Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vote for Me!

Vote 4 me at!
I have mentioned on this blog before that I enjoy the hobby of digital scrapbooking. I got into it because I love the idea of scrapbooking, but hate paper crafts. Anyway, I've entered a digital scrapbooking contest to win a Wacom Bamboo tablet, among other things. If you just read "Wacom tablet" and have no idea what's worth getting all excited about, then check out this video. They are the coolest things.

Anyway, I'm begging everyone I know and their brother to vote for my scrapbook page so that I have some sort of hope of winning. The contest deadline is still another month off, so I'll probably make another page or a dozen to enter as well. This is just one I had already made that fit the entry requirements.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I have found a great blog that allows me to add critical thinking to our homeschool without it being tedious worksheets (which is an apt description for the majority of critical thinking curricula I have found). Think! posts weekly challenges that require hands-on work with a definite engineering bent. Usually the new weekly challenge shows up on Thursday, but it can vary. Then the following week photos of what real kids have made for the challenge are shown. The results can be quite original and creative! Here is an example of one of the challenges, and what my two oldest kids (a junior highschool and an upper elementary schooler) created for it.

Marshmellow Madness
  • Your materials: a bag of large marshmallows, a box of toothpicks, 2 pairs of tongs.
  • Your challenge: build the tallest marshmallow arch you can using the materials above, but you may not touch the marshmallows with anything but the tongs.

My favorite part about Think! is that I don't have to assign it has school work, I don't have to correct anything, and I don't even have to tell them to do it. I simply gather the supplies and they ask me what they "get" to do this week. I don't even have to be there when they work on their Think! challenges. This marshmellow arch above was done when my husband and I went out for dinner and a babysitter was in charge. Thus the poor quality photo, by the way. They snapped the photo and then ate the evidence before we got back :D.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mama Bird Diaper Patten

Years ago, when baby #3 was new, I developed a cloth diaper pattern that had all of the features of the fancy boutique diapers but could be sewn at home on a budget. Well, after putting all that work into I just couldn't keep it to myself and my in-real-life friends, could I? So, I put together a website hosted by Geocities in a free account and shared my pattern for all the internet to use. Between emails I've received personally and from lurking a bit on cloth diaper sewing forums, it seems I have blessed many a family by doing this. I am thankful for that.

However, it is time for a change. Ceocities is closing it's operation in October and my website will be gone. I have never made enough on the pattern to pay for even the most inexpensive website, and with Geocities I had constant bandwidth issues. In addition, since my family has moved beyond the need for diapers, I find myself feeling less inclined to spend time and effort maintaining the pattern site and answer questions about it for free.

So, as of today I will be offering my diaper pattern for sale for the cost of $2. I still want to keep my pattern very affordable and available to the public, but at this time in my life I need to make a tiny profit on it to keep myself motivated to offer the support I should be offering.

If you are interested in purchasing my unique diaper pattern, with detailed instructions including numerous photographs, please PayPal me $2 at and I will email the pattern and instructions to you. I have been told my instructions are more detailed and better to understand than much more expensive ones available on the market. For the low cost of $2 you get the patterns for three sizes that will fit babies from newborn through toddlers and the in depth instructions for making All-In-One diapers, Fitted diapers, and Pocket Diapers. In addition, you'll receive information about fabric and notions choices and scattered throughout are tips and methods that can be applied to all sewing.

Edited to add: I have been told that people are having trouble when trying to copy and paste my email address into PayPal. If you experience this, try typing it in instead.

Here are some photos of diapers made from my pattern. Some I made and others people emailed to me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

School Area Photos

It is School Room Week over on the Life With My 3 Boybarians Blog Hop. I'm participating, even though I don't technically qualify. We don't have a school "room", we have a school area in our dinning room/family room. First, here is an overview photo.
To the left of the shelves is the door to the garage, where the washing and dryer are, and the door to the right in the photo is the door to my daughters' bedroom. To the right of the All About Spelling magnet board is the sliding door to the backyard. Opposite everything here is the dinning room table and beyond it is the entrance to the kitchen. My laptop is there because we use Homeschool Tracker Plus right on the computer for our daily assignments. No printing and wasted ink and paper for us.

Now for a detailed close up of my school shelves. Click on this one to go to a larger version of it, as I wrote right on it what every thing is.Now, as to why we don't have a school room is simple. We've had them in the past and for the most part they don't work for us. I need schoolwork to take place within sight of the kitchen and within hearing of the laundry area. We have lived in well over 10 different houses, condos, duplexes, and apartments over the years, and some of the time we were able to have a dedicated school room. But guess what? The school stuff ended up in the living room and on the dinning room table every day because that is where I was and the kids needed to be near me. The little ones would not even play in the school room if I wasn't there, but would rather bring their toys or puzzles to where I was. That meant stuff strewn from one end of the house to the other. No, now that we are in our 8th year of homeschooling, I have found for us it works much, much better to have a dedicated school area right in the middle of our living areas. School, and puzzles and such, stay where they belong and I still get my stuff done too. It is the best arrangement for us.

We just moved into this house at the tall end of June, so we are still getting settled. There are some changes I would like to make in the short term and in the long term to our school area. First, we having wall files waiting for my husband to hang for us. They look like this to the left but deeper and I hope to hang 6 of them where the pencil sharpener is now and move the sharpener over to the right of the All About Spelling magnet board. Each of the 5 children and myself will have one. The littles will keep things like their crayons and Sunday School papers in them, while the biggers will keep things like their Math books, and I'll keep things like my pocket notebook in it. My pocket notebook, shown right, is what I use to hold a single week's worth of the Sonlight Instructor Guides and other stuff so I don't have to handle the big binders more than once a week.

I hope to get an alphabet chart for the blank wall above the table as my 1st grader is very visual and I think it would help him to see the entire alphabet in order. Also, I would love to have a single shelf along the top of the entire wall extending from the top shelf of the current shelf unit over to even above my daughters' bedroom door. Such a shelf will allow me to have all of my Sonlight books out of boxes. As it is currently I only have 3.5 Cores worth out (some of Core 5 plus all of Cores K, P4/5, and P3/4).

Lastly, some day I hope to have a beautiful wall unit for this wall. Maybe something like this. Although I'm not sure what I'll do for a school table then, but at this point this is pretty far down the list of furniture and improvements we want to do so I'm not worried about details yet.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sonlight Rocks!!!

I've already posted about how we love Sonlight curriculum, have been using it for years, and will continue to use it for years to come. Honestly, it's all about all those wonderful books sitting on my shelf just waiting for us each year.

This is just approximately the first third of the books we will be reading this year.

Anyway, Sonlight has announced that they will give a $5 dollars off to anyone placing their first order ($50 or more) if they are referred by a current Sonlight customer. Basically, you get $5 off because I told you to check Sonlight out. How cool is that? What do I get out of this arrangement? Well, there is some sort of points system that I don't understand, but I think I get a discount somewhere down the road if I get enough points. It doesn't matter really, because I'd be telling you about Sonlight anyway, as anyone that has talked to me in person or online about curriculum could attest to.

So, check Sonlight out. My customer referral ID is RW20055206, or just click this link to visit Sonlight's website.
Sonlight Curriculum

Friday, July 31, 2009

Our homeschool curriculum plans for 2009/2010 school year


Most homeschool mamas are gearing up for the new school year right about now, but not me. No, I'm one of those "year rounders" and our school year started a month ago on the 6th of July. Of course, we didn't even manage a full 10 days worth of school in the last 4 weeks, but school has been happening. Anyway, this what we are doing this year:

Now, that is rather an over simplification, as not everything we are doing is from Sonlight, but by far most of it. It's not new for us either; we've been using Sonlight as the basis of our homeschool for over 7 years now. We love it, and I really can't imagine not doing something from Sonlight every year. (No, I am not a Sonlight affiliate, although I have thought about it.)

Anyway, here are some specifics of what we are doing this year.

My 7th grader will be doing:
  • Sonlight Core 5 - a geographical study of the Eastern Hemisphere with a cultural and missionary focus
  • Sonlight Language Arts 5 in a Bravewriter way with a focus on doing more revisions this year.
  • Apologia Physical Science (we're using the full course CD-rom for this instead of the book)
  • Math finishing Singapore Primary Mathematics 6B (no later than mid-August), starting Life of Fred Beginning Algebra, maybe starting VideoText Algebra too.
  • Bible, he is reading through the Bible from cover to cover for the first time this year. He started in January, and is behind now, so just getting caught up is his focus. He is doing the Core 5 assignment Bible memory verses too.
  • Current Events, he'll be reading from Student Daily News when it starts up again in mid-August.
  • He may start some other things later, such as Winston Grammar Basic, Spanish (can't get Rosetta Stone or Tell Me More to work right now), Art (probably Draw Squad), and Music (continuing the alto recorder and possibly starting piano).
My 5th grader will be doing:
  • Sonlight Core 5 with her brother
  • Sonlight Language Arts 5 in a Bravewriter way too (but not so much revision for her).
  • Sonlight Science 5 - a focus on human anatomy and physiology, with some geology and survival skills.
  • All About Spelling. She'll finish level 2 this week and start level 3. I expect her to get into level 4 this year, and possibly even level 5.
  • Math Singapore Primary Mathematics 4B, maybe Life of Fred Fractions, Singapore 5A, and possibly (depending on how much trouble she has) starting 5B before the end of the year.
  • Bible, the Core 5 assigned Bible reading plus a mix of Bible memorization from her Sunday School class, what Core 5 assigns, and what I assign as fits in with what she needs or is studying.
  • Current Events, she'll be reading from Student Daily News when it starts up again in mid-August.
  • She may start some other things later, such as Spanish (see above), Art (probably Draw Squad), and Music (continuing with the sopranino recorder and definitely starting piano).
My 1st grader will be doing:
  • Officially he is doing Sonlight Core K, which is an Introduction to World Cultures, but I am taking it apart and putting it back together to better match up with Core 5. For example, I read the two Dolphin books from Core K to go along with Core 5's Pacific Island study (I know they take place in Florida, but ocean adventures seem appropriate for the Pacific Island study). However, in addition to Core K he is listening attentively to Core 5's books too. He is loving Ship, Sailors, and the Sea and greatly enjoyed Seabird. He even asks to listen in on Torches of Joy instead of playing, although I wonder at how much of the depth of it he is getting. So, all that to say he is, so far, doing Core 5 light and Core K.
  • Right Brain Phonics Program by Dianne Craft. This child, while not officially tested and diagnosed, is almost assuredly dyslexic. Through Home School Legal Defensive Association's Struggling Learner coordinator program, I was able to speak with Dianne Craft for over an hour with some email contact after that. She actually tried to direct me to other programs and products for this kid, but time and again I said we had either tried that or due to our distance from services (3+ hour drive each way), we came to the conclusion together that her phonics program is the logical next step to try with him. It certainly is the right price, considering that many (most?) other programs specific for dyslexic children are hundreds or even thousands of dollars. We'll be starting it Monday.
  • Handwriting Without Tears K (he's about 1/2 of the way through it already).
  • Developing the Early Learner book 3 and then book 4. He did book 1 and 2 last year.
  • Sonlight Science K - a wonderful visually appealing overview of a many science topics.
  • Math - Miquon Math book orange
  • Bible. Right now we are finishing The Family Time Bible. My initial plan was to go back and do 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible again with him, but he has really jumped in his listening comprehension and attention span. I'll do the Core K Bible instead, the Egermeier's Bible Story Book, and start 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible with the younger 2 kids. He learns memory verses from Sunday School.
  • He will join the above two for Art and will do other crafty things without them as well.
My preschooler will be doing:
  • Core K. Officially he is just "tagging along" with Core K, but he is happily listening to almost every word. Only I Heard Good News Today seems to be boring for him.
  • No Language Arts for this kid. He would love me to teach him how to read, and I think he would do okay with it, but I need to get my 1st grader reading first.
  • Surprisingly he is not that interested in much of Science K. He liked the Frogs and Tadpoles book last week, but that was the only part of Science K he joined us for.
  • No formal Math for this kid either. We're working his counting and real-life addition and subtraction, รก la Ruth Beechick's The Three R's.
  • Bible, The Family Time Bible and when that is finished in a month or so we'll use 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible. He learns memory verses from Sunday School.
  • I've been meaning to start activities that will help strengthen his fine motor skills, such as playing with dough. He doesn't enjoy drawing or coloring at all, and has trouble using silverware to eat too. Writing this out was a good reminder to me that I need to get busy with this with him daily or at least a few times a week.
My nursery-schooler will be doing:
  • Bible, The Family Time Bible and when that is finished in a month or so we'll use 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible. She is very verbal and repeats very well (we call her "Echo" for a reason), so I'm thinking of starting her on a monthly memory verse too.
  • She knows all the color names, or at least she can say the words, but doesn't know her colors. Learning to put the right names with the right colors is one goal I have for her for the first half of this school year. Her fine motor skills are well in hand, as attested from the nice scribblings she does daily, including the ones with a Sharpie marker on the hall bathroom toilet this last week . She'll join my preschooler in play-dough and other fine motor play, however, because it would be just too hard to keep her from it and it surely won't harm her.
Hey, this list has even impressed me! It really looks and sounds like a busy year, but I am so excited and know it will be so fun. I expect that we might not finish everything I've listed here, because we also have plans to do Missoula Theater, a play with our homeschool group (I'm directing, ACK!), Math Counts competition, 4H, and much more too. With all that I am adding in I am fine with Core 5 and Core K taking us up to 1.5 years.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I present a more "together" image than reality

I was complimented again on how I homeschool. It comes up every now and then that someone on the Sonlight forums or our local homeschool group or somewhere will tell me, or tell someone else within my hearing or where I will read it, that they admire how I homeschool, or that I do it so well, or my kids are so bright and learning so much, or they wish they could start over and homeschool the way I do it, or something to that effect. Such statements almost make my skin crawl. To all of you that have admired me I offer this photo of my living room as it looks right now.
Imagine me in the gold chair way back in the corner typing away on that laptop, and imagine a kid or three reading a book, emptying my purse, or playing on the patio. That is what my oh, so admirable homeschool looks like today. Thankfully it doesn't always look this way, or even usually. Still, it looks this way often enough for me to cringe at any statements about how organized or altogether I have things.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I need a vacation to recover from Spring break.

That's not me, but I wish it were. A beautiful tropical island, a hammock, and my laptop... Now THAT would be lovely.

This week was Spring break for our homeschool, as it was for all the public schools in the area. The term Spring break inspires scenes of fun and play, but it was up earlier, in bed later, go-go-go almost all day, day after day for us. You see, down here in the desert the county fair must be held early or it is simply too hot. And, since two of my five kids are active in 4H, plus my husband is a project leader and a third child is involved with the Clover Kid program... Well, we LIVED at the fair grounds these last 4 days. My feet hurt, my bum is sore (from sitting in the bleachers so much watching the kids show), and I'm exhausted from getting up at 5:30 to iron show attire because it had to be worn three days in a row and washed each evening.

What's worse is that early in the week I got the fabulous idea to use the down time I had then to do some serious Spring cleaning. You know, moving furniture, cleaning the oven, deep organizing and so on. While I'm happy to have a clean home, I wish I had used those days to get ahead on sleep and projects instead. I could have done the Spring cleaning a little at a time over the next month, especially now that fair is over so all our 4H obligations done for the month. Oh, well. I'll remember that for next year. Of course, my oldest wants to raise a goat as well as rabbits next year.... That would mean having to be at the fair grounds more often and for longer times. I'm just thankful fair week is only one week of the year.

On a brighter note, my oldest won Grand Champion award for the leather wallet he made and I got an "outstanding" purple ribbon for this digital scrapbook page I entered.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Easy Truth about Homeschool Transcripts

I just have to review this lovely e-book I purchased in December called The Easy Truth about Homeschool Transcripts. Usually I am wary of e-books, as I have seen some that made my pre-teen's writing look like college level. However, since I have been impressed with everything else I've read from Lee Binz of The HomeScholar, I bought the e-book the day it became available and have not regretted it a moment. Lee homeschooled her two boys from mid-elementary school through high school and both boys were accepted to every college they applied to and both received full-ride scholarships to their first choice college. She didn't use some expensive transcript agency, but rather her sons got the scholarships and college acceptance with her mommy-made transcripts. She took all her experience and knowledge and put it in this wonderful, well organized, and truly "easy" guide to creating excellent high school transcripts written in the "love language" of colleges.

While the book focuses on transcripts, there is a wealth of information to be learned about homeschooling high school. For example, you will read about how your child's passion can be turned into $$$ (through scholarships) and what to do a junior high kid taking high school level classes or a high school kid taking remedial classes.

Additionally, The HomeScholar includes additional bonuses with every purchase of The Easy Truth about Homeschool Transcripts. The one I found most personally helpful was the month membership to her Gold Club. Through that membership I was able to talk to Lee personally on the phone each week, asking questions specific to my concerns. The very first call with her was an eye opener to me, and changed the way we are doing Science this year. Now my son is learning the same, but enjoying it so much more (and if he is enjoying it more then so am I, if you know what I mean).

In the interest of full disclosure, I will add that I have recently become an affiliate for The HomeScholar. I decided to become one since I was already sending praises out about this wonderful high school homeschooling resource and Lee personally invited me to be an affiliate.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This is my life.

I actually laughed out loud when I read this in today's Sunday paper. I can SOOO relate. At least once every couple weeks or so hubby will come home to a totally trashed house and say, "Looks like you got a lot done today." The only thing, he isn't sarcastic about it. He knows my most productive days end up with the biggest messes. I thank God for such an understanding and wonderful husband.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I love words.

There, I just added a "gadget" to my blog, the "Match Up" vocabulary game you see to the right. My favorite online dictionary (yes, I HAVE a favorite one), The Free Dictionary, has a new one of these and other games and interesting articles on their homepage everyday. Does the fact that I play a vocabulary game almost confirm my geek status or what?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Homeschool Arts and Crafts, for Mama

I've been busy creating things for our homeschool, and these are the results.

Over on the Sonlight forums there has been a lengthy discussion of the Workbox System of assigning homeschool work. At first I was resistant to the idea, as it would take up a lot of space (all the more so considering I have 5 kids) until I saw this woman's adaptation to the system to fit in pockets in a single plastic bin. Well, I gathered items I already had on hand and made one up for my Kindergartner. I didn't have any cool pre-glued velcro dots on hand, so I just cut squares of the regular velcro I had and hot glued them on.

All the sample photos and descriptions I found of the Workbox System had 12 boxes, pockets, or envelopes per day per child. I made up 12 for my son, but only for future use. I only filled 8 pockets today and put the 4 away. I require that he complete the first 6, and the last 2 are fun or lighter activities that he can do if he wants. Today's pockets were:
  1. The Family Time Bible story book and his Sunday School memory verse.
  2. Handwriting Without Tears workbook (half a page).
  3. A Sonlight Core P4/5 book, Things People Do. While I only put one book in a pocket it is the reminder that it is time to read a few books to him.
  4. His sand letter cards (see below).
  5. A Miquon Math Orange book page.
  6. A Draw Write Now book and a couple sheets of drawing paper. He usually draws a single animal or something each day and doesn't do the writing.
  7. (he didn't get to this today) Developing the Early Learner book 2 workbook. He calls this his "fun" workbook.
  8. (he didn't do this either) Mighty Minds game.

Sunday I made sand letter cards for my Kindergartner as well, based on Heather's blog post about the cards she made. The biggest difference in my letter cards over Heather's is that instead of using red sand to make the starting point dot I used a dot of red paint. I had red paint on hand and it was much easier than doing the whole sand process twice. Anyway, I am now making the sand letter cards a daily part of his school, to make learning letter sounds a more multi-sensory process. He traces the letter while I say and he repeats the sounds, involving visual (seeing the letter), auditory (hearing me say the sound and then repeating it himself), and tactile (feeling the shape of the letter as he traces it with his finger).