Sunday, December 29, 2013

See Ya Later, 2013!

Our time with family has been incredible.  I miss Ohio terribly.  And I miss my nieces and nephews about as much as my heart can miss someone.  I won't spend time this evening dreaming of a day when I could have Aunt 'Cole sleepovers with forts made of sheets, homemade cookies, and staying up late watching movies.  I wish for that so much, though.

Our visit has also been spent with sick kids.  Coughs that keep people awake, sniffles that won't go away, and countless snotty tissues.  The icing on the cake, however, has been an ER visit today with the middle guy and his horrendous ear infection.  He's spent all evening on the couch, skipping dinner, and crying when the medication wears off.  It's been a rough few weeks for my kiddos.

Sad little kid.

So, the beginning of a whole new year is upon us.  A time for reflection of the year that has passed and the one beginning.  I still make New Year's resolutions and flake on nearly all of them.  I still wish to be in better shape, the house to be cleaner, money to be better managed, and school to be the best it's ever been.  I'll keep my personal goals to myself, mostly because I haven't decided on all of them, yet, but I'm hoping to share some new goals regarding our homeschool...as soon as I narrow them down.

We didn't have enough field trips or do enough fun science.  We didn't read enough books or practice enough handwriting.  We followed the curriculum too closely or not enough.  We made plans and bailed on them or simply didn't make any.

How will this year be better?  Maybe it's not a New Year's resolution at all, but a desire to constantly be improving, or merely trying to do so.  Even when things are going well, I don't want to be still and let something amazing pass by.  More importantly, when things aren't going well, I want to take notice and react.  When Adisson couldn't get over his hurdles in math, I found something else that worked.  When Zander got bored with his reading, we tried something new.  But there's more improvement needed in other important areas.

Whether I call them goals or resolutions makes no difference, it still means I want to see some changes.  It's exciting to be offered a new, clean slate.  A new year filled with promise of 365 new days.  This week, I'm going to really focus on what I can do to ensure I'm providing my sons with the best education I can.  So if we need writing homework help, I'm ready to find it.  Over the last month, I've made a point of finding fun science activities for us to do together and I know they want that to continue.  My next blog post will outline the changes I'm hoping to see in our upcoming year.  Until next year...

My guys in their new creeper hoodies!
Happy New Year!



Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Nearly Christmas and the Kids are Sick

It's finally the week of Christmas!  It's an exciting and magical time of the year! The kids have been looking forward to the season for months.

And now they are all sick.



I thought it would be a brief cold and they'd all be over it in just a few days.

But it's not.  And the clinic is full and appointments are scarce so I'm sure we'll be spending most of our Monday with a hope and prayer that we'll be seen.  It's likely that what they have is viral and has to run its course--leaving me with the process of treating the symptoms in attempts to make them comfortable. Not how I pictured our Christmas going. 

So last week was a pretty nice one, despite the onset of the crud. We did a lot of neat projects together that made them forget they were sick...for a minute. Some of the highlights include making Borax slime, cinnamon ornaments (which failed because I forgot to grease the sheet before baking them), trying our hand at making artificial snow from a dollar store craft kit, and wrapping presents. It was just nice to be with the kids, really with them. Not worried about school work and how much we were getting done (or how much we weren't). It was nice to play, to make, to laugh. We are a pretty close family by nature but there's something about Christmas and creating that really bring us together.

Our Borax slime!  It was cool to make and  fun to squeeze!


This week, we are heading home. Home for me is Ohio, though my children have never really known that as home. Adisson was 1 when we left Ohio for good. The little boys have never lived there. I keep telling Adam that as soon as he retires, we are going home to Ohio. I wonder if that is true. By then, our sons will be grown and likely on their own, making their lives in North Carolina. As much as I want to be near our family, I'll always want to be near my sons.

Make Your Own Snow kit we scored from the Dollar Tree.


Anyway, we are finally breaking for Christmas. As the year draws to a close, I have ideas and plans for next year. I'll discuss my resolutions for 2014 when I write up next week's blog post. I know I want to focus more on science education because it's the one thing we can all do together. I also want to remind myself that there is homeschool help available. I don't have to do it all on my own. But more on that next week. 

For now, though, I wish you the merriest of Christmases.  If you are fortunate enough to live near extended family, take a minute to recognize the blessing you have been afforded. Forming an Army family is truly a gift and the best way to make it through the difficulties military families face; but that never really takes the place of your family.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are so important and are missed when separated by distance.  I'm so beyond excited to spend time with our family this week.  Even with sick kiddos.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mama Needs to Slow Down!

Around this time each year, I start pondering my goals for the upcoming year.  I still call them New Year's Resolutions, but I've really been trying to focus on setting a few attainable goals.  Next year's goal is going to be time management.  I stink at managing my time well.  Some days, I'm a rock star.  Other days, I'm wandering around the house in my pajamas when Adam gets home from work.  That's embarrassing to admit, but I appreciate a little transparency now and then.

I know that Christmas falls on December 25th every single year.  It's not like Easter...who shows up anywhere from the beginning of March to the end of April.  Nope.  It's the 25th of December, every single year.  Yet, here it is--9 days before Christmas--and I've got gifts I haven't purchased and handmade gifts I haven't even begun.  That's when I get aggravated at my poor planning skills.  It also doesn't help that I'm a "Yes Man."  Need something done?  I can do it!  I rarely say no.  I can't help it, I guess.



Anyway, this weekend, we were so blessed with the ability to visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  It was a lovely place to see, but sadly, we didn't get to do much exploring.  The weather was very dreary and filled with days of cold temperatures and rain.  Not a lot of sightseeing was done.  We did get to check out a super neat toy shop and also a really interesting shop of Scottish goodies which was especially nice for Adam since his family hails from Scotland (still working on that ancestry stuff!).  It was nice to get away for a few days, even if my dream trip to Williamsburg wasn't as exciting as I had hoped.

My little guys with a very large Scottish bear.  


Our school schedule remains light as we spend time working on crafts and Christmas projects.  Here's a rundown of our week of homeschooling:

Math

  • Adisson learned a little about geometry, algebra, and multiplication.
  • Zander is learning to tell time.


Handwriting

  • Adisson is still working on correct cursive handwriting.
  • Zander is still working on lowercase letters.


Reading

  • Adisson spent time re-reading Henry and Ribsy (though, I'm not sure why).
  • Zander is working on reading compound words and early reader books.


Christmas Unit Study
We learned about Mary and Joseph and their trek to Bethlehem.  We learned about Gabriel and his visit to Mary.  We learned about Caesar Augustus and the census.  We read together and prayed together.  It was lovely.

Crafts
We did a few Christmas crafts.  The boys LOVED gluing cotton balls to Santa's face.

Not a great photo, but a neat-o craft!



Science
We did an AWESOME homeschool science project!  Wanting to find something to capture the interest of my guys, I found a cool experiment while browsing around my Google+ that mentioned making snowflakes from Borax.  We tried it, it worked, it was so cool. :)

How awesome is this?!
This week, we'll try to finish up our unit study and work on some more fun Christmas stuff.  I'm a teeeeensy bit overwhelmed with my to-do list, but I'm hoping my little guys can help me with some of it.  I also want to take a minute to remember that this is a magical time of year and I want the boys to remember the fun stuff we did...not that mom was running around like a headless chicken.  I'll leave you with a picture of my guys with Santa, the first one in years!

My handsome fellas and Santa.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homeschooling During the Christmas Season

I love Christmastime!  I feel like there's so many things we could do each day.  Typically, I see that as on opportunity, though some days I feel a bit overwhelmed because we could be doing so much more...thank you, Pinterest.  This year, we've decided to incorporate a unit study into our homeschool for the month of December.  I like the idea of all of us working together.

Last Week in Our Homeschool

Last week, we got started on our unit study and our Christmas lapbook.  We begin with reading together then working on some copywork.  We have time for discussion and questions before we get started on our arts and craft project.  Later in the day, the boys work on their reading and math.  They seem to like the break in our routine.  We will continue school for this week and next before we take our time off for Christmas.

Zander making his snowman picture.

Few things are more precious than brothers working together.


We still find ways to incorporate science education into our discussions.  Last week, our snowman pictures were made by drawing a snowman onto blue construction paper (finally, a use for white crayons!).  We then painted over the paper with a saltwater mixture (made with equal parts of Epsom salt and hot water).  When you painted the water onto the picture, it just looked like the picture was wet.  When it dried, the saltwater mixture crystallized onto the paper.  Our snowmen looked like they were caught in a blizzard!

Social studies has turned into a geography lesson for us as we locate Nazareth and Bethlehem on a map and discuss how the middle east has changed from biblical times into what we know it as today.  The boys enjoy geography and talking about maps.  I suppose that explains why they draw themselves a map for nearly every adventure they find themselves imagining for the day.

This week in our Homeschool

Well, truthfully, it will be much of the same.  And I love it!  We'll continue on with our unit study and lapbook, while adding in math and reading.  We'll find a cool science experiment/project to do and incorporate some homeschool social studies, as well.

On Thursday afternoon, we are attending a Children's Christmas Party at Adam's shop.  The kids are very excited!  We went last year, but Jaxon was terrible so we had to leave early.  Plus, Adam was deployed at the time so I was wrangling the kiddos in a VERY hectic environment all by myself.  But the kids just remember the fun of it so they are looking forward to it quite a bit.

This weekend, we are VERY happy to be heading to Williamsburg, Virginia!  I've never been and I cannot wait to go, especially during this season!  The kids always get excited to stay in a hotel so it doesn't take much to entice them.  Hopefully, for next week's homeschool update post, I'll have some lovely Williamsburg pictures to share with you!

We have several Christmas traditions in our family and the kids love them.  I also want them to know that at Christmastime each year, Mom made school special.  I want to learn in ways we don't typically utilize, I want to talk more, be together more, read more.  I want the days leading up to Christmas to feel magical and special.  I want them to know that there is far more to this season than gifts.  When they think of Christmas, I want them to think of love.  That is my wish for this year and every year.  May it be yours as well.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness




Four years ago, I was given an answer to a lifelong question.  The answer was an autoimmune disorder and the question was “Why have I been sick my entire life?” At that time, I was in the homeschooling trenches with my 2nd grader, preschooler, and new baby on my hip.  Truthfully, the answer gave me so much relief and comfort that I could finally see how I could juggle life with an illness.  Before I began my monthly blood treatment, I was sick more often than not.  When the treatment finally began, I could focus on the side effects of the disorder as opposed to just being ill all of the time.

My health has dramatically improved over the last three years; however, the afflictions that come with the disorder make themselves known.  I battle constant fatigue, joint pain and swelling, and other internal ailments.  Some days, getting out of bed takes all of the energy I can muster.  On those days, I know school is going to be on the lighter side.

How can I cope with a chronic illness and maintain a homeschool schedule?  The easy answer is that I plan for it.  I know there are days that I am not going to be able to jump into a big project or experiment.  Fortunately, we use a curriculum that requires as much involvement as I want to give or as little as I can spare.  On a normal day, I have two boys working on their Time4Learning  lessons at the same time so I can answer questions, read to them, or offer any clarifications.  On the days I cannot monitor them as closely, they work on reviewing lessons or moving forward with self-directed learning that doesn't require as much of my assistance.

I also have a checklist of activities for us to do when I need to be able to rest more.  I have set aside books to read together and keep some interesting documentaries in our Netflix queue.  We enjoy crafts, so my oldest son will work with his younger brothers on some easier, seasonal projects.  I save some of our homeschool favorites for those days, as well, like Play-doh, wax sticks, puzzles, etc.

Most importantly, I realize that I need to allow myself some grace.  I remind myself that a day here or there is not going to be so detrimental to my children that I won’t be able to make up the time lost.  If they need some additional help from Dad due to my increased need for rest, I've got to ask for it.  I know that science may have to wait until Dad comes home from work or the social studies project of the old west frontier may be put on hold, but my sons are learning something books cannot teach them.  They are learning to be compassionate and understanding.  They are learning to have empathy for those that are sick and learning to care for the family around them.  Isn’t that one of the best parts of homeschooling anyway?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's Christmas Time Pretty Baby!

Oh my goodness, it's been a busy few days!  Our Thanksgiving dinner (on Wednesday) with our very large, extended military family (my husband's unit) was nearly derailed due to a flat tire on the van.  After that situation was taken care of and we made it to the DFAC, our middle son got sick on the way home...in the car.  Of course. :)

How We Celebrated Last Week

Our own family dinner on Thanksgiving Day was perfectly wonderful.  My husband and oldest son were very helpful with preparing food and the little boys were very helpful by watching the parade on TV.  We skype'd with my in-laws a few times throughout the day and the boys were pretty excited about that.  I'm pretty sure the grandparents liked it even more.

Not the best shot, but my boys on Thanksgiving!
Friday, my oldest son turned 11.  He's a pretty awesome kid and we're so blessed by him each day.  We had a laid back day of celebrating and me reminding him (again) that our trip to Orlando was part of his birthday gift.  He did end up with some really cool Lego sets and the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book so he was very happy.  He and I took off in the afternoon to FINALLY go see Catching Fire, the second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy.  It was a good movie and it was good to hang out with him.  He typically enjoys solo time with Dad, so it's nice that we have something to share, just the two of us.

Happy  11th Birthday, Adisson!
On Saturday, THE BIG GAME had finally arrived.  Ohio State vs. Michigan.  I'd been waiting all season to see an awesome OSU football game and we'd been planning a party to celebrate the day since April.  Friends of ours are die hard Michigan fans so we invited them over to see the game.  It was a nail biter and came down to the last minute. I'm thrilled to tell you...Ohio State prevailed.  :)

Mmmmmm, Buckeyes!!

We also put up our Christmas tree!  I'm one of those people that take photos of the tree and share them.  I was really trying to point out how cute it is when kids just hang ornaments wherever without rhyme or reason.  I'll share our photo here as well.

Merry Christmas!

Don't want to leave out our Star Wars Stockings!
So what does all of that have to do with school?  Nothing.  :)  That's how our week went.  We made a ton of memories.  Some situations weren't so funny when we were in the middle of them, but already we laugh when we tell them.  We were reminded that it's difficult to be away from family, but it's such a gift to all be together for a holiday.  Last Thanksgiving, Adam was deployed.  He's missed several Thanksgivings.  This year, though, the five of us were thankful together.

How we reach stuff on the top shelf! 

What We Plan on Doing in December

As December falls upon us, we'll have lighter school days.  We'll still read, do math, practice handwriting, but we'll add in crafts, baking, and hopefully a few field trips.  We'll revisit our art curriculum and spend some time making our own art, which will be great for my right-brained visual learner.  We'll count down the days until Christmas and until we finally head back to Ohio for a long overdue visit.  It's going to be a great month!

Didn't want to leave Zander out since there were pictures of his brothers.  Isn't he cute?!