Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm A Homeschool Mom

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." 
-Psalm 90:12

I'm really looking forward to this school year!  This time last year I was dreading school starting because my oldest child was about to start kindergarten and she was going to be gone Monday-Friday 8-3:30.  I couldn't even imagine!  I thought to myself, I only get her the first five years of her life and then I send her away for someone else to teach her all day most days for the next 13 years before she starts college and then is grown and gone?  

{I had always just assumed when the time came it would be normal and natural for my kids to go to school, but it wasn't.  She was five and I had so much I still wanted to teach her and a relationship I was not finished developing with her.  By the time she got home from school every day she was tired and needed to chill while I fed the baby and cooked dinner.  Then Grant would get home from work, we would eat dinner, take baths, get ready for bed and the kids went down at 7:00.  (Her bedtime was 8:00, but when she went to school and didn't nap all day she was exhausted by 7:00.)  Saturdays are always full with birthday parties, Sunday School get togethers, etc...  Sundays are always full of church activities and a work day for her dad.  This didn't leave much time to read, paint nails, talk, have fun, do homework, play with siblings, do chores, go to the park or library, or be involved in extracurricular activities.}

So, this time last year I was pregnant with baby #3 (born in September) and figured my hormones were getting the best of me and the wisest plan was to send her to kindergarten like most other kids.  After all, could I really give her a good education while taking care of her 3 year old brother and newborn sister?  Much less the social backwardness she was sure to develop by not being around other kids all day.  Ultimately we decided it would be best for her to go to the elementary school 3 minutes from our home, and that is what she did.  I took her to school the first week and balled my eyeballs out as I left the parking lot everyday.  This is normal, right?  I hear it gets easier with each kid, which I can understand, but at the time it was difficult.  Since this was such a traumatic experience for me, and my then 8 month pregnant self couldn't control the emotions, Grant began taking her to school the next week which had been our plan all along.  As soon as they pulled out of the driveway, I would begin crying and after 4 weeks of this, Weston finally looked up at me one day and said, "Mom, are you just going to keep crying everyday?"  Okay, son.  Thanks for that!  

Around that time, I gave birth to Camille who has turned out to be such a joy to our family (that's her middle name), and I totally could have homeschooled Alivia that first semester.  But you live and learn and it was a good experience for all of us.  For me, it reaffirmed the thoughts I had about homeschooling, and for Alivia she got a taste of what other kids do all day when they go to school.  When she started kindergarten she had just turned 5 - the first day of school, in fact.  She had to grow up and overcome some fears of walking in by herself and finding her room each day.  When Grant dropped her off she would start crying and cling to him and he would have to peel her off of his body and a sweet lady would walk her to the front door of the school.  This lasted about six LONG weeks (I know, because I would text Grant at 8:15 each day to see how she did).  She got a little more brave each day and finally started leaving the truck sometimes without remembering to hug her dad goodbye.  She always got in the van at the end of each day tired, but with a smile on her face saying she had a great day.  She had a very sweet teacher that I was able to communicate with on facebook and who even called my cellphone one day to ask if Livi could watch a movie they were about to play because Alivia had told her she wasn't allowed to watch it.  Weston, Camille, and I went to eat lunch with Alivia about once a month in the cafeteria.  Our lunches at home had become very quiet.  About 4 weeks after Camille was born, I went on the kindergarten field trip and was sad that Weston couldn't go with us, and I had to leave my nursing newborn at home with my mom who drove 4 hours from AL to TN to babysit.  Every afternoon I would wake up my precious baby girl and 3 year old boy early from their naps to go sit in the carpool line which took about 30 minutes.  Without making this post much longer than it already is, suffice it to say, not much of this whole schooling lifestyle was making sense at this point.

Child #1 missed Baby #3 like crazy, and Child #2 and I missed Child #1 like crazy!!!  It did not feel right at all.  So much so, I decided her last day before Christmas break would be her last and I homeschooled her for the second semester of kindergarten.

This year I will be homeschooling her for first grade and her brother for PreK.  I really like to plan, teach, organize, and spend time with my kids, so for these reasons and so many more it just makes sense.  I'm so glad I get to be the main influence in their lives at this point.  It's a huge responsibility, but that's kind of what I signed up for when I became a parent.  Growing up, I never in a million years would have thought I would homeschool my children, and I may not homeschool them all the way through 12th grade, but we'll just take it a year at a time, continue to pray about it, and try to make the wisest decision.  It's interesting to think about the people, resources, and experiences I've had in life that I now see were leading and preparing me for this season in my life.  I do get overwhelmed sometimes thinking about all the time it's going to take, and how I really might need a break, but 95% of the time I am super excited about all it involves.  For now, I have such a peace about our decision to homeschool.  It may not be God's will for every family, but I'm so grateful He's blessed us with 3 healthy children and has us in this place at this time.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. . . . in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."
-Psalm 139:13,16

There is a homeschool tutorial that meets at a Baptist church about 10 minutes from our home that the kids will be attending on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-12:15.  It is called Faith Homeschool Tutorial and it has been around about 10 years.  I am hoping it will prove to be the best of both worlds, allowing me to homeschool and yet have a teacher and classroom setting two half days each week.  For the time being, we are the only homeschool family at our church, so we are hoping to make connections with other homeschool families in our community through this tutorial.  They use Abeka curriculum which is what I have used with my kids since they were 2, so we are familiar with that.  I have read The Well Trained Mind and researched classical education and I'm interested in doing some of that as well.  The kids and I sat in on a day of a Classical Conversations community in the spring, and although we decided not to be involved in that this year, we haven't ruled it out for the future.  Pinterest actually has a lot of classical conversations material and a ton of general homeschool ideas, curriculum, and freebies.  

According to our state laws we have chosen to be enrolled in a church related school and we have chosen Home Life Academy.

Where we live there are so many options when it comes to our children's education.  We can homeschool, choose a homeschool tutorial or co-op, go to public school, private school, private Christian school, Christian classical school, Montessori private and public schools, magnet high school, or homeschool for high school while dual enrolled in college.  For our kids to attend a private school I would have to go back to work as a dental hygienist and put my younger kids in daycare.  Grant and I see more benefits to me staying at home and educating our children.  There may come a day when we feel like sending our kids to school each day is the best option.  For now, I'm super thrilled about teaching my kids!  I'll let you know if I have this same enthusiasm come February. :)

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." 
-Ephesians 5:15-16

Monday, July 28, 2014

United States Project

As part of our homeschool curriculum this year I have decided to teach Alivia and Weston the 50 states and capitols, where they are on a map, and all of the U.S. presidents.  I recently found this fun idea that we are calling our "States Project" and we finished it up today.  

I typed out a letter to send to each of the 50 governors asking for information about their state.  The kids took turns running upstairs to get the letters as they came out of the printer.  Then we had an assembly line going as I signed my name on one letter, passed it to Alivia to sign her name, and then she passed it to her brother for his name.  We did a few each day for about a week because writing your name 50 times is hard work for a five year old and especially for a four year old, but they persevered. :) And their handwriting improved!

Next, the kids put stamps on the envelopes while I wrote the addresses on each of them.  Thank goodness for sticky stamps these days!  When I was a kid you had to lick each one!  I think this was their favorite part.

We then took them to the mailbox a few at a time.  Livi opened the mailbox, they each put their stack in, and Weston put the flag up.

The kids and I have worked hard to get these in the mail.  We are hoping to receive packages including maps, brochures, worksheets, coloring pages, magazines, or anything else the governor's office of each state sends us.  My kids really enjoy sending and receiving mail and I thought this would be a great project to keep them interested in learning about the states.  I'll update as we receive our goodies!

I also found this great coloring page of America for the kids to color.

Alivia is my little artist and really enjoys coloring with her oil pastels.

We have a Melissa and Doug United States sound puzzle that says the capitols when you put the state puzzle piece in place.  I haven't found a song I like yet to help us memorize the states and capitols, but I thought this one was cute for the presidents.  Alivia has been numbering and writing the presidents names on a piece of paper as copywork practice from a placemat we have.

We can't wait to start receiving mail and learning about each state!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cheeseburger Pie

One of my favorite meals growing up was this pie.  While I was living away during my college years my mom would make it every time I came home to visit.  The recipe used to be on the back of the Bisquick box, but I have a Better Homes And Gardens magazine cutout dated Ocober 2001 that I get out of my recipe box every time I make this.  I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, so I can make it when I need a last minute idea, or for a friend that needs a meal.

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup Bisquick
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Grease 9 in. pie plate.
3.  Cook beef and onion until beef is brown; drain.
4.  Spread in pie plate; sprinkle with salt and cheese.
5.  Stir remaining ingredients until blended.
6.  Pour into pie plate.
7.  Bake 25 minutes.


Homemade Baby Food

I began feeding my firstborn pureed vegetables and fruit when she was about five months old.  I did the math and figured out we could save money and offer our daughter healthier food if I made it myself.  That was about six years ago and now I have three children that I have fed pureed vegetables made in my kitchen.  I haven't tried making fruit, because when I first looked into it and read that you have to boil the fruit first that seemed a little odd, so I buy the large container of no sugar added applesauce and mash up fresh bananas and purchase Beechnut brand jars for other varieties of fruit.  I found that making the vegetables myself at home ended up being 1/5 of the price of buying premade jars of food with added ingredients.  When my second born came along I had a busy one year old and wondered if I would have the time to make the pureed food again, but I did.  The third time around I really wanted to make healthier, cheaper food, but thought it definitely wouldn't be a possibility with a four and five year old and all of the new tasks I had recently committed to, but it's true that you make time for what is most important to you.  Here is the process...

1.  Purchase fresh or frozen veggies of your choice in bulk. Some that I have chosen are brocolli, green peas, green beans, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, etc...

2.  Cook the vegetable in the oven or on the stovetop as you would for yourself, not adding salt or any other ingredients.
3.  Place the cooked vegetable in a blender, add water and blend until pureed.

4.  Pour puree into ice cube trays and freeze.  I prefer cheap dollar store trays covered with plastic wrap, because the name brand trays with lids tend to be harder to get the frozen food to pop out.  

5.  Pop out of the trays and place in freezer plastic bags labeled with date and vegetable.
6.  Depending on your child's age and appetite remove about 1-5 cubes at a time to thaw and feed your baby.

I didn't start feeding my third baby pureed food until she was about seven months old (started with rice cereal at six months), and she is now 9 months and starting to eat some cut up table food such as blueberries, bananas, watermelon, bread, green beans, peas, etc...  She still has the homemade pureed food when there is not really a baby friendly option with the meal we are having, but all this to say, pureed food is a short stage of a baby's life so it has been worth it for me to make most of it at home.

Magic Cookie Bars

These cookie bars are so yummy and easy to make.  The recipe is from my mom who used to make these for us when we were kids.

1/2  cup butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 14 oz can condensed milk
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2.  Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs, press into bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.
3.  Pour condensed milk over evenly.
4.  Layer remaining ingredients evenly.
5.  Bake 30 minutes.
6. Cool before cutting into bars.

Banana Nut Bread

Grant's Mamaw gave us this recipe early on in our marriage and the classic, moist taste is a favorite.  Most of the ingredients we usually have on hand, so it is a great recipe to make if we haven't gotten to all of the bananas before they get too ripe to eat.  You can also freeze bananas to speed up the ripening process (they turn black) and thaw them for this recipe.  I have had this banana bread with chocolate chips or golden raisins added, but I have never added them myself since we like the basic recipe the best.  This is one of those recipes I'm not sure whether I should file under desserts or breakfast.  It is good for several days after baking and my husband likes it best fresh or warmed in the microwave with a dollop of butter on top.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (works just fine with any type of milk)
1 tsp vanilla
2 or 3 ripe - mashed bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Stir all ingredients together in large bowl.
3.  Pour into 2 small greased pans and bake for 40 minutes.