Monday, May 27, 2013

Whew.....

I'm all out of sorts right now.  :)

I was a volunteer blogger over the weekend, but I still don't know what that actually means.  I spent Friday blogging about the NCHE Conference and on Saturday I was too busy to get the postings done...so I need to get that finished up.  But again, I'm not sure what the point is now other than for my own notes.

I was gone from Thursday evening until Saturday evening, stopping at the house only to quickly pack for a trip to the lake.  Adam had already taken the boys up to Jordan Lake on Saturday morning and by the time I got up there, he had the tent set up and they had already been out on the boat!  Friends of ours have a sweet camper and a super rad boat and had invited us to go camping with them for the holiday weekend.  We're still tent folks, but we were able to pitch our tent on their site and spend the weekend with them.  Ahhhh-mazing.  The weather was quite perfect, we had such a great time, and I hope our upcoming camping trips will be awesome as well (though, we don't have a camper...or a boat...and the boys LOVED each!).  :)

Today, we barely got home, unloaded the van before we headed back out to do some fishing!  We checked out a local park that we had never been to up in Sanford called SanLee Park (we had heard they stocked their pond so we were hoping for some good fishing!).  It was a really neat park and we had a ton of fun.  Of course, it helps that this old gal caught THREE fish!!  No one else managed to snag any and after a long busy weekend, people were starting to get rather fussy.  It was a fun time but a stressful time.  Three year olds are intense.  :)

Ok, so all that to say that I should have made my weekly post days ago and I'm just now able to do so.  School has been drug out for far too long!  :)  This week will be our last for the school year.  Thank goodness.  Last week was hectic and messy and we're just kinda worn out.  We are going to finish this week with a super fun unit study...as well as not so fun achievement tests.  But we're ready.  We're ready for the tests, we're ready for school to wrap up, we're ready to get summer fun started!

Don't tell the boys, but I have school plans for the summer.  Shhhhh.  We're going to have a weekly Summer Science lesson and I'm super excited about our first lesson in the "series" (see, I just make stuff up as I go along and it sounds fun!).   Hopefully, some friends of ours will join us as much as our schedules allow.  We'll also have printable games to stay on top of math facts and handwriting improvement.  I'm hoping to have them do 3-5 worksheets each week throughout the summer.  Plus, I promised Adisson that I wouldn't make him get started on his 5th grade lessons in June if he promised to read everyday, so I'm currently on the hunt for literature for homeschoolers.

We're also going to be VERY busy with Cub Scouts.  We have Day Camp scheduled, an Advancement Ceremony Overnighter, a Bike Rodeo, Rocket Day, a service project for elderly folks that attend our Scout church, and continuing on with our Hike of the Month Club.  That all means my guys will be busy learning about knots, ropes, bikes, safety, Scout history, poison ivy, animal wildlife, camping, fun, and how to spot a tick on your body after we're done hiking...among other things.

I'm going to retroactively get my posts finished up about the Conference so that maybe if you're reading this and it's not May of 2013, everything will be in order and you won't know what I'm talking about and also talk about what I scored at the book fair at the conference.  Plus, this week we'll be working on our Summer Fun List!  Stay tuned for more edge of your seat posts!! :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Balance is the Key

We are talking about maintaining our balance while doing everything. 

We have to learn to set our priorities.
To set our priorities, we need to develop a practical schedule. Start planning your schedule backwards. If you need to be in bed by 10:00, what time do your kids need to be in bed, what time do you need to make dinner, what time do you need to stop homeschooling to get dinner ready? 

We need to make time for important relationships. We need to cultivate those relationships with our children. One way to set our priorities is to be sure we carefully and prayerfully consider our outside commitments. When asked to do something, offer a quick no and a slow yes. Answer a quick no to too many outside activities while you take the time to think about it to decide what activities you truly can say yes to. 

Another way to keep the balance is to have systems in place to address problems you have. If you are stressed about meals, utilize a meal management plan. If you are perpetually late, have a system in place to get your stuff (clothes, shoes, etc) ready to go the day before, the night before.  

Ensure you manage to find some quiet time. You need to have a place of peace to pull from. 

Avoid procrastination to help maintain balance. There are 3 reasons we procrastinate. 
1. We procrastinate because we don't want to do the task--it is not a priority to us. 
2.  We procrastinate because the task is too overwhelming and we don't know where to start. 
3. We are perfectionists. We have a standard to reach and we know we are never going to reach it. 

Be at peace. To achieve and maintain balance, do so while maintaining peace in your house. 

If you compare, you will despair.

Listening to a speaker talk about what other homeschoolers won't talk about. Not all homeschoolers dress the same way, make their own bread, have organized homes, have perfect, smart children, or do amazing projects.  We are all "in process" and that's ok. 

Sometimes, I think that in comparison to other homeschool families, I'm not doing the best job that I can. I hate to be discontent with our homeschool. Because in reality, I'm doing an ok job. I often need to be reminded of that. 

The point is that I need to allow myself to realize that I'm doing a good job and to also listen to my boys to hear what they are telling me. If I listen, I'll know how they learn best. If I listen to them, I'll know that they are learning. 

I also need to realize that learning takes place in a variety of places, ways, environments. We don't have to do what everyone else is doing, we have to do what is best for us. We don't have to learn how other homeschoolers learn, we have to learn how Adisson learns, how Zander learns, and how Jaxon learns. 

I'm doing ok. You are doing ok, homeschool mom. We both are good. :)

Oh,well...

Sometimes a workshop isn't what you were hoping for. Sometimes it is good to know when to cut your losses and leave. Session 5 gave me a ton of high hopes but I knew in the first five minutes that it wasn't going to deliver. So we gathered up our notebooks and stuff and headed for the snack shop. Break time for some food and then a few minutes to spend in the vendor hall. :) Next session about time management. 

Taking the Mystery Out of Achievement Testing

We've been very apprehensive about having to administer an achievement test this year. Adisson has been struggling with math and I just don't want to have him take a test and get discouraged. Today, though, I learned that the test is just a tool and not a judge of our homeschool. If he doesn't end up scoring within the top 10%, that doesn't mean he isn't smart or that I'm not a good teacher. I guess I just need to be reminded of that. 

They discussed the many different types of tests available and the pros and cons of each. It did feel like they pushed the Woodcock-Johnson test most. That test won't work for us because it is expensive  and needs to be administered by a professional. I had planned on administering the California Achievement Test (CAT) but have since decided to use the Terra-Nova test. It's the new, updated version of the CAT and I feel it is better suited to our current needs. 

It was a good workshop and I'm glad I chose it. But I'm still not looking forward to achievement testing. :)

Conference blogging!!

Today and tomorrow I am at the NCHE Conference in Winston-Salem, NC. I registered to be a conference blogger, though I'm not exactly sure what that means, yet. In any case, my homeschool friend and I registered on-site this morning and are ready for two days of homeschool encouragement!

My first session this morning is Session 4.  I chose to sit in on an achievement testing workshop. In NC, you are required to test your kids annually, something I'm not super thrilled about. But it's the law so I'll follow the rules. :) 

The workshop is starting so I'll be back later with a review. Stay tune. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Let's get this done with already.

Ohhh, summer is in the air here.  :)  I feel like we can't get into the mood for school at all anymore.  We're pretty much just over all of it right now.  When we take time off for breaks or summer, I sometimes get the feeling like we're not maximizing on the learning potential.  I know that we're always learning and taking advantage of learning opportunities so lately I've made myself pay attention to the times we're learning when we aren't in the school room.  Like when we stopped to listen to the frogs, or when we found a lizard on the porch, or when we water the tomato and lettuce plants...learning everywhere.

Right now, we've been doing so much learning with Cub Scouts.  Our Pack has started a monthly hiking club and it's been awesome!  It definitely gives us the chance to be purposeful with our time in new nature places. It's always nice to visit new hiking trails and nature centers.  You see new animals, learn new information, and realize how much exercise hiking really is.  :)

I'm definitely going to the NCHE Conference this weekend and I'm super excited about it.  I have the super exciting pleasure of going with my awesome homeschool friend and we're soooo looking forward to some homeschool mom time and some just plain ol' mom time.  I've gotten most of my seminars picked out so far and have narrowed down the vendors I'm anxious to visit.  The next step is booking a hotel room, but I'm pretty sure that my gal pal is taking care of that.  Usually, I'm about as controlling as possible, but I'm relishing someone else making plans right about now.

Since we aren't switching curriculums, but adding to our homeschool, there isn't much that I'm looking for in the vendor hall.  I'm always interested in new homeschool resources and/or teacher resources.  Plus, I LOVE getting to stop by the Rainbow Resource booth.  They always have neat things to add into our school day.  Last year, I only got to go for the day but I enjoyed the time listening to other homeschool mom's and picked up a few goodies to bring home for the boys.

Last week, at our Cub Scout District meeting, we learned that the folks who have been putting on our District Day Camp for the last several years will not be doing it this year...just three weeks before the Camp is to take place.  Fortunately, someone stepped up to organize it but desperately needed volunteers.  OF COURSE, I said WE CAN HELP!!  We had a meeting tonight (that lasted several hours) to hash out a majority of the plans.  We basically covered the overview for the week, but we had the chance to briefly discuss some of my craft/activity ideas.  I'm hoping to help the brand new Tigers earn some achievements by playing some sports, making a few crafts, having a weather lesson, and learning about Cub Scouts.  It's going to be awesome!  A ton of planning is in my future.  :)

I suppose it's time to get to bed.  I've got a big, busy week ahead of me.  Stay tuned.... :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An ounce of preparation...

The cast is finally off!  After five weeks of a long arm cast, Adisson is free once again! :)  We're both pretty happy about it.  Now we just have to deal with his very flaky dry skin leftover.  Ewww.  Another great part is that he can finally do his own writing again.  Since he's been casted, I've had to do much of his handwriting for him...no more!

You can tell the school year is trying to wrap up around here.  The weather is nice outside and we've got a ton of outdoor chores to do that we seem to have less and less time for school work.  Even this homeschool mama is getting less interested in school.  Really, we all just want to be done with this year.  We follow a traditional school schedule, but that doesn't mean we don't do ANY learning in the summer.  We still work on reading (lots of reading), writing, and some math practice.  But it's definitely more relaxed.

This week was once again another test prep week for us.  You'd think he was trying to get into med. school with as much preparations we are doing for this test.  I'm really just trying to build up his math confidence.  It's getting better, but I'm not expecting great math scores on his EOG, whenever we decide to get that done.  Adam and I were supposed to be taking off for our anniversary trip this weekend, but my childcare plans fell through and now we can't go.  To say we're disappointed is probably the understatement of the century.  But that means I can schedule Adisson's EOG testing at a different time since my Mom won't be coming to visit.

This upcoming week will be more of the same for Adisson, only this time, he can write!  To get him back in the habit, he's going to practice with some handwriting worksheets.  I want to work on his muscle memory in his hand so he can get back to the rushed, sloppy writing I'm always nagging him about.  Zander is going to work on rhyming practice, reading, and ABC order.  Jaxon is going to work on not hitting people out of anger....we'll see how that goes.

Due to the change in plans around here, there's a possibility that I can now attend the NCHE homeschool conference.  That would be pretty awesome.  A few weeks ago, I was definitely going.  Then, after I thought about it and made some plans with my mom, I decided I didn't want to miss out on spending that time with her (by being away at the conference while she was here with the kids) so I decided not to go.  Now she's not coming and Adam will still be off that weekend (a few extra days, too since it's Memorial Day) so I can go again.  I'm still not changing curriculums, but I love to look around at different manipulatives and Science goodies.  Plus, listening to seminars is about my most homeschool favorite activity.  Seriously.  I always leave feeling like I could homeschool the world.  :)

In addition to planning out my conference visit, I'm also planning my summer planning. :)  This summer, I want to spend as much time as possible planning out our upcoming year.  With a great online curriculum, a lot of stuff is already planned out.  To prepare for the year, I want to go through the lessons and make a list of what social studies projects we're going to do and what science experiments we're going to try.  Then, I can make a list of necessary supplies so I'm ready.  Plus, if I'm prepared as the teacher, it sets my guys up to be more successful as students.

It's been another hectic school year for us and truthfully, I'm ready to wrap it up.  With the move into this house, we've been changing a few other things around here.  Chores, cleaning schedule, daily schedule, outside activities (meaning outdoors and also away from the house) and I feel like we're approaching  a groove.  I think this upcoming school year is setting up to be a good one for us.  No moving, no new family members (though I keep badgering Adam to change his mind on being military foster parents!), and while Dad will be deployed at some point during this upcoming year, once again it will be for a time frame we can handle.  My boys deserve a little stability.  I guess I'm ready for it, too.  :)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Oh math, why do you hate me?

Last week was a pretty mellow week in that we weren't running all over the place.  It was nice because I had the chance to get a lot of cleaning done around the house.  However, thanks to having three children, it's like I got nothing done at all.  :)

This being one of our last lazy weekends at home for quite some time, Adam and I spent much of yesterday cleaning out the garage.  When we moved into the house, we lost A TON of garage space.  I try not to obsess about it, but we have a ridiculously small garage, something I should have paid a lot more attention to when we were looking to buy it.  But it is what it is now.  So, a ton of crap just got tossed into the garage.  We didn't have garage door openers (because those don't come with a new house apparently) and we needed to get our shed built (because we had zero space in the garage) so the garage just moved way down on The List.  But we have garage door openers now and our shed was built last month so we finally got around to getting the garage cleaned out.  My van BARELY fits, I mean seriously, barely but it's in there.  :)  Anyway, back to school stuff....

We're still in Math Overdrive here.  A huge plus is that Adisson's Time4Learning math lessons have had printable worksheets for every single new concept.  It's been a lifesaver.  Between worksheets and online math games, I feel like we are starting to make some progress.  Last week our focus was on perimeter and area.  Because my Mom is coming to visit (HOLY SMOKES I'M SO EXCITED!!  She hasn't been to visit us in two years so we're so anxious to have her visit us instead of us having to go to Ohio!) I think we need to get Adisson's EOG testing done before she gets here.  Otherwise, I'm going to lose out on all that we've done.  I've been going back and forth on whether or not we'll do paper testing or online testing.  We use the CAT for our standardized test because it's easier than most and I loathe standardized testing and both options are available.  I think we'll likely do online testing because he's already so familiar with online work anyway.

I'd like to get some practice in this week, but in order to practice for a big test like that, he's going to need some absolute peace and quiet and that's not a common sound in this house, thank you Jaxon.  Hopefully, I can sway Jax with some nap times and bribe him with video games if nothing else works.  I just want to be done, honestly.  I'm just ready to wrap this year up.  I'm tired of crazy, hectic years.  In the six years that Adisson has been homeschooled, we've either moved, Daddy's been deployed, or welcomed a brother...and I just want a year of stability.  We've stuck with the same curriculum for over a year now (which is a record for us!!) and I just want to find our rhythm.  I feel like as soon as we get it all sorted out, a big life change comes along.

I want to take this summer, get my year alllll planned out.  We're adding in a few things to our school year, still sticking with Time4Learning as our core, but I want to be sure to include suggested projects and experiments.  Science activities are the boys favorite part of school so I want to be more intentional in my planning and prep for the upcoming year.

Anyway, it's time for bed.  I need my sleep for yet another math filled week...don't be jealous! :)