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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I need to do this more often...

Saturday night I took my oldest out to dinner and a play. My mom is very involved in the local volunteer theatre and is often in some kind of production. She's so great at it! I thought taking my big man to dinner and a then to see his grandma do her thing would be a nice time for him.

We almost never get a chance to do anything with just the two of us. After Saturday night, I have resolved to make an effort to plan things like this more often. It was so nice to hang out with him alone. He's like a different kid when his little brother isn't around.

I realized I need to get to know this other kid better. The truth is, as hard as it is to swallow, this "other kid" is actually who he really is. He's growing up.

The reminders of my time with him running short are fresh everyday.

He's at that age. He's twelve. Adolescence has reared its ugly head, and some days you just don't know what you're gonna get with him. One minute he's on top of the world, and the next miute he's slamming his door and yelling some sort of retaliation from behind it.

He's a great kid! He's just at that age.

It's clear to me that I need to make more of an effort at this stage he's at. I've told you before I stink at being a big kid's mom. I've got the little guy thing down! It's this new stage I have to really work at. It seems like when they're little you can do no wrong, but when they're big, you do everything wrong.

But Saturday night, I did something right! I gave him my undivided attention. We went to the Outback for dinner where he cleared a NY strip like it was the first thing he'd eaten in a week! We talked, laughed, and just hung out.

My favorite part of the night was when we were seated at our booth. Him on one side, me on the other. Once he was seated he looked up and said, "Can I sit over there with you?"

My heart sank, and I tried to keep my excited inside. Of course, I scooched over.

We played hangman without any interruptions while we waited for our food.

My hangman phrase: Merry Christmas
His hangman phrase: hairy buttcrack

Hey! I'll take what I can get!


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

He's lucky I love him!

Friday night I was so frustrated with my husband! I actually tweeted Shell to tell her that I wish she had PYHO everyday. In hind sight, it's probably best that this free therapy only happens once a week. That way I can sort through my thoughts before I post in a total man rage! This way you'll see I really do love him.

Long story short-hubs has a tendency to get a wild hair up his butt and decide it's okay to act like he has no responsibilities every now and then. This usually happens if he's reunited with any one of his loser friends (many of which actually don't have any responsibilities!). I think hubs is easily morphed back in time to the loser he once was, and reverts to this status within just a short hour of being around said real losers. For a short period of time he enjoys pretending he hasn't grown or matured in 15 years, and resorts to acting like the rest of these guys who really haven't. UGH!

Dear hubs,
You're pushing 40! We have two men to raise. So back to the real world, dude!
Grow up!
Your devoted wife

I'm over it now. It really wasn't that big of a deal. I know he's happy with the life we've made, but it's always been hard for him to separate old friends and recognize how they bring him down. I just get so irritated that he is so easily influenced when I know what a hard working, excellent father and husband he is. Why pretend to be anything else? Why even want to be anything else?

It's not really Friday that has me upset, it's what Friday night is a clear reminder of...the fact that we are so.completely.different.

(This reminder is sort in my face lately.)

In just about every sense of the word, we are different. How do two people so different from one another make it to their 50th anniversary? I say 50th anniversary because that's where we're headed! We have the clock working against us there, as we only got married in 2003, but I'm determined. No matter how aggravated I may be with him. I'm in it for the long haul. I still wake up in love every morning, and I can never stay mad for a whole 24 hours. Lucky him, right?!

As different as we are, we made a commitment to each other. We love each other, and we're both willing to put up the fight for our marriage. It's the work in between our present and our future that has me down.

I want to figure this marriage thing out. I want us to be old and grey and be the grandparents who stay married through the toughest of times. But how? (I don't really expect you to answer that.)

We both come from divorce, and we want to break that cycle for our children and our children's children.

**Fine Print: Please know that I am not and will never judge you for your choices(married or divorced). I believe in the institution of marriage according to God's word. I know eveyone's circumstances are different, and I will never try to pretend I know it all. This is my heart for my man and my marriage. He's stuck with me! I'm not puting in all this work for someone else to get the goods! Divorce is not and has never been an option for us. It's just that simple.

Breaking a cycle of divorce in your family line is hard. Almost everyone in my family (except for one sibling) has been married and divorced multiple times. It just seems like the world lies and tells us this is an option when things get hard. There are times when I feel like the differences between hubs and I are too great. Times I feel defeated. Times I just want to throw in the towel. That's how I felt Friday night. What's the use of all of this effort? We're just too different. My mad brain begins to listen to lies that it would just be easier to quit. I know this is a lie my enemy wants me to believe!

"The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy."
~John 10:10

So Friday night, I went to bed. I woke up the next morning and realized (like I have many times) I can't live without him. And even if I do say so myself, he cannot live without me either. It's true, ask him.

We have to learn to figure this thing out. It's not always smiles and giggles here. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes the kids hear. But, they always see us make up.

Other times...
They see us laugh together. Sometimes they see us sit and hold each other. Sometimes they play with us, sometimes we wrestle and laugh until we pee our pants, sometimes they watch a movie with us, or snuggle up in bed with us. Sometimes when we kiss my five year old yells, "Stop making out, Mom!", and we all laugh.

Those times make the hard times worth it. God has a plan for my marriage, and I know it will be to His glory when we're old and grey and still laughing with each other. This is the TRUTH!

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11 

My marriage needs some work, but I know there is nothing too great for my God!

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite of mine, but if you keep reading God says in verses 12-14, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you", declares the Lord.

We can't stop at just knowing God's plan is good. We have to know how to obtain it, find it. I think verses 12-14 tell us how. I will seek God's plan and favor for my marriage. No matter what-whatever it takes.

I want more than I could ever ask or imagine!
(Ephesians 3:20)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homeschool Hazards

As a homeschooling mom, I often sing the praises of how wonderful it is to be home and enjoy the blessings of homeschooling. There are so many of them!
{clip to me: birds chirping, I'm smiling and singing at the window, gazing out at my white picked fence.}

But today I thought I would share some of the things I think are hard. It's not always roses and sunshine in the classroom at the dining room table.
{clip to the real me: I'm still in my pajamas, my t-shirt has a bleach stain and a hole in it, my 5 yr. old is still wearing his underwear, and we're already behind!}

So enjoy my honest list of homeschool hazards. God help me, if you can't relate!

#1 Getting dressed:
I try to be serious about a schedule and the kids still have to get up and dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and so forth. But the fact of the matter is, we're not going anywhere! It seems like the morning routine is even harder than it would be if I was trying to make the car line by 7:45a.m. My five year old thinks his underwear are an appropriate outfit for every occasion.

#2 Lack of Space:
School is taking over my house! You all know how I love my shoebox, but it's getting pretty ridiculous here. I am running out of space fast. In fact, I'm pretty sure I already have.

#3 Being a mom and a teacher:
The parent/teacher hat switching can be difficult. I try to make it a goal to treat my kids like I would want a teacher to treat them. For example, I wouldn't want their teacher yelling and screaming at them. Teachers aren't allowed to be momzillas. There's been more than a few days I'm sure I would have been fired!
I'm just saying...

# 4 It's all on me!:
If Mama ain't in the mood for school, ain't nobody in the mood for school! I can't have a day where I am just not in the mood, and still expect them to get school work done. They need me for direction, motivation, and encouragement. Bad days are usually a result of my attitude, not theirs. There's not substitute teacher here.

#5 Other activities: Having the boys plugged in with social groups and extra curricular activities is crucial. They need that interaction. However, getting to said activities can be hard to manage throughout the week. For one example, we go to P.E. at our local YMCA on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have to be done with school by noon on those days in order to eat lunch and make it there on time. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:45 a.m. you'll find me at the table over my oldest like momzilla saying, "Stay focused. We have to leave soon!" or "Don't be mad at me when you have homework." Yup, you can still have homework if you're homeschooled. This leads me to my next hazard.

# 6 Homework: We need to complete our work! This can be hard with a son who has ADHD tendencies. I also will not do lessons all day and night. Kids, your teacher turns into a mom after 2pm. After that, you're on your own. I make sure I have all instructed lessons completed first, and leave ample time for independent work. They need to make sure they stay on task for their independent work. I'm not going to be sitting next to them for the rest of their lives. Independent work that doesn't get done=homework. Homework can be defined as work that you need to finish before you do anything you really want to do instead.

#7 Dad's more fun:
The kids are with me all day. I teach them, mother them, feed them, bathe them, drive them, and discipline them. I'm sure I'm leaving something out. Then Dad comes home. Sigh...Sometimes I feel like the bad guy all the time.

#8 Non-homeschooling family members or friends:
Let's face it. Not everybody gets it. Getting past not caring what other people think about your decision to homeschool can be hard. It's been tough for me at times. We even have several family members who teach in the public school system. Opinions can come from all directions. I'm learning to not care. I've come a long way!

#9 Distractions:
Being at home lends to it's own list of distractions for me and the kids. I get distracted by all of the things I'm responsible for outside of homeschool such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. The boys get distracted by their stuff (videos games or other activities they'd rather be doing), and each other. They easily distract one another just by being here.

#10 The Age Gap:
I have one in kindergarten and one in sixth grade. This can be very tough to juggle. My kindergartner requires me for just about all of his school day. Which I enjoy every minute of! However, it's hard to keep my oldest on track (he's the one with ADHD tendencies) while my youngest has my attention. It's hard to get my youngest to understand it's not his turn when my oldest has me for his one-on-one time. It can also be hard for my oldest when the little guy is done with school and he still has lots to do. There's no way around it. My little one can complete a school day in a couple of hours. My oldest is a middle schooler, and has much more work and responsibilities. We do it. I think we do pretty good job, but it's taken a while to find our rhythm. I still have to adjust it all the time.

And lastly, this is not really on my list, but it's a daily irritation for me as a homeschooler. What's the proper spelling for homeschool anyway?? Is it home {space} school OR homeschool (one word)? One word or two, already!
Let's vote, and keep it one or the other!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

I don't feel like doing school today.

Beware: I'm link happy. Consider them my free gifts to you. You never know what you'll find...

I feel like Peggy Ann Mckay today. Mondays come too fast. Today it will be a miracle if I complete any one of the following tasks on my list. Not just start the task, but actually finish it too.

Last week, I decided to give the Fly Lady another chance to change my life, but I didn't get past the kitchen sink.

This week she's telling me to head to the Master Bedroom. Is she taunting me? Doesn't she know what a disaster that room is? My master bedroom is the catch all from the rest of the house. If it doesn't have a home, it belongs in my room somehow...Sigh...

My Mommy ADD is in high gear. Our December break is right around the corner, and I just want to play!

I have some crafts planned for my little guy, and my oldest has a lot to do! Despite my laziness, we've got to push through our lessons for the next couple of days, so we can actually be off of during the month of December! That's right, don't be jealous.


Last Friday we sent off our Shoebox for Samritan's Purse. I was so excited that The Shoebox will actually have a real "shoebox story". Hee Hee.

If you're not familiar with Samaritan's Purse, check it out. It's a great organization that provides an opportunity for your family to bless a child in need at Christmas time.

What I found through participating this year, was that it wasn't only about blessing a child, but we were blessed as well. The gift of giving is better than any gift I could ever receive. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, and Advent around that corner, there is nothing I'd rather do with my boys than teach them the joy of giving! It's a sure fire way to remember why we should be thankful!

We went to Target to shop for our child's toys and necessities. I had resolved early in the mission to say "NO" whenever either of my children asked for a toy or anything. This trip would not be about us. I have to say my oldest is 12, and he usually could care less about toys and shopping. He never asks for a thing. But, my five year old is another story. He wants to hit the $1 aisle before we even get into the parking lot. I'm going to admit and tell you, he usually leaves the store with something. Every time. If I added up all of the $1 items I've purchased for him in the almost 6 years he's been shopping with me, I'd probably have quite the savings account. Forget about the times I've let him buy something over $1. Ugh! Let's move on...

Although I had resolved to say "no", I was blessed to find I never had to. A Miracle. The boys and I had so much fun shopping for our child. They really found joy in giving and not getting! They ran up and down the aisles with big eyes, saying, "He'd love this." and "How about this, Mom?". When we had gathered quite an assortment they started to say, "Can we fit one more thing in the shoebox?". "Just one more thing!".

They were just as excited to give to someone they don't even know, as they would have been to get something for themselves. Oh, how this blessed me!

I would even go out on a limb and say that they were even more excited to give.

This made me so proud. My heart smiled.

 A giving heart is a perfect way to prepare for Advent. What are you doing to share the joys of counting your blessings with your kids? If you want to see what we've been up to for Thanksgiving and Preparing for Advent just click on the labels at the bottom of this post.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Thankful Heart

This is me on Thanksgiving Day when I was four.
Back in 1982!

Am I not just the perfect little Pilgrim?
Hee Hee...
My Grandmother made holidays so special.
It's easy to see why I love making them fun and memorable for my boys.

With only one week before Thanksgiving, I want to tell you what I'm thankful for. There are so many blessings in my life. In the everyday hustle and bustle they are easily taken for granted. It's so perfect that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas, because I think a thankful heart is one of the best ways to prepare for Advent. Nothing can set our minds on what's important better than thanking God for all He's given us!

So, here's just a few reasons why I feel blessed...

1. My health-I'm perfectly healthy and I am able to play and run around as much as I want with my kids. There isn't any physical limitation in what I'm able to do during the day. I feel so blessed to have all of my arms and legs, and a healthy body.

2. My children-many women struggle with infertility. I am heartbroken for anyone reading this that knows that pain. Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of motherhood.

3. Homeschool-I am so grateful for the chance to be home with kids, and on top of it-home schooling them! A few years ago I would have thought you were crazy if this is where you told me I'd be. God can equip you for anything, and I am thankful He's using me for this job. It's by far the best one I've EVER had!

4. A Hardworking Man-We may not have all of the luxuries in life. We live a pretty modest lifestyle in our shoebox. But, I am so thankful for my man. He works hard to keep me home, and he wants great things for our family. I'm so grateful he wants me here with the kids, and is willing to make the sacrifices he does to keep me here.

It's just a few things, but it feels good to tell you. What are you thankful for?

And...I really want to show you these cupcakes!

 Cute, right?
I made them yesterday for the kids in our Bible study group.
They were a big hit!
I found the recipe HERE.
Gobble, Gobble!


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My top 4 ways to prepare for Advent!

How can you put Christ back in your Christmas traditions this year?

I recently posted about my heart for the Advent season. If you'd like to check that out you can go here or click on the label "Advent" at the end of this post.

When December 1st creeps up, I always feel like I'm already behind. With less than 2 weeks away, I'm really trying to stay on top of planning this year. This is a list of just 4 things that I think will help.

#1 Cross something off your list that you've been procrastinating on doing. It helps to have a pesty project completed before Christmas time. That way it's not hanging over your head, and you will have more time to focus on the peace of the season. For me, it was a my craft closet. It's been overflowing with unorganization, mess, and pure craziness. I went through it over the weekend, and purged some things I haven't used in years, and organized what was left. The new, fresh organization will help me during the month when I'm doing activities with the boys. Had I not completed this task, I would have felt like I needed to do it during my time off. Not anymore!

#2 Purchase Advent candles for your wreath. I always kick myself for not thinking ahead on this. When December comes, I realize I can't find the candles anywhere! Traditionally, an Advent wreath has five candles. Three purple, one pink, and one white candle in the center. I have found that getting my hands on the pink and purple candles can be hard this time of year. The pink and purple are more of a spring color/scent. So, be sure to go online ahead of time now and purchase a set of candles so you have them in time for December 1st. I found some here and here. I also noticed many of the sets do not come with a white candle. If you wish to light this candle on Christmas morning be sure to purchase an additional white candle for the middle.

#3 Get an Advent Calendar-or get crazy like me and make your own. I will be posting pics of this soon! But here's a sneak peak at the unfinished product. I am using paper towel rolls cut into 2 inch segments to make this (remember-it's not finished!).

It will eventually be a Christmas Tree filled with candy and a Bible verse for each day of the month. Each day the boys will be able to open one of the segments. 
You must know I love you to show you an unfinished craft!
Something easier and less time consuming to make is a candy chain. Get red or green saran wrap and twist wrap candy into 25 sections. You can hang this on your tree or somewhere around the house. Each day your kids can count down by cutting off a piece of candy.

And finally, #4...
Plan a theme for your Advent season. This theme is the special way you intend on sharing the truth of scripture with your kids this season, and making some special memories with them. There are four weeks in the month. It helps to come up with four key ideas to use as your focus, and then plan your activities and lessons around that weekly theme. For example, one year I used wreaths, candy canes, snow, and the Christmas tree. I did some research on the history of each of these items, and tied that into our activities and lessons. The kids had so much fun learning about where some of these traditions came from, and they loved learning that so many of our Christmas images are ways God uses to teach us about his Son. My favorite week was snow. We made homemade snowflakes and hung them from the ceiling all over the house. We focused on the Bible verse from Psalm 51:7-Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

You don't have to use these ideas. Perhaps you could use something like peace, joy, faith, and hope? Or whatever God places on your heart to teach your kids this year. After you choose your themes, begin planning your month out.

Get your December calendar out, and start filling in some special activities for you and your family. If you write out what you want to spend time focused on, then the things that aren't really important get weeded out of your Christmas!

Most of all, enjoy the planning! Don't get discouraged if things don't turn out exactly like you intended. Remember, it's all about preparing our hearts! Ask God to help you get focused on Him this season. He will lead you!


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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Preparing for Advent

I know, I know, Thanksgiving isn't even here yet! I know some of you may cringe at the thought that Christmas is right around the corner, but I'm so excited I can't stand it! Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the memories we make as a family, and I love to watch my kids as we celebrate the season. This year I am even more excited than ever, because it's the first year that I have planned our lessons around this special time of year. We will take a break after Thanksgiving, and won't return to our normal school schedule until January. Nice!

A couple of years ago I learned that if I really want to make the season special for my kids I needed to put Christ at the center of it all. This is something I always knew, but failed to execute properly. I knew in my head, but not in my heart.

It was always a desire of mine to teach the kids of the true meaning of Christmas, but I never "got it" until just a couple of years ago. It's one thing to think about it, but it's whole other thing to actually do it. I did a Bible study called Preparing My Heart for Advent, by Ann Marie Stewart, and for the first time I figured out the secret to getting it all together at this time of year. Preparation.

Not just preparation of the home, to-do lists, and so forth, but maily preparation of the heart.

The study took me through a journey of the familiar Christmas story made fresh with a history and understanding I had never had before. I highly reccomend it. But, whether if it's with something like this study or simply through pray and preparation, I hope you will join me in preparing our hearts for Advent.

"The Latin word for Advent means "the coming". The advent season was instituted as a time of fasting for holy living, and it remains a time of inward preparation for the commemoration of the coming of Christ...It's a month to be still and remember the God of our past , present, and future. In anticipating His first coming, we celebrate His presence in the present, and prepare for his second coming to Earth." ~ Ann Marie Stewart, Preparing My Heart for Advent

Before God worked on my heart, I let December 1st creep up before I even thought about Christmas. All the shopping would have to be done at the last minute, and I found myself running around like crazy until all of a sudden it was over. I would begin the new year with regret I hadn't taken time to find peace in the season that our world has turned into "hustle and bustle". It hearts my heart just thinking about it.

I didn't want that for me or my kids one more year! I wanted to relish in the joy of the season. Have a chance to be still. Enjoy activities with the kids, and actually have time to do them. Not just any activities, but Christ centered activities that would teach my boys about the One and Only Savior who was sent to us on Christmas morning. The One who is the the Light of the world (John 8:12). The Only One who we can find true peace in. Jesus.

That year was the first year I made a prayerful decision to change things from the way the world told me they should be to the way God had planned for us to have them. It's the one year my oldest says was his favorite Christmas. I truly believe he will remember it forever as a very special year. In fact, last year there were some jokes that I hadn't "beaten" the Christmas before! Ugh-boys!

How can you experience Christmas in a fresh way this year? What is your hope for the season? Think about what you can do to focus on Christ this Christmas. Print out a calendar for the month of December, and write down an Advent plan. Begin your lists of to-dos now, and see what you can get done before December. Give yourself a chance to focus on the true meaning of Christmas this year.

Throughout the rest of the month I will posting more and more Advent related activities and ideas for you and your family. I found the more I got ready ahead of time, the more time I had with my kids to enjoy the season. I hope you will join me!

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel-which means "God with us."
~Matthew 1:23



"I am Thankful" Cornucopia Craft

The holiday season is my favorite time with my kids. It's a special time in our home where I really try to focus on the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We love to do crafts, projects, and bake!

A few days ago we made this tissue paper craft I found HERE.

The Cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty, is a traditional symbol of abundance. The horn shaped basket was traditionally filled with fruits and grains from the harvest, and it makes it's way to Thanksgiving tradition as a symbol of gratitude.  I thought this was a perfect project for my little one, and a perfect way to celebrate our "harvest" of blessings.

You will need:
This pattern from Lakeshore Teacher's Corner
(I love this site! It has a ton of free resources for teachers!)
tissue paper bits in red, green, yellow, and orange
paper plate
one sheet of construction paper(I used red)
and this sentence strip

Once I printed out the template (be sure to choose landscape) I labeled the sections with a crayon. I should have written the words out, as we are learning our color sight words, but that was an afterthought.

Then we squeezed glue onto  a paper plate and used the q-tip to spread it around. I found this worked best because you don't want a heavy layer of glue. The tissue paper will get all yucky if you use too much.

After that, we pasted the correct colors on the template.

We printed the "I am thankful for" sentence strips, and glued both the pattern and strip onto the piece of construction paper. Writing the sentence strips gave us the perfect chance to talk about everything God has blessed us with. I love what my son is thankful for. If you can't read it, it says: Bats(????), stuffed animals, God, Family, friends, and games. Sweet!

What are doing this season to teach your children about Thanksgiving?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Psalm 136


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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Teaching Outside the Test

I had another post planned for today, but I can't quite get it into words and hit publish yet. So, since I feel like I sort of poured my heart out on Monday with the post below, I've decided to go ahead and link it  up with Shell. If you haven't checked out this meme before, it's a must. The posts linked up are always some of my fave reads of the week!

I feel standardized testing is important. I believe that my children need to have strong test taking skills, and be comfortable in a testing environment. In the end, this is how they will get into college. But is it necessary for them to test every year?

Here in FL the standardized testing through the public school system is all politics. It's sad to say, but it's not about education, it's about funding. Instead of students, children are numbers. It's sickening. Although, I'm not a fan of the tests or the politics, last tear I still felt like it was important to take the test. As a homeschooling parent, taking the test each year would hold me accountable as a teacher, and I would be able to make sure my son was getting at least (if not more) than what he would in the school system.

Just FYI. As a homeschooling family in FL you have the optional right to test with your state in lieu of your year end evaluation. It's not mandatory, but last year we opted to test.

Well, after only a year plus into this homeschooling thing, I'm beginning to change my mind about standardized testing! I don't want to "teach to the test". I want my kids to learn.

Here's an example. It's a long one-hang in there with me.

A few weeks ago I switched my son's math curriculum from a traditional spiral to something a little different than what we're used to. Math-U-See. This program teaches math completely different from what he's learned in the past, and the methods used to teach are new to us as well.

I had begun to realize that my son needed something. He was struggling with a subject that has always been a strong one for him, but for some reason this year(or perhaps always-and I'm just figuring it out) he was having trouble retaining the lessons. Something wasn't clicking.

When I started noticing his struggles, I was concerned. Math has always been interesting a battle in our house. Even when he was in public school. Although it's one of his strongest subjects, he has always hated it. It's been the subject that takes hours to do even a small amount of work, and often ends up being a negative. Throughout the years we've managed, but it's always been hard.

Last year when I began homeschooling, the attitude struggles in math did not go away. His behavior definitely improved, but I could see there was still a long road ahead. We completed our curriculum, and ended the year positively. He scored extremely high, and well above grade average on the FCAT (our state standardized test that we opted to take). When we got our scores I was so relieived to know our year was a success. It was a bit of a pride issue. Everyone in my family that doesn't get why I HS can see that I can do it. I felt reassured of my abilities, my son was happy to see he had high scores too. Blah, blah, blah...
Well, no test can tell me how successful our year is! I don't need a test to help me feel secure in my role as a homeschooling mom. Yes, the year was beyond a blessing, and his scores were a huge praise, but did I need that test to reassure me?

As a first time homeschooler, I felt that I needed to still adhere to so many of the regulations of public school that had been ingrained in me and my son for 5 years. Getting those scores gave me a sense of peace about our first year.

Summer came and went.

We moved right into the year with the same traditional brand of math curriculum for the next grade up. I figured we made it through last year. We'll just give it shot again.

Around early October I noticed him struggling a great deal in this subject again. More so than usual (or again-perhaps I'm just learning to see these things more clearly). He was having trouble remembering the steps, order of operations, and overall execution of his problems. He's in 6th grade. Math is getting harder. Unless you're John Nash, it's impossible to do this stuff in your head. Pre-algebra is being introduced, fractions of every shape and size, and every operation you can think of is used in one problem. The problems are long. They take a great deal of focus and fundamental understanding of the basics to be successful at this level. I began to notice he wasn't retaining the steps and order of things.

I wondered how much he had really retained all these years passed. He's always tested very high in all subjects, but had he learned the material, or had he learned the tests?

I know my son, and know he likes to do everything in his head. He often will just provide an answer to a problem, but will be unable to tell me how he got it. The answer will be right, but he didn't master the understanding.

This has been such a problem that it's actually against our rules right now for him to just give me an answer. I need to see his steps!

Well, now I began to see he wasn't retaining the steps. No matter how many times I taught them. Now that there are so many steps to a problem-his struggles were becoming clear, and his answers were no longer right.

It was obvious that he needed to learn in a different way. Even if that means we move away from the state standardized testing and traditional material. The new curriculum I chose for him will put him on a different calendar than PS. It teaches exclusively in one area each year. So the traditional spiral lessons are out. Which means standardized testing would not be a fair judge of his ability.

For example, if I tested him this year for 6th grade, he would score lower because much of the material on the test will not be introduced to him until next year. However, as a senior he will have completed pre-calculus. He will graduate as a 12th grader with just as much, if not more math than a child in PS, but from year to year the curriculum is taught at a different pace and doesn't match up with standardized tests.

So all of this to say this...Whose standard are we teaching to?

We have to stop worrying about what the world tells us our children need. As a homeschooling mom, I know I brought my son home to give him the ability to learn in ways that are better for him, and fit his needs. Not the needs of a system we're no longer a part of! It's a strange feeling to "de-school" your mind. We learn so much of what we're supposed to do with our children from a world who considers them to be a score, a number...not your child.

Education is one of my top priorities for my children, and I plan on supplying them with everything they need to be successful in life. That doesn't mean their supply will always be mainstream.

I feel good. We've been using the new math curriculum for about 3 weeks now. My son told me last week that he "finally understands the 'why' that no one has ever been able to tell him about fractions". He said, "this makes way more sense". Now, that's better than any test score!

Do I still plan on making sure my boys have the test taking skills they need to rock the SAT or ACT? ABSOLUTELY! I just plan on supplying it my way.

I ask my Heavenly Father to lead me and guide through this journey daily, so my way really isn't mine-it's His!

Start children off on the way they should go.
~Proverbs 22:6

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Do you dress up too?

Every year Hubs and I dress up with the kids for trick or treating. This year was the first year in a while I was considering not dressing up, but I'm so glad we did. It seems like ever year it's the day before and Hubs and I are trying to throw something together, so we can see the look on the kids' faces the next day.

They love it. Sometimes I think they like us dressing up more than they like dressing up themselves. When I told my 12 year old we were thinking maybe we would sit this one out, he was so bummed. He basically did not except that, and said, "no way, you guys are dressing up!"

The fact that my 12 year old is going to dress up and cares if we "play" or not was enough to motivate me to get our costumes together. We had a blast! These were probably our funniest costumes ever!

Grandma what big teeth you have...

I Found this Little Red Riding Hood costume at a local Halloween shop. You know the kind. They come around only for Halloween, and then they're gone a couple of weeks later.

Then, in the same day I found these shoes. Yes, they are red patented leather Mary Jane heels! I found them by accident at Beall's of all places.  I picked up a pair of white socks with lace trim in the little girls' department, and walah!

I found hubs an average werewolf mask and shirt. The shirt had a hairy chest and hands.
Then I bought the sweetest little granny nightgown I could find, and we were off!

Here's the thing that's super cool. My costume is reversible! The other side is blue gingham, so next year I can be Dorothy, and Hubs can be the Tin Man or Scarecrow. Score on those red shoes, that work with both costumes!

The boys love Halloween! Every year we go to my husband's aunt's house. We can never stay at our own neighborhood. We live in an area that's not that fabulous. It's home, but the community is just such a hodge podge. We never get any trick or treaters, and it seems like the whole city does what we do. Goes somewhere else. It's not fun for the kids, so for years we've headed over to our aunt's house. It's tradition now. The boys start talking about Aunt B's months before Halloween.

Their absolute favorite part is actually after trick or treating. All the kids come inside and dump all of their candy out on the living room rug. They all trade candy. They love to do this. Everyone gets rid of what they don't want and trades it for something they do. Oh yeah, baby! 

This is my favorite part too, because I usually get a vote in some of the trades. "Psst. Hey kids, make sure you get some Sour Patch Kids for mom."

It was another great year, and another great memory!
Do you dress up too?
 I'd love to see some pics of some moms and dads getting silly!

I'm linking this post up with the SITS girls as my last entry in the chance to win a Canon Rebel T2i!
I can't imagine even being the lucky winner, but it's worth a shot!
 (No pun intended.) 
The SITS girls have some of the best blogging tips out there.
Stop by their site and check them out! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I needed a good laugh!

Hubs and I were in the running for the worst parents ever the day before Halloween. We took the kids to the pumpkin patch at around 5PM on Saturday night. Yes, that's right. The night before Halloween! For the record, I had attempted to take the boys many times before this, but they wanted to wait for Dad. It just so happened that this was the first couple of weeks in many previous that he had actually been pretty busy with work (Praise God!).

So, off to the pumpkin patch we went Saturday night. We were all so excited and couldn't wait to find the perfect pumpkin. There was just one thing working against us. Have you ever been to the pumpkin patch the night before Halloween? Us either. We learned very quickly that there are no open pumpkin patches with any decent pumpkins for procrastinators like ourselves.

Usually, I would have been super disappointed and worried that the kids were too, but when we pulled up and saw the ghost town of a patch, all I could do was laugh. I mean, I was in denial. I had my camera for that cute picture we would take. But all that was there was a few nasty pumpkins no one wanted and the whole patch was roped off with some sort of plastic fence that made the whole place look like a crime scene.

I looked to the left at hubs in the driver's seat and saw his expression of clulessness in how to react, and I just burst out laughing. A long, good, hard, laugh! Man, I needed that laugh! It seems we all did, because the whole car was filled with chuckling. Kids too. They didn't even really care. I could tell they were enjoying seeing hubs and I laugh uncontrollably. They just wanted to know where we could find a pumpkin. As long as they got to carve one with Dad it didn't matter where they got it! So, off we went to the next best thing our only other option at 6:00PM the night before Halloween!

I was still laughing...all the way to the checkout!
I think my husband was afraid I had actually "checked-out".

The best part was it ended up being a great night anyway!

Sometimes it's good to just laugh! I'm linking up with Shell today for PYHO. If you haven't checked out her blog (Although, I can't imagine that you haven't) you should! Thanks for a great meme, Shell!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Old pictures bring back so many good memories!

My sister and I used to LOVE to dress up. More importantly, my grandmother loved to dress us! My grandma was a sewer. We had every kind of dress, costume, hair ribbon, and accessory a girl could imagine. All sewn by hand. Some of the Easter dresses I have pictures of are questionable, but everything was always made with love. Even Halloween costumes.

I have to tell you that I searched high and low for a specific picture I have of my sister and I dressed like gypsies(it is one of my faves), and could not find it anywhere. I think I may have even put it in a scrapbook for my sister years ago. I told her to look, but she has an 18 yr. old daughter, a 15 yr. old son with a knee injury, a super busy 3 yr. old, and a brand new baby! I couldn't bring myself to ask her again tell her to go picture hunting and scanning for me.

I'm gonna keep looking and post it when I find it(even if it's the middle of spring!). I will be the only blogger who posts Halloween pics for Easter!

I have this giant envelope filled with old pictures of the days when my sister and I lived with my grandma. Every now and then I have a good excuse to dump them out on the kitchen table and look through them. I love looking at all the fun times we had. From Strawberry Shortcake wallpaper to munchichies. Good times.

Here's a couple of old Halloween pictures.

Halloween 1983-WOW!

This one cracks me up!
My sister doesn't look she likes her costume very much, and mine is a plastic clown suit.

Nothing slaps me out of a blog funk faster than the chance to win a new camera! The SITS Girls are giving away a Canon Rebel T2i! Say what?! Ok, my blog funk is officially over!

The SITS girls offer some of the best blogging tips out there. There's some debate on their site these days about unicorns. I'm pretty sure unicorns are real, but that's just me.

My camera is really taking a dump these days, so the chance to win one of these bad boys would be awesome! This post is an official entry. Thanks, SITS Girls! :)