Real Life Homeschool: What is it?

It’s time for another Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Hop and I am really excited about our topic! For the entire week, me and my fellow crew members will be blogging about what real life homeschool looks like in our homes! I am so looking forward to seeing how my friends school on good days and bad days!

 

So, what is real life homeschool? Well, to me, that means letting you in on what homeschool is like in our house when things are great and when things are messy. Let’s face it, this life is not always easy. When I started homeschooling I had this “ideal” image in my head of what my day would be like. Up with the sun for quiet time, a healthy breakfast cooked for my family, a day of fun, learning, and laughter, and a yummy dinner and clean house afterwards. Oh, and enriching field trips, lots of reading aloud, science experiments, family time etc. etc. etc. Yep, I was going to do it all!!

Except, then I started to actually homeschool and I realized, I can’t do it all. As much as I WANT to be supermom,  I do not actually have super human powers. This reality was hard for me to accept at first. Days did not always go as planned, and I got frustrated. I even questioned what I was thinking when I decided to homeschool in the first place. But then, as I got to know other homeschoolers and spent more and more time in prayer, I began to realize that it’s actually okay to fall short sometimes because everybody does.

Sure, we have some great days when things so smoothly and it looks just like I thought it would in my  head. But, more often than not, our homeschool is a reflection of our real life. And real life is, messy (or at least mine is). There are unexpected setbacks, illnesses, family emergencies, and financial crisis. There are days when the sink backs up, the car breaks down, and the AC goes out. There are days we have to stop regular homeschool to deal with curveballs life has thrown us. But here’s the thing, through all of this my kids are learning some very valuable lessons. Stuff like how to be flexible (which I admit isn’t my strong suit), how to deal with problems, how to keep going when things get tough, and most importantly, how to rely on the Lord for everything.

So, for the next four days I am going to give you a real glimpse into our homeschool week. I want to give you an example of what a good day looks at my house, and also a bad day, and everything in between. I hope that maybe you will see something you relate to in my day. I hope that if you are worried because your homeschool dream doesn’t meet your reality you will realize you are not alone. And I really hope that I don’t look like a total flop as a homeschool mom!! So, join me tomorrow when I peel back the proverbial curtain and show you a good day at my house. See you then!

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

 

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Check out these ten blogs:

Every Bed of Roses
Ben and Me
Footprints in the Butter
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Raventhreads
Counting Our Blessings
Homeschooling for His Glory
Ozark Ramblings
Chestnut Grove Academy
Only Passionate Curiosity
Farm Fresh Adventures

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Fun Free Printables

Lets face it, curriculum is expensive. As a frugal homeschool mom, I am always on the lookout for freebies I can incorporate into our schooling. Fortunately, the internet makes it possible to find all kinds of printables you can use for free. These are some of the best places I have found for specific subjects so far:

Science Printables
At Education.com you can find word searches, diagrams, coloring pages and more for middle schoolers and above on topics like the ecosystem, cells, anatomy, and more.

ABCTeach has charts, biographies, lab worksheets, report forms, and more on a range of topics from electricity to weather.

The Teacher’s Cafe has links to free resources and worksheets on Earth Science, Chemistry, and other topics.

Math Printables
Math Drills has some great worksheets for Algebra.

At Math Worksheets 4 Kids you can find a number of printables for all grade levels.

Homeschool Math has printable worksheets for grades K-8.

At Helping With Math you can search for printables by subject or grade level.

Poetry Printables
Teacher Vision offers a wide range of printables and poetry lessons for all ages.

Find printables for acrostic poems, haiku, and more at Education.com.

In addition to printables, Laura Candler offers a variety of other resources for teaching poetry.

Scholastic offers printables to teach concepts like alliteration as well as other common poetry elements.

Geography Printables
Find country flag cards, passports, and notebooking pages at Homeschool Creations.

TLS Books offers map printables, state printables, and more.

Jumpstart has a plethora of geography and science printables including information about country holidays, traditions, and continents.

These are the pages I use most frequently when I need something for our homeschool. The best thing about having printables available is that you can use them with books from the library to create your own unit studies!!

For even more awesome printables, check out the crew round-up here: (goes live 2/25/15)

Free Printables Round-Upl

Top 10 Posts of 2014

 

I love reviewing my blog stats at the end of the year. It gives me so much insight into what my readers like most. This year, as usual, most of my top posts were recipes, but there were a few reviews and other homeschool related posts on the list as well. Take a look at my top ten posts for 2014:

 

1. Simple Calzone : This recipe has over 1,300 views total!

2. Chicken Soup : One of my favorite go-to dinners on a cold night!

3. Analytical Grammar Review : A lot of people stopped by to check out my review of this great grammar program!

4. The Olympics are Here! : This post included a bunch of resources to use in your schooling for a study of the Olympics.

5. Pork Tacos : This was my top crock pot recipe for the year!

6. Empanadas : These tasty treats are one of my kids favorite snacks!

7. Our Top Curriculum Choices : We all know homeschool moms can never get enough info on curriculum!

8. Easy Chicken Quesadillas : This recipe is just so simple and so good!

9. Taco Style Stuffed Shells : A great one-dish meal!

10. The Westing Game : My post about resources to use with one of our favorite books!

So there you have it, my most-viewed posts from last year! I am already excited to see what happens this year. Thanks for stopping by!

Our Word 2015: Fearless

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Ps. 27:1

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”  Is. 41:10

Like many homeschool moms, I spent time during the break trying to tie up loose ends and decide on a focus for the coming year. This is kind of a big one. Since we follow a traditional schedule, we are halfway through this year and it brought quite a few changes. The biggest of these was my oldest started taking dual enrollment classes at the local community college and he took his first PSATs. Making the move to dual enrollment brought home to me just how little time I have left with him, and I have to admit, the list of  things I know we need to accomplish in the next year and  a half is pretty intimidating.

He will begin his senior year this fall. He will graduate next year. I have to get his transcripts ready. He needs to take his SATs! I am SO not ready for this!! Sigh…and that’s when it happens. Every time I start to think about this part of our homeschool journey, my chest gets tight, my breathing feels constricted, and I start to panic. Those nasty little voices in my head start to whisper “you can’t do this”, “you are going to fail him”, “what if I did something wrong and he can’t go to college?”, etc. etc. By the time it’s all over, I am full of doubt and scared to death.

In the past, I would probably have let this fear grip me and paralyze me, at least for a while. But I want this year to be different. I do not want to let fear take control of my life and our homeschool. I believe that when we react out of fear we retreat in defeat to a place far away from where God wants us. Fear is satan’s strategy for keeping me from achieving God’s will in my life, and I don’t want to let him win. So this year, I chose the word Fearless as our word for 2015.

Instead of being afraid, I want to cling to the promises God has made to me in His word. I remember being told that fear is the opposite of faith. When you think about it like that, it makes a big difference. Every time I let fear take over, I am distancing myself from my faith in the Lord. I know that He is big enough to handle my problems, but in my humanness, I become short sighted. I see only the problems and none of the possibilities. I forget that each challenge and difficulty is another opportunity for God to reveal His glory and deepen our faith. When my children see God work in our lives, it opens their eyes to Him. Instead of rushing to panic, I want to show my boys that I trust in the Lord with all my heart, and I will not allow fear to run my life!

So this year, I am going to forge ahead, believing that God is with me on every step. I am going to trust him to provide what we need for my older son to finish school and graduate. I am going to believe that He will give me what I need to get those transcripts done and prepare him for the SAT and ACT. Mostly, I am going to trust that the Lord already has a plan for my children, and that He is going to equip me to prepare them for that plan. No more cowering, no more doubts, just moving ahead in faith to tackle what seems like Mount Everest. I will see you at the top!

 

 

 

Tis the Season

Ah, Christmas. I love this season. Seriously, I love everything about Christmas. The lights, the carols, the ribbons, the wrapping paper, the crowds..everything. But, at the same time, the holidays can also create unheard of levels of anxiety in my life. There is just SO MUCH to do, and there never seems to be enough time (or a big enough budget) to accomplish it all. Parties to go to, presents to buy and wrap, people to entertain…UGH. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed I just want to hide under the covers. And then I get on Facebook and see all the posts about the picture perfect holidays everyone else seems to be having, and it sends me right over the edge. Sigh….

So, this holiday season, I decided to take a different approach in an effort to minimize holiday stress. I want more joy, peace, and hope this holiday season, and this is how I plan to get it:

1. JOY

Do you remember the childlike joy you had for the holidays when you were younger? Every single thing just brought so much excitement!! I want to recapture that joy, and to do so, I’ve decided to let go of some things in favor of others. I have decided to cut down on a lot of my social obligations to focus on more family and personal time. I committed to spending the month after Thanksgiving in a morning Bible study using a book my mother in law had given me for Mother’s Day. This means getting up earlier, which means going to bed earlier. As a night owl, I have found this pattern somewhat difficult, but I have been getting used to it.

Instead of attending every party/gathering/event my hubby and I sat down and narrowed our Christmas outings to two. We choose one work-related party and one party offered by our friends. While I do miss some of the interaction (especially as a homeschool mom who looks forward to these gatherings as a time to talk to other adults!) it has opened the schedule to more spontaneous fun with the family. My youngest son and I sat down after Thanksgiving and decided which holiday specials we wanted to watch, and made a calendar for the whole family. I have spent a lot more time on the couch this holiday season, but I feel so much more relaxed!

2. Peace
Normally, I jump into the holiday hustle and bustle of shopping just before Christmas, which is the only time we seem to be able to scrape money together. This season, I planned ahead. I had my kids write a list of 5-6 things they wanted and needed. My boys do understand our budget, and so they don’t ask for anything expensive, but I did tell them to focus on a couple of things they wanted just for fun, and the things they need (like shoes, jackets etc.). Also, while I did not go out shopping on Black Friday, I did spend a portion of the day using different websites to scout out upcoming internet sales. I was able to find some really good deals on things my boys wanted and with a point and a click, I got half of my shopping done in no time! With less pressure about the presents, I feel more peaceful in general.

A second thing we did as a couple is rearrange our family celebrations. This year my hubby’s only day off is literally Christmas. He works the day before and both days after. Normally we would try to squeeze in our family celebration, and add in time with his family to the mix. By the end of the day, I always ended up stressed out. This year, we celebrated with his mom and dad over a weekend the week before. It was much more laid back and relaxed, and I can wake up Christmas morning knowing I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want! My mom lives three hours away, and while we normally try to work out some kind of a visit, we talked this year and both agreed there was just too much going on (and not enough gas money in the bank) to make the trip. So, we decided to send gifts and make plans to see each other next month instead.

3. Hope
I mentioned earlier that I committed to spending more focused time in the word this season. While I do read my Bible regularly, sometimes I feel so distracted I wonder if I am getting anything from it. While reconfiguring my schedule was a little difficult at first, it has been worth it to get me refocused on the real reason for the season. I feel like this improves my outlook in general. While I can easily get discouraged while scrolling Facebook and wondering why I don’t have it together like everyone else, if I remind myself of the true purpose, it makes me a little less self-critical.

So, this season has been a simpler and quieter one this year. While our tree has never overflowed with gifts, this year the number has gone down even more, but each gift has meaning, and I didn’t go crazy trying to get them. My social schedule took a hit, but my level of personal satisfaction went way up. I am looking forward to a quiet holiday with my family this week, and it’s the most joyful, peaceful, and hopeful that I have felt in a long time.

Whatever your celebration looks like this year, I hope you find joy, peace, and hope too! Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Getting in the Spirit

Thanksgiving is the start of one of my favorite times of year. I simply love the holidays. I love the music, and the television shows, and the decorations, and caroling, and parties…all of it. My family indulges me in all of this, for which I am very grateful. And we have started a few favorite traditions that we love to share. This season, unfortunately, all of us were a little under the weather, because my hubby brought home a cold the week before and it made its way through all of us, but we managed to have fun anyway.

My hubby worked on Thanksgiving (which he does most holidays), but my kids and I were able to go to the station and have dinner with him, his crew, and their families. My children have grown up with fire station holidays and we enjoy the “family” we have there. The guys set up corn hole for the kids and the boys brought their skateboards and everybody had a great time. Since we were at the station on Thanksgiving, we went out to dinner with my hubby’s parents the next evening.

We spent the day on Friday getting our tree and setting up our decorations like we do every year. The first year my hubby and I were married a Christmas tree stand set up across the street from the apartments we lived in. We were on our way home from Thanksgiving dinner and saw them and decided to get one and set it up (we were newlyweds and so excited about our first Christmas together!). That became a tradition that we have kept up. As we decorate, the kids and I get to talk about our special ornaments, like my family ornaments made by my great grandmother.

We have another tradition I started when my oldest was six years old where we go to the store and each boy chooses their own Christmas ornament for the year. The box gets marked with their name and the year. Over time we have collected a number of different ornaments including Scooby Doo, Gandalf, Thor, Fire trucks, the Batmobile, and many others. I remember the first year I was married, and my hubby and I had NO ornaments of our own so we bought a bunch of cheap stuff from Wal-Mart. My idea is, when the boys grow up and get married and have their first Christmas, they will have a bunch of ornaments to take with them and hang up on their tree that will be special to them. They always talk about each one when we hang them up, and look forward to choosing new ones each year.

Each year it becomes more and more clear to me how special these traditions are. Especially as my boys get older and I see that these times are so precious and fleeting, I want to squeeze the joy out of every second. I love these people the Lord has blessed me with and I am so thankful to spend this time with them! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Do you have any special traditions? Let me know in the comments!

Family Field Trip: Washington DC

At the White House

We are back from our whirlwind trip to Washington DC. It was so much fun! I didn’t think we would manage to see everything in 6 days, but we pretty much pulled it off. Today I am going to share some of the highlights from our trip and some of the things we learned along the way! First: The Metro is your best friend! Seriously, traffic in the city is beyond crazy. Just trying to get to our hotel we had to make a complete circle because of all the one-way streets, and it was bumper to bumper all day long. When we first arrived at the Metro, a very friendly staff member helped us pick out the best passes for us (I was genuinely surprised at how friendly and willing to help the people were up there! I figured in the fast-paced city that might not happen). We purchased the one-week short trip passes. They cost $48.00, but allow you to ride as many short trips as you want. This was really helpful as we were taking one and two-stop trips during the day. If you take a longer trip (like the 9 stop ride to our hotel) you have to pay a little money after you get off the metro, but it was never more than 30 cents. There’s also a great Metro app that allows you to find the nearest station and tells you when trains are due in.

The first day we were there we hit the Museum of American History, which was awesome. Their display of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner brought tears to my eyes. My hubby and boys really enjoyed the interactive displays at the Air and Space Museum too. And of course, we walked the National Mall and saw all the monuments!

The Lincoln Memorial

On our second day, we toured the Capitol building, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress. I have to say, they are so breathtaking in person. Our guides told us that we were there at the perfect time, because most of the tourists were gone and the lines were very small. Also, the weather was perfect, cool, but not cold. We could have spent hours poring over the Declaration of Independence, and I loved the gorgeous columns and murals in the buildings.

The hushed tones at the war memorials and Arlington were moving and humbling. We saw quite a few Vietnam Veterans there. I thought the World War II memorial was the most beautiful, and I was really amazed at the Korean War Memorial too.

The International Spy Museum was high on my son’s list of things to do, but I was a little concerned about the price. However, I was able to find an online deal for tickets at $11 each, so we went and it was totally worth it. They have a ton of interactive displays that are just so much fun!! We were also very fortunate that our hotel offered a free breakfast and came with a kitchenette. I brought my crock pot and made meals in the morning, so we really only ended up paying for lunch, which saved a lot of money. Of course, there are so many great places to eat in DC! You can find pretty much everything. The food trucks even have their own app (Food Truck Fiesta) that allows you to track their location!!

By far, the favorite part of trip was our last night there. We stayed in the city for dinner that night, and then went to the National Mall and saw the monuments all lit up. They were so breathtaking at night. Honestly, if you go to DC, be sure to make time to do this!

So, this was, hands down, one of the best trips ever! Even though we had a 15 hour drive, we didn’t mind a bit!