Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I HEART...Wednesdays!

I  HEART...Wednesdays!
Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without! 
I don't know about you, but my kids tend to pick one food and stick with it awhile.  This is especially frustrating, because they don't eat that many different foods!  When they get "stuck" on a healthy one though, I usually try not to make a big deal out of it. 
That's why I didn't complain when Jewell decided to have caramel dip and apples for snack every day for two weeks!  (You will notice that caramel dip comes before apples.  That's no mistake.  And to be completely honest, I must admit that there is usually a slice or two of apple left, but she licks that caramel bowl clean!)
Well, Monday was a sad day.  No apples.  After I assured her that it was NOT all right to eat just the caramel, she came up with a brilliant idea.  PaPaw's Midnight Snacks!  PaPaw (a.k.a. my daddy) has been making these treats for many years, and I must admit, they are delicious.  I hadn't had them in a long time, and I had forgotten just how good they are! 

Now before you look at the ingredients and turn up your nose, remember two things: 1) Necessity is the mother of invention, and 2) sweet and salty together is ridiculously DELICIOUS!  You probably have these items on hand.  (Did I mention there's only three ingredients?  How simply is that?!)
PaPaw's Midnight Snack
saltine crackers
thin slices of cheese
(you must use block cheddar - no processed slices allowed!)
Preheat your broiler and move the rack to the lower third of the oven.  Place the saltines on the cookie sheet.  (You notice I'm not telling you how many to use here.  That's up to you.
Chef don't judge!)
Slice the cheddar into thin slices about the size of the cracker.  Place on top.
Take a regular-sized marshmallow and cut in half.
Place one half a marshmallow on top of each cheese slice.
(Don't sweat it if all you have are the little baby marshmallows.
Jewell says my SIL has used these before and they are almost as good.  Sorry, Aunt Clancy!) 
Place in oven under the broiler until the cheese melts
and the marshmallows start to turn golden brown.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's NOT Back-to-School Time!

It's NOT Back-to-School Time!
Just a quick post for those of you who might not have started back to school yet.  Since this was our first year homeschooling, I decided that I wanted to start some new traditions that we could carry on from year to year. 
I was a little nervous as it got close to time for our local schools to resume.  TV was plastered with commercials about back-to-school sales.  There had been no shopping for new school clothes or supplies around our house.  (While that was good news for my budget, I was a little worried that it would make my kids a little blue and make them less than excited about our homeschool decision.)
When friends and cousins started getting letters from school welcoming them back and telling them about their teachers and upcoming activities, I found myself again a little worried and started reminded my kids about the fun stuff we would be doing in homeschool.  Gerald and I really wanted to do something that would help to ease our kids anxiety about changing "schools" and perhaps chase away the blues about not being with their friends on their first day back.
So we invented...
the First Annual NOT Back-To-School Day!
On Thursday, August the 8th, when everybody else was headed back to the classroom, we decided to have a fun, family day.  Gerald had taken the whole week off from work and we decided to take advantage of everyone else being in school!
We went to a matinee performance of the Percy Jackson "Sea of Monsters" movie...
and stopped for a bite to eat at Red Robin (yuummmm)!

The kids had fun and so did we!  And I think it made them feel a little special (if not somewhat sneaky!) to be out and about while everyone else was in school.
NOT Back-to-School Day will definitely be a recurring celebration for us each year.  I hope we can continue to add more special traditions as we go.  After all - that's one of the reasons we chose to homeschool!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our Homeschool Schedule...Part 1

As everyone begins to head back to the classroom, there's lots of talk these days about schedules.  I have been curious to see what others are doing.  What about you?  It's interesting to see how others lay out their day, and I have already gotten lots of curriculum ideas just from seeing what other people plan for their homeschool. 

The whole process can be a bit overwhelming at times; however, I am a planner by nature and was actually once a junior high English teacher (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...) so, I just fell back on what I knew how to do - make lists and schedules!   I'll warn you up front, this post will be somewhat detailed and is not for the faint of heart.  So proceed with caution!

First, I determined what I wanted my children to learn.  Obviously things like Bible, grammar and math were at the top of my list.  I then added the regular suspects like history and science.  I was also careful to include things my kids were used to getting in the past like art and music.  Then came the fun part - adding all the neat extras that I wanted (my kids!) to learn, like geography, Latin, Greek, Spanish, logic and philosophy.   
The list was as long as my arm, but I was determined to fit it all in.  And to be honest, I was afraid if I didn't, and we didn't end up homeschooling again next year, the opportunity would be missed.  (I know!  The power of positive thinking, right?  NOT!)  The more I read and researched, the more I realized that I was in fact describing a traditional, classical education.  Whew!  Maybe I wasn't crazy after all!
While our kids are in 2nd and 5th grades this year, they are actually only 2.5 years apart.  I had already decided that I wanted to teach them together as much as possible, so I looked for curriculum that supported multi-grade instruction.  Luckily, there is quite a bit out there.  Then I chose a math and grammar curriculum that was grade level appropriate and began to lay out our day.
As I said before, I am a planner.  I tend to do WAY more than I should, but I operate better that way.  That being said, if I don't work from a plan, something is going to go wrong.  I read several blogs by veteran homeschoolers and I appreciate their honesty in what they write.  They are quick to tell you that their homeschool is not perfect and that their way is not the only way.  I really took that to heart when considering our schedule.  As I mentioned, Jewell had five years tenure in a private school and Brack was there for two.  As newbie homeschoolers, that could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.  But I knew my style and their background well enough to know that I couldn't go without a schedule.  Not even a loose schedule.  So I started planning...

I spent January-May researching curriculum before I ordered anything.  I did tons of reading online.  Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?!  I attended a homeschool conference in mid-May and was able to actually hold textbooks in my hot little hands!  (You'll hear more about my curriculum-induced, near nervous breakdown and the friends who rescued me in my next post!  Can't hardly wait, can you?!)  Even with all the extensive research I did, once I actually saw some materials at the conference, I knew they weren't for me.  I even ordered several things only to decide that they wouldn't work for us once they arrived. 

After I made my final decisions and began to get material in hand, I started plotting a path for our school.  Jewell was interested in what we would be doing, and early on, she asked for a schedule to put in her room.  I printed one off for her and she taped it to her mirror.  A couple of days later, I changed it.  When she realized that it was different from her copy, she asked for another.  A couple of days later, I changed it again, so I printed her an updated copy.  Pretty soon it got to be that I didn't even tell her when I changed it.  I just printed a copy and replaced the old one as I walked past her room from the office!  Yep - there were probably 10 revisions before I finally arrived at the copy that we began school with a couple of weeks ago.  And guess what?  It changed the second day of school, and at least once more since then!  But isn't that the beauty of homeschooling?  Finding what works for your family?
So I know that by now you are on pins and needles, ready to see the "most recent" version.  Well folks, tune in next week, same bat time - same bat channel, and I'll reveal my curriculum choices in part 2 and then our daily schedule in part 3.  And remember - good things come to those who wait!

P.S. - I'd love for you to take a moment and subscribe to my blog.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Great Expectations...

When we started talking about homeschooling late last December, the thought was somewhat surreal.  I mean - we prayed, talked and prayed some more.  And even after we made the personal commitment and informed our children's school we would not be returning in the fall, it still didn't seem real.
Fast forward through months of curriculum research and planning.  School's out.  The kids say goodbye to teachers and friends.  Still not sinking in.  I continued to work on getting everything just right while the kids were distracted with swim team and lazy summer afternoons.  Gerald took off from work the week before so we could do lots of fun family stuff before starting homeschool.  Everyone was getting excited, but still no idea of what we were in for.
Finally THE DAY arrived!  As I said in my first post last week, Day 1 was a success!  New school supplies, new subjects, new "classmates" and "teacher".  We all had fun learning about our new reality.  Only - it still didn't seem real!  After TONS of reading and research, planning and preparation - we all had such great expectations!
Months of following wonderful homeschool blogs as they shared the magical things their families were doing in homeschool left me with sugar plums dancing in my head!  We would do amazing experiments and projects and my children would squeal with delight as their teacher showed them the wonders of the world.  I just knew that their heads would grow three hat sizes the first week!  We sat down to dinner the first night and I smiled and told the kids, "Tell your daddy what you learned today!"  Imagine my surprise (and disappointment) after all that planning when Brack replied, "Not much" as he simultaneously complained about green beans...again.
Man, he really popped my bubble.  Where was the magic?  Where was the praise about me being the best teacher in the world?  Didn't I knock their socks off with Day 1?  I was a little let down, but you know what?  The next morning, we were all up and ready to go at it again!  And you know what?  They did think I was pretty cool when we did a little science experiment about air pressure.  And they loved the cave drawings art project for history.

And after a more relaxed afternoon, Jewell was anxious to help with dinner.
And I was glad to have the company! 

We finished the week with our first Field Trip Friday.  We went to the Alabama Cattlemen's Association MOOseum.  (You read it right - not a misprint!  A Moooooseum.  Tee hee hee!)  So it wasn't a big bells-and-whistles kind of field trip, but we did learn some things.  (Like over 1.5 million bovines are raised each year in Alabama, we rank 15th in cattle production and ahead of several larger, Western states.) 

They rode some buckin' bulls...

They got their cowboy on!

And we also learned about food safety.
(Thus the huge hamburger Brack and Jewell are attempting to eat!)

So there's where we left off with Week 1.  Not perfect - maybe not even magical, but extremely satisfying.  Their brains may not be bigger (yet!), but their smiles look pretty big to me! 
I realize now that months of planning does not equal instant results.  They're still going to complain about spelling words and math flashcards.  That's ok.  We may have more moments of "are we done yet?" than "can we do that again?".  But curling up on the couch with my babies to read "Life of Fred" (who knew, right?) is so worth the hard work.  Week 2 is a little more than 12 hours away, and I can't wait...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Well, you'll never believe what we did today...

Homeschooling!  That's right - today was our first day as homeschoolers.  Meet the best and brightest at JFA (Jones Family Academy) - Brack and Jewell!  Gerald and I made the decision back in late December to give it a go.  Eight months, countless hours of planning and about a million prayers later, we are up and running!
Day 1 was a great success, if I do say so myself.  So what if I changed Bible curriculum last night at 10:00, and I ended up dropping our art appreciation lesson about two minutes before it started this afternoon?  We made it through with smiles on our faces!  In fact, the kids were close to giddy all day long.
We began at 8:00 am with pictures, just like any other first day of school.  Well - almost!  No more uniforms to iron and overloaded backpacks for us!
In fact, we've decided to go the casual and comfortable route.  Slippers optional!
They absolutely loved digging through their supply boxes.  (Who knew there were so many kinds of crayons and markers!)  I even had to slap a few hands to keep them from pulling out stuff we don't have scheduled to do until later this week!
They took time to familiarize themselves with their binders.  All kinds of fun surprises there, too!
To top it all off, today was pizza day in the caf.  They totally dug it!  (No hair net for this lunch lady!)  And yes, Jewell has already made costume change #1 for the day.  Apparently the other t-shirt wasn't comfortable enough...
We actually finished about 15 minutes sooner than planned.  (Yes, I am a PLANNER and always will be!)  We called Gerald at work to fill him in on our first day.  After they settled down and passed me the phone, he asked me how it went.  I admitted it was different than I thought it would be and my throat was sore from reading and talking all day, but that I thought we might just do it again tomorrow.
Jewell has said this was the best day ever, which tells me I'm on the right track.  But you want to know what was the clincher?  As Brack and I were working on math, without talking he went from sitting in his chair to standing to sitting in my lap.  (Sigh.)  As I snuggled the back of his neck, I knew we had made the right choice.
Several people have suggested that I blog about our new journey.  I know there are a bazillion great homeschooling blogs out there.  Trust me - I follow them all!  But I wanted to take this opportunity to chronicle our adventures for my kids.  Yep, me the mom with empty baby books.  The one who bought the nice camera, took the photography classes and then still leaves the Nikon at home or forgets to charge the battery.  I promise to try to do better.  For me and for them.