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Monday, July 28, 2014

On Planning For Homeschool On The Cheap

Even though we had been going back and forth on homeschooling for awhile, we didn't actually jump into the decision to do it until mid-July.  That means a little over a month of time before our tentative starting date of September 2.  A little over a month to find curriculum to use, to plan everything, to pay for everything, to figure out schedules and routines.

That's not a lot of time.

I started out by making a list of the big subjects I needed/wanted to cover (the first four are the subjects required by the state; the last three are my additions):
  • Reading/Language Arts: This includes read-aloud time, letters, grammar, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and maybe foreign languages later on.
  • Math: This will also include calendar/weather time.
  • Social Studies: This includes history, geography, and cultural concepts. Jesse will probably include some sociology in here at some point.
  • Science and Health: This includes science, P.E., and what we call life skills (cooking, gardening, etc.)
  • Music/Hymnody
  • Art
  • Bible History and Memory Work
Once I had that list, I started going subject by subject to find curriculum, a mixture of pre-K and Kindergarten materials.  Some I had an idea:
  • Reading: I want to make a list of read-alouds from several lists I have saved, and do a chapter a day, potentially with extra activities to go along with the stories.
  • Language Arts: I want to do Letter Of The Week to start, and have Handwriting and Art projects that coincide with that, as well as more reading with books that go with that letter (apple books for A and so on).
  • Art: I want to do seasonal art projects as well, which are easy to find on Pinterest, or projects that go with our Science units, or our Bible stories.  Basically art will supplement our other activities most of the time.
  • Bible History: I want something similar to Christ Light (I was going to pick Christ Light, but I'm trying to find a cheaper option), something that has Bible stories, along with activities and memory work to go with each story.
Some I had no clue:
  • Math: I need a curriculum for math, because while math in Kindergarten isn't hard, I don't know which concepts need to be covered or what order to go in.
  • Science: Ugh. My science and social studies background is not strong.
And then I went down the rabbit hole.  The Internet is a wonderful place to find everything you could possibly imagine for resources.  When you're just starting out though, you want to save everything that might be useful because you don't know yet what might be useful.  And you can't possibly save everything.  And some things only have half the material available right now and you have to come back each week for the next piece, and who is going to remember all those different places?

I want this to be inexpensive.  I am willing to spend money on curriculum that we will use, especially knowing that it will probably be used four times over (various learning styles taken into account, of course).  But right now, money is tight.  So I'm trying to find cheap and free resources for the things that I know better, so that I can spend the money on the things I don't know.  (And I know we will need plenty of paper and toner for the printer for all those free printable activities!) 
We did find several helpful resources at the library, and I'm sure there will be plenty more as we get into things.

So I'm making my lists.  Must buy this.  Would like this when we can afford this.  Will ask for this for birthdays/Christmas.  

For example, there's a fun-looking handwriting series that includes letters to trace and pictures to color, and starting in first grade, Bible verses to copy.  Each year is about $18.  But there are also many free online printables for letters, some with coloring pages, and I hope I am competent enough to find Bible passages.  So those sets will go on my "Would like this" list, but we probably won't buy them right now.  

And then there's my list of "next steps" for each subject.  Print this free planner and put it in a binder.  Get all of my links saved in one spot (or two - bookmarks on my computer and Pinterest).  Download these files.  Buy this curriculum.  Each time I accomplish something on my list I add about three more things.
Does all this seem like a lot?  My brain is overwhelmed.  Planning is hard.  If someone could just hand me the teacher's manuals and tell me to plan out the weeks, I could do that easily.  But that kind of defeats the purpose of finding the best fit for your family, one of those things I like about homeschooling.  So I soldier on.  

Once I have my curriculum set in stone, I plan on posting a listing of what we will be using, knowing that it very well may change a few weeks/months in, if we find it isn't working for us.  And my homeschooling updates should get more fun once we actually get started, hopefully with specifics about what we're doing, and what is working well (or not!).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What I'm Reading...

Today is our 7th anniversary.  It is amazing to me how much we have grown and changed in the past seven years.  I wouldn't trade them for anything!

The Homeschooler's Little House On The Prairie Site Tour Guide. I don't think I've ever read completely through this series (although I've read the first four or five books several times).  We went to the pageant in Walnut Grove one year when I was younger, which was fun, and all of the sites listed here look cool! (Simple Homeschool)

Enough Is Enough. "But we already have enoughOnce we train ourselves to recognize this truth, we are freed from the pursuit of more, we are liberated from the bondage of discontent, and we begin to experience true freedom in our lives.(Becoming Minimalist)

Inconsistent.  I agreed with so much of this post. I am most definitely inconsistent too. (Holy Hen House)

How I Learned To Care Less About My Family And More About Myself. "Why does he get to sit on the internet for hours at a time? Why does she get to play on her DS and I can't? It's obviously not their faults, they do their best. But they are lucky in that there is a balance for them between caring for themselves and caring for others, and they are awesome because they can both do it flawlessly and without any effort. I, on the other hand, cannot." (Offbeat Home And Life)

Nine Questions To Help You Unclutter Your Recipes.  The one that especially struck me was the one about keeping recipes that you will never use for sentimental reasons, because I have a recipe box mostly full of my Grandma's handwritten card that I keep for that reason. (Unclutterer)

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Why We Are Choosing To Homeschool This Year

Now that we've officially decided to start homeschooling, several people have asked me about our decision.  Here's my answer.  We chose homeschooling because we don't have a Christian day school at our church.  The closest one is about 10 minutes away (not super far, but figuring out dropping off/picking up with other kids could get tricky), and I'm not sure of the cost, but it would cost something.

We aren't set against public schools by any means, but the focus there is so much on getting ready for tests, and starting that so young that it just seems to me like I'd rather start teaching my kids a joy for learning right away than have it drilled into their heads that they need to learn these things to pass a test.  It also allows us to include "Jesus-y" things like Bible History, hymnology, and memory work that wouldn't be in public school.

And I can do it.  Several of the bloggers I follow write about homeschooling, along with other facets of life, and some of my friends homeschool.  From the examples I've seen, and from what I know about myself, I can teach my kids.  I know them better than anyone else knows them.  I can give them semi-one-on-one time (or at least one-on-three or -four time), which is a pretty good ratio, I think.

The hard part here is that, as an introvert, I know I need a certain amount of time each day to myself.  A few minutes in the afternoon for a cup of coffee and some mindless Internet scrolling do wonders for my day.  That will be a challenge for me to work around.

There's also that whole "having a baby in November/December" thing.  I'm hoping that by then, we'll at least kind of have a routine, and subjects at least partially prepared ahead of time, so that we can keep going without taking a break.  But if we need to, one of those benefits of homeschooling is the option to choose your breaks.  So maybe we'll take a big Thanksgiving break and a shorter Christmas break.

Obviously there are pros and cons to all the schooling options, but those were the big ones for us. Cost. Distance. Love of learning vs. reiterating facts.

So now I move on to planning.  Planning is hard.  There are so many options online, which is both good and bad, because starting out is overwhelming trying to pick things, but once I get my basics covered, I think finding supplemental stuff will be really fun.  And luckily I know a few people who are farther along than I am who have been giving me great advice and guidance for figuring some things out.

From here on out, I hope to update periodically with what we're doing, and how it's going.  This first year will definitely be a learning process for all of us!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Prayer, Positive Thinking, And Gratitude

I remember the first time Jesse asked me to pray with him, out loud, just the two of us.  I almost started giggling as he spouted off what sounded like a very formal, very "church-y", prayer.  He was studying to be a pastor, after all.  When he was done, I asked him if he always prayed like that.  He does.

Maybe that's normal for you, but for me, most of the time, my prayers are big long conversational rambles to God.  I talk about life, about my struggles, about things I hope for the future.  And I make sure to always start with thanks.  

This was not always habit for me.  For a long time, my prayers were mostly my complaining to God about things that had happened differently than I wanted, and wishes for things to change.  And then I read one of those "cute" little quotations that went something like this: "What if all you had tomorrow were the things you thanked God for today?".  I get the idea.  And even though I think the quotation is too broad, the meaning is perfect.

So I start my prayers by thanking God for being my Savior. That's pretty important.  I thank him for my husband, and for each of my children.  And I try to think of a specific thing for each person, whether it's something they did or said, or a new accomplishment, or a lesson they taught me - because they teach me all the time.  There is always something, usually more than one something, to be thankful for, for each one.  

And I eventually move on to general thankfulness for things that happened that day, or requests for everyone to please sleep well tonight, or prayer requests for friends or family members, or whatever else comes to mind.  But the thankfulness comes first.  

Since this happens in bed with the lights out, sometimes I drift off to sleep mid-prayer.  My rambles take awhile, and I am easily distracted by other thoughts.  But that's okay too.  I usually at least make it through my thanks, and even if I don't, God knows my thoughts.

Maybe not everyone reading this is religious.  Maybe you don't pray.  But I think this way of remembering the good things each day, this act of being thankful for specific people, for specific things from that day, is a perfect way to end any day, even the hard ones.  It puts me in a positive mindset for peaceful sleep, for waking up to start a new day at an earlier time than I might like.  It helps me remember that even though things may not be perfect, there is so much good in my life.

My prayers won't ever be mistaken for those recited in front of a church.  They might even make Jesse laugh if he were to listen to them. But they help me focus on the important things, the abundance of good in my life. And they remind me that I am so blessed.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What I'm Reading...

I like to include the kids' art as part of our decorating, because it's cute, and it makes them feel included.  This week I finally put up a few big ribbons with some push pins, and attached their pictures with some extra clothespins.  Easy to put up, and easy to change out the creations!  Both Jonah and Matthew are just starting to draw things on their own - happy faces, suns and clouds, houses...it's so cool to see the way they put those things onto paper!

The Problem With Little White Girls, Boys, And Voluntourism. This was an interesting take on charity/mission trips that I never really considered, but is probably really accurate. (Huffington Post)

Confessions Of A Non-Classical Reader.  I won't say I grew up reading the classics, but now that I'm an adult, there are many I can check off my list.  But I've definitely read my share of fluff too!  It's a good balance. (Simple Homeschool)

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing....Poorly?  You won't get anywhere without taking some risks and failing a few times. (The Happiest Home)

How To Build A Successful "Shopping Hierarchy".  I know that if I start my grocery shopping at Aldi, and then move on to Walmart (especially with price matching), I can usually get the best prices for most things.  (The Simple Dollar)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weekly Coupon Shopping

This week I made use of a lot of app rebates, through iBotta, SavingStar, and Checkout 51.  I mostly use these if something pops up that I'm already buying. I just scroll through the offers before I toss my receipts, and scan accordingly.  Occasionally, though, I do plan to get some of the deals in addition to my normal shopping. This week was a mixture of both of those.

Walmart
Along with our regular mid-month grocery shopping, I was able to use a few coupons to get some deals:
  • 2 Naked Juices: $2.78 each. Used two $1/1 printables, and submitted for $2.00 in iBotta rebates ($1.00 for each one) = paid $3.56/2, got $2.00 back.
  • 2 Farmland Bacon: $4.98 each. Used two $1/1 printables (zip code 85254), and submitted for $5.00 Walmart egift card rebate here (which you can do twice, so I'll probably do it again next time!) = paid $7.96/2, got $5 gift card back.
  • Angel Soft Toilet Paper 24 pack: $10.97. Used $0.55/1 printable, and submitted for $0.25 in Checkout 51 rebate = paid $10.42, got $0.25 back.
  • Bar-S Hot Dogs: $0.88. Submitted for $0.25 Checkout 51 rebate.
Walgreens
I was excited for this week's Walgreens deals, because they included the Starbucks Iced Coffee, which I recently tried and really like!  
  • 2 Kellogg's Cereals: $1.99 each. Used two $1.50/1 printables (Kellogg's Rewards redemption) = $0.49 each!
  • 4-pack Starbucks Iced Coffee: $3.99. Used $1/1 printable = $2.99.
  • Starbucks Iced Coffee Single: $1.99. Used $1/1 printable, and submitted for $1 SavingStar rebate = free!
  • 2 Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Bars: $0.39 each. Used $0.50/2 (SS 7/13/14) = paid $0.28/2!
  • 6 Stride and 3 Trident Gum: 3/$2, get 2,000 points when you buy $6.
  • 1 Coke: $1.69. Bought this for a friend since it has her name on it.
  • Total spent: $13.11, got back $1 SavingStar and 2,000 points.
CVS
We've been having some issues with absorbency and stink in our cloth diapers, which regular Tide is supposed to fix.  Here's hoping!  Otherwise, we normally stick to the free and clear detergents.
  • Reese's Cereal: $1.88. Used $0.60/1 printable, and submitted for $0.50 SavingStar rebate = paid $1.28, got $0.50 back.
  • 3 Kleenex 85 ct.: $0.99 each. Used $0.50/3 (SS 7/13/14), and submitted for $0.75 iBotta rebate = paid $2.47/3, got $0.75 back.
  • Tide 40oz.: $4.94. Used $1.50/1 printable = paid $3.44.
  • Also used $6.50 in ECBs = paid 1.07, got $1.25 back!
Other Coupon Shopping:
  • Kwik Trip: Used $1 off gasoline coupon I got via text. I also submitted my receipt for $0.25 back for tomatoes and $0.25 back for bananas from Checkout 51.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On Feeding A Gluten-Free Child

Shortly after we started feeding Hannah food from the table, she started having digestive issues.  Without going into too much detail, she had a hard time pooping.  After following her diet more closely for a few weeks, I narrowed the problem down to grains, although I wasn't positive which ones.

So we eliminated.  For about two weeks, we cut out all grains.  Then we added back in oats, with no problems, and rice, with no problems.  We added back in whole wheat products, and there were the issues again.  So we eliminated them.

I've spoken with our pediatrician about this before, although we hadn't done any elimination diets yet at that point.  She pretty much told me to try what I want, and report back next time, or sooner if we had bigger issues.  I don't think this is a full-blown allergy, because there would be other issues and reactions.  And since we've eliminated gluten, I don't think we can test for an allergy or intolerance, unless we add it back in (unless I'm mistaken about how that test works?).  I plan on talking to the doctor again at our next appointment in a few weeks, but in general, simply eliminating gluten from Hannah's diet seems to have everything working fine, so I don't necessarily see a reason to test right now.

So how does that work in our day-to-day life?  In this case, I'm thankful that we have been eating fairly close to the Paleo diet at least part of the time, because those are all foods that Hannah can eat.  The times that we do have something different, such as the turkey wraps pictured above, I will give Hannah the filling/toppings, but not the tortilla (or the pizza crust, or the pasta).  If that doesn't seem like enough food, I'll add an additional fruit or veggie.  Since we only have those items a few times a month, it hasn't been that hard to adapt her plate.

Breakfast is a bit more of a challenge, since I do like to include baked goods once a week, plus cereal once or twice.  Sometimes I'll feed her eggs or oatmeal while the rest of us have the others, and we have tried a few of the gluten-free cereals like Chex, which seem to be fine.  Soon to be tried: oatmeal pancakes!  I have my tried and true recipes for pancakes and waffles, so I hadn't really looked for other ones, but baby girl should get to enjoy those too!

All in all, it's a bit more work to make sure we always have something around that Hannah can eat, but her tummy is much happier, and that's certainly worth it!

Obviously, I am not a doctor, and none of this should be taken as medical advice.  I am simply sharing what works for our family at this time.