Growing Every Day

Follow Through

From 1st grade through graduating high school, I was a bowler.  I bowled on a league the entire time.  One of the phrases my couch would say continuously, “Follow through”.

Follow through.

Who knew this was a key to success in so many areas of life.  When I was out in the working world, there were deadlines imposed on me.  If I was late with a project or simply didn’t get something done, there were immediate consequences.

Making the shift to staying at home made something very clear to me…I am not so good at follow through.  If a blog post or chapter of my book doesn’t get written, then they don’t get written.  There is no immediate consequence.  However, after being home for several years now I am realizing the consequence is there; it is just far more subtle.

The consequence is not moving forward in life.

If I do not discipline myself to follow through and complete certain projects, then I remain in the same place in life.  No book published, no blog making money, no digital art to sell.

Another lesson from bowling, every time I remembered to follow through, I would hit my mark and almost always get a strike or high scoring roll.  Without the follow through, I would miss my mark and it would not go so well.  That is so parallel to life.  When I push myself to follow through and write for those planned two hours a day, then I move forward.  Things get completed.

What I realize now is that the act of “follow through” is not natural, at least not for me.  This is something that I must discipline, train myself to do.  When I sit down for my two hour writing block, I will inevitably find my mind wandering (and sometimes my body) and have to bring myself back to the project at hand.  I now say out loud, “follow through”.  Even this simple intentional act of speaking out loud to myself has made an impact in how much I am moving forward.

A second thing that has helped me in the discipline of “follow through” are these amazing monthly, weekly, daily calendar printables from Productive Flourishing.  I have tried so many calendars without much success, or with little success.  I am not very good at sticking to an incremental timed calendar.  The calendars found at Productive Flourishing are said to be geared toward the creative mind flow.

Creatives tend to think less on a timeline and more in chunks or projects.

These calendars help you “chunk” your time and order it for the day as well as helping plan the scope of your project(s) for the week/month.

The third element for me in this “follow through” epiphany is realizing that my kids have the same non-follow through nature as I do.  There are numerous Lego projects, art projects, building projects, craft projects, etc. all over the house.  I have no problem with having more than one project going; however, I now have the desire to help discipline (train, not punish) my kids so that they can actually complete these projects.

In the realm of learning and practicing this discipline called “follow through”, I have asked Builder and Princess to pick a project that they want to work on.  We now have “project time” for 30 minutes each day.  They are welcome to work on it more as they wish, but they must work on it for that designated 30 minutes.

Builder has chosen to break down all of his currently built Lego sets and organize them into tubs according to categories.  For example, all police sets will go in one tub, all city or fire sets will go in each of their own tubs, etc.  This is a huge project, and he is continually making forward progress.

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Builder’s Project

Princess has chosen to build all of her Lego sets.  For her to actually complete any one Lego set is quite an accomplishment.  This week already, she has finished two and started working on a third just because she was having fun!

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Princess’s Project (1 of 2 sets built)

The kids’ project times have also helped me to realize that I need to pick a project to work on that is for me personally and not related to business/work.  I know this will be an on-going learning process for us all, and I am determined to follow through!

And You? ~ How are you on following through?

 

 

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Yes, I am still in the mode of reflecting over the past school year.  Reflecting on the past, in order to move into the future.  In doing so, I asked myself the question…

What most helped learning happen this year?

There were some curriculum choices that were just fine and worked well, but I feel that we could have made a different choice without consequence.  The more I thought, the more I found specific choices that were a critical part of our school year.

The short of it…here are the 5 things (in no certain order) for which I am thankful that we found.  I am thankful both for the sake of my sanity and for the sake of my kids learning and success.

#1 – Easy Peasy Curriculum

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This is a free online curriculum found at www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And I must say, that it is a very full curriculum with a lot to offer.  To be honest, I was very leery at first because it is free!  Not the best mindset, but there you have it.  Having a small budget, and finally getting so tired of searching and searching for curriculum that I fell in love with but couldn’t afford, I turned to Easy Peasy.

There are so many subjects available, I didn’t want to get overwhelmed.  So I simply started Builder on the math course and to my surprise, he loved it.  It was a nice blend of computer game practice, video learning, and worksheet practice.  It had a great amount of review with a good balance of moving forward.  Builder is so natural with numbers that he found himself skipping days here-and-there, but the layout of this curriculum made it no big deal to do so.

Builder also used the Easy Peasy History curriculum to study World War II.  And though we didn’t cover the entire Modern History unit, using just the lessons for WWII worked perfectly for us.  This also allowed us to pull in some fun lessons from other places without feeling like we were out of line with the flow of learning.

I was also surprised when Princess saw the math that Builder was doing and requested to start using Easy Peasy as well.  She started in the Math – 1 level and has not looked back.  She has made more progress than I expected and loves to see that she is moving through each day.  It has given her a sense of accomplishment to see how many days she has completed.  We will definitely be continuing with this next year.

#2 – Art for Kids Hub

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In an attempt to bring in art to our school day, we started drawing an animal each day that went along with the abc’s…a-alligator, b-bat, c-cat, etc.  During this process, I would search each day to find a “How-to” step-by-step drawing guide for that day’s animal.  In doing this, we ran across the website www.artforkidshub.com.  We fell in love.

Rob, is a really fun guy who leads you step-by-step through how to draw your chosen picture.  His directions were so easy to follow that we could all join in.  He is very encouraging and the way he teaches clicked with us immediately.  In fact, because of his videos, art went from being a one day a week subject to every day, per my kids request!

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A side note – the more Builder participated in the art videos, the better his handwriting became!  He had always struggled with handwriting; I believe the art videos gave him the confidence and physical practice of the necessary motor skills to help his writing improve.  Great benefit to art!

#3 – Ready2Read

This curriculum was imperative for my daughter.  She does not like to make mistakes, and therefore very often won’t try something new.  Reading has been one of the places I have seen this happen.  Because she just wants to know it, she will not take the time to sound out the words, even though she is very capable of doing so.  When starting down the path of teaching her to read, the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  was my natural place to start. This worked so well for Builder, but not so much for Princess.

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Then one day, I happened upon Ready2Read by The Moffatt Girls.  It was perfect.  There were so many hands-on reading activities that Princess was very drawn to it simply because she got to “color or play”.  A year later, she is well on her way to reading small sight word books.

In Level 1 of the Ready2Read curriculum, one of the main activities is to build a word garden scene using the word families that she was learning.  This was such a highlight for her because she was able to create a beautiful garden scene, and I think the fact that she had control over where to place the pieces in her garden satisfied her creative side.

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#4 – Mystery Science

This one is a family favorite.  The lessons are very well done, very thorough, and always interest my kids.  I tend to be frugal when it comes to curriculum, activities, and lessons.  Mystery Science is one of those choices that I will pay for each year.  It makes my life so easy when it comes to science.

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Doug, leads you through a story/lesson portion and then has an experiment to go along with what is being taught.  The activity prep leads you through everything you need to do beforehand, during, and after the lesson.  It just made my life easier!

Toward the end of the year, Builder actually began to start the lesson videos on his own.  He knew that Doug would lead him through the lesson, tell him the materials he needed to gather, and then lead him through the experiments.  I would peek a day/couple days before to make sure we had on hand what was needed, and then Builder was able to work it himself.  I love the movement toward autonimous learning!

#5 – Chloe and the Nurb

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Princess wants to be a doctor.  She is so interested in how the body works from the inside to the outside, top to bottom (pun intended!).  One of the science lessons on the Easy Peasy curriculum, led us to a Chloe and the Nurb video.  She watched one and was hooked.  And can I tell you, we have all learned so much!  These videos are so fun and informative.  They can be found on YouTube and they are a part of KidsHealth.org.  I found the easiest way to find the videos was to go to YouTube and simply search for Chloe and the Nurb, (though they can be found on the KidsHealth.org link).

Princess will watch these videos over and over and over.  And then, over again.  You know what?  I am so good with that, because randomly throughout the day she will explain to me something that she has learned.  One of us will do something, and she will let us know how that worked, what our body did to make that happen.  So cool.

We will continue to watch these, over and over and over…and over.  You get the the point.

So there you have it.  My top 5, from this year, that I am so thankful we found.  I am excited to see what next year’s top 5 will be!

And You? ~ What are some of your top picks from this past school year?

 

 

Game Changer

woman-1172718_1920For me, this time of year is a time of reflection.  Reflecting on what changes need to be made in the areas of curriculum, school organization, schedule, etc.  However, once the reflection bug bites, it seems to lead me into reflecting in many areas of my life.

 

This week I am reminded of the many changes that have taken place in my life.  Changes that were never on my radar.  The beginning and end of this week are my kiddos birthdays.  This year it commemorates my 9th year of staying home with my children.

Wow.

If we set the “way back” machine to reminisce my early 20s to mid 30s, I really had no thoughts or intentions of staying home with, let alone homeschooling my children.  I was thirty-two years of age when I had my first child, and knew immediately that staying home was the only decision for our new little family.  For me, this was stepping into a completely unknown territory.  I was far from confident in my mothering capabilities, let alone entertaining the idea of spending every waking day, hour, and minute with my kids!

(insert panic)

Things settled into a routine and though it was (and still is) the most challenging role I have ever been in, things were ok.  Then almost two years later, my daughter was born.  I felt a tad more confident, but it was also a totally different ballgame.  Again, things settled into a rhythm.

And of course, as we approached Builder’s time to go to school, I knew in my spirit that we would be homeschooling.  And, though I really did want to homeschool with all my heart, fear reared its ugly head…again.  We pushed through and are now entering our 5th year of homeschooling.

My desire in writing this blog post is that wherever you are, whatever crossroads you find yourself at, know that there is everything in you that can do it.  You may struggle, you may have to learn something new, you may have to be vulnerable and find someone to walk the walk with you, but it is not out of your reach.

The hardest part is starting.

Do you want to write?  Start writing.  Do you want to homeschool?  Find someone in the game to talk with.  Do you want to (fill in the blank)?  Then find the first step toward that.     If it is not the right path, the Lord promises us that He will let us know.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  ~ Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

You don’t always have to have everything in place to start.  Find that one thing that you can do to start walking down that path.  Then, trust that you will hear His voice behind you letting you know if you are off His path for you.

All of this to say, we have a journey that is each unique and individual to ourselves.  I encourage you this summer to reflect on where you have come from, where you are presently, and your desires for the future.  Let’s all move forward as we reflect on the past and navigate our future.

Signing off with many blessings and prosperity to you and yours.

And You? ~ What has been a game changer in your life?

 

Filing Day

No, this is not a day to talk about filing taxes.  However, I may have a bit of filing leftover from the last few weeks of schoolwork.

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Yikes! (These papers go back to January!)

Yeah, I know.

There must come a time when we all recognize our weaknesses, right?!  I love to be organized, but I am not entirely disciplined to file at the end of each week.  I was doing really well at first, filing school papers in each child’s binder at the end of each day.

Yep, didn’t last too long.

Then I started getting piles of papers on my desk, not attractive and very distracting.  Wonders of wonders, I found this cute little green basket at the Dollar Store.  It became our “Turn In” basket.  That really was a good thing by helping Builder and Princess know where to place those finished products.  Unfortunately, the papers looked so neat and nice in that perfect little green basket that they haven’t quite made it into those perfect little school binders.

Sigh.

So, I find myself at the end of the school year shifting, organizing, and filing many many papers.  And you know what…that is completely ok with me.  Is it ideal to file every day or even once a week?  Sure.  Is it ok that I did not file weekly and now will make my way through this sea of papers and have a great binder of work for each one of them?  Yes.

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Again, as with many things homeschool, I find myself realizing…it’s ok.  Either, or.  This way or that.  It works; it gets done.  I don’t have to stress about either way.  I love that at the end of my kids school career, they will have a binder for each year of their learning.  They will have fun looking back at what they have learned, remembering fun projects, and seeing the milestones they reached along the way.

And of course, they will be taking all 12 binders with them!!!

And you? ~  What are some of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to school organization?

Finishing Up

Oh sweet heavens, tomorrow is our last “official” day of school!  

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(insert Hallelujah chorus!)

We will take a six-seven week break and start up again after July 4th.  Of course, you know in the homeschooling world summer “break” is not always as it seems.  Learning still happens.  A math lesson here, finish up a handwriting book there.  Learning never really ceases, whether it be book work, or life learning.  The nice thing is that it is not structured, and it gives a much needed break both to kids and to Mama!

A question I get this time of year is, “What does your summer look like?  Planning any trips?”  Do you know what…

I have not planned anything!

And that is what makes my heart happy!  I am not one to fill our summer with camps here and summer classes there.  I am ok with my kids getting bored and having to find ways to entertain themselves.  And for that matter, how to get along with each other when they are bored out of their minds.  So much creativity comes from boredom.  So, I guess you could say my summer plans are to instigate boredom.  (We may go bowling, take some walks, maybe a fun cooking class at our local chocolate store…yum…but overall, not a whole lot planned.)

However, on the schooling front, I do have some goals in mind that I would like to accomplish.

Goal #1 – clean out the school cubbies

This, unfortunately, has become our place to “stuff” school items.

cubbies

 

With my son moving into fourth grade and my daughter moving in to second grade, there are many things stored in these cubbies that we simply don’t need anymore.  And, since space for school organization is at a premium here at our homestead, some things need to go.  Not to mention dusting, eek.  I won’t tell you how long it has been since I’ve done that!

Goal #2 – curriculum

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Yes, that.  We don’t use an all-inclusive curriculum.  I like to piece together this and that to fit each kid’s personality and learning style.  With that, I have a few items I want to reevaluate.  With Builder moving into fourth grade, a couple more subjects are going to be added to the mix, so I want to take a look at his schedule and how to fit it all in.  I am not a fan of doing everything everyday.  Our schedule is a little more block schedule-esque.

Goal #3 – the house

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As seen in a former post, Spinning Plates, I am not strong in keeping multiple aspects of life going at once.  Yes, I am a woman, but multi-tasking is not a strength of mine.  In light of that, when school is going, the house suffers.  Yes, my kids help, but they are still learning.  So much still rests on me, or me informing the kids of what needs to be done.  This takes mental, physical, and in some cases emotional energy, which during the school year just isn’t there many times.  So I am hoping much will be accomplished on the inside, and around the outside of the house.

Goal #4 – scrapbooking

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This is a personal goal.  With Builder and Princess getting a little older, I am finding a little more “me time” here and there.  I used to scrapbook before having the kids, and this is something I want to get back to doing.  I have a feeling the kids will get into it as well and can learn how to collect and keep their own treasured memories.

And there you have it.

My plans and hopes for this summer.  I know full well, it will be over before I know it and that is just fine.  I am blessed and joyful that we get to spend our time together learning and growing as a family, in season and out.

And You? ~ What are some of your summer goals?

Sabbath Rest

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the hardest things for us to get down was timing.  There are so many possibilities of what schedule to follow for homeschooling (if any).  I cannot tell you how many different options we tried.  Yes, we worked to find our rhythm for the day-to-day learning times.  However, I’m talking the bigger picture here.  Do we follow the public school calendar?  Do we school year round?  Do we do a six week on two week off schedule?

So. Many. Options.

This is our fourth “official” year homeschooling.  We started out by trying no schedule.  Yeah, quickly learned that did not work for me.  If I have no schedule, I will do nothing.  My kiddos turned out to be very much the same.  So, we moved onto trying a six week on, two week off schedule.  The two weeks felt to be too long of a break.  Builder and Princess quickly got out of the “habit” of school.

This year I really liked the idea of a six week chunk of learning time.  So, I kept that portion and decided to try only one week off.  It seemed like a nice amount of time to have a break from scheduled school time activities, but not too long as to get us all out of timing.  This is when I realized something so cool.

This is a sabbath cycle!

Six weeks on, the seventh week is a rest time.  No wonder it made so much sense to our minds, bodies, and spirits!  I have to tell you, this schedule is such a blessing.  We are only in the second round of this cycle, but I can already feel we have hit the rhythm that works for us.

I wanted to share this with you because it is fun to celebrate those times when something clicks.  As a homeschool community, it is so important to walk with others in their rough times and rejoice in the aha times.  Those times when something just works!

If you are still in the boat of not having a timing that works, keep chugging along.  Keep trying this and that, you will find it.  Most likely, you will simply stumble upon it like our family did.  None of this was out of my own wisdom or knowledge.  We kept trying and finally came across that which worked.

I have a sneaking suspicion that things will change as the kiddos grow older and work loads increase, subjects are added, etc.  However, this has given me a basic encouragement that when you just keep at it, it will come.  The Father of us all, will not leave us stranded.  We grow stronger, as we walk longer.  Love to all.

Your Turn to Say ~ What has been your struggle or victory in timing?

Spinning Plates

We are back!

We have just started back to school this past week after having our six week summer break.  It was well needed for all of us.  Stepping back into schoolwork and prep is a stark reminder to me of one of my weak areas in life:  spinning plates.

What I mean by this, is that I would love to say that I multi-task well…I do not.  I have three major areas that I feel I need to focus on in this season of my life – school, home, crafting business.  During the summer we take a break from school, there are few to no craft shows I attend in June or July, so that leaves me with home.

I had gotten into such a great rhythm, getting up early (just before the kids wake) to have some me time (I never thought I would do that in my life, but I have enjoyed it).  Then doing my exercise video, reseting the kitchen, and working on the household chores for that day.  It was a beautiful thing.  I felt I was making progress, and then school starts and my next craft show is in four weeks.  So, you can probably guess what my house looks like at this moment!  Now, I understand my house does not have to be perfect, but I can tell you that clutter distracts and can agitate me.  I get a lot less done when too many things are out of place.  So, back to the spinning plates of life.  Maybe, just maybe one day I will learn how to keep these three plates a-spinning at the same time.  But for now, we may have a few metaphorical plates broken all over the not-so-clean kitchen floor.

Toothy Mats

On the up-and-up side of things, I did find this really fun resource at the end of last school year (May-ish).  They were created by Lucky Little Learners over at the TeachersPayTeachers website.  It is such a simple idea, and so ingenious at the same time!  This is just the motivation my kiddos needed for some extra practice with no groans.

These Toothy Mats include a mat with a fun face and a wide open mouth.  Each skill has a set of problem cards and either a blank mat or a mat that has some problem set up help.

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The student works the problem and then checks his/her answer.  If they are correct, then they get to draw a tooth in the mouth.  Each correct answer continues to fill the mouth with teeth.  It is just a lot of fun!  I simply printed mine out and slid it into a page protector so that Princess and Builder can use a dry erase marker.  Lucky Little Leaners has a post on her blog site explaining more about how she uses them in her classroom.

The Toothy Sets are offered as a bundle, or there are some individual toothy mat characters that you can purchase for a lesser price.  I went ahead and purchased the Math Bundle, because it included skills that both kids are working on.  I could also see Princess continuing to make use of these even after Builder has moved on from the included concepts.  Another beautiful thing about these mats is that the blank mats can be used with any worksheet.  So Builder will still be able to practice the Toothy way even when he advances beyond the skills included in the bundle.

I have not looked through the complete line of products Lucky Little Learners offers, however, I do know that the Toothy Mats come in math, grammar, and phonics.  Follow this link to check out some of the Toothy (or Hairy) options she has to offer.

Your Turn to Play ~ What is one of the best resources you have found to keep skills sharp?

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