiplication, City Creek Press also has Addition The Fun Way

Pricing information:
Available for download or purchase, PC or Mac versions, $48.95

Would you like to read additional reviews of the Times Alive! software written by fellow TOS Review Crew members?

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review. No other form of compensation was received.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Funny thing I read about twins

My copy of It's Twins! by Susan. M Heim arrived in the mail today. I am devouring the pages.
I just came across a hilarious response to a common twin question that I just had to share with you all. Hopefully it makes you laugh as hard as I did.
Question from stranger: "A girl and a boy. Oh, you are so lucky; you've got the best of both worlds. Are they identical?"
Response from you: "No, actually, my son was born with a penis and my daughter thank the Lord, was not."
Am I the only one that thought this was hilarious? ;)

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paperback Swap Saves Homeschoolers Money and Time

Have you discovered Paperback Swap? If you are a homeschooler or Mom who loves books then you are seriously missing out on a HUGE time and money saving website.

I have to admit, it took me a few months to really catch on to the glory that is Paperback Swap (PBS). I initially set up my account and then did not really do anything with it. However, as I began clearing off my book shelves to declutter and make room for new book and homeschool curriculum I reconsidered using Paperback Swap. I am so glad I gave it another thought!

What is so wonderful about PBS? Simply put, you get rid of books you no longer need or want and exchange them for other books you do want posted by fellow PBS members. The only cost to you is the initial cost of mailing a book that has been requested from you, which if you send via media mail postage costs range from $1-$4 depending on size and weight. Once a requesting member receives your book in the mail you will get a credit on your account. You can choose to purchase postage through PBS and receive immediate credit or mail the book yourself at your post office and wait for the book to reach its destination to receive credit. When you request a book you use the credits you have accumulated on your account and pay nothing additional. Each book is 1 credit while audio books are 2 credits.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.I have gotten rid of a large amount of unwanted books so far and in exchange am receiving books that my children and I do need (or enjoy). For instance, a few weeks ago I was browsing at our local large chain bookstore. I found a book on parenting twins that I wanted to buy. First though I checked PBS via my smart phone and discovered that I could request the book for free from a fellow PBS member using a credit on my account. Cha-ching, I saved the cost of a new book which in this case was $20 not including tax.

As a homeschool Mom I have also found a wealth of educational resources to use with my children. Not only am I receiving classics, biographies, and other treasured reading books for my children to enjoy I am also finding lesson planning books and curriculum resources that I would otherwise have to pay for. PBS keeps a running tally of how much money I have saved, but I honestly think it is on the low side of reality. If I were to buy the books I am receiving in the mail from other sources such as new at the bookstore or used off of Amazon I would have spent much more money than what is listed on my account as savings. Truth be told though, this is a non-issue for me. I am receiving high quality reading books and homeschool resources for pennies on the dollar and clearing clutter off of my bookshelves all at the same time. What homeschool Mom could ask for more?

If you have not signed up with Paperback Swap and plan to do so, please consider using my username momoftwinpinkpeas or click on the link below:

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The apple never falls far from the tree

Growing up I often heard "You look just like your Mother" or "You act just like your Father". I usually just rolled my eyes and thought, "No I am not, I am me, not them". Not until I became a mother though did I realize the full impact of these statements and their scope of truth.

As my children grow-up and develop their own personalities and habits I find myself more and more often assaulted with the reality that I am looking in the mirror at little "mini-me's". Sometimes I am proud at the reflection I see in my children while other times I am down right ashamed at what I see, knowing darn well that I do the same thing. Yikes! Talk about a reality check!

My 6 year old son in particular consistently brings to mind the phrase "the apple never falls far from the tree". Not only does he look like a male version of me but nearly every aspect of his personality is a reflection of my own.

Here is an abbreviated list of how my son is the apple and I am the tree:
  1. the ease with which he learns in school 
  2. visual learner; in both math and language arts
  3. love of science
  4. physical build; we are both on the "small side"
  5. facial features
  6. temper; scary but true and as a Mother this was a huge slap in my face but is proving to be a huge learning lesson for both of us
  7. eating preferences; we love and hate nearly the same things including obscure raw vegetables
  8. "attitude"; as hard as it is to admit, we are both "don't mess with me" type of people innately
There are many more things I could list but in the interest of keeping this post brief I will stop there with the list. As my 3 year old daughter grows into her own I see a little of myself but more and more I see my husband which, interestingly enough she takes after his side of the family in appearance and more and more of her personality is his and his alone. 

While realizing that I have apples laying so close to the trunk of my apple tree is humbling it is proving to be an enormous learning lesson and God given blessing. Not only am I being forced to grow personally in order to best "train up" my children but I have to grow spiritually to find the strength and patience to put all the parts of growth together for both myself and my children. I am a better Mother because God has given me little apples laying at the bottom of my apple tree.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Gifted homeschooling: A lesson in flexibility

Homeschooling a gifted child is not a topic I write much about. It isn't that I don't have experience with gifted homeschooling, I just don't feel like I have enough experience and worthwhile advice to regularly and accurately write on this subject. My only gifted child so far is my oldest biological child, he is 6. (I also have a 9 year old but he is technically my step-son, a term we do not use in our house). So I suppose, I have chosen to stay quiet about my gifted homeschooling journey rather than blog about the ups and downs. There are many times when I want to pen a blog about gifted education but chicken out or write about another topic. Nevertheless, my desire to journal homeschooling a gifted (or advanced) child still simmers just below the surface between my fingers and computer keyboard.

Today, I have decided to take the plunge and write about a gifted homeschooling topic that I have been immersed in since day one with my son. No, I don't mean day 1 two years ago when we started homeschooling, I mean day 1 of being his mother. After 6 years, I feel pretty well versed and experienced with the concept of flexibility as it relates to educating my son. Why flexibility? Well, simply because flexibility is something that my son thrives off of when presented in the context of education. Of course he needs schedules and expectations just like any other 6 year old. But flexibility is paramount for him when it comes to learning.

The type of flexibility I am referring to is the kind I encounter when a lightbulb goes off in his head and he NEEDS to (not just wants to) learn about a specific topic. At first I would resist his need to deviate from what I had "scheduled" and almost insist that we accomplish what I had planned rather than  explore the tangent that he had set upon in his own mind. I quickly found though that this only caused frustration and resentment in my eager little learner. I was killing his love for learning because I wasn't being flexible and sensitive to his needs. Eventually I realized that his learning tangent needs were real, a true and honest search for information that his gifted mind needed for satiation. I used to feel inconvenienced and rather annoyed when he would come to me with random questions about specific topics that never seemed to end. Most certainly I was in the middle of something that I deemed important and necessary only to be interrupted by his stream of unending questions and curiosity. Oh how wrong I was to take that attitude with my young son.

Once I turned the corner and my eyes were opened to the tremendous gift he had been given and in turn could give me, I began to welcome his random topics of learning curiosity with open arms. His need for learning in turn set my own mind on unexpected paths of learning and enrichment. How could I possibly deny both of us those opportunities to learn and grow? And what could be better than learning something new side-by-side with my gifted young son? Nothing, simply nothing. With this new attitude came a lesson in flexibility. In order to fully embrace his love for learning, I had to learn to give up any preconceived lesson plans I may have created for the day and "run" with whatever topic he wanted to learn about. A form of un-schooling if you will.  When I began showing my son that I was prepared to embrace whatever learning topics he was curious about his learning grew exponentially. Now he felt in control of what he was learning rather than simply learning about something because "Mom said so".

Over the years I have taken this flexible teaching attitude to other aspects of our homeschool environment. At one time I was in control of what subject we would start our day with and continued to make all the decisions during our homeschool day. And I wondered why I was met with frustration and lack luster attitude. We battled and butted heads to get every assignment completed. However, as I began to fully embrace the attitude of flexible learning I applied it to the "regular" and "mandatory" subjects completed in our homeschool day. Instead of telling my son which subjects he is going to complete and when, I now begin each day telling him what we need to complete but not how we are going to get there or in what order we are going to complete the assignments. My son gets to choose which subjects we do when. The result? I am now met with an eagerness and willingness to complete his schoolwork. He now feels in control of his education, something that many gifted children, especially those very young, need and require to feel appreciated and valued.

I shutter to think what would have happened to my son's love for learning if I hadn't learned a very important lesson of my own first; be flexible. When you are flexible with homeschool learning, the gifts that will come to you in the way of education and precious experiences with your children will most surely astound you.

Gifted children are a challenge, there is no denying that. But if you learn to go with their flow of learning, not only will you set no boundaries on their education but you will also foster a lifetime love of learning and education in their precious hearts and minds.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

24 weeks means viability

Today marks the date that the girls are considered "viable".  Really it is an ugly term but it has so much meaning and importance. Basically it translates to the fact that after 24 weeks my girls have a better chance of surviving pre-term delivery. Of course I want them to "cook" for a lot longer but knowing that their odds of survival have gone up now that I am past 24 weeks puts my mind a little more at ease. For Moms of multiples, the point of viability has special meaning.

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Lots of packages for the twins today

I am in online shopping heaven right now!! 4 packages arrived in the mail today, all for the twins. One was a surprise gift but the other 3 were things I bought a few weeks ago that finally arrived. I am so excited!! Not only did 6 of my cloth diapers arrive and they are adorable in perfect condition but the covers I bought for them also arrived. Of the things I bought myself I am SUPER DUPER excited about the diaper bag. I bought a new Vera Bradley Get Carried Away Tote bag for my diaper bag. I got the super cute night and day pattern. Let me tell you, this bag is enormous!! But I love how it is organized. No it doesn't have all the typical bells and whistles of a diaper bag, i.e. bottle pouches, plastic liner, changing pad, etc. But the cost of this bag and it's size far outweighed my other diaper bag options geared more towards twins. There are plenty of pockets to stash things like bottles if I end up pumping, I can also just add one of the changing pads from an older diaper bag to this new bag. The inside size is beyond huge, I can only imagine how heavy it will be when I pack it full with 2 of everything so we can venture out and about. I love it though, I can't wait to be able to put it to good use!

I love the adorable matching onesies 3 packs and bibs that my dear friend Jenn and her daughters sent for the twins. Not only are they in cute pink colors but they have Zebra's and other safari animals on them, so cute!! Thanks again Jenn!!

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TOS Crew Review: Speekee Spanish

Are you looking for a convenient and inexpensive Spanish curriculum? Or perhaps you are interested in a Spanish resource that will supplement a program you are already using? Looking for something that will expose your children to native Spanish speakers?
Speekee TV may be the answer you are looking for.
According to Speekee creators the top 10 reasons why parents choose this online Spanish program are:
-    Great fun and extremely effective
-    Created by specialist linguists and musicians
-    Accelerated learning methodology for natural success
-    100% in Spanish (English and Spanish subtitles available)
-    Simple presentation style
-    Lively, engaging characters
-    Real Spanish children in real Spanish locations
-    Concise, essential Spanish vocabulary, with lots of repetition
-    Catchy songs
Speekee TV allows children to learn Spanish at their own pace which makes this type of program ideal for new Spanish speakers or those looking for supplemental material for a current Spanish curriculum. Speekee TV is 10 episodes with over 150 minutes of Spanish learning. Native Spanish speaking children converse with each other in common child play locations such as the park and playground. Each episode also include songs, animation, and puppets which help to hold children's attention throughout the lesson. Along with each episode there are free activity sheets that can be downloaded to augment your child's learning. The Speekee program was created by Spanish language specialist teachers.
How we used Speekee TV:
As a Spanish speaker trying to teach my own children the beauitful language of Spanish I am always excited to try a new Spanish speaking program. I believe that the more exposure they get, no matter the form is helpful. Be it Spanish in the written, spoken, or book form any exposure will help them learn just a little more of the language. 
As we began viewing the 10 episode Speekee TV collection my 3 kids immediately gravitated to the computer screen. Together the 4 of us devoured a few of the episodes right off the bat. As their attention span dwindled and I became more aware of how the episodes were organized I made plans for supplementing the additional episodes. Not only did I use the free supplemental resources available for each episode but I made notes of the topics and words discussed in each episode so that I could include them in our everyday Spanish "practice" conversations that my children and I regularly engage in. When watched in one or two episode chunks we found the material more easily digested and retained. My children and I all thoroughly enjoyed each of the 10 episodes on Speekee TV. They are fun, musical, entertaining, yet very educational. The Spanish words and phrases presented in each episode are repeated numerous times in a fun way giving Spanish learners numerous opportunities to hear, retain, and comprehend the material. Additionally, there is optional subtitles that can be turned on for each episode. Personally, I chose to not use the subtitles for two main reasons. My kids all have a good base of Spanish understanding and I feel that the subtitles would have distracted them from the material being presented. 
If you are looking for a fun introduction or reinforcement for a current Spanish program you are using Speekee might be just what you are looking for.
Pricing information:
A subscription to Speekee TV is $7.50 per month and the first two weeks are free.

Would you like to read more reviews from fellow The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew members for Speekee?

Speekee TOS Crew reviews

Disclaimer: I was proved with this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I was not compensated in any other way from Speekee or The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew for this review.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just admiring your family!

Moms of big families more often than not hear some pretty rude comments from family and total strangers alike in regards to their choice to have "more than a couple" of kids. I am far from a Mom of many or consider myself a household manager for a large family. However, in spite of having 3 kids I still get my fair share of rude and unnecessary comments regarding my family size. I've learned to shrug if off over the years, especially from strangers.

To all my friends and readers who have a large family or have the "heart" of a large family I want to share with you a refreshing and joyful story from an unassuming trip to the grocery store today.

My kids and I made our weekly trip to town today. Wednesdays are typically a very long day for us between the time it takes to drive to town and all the errands I need to accomplish while I am there. By the time we finally arrived at the grocery store this afternoon we were all tired. Because of this I did something I don't typically do; I put my younger 2 in one of those HUGE grocery carts like look like a car with steering wheels and the shopping basket out in front. I knew they would need some entertainment and a certain level of "corralling" to accomplish our shopping trip as quickly as possible. As I proceeded to the produce section with my limo sized shopping cart I made a mental note of all the fresh produce I needed. I parked the basket at the end of one of the rows so I could grab some things I needed without navigating that huge basket in the narrow produce aisles. I quickly grabbed what I needed from that aisle and returned with an arm full of fresh goodies. While I placed my items in the basket I noticed an elderly lady standing to my left with her basket. She appeared to be patiently waiting for me, possibly to have me move my basket so she could pass by with more room (there was already plenty of space for a standard basket to move by me). Nevertheless, I asked her if she was waiting for me and if she wanted me to move my basket. In the sweetest and most sincere voice she simply replied, "No, I was just standing here admiring your family." I was shocked! Of course I immediately thanked her. And with that she was on her way to finish her own shopping. She left me though forever and deeply touched. I wore a smile on my face for the rest of that shopping excursion. Such a simple gesture by this beautiful stranger brightened my day and helped to remind me that not everyone out there looks down upon those of us with more than "a couple" of children.

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TOS Crew Review: Maestro Classics

Beautiful music and a music appreciation lesson combined all in one. That is what composer Stephen Simon and art director/music educator Bonnie Ward Simon have created in Maestro Classics Peter and the Wolf.

Maestro Classics Peter and the Wolf begins with a skillfully composed score for the very popular story Peter and the Wolf. Following the musical/story portion we hear first hand from the composer Stephen Simon and art director/music educator Bonnie Ward Simon. Stephen gives a wonderful explanation on the background of the music. He carefully explains why each instrument was chosen for the characters and what role this instrument plays in the story. Bonnie Ward Simon on the other hand provides the listener with a lively description about the Peter and the Wolf story. Together both Stephen and Bonnie give new life to an age old story. Listeners not only learn new and insightful aspects about the Peter and the Wold story but are also treated to an artfully composed score. Stephen's composing adds new life to a common story. Included with the 7-track CD is a beautiful 24-page program book which helps to entertain and educate the children listening to the music and story.

You can visit the Maestro Classics website to listen to a sample of this and other CDs.

My kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to and learning from Maestro Classics Peter and the Wolf CD. Each time we play this CD we all learn something new either about the story itself or about the musical instruments used in the composition. My children regularly ask questions and blurt out observations while we enjoy this story and it's accompanying music. The scoring and story telling leave us all enthralled and entertained. As a Mom I love the fact that my children are learning about music and gaining an appreciation for it without even realizing what is happening. Not only are they thoroughly enjoying the entertainment aspect of this CD but they are learning at the same time. What is not to love about that?

Product information:
Pricing: $16.98 or $45 for 3 CDs. Maestro Classics has a wide variety of stories and compositions to choose from. They would all make wonderful additions to your listening library.

Want to read more reviews on this product? Please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog!

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Getting financially organized this year!

I have to be honest,  I do not do budgets. There I said it, I admitted it. I have never in my life created a budget and stuck to it. I just know how much money I have and do my best to make sure there is some leftover each money. Sometimes that plan works, other months it doesn't work so well.

With our growing family and reduced income I have to finally face reality and quit ignoring the facts staring me in the face. As the financial planner and bill payer for my family, I NEED TO BUDGET! Plain and simple, no ifs and or buts about it.

But where do I start? As if God heard my prayers (I know he always does) yesterday I stumbled upon Carrie and her Dittle Dattle blog that offers financial planning worksheets for a notebook that she herself uses for her own family. I am all into simplicity, keep it simple and I am more like to stick with it. Carrie follows Dave Ramsey's financial planning and budgeting philosophy but her worksheets that she so graciously shares with the rest of us can be used for budgeting whether you follow the Ramsey plan or not.

I am in the process of creating a similar notebook for my family. I just need a few more office supplies to complete the notebook then I will be off and running. As Carrie mentions in her blog post, a notebook like this not only makes monthly budgeting simple but you also have all the information you need at your fingertips so that you can keep budget and financial status lines of communication open between you and your spouse. Love it!

Happy budgeting in 2011 friends!

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Pen pals help encourage writing

Finding and maintaining communication with a pen pal can open up a wonderful world of writing for your children. Pen pals are not just for homeschooled children. In fact, both of my sons regularly write to a public schooled pen pal. Pen pal letters accomplish and encourage a whole host of beneficial things in your child; whether they are homeschooled or attend public school.

Benefits of having a pen pal include:

  • give practical application to lessons in letter writing including letter formating, sentence structure, and envelope addressing.
  • promotes friendship between two people that may not otherwise have a chance to get to know each other.
  • encourages children to think of others rather than just themselves. Pen pal writers can not exclusively write about themselves. They must ask questions of their pen pal and show interest in what their pen pal has written in a previous letter.
  • encourages writing in a reluctant or new writer. Older children will enjoy the reduced pressure of writing that comes with pen pal letters while young elementary children will learn that writing can be fun.
  • writing pen pal letters will force children to practice good penmanship. Messy letters are not good pen pal letters.
  • requires reading, this is particularly beneficial for young readers. Your child will need to read their pen pal's letter when it arrives in the mail and before they can respond to and write a letter of their own.
The benefits of pen pals for your children are nearly limitless. I could not possibly list all of the advantages here.

Ways to find a pen pal for your children include:
  • contact friends outside of your immediate area that have children similar in ages to your own. Ask if they would like to be pen pals.
  • If you are a homeschooler, join an online homeschool community such as The Homeschool Lounge. Large online homeschool communities such as THL have pen pal groups where you can find other families that are in search of pen pals.
Lastly, if you have younger children that are not yet at the writing stage who would also like to join in on the "pen pal fun" they also have options. Picture drawing is a fun way for very young children to enjoy the fun of having a pen pal.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Homeschool books for sale!

I am beginning the task of clearing off my shelves and listing curriculum that we no longer need. I will add to the list as I uncover the treasures in boxes and on bookshelves.

Singapore Math Textbook 3B U.S. Edition, like new (bought 2 by mistake); $8ppd

Language Arts:
A Reason for Handwriting Teacher Guidebook (K-6th), normal shelf wear; $10ppd

Vocabulary Cartoons (uses mnemonics to teach vocab words), like new; $10ppd

Punctuation Tales 4 books: Abbreviations, Quotation Marks, Sentence Stoppers, Sentence Structure; all like new; $5ppd

If you are interested in any of these books just email me through my profile or if you are friends with me on FB feel free to contact me there also. Yes, I will give discounts for multiple purchases.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Vasectomy Reversal: encouraged, overwhelmed, and appreciative

The response from my original Vasectomy Journey post has been overwhelming and encouraging. I am immensely appreciative of all of you who have posted on my blog and contacted me privately through email. I had no idea before posting our story how common our struggles were among the vasectomy reversal community. Your words of encouragement are a treasure to my husband and myself.

For others of you who are contemplating a reversal or who have newly embarked upon the reversal journey please do not hesitate to contact me if you feel led. I would love to pray for you and help in any other way that I can drawing off of our experiences during this journey.

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TOS Crew Review: Early Modern History Schedule by Easy Classical

Are you a classical homeschooler looking for a clear and easy to follow history schedule? Or are you possibly considering a classical approach to teaching your children history? Planning a history schedule using the classical method can quickly become overwhelming and bewildering. I know. . .I've been there. At the beginning of each new school year I feel like I am still there. . .overwhelmed with the feeling of how I am going to plan and do justice to the backbone of classical homeschooling; history.

Easy Classical has simplified what can be an overwhelming task for classical homeschoolers. They have written detailed and easy to understand schedules for every history time period. Each time period schedule is broken down into 36 easy to follow weekly schedules. Each weekly schedule includes mapping exercises, writing assignments, art, extra reading recommendations, and comprehension quizzes. Every schedule comes neatly organized in a 1" binder.

How we used this product:
For the purposes of this review I was provided with the Early Modern History Schedule (Explorers to 1820) and not the accompanying materials that are available from Easy Classical. Despite not having the writing with history and geography guides scheduled I found this to be a thorough and easy to follow schedule. Being a classical homeschooler I always struggle knowing that I am covering all the aspects of the history time period we are currently studying. Somehow I tend to feel like I am missing something or short changing my children. I have always used the Story of the World books to structure our history lessons and readings.  This Easy Classical history schedule nicely laid out each chapter from the Story of the World book that should be read each week. In addition to the Story of the World readings each week this schedule includes copywork, geography, and writing assignments along with review questions and a comprehension quiz. I am incredibly impressed with the thoroughness of this schedule. It is so easy to follow, clearly organized, and full of additional recommended reading resources. I have voracious readers so the reading lists are wonderful, it takes the time and effort I usually spend finding additional books for them to read out of my planning equation.

For frazzled, over scheduled, new classical homeschoolers, or homeschool Moms who just want to save time planning the Easy Classical schedules will be a time and sanity saver.

Product details:
Notebook version: $35.95

Digital version: $29.95

Sample Introductory Pages

Sample Schedule Pages

Sample Drawing Lesson Pages

Also available on the Easy Classical website is an extensive list of curriculum and supplemental resources available for each of the classical history time periods.

Disclaimer: Easy Classical provided me with the Early Modern History schedule for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Would you like to read more TOS Crew reviews for this product?

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Praying for 16 more weeks

I have quickly come to realize that when you are pregnant with twins every week that they are safely growing inside your belly is a huge milestone. Having uncomplicated pregnancies with my singletons, this was a fact that I took for granted. Carrying twins though raises this importance to the Nth degree. Every week has brought new changes to my body. These changes are similar to carrying a singleton but they are compounded a million times because of the number of babies and the fact that I am petite.

What does carrying twins look like on a 5'2" small framed woman? Well, when I am fully clothed it isn't so bad. I just look like I am due any day now. Under the clothes is a whole other story! A blanket of stretch marks has been laid clear across my belly beginning on one side where my belly meets my back and stretches clear across to the other side. The extra almost 20 pounds that I have gained so far has been distributed in such lovely places like my neck, arms, and thighs. My blood volume is now equal to a full term singleton pregnancy. My heart is working at the equivalency of running a marathon when I am sitting still.

Despite these and other challenges of carrying twins I am still in awe at this amazing blessing I get to experience. I have dreamed about being a Mother of twins since I was a young teenager. I have no idea why I would dream and wish for something like that at such a young age but I did. Perhaps it was God telling me that if I came to know him that he would bless me.

I am 22 weeks pregnant today. I am praying for 16 more weeks.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I do not do baby books

I have started scrapbooks for my children with the hopes of creatively documenting their childhood. Truth be told though, I have failed miserably. The farthest I have made it is one year of one child's life (he is now 6). Pathetic!

A few months after my oldest biological son was born I realized that scrapbooking was not going to be a successful way of remembering his younger years. Because I enjoy writing I thought I would try my hand (literally) at journaling his childhood. Six years later I am still journaling for him and have since added journals for other two children.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing my thoughts, hopes, wishes, and dreams for each of my children in their respective journals. I also include important events in their lives just like typical baby books. Unlike baby books though I am able to add more detail and emotion to the events. From time to time, I include pictures like you find in regular baby books. I have also enjoyed reading back through their journals from time to time. These journals have become a mini time capsule if you will, a memory filled book of each of my children's childhoods. My plan is to give each of them their books on their 18th birthday.

The books I chose for my boys are a traditional journal, an open book style. The green journal that I am journaling my daughter's childhood and the two red journals that I recently purchased for the twin girls that I am expecting are a magnetic closed book journal style. The journals for my three girls are more ornate and decorated than the styles I chose for my boys; just a personal preference.

If you enjoy writing or blogging, you might just enjoy journaling your child's childhood.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

A cute little twin poem

Two by two here they come
Having twins is so much fun
Two little girls are on their way come celebrate before the big day! 
Four lil arms to hold tight
Four little cheeks to kiss night-night
Double the hands and double the sleep
We're gettin ready for double no sleep
Two lil babies from Heaven above
God is belssing us with twins to love. ♥

Obviously this poem is more suited for a baby shower, but I thought it was cute nonetheless.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Set a Good Example With Your Food Choices

How often do you think about your food choices? Perhaps every time you eat. Seems logical, right? The question is though, from whose perspective do you make your food choices. Do you think only about what you want to put in your mouth? Or do you think about your children and the example you are setting each time you put a bite of food in your mouth?

I am not here to tell you what to do or eat but rather I will share my experiences and impressions as they pertain to my own family. It is my hope that perhaps you will begin to reconsider your own food choices in light of my experiences and lessons learned.

My kids are food magnets, there is just no two ways about it. Whenever my husband or I get a snack or eat outside of normal meal times our three children swoop in around us from wherever they are in the house and what a bite of what we are eating. With three kids one bite quickly becomes a devouring of our plate without even one bite making its way into our mouths. This is typically not an issue at all because I have learned from past mistakes and purposefully choose healthy nutritious snacks for myself. I care deeply about the food my children consume so as a result my own eating habits have improved dramatically from my "pre-kids" days.

Some examples of my mid-morning or early afternoon snacks (the pregnancy has increased my appetite beyond recognition) include:

  • vine ripened tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil (when I have it available). Sometimes I drizzle a little EVOO and season with sea salt. Other times tis just a pinch of sea salt. For a serving of grains with my snack I will add whole wheat crackers or WASA bread; they both add a nice crunch to a soft textured snack.
  • organic yogurt with fresh fruit pieces (apples oranges, grapes, etc.)
  • fresh veggies with cream cheese or hummus
  • a light salad with a variety of toppings (I have found my kids are more open to eating a salad if they see me eating one)
  • fresh fruit with peanut butter and cheese slices (I make up a big plate of fruit slices, peanut butter, and cheese slices for everyone to share together)
Now dinner is a more difficult endeavor in our family. I do my best to prepare healthy and well balanced meals 99% of the time (we all have to splurge on dinner made with breakfast food from time to time). My oldest son will eat anything you put in front of him, my younger 2 however are more challenging. I know with time and age will come more willingness to eat a variety of foods though. Despite the challenges and reluctance at dinner my husband and I stay fast to our rule of not preparing a special meal or allowing after dinner snacks for those that refuse to eat the meal that was prepared for the entire family. My kids all know this rule and no longer argue or question us when the issue arises.

Another challenge when trying to raise healthy eaters is when eating out. The rule in our family is that you must eat the healthy portion of your meal (sandwich, meat serving, etc) before moving onto any less healthier side dish on the plate. At restaurants where they offer side choices for the kids we do not allowed fried food (french fries, etc). If there is more than one unhealthy side choice I simply let my kids know which items they can choose from (salad, fruit, steamed veggies, etc) and and stay strong to my decision. I figure that even if they only eat a few bites of their side dish that is better than eating an entire serving of the less than healthy option they have otherwise been served. Also, just like at home my husband and I prefer to choose rather healthy meal options when eating out. For example, I will request my hamburger wrapped in lettuce rather than having it served on a bun. I will also ask that they exchange the standard french fry side serving with a side salad with dressing on the side.

Am I fanatical about our food choices? Absolutely not! We have our fair share of less than ideal eats in this house. Is it a daily occurrence though? Not at all. The big picture in all of this is that as parents we need to teach our children healthy eating habits. To that end I believe those lessons begin with the food we put in our own mouths. Eating is definitely not a "do as I say, not as I do" lesson. Healthy eating is a life long decision, it doesn't happen overnight and it certainly doesn't come naturally.

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My prayer for all of you is a healthy, safe, and joyous 2011! 
May it be filled with wonderful memories.

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