Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Perfect Ending

Autumn is my favorite season.  There is something so peaceful in waking up to a chill in the air and warming my hands around my coffee mug.

As the leaves begin to turn, the trees burst forth into their final masterpiece before sleeping through the stillness of winter.  There is so much color and life getting ready to settle in.

The busyness of a new season keeps us running, but there is so much we are missing.  If only we could sit still and savor the beauty of the season.  The beauty of a time of change.

Last night, after the dinner dishes were cleared, I bundled up the children and we went outside to light a campfire.

Their sticky faces, peeking out of their hooded sweatshirts, glowed gently in the firelight.

I sat there hugging our toddler as she covered me in graham cracker crumbs.  I watched my older children marvel at the way marshmallows change in the heat of a campfire.

Sparks flew into the night like fireflies and the gentle cracklings of the burning logs broke the silence of a perfect evening.

It was the simplest of moments but it made the perfect ending to an autumn day.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pet Peeves

I'm sure we all have things in life that really get to us.  Those little annoyances that can be so frustrating to one, may seem ridiculous to another.  I guess it's just how we are wired.

I'm blaming my father.

I remember as a child, my normally mild-mannered father, freaking out because someone forget to put the twist tie back on the loaf of bread.  I learned my lesson and changed my ways.

I will never forget the look on my husband's face, early in our marriage, when I yelled at him for losing the twist tie to the bread bag.  It was a look of part fear, part trying not to laugh, part 'crazy lady, you need to calm down!'. 

Apparently I married a man who will lose the twist tie every time he makes a sandwich.  Every. Time.

I've learned to adjust.  I've stopped nagging and started hoarding twist ties just in case.  Crisis resolved and our marriage was saved.  :)

I think that has been the hardest adjustment for me in becoming a wife, mother, and homemaker.  I like things to be the way I like them but in this full and busy house, rarely do things stay where I put them.

Another thing that really annoys me is broken DVD cases, or movies that are put back in the wrong box, or left out of their box altogether.  GRRRRR!!!!  You better watch out!

DVD storage has been an issue in our house for years.  It was seriously causing stress in my life.  That's why I am so excited that I think I have finally found a solution.

When we moved, I put all our movies in a milk crate, and because I couldn't figure out where to put them, that is where they have stayed - on the floor of my bedroom closet - for the last 8 months.

Before - So embarrassing!

I bought a media storage binder...seriously the best $20 I ever spent.

After - Yay!

I put the kids to work sorting through our movies.  I didn't dare alphabetize them because I know they won't stay that way, but I did group together movies in a series (like Veggie Tales) and try to keep younger kid movies separated from ones for my older kids.

I didn't go crazy with organizing because my main concern was just getting them in a place where they could be stored neatly.  We can easily flip through the pages to find what we are looking for, but also find ones that were previously forgotten about.

We then took all the labels out of the cases and stored them in a zip-top bag.  The broken cases were thrown away and the ones I was willing to keep were put back in that ugly milk crate.  The box is now in my attic.  I'm keeping them for now.  My thought is that I won't have little ones forever and when we do ever  pass those movies along (or when someone borrows one) we can put them back in a case with their label.

It's only been a week, but so far it's working for us.

I know it's just a little thing, but I really think that it will make my life easier and my kids will hear one less of my crazy, pet-peeve rants.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Surviving Soccer Season

It's that time of year again, the minivans are filling the parking lot of the soccer field.  There is a stampede of cleats and shin guards running through the grass.  Soccer season is here and it's taking over my life!

Having two kids playing this year has been a challenge, but I feel that we are slowly adjusting to this new way of life. 

I am such a homebody at heart and being out with all the kids 3 times a week is really a struggle for me.  I'm trying to be a good soccer mom, really I am, but I just don't think I am cut out for this.

I like having a schedule to my day and between a new school year, soccer games and practices, doctor appointments, and church activities there just isn't enough time in my day.  It just feels like we are going non-stop.

I've come to the realization that I just can't do it all...and that's ok.

I'm choosing my priorities and what is most important to our family.

My house is "clean enough". 
We will eat dinner together as a family every night, even if it is grilled cheese...again.

Surviving soccer season is going to take more planning on my part.  I'm trying to find easy meals that I can have waiting for us in the Crock Pot when we come home.  I'm trying to plan our school week so we can finish early on practice nights and the kids can have a break before we rush out for the night.  I've drilled the kids to remember to keep their gear by the door so we aren't running around like crazy looking for it.

We are all exhausted, but I'm trying to remember that it's only for a season.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to School

School has started up again and life is feeling full.  I have to admit, it does feel good to have more structure to our days again, though the Summer was a wonderful break for me to get through my first trimester.

I wanted to share with you the curriculum that I chose for this year.  I am currently teaching 2rd and 3nd grades and kindergarten...with two toddlers making the day much more interesting!

This year we are using My Father's World: Exploring Countries and Cultures.

We used MFW last year and loved it.  It was my first experience with a pre-planned curriculum, the previous years I just pieced everything together myself, but having it prepared for me made life so much easier.  I was concerned that having a curriculum would take all the me out of teaching my kids...but it has actually been the opposite.

MFW is very flexible and forgiving and allows me to change up activities to fit our family or just be creative myself.  It has also taken a lot of work out of my part and allowed me to just enjoy teaching.

This year the focus is on World Geography

Bible is a study and memory verses from Matthew, as well as character qualities and biographies of missionaries, and learning about the prayer needs of other people groups and countries. 

Geography is focused on map skills, country studies and world cultures.  We will be doing a variety of activities for each country such as recipes, games, and crafts as well as worksheets for a geography notebook.

For Science we will be studying ecosystems and animals from around the world, and a weekly nature walk and journal.

World music, foreign language, and art are also explored for each country.

Language arts are weaved into the whole curriculum in a natural way.  The kids will be keeping journals, writing letters, learning new vocabulary words, practicing handwriting, and preparing pages for their notebooks. 

For Spelling, I chose Spelling by Sound and Structure (2nd grade). 

This is new to us this year, but so far the kids are really enjoying it.  I am using 2nd grade with both of them because I felt that my oldest needed more practice in this area and it is actually making it more fun for them because they can do the activities together, and I only have one list of spelling words to test on at the end of the week.

There are only 2 workbook pages for the week.  We split the pages up over 4 days and use the spelling drill suggestions to make a game out of learning their words.  The first day I had them each write their spelling words, leaving out the vowels.  Then they switched papers and had to fill in the vowels.  It was really simple, but they loved it.  It was a complete change from the workbook pages I had to beg them to do last year. 

For English we are using Primary Language Lessons.

I was nervous about this one.  It is completely different from anything I have used before, but we needed something new.  It is this sweet, little book that covers 2nd and 3rd grade.  It is an old fashioned, classical approach to English. 

When this book first arrived, I flipped through the pages and just had to smile.  There are different activities for each lesson.  They are short and sweet, but so full of rich content.  In our first lesson for 2nd grade, my daughter did a picture study.  She looked at the black and white painting and answered some questions about what she observed.  It was a great way for her to put her thoughts into words, learn to be more observant, and use her imagination. 

Other lessons include memorizing poetry, dictation, letter writing, etc...many can be done orally which I think is a wonderful break in a day full of writing.  It is very gentle, but I feel confident that they will still be learning the basics without even realizing it.  Punctuation and grammar and weaved into the lessons without a formal lesson.

Reading will come from our selection of library books related to our country and animal studies, and well as daily Bible readings.

For Math we are using Horizons Math.  We have used this for the last few years and really loved it.  It is a spiral approach, so lessons are constantly being reviewed, and new concepts are taught a little at a time.  I am shocked at how much my kids have learned in math without feeling overwhelmed. 

My Kindergartner is following along with us in Bible, geography and science, but I don't put pressure on him...he just soaks it all in and is having fun with us. 

I was given a set of Hooked on Phonics tapes, so we are trying them this year.  He loves them and can follow along independently which is a big help for me.  We will see how it goes, if I am not impressed, I will use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I make ABC worksheets up for him and we have a variety of games and activities in the house that he can play with while learning. 

Overall I am really excited for this year.  As I typed this all out it seems like a lot of work, and it is more than we have done before, but it is all coming together in a very natural way that fits our family.  We have only done two days of school so far, and I am still trying to figure out how to manage my home in the midst of such a full day...but that's another post for another time.  

I hope you all are enjoying the excitement of a new school year in your homes.
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