Purposing to Make Family Memories

Handsome’s family is close, very close. It is such a wonderful experience to be part of a family that truly loves and supports one another. When we first met, he and his three siblings lived within twenty miles of each other, making it easy to get together for the various birthday parties, holidays and just because. We were all a part of each others daily lives and the next generation quickly went from crawling together to playing ball in the yard, making memories.

Leave it to an uncle to give the bunny ears!

A few years after we married, six to be exact, the families began to spread their wings a bit, each wanting to get out of the Denver Metropolitan area. His parents and a brother stayed put in the heart of Denver, the rest scattered outward. One went North about forty miles. One went Southwest about a hundred miles and we headed Southeast a hundred twenty miles. No more play dates. No more hey, let’s meet at mom’s Thursday night, just because. We all loved our new areas that we were digging roots into, but missed our frequent family gatherings.

Family has always been important to each of us, it just proved a bit harder to do anything unplanned. So planned, we did. We decided to get together quarterly. There are four siblings, so each year we all take a season to plan a get together and do something purposeful, fun and memory making.

This year, we had summer. We tried to find a date that worked for everyone, but as the kids get older, obligations just get more difficult to work around. We were finally able to plan something for Labor Day weekend and decided to just host the event here out on the prairie.

It always takes a lot out of me to plan the get togethers. I want things to be fun, purposeful and memorable. Sometimes, I forget that just being together is all that really matters. This year, I decided to focus on just that, memories. We laughed. We played. We ate and ate again and again. We launched fireworks. We shot our guns (don’t judge). The kids swam, played games and slept on the trampoline. The biggest event, though, was the family photo session.

It is difficult to get everyone together, and usually when we try, there is still someone missing. This family picture was becoming a necessity as kids are growing and moving on, and there have been three more children born since the last photo (and the youngest is six)!

We were still missing one child for the photo, and we will think of her every time we look at the photo but she started college that week and was settling in. For me, however the photo was special as it is rare that all six of my kids are together. Even more exciting is that this is the last of family photos before the next generation begins. I will treasure this for sure. It is the beginning of a new era in our lives as we become grandparents. I only wish that I was as fortunate as my mother in law and had all of my children within miles of each other to get together easily and watch the grandchildren make memories together.

It was a fun weekend. Just as fun has been viewing our photos and deciding on which ones to put onto the wall. The years keep passing us by and it is getting more and more important to sprinkle them with purposeful memories!

Getting Beyond the Foot Bone

Do you remember the bone song that we sung as kids? The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone… the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…

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We are currently studying Human Anatomy and Physiology. I must say that we are thoroughly enjoying it too! I can not help myself, I have to shout out for Apologia for once again producing another outstanding science curriculum with their Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology! This was not a review product for us. We have enjoyed Apologia’s science programs so much so that we have invested in the full sets of the Anatomy and Physiology, the Chemistry and Physics and soon we will be purchasing both the Zoology and Botany Curriculums. ***this is not a solicited endorsement, it’s simply my honest acclamation***

Image result for the foot bone's connected to the leg boneBack to Human Anatomy and Physiology. There is so much to learn about our amazing and wonderfully created bodies. I’m a mom, in my 40’s. I have three adult children in their 20’s. I also have three younger children, under 12. I have homeschooled for nearly a decade in total over the years and I have a master’s degree. I’m educated. I also believe I am fairly knowledgeable, yet I am continually learning things that I did not know about the human body through this program.

Right now we are finishing up the bones of the body and moving into the muscular system. I remember early on in college, I learned the bones of the body. I was challenged by the professor to learn the scientific names of the bones, all 206 of them. Our kids are elementary age, and they are still sponges. They have memorized close to a hundred verses over the years in their Awana program. Certainly they, too, can learn the bones of the body.

The bar has been raised. The challenge has been thrown out there. The kids have learned that I am planning a special hiking day at one of my favorite Colorado State Parks. I have not been in several years and it is really a big deal for them to go with me. They just have to memorize the bones to earn their spot.

Today, there are many more resources available than when I was in school. Gone are the days of black text on white paper for studying things like bones. We found a couple of really fun YouTube videos with bone songs by Mr. Parr, a creative sixth grade teacher. Google him and you will find a whole assortment of songs to teach students various facts. This Bone Song and the Parts of the Skeleton songs are amazing, and quite hilarious too. Yes, it is about to get real fun around here!

 

 

It Is Brewing

Brewing (v.)  This word has multiple meanings and brings up a many thoughts. People think of beer or coffee. Others think of storms. Handsome, however, thinks of my idea machine that ends up costing him money. Yep. I think that is what is happening.

Please, oh please keep it a secret. We can not let him know yet, not until I can figure out all of the selling points that trigger his desires to jump on board with us.

I will let you in on the secret though, if you can keep a secret.

As a homeschooling family, one of our favorite things have been the field trips. It gives us wonderful opportunities to experience our learning outside of text books, videos and the like. We have experienced much on our field trips. We have walked  the road of the pioneers, flown flight simulators, tracked the weather, wandered through cliff dwellings, played with authentic telephone switchboards and even spent time in a historic one-room schoolhouse, and this is only the beginning of the many things that we have done. Field trips literally bring life into our learning.

This last year we have studied astronomy and human anatomy. We have continued to study Early American History as we have also continued our studies of Beethoven and Bach. Zoology is on the horizon for next year. There are so many things that we can do to support our studies. But one thing seems to be blossoming right before our eyes.

It first started on our Pioneer Road Trip late last summer when Sweet Debra brought up her desire for our next homeschool trip. She mentioned really wanting to take her kids to Chicago. I thought it was a lovely idea but I was not sure how it would fit into our upcoming studies. I realize now that she planted the seed and the seed had time to begin to sprout. Sprout it did. As I was looking into some museum ideas and things to support our current and near future studies I stumbled upon the Chicago City Pass. Wow… our family of five can visit five different city attractions in Chicago! Now here is where it gets really good… the Museum of Science and Industry has an incredible exhibit called You! The Experience. This is a perfect way for our kids to sum up all that they have learned about the human body including movement, the mind, the heart, digestion and more. Then there is the Adler Planetarium where we can further review our astronomy studies.

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There is more. Since next year’s studies include zoology, what a great way to study animals than from the inside out? Just a few hours from Chicago at the Milwaukee Zoo, there is currently a Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit.

And it just keeps getting better. Really, it does. There is the possibility of an Amtrak train ride, oh how we have loved the train. The City Pass also includes the Sky Deck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), what an awesome opportunity to visit such a historic building. I can not avoid mentioning the Chicago Dogs. Yes, Chicago Dogs… what can be better than that?

It is still merely an idea, a dream. Actually, it is brewing… and you know what that means, right? I guess I am going to have to remind Handsome that the Ghosts in the Darkness lions are at The Field Museum which just happens to be a part of the City Pass. I know that seeing these lions are somewhat on his bucket list, is that a low blow?

We will see how things develop and I’ll tell you all about the trip! (wink, wink)

More Here to Help Learning

***Please note*** although I have reviewed Here to Help Learning over a year ago, this post is not in any way a solicited post nor am I being compensated in any way. This is a post of our current experiences that I am eager to share.

We have been on the Here to Help Learning bandwagon for over a year now and continue to sing its praises!

After experiencing tremendous improvement in the kid’s writing, we decided to take it a step further. Here to Help Learning has a fabulous writing project as their crowning achievement of sorts. For those that are not yet familiar with the program, there are six years of writing instruction (and more) packed into a wonderful $6.99 monthly subscription.

The Essay Writing Flight (Level) 3 is a Write a Book Project. Over the course of nearly a full school year, the students are taken on a journey in which they develop and write their very own six chapter book. I was hesitant at first to take on such a challenge, but since my kids have had such great experience with Here to Help Learning overall, I decided to go for it.

I gathered up the ladies in our art co-op and asked if they would be interested in having their two older students participate as well. I was so thrilled that they wanted to join us, making our writing class a class of six students!

We have been meeting together one to two times a week and are currently almost 1/4 of the way through the program. These kids are phenomenal. I have enjoyed being a part of this experience and watching each of the kids develop their ideas for their book. We have just completed the planning lessons and soon they will begin their actual book writing.

I can not wait to share with you their successes and the final books when they are done. I’ll keep you all posted!

Homeschool Kitchen – Part 1

We finally did it. We have talked about it and talked about it, maybe even dreamed a bit about it. Now we finally did it.

Our homeschool art co-op did something different this last week. We gathered together to use up the 40 pounds of potatoes we had and we started what will become a monthly meal prepping class for the kids.

At first we talked about all of the wonderful things that happens when things are prepared and ready to go and how the monthly meal prep is such a fabulous idea. Then we all had a deer in the headlights moment when we realized that we all have deep freezers full of wonderful stuff that you tend to buy when you live rurally and even decide to buy 1/4 cow, or even 1/2. That’s without even mentioning the chickens, rabbit, elk and any other meat that seems to be stashed away in there. This is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing. Unfortunately, we do not want to thaw meat to assemble it into incredibly prepared monthly meals that will go right back into the freezer.

This realization led to us brainstorming about other freezer meal prep ideas that we could do instead and that would make sense for our limited grocery-store-lives. We came up with a lot of options. First off, we can do anything ground beef as that needs to be precooked for freezer meals. We can also do all sorts of burritos, egg rolls and of course just about any kin d of breakfast casserole we could imagine.

That is what we settled on. This time, the kids made breakfast casseroles.

What fun we all had! We spent the better part of the day reinforcing kitchen safety tips and teaching the kiddos basic knife skills as they all had very sharp knives. I do not recall the last time that 30 pounds of potatoes were chopped into cubes without me having to wash or cut any. Well, I guess I did cut the first one to demonstrate, but that was it. As a matter of fact, none of us adults did much of anything other than handle the potato par boiling and set up the buffet style casserole workstation.

Fortunately, we all have chickens and are nearly swimming in excess eggs. The kiddos greased up their pans, filled them with potatoes, sausage or chorizo, bell peppers, mushrooms and green chiles. They then carefully cracked eggs. Then they cracked open more eggs. And then more. They cracked open over twelve dozen eggs! Lastly, the casseroles were topped with lots and lots of cheese, because cheese makes everything better.

Us moms had to get involved at the end to ensure everything was wrapped as securely as possible.

In the end, twelve breakfast casseroles were made that day. Each family had one for the following Sunday and three to put into the freezer for another day. The kids had a great time. The moms enjoyed visiting and helping orchestrate things.

Breakfast the following day was fantastic! I’d call it a successful day for sure!

We are looking forward to the next cooking adventure… burritos?

Family Read Aloud Time

It started a couple of years ago as a result of wanting to share a fun story with the kids. I guess I could really say that it started nearly a quarter century ago with my oldest child and our read aloud times, but snuggling up and reading a children’s book is not quite the same. No, definitely not the same.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/bf/b0/0e/bfb00ebbc8f9dfec41689be6c76d6451.jpgWe have journeyed to many far away places as well as places of long ago. We have witnessed romance during a time when a simple glance was considered highly romantic and when hearts pounded within one’s chest simply at the thought of receiving a letter from the one that they love. We have experienced true toil, the physically demanding labor of centuries ago – before modern technologies. We have been through battles, high seas, and horse drawn carriage rides. We have even walked alongside Jesus. Yes, we have experienced a lot in these last couple of years in our read aloud time.

Our children (11, 8 and 6) have had no difficulties in keeping up with the stories that we have read. Although the language is oftentimes different, teaching us unfamiliar words, we have established friendships with those that have lived before us.

It has been a highly beneficial experience for us all. Lives have been vastly different through the ages and what a tragedy to only know the life that we live in today.

Even in the most tired of times when I can hardly shuffle to their bedrooms to tuck them all in, one will most certainly remind me that I need to read just one chapter. Suddenly the energy surges among us all as we jump back in and walk alongside our new acquaintances and almost inevitably, one chapter turns into two, sometimes three or more.

There is nothing that can replace this family time that we share. It is unlike anything else. Sure, we can take in a marvelous movie and talk about it for days, but rarely does a movie lead us to feel as though we are living in that time. Rarely, with a movie, do we ponder the current upheaval of the story and wonder how our friends are going to make it through. Rarely do we walk away from a movie and apply the life lessons to our own daily lives. I wonder if it is because a movie is typically over in the blink of an eye and a several hundred page novel from a century ago takes us hours to walk through.

If you have not incorporated reading aloud time with your family, try it. Grab a simple story and purpose to read it through. You will be amazed at what transpires in your family time and the life lessons your children will take hold of without you ever having to tell them to.

Read, read, and read some more.

A Homeschool Yearbook?

One of Bookworm Beauty’s greatest treasures are her yearbooks from Kindergarten through 3rd grade when she attended both public and charter schools. She pulls these treasured items out every so often and shares her memories with Sweetness and The Boy. During 4th grade her and Sweetness (Kindergarten at the time) attended a homeschool enrichment charter program where they participated once weekly. They were both excited to receive a yearbook from that program as well.

Last year and this year, all of the kiddos have attended a new homeschool enrichment program, that unfortunately does not put together a yearbook. They are feeling the loss of not having their years documented in some sort of formal format.

This year, along with our closest homeschool buddies, the kids have been tasked with creating a yearbook. We have outlined one of our classes much like a high school yearbook class. The kids each have a different topic that they had an interest in covering. We are walking them through every step of the way as they gather info, upload photos, create storyboard layouts and then create them electronically. We are thrilled to know that this year, we will officially have yearbooks for our homeschool.

One of the most exciting things for us is to see how our whole year of schooling is documented from some of our favorite studies to our field trips and even science experiments! I am proud of the kids for taking this project on and anxiously awaiting the ability to sign a special note in each yearbook!

Kids in the Kitchen

I have allowed my kids in the kitchen from the very beginning, which literally meant that it often looked like it had rained tupperware lids and pans. As they got a bit older, they were often helping to measure ingredients, load the dishwasher or help cut vegetables. Those early days were the best. I loved the big misshapen chunks of cucumbers that were often found in our salads.

A quarter of a century later and I now have mini sous chefs that are apt to teach me a thing or two. I also have three left at home that are between 6 and 11 years old. Gone are the days of chunked cucumbers as our salads are beautifully presented when the kids help out.

It is such a joy to see their love of the kitchen.

I believe that the more time people spend in the kitchen, the more willing they are to experiment, be creative and even taste foods that they would not otherwise have tried.

I am going to try something new with my younger children. I have long appreciated the monthly meal planning and even the bulk freezer meals. At one time, myself, a friend, and several family members got together one Saturday every month and prepared 20+ meals each that were to be frozen. We did this for several months. We found that when we bought in bulk and prepared it all at once, not only did we save time but we also saved a LOT of money. Our meals typically ended up averaging $10-12 for a meal for six.

I miss those days. I miss going into the freezer and pulling out an already marinated and prepared roast or an enchilada dish or even a delightful soup. I now have two deep freezers that are filled to the brim and although I enjoy cooking, I do not always enjoy coming inside from working on a project and having to prepare dinner. While I like being able to grab something and throw it into the oven, I also dislike buying pre-made, packaged food – unless it’s pizza (smile).

I am thinking that it is time to introduce the younger children to a once a month cooking program. I’m thinking that they, along with their closest homeschooling friends, could pick a freezable meal each and we can walk them through preparing that meal for the freezer. If they do this alongside their friends, they will experience what all of us mothers have come to appreciate so much – fellowship in the kitchen! I can also imagine how delighted they will be when they get to pull out their meal from the freezer and pop it into the oven to serve to their family one night during the month.

Yes. I think we need to do this.

I will keep you posted.

Time to Celebrate!

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We take every opportunity possible to celebrate the many accomplishments made in our homeschool. Some are small, like The Boy finally writing his o’s and a’s properly – starting at the top and moving counter-clockwise around; and some are a bit bigger like Sweetness successfully reading her first chapter book. Then we have the more significant such as Bookworm Beauty mastering the computer keyboard and able to fully type without looking. Then, there are the monumental milestones that are worth confetti, balloons, high-fives and sometimes a full on party.

This is one of those moments.

As a homeschooling mom, I am always looking at ways of doing things more efficiently or better than the way that we are doing them. Sometimes we feel a curriculum will be a perfect fit, only to get partially through it and realizing that it is lacking in one way or another and we search for another program and make a switch. There are times that we finally find the right fit and jump in with both feet and we start the journey through the curriculum, hoping that nothing will derail us from crossing the finish line.

Last week we completed our Astronomy program through Apologia!

Let me tell you why this is monumental. I already mentioned the times that we make a switch midway because we find something else that will be a better fit for our homeschool. There are also the times, which happen most often, when we fully intend from the onset to cover only certain portions of a program for a variety of reasons. It is for these reasons that we rarely complete an entire curriculum from beginning to end.

There is something just so satisfying about this accomplishment and even more satisfying about completing the program is that the kids have learned A LOT!

We have cracked open our new science program, Human Anatomy and Physiology and are still riding the wave of excitement from completing Astronomy as we jump in with both feet. I look forward to sharing our completion of this program as well, but I’m sure it will be a while before that happens!

Am I the only one that feels this overwhelming sense of accomplishment when completing a homeschool program in its entirety?

 

Sick Days

I have been a mom for almost a quarter century so I feel as though I can claim veteran status when it comes to kids in school. I am not, however a veteran homeschooling mom as my older children were only homeschooled for a couple of years before they attended public school. Bookworm Beauty did just the opposite, she started in public school, migrated to a charter school and has now been homeschooled.

There are several differences between homeschooling vs sending the kids to school. We can talk all day about curriculum, the ability to work and soar at one’s own pace, the opportunity to have a more hands on education, and so much more. One of the blessings of homeschooling that seems to rarely be brought up is that of sick days. We have not had any sickness in our home for nearly two years. I credit some of that success to not having the kids in a cesspool of germs at school – although I know that isn’t the sole reason.

This year, however has been the opposite. It seems that just as one person is getting over the germ of the day, the next person begins showing signs. It is as if we have been playing piano rounds with germs throughout the family!

One of my greatest pet peeves is people hauling their germ-laden kids all over the place and keeping them in their normal activities where other kids are. I can not count the number of times I have taken my healthy kids to Sunday school only to have them sick the following Tuesday. Keep sick kids home so they can get rest, recover and avoid passing the germs elsewhere. It is that simple.

Schools are one of the few places that enforces their sick policies – to the best of their ability. I have to make the point that if our kids were enrolled in the local school, Bookworm Beauty would have missed so much school this year that there could have been a question about her attendance. It seems that whatever germ was being bounced around, it started with her. To be fair, she is the one that is the most active and involved in the most activities where she is exposed to more germs because other parents don’t keep their sick kids home, ahhh but I digress.

Many days, one of the kiddos would have had enough symptoms to have to be kept home from school, but they were well enough to resume a fair amount of normal daily activities – albeit slightly modified. The fact that they are homeschooled is a tremendous blessing this year. They have been able to focus on getting the rest that was needed yet still complete some school work throughout the day when feeling up to it. We have been able to maintain an almost normal school schedule at home even while the kiddos have been under the weather.

Truth be told, there have been days that no schooling took place. If one is still in the stage of needing complete rest, then she gets complete rest.

How do you handle sick kiddos during your homeschooling days?