February 20, 2013

Letting it Go

For whatever reason, I found myself getting pretty stressed out last week. Well, I take that back, there was a BIG reason I was stressed out and it has to do with women's pesky hormones. I kept praying about it, and the overall message I kept getting was "relax". Since this is my first year homeschooling, that has been a big source of the stress.

I've always been the type to really analyze stuff and research things out and do my best to reach perfection the first time. I am one of those that wants to please everyone and make everyone happy. I guess if I had been homeschooling from the beginning it wouldn't seem so stressful. Jumping into it with two school age children that have already been in public school had some challenges. And, honestly I just realized last night that we haven't totally separated from the public school system. Alexa came out crying because her math lesson didn't go well with Dad. He was appalled that she couldn't do some simple math problems mentally and without using her fingers or something. I said you know, I was still doing that when I was her age, and maybe we should just not focus on trying to learn certain things by a certain age. He agreed and told her she could do whatever she needed to do such as counting with her fingers.

As adults we forget when we learned things, or when we mastered them. I hadn't thought much about when I mastered mental addition until that conversation. So, as I was praying, I felt the Lord say to let it go. Let all the fear, worry, stress and whatever go about school. And I would think, " But I have to think about it because I have to have a plan. I can't not think about it." Then I would get frustrated again.

And in the past few weeks I have been asked by so many people how I like homeschooling! Or, are your kids out of school early? I do not broadcast that we homeschool at all because I don't want to answer those questions. I realize most people have no concept what homeschool is like, so my answer has to be quite vague and positive sounding. I have not had a lack of support, but rather a huge lack of knowledge. No one in my family or immediate circle homeschools, so no one has an accurate picture of what it looks like.

Monday was a holiday for my oldest, so we put off school work and plus we had a guest. I took the time to do some research on relaxed homeschooling and even unschooling. That is such a weird term- unschooling. It sounds so ambiguous and scary, and unbiblical. So out of curiosity I did a search for "Christian unschooling" and I actually found some good stuff. Some really good stuff. It was thought provoking and challenging. Still feels kind of unsettling to think about.  But a lot of it does make sense.

In my effort to relax and let things go, we have taken this week to not do any formal homeschool work. We have gone to the library, checked out books we are interested in, spent time doing things that we are interested in and enjoying it. We have worked pretty hard this year so far, and I think taking breaks is helpful. I am trying to feel out what the girls are interested in and run with those things. The main idea about unschooling is trusting that the child will learn regardless. As both my school age girls are born again, they have the Holy Spirit guiding them, and He guiding me, and ultimately has the plan for their lives. He can lead us in the path we need to go, and I believe He has put things in them that will lead us to the right path.

Let me say it again, I am leaning on God's leading in myself and in them to guide us into the path we should take for their education. Alexa has a big interest in rocks and crystals, I mean honestly, I have to make the girl NOT take home pieces of the road or rocks from people's homes. She likes rocks. So I've been looking for books and things that can lead her more deeply into the subject and see if she's still interested. Rocks can lead to learning about the layers of earth's core, volcanoes, the goldrush in America, precious stones and minerals, the geography of where the gems are found, the history of those places and so on. As long as there is interest, you keep going.

Sarah, who is about to be seven, just came and told me she saw on our map that Madagascar was a real country. (we were watching the movie Madagascar 3) Then she asked if there were Christians there. I said I wasn't sure, I'd have to look it up. I can look it up and her curiosity could be satisfied, or she may want to know more. I can see how just living life and answering their questions can teach them a lot.

Still, children need to learn basic math, reading, handwriting and so on. So I'm seeking for direction on how to go about this more relaxed homeschool. The girls also enjoy doing workbooks and such, mainly because of their public school background I'm sure. So I want to include that as well.

So, that's where we are now. Working on incorporating our learning with our living all the time, not just in school time in the separated subjects. It feels very freeing, but at the same time uncertain. When God started working on me about homeschooling, what finally clinched it for me was realizing that all I had to do was obey, He had promised to take care of the rest. As the months have passed, I've come to try to depend on my own strength. Now I'm being asked to take another step of faith, a deeper level of trust. It's kind of hard, but since the last step of faith I took has ultimately been good, then it's easier to do this.  The Lord has given me some real life examples of how child led learning does work.

1. At the end of the school year last year, Sarah, who was 6, was reading very simple readers like the old 'Dick and Jane' books. On her own, she began reading harder and harder books, mainly the Cat in the Hat. She practiced it over and over, checking with me on the words until she got it. At this point she is reading almost as well as her older sister that's 9. In less than a year, SHE jumped her reading level two years.

2. I have never sat down and tried to 'teach' Samantha who is 3. Yet by simply living in our family, and especially since we started doing school, she has learned what kids go to preschool for. She can name shapes, colors, count in order, say the ABCs, trace the letters amazingly well and her own personal skills such as dressing herself, getting herself a drink of water and so on have made her so independent. I did not teach her any of these things. I sit with her and she names the things in books or we have some flash cards I got after she had learned some things that we might do. She's learned to do puzzles that the older girls can do as well. But, she is a repeater-she repeats everything she hears, so I'm sure that's helped in her learning.

3. Myself. Since I got out of highschool I have learned to cook, bake, make soap, sew, knit, embroider, garden, natural healing and herbs, run a home, care for children all on my own. Well, with God's help, but it was outside of a school environment. I can make our clothes, curtains, bed quilts, socks, hats,sweaters, bread, fancy cakes and so on because I was interested in something and worked at it till I mastered it. I educated myself.

Alrighty, this is long already, so I'll cut it there. I think the idea has been conveyed :)

February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

Usually I don't make a huge deal for Valentine's Day. It was never really my favorite and didn't hold much sentimental meaning to me. However, with four girls who love all the girly stuff, and they were used to public school parties, I had planned extra this year.

Yesterday we assembled some cardboard mailboxes and made homemade valentine cards for each other. Last week we started making Valentine shirts- just a t-shirt in their choice of color and I taught them to sew some heart shaped buttons on with embroidery floss and needles. They wore those today with a cute red and white heart ribbon. Then, after our errands, I was going to go to my oldest daughters' class party at school. I missed it because I misread the time, so they were feeling sad. When I got home I threw this little tea party together. The main thing that made it work is I already had bought those Valentine break apart cookies that you bake in the oven, and had bought a brand new box of herbal raspberry tea a few weeks ago. That combined with leftover party decor and supplies that I had stashed away made it easy for me to whip this up. They enjoyed theirselves and got to use the special teacups.

I put all the school desks together and covered it with a cloth red and white checked tablecloth. I put their boxes of Valentine cards at their place along with their favorite stuffed animal/doll. I used construction paper for placemats, plastic plates with red heart paper doilies. The marshmallows on their plates were for the animals :) I made the cookies and raspberry tea which did turn reddish pink. I put extra treats in their boxes and added some plastic pink spoons for each place.
Miss Alexa in her purply shirt :)

Miss Sarah posing for us.

And Samantha doing something weird. I sewed her shirt by the way, no needles.

Leiah Lou-Who in the dark- the light was in the wrong place.

I even went out of character and wore a red blouse and the same Valentine ribbon in my hair, sorry, no pic :)

February 12, 2013

Party Planning

My third daughter, Sarah, is turning 7 next month. She is almost an exact copy of myself at that age! It's so funny to watch her, it's like watching myself grow up. I now understand why my family laughed at me so much as a kid, and I just didn't get it at all, or would get mad. Now I get it. She can say some of the funniest things. This girl even eats her pizza like I did as a child, even though I never told her. She lives in a dream world much of the time (likes to pretend a lot), is gifted in her reading abilities (I don't remember NOT being able to read) catches on  to music very quickly (I played piano by ear for years before I took lessons) and is a lover of art. I spent much of my childhood drawing, painting and coloring.

In light of that, we have decided to host her an art birthday party. In times past, I've really gone all out for her. She is very social and really enjoys having a big birthday party. The other girls don't seem to care too much, but she does, and plans her parties a year in advance. It does get changed though, as a week ago it was going to be an Alice in Wonderland Tea party, which would have been cute, but a lot of work. Then the idea of art party came up, I googled and pinterested it and we were both sold on that one! The best part is that most of what I use to decorate with, we'll use because it's art supplies.

I am actually going to mail out some invitations for various reasons, and my husband is supposed to help me make a cool one similar to this one.

 Since I used to make cakes for people, she has a specific one in mind.Although, I don't think I've ever made on with this many layers in ONE cake before. But she's confident in my skills, LOL, even though I haven't made a big fancy cake since June!

I liked the simplicity of this art party. I really like those pennant banners that are so popular, and they made them from watercolored paper. I think we're planning to use regular paints though.

We also thought the art theme would make the party appealing to some boys that are friends too, and I am personally glad to not be doing Barbie or princess this year, for once! Some other neat ideas:

Sarah really liked these rice krispie treats too-what a cool idea!

The picture above here would make a great centerpiece as well as a gift for the  birthday girl! It's an art 'cake', ha,ha.

There's lots of ideas out there though, and we haven't totally chosen what we'll do. I would like to have it outside and have a huge board painted white that all of the children can 'grafitti' with their paint, but if the weather isn't nice I'll need an alternative. I thought about making a bunch of tie dye rainbow shirts, which I've always wanted to do, as smocks for painting. Generally there's a lot of dye, so why not make a bunch? As usual my head gets going and the reality of what I am actually able to do doesn't become obvious until it's too late. I will TRY to reign it in this time :)

Anyways, this is a fluffy post, just something that I'm thinking about. The planning is one of the most fun parts to me, as well as the making of stuff. I guess it's just my thing. I know other people are so amazed at what I do sometimes, and I don't intend to be impressive at all. It's just what I like to do because I think it's cool- I do not seek praise for it at all. I do it for my child and for me, because it's fun. That's all.

So, I am in party planning mode, which is good because it sure is gray and colorless around here. It gives me something cheerful to think ahead for.

February 7, 2013

House Tour

Ok, since I am not comfortable doing a whole house tour since I'm not done organizing, I thought I'd do it room by room. So today I'm showing pictures of our living room, the main part of the house. Our home is a double wide manufactured home. We bought it fairly cheap as it was a repossessed bank owned house. It was in great condition though, with no damage or needed repairs at all. But since I am a person who likes to change things to suit my tastes, this room has been painted twice in 3 years.

This is the first color, meant to be a neutral toned golden color. We ended up with a marigold, turmeric surface of the SUN color! I tried to make it work for two years, and I would go from hating it to liking it. Since the room is so big and so tall in places, it's pretty difficult to paint, which is why we left the yellow. I would have really liked this color in a smaller room, but in here it was just too much.  In August I was done with it! So I chose a soft gray blue color, and spent extra money on good paint, and it covered the yellow in one coat-awesome!

This is a picture from the back of the living room, by the back door and next to the kitchen.

I sewed the curtains and pillow covers, and have plans to sew some little covers for our lampshades, just to changed things up a bit. I also made the wreath on the door. I generally cannot find what I want ready made, and this is where having sewing skills come in handy. I can make what I want.

View from the front door, opposite from the first picture. We have an old computer and our printer and all that stuff in the wooden cabinet on the left. The blue chair is my spot. We'll look at that closer in a bit.

I'm not done with the wall above the couch over there. I have some el cheapo embroidery hoops that I put pretty fabrics in and hung on the wall. I'm in the process of spray painting some letters to spell out the word "Blessed" to hang in there with them. And I got more fabric yesterday for the wall and pillows. I am also making a pile of crochet granny squares for a pillow and slowly knitting a blanket in the colors that match.

Here's a close up of my corner and the girls' hidden play area.

There's the little 'house' playing area- play kitchen, lots of dishes and play food in the wicker basket, rocking chair, baby crib with baby dolls and accessories. There's also a bookcase filled with children's books behind the baby bed. My spot stays a little messy....but not too bad.

 This is where I go early in the morning with my Bible that's on the table. I have a small basket with my current knitting project(s) in it. I'll show what I'm working on later. I have something planned for that mirror- it needs something. It was totally free too!

And just to keep it real, while the girls were outside playing I cleaned up the room and took pictures. This is how it looked before.

Oh well, at least the stuff is getting played with :)

February 5, 2013


So a few years ago, when I was blogging here regularly, I was all into Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I had a new baby, and breastfeeding had not worked out, so I used her raw milk formula for our little girl. The results have been amazing by the way- she had gorgeous skin, clear bright eyes, a strong constitution and is very smart. But, I may be a bit biased :)

Over time I began to get overwhelmed and stressed with many things, and let things go by the wayside little by little as far as food preparation. I realized that there really were no differences in our health when we ate 'perfectly' and when we didn't. And, in fact, sometimes I felt better when we ate no no food. So I completely dropped Nourishing Traditions.

The things that I've kept going are : we still eat full fat foods, whole milk and dairy products, meat with fat on it etc. I still use good fats which are butter, coconut oil and olive oil. We eat some organic things, we eat whole grain bread which I make homemade sometimes, and we eat plenty of fresh and frozen produce, no canned. But that's it really. I am getting to the point where I want to slowly add some things back into my life that I used to do, like keeping a sourdough starter. I miss the sourdough bread! And, I want to try water kefir again. Milk kefir is rather unappealing to me now, for whatever reason, water kefir is quite versatile, like making a healthy soda. Sounds good for the general hot weather we have most of the year here.

Other than that I have no desire to do so much food preparations as I did before. I don't soak grains, I do soak beans most of the time, I don't buy raw milk but I would like to get back into that. We grow a vegetable garden as organically as possible. But, we're fairly normal. We drink sweetened iced tea year round, I drink coffee with sugar and cream, we use boxed macncheese, potato chips, prepackaged things for lunches like containers of applesauce, string cheese, lunch meats, regular mayonnaise, white sugar in cookies or desserts and so on. And it's ok.

I cook from scratch at least 80% of the time. We may eat fast food a few times a month depending on the circumstances. We eat regular meat from the grocery store. It's just not worth the time and expense and stress that it causes to round up all of the so called healthy foods. The key for me is listening to the Greater One that lives in me, and not making myself adhere to restrictions He didn't put on me. Lately I've been getting the impression we should add or subtract some things in our diets, and the measuring stick for me is, if it doesn't cause me stress, then it's generally from the Lord.

I think I need to do a colon cleanse (by Dr. Schulze) and start taking some really good vitamins. I am also going to switch our refined sweeteners to healthier ones, gradually....that combined with eating homemade fiber filled bread and garden produce will go a long way in helping our bodies work properly. I cannot emphasize enough that stress about food negates whatever good you are trying to do. I experienced it a couple of years ago and it was very eye opening. Stress is more harmful that bad food. If you are stressed about diet and food, let it go!

That being said, here is our supper menu for the week:

Monday- homemade hamburger helper type meal, salad
Tuesday- barbecue pork loin, baked beans, corn on the cob
Wednesday- salmon patty burgers (we call them Krabby Patties, yes we succumbed to spongebob!) oven fries
Thursday-pinto beans, yooper macncheese, fruit salad
Friday-baked tacos, mexican pinto beans, fresh avocado salsa and chips
Saturday-baked ziti, steamed broccoli, garlic bread (homemade)
Sunday-leftovers or ramen noodle soup!

February 4, 2013

Confessions of a homeschool mom

I admit, I have been stressed out to the max!

For so long, I guess my whole life, I have had a fear of failure. I want so badly to get things right and do my absolute best to do so. But the tremendous pressure it brings is damaging. This is one of the reasons why I did not want to homeschool my children. I knew that it would be a lot of pressure on myself.

Because, I want it all. I want the clean organized house, the pretty seasonal decor and crafts, the healthy and delicious meals, the time to create and craft, homemade bread, homemade dresses, well behaved children and so on. But it's not possible when you have 5 other people in the house who are not driven with the same goals. Not to mention most of them are very messy and very apt to forget the rule that gets repeated day after day about putting things back where you got them.

The life I envisioned as a homeschooling family hasn't fleshed out in the way I hoped. Some of it has, but a lot of it has not. So, I have to readjust my vision. Again though, I've been pretty stressed about various things. I feel so many things are on my plate, and no matter what it seems I'm behind in something. I have  lots of doubts about what I'm doing; rarely does a day go perfectly if it ever has!

But I do know that it hasn't been for nothing, no, not at all. My girls have learned a lot, and not just academically. They have learned how to work around the house and do things to help me; they have formed closer relationships with each other and me, and have even learned how to be more patient and understanding with their older sister that goes to special education in public school. Our three year old has learned so much by being with them, and they all are close in relationship. Of course, there is fighting that crops up, but most of the time, things are good between them.

I taught them how to finger knit a couple of weeks ago, and when I sit and work on my own knitting projects, they all like to sit around me working on theirs. I've noticed that during times like that, they open their hearts up to me, and I try to make the most of those conversations. I know this wouldn't be possible if we were apart all day, them at school and me at home.

That being said, I've still been stressed. Charlotte Mason education is what I want, but, it's more work heavy for the parent. We've gradually been doing more worksheets and workbooks in our workbox system and mostly been sticking to the 3Rs. I am trying not to let this make me feel guilty, but it creeps in. I still haven't fully grasped the concepts of how to teach this way. Plus, my girls have been public schooled, and this is difficult for them. I think for both of us, we need some middle ground.

So, with that, I think it may be best to utilize more curriculum that is laid out for me, rather than finding the living books and having narrations and so forth. And I'm ok with it, because this is still my first year, I am homeschooling three grades, and it's ok to take some help. My girls seem to like doing workbooks and such, so this will have to work for us for awhile. And, we will still be using living books, but gradually.

My husband has offered to do science and math lessons with the girls. He really wants to help me out but doesn't know how and I don't know what to tell him. He is lover of science, so we thought those lessons could be learned on Saturday with him. I like science, but it's more his thing than mine. Also math, I like math and have done fine with the girls, but he really likes it and wants to teach them. More power to ya I say!

So I'm planning to order some workbooks from Rod and Staff and some from another place, and really work on the reading and narration, adding in art study and music study and more time with handicrafts. We also have majorly neglected nature study- holiday time and winter kind of stalled that one. I am trying really hard not to feel bad for slacking up on these things, or getting the homeschool thing right the first time.

Homeschooling is like getting married, having the first child and so on, you don't know until you're in it how it will be. I am thankful and blessed that I have such a supportive husband and easy going children. And, the love and grace of God. He always causes me to triumph!