Friday, February 28, 2014

The Life of a Homeschooling Military Family: Flexibility

Last week, I blogged about ways our homeschool was different because we're a military family.  One of the ways that our homechool is the same as just about everyone else is that we enjoy the flexibility that homeschooling offers our family.  Some of the reasons, however, are specifically because we're a military family.  I'm going to use several military acronyms or phrases in this post, but will explain each one for my non-military friends.  :)



Flexibility in our Military Life

Military work schedules vary widely.  Some people work a regular first shift job, some servicemembers work different shifts, some work for a few days then they are off for a few days and repeat the schedule.  They deploy, go TDY (that means travel for work), attend a variety of schools or training courses, and have field exercises. Suffice it to say, there's rarely a period of consistency.

There's a saying in the military, "Hurry up and wait."  We say it around here to remind ourselves that the Army making very important decisions for us. "When is your training?" " When do you deploy?" "When do you come home?"  And then there's the exciting occurrence of "coming down on orders"--for you civilian folks, that means getting word that it's time to move.  The news of orders mean you could have anywhere from 6 months or more to get everything in order prior to PCS-ing (moving) or you could have just 45 days.  Or less!

Flexibility.  

In an environment such as ours, we have no choice but to be flexible.  Someone else is making decisions that directly affect our family and there's not much we can do about that.  Being an Army family was a choice we made a long time ago so we accept the decisions made for us and do the best we can.  I'm not saying everything has been sunshine and roses for the past decade, I just mean we can choose to be flexible or we can choose to be defiant.  Only one of those behaviors is going to work out in this lifestyle.



Get it?  Because rubber bands are flexible.  :)

Flexibility in Our Homeschooling

When Adam is away, we tend to get a little more work done in our homeschool. We often do a little extra schoolwork in the evening after dinner or maybe a little on the weekends. When he's away for extended periods of time, we have the option to pack it up and travel "home" to see family.  This works out well for us because we are able to visit extended family members without giving up family time with Dad.  If the boys were attending public school, traveling wouldn't be an option for us.

By working hard while Dad is away, being able to take time off when he returns--especially from a lengthy deployment--is a great  blessing to us.  Reintegration as a family can be a difficult time so being able to focus solely on our family following a deployment is crucial to our well-being.  This also works well for when Adam has a long weekend because we're able to take those days off along with him.  However, we do try to use "four-days" (long weekend with four days off, typically Friday through Monday) as fun science days or field trip days.

You can see why flexibility is a great attribute to our homeschooling and military life.  We have to be flexible as a military family because we are not the ones in control in certain decision making aspects and we are flexible in our homeschool as a result of those decisions.

How does being flexible shape your homeschool life?








Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Delayed Weekly Recap



So.  Last week got away from me, in a very big way!  As I mentioned in my previous post, this weekend was our largest Cub Scout event of the year, our Blue & Gold Banquet.  This is when we celebrate the founding of Boy Scouts and it's a very big deal for us!  We started working on planning the event back in January, though I'm fairly certain my friend Erin and I have been planning it since last year's Blue & Gold ended.  :)  Putting together a party for 150 people is a time consuming task.  I definitely wasn't alone in the planning or execution of the event, but I was very busy on the committee.  You'll find plenty of Blue & Gold photos peppered throughout this post

Zander just had his face painted as part of his Tiger rank!

It was a wonderful time.  So many people said this was the best Blue & Gold they had ever attended, which makes me feel like the hectic 48 hours prior to the evening were all worth it!  Sadly, I didn't allow myself enough rest and I managed to allow a cold to creep in.  Ugh.  I feel rather crummy today.

Mom pinning on his Tiger rank.

And because I was so busy last week, I didn't have the chance to get you caught up on our week of learning with our Weekly Recap.  So, that's what I'm doing today!  :)  I'll hope you'll forgive my tardiness as I'm certain you've been waiting with much anticipation!


Cutest Tiger in the world! :)  And his adoring Mom/Den Leader.


In teaching Zander how to tell time lately, I've realized he doesn't have a strong understanding of the days of the week.  There's a funny little days of the week song sung to the tune of The Addams Family song, but Zander has despised it tremendously since he was younger.  Subsequently, he hasn't been fond of any days of the week song I've found.  Last week, I decided to concentrate on days of the week and how time is recorded with a watch and calendars.  He did very well with the fun worksheets and games we played and also aced his time lesson quizzes on Time4Learning.  He received an analog watch for Christmas (a Spiderman watch, nonetheless) but was incredibly annoyed with me when he realized through the course of his T4L lessons that there was such thing as a digital watch!  I found it rather funny since he reads the time on the oven all day long!


Adisson earning his Arrow of Light award.  I'm so very proud of him!

Adisson got caught up in reading last week and lacked the time management skills necessary to complete his science lessons.  I suppose the fault lies with me, as well.  I give him limited windows of opportunity to work with me on his lessons as there are several other people I'm caring for in this house as well as the countless tasks I take on.  This week, we'll be hard at work on his studies, so a post as part of our science series will be forthcoming.  After all, if we can't fit in science in elementary years, we're going to have a much more difficult time as he gets older!


Zander's Tiger Cake for the cake auction.  

With Pinewood Derby and Blue and Gold out of the way, we have a few weeks of peacefulness as far as Scouts are concerned.  I'm delighted for the break.  I love Cub Scouts, but February has been a very busy time and I could use some rest.  Plus, I've been working quite a bit on my blog lately and I'd like to be able to devote some more time to writing.

Adisson's Arrow of Light cake for the cake auction.


And so I don't leave anyone out of this photo-filled post, here's a picture of my handsome little monster hanging out as we were gearing up for the party.  Fortunately, I was able to have the best babysitter agree to spend the evening at the banquet keeping Jaxon entertained.  As busy as I am during events, he can get a little lost in the shuffle.  Thankfully, he had a friend to hang out with all evening!

Not sure what he's begging for, but when he's that cute, I have a hard time saying no.


Now, back to your regularly scheduled day.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures and thanks for stopping by!







Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Busy Life of a Scout Mom

We've been incredibly busy for the last few weeks and by we, I mostly mean just me.  A few weeks ago, the funnest event of the Cub Scouting year took place...the Pinewood Derby!

Our cars!  Adam's, Adisson's, Jaxon's, Zander's, and mine--the pretty pink car!
We had five cars in the race this year, including my first ever derby car!  It was so much fun and we did really well!  Adisson and Zander both placed first in their dens and will be advancing to the District Pinewood Derby at the end of March.  Jaxon placed fourth in the siblings division and I placed second in the Outlaw (or adult) division!  Second place with the first car I've ever made!  I was elated and so were my fellas.  They can't wait to race again at the District race!
My oldest first place winner!

My younger first place winner! 

But that leads me to the other reason I've been so very busy this month.  Pinewood Derby may be the funnest event of the year, but our biggest event is the Blue and Gold Banquet.  It's quickly approaching (just two days away!) and being on the Blue and Gold Committee has kept me very busy!  I'll hopefully have plenty of pictures to share with you next week after the event, but I have to show you this (really poor quality) photo of the centerpieces Zander made in his den meeting this week.

Tigers!  Zander's is on the right.

I'm Zander's den leader this year, so I had to come up with centerpiece ideas.  Our theme for the banquet is The Great Outdoors, and some of the other dens have some great centerpieces to match the theme, but I really wanted to make these precious Tigers for one reason.  A few years ago, Adisson made this centerpiece as his Tiger centerpiece for the Blue and Gold Banquet.  And I just loved it!  I'm pretty sure I'm going to post a tutorial on how to make one because I think there are a whole lot of other little Tiger Cubs would love these guys!  (Also--this wasn't an original idea of mine.  I wish I knew who thought of it because they are brilliant and I would love to thank them!)

Anyway, between homeschool, work, Adam's work schedule, snow days, and being very busy with our biggest Cub Scout events, this has been a hectic month.  Sometimes, being busy wears on me a tiny bit, but I love it.  I love my sons, I love my sweet little Tiger Cubs, and I love the 47 other Cub Scouts I get to see every Tuesday night.  It may be busy, but it sure is fun!!



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Our Homeschool is Different

I've been browsing a lot of blogs today.  It's always nice to see ways I can improve my blog, if only I were better at some web/graphic design.  I learn something else when reading homeschool blogs...every single homeschool is wildly different.  When you throw in the military aspect of our homeschool, we're set apart in yet another way.




Living Away from Family
Truthfully, this fact rarely ever escapes me.   I'd love it if a grandparent could stop by for the morning while we're learning about The Gold Rush or help us make a model of a plant cell.  It would be great to spend an afternoon with one of their uncles playing ball or running around with their cousins.  While it's difficult to be away, the bond we share as a family of five is truly remarkable.  Whether we're doing something incredible or just hanging around watching a movie, we're most at peace when the five of us are together.  Still, it would be really nice to be closer to family. 


Moving/PCSing
We have lived in three states over the past ten years.  I'm an expert at downsizing and a pro at handling pre-move checklists.  We've moved away from a house we've owned and sold it from another state, we've moved on-post just to buy a house off-post, we've moved off-post, just to come down on orders less than a year later.  We have three sons, each born in a different state.  As a homeschooling family, our school doesn't change when we move, whether it's a move across town or to a new state.  While we've never been lucky enough to explore some amazing overseas country, we have had the opportunity to see places we might not have seen otherwise.  We're a few hours drive to the beach or the mountains depending on the direction we're heading.  It can be stressful to move, yet again, but the possibilities and field trips it provides are incredible.




Deployment/School/Training/Extended TDY trips
Adam has deployed, gone away to school, been away for training, had TDY assignments...long story short, he travels.  And that leaves me at home to do it all.  Gone is co-parent, my handyman, my partner in life.  If something breaks, I have to fix it or find someone who can.  And trust me, when Dad leaves something is going to break.  I've blown an engine in a vehicle while Adam was away for awhile (WOWZA, that was expensive!).  I've taught kids to read, we've discussed subjects that Adam would be far better suited to teach, I've been to homeschool conventions solo, and decided on curriculum by myself.  In the moments when there's no one else to carry the load, you can do one of two things: you can keep going or you can just stop.  A military wife doesn't have much of a choice...she keeps going.  But it's in those moments you realize something inspiring--you can do it.  You are strong enough.




There are some of the ways that our homeschool is probably different from yours.  And your homeschool is different from ours.  Isn't that the point?  One of the greatest benefits to homeschooling is tailoring education to fit the needs of your child.  We also tailor education to fit the needs of our family and lifestyle.  I would have no idea what it would be like to be a homeschooling family without being an Army family.  The military may add some difficulties to our lives, but it's a choice we made nearly 11 years ago and it's the choice we'd make again today.

If you are a homeschooling military family, what do you find is different in your homeschool as opposed to our civilian counterparts?



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

NCHE Annual Conference and Book Fair


We've lived in North Carolina for two years. In those two years, I've attended the NCHE Conference in Winston-Salem twice. It's an incredible conference. There are inspiring speakers, a kids program, a talent showcase, and an enormous vendor hall. Another really neat feature of the conference is their graduation ceremony for homeschool graduates. 

I'll be attending the conference again in May. This year, however, there's another reason this conference will be so exciting for me--I've been selected to be an NCHE Conference blogger. Awesome, right? 

I'll be posting more conference specifics in the coming months. What I want to be sure to share with y'all today is a very important detail--early bird registration ends on February 28.  Registering now will save you $15!




If you are considering attending, and I definitely think that you should, this is a great time to register!  If you've never been to a conference, I have no doubt that you will leave Winston-Salem, encouraged and energized for your homeschool!

As I said, I'll be highlighting conference features starting in March and I'll even be hosting a fabulous giveaway soon, so subscribe to my blog to stay "in the know!" 

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Homeschool Leadercast

Have you ever heard of The Homeschool Leadercast?  If you are a homeschooler, you have got to check it out!  Have you ever wanted to interview the founders of the Teach Them Diligently Convention, Dr. Jay Wile of Apologia, or Crystal Paine of www.moneysavingmom.com?  Well, The Homeschool Leadercast has already done that for you!  Here you will find over 40 interviews with some of the biggest names in homeschooling...and some lesser known homeschoolers as well.  The interview count is growing each week!




So why am I plugging +The Homeschool Leadercast site?  There are a few reasons, actually.  First and foremost, it's an incredible resource for homeschoolers.  There's a supreme wealth of information and encouragement at your fingertips!  I want to spread the word because I want my homeschooling friends to benefit from this amazing site.  Secondly, I want to ask you to do me a favor.  The Homeschool Leadercast is trying very hard to be heard on iHeart Radio.  In order for that to happen, they need to have 100 followers on Spreaker.com.  This is where you come in.  I would LOVE it if you could go to www.spreaker.com and create an account.

STEP ONE: 

Head over to Spreaker.com to create an account.  I used my email address as opposed to linking my facebook profile but the option is yours, of course.




STEP TWO:

I've entered The Homeschool Leadercast in my search bar.  Also, I'm still setting up my account so these suggestions are merely the default suggestions.  :)  I'll be working on my profile to reflect my actual preferences.  After entering in The Homeschool Leadercast, hit enter so you are directed to their profile.




STEP THREE:

Click on the yellow button that says FOLLOW.  This will make you a follower of The Homeschool Leadercast.  And while you're there, scroll through all of those awesome episodes and start listening!




Ok, so why is this important to me?  First of all, I know the person behind The Homeschool Leadercast and he is a wonderful, encouraging person.  And because (drumroll, please) a few weeks ago, yours truly was interviewed for an upcoming episode!  That's right, my name will be listed among those inspirational homeschooling superheroes.  I still get actual goosebumps when I think about it.

So, go follow The Homeschool Leadercast on Spreaker.  Be encouraged, uplifted, and energized by the words of some awe-inspiring people.  You won't be disappointed!  And your "follow" will enable these interviews to be heard on iHeart Radio, reaching even more people!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dig Out the Microscope!



My favorite part of science is a microscope. I love to look at things through a microscope. My mom was in nursing school when I was a little girl and one day she took us to the science lab. It was incredible. There was so much to see, to take in. And the microscopes--very, very nice microscopes.

With the end of Adisson's electricity unit began his organisms unit. I knew what that meant---MICROSCOPE!! You'd think my love of the instrument would mean we would have a very nice microscope. We don't. But what we have is sufficient, for now. :)

The start of our new unit was the discussion of cells. I began searching for some science printables, kindergarten through fourth grade as I figured that would be the range in which both boys could participate.  Once those were printed, we gathered our supplies.  Our experiment called for dyeing a piece of onion skin with food coloring to better see the cells in the skin of the onion.  I've been looking up some information online regarding science about plants and also have a few books on the shelf to reference as well.  Also, if you decide to do this experiment, be forewarned that blue food coloring instantly turns your skin blue.  It also doesn't come off right away. :)

Microscope, food coloring, onion, and experiment details.


Blue onion skin.

A blurry view of what we saw under the scope.

The boys enjoyed using the microscope. It's exciting to see a world so tiny, one you cannot see with just your eyes. After this experiment, we discussed Robert Hooke and how he changed the way we see things by using a microscope.  Then, the boys had some time to look at the prepared slides that had come in our kit.  Naturally, they enjoy the slides of bugs and/or bug parts the most.  They are anxious to get to other experiments in the coming weeks. 

This week, another winter storm is headed for us.  We have plenty of food and plenty to keep us busy.  My greatest concern is losing power because I don't fancy the idea of being without heat.  If you are in the path of a storm this week, I'll be praying power stays on for both of us!  Don't tell anyone, but as much as I dislike (maybe even hate) the cold weather and snow, it sure is pretty when it's falling.  shhhhhh.....

Anyway, what are some of your favorite things to look at under the microscope?  






Monday, February 10, 2014

When a Chronic Illness Takes Over




I've blogged before about dealing with a chronic illness while homeschooling.  Last week was one of those weeks.  I spent all of Monday morning at the clinic for my infusion and then decided to capitalize on having a babysitter at home with the boys to run an errand.  It was a very beneficial visit to my favorite homeschool bookstore, but I really should have come home and gone to bed.  Truthfully, it just wasn't a good week.

Some days I feel like I'm trying to walk in quicksand.  Or that my arms and legs are weighed down with cinder blocks.  The exhaustion has been nearly overwhelming.  Despite an endless list of things to do, I feel like I'm glued to the couch.  And really, I have no time for that.  This is a busy month for Cub Scouts, with our two biggest events being held in February.  I'm trying to get into a better groove of school for my boys and better time management to my day.  Just as soon as I get a schedule figured out and we start finding our rhythm, I'm knocked over by my disorder.

If you want my real opinion on that, it sucks.  If I was hearing this story from a friend, I would say to her to allow herself some grace, that the kids would be fine, that learning was taking place regardless.  When I'm the person that needs to hear that, I don't believe a word of it.  I love homeschooling.  Like LOVE it.  It's as much a part of me as any other aspect of parenting.  I feel like I'm missing the fun in homeschooling because I get so concerned with how much work is getting done.  When I feel so poorly, the work is being done, but not with the zeal that "Healthy Nicole" brings to the table.  Now, I'm kind of just going through the motions.

I hate that.  I want more for myself and more for the school day taking place at my house.  I don't have energy for anymore.  I want to be a Homeschool Supermom that you see all over the internet.  I want to do more for preschool with Jaxon and more fun first grade stuff and cool, awesome fifth grade stuff--like building a model of The Alamo--a project that got sidelined due to my lack of energy.  :(

Maybe this week will be better. I'm ready for this week to be better.  Our Cub Scout Pinewood Derby is over, the planning for the Banquet is going really well.  There's a long weekend waiting for us at the end of this week.  But I think the biggest reason that this week might be better is because I'm going to allow myself some grace.  Some weeks may not be so great, some may be awesome, but every week that we're together, learning at home, is a win.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The End of Electricity




Finally!! We have finished our electricity unit!  I shouldn't be so excited, but I'm ready to move on to some new material.

Over the last few weeks, we've tried several different experiments to illustrate science to the boys. They have really enjoyed it. It's exciting to see science come alive and talk about how science is all around us. 

As this unit ended, we pulled out one of our coolest homeschool resources, Snap Circuits. We've been using it throughout our lessons on electricity, but I also wanted to focus on conducting experiments with household materials. This time, the boys were able to work the Snap Circuits in any way they chose instead of the lesson directing us. 
The boys have assembled a circuit.
Here's a photo of the fan blade after it flies up in the air.
That was supposed to happen. :)

Ok, I'll admit...electricity can be fun. 

Our next unit is about organisms. Nana would be fun to have around for this one because she is a nurse. The woes of living away from family.  I'm ready to start talking about things I might understand a little better and work on some new experiments discussing living and nonliving things.

Also, I wanted to tell you about a few giveaways being hosted over at The Arrowood Zoo.  She's giving away some Bic Magic Window Markers:

Click on the photo to enter!


And coupons for FREE Purex Crystals:
Click on the photo to enter!


So I know I don't typically post about giveaways and freebies.  Really, there are about a billion sites and/or blogs that you can browse everyday to find cool giveaways and neat freebies.  However, these items are being given away by a blogging "friend" (who I'll meet in real life later this year!) and I want to pass the word along.  The markers giveaway ends TODAY (February 4th, 2014) so hurry up and enter!  

Also, did you see a (very) subtle change to my blog?  It's a small change, you might not notice it, it's barely detectable....it's not a design or layout feature, the colors are all the same....it's something else.  Hmmmmm....

And here's pictures of what the boys did today while I was cleaning the kitchen.

Stuck inside?  Apparently, you set up toilet paper bowling.



Knocked down three, way to go Adisson. :)