When it all comes crashing down

It’s day four of our teaching creatively blog hop and today’s topic is homeschooling in a crisis.

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there at some point or another (and some of us are probably there now). The end of your rope, everything that can go wrong does. The crisis could be health, job, or financially related. It could be the loss of someone close to you, or the loss of or damage to your home. In life, things happen, but of course, the world doesn’t stop turning, and there are still things that need to be done. So, how do we handle unexpected catastrophes in our homeschool?

Well, it depends on the type of crisis. About two years ago we lost our home and were in a situation where we had to move, quickly. For that point in time, homeschooling kind of went out the window while we dealt with the situation at hand. There were houses to look at, things to pack, and other issues to be handled. For about two weeks, my husband, my kids and myself were too busy packing boxes and sorting through stuff to do any school. I still made it a point to read aloud to my kids before we went to bed, and since this all took place over a period of about two weeks, we were able to resume our scheduled once we got into our new place (admittedly, after we moved in I did a lot of “teaching” while I was unloading boxes!!). For the first week or so as we settled in, our school was mainly bible (which we did together) and reading and math (which my kids could do on their own). Our other subjects had to wait until we got things in order, but that was okay because we just school until we finish anyway.

But what about a more long term crisis? Last year my husband was injured at work and had to have surgery. He was out of work for 6 months and had a lot of doctor’s appointments, physical therapy etc. etc. For that time period my kids did a lot of school in the car, and the waiting room at various doctor’s offices and hospitals. We simply packed everything we needed into a backpack and brought it with us. Homeschooling is flexible, and you really have the ability to do it anywhere you would like. We saved things like projects and science experiments for when I knew we would be at home, but the rest of our school got done wherever we were! I like to think that my kids were learning flexibility through this experience. I know life won’t always go smoothly for them, and they need to learn how to adjust when stuff comes up.

I think it is natural for kids to become a little afraid when a crisis is going on, and I think that keeping some sort of homeschool schedule going can be comforting for them. A familiar routine can be something to hold on to when it seems like the whole world is going crazy! But at the same time, you have to be realistic about what you can handle while also dealing with a crisis. If it means stopping your homeschool for a short period, while you handle things, then do that! If it means cutting down on a couple of subjects for a while, then do that. The good thing about homeschooling is that you can always pick up where you left off once things settle down a bit, and sometimes, the most important thing during a crisis is simply being together as a family!

To read about other Crew members experiences with homeschooling during a crisis, click here:
http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/homeschooling-in-a-crisis/

Join me tomorrow for the last day of the teaching creatively blog hop, hands-on projects!

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Legos, Army men and Cars, Oh my!

Welcome to Day Three of our Teaching Creatively blog hop! Today’s topic is “toys, games and puzzles”.  I find this topic amusing because when I first started homeschooling my kids I made sure there were NO toys in the school area!! Toys were for play, they were a distraction!! They were for use after school!! It’s funny the things I have learned since we started this adventure. I have come to find that toys can have their place in our schooling.

My youngest son is Lego-obsessed. Seriously, at any given time he is building 3-4 different things with his legos. Some are projects from sets that he got (like the Millenium Falcon, the Hogwarts Castle, Batman’s Cave) and others are things he has simply come up with himself. At any given moment you could walk across my living room floor barefoot and yelp in pain when you step on a Lego you didn’t notice! (if you too have a lego fan at your house, you understand the pain I am describing 😉 ).

I decided to try and put his love of those colorful little squares to good use, and these are some of the ways I have done that. First, my son has used his legos to “illustrate” stories he has written. He has also used his legos to “recreate” famous places we have visited in our history or geography studies. Usually, after we have learned about an interesting place or historical site (say, the Sphinx or the Mayan ruins) my son will use books and the internet to do further research, and then he will spend some time building his masterpiece. Here is a picture of one of these:

Another toy we have found useful in our schooling is our collection of various plastic army men/policeman/firemen and their vehicles. They can be used for staging your own battle scenes (as we did for this picture…this is a WWII battle scene from our last school year):

My oldest son also has an interest in photography and filmmaking, and he has taught himself to make stop-motion movies using his matchbox cars. This is a painstaking process as it involves setting up the cars, then moving them inch by inch (or sometimes centimeter by centimeter) as you take each shot. He then downloads the pictures to our computer and puts them together to make a movie!! Personally, I am pretty impressed with his skill, considering I have a hard enough time downloading pictures and finding them after I’ve done so (grrr….where are our beach pictures?? I know I put them on here somewhere!!). I think he is learning valuable computer, photography and planning skills by doing this, and every time he makes a movie he gets a little better. This is one of his earlier projects:

matchbox cars short film

So, I have come to see toys as a useful learning tool in my homeschool. How do you use toys at your house? Leave me a comment to let me know! To see what other Crew members had to say about toys and games in homeschooling, click here:

http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/toys-games-and-puzzles/

Join me tomorrow for Day 4 of our hop! Our topic will be Homeschooling in a Crisis.

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Parmesan Potato Bites

This week, for Try a New Recipe Tuesday, I am going to share a recipe for one of my family’s favorite side dishes!

Parmesan Potato Bites:

Ingredients:
4 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:
1. Line baking sheet with foil or Reynolds Wrap parchment paper.
2. Cut each potato into 8 wedges.
3. Place wedges in bowl and drizzle with olive oil, turn wedges so they are all coated.
4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and seasonings, again, turn wedges so they are coated.
5. Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until wedges are tender.

My husband and my kids loves these! We eat them with chicken, steak, pork, etc. They are a quick and easy side dish! To see other recipes for this week, click here:

A little of this, a little of that

It’s day two of our blog hop and today’s topic is “Schooling in the Kitchen”. First, let me say, cooking wasn’t always something I enjoyed. I never really learned how to cook at home, so making dinner for my family was a real chore. Early in  our marriage our meals were limited to Shake and Bake, spaghetti, burgers etc.

Since I started homeschooling and stopped working, I have found I have a real passion for cooking. I bought myself some cookbooks, a crock pot, and started watching a lot of cooking shows. I began sharing recipes with friends, and, I am happy to say, I now cook a variety of meals using fresh ingredients!!

All this to say, I think cooking is an important skill all of us should learn. I have no idea what God’s plans are for my children, or where they will end up when they leave home. However, I do want to make sure that when they leave, they are able to care for themselves, and to me, that means cooking, laundry and cleaning! So, my kids do spend a lot of time in the kitchen with me!!

My oldest son can make tacos, spaghetti, and mac and cheese, and he often assists me when I am making meals, so he is learning how to follow a recipe on his own. My youngest is quite adventurous. He once made cookies using the recipe on the back of the flour package!! Unfortunately, he used baking soda instead of baking powder and they didn’t come out quite right, but I think that was a lesson in itself.

Of course, the kitchen is a great place to teach fractions (very necessary when doubling a recipe), as well as practical skills like how to use basic kitchen tools and appliances. I think part of cooking also involves menu planning, so when I am working on our menus I try to involve my kids in deciding what to make, what ingredients we have or what we need etc. And yes, cooking in the kitchen with kids is frequently messier than when I am cooking alone, but, we also get a lot of time to talk and to laugh while we are cooking. In my kitchen, we don’t have a view of the television, so we use that time for conversation, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything 🙂

I am going to share some pictures from this last week when we made one of my boys favorites, chocolate chip cookies!! (I will be honest, sometimes I make them from scratch, but other times we just use a boxed mix 🙂 )

Little guy cracking the egg:

Big kid doing some measuring (he’s a little camera shy!)

Putting them on the pan. Watch the spacing!

The finished product:

To see how other members of the Crew do school in their kitchens, click here:
http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/schooling-in-the-kitchen/

If you have any fun kitchen activities I can try out, leave me a comment! I hope to see you again tomorrow!

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Loving to Learn!

It is time for the Spring Crew Blog hop and our topic this week is “5 Days of Teaching Creatively”. I love these hops, I always get such great ideas from reading all of the posts! I hope you will be able to join us each day! Today’s topic is “Delight-Directed Teaching”. What does this mean? Well, basically, it means building what you do around the things your kids are interested in! I think it will look a little differently for all of us, but I am going to tell you what it looks like at my house.

I first heard about delight-directed teaching when I was just beginning to homeschool and was glued to the internet searching for information! I came across the Heart of Wisdom website, and the way Robin described this method sounded beautiful, but also kind of scary for a first time homeschooler, so it took a little bit of time to build up to doing it!

The first time I really tried it was last year, for some of our science studies. My oldest son wants to be an FBI agent when he grows up, and he has an interest in all things forensics. So, I figured, why not build our science around this topic? I started by searching for materials, and I found some great ones at Home Science Tools. I ordered the Crime Scene Science Kit, as well as the blood typing kit. I had the Crime Scene Investigations book that a friend had given me, so I also ordered the materials for that.

This is one of the labs from that book, a handwriting analysis:

From there, I went to Amazon.com and searched for “forensics books for kids”. There were a whole bunch!! I cross-checked the books on their list with my local library to see which ones we could check out. I decided to order two books from DK Eyewitness to serve as our “spines”, the Forensic Science book and the Crime and Detection book.

Each day we would read a little from these books and do an experiment or two and then my kids would read from their own books that they had checked out. My kids each had a binder where they would write up a “summary” of the days reading and experiments, and I would have each child share what they had read about when they were done.

TJ reading his book:

Jake reading his book:

We tied this study in with a study of the Human Body using the Apologia books (which were great!). So, since we did science four days per week, we would spend two days studying the Apologia books and two days doing forensics! I have to admit, I was a little nervous putting all this together by myself, but you know what?? It was so much fun!! That was probably our best year of science ever. My kids learned so much and they still remember so much of what we did. My oldest really got to explore an area that he loves, and he often spent time outside of school doing further research and study! I am not a science minded person at ALL, but doing science like this was fun for all of us.

I think delight-directed schooling can bring a lot of joy to your homeschool. Don’t be afraid to make up your own studies based on your child’s interests. With the vast amounts of resources available these days you can come up with a great unit on just about any topic. My suggestion to anyone wanting to try this for the first time is to start with the internet. Do a search based on your own topic and see what’s out there. You might be able to find a great book, or website, or lapbook, or kit that you can base your study around. From there, utilize your library if you can. Check out as many books as possible on that topic and read! The books can be fiction or non-fiction (we did read-alouds of some great detective stories during our forensics study, and we watched a couple of movies too!). Have your child narrate (in writing or orally) or illustrate or act out what you have learned about. And have fun!! That’s the whole point! I think you will find that delight-directed studies will make up some of the most memorable things you do in your homeschool, and your kids will be motivated to learn on their own!

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this topic, click here:

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I hope that you enjoy our hop this week! See you tomorrow.

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Carnie Bowls (Crock Pot Recipe)

For this weeks recipe share I am bringing you another favorite crock pot recipe! This is one my best friend came up with and passed on to me!

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
1 jar salsa
1 can corn (drained)
1 can black beans
1 can chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning

Directions:
1. Add chicken to crock pot.
2. Add corn, beans, salsa and chicken broth.
3. Add taco seasoning packet and stir.
4. Cook on low 7-8 hours.
5. Serve with rice and garnish with cheese, sour cream, green onions etc.

There you go! Super easy and delicious! To check out other recipes, click here:

If you only knew

“What? You homeschool? Really? What’s that like?” This is a question I am used to getting from random people when they find out we homeschool. It is usually followed by a flurry of other questions or statements like, “Do you go to church?” “Isn’t it hard being with your kids all the time?” “Do you vaccinate your kids?” “Do you bake your own bread?” “How many kids do you have?” “Are your kids gifted/learning challenged etc.?” “You must have the patience of a saint!”.

Sigh…sometimes I feel like I should just prepare a written statement to carry around with me that I can just hand out to people so I can stop repeating myself. The thing is, I am only ONE homeschool mom, and, one thing I have learned is that homeschoolers are a VERY diverse group of people. I can answer questions based on OUR homeschool experience, but for people to generalize my answers to all homeschoolers would be wrong.

Yes, we go to church. In fact, our faith is THE cornerstone of our lives. My husband and I chose to homeschool our kids because it was something the Lord laid on our hearts (and believe me, we argued with Him at first!). While the majority of homeschoolers I know are Christian, the fact is, I also know many who are not. At my state homeschool conference (FPEA in Florida), I met many secular homeschoolers, as well as homeschoolers from other religious groups. While homeschooling may have begun as a movement among Christian parents, it has spread to include people from all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. The one thing these parents have in common is a desire to give their children the best education possible, and they all feel they can do that at home!

There are also various reasons people homeschool, in addition to feeling the call from God to do so. I know a single mom who homeschools because she works as a flight attendant and homeschooling allows her to spend her time off with her kids (her parents care for them when she is at work). I know other families who also homeschool because one parents job has a quirky schedule, or requires a lot of travel, so, by homeschooling, that parent can also spend as much time as possible with the kids when they aren’t at work. I know people who homeschool because they have the ability to travel the world, and they want to be able to to take their kids with them so they can all experience that together. I know people who homeschool because their kids have some learning challenges and needed more one on one attention than they were getting in school. On the flip side of that, I know people who homeschool because their kids were far advanced and needed more of a challenge. The point is, there are as many different reasons for homeschooling as there are homeschoolers, and you could get a different answer every time you asked that question.

We have two children, both boys. Yes, there are many homeschoolers with large families, but there are also many like mine, with only a couple of kids, as well as many who homeschool only one child. There are also many homeschoolers who live on self-sustaining farms (which I think is awesome!) but,  we don’t all live that way. My kids and I started a small garden last year, and it’s been a lot of fun growing our own veggies (and it is economical too, which is important for a one-income family), but we also shop at the grocery store. If you have the ability to raise animals and grow all of your own food, and teach your kids how to do that, then that is a fantastic opportunity!! But not every one does. I wish I had learned to sew, and I am determined that someday I will, but right now I don’t make my own clothes either. I would like to, and I admire those that have that skill, but I don’t yet. What I am trying to say is, that just because you saw ONE homeschool family on TV doesn’t mean you know what all of us are like. It’s impossible to know that because we are all just so different. My homeschool life looks different from the other homeschoolers I know, because I tailor our life to fit us and our kids. The beauty of homeschool is that you can do what works for YOUR family, and every family is different!!

And if you are really wondering, yes, some days I think it would be nice to flip on the TV and veg out while watching an episode of House Hunters, or to go sit by the pool and just read a book, or go out with a friend for lunch. But, the thing is, usually when I do get a day to myself, after about half a day, I am missing my kids. Truly, it can be stressful because being a homeschool mom, you don’t get a lot of down time, but I would more than likely end up spending my downtime doing something useless anyway! This doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that my boys frustrate me to the point I want to pull my hair out, because I do! But isn’t that part of being a parent? Kids are kids, and some days they drive you crazy! But, then again, sometimes I get frustrated with people at the grocery store, and people in the Walmart parking lot, and just people in general! At the end of the day, my kids are still the ones I most want to spend my time with.

Finally, the patience thing. Believe me, I WISH I had the patience of a saint. I could use it! But, sadly, I don’t. I am just a regular mom who gets irritated when she has to ask a child for the umpteenth time to do something!! I get stressed out sometimes, and my kids don’t always get along, and my house is frequently messier than I would like, and some nights I order a pizza because I just don’t feel like cooking (and don’t even get me started on laundry!). I will admit that some days, I let things get to me and I lose  my temper, and say things I wish I hadn’t. I am no more patient than any other mom in the grocery store.  The only thing that is different about me is that I feel this compelling desire to teach my children at home. Even when I am at my most frustrated, I can take a step back and say that I am truly happy that my kids spend most of their time with me. I am thankful that, even when we have a bad day, I can go to bed and know that I am going to have a chance to spend the next day with them. Why? Because in my heart I feel that time is of the essence. The Bible tells us to “redeem the time”….to me, that means that life is short. I don’t know how many days I have here on this earth, but I do know how I want to spend them…with the people that mean the most to me!

So, for those that are curious about homeschoolers, I would say, don’t try to define us by a single category or statement, because that wouldn’t be accurate. Each homeschool family I have met are their own unique unit. Homeschooling is about the freedom to choose our own path, and I am very thankful that we are able to do so.