Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: Jan 29, 2011

The Homeschool Chick

I first learned of this meme over at Brenda's Garden of Learning blog. I think it really appeals to me because it reminds me of the Simple Woman's Daybook meme that I try to include every now and again. There's just something that I enjoy about peeking into the lives of others. No, it's not a creepy, "baseball hat floating by your bathroom window" kind of thing. I think it speaks to my love of biographies, only what is more exciting to a homeschool mom who loves food than to read about the lives of other women, moms or not, homeschooling or not, who cook... or not. Either way I'm good.

Read, please comment (I love comments!), click the link above to see more blogs participating in The Homsechool Chick's meme, and join in on the fun! The rules are simple and easy, but the meme is only linked each Friday to Monday, so make sure you check it out soon!

In my life this week...
Unfortunately this was a rough week. I was down with a bug that my daughter had the week before. But the really icky part was that I've been dealing with a bad back for a few weeks. I try to be one that doesn't whine and complain too much. I have arthritis in my hands and various rebellious body parts as well as sciatica, so I'm generally just quiet about a bit of what goes on. This back pain has been a little more than I can quietly handle. So, I did a lot of asking for help, limping around, and whining a bit. I'm not used to it so I'm getting a bit surly in my current state. But, all things shall pass... and for the things that don't there's always chocolate. (Yes, I'm going to limp my way to the kitchen this weekend to make more GF/CF chocolate chip cookies. Weight Watchers or no Weight Watchers those yummies are needed in my tummy...) 

In our homeschool this week...
C did amazingly well! Thankfully she's old enough (9th grade... sniff...) to work independently so she wasn't terribly off schedule. She whipped through math, literature, grammar, science, music appreciation, and creative writing on her own. I was so thankful that my issues didn't sideline her. Granted, we didn't accomplish everything on the schedule since I wasn't up to some of the discussions but I've learned to take it as it comes. We have seasons where we get more accomplished than I have dreamed and seasons where we are accomplishing 90% instead of 100%. (Let's not talk about the third kind of season that exists!) I'm good with that. 

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
A wonderful homsechooling friend organized a girly afternoon for her daughter and several friends yesterday. I hear all of the girls had a great time! They laughed, worked on craft projects (crochet/knit), played games, had a fantastic lunch, and enjoyed time together. It was fantastic. It definitely lifted my kid's spirits after having a very boring week with mom at home! I just love afternoons like this. It's a nice reminder that even as teenagers they can still have "play dates!" (We're just not allowed to call them that now... shh.....) 

My favorite thing this week was... 
Our music appreciation curriculum is fantastic! (Discovering Music - see the curriculum page above for more curriculum info.) The kid enjoys it so much that she began listening to a local classical radio station, and she's gotten herself hooked on a particular segment that they do where they discuss pieces and play longer selections of operas, etc. We were sitting in the living room talking about something completely unrelated when she realized the time. She cut the conversation short with an apology because there was a particular piece scheduled that she had been waiting all week to hear. This thrilled me to no end. If you've read anything on my blog you might notice that the arts are extremely important to me. The fact that she apologized - aka used good manners - made it even better! You could have knocked me down with a feather... and not just because I wasn't standing all that well with my back. ;)

What's working/not working for us...
Unfortunately we've had a year (or two) where things seemed to fall into the "not working" category. We've gotten a handle on it all and I believe are in a good groove. The main thing that is working best for us at the moment is that we are following our daughter's particular leaning in her scheduling as well as what materials we have chosen. Planning, at least in my case, was centered around what types of materials or learning styles our girls exhibited. I never really paid a lot of attention to the scheduling needs of those kids beyond the basics. Did this child do better with focused work such as math after lunch, or do they need to alternate between "thinking" tasks and "doing" tasks? (When I speak of scheduling I'm not specifically talking about actual blocks of predetermined time. "10am to 11am, etc." I'm talking more about routine or order.) This year we've pushed all the boundaries on scheduling. 

Our daughter is an immersion learner. She likes to dive in, become obsessed with a topic, and when she's gotten what she can from it she moves on. This worked great with certain projects when she was younger, but as she aged we really didn't use it much. This year we've changed that. In the morning she covers the basics, or the high school version of the 3Rs, that will be year-long courses... math, literature, writing, foreign language, etc. Our change comes in the afternoon. We're taking the approach that colleges use... one course with focused study covered over one semester rather than a year. Because she began science in August we are using this time to focus on finishing her science course. She has been spending approximately  2.5 hours each afternoon on science, and she LOVES it. She also has one elective that she will focus on for the semester as well, and this part of the year is devoted to music appreciation. So far it's working like a charm. She's actually getting more work done per hour because she doesn't have to stop when she's got a good rhythm going. We are back to homeschooling January to December which fits this perfectly (see the post titled "Staring a New Homeschooling Year, Unconventional Version.") I'm really excited to see how it will continue (and crossing my fingers that it keeps working!)

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...
My mind has been swirling with thoughts lately! I'm not sure if it is because I am in the midst of planning or if it is just my nature to constantly think ahead. I've been thinking a lot about her high school plan, and the ensuing looks and glances that I get when people find out about her classes. This isn't meant to be divisive or bragging in any way. Please, dear reader, do not take it that way! I've just noticed that when we needed advice or an ear with other tough situations and struggles in homeschooling years past it was readily available. But, not so much when you have a child that you have to run to keep up with. I'm hoping that there will be some workshops at this year's MidWest Homeschool Convention that may cover this. I am struggling between hearing that my kid is taking too many classes and knowing that I'm simply following behind handing her materials for courses that she's requested. Proof even us "old dogs" of homeschooling have the same concerns that many new homeschooling moms do. Am I doing it right? She still finds time to read books for fun, sketch and participate in art classes, see friends, watch (way too many) movies on Netflix, chase interests, etc. I think it's an internal struggle that we all have... No matter what our situation we feel like someone is thinking that we are doing the wrong thing. 

Why on earth do we struggle with this? Is anyone else out there struggling with it along side of me?

A photo to share...
I've been planning the kid's Ancient History course lately, and I have to admit that I have had a few sniffs over the difference in projects and activities between a middle school and high school level! Here's a project that she completed many moons ago when we studied Ancient Egypt. We created the Nile out of Sculpy clay and surrounded it with dirt and grass seeds. It was so much fun to "flood" the river and then watch everything grow. Ahh.... the days of hands-on learning. :)

Join in the fun! Click on the linked logo above to read more and participate!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Such a sweet surprise...

Wow - I am am so touched! Imagine my surprise when I read such a sweet note from Stacie over at No Idle Bread saying that she's given me a blog award. I think know I squealed a little. It isn't the fact that I received a way cool graphic or was linked, it was that I was included in a list of wonderful blogs that Stacie enjoys. I'm like everyone else... To know that someone may have smiled at some point while reading my simple little words makes me all warm and fuzzy. So, thank you, Stacie! I really appreciate it. Really and truly! It was a total surprise and a bright spot in a tough week.

I am a bit late in posting this because unfortunately the ick and yucky that snagged my girl last week snagged me (in addition to a back issue. I might be blogging about my very first chiropractor appointment if this doesn't let up!) I'm thankful that I am feeling better - slowly, but better - and that we have a weekend greeting us. I love the slow pace of the weekend! Come Monday I should have some more posts ready for my little neglected blog.

The rules of the award (kindly lifted from Stacie's blog lol) are as follows:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
  4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Let's get started with my seven things...

1. I'm a nurses kid, and for most of my life my mom worked in a pediatric hospital. Every time a child would come in with a strange injury I would lose a toy or privilege! I lost my skateboard when a kid had a broken collarbone. I wasn't allowed to play on a trampoline after a little girl was hurt. And don't even get me started on the summer that she wanted me to stay off the diving board! :)

2. Sometimes I have dreams so vivid that I wake up laughing - or crying. I had one this week about my uncle who passed last year. I could hear his voice as clear as day...

3. In my Psychology 101 class in college my professor was teaching us about birth order. He challenged anyone in the room to stump him. He was able to guess everyone's birth position in their family... except me. :)  I am the only child of my mother and father, yet I am the oldest of three to my father and my stepmother, and was raised in the house with my grandparents and uncles leaving me in a sort of "youngest of three" situation since it was grandparents/mom with the boys/me. I'm a walking contradiction who exhibits traits of the oldest, youngest, and only child all at the same time.

4. I really don't like cleaning the tub/shower. I can wash windows till the cows come home. I'll even scrub a toilet without complaint. Dishes? I got that. Just please, someone, anyone, scrub the shower for me!

5. I can't eat a meal without spilling something or getting something in my hair. True. I'm a mess. I spent nearly every lunch in high school with my best friend picking Cheese Curl dust from my hair. (You'd think I'd have out grown it. Not so. If I was able to make it down to GA to see her more often she'd be picking some sort of food out of my hair at each meal.)

6. I can't keep my bed made. My dog can pull down the covers. Evenly. With his teeth. Even if the corners are tucked in. For months my husband and I couldn't figure out how the bed was changing each day, but then we caught him in the act! He actually folds back the covers layer by layer, end by end. It's either the most talented thing I've ever had a pet do, or it's just plain weird. The jury is still out.

7. I miss the South with all my heart and am still homesick. Daily. It's been 11.5 years since I moved. At some point I hope that it will go away! Until then I have to hang onto the Word and know that either God has a plan for me to move back or He's working on teaching me how to be content with my situation. I'm guessing it's the second one. :)

Wow - those seven items went fast! Hopefully they weren't too boring and gave you a little insight into my personality. (Why do I think there should be some sort of warning label at the top of this post?)

Now for the really fun part! Here are some blogs that I enjoy. Each has been a wonderful bright spot to me. I hope that they are a new wonderful bright spot for you as well! They are listed in no particular order. I love each one. Let me say that it was hard to skip a few that Stacie listed in her post! (Ahem... Lady Rose...) It was also hard to skip Stacie! Her blog is fantastic, and she has such a heart for the Lord and her family. Please go read and show her some love. But, that said, it sure is nice to know that we share some of the same taste in blog reading. It makes me that much more excited about cruising through her list this weekend. I have a feeling my "blogs that I follow" list will get longer before Monday...

Some of my favorites:

1. Choosing Joy - De'Etta has inspired me for so many years. Whether it's through faith, homeschooling, family she motivates me! Plus, it's a great blog to visit if you love learning about daily life in another culture...

2. Veggie Converter - As a vegan married to a omnivore and mothering an undecided (who says she's vegan again), Kristi's blog speaks to me. No idea why. :giggle:

3. The Berry Patch - I love Lisa's blog! Her words ring true, and her photography rocks. :)

4. Praying for Noah - Please, stop and say a prayer. The life of this little guy is amazing, and the strength and faith that Kate exhibits is a walking sermon to how we need to live with and for God. I may not comment often, but I have to say that this is the one blog that I read each and every time there is a new post, without fail.

5. Growing Fruit - What can I say about Amy's blog? Love the reviews. Love the thoughts. All around likey. :)

6. From Diapers to Driver's Ed - A great homeschool mom, Holly writes intelligently, with faith, and a big heaping spoonful of humor. Love her. :)

7. Dreams Into Plans - Jen is a beautiful writer! Now, if I could just get over my procrastination to join her in her Thrift Store Thursday posts. My back hurts, remember? It's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

8. Garden of Learning - I don't know if I like the memes or the faith-filled reflections or the homeschooling posts more. Brenda's blog rocks.

9. Extraordinary Life - This is a brand new blog find for me this week. In searching for GF/CF blogs I found Lisa's blog. She's got menu plans. She's got $10 dinners. And she's also got a Mexican Rice recipe that I've been dying to make all week. Now that I'm feeling better I think it's safe to say we'll have it tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to reading more of this blog.

10. A Life Better Than I Deserve - I love the reviews and comments that she shares, but most of all I love how real Michelle is - in a very nice and positive way. But still, real. Love that.

11. With Thankful Hearts - Another real blog. I just love how Heidi writes, and what she chooses to say. Plus, her photographs make me want to take more photos! And her blog is just so pretty. It really makes me want to clean up my blog... (It sounds like she makes me want to work but she really makes me want to sit and read. :)

12. Life at Willis Creek Ranch - I love Laura's blog! Another filled with great photography... recipes... homeschooling. Plus, she's a sweetie (who I get to see in a few weeks at convention! Woo hoo!)

13. Following The Narrow Path - I'm saying it again... another filled with great photography. Debbie's heart is so full. I just love reading about what she experiences and seeing the photos that go with it. Another sweetie with a heart for the Lord.

14. Homedaze - Renita keeps it real. Can you guess a theme with me? I love blogs that share the dirt as well as the desire... the fun and the funk. I love Renita's writing style and the way that she shares her heart. Like a few on this list I've gotten complacent in my blog following because I keep up with them on FB. However, I need to start visiting - and commenting - on the actual blog more often!

15. Green Acres - I'm a broken record, but it's SO TRUE. Real life. Upbeat. Beautiful photos. I just love Jodi's outlook, and I bet you will, too.

There you have it! My seven & fifteen! I'm not sure what I liked most about this, but I think getting to revisit some blogs and really think about why I enjoy them ranked at the top of the list. I know that I didn't have to write a note for each, but I wanted you, my friends, to know how special these each were to me. I didn't just copy and paste. I hope that I did them justice, and that you enjoy visiting with them as much as I do.

And, to end it on a note-stealing, well, note...

Stacie said it best so I'm paraphrasing:

Please know that I smacked gave you this award because your blog is something special to me. If you don't like awards, no offense taken when you ignore it. If you don't want to follow the rules and award others, I'm good with that, too. Just please know that it was meant with good intentions and a great big smile (followed by a plate of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies since I'm evidently obsessed with them these days!) Many kisses and much love to each of you awesome blogging ladies!

Now, go play. It's Friday!

Monday, January 24, 2011

My new food adventure: Gluten Free!

I love adventures! If you plan correctly, they can be extremely satisfying. If you leave just enough of spontaneity, they can be exciting and unpredictable. And then you have the adventures that take a little education to really get kicked off right.

That's where I am right now!

Several years ago our youngest daughter developed a casein allergy. It was so severe that it took us quite some time (and quite a few specialists) to uncover. It also took months and months to recover from the effects of it. It was heartbreaking to watch her suffer through headaches, sores and rashes, gastrointestinal issues, and a slew of other symptoms. However, I'll gladly take the casein allergy over what it could have been! We learned quickly to be thankful for our health.

One thing that she has struggled with was a weakened immune system. She caught everything! Dairy - casein protein in particular - puts such a stress on her immune system that she spent the majority of the month each month fighting something... colds, flus, viruses. We were blessed with a fabulous family physician and a wonderful naturopath that worked together to get her in top shape. However, one thing that was always on the back burner was that we may need to consider transitioning to a gluten-free diet as well. (Soy-free diets are typically followed by those that are CF from what I've been told, but we do partake in soy in limited amounts. We try to keep our use limited to tofu and occasionally tempeh.)

Due to some additional issues with illness and questionable sensitivities (plus a continued battle with catching bugs and viruses!) we've decided to move forward with their suggestion to remove gluten from our diet. I say "our diet" because we are a team. We're in this together! When she goes GF/CF we all go GF/CF! I am still putting together our lists for shopping, baking basics, replacements, and additions, but we are on our way down this new road. Thankfully I was blessed to find a few good blogs and articles early on in my reading last week. It isn't that we are losing food that we can eat. We are introducing fruits, vegetables, and grains that we may not have tried or might not have given a starring role in our kitchen productions. We are focusing on the foods that we can enjoy.

Am I scared? No, not really. I know that we'll have great nutrition. It will benefit us all.

Am I intimidated? You could say that! I fought my battle with turning my meat-gnawing husband into a vegetarian/vegan meal eating man (who still gnaws on meat in a limited amount.) I went from having my dear spouse say that I was an awesome cook that rocked anything I touched to hearing two to three times a week that something wasn't his favorite or that it was "just ok." Talk about an arrow through the heart. I'm a southern girl. Food is love. So, I'm concerned that he will be the same way about this new food adventure. What does that leave me? One or two times a week that he likes something? Talk about a wavering "food-esteem." (I know it isn't a real word. Self-esteem with food = food-esteem. Just smile and nod.) So far so good though... two things have gotten a thumbs up: chocolate chip cookies and banana bread!

Am I confused? You betcha! The transition from "whole grain goodness" in my breads to "whole grain means other things than wheat" is blowing my silly little mind. My husband - who took two years to transition to whole wheat bread - told me that my GF bread was too soft. Well if that don't beat all! ;)

But... am I excited? You don't know how much! This is a new adventure for me. I'll plan, and I'll be spontaneous (as soon as I learn how new flours and additions react.) But first, I'll be reading and living on blogs like the following:

Adventures of a Gluten-free Mom
Extraordinary Life
Gluten Free and Thrifty

Have a good GF blog to share? I'd love it! Please pop it into a comment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: Voices of the Faithful Book 2 (Moore and Davis)

Title: Voices of the Faithful Book 2: Inspirational Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World
Author: Compiled by Kim P. Davis, Introduction by Beth Moore
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Summary from Publisher's Website:

A willingness to go is all they have in common," says Beth Moore and Kim P. Davis, speaking of their friends on the front lines who are spreading the gospel around the world and with whom they collaborated to create this book. This second book of 366 daily devotionals features stories of God's faithfulness, written by hundreds of missionaries worldwide.

From stirring miracles to heroic adventures, this second volume highlights those who daily go to the outer limits of spiritual devotion. A follow-up to the first book which has now sold 300,000 copies.

My Review:

I absolutely love the concept behind this devotional! I wasn't familiar with the first book, though now I wish that I had been!

Growing up in Southern Baptist churches I quickly developed a heart for missionaries and missions in general. Though I no longer attend an SBC church, I still have that love and desire to support missionaries in their work. Voices of the Faithful (Book 2) is a fantastic way to integrate missions into your life. The format of the book is typical of any dated devotional. Simply follow along by date and you will be treated to an appropriate verse, a glimpse into the life and work of a missionary and the families that they live and work among, and a closing prayer that will help you be specific in your missions-focused prayer life. What makes this devotional special - apart from the content - are the monthly divisions. Each month has a well-written introduction with a specific focus in mind. You'll spend approximately four weeks guiding your thoughts and prayers around topics such as Prayer, Divine Appointments, Lost and Found, and Hope for the World just to name a few. Use this devotional in chronological order as written, or use one of the two indexes to locate devotionals specific to a certain verse or topic. Voices of the Faithful Book 2 is definitely arranged in a user-friendly manner! The devotionals are moving. The format is user-friendly. And, I have to say it... the cover art is gorgeous.

Personally, I plan on using this devotional in one of two ways: I plan on using the short readings first thing in the morning to give me a verse and focus for prayer that day. I'm not fully awake in the a.m. so in-depth study is out. However, I can use this to help me set my day (and attitude!) straight. I also plan on using one reading a week to help focus my daughter's attention to missions. When she was smaller we used various books to study about other areas and the work of missionaries, and this, I believe, will be a more teen-friendly way of doing so. It will be easy to focus on a specific people group or area of the world to read about or pray for after reading an interesting glimpse of their story.

Rating: 5 stars! I can honestly say that I will read this book in the future, even after completing it in 2011. I will also be seeking out Book 1 as well. It's going on the recommended list for those interested in missions or those looking for a nice change in morning devotions.

Now a little personal disclaimer:

Due to the daily devotional format this is not a book that I read from cover to cover. I did read a generous amount of entries and skipped throughout the book to verify that consistency remained throughout. I plan on reading through the entire book this calendar year as a personal goal.

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the Booksneeze blogging program in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Beginning of the 2011 Family Birthdays...

Happy Birthday to my very sweet husband. I am more in love with this man today than I was when we married, and I have every intention of being more in love with him ten years from now! We've had our good times and bad, our sickness and health, and we've committed to seeing the future together. He's a strong leader of our family. He shows us daily that he may make mistakes but he truly wants to learn from them. Being the husband and the father that God dreams for us is hard work, and I appreciate everything he is doing to learn to be that man. He's funny and frustrating. He's focused and distracted. He's a walking contradiction. And he's MY walking contradiction. I am thankful for him and would be lost without him.

Happy birthday, honey. I love you!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Calling in Sick... a menu plan of leftovers and easy meals

I had such great plans for January! I was going to keep to my handy dandy blogging schedule. Today's post was going to be about tackling my craft area and taming it a bit. And then illness hit. The kid has been ill with the flu since yesterday. I finally lost my battle with a cold. Only the husband and my mom are left standing (and early reports suggest that she might be the next to fall.) In an effort to remain somewhat on schedule I'm posting about the salvation of all sick moms... Leftovers and easy foods! Granted, it will change if more of us fall as hard as the kid did, but as long as we can handle the possible spice at the end of the week we're good! (And don't worry... I'll photo and post about the mess in the scary place craft area very soon!)

My meal plan for the week looks vaguely like this...

Monday: Leftover chicken noodle soup (made by my mom!) from the fridge

Tuesday: Leftover split pea soup (made w/o ham and with veggie broth) from the freezer with biscuits

Wednesday: Mac and Cheese w/ broccoli (from my score at Walgreen's yesterday!)

Thursday: Crock Pot Chili over rice (Silly easy. And everyone loves it.)

Friday: Take out - PIZZA! We've limited our ordering to zero this month because of budgeting, but I have a feeling that it will be a welcomed splurge if we are up to eating it. In organizing my coupons this weekend I found that we get a LOT of pizza coupons in the mail. A lot. Like 12 in the last week. Crazy.

What does your menu look like this week? Share your menu or peek at others for ideas at Menu Plan Monday at

Friday, January 14, 2011

My first Big Fat 100 of 2011 check in post - January 14

I'm really excited! It's mid January, and I'm still checking items off of my list. Go me! ;)

Here's some updates to My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list.

Household Goals:
1. Make a budget. DONE! I made one in early January, and except for some minor tweaking as we "live" it for a while I can declare this finished. It feels good. It feels really good. January is a hard month for us with holiday recovery. We don't tend to go overboard with presents but Oh My Word the amount we spend on food and extra bills such as extra gas, etc. Woosh! Glad that is over for a while! February will find us doing better on our budget. But at least we HAVE a budget now!

3. Learn to coupon and do it! DONE! I'm having way too much fun with this. It's a game. No, it's an addiction! I blogged a little about it HERE.

Homeschool Goals:
8. Create our long term course of study for the high school years. DONE! I have been focused on this quite a bit lately, and I feel really good about our unconventional goals and plans. I blogged about it yesterday HERE. (I'm working on #2 along with this!)

Ok, so I haven't checked off that many. But, I have started on quite a few. Like Mr. Tortoise taught us, slow and steady wins the race. Gotta love my kind of progress. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Starting a new homeschooling year... unconventional version

"The more things change, the more things stay the same." Really? Not in my world! The longer things stay the same the more likely they are to change. Yeah, now you're talking. That sounds more like my family!

We are in our tenth eleventh year of homeschooling. (I had to count!) One day I'll write about our homeschooling story, but the short version is that we started out backwards with two high schoolers and a preschooler. We now have just that wee preschooler left at home, only she's not so wee (she's only got one other female - a cousin - that is taller than her on both sides of our family) and she's definitely not a preschooler any longer. 

My girl has always been a quick learner. Our first year at home we promptly started her in her preschool studies. We had Early Bird Math from Singapore Math, and she finished it in three months. The entire year. In three months. So we moved on. By the end of the year we were nearly finished with first grade. Things have always moved fast for her. She's kept me jumping. We were sidelined for a year while she dealt with food allergies so severe that we were actually given so many horrible diagnoses that my head was spinning. We had been around the block with health issues with one of our older girls, so I knew to adjust and let life guide us rather than sticking to a calendar. Isn't that the best benefit of being a homeschooler? We had another bit of time where we needed to adjust to a move. We also took some time off during my uncle's illness and after his passing last year. The way I look at it God allowed us to get ahead so that I, with my "gotta check the box" mentality, could feel comfortable slowing down. When we shook it out at the end of the day we were fine. 

Enter Fall of 2010. Everyone starts their lessons for the year in the fall, right? Well, sort of. Since we "do the next thing" we are never in the same place in all of our lessons at the same time. I'm good with that, but it does pose a problem when, as year-round homeschoolers, someone asks my daughter, "When do you start X grade?" It's a common "problem" in homeschooling, and one that most just ignore. We were lucky (unlucky?) enough to need to switch a few things around over winter break. She finished a few things.... our math program wasn't working... the plan I had for history wasn't quite gelling... our French materials came in later than I thought that they would... I think we've all had years like that! So, I did what every good homeschool mom with a plan does. I evaluated where we were. You know what that means. More planning! (For a planner like me it equals fun time, but I'm not telling my husband. He brings me candy when I plan!) As I reviewed her 8th grade materials I realized that nearly everything that she was working on or was going to begin in January was at a high school level. I knew that we were dealing with this and had been talking to various sources about how to handle early credits earned, possible early graduation, etc. (Remember, this is my fast-paced kid so we've always had to think one step beyond where we were.) To see it all written in my handy-dandy chart make me think. Are we really doing what we need to be doing by keeping her in 8th grade?

I started looking at high school plans. It is one of my homeschooling goals for 2011 so why not knock it out while I'm planning?! I found some fantastic documents on our local high school's website that shows how kids in public school around here plan out their high school courses. Now, we don't follow our public school's curriculum, but I do like to keep her paced with their graduation requirements because she will be competing against these kids for scholarships and admission since she will attend a college or university in state. What did I discover? An amazing thing called the capstone project will be needed for graduating seniors in the class of 2015! It mirrors the project that we would like her to complete similar to the senior specialization project detailed in The Well Trained Mind! I've always wanted to give her time to focus solely on this project but wasn't willing to devote an entire year to it. I had my "aha" moment. (I'm not talking about the fantastic Norwegian band from the 80s and 90s. Take on me.... Take me on... Everyone, sing!) Our timing would be perfect if we started our school year now! Our math, language arts, and art program were all going to be new. Her music program was only in the second unit and is high school-level, and we were reworking history to better fit her four-year high school plan. We've used a January to December calendar in the past, and it works fabulously for us since we use December as our longest break. And, by starting now it would allow her to not only earn credit for the classes that she's working on currently but it will allow her a five-month period to focus solely on her senior capstone project after completing her high school classes. It appears that the pieces have fallen into place. I'm thrilled. And yet unconventional. And I like it that way. :)

Our current (loose) high school plan is as follows. We still need to tweak it a bit, but I feel safe in saying that I can cross off this item from My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list.

*Please note - My kid is an over achiever. I understand that these plans are heavy. I understand that they include more credits than are typical. This is not meant to be a "school like me" post... just a way to document what she is learning, thinking, striving to achieve. We are considering options such as using CLEP testing in certain areas to document certain classes. Her ultimate goal is to obtain either a graduate degree or certification in Museum Studies, so she has made specific choices as recommended for high school students interested in these areas. She's history, music, and art heavy because she loves it, and she's a writer at heart so that will always remain (ie Novel Writing.) I'm sure some classes will change, and I can nearly guarantee that she will also have various electives - such as culinary arts - thrown in. She enjoys learning, and far be it for me to stop her!

9th Grade: Jan to Dec 2011
Ancient History
Introduction to Composition and Literary Analysis
Novel Writing (an independent study course)
Italian I (Edited 1/28/11 - Evidently research shows that Italian is the easiest Romance Language so we'll switch French/Italian and start here!)
Music Appreciation
Various local Art Classes including Ceramics and Painting
Algebra I
Bowling (1 semester)
Physical Science (this can be considered jr high or high school, so we are adding additional research papers and books to bring it up to what we consider high school level in order to meet one requirement by her first choice college. This will also be completed earlier than the others since we started it first.)

10th Grade: Jan to Dec 2012
British Literature
World History (time frame to be determined)
Algebra II
Italian II
Art Appreciation
Various Local Art Classes
Economics (1 semester)
Health (1 semester) 

11th Grade: Jan to Dec 2013
American Literature
American History with an American Government component
Anatomy and Physiology
Music History (our beloved Professor Carol is coming out with a program focused on American music!)
French I (Edited 1/28/11 - see note up in 9th grade)

12th Grade Part I: Jan to Dec 2014
Ancient Literature
Trig (1 semester)
Calculus (will run over into her capstone months)
Art History
French II
Ancient Language (probably Greek)
Financial Literacy (1 semester)
Information Technology/Computer Science (1 semester) 

12th Grade Part 2: Jan to May 2015

Senior Capstone Project

All this to say... my preschooler is now officially a 9th grade high schooler.

Oh, and a note to all those new (or new to high school) homeschooling moms and dads out there... Never be afraid to be unconventional. Your child is one of a kind, and your homeschool should be as well. Whether you are an unschooler, you use a prepackaged all-inclusive curriculum, or anywhere in between, make your child's education fit their needs. Don't make them fit the education. They will thank you for it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan

Title: The Miracle of Mercy Land
Author: River Jordan
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
ISBN: 9780307457059

Summary from Publisher's Website:

What if you had the power to amend choices you made in the past? Would you do it even if it changed everything?
Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensable to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mystery from Mercy’s past arrives by train, she begins to understand that she will have to make choices that will deeply affect everyone she loves—forever. 

My Review: 

Oh, mercy me. I am a fairly positive person by nature, and I've struggled and struggled with this review. Why? I didn't like the book. I've tried and tried to read it with fresh eyes, determined that today I am going to like this story. The premise is fascinating. The book feels good. (I know, strange. But I like it when the paper and cover are nicely made. It makes reading more enjoyable for me.) The cover art is beautiful. The storyline is exciting, but... I'm not quite sure if I just don't fit with the writing style that Ms. Jordan uses, or if it was the character of Mercy that rubbed me the wrong way. The fascination with the book reminded me of a nearly drug-like addiction. Since I love that I grew up in the south I thought I'd fall madly in love with the southern description of Bay City. Not so. Instead of finding strength and "stick-to-it-iveness" in Mercy and her fellow paper staff I found her to be, well, pale. I felt more like I was listening to a sweet but bland girl ramble than living in the exciting moment of a girl who had the courage to strike out on her own in a time when women didn't do such things. I feel like the book moved slow, and like the characters didn't develop quite as deeply as I'd like. I wish that I had enjoyed the book because I would have loved to write a glowing review of a fantastic tale of unimaginable situations that happened to extraordinary ordinary people. Unfortunately I can't.

Rating: 1 Star. I hope that you enjoy it more than I did. Unfortunately it's not one that I'll read again or recommend.

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I've been bit by a bug...

... a couponing bug that is!

I have no idea why I failed to see the value (and sport quite honestly) in clipping coupons and making the system work for our family. We, like so many out there, really need to beat our budget into submission get our grocery spending under control. We don't spend on goofy things, and I do cook from scratch often, but with prices skyrocketing it's just common sense for me to save where I can so that I can buy the things that we need. Friends of mine introduced me to the concept of couponing. Wow. It's a new world! I almost feel like I'm cheating somehow even though I know that I'm not. For example, in my first week of couponing I paid $286 for $641 of food and toiletries. So far this week I've spent $2.60 for $28 of items from the drug store. I think that I could get used to this. I'm building up a stockpile, filling shelves, and doing it within the budget that I've set for our family of four. Are there still corners to cut? Yep. But this is a very nice start. Very nice indeed. As a stay-at-home mom married to a self-employed dad anything that we can save (or stockpile for the lean times) is a fantastic thing.

I'm not going to give how-to advice since I'm so new to the game, but I will share some fantastic links. If you are a couponista with loads of good advice, well, hand it over woman! I'll be looking at comments. :)

The Grocery Game... This great website matches up sales flyers with coupons for you. Grab a 28-day free trial. If you sign up please consider listing me as the member that referred you! (email - stephanie @ but remember to remove those spaces!)

The Money Saving Mom... great for freebies, discounts, coupons, and learning how to coupon as well as a good listing of deals from various store sales.

The Frugal Find... I LOVE her "how-to" video series. Definitely check this one out. Plus, she has great tips, tricks, sales info, etc. Both TFF and MSS have coupon databases to use for free. Love that! Her tutorials also include links to some great websites for printing coupons as well!

Totally Target... specific to Target finds and deals

Have a great week. Now go save some money!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Bowling with nieces

My brother in law sledding with my daughter and niece during our family Christmas celebration.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: January 4

FOR TODAY, January 4, 2011

Outside my window... it is sunny and bright! This is fantastic weather for January in Ohio. Usually I'm droning on and on about the gray skies by now!

I am thinking... about the long to-do list that I have in front of me!

I am thankful for... my wonderful church family. Our Women's Ministry has started reading the One Year Bible together. It's been a great way to hear how God's Word has touched the lives of these wonderful ladies, as well as an opportunity to get to know some that I haven't met before!

From the learning rooms... I'm currently trying to choose a psychology or sociology course for our daughter as well as plan her year (all of her high school actually.) She's been interested in it for a while, and after seeing her research various topics on her own I just can't ignore the interest any longer!

From the kitchen... I haven't planned our our meals for the week (I'm behind!) but I do know that we're having leftover Red Beans and Barley for lunch!

I am wearing...  jeans, a pink cotton long sleeved t-shirt, and my new favorite sweater (a gray knitted hoodie from my dad and stepmom at Christmas.)

I am creating... a shopping list, a coupon list, a list of punishment for my daughter if she doesn't stop arguing. (Ok, so the last one isn't real. Though it could be if she doesn't change her current attitude. lol)

I am going... to the vet. In 15 minutes. With a dog that is scared of the vet. Pray for me! ;)

I am reading...several things: The One Year Bible, The Miracle of Mercy Land, and my text book for the Family Herbalist course through Vintage Remedies.

I am hoping...that I can steal a few quiet moments to get working on my to-do list. It's proving hard today because of all of the conversations and needs in my house! :)

I am hearing... my mother and my daughter talk.

Around the house...Today is the day to remove all of our Christmas items! We were late decorating so we're late taking them down.

One of my favorite clean bedroom. Our room became the catch-all place so it became a bit out of hand. I spent several days organizing and decluttering before we had friends arrive for Christmas. What a great feeling it is to have a simplified version of what was once here. Less clutter, less mess, and more space to relax in.

A few plans for the rest of the week...I'm heading off in just a few minutes to our first meeting for a new Bible study at church. We'll be using Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering: A Bible Study Based on the Sermon on the Mount. I'm so excited! Grocery shopping and bread baking will follow shortly after.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

Our Sophie girl has had a twizzler on each Christmas of her life. It is one of her greatest pleasures of life (even if the smell of licorice makes me ill!) We decided to buck the system and give it to her. The pleasure she got outweighed the consequences of her illnesses. I think that we had as much fun watching her as she had eating it. (Disclaimer: Yes, I know that it isn't a dog treat. Yes, I know it isn't healthy. But she loves it and it will most likely be her last Christmas so we're so glad that we gave it to her!) Our girl is smiling, even if people say that dogs can't. :)

If you'd like to read more hop over to The Simple Woman's Daybook to read about the days of others. Why not take a minute and write your own?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year's!

One of my favorite Irish blessings:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Wishing you many blessings in 2011, and praying that you'll have a year full of good health, good memories, and good friends. :)

Happy New Year! God Bless You!