So, a funny thing happened on the way to my blog…

So, a funny thing happened on the way to my blog.  It’s called.  “LIFE.” or maybe “CHILDREN.”  Or maybe “HOLY COW I FORGOT I STARTED A BLOG…AGAIN!”  So many things that get in the way of what I would like to do.

Just kidding.  My kids don’t get in the way.  Neither does life.  In fact, I’m hoping to re-re-embark on my blogging adventure and just go with it.  When I first started I had some ideas of things I wanted to talk about.  Then I realized that some of my stuff sounded pretentious (it’s okay to call me out on it…I was young, I was naive…I was nervous about blogging).  Also, I realized that honesty is the best policy, so here are some things that have kept me from blogging…and will most likely become topics of future blog posts:

1–I got a new job!  HOORAY!  That was 4 years ago.

2–My son broke my laptop!  Then I got a new laptop!  There was a 3 year gap!

3–I started taking my health seriously and started going to the gym.  A LOT.

4–I started to explore the crazy amazing world of Obstacle Course Racing.  A LOT.  And I love it.

5–My husband started a new job…so he’s gone.  (You thought I was going to say “a lot” didn’t you?)

6–I’ve been trying to make a solid effort to spend time with girl friends.  Admittedly…it’s mostly at the gym or on OCR courses.

7–I discovered Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Video.  And ebooks.  You can just BUY a book at the second you want it??? BLISS!!!  (PS Sorry, hubs…you got me the Kindle, so it’s not all my fault!)

8–Insert lots of other random stuff that takes time but needs to happen…like laundry, grocery shopping, feeding my kids…you know…the glamorous stuff.

So, cheers!  Here is to another fresh start at blogging!!!

Let Summer Begin

Well, it’s finally here.  The end of the school  year.  For Kyle, anyway.  Now that he’s home there will be a lot of changes in our daily schedule and, hopefully, we’ll start knocking out some of those home improvement projects that need attention without children and good weather because they’re outside.  We also have about two and a half weeks to finish home school.  No, we aren’t done yet.

I’m not really worried that we aren’t done with home school but I am feeling pressure to get everything done since we’ve finally gotten it arranged to have someone evaluate Blake’s work.  We are fortunate that, after meeting with the principal at our Primary School, she volunteered to look at Blake’s work and sign off on his work for the year.  Of course I’m also nervous wondering if we did enough and if he’s made enough progress to move to second grade.  I’m especially nervous because home school has been a challenge in many ways (as some of my previous posts can attest) and I’m not really confident that I’ve done everything I needed to for him to be ready for second grade.  On the other hand, we do still have a couple of months so if there is a problem we can work on it and get him evaluated again then.

I’ve enjoyed so many aspects of the home school experience but, at the end of the year, I have a major feeling of relief that we are just about done.  I love my sons, I really do, but when home school doesn’t go well and we’re stuck in the house for days at a time as I try to get Blake to work I get a little crazy.  Maybe I didn’t have the right personality for it.  Maybe Blake and I have personalities that are too similar.  Maybe having a two-year-old running around was too much of a distraction.  Maybe the curriculum wasn’t best meeting Blake’s interest.  Maybe, maybe, maybe….

At the end of the year, I see so many positive things that have come from home schooling and yet I still have that little feeling of doubt, of wonder, if it was the right thing after all.  We are exploring the best way to transition Blake back into traditional school for second grade and I do have sadness about that.  I think the boys have been able to get really close through the home school experience and in many ways Blake and I have gotten closer.  So there is joy along with the sadness.

I will say that I have seen Blake’s confidence return and that there is definite excitement about the reading he can now do.  Of course he still complains about phonics and math facts but it’s hard to convince a six-/seven-year-old that all the “boring stuff” is what makes you have the ability to do that more interesting things.  It was also redeeming, in some kind of way, to learn that the teacher with whom we had so many difficulties has been asked to resign.  Not that I am joyful that someone has lost their job, but with all the problems we had I am feeling confident that in returning to public school Blake is returning to an environment where educators are being supervised and that there is an accountability.  I also feel that meeting with the principal allowed me to express my concerns (and I was very careful not to say anything negative about his teacher from last year) and also to indicate that I was going to be much more of an advocate for him because I was way too tentative last year until it got t be too late.

We are definitely in a time of change at our house as I am looking for a job again, Kyle is looking for a job, we are still trying to determine how to sell our home (which would allow me to stay home or at least remove some financial pressure), have many extended family cares that need attention, and are trying to wrap up home school.  But the redeeming factor is that now, it’s summer…so if the rain ever stops, we’ll worry about it at the pool!

The Lost Art of the Drive-In Movie Theater

One of my early memories of a family night out was at the drive-in theater (now, like so many, defunct) in Erie, Pennsylvania.  That’s where I saw E.T. for the first time, I was in Kindergarten, and was scared by The Black Crystal to the point that we had to leave early.  What an amazing experience!  My mom made popcorn at home and some snacks for us during the movie, we had a station wagon so she and my dad made a kind of bed area for me in the back, and we joined hundreds of other cars under the night sky for a movie.

There’s something that, to me, is so much more memorable about the drive-in movie experience.  You can tailgate beforehand and play games, move around, play on playgrounds (if you’re a child) and meet all kinds of new people when you park next to them.  In the regular theater you wait in lines and try not to make eye contact.  When you sit, you always keep a space between you and the person next to you, if possible.  If you get to a movie extra-early, you just sit there…maybe talking to the friends you’ve come with and maybe playing on your phone while counting down the minutes until the movie starts.

The outdoor theater experience is so much more inviting and it’s a living experience.  I can remember almost every drive-in theater experience I’ve had.  Early on we still had to clip on the radio to our window…which in some ways I miss because it was kind of fun and definitely part of the overall adventure.  I remember drive-in theaters where there were multiple screens, where the ground had been graded like theater seating, where the main area in front of the screen was dedicated to picnickers and playgrounds, and where people were all friendly even though they were strangers.

I was especially grateful for the drive-in after our first son was born.  We could still have a date night and go to see not one but two movies for the price of one in the theater.  When our son got fussy, we sat in the car and closed the windows and watched the movie from there.  When he fell asleep, we opened the windows and sat back outside.  As he got older, we could do what my parents did for me and make a bed in the back of the minivan for him to lie on when he was tired.  I love that when children’s movies come out there is something for everyone…usually the children’s movie is first and the PG-13 or R movies are second.  I love that I can set up a play pen for our younger son so that he can be outside with us but still move around.  It can really be a family night and still have interaction.

We’ve seen people get engaged at the drive-in.  And, you know what?  Everyone there cheered for them.  It really is a community when you go.

Some theaters are open year-round and while we haven’t braved the cold with our young boys, I’ll take them when they’re a bit older…would love to do a New Year’s Eve movie.  What a great memory that would be!

Granted there are so many things that are the same as drive-ins years ago but there are differences.  Some will charge you for outside food (usually about $5) but since they don’t make the bulk of their money off the tickets but rather the food I think that is a small price to pay.  Plus, realistically, we spend way more than $5 on food at a theater so it is nice that we can bring dinner and snacks and drinks for much cheaper than at a theater.  The movie theater popcorn is still something we purchase there because it is part of movie tradition.  Instead of the clip-on radios you now just tune your car radio or external radio to a station.  Of course, that eliminates the metal poles a lot of times so you have more space to sit.  Another difference is the differentiated parking places…with all the behemoth vehicles you do need to get there kind of early if you have a mini-van or smaller SUV so you don’t get a Hummer in front of you with people sitting on the roof.  But that’s all part of the experience.

If you have never been to a drive-in theater, I suggest you look for one near you.  They are a dying breed and it’s really unfortunate that this part of American history is declining.  Maybe in the future there will be a rise in numbers of these theaters because they are more than just a place to go and sit and be entertained.  They are, in fact, a place for families and friends to go and share in an experience…the way movies are meant to be.

(If you live in the Cincinnati area, we are fortunate that we live near not one, but two functioning drive-in theaters.  Shameless plug but here it goes:  in Amelia, Ohio, there is the Starlite Drive-In Theater and in Hamilton, Ohio, we go to the Holiday Auto Theater.  There may be others but those are the ones I know of.)

I have a blog? Oops…

Since my goal with my blog is more personal and reflective of what life is really like, I guess that since it’s been a while, the truth is that I just haven’t had time.  Or, to be more specific, I haven’t made the time to write.  In short, the events in my life since I last blogged have included:  listing and attempting to sell our house, visiting Florida for my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, attempting to get a job (and turning one down), working on two novels in an attempt to fulfill a personal dream, trying to stay sane as I continue the homeschool battle, and various other miscellany that makes up the stay-at-home mom’s job.  And since my goal in my blog is to be honest…I have to say that I’ve eaten my way through it all.

Today’s blog is going to be about weight struggles, battles with self-image and self-worth, and my motivation to get back on track in a healthier lifestyle.  I used to think I was a stress eater…that was in college when I was frequently chowing down on all kinds of food when I studied or wrote a big paper.  Then I thought I was an emotional eater…when I moved away from my family and started my first job and literally knew one person (my now-husband).  Then I didn’t really care, I was just a hungry eater.  Now I realize I’m just an eater.  My mom gave me a great book to read titled The Vice-Busting Diet by Julia Havey.  I’m not done with it but it has made me admit to myself that I am all too willing to give myself excuses to eat.  Oh, I cleaned a room…let’s have a cookie as a reward.  Oh, my favorite show is on?  Let’s make some movie butter popcorn.  Stress in my life?  Food.  Food, food, food.  Even when I’m trying to be healthy I have an unhealthy obsession with food.

Maybe it’s my personality.  I definitely have a bit of an obsessive personality so if I start thinking about something or participating in a new project it really can consume me if I’m not careful.  Probably it’s just an excuse.  The reality is that I struggle a lot with being a stay-at-home mom.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being home with my boys but I so often have feelings of frustration.  Am I doing the right thing for my children?  Oh, boy, I get to wash dishes AGAIN.  And in three hours, I’ll do it again…and again…and by the end of my life, how many times will I have washed these dishes.  Then I reach for something to eat.  Why?  Why do I do this to myself?  I wish I had an answer.  Now that we are faced with the situation that I need to go back to work or we need to downsize our mortgage payment I struggle with feeling like I  have taken my time home with my boys for granted and I’m a terrible mother…and then I eat.

See?  I know I’m doing it…I just can’t seem to stop or at the very least, I just can’t seem to make myself stop.

So, back to the book.  It is just a simple approach to looking at what we are doing when we eat and how to make it better.  And, this time, I’m doing it for my family.  I used to desire to lose weight to look better and, of course, be healthier.  But this time around I realize that I have made unhealthy choices and used unhealthy excuses for them.  I know I can have success at losing weight…after Bryan was born I got down to my high school weight.  Unfortunately I psyched myself out of my weight loss because I was still outside of my “recommended weight range” and the weight quickly came back as I allowed myself to fall back into old habits.

The reality for me is that I will most likely always struggle with my weight and with making good food choices.  But I am at a point now where I know I need to be healthier…not just smaller.  It’s easy for me to look around at all women I spend time with and say, well, I’m bigger than almost everyone so I can just be the big funny girl.  The reality is that I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment.  And yet I can’t stop myself from having one more piece of cake, one more glass of pop.  Recently, we attended the funeral of a very close family friend…my mother’s best friend, actually.  And it just brought home to me how short life really is.  I’m in my thirties now…and I’m hoping for a healthier life.

I know I can’t do it on my own.  If I have actually learned anything from my past, that is what I have learned.

So this time, I am actually starting my weight loss with a program called Advo Care.  To me it seems like a great combination of the two weight-loss programs I have had success with in the past.  There are supplements and a schedule for the first twenty-four days and I see a lot of parallels between the menu options and what I already know to be healthy eating.  I am also making myself exercise.  If I can watch an hour of TV a night, I can do it while I’m on the treadmill.  I just start earlier so that I can still get to bed at a reasonable time.  My goal is that I would be able to create a healthier lifestyle for me and my family.  I don’t want my boys to struggle with food choices and exercise choices when they grown up.  I want them to experience making good choices…so, yes, you can have a kids’ meal today BUT we aren’t going to eat there every day.  I want them to have exposure to all kinds of food but live in balance.

I’m really excited right now because I have been able to get through the first four days without cheating.  I definitely have support this time and I especially want to thank my friend, TC, for supporting me.  There are people who will support me, I know.  I have just come to the realization that I have to be the one to do it.  My mom has always said, “No one will take care of you except for you,” and it’s taken me a while to get there but I finally know it is true.  People can support and offer words of encouragement but it really is up to me and no one else.

Well, I know it is a pretty self-centered return to my blog, but there it is.  To close, I’m hoping to put up a hilarious clip from the Middle which just really reminds me of the reality of what it is to be a woman and struggle with self-image.  Of course if it doesn’t work I guess you’ll miss out on the humorous experience.  🙂

Savory Chicken Tacos

This is a great Kroger recipe!  They were handing out samples a couple weeks ago and Blake tried it and said, “Mom, we HAVE to make this tonight.  Seriously.  It’s delicious.”  So we did…and it is!

Ingredients (all Kroger Brand):

  • Canola Cooking Spray
  • 1 Wholesome Slow Roasted Rotisserie Chicken, deboned and shredded
  • 1 (12 oz) package Frozen Steamable White or Brown Rice
  • 1 cup Frozen Sweet Corn (I actually used a whole bag on accident and it was still delicious)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup Fancy Shredded Quesadilla Cheese (I couldn’t find this so I just used Mexican Cheese)
  • 1 can diced Salsa Style Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) Verde Enchilada Sauce (I couldn’t find this so I just used salsa verde)
  • 1 package Crisp Taco Shells
  • Sour Cream (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Spray a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Mix all ingredients except taco shells and sour cream in a large bowl.
  4. Spread evenly into baking dish.
  5. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, or until bubbling.  Let stand 5 more.
  6. Spoon into shells and top with sour cream.

This recipe was really fast and easy.  And, to be honest, instead of messing up a bowl and a 9×13 pan I just dumped it all into my glass pan and mixed it there.  I didn’t have anything stick so I don’t know if it was because I used glass or not.  I think because I used a whole bag of corn it definitely went even further than I thought…but this makes a LOT and it was really good for leftovers!  I don’t even think you need the taco shells 🙂

HalloWiin Fun!

When we grew up my grandmother always made our costumes…beautiful outfits sewn for us when we lived miles away and only saw her maybe once or twice a year.  Some of my costumes included:  a Raggedy Ann outfit, Rainbow Brite (complete with hoop skirt), an Indian princess, and clown costume.  My brothers didn’t get as many years of hand made costumes but some of theirs included:  a cowboy, a bear, Tigger, and a clown costume.  The year of the clown costumes my brother, Justin, and I went as matching clowns which I was SO EXCITED about because I loved clowns!  If I can find a picture of us and figure out how to upload it, I will.  But last year I talked Blake into wearing the clown costume because there was one for him and one for Bryan and it was adorable.

Just for kicks, here’s a picture of the bear costume Bryan wore to King’s Island last year:

So, clearly my grandmother has great skills and the costumes have held up over the years so that now her great grandchildren can wear them too!  For two years, ever since we got a Wii for Blake’s birthday, he has wanted to be Yoshi for Halloween.  Last year I managed to talk him into being a clown but this year I promised he could be Yoshi if he still wanted to…which given the typical attention span of a five-year-old I figured he’d forget by the time he was nearly six-and-a-half and ready for another Halloween costume choice.  Of course, he didn’t.

I thought about buying a costume (though the thought of spending money made me kind of sick since we have so many beautiful costumes he could wear) but that lasted for about five minutes…long enough for me to find the only Yoshi costume sold in America for kids.  It cost $30 plus another $5 in shipping.  No, thank you!  After seeing it, Blake was even more excited about being Yoshi and constantly reminded me of my promise to him.  In addition, he was convinced that Bryan HAD to be Toadstool (AKA Toady) because then they could be like Super Mario Brothers/Mario Kart and go around together.  The Toady costume (I hesitate to even call it that) cost $25 and was only a vest and a hat.  Both costumes got horrible reviews and I was not about to spend that amount on a costume they’d only wear a couple times and then would end up in a box in the basement.  But a promise is a promise, so off I went.  Note:  If you are looking to make a Yoshi or Toady costume there are no patterns you can buy.  The task was beginning to be really daunting but I wanted to make good on my promise so I decided to give it a whirl and make my own costumes…after telling Blake that it might not happen.  He looked me in the eyes and said, no lie, “Mom, you’re really creative and you can sew really good so I know you won’t let me down.”  Yikes!

Now, to be honest, at that point my sewing machine had been used primarily to sew straight lines…blankets, curtains, hems, pillow cases, etc.  Nothing exciting…nothing really challenging.  Now I was facing the task of making a costume totally from scratch without any pattern or any idea of what to buy for it.  Luckily Jo-Ann Fabrics was having a huge sale on their flannel materials and I found a coupon online.  I was also lucky in that while all this process was going on my mom was in town to play with the boys and help out while I floundered through the creative process.  After purchasing fabric for both costumes and orange spray paint (I spent about $20 total) I was ready to begin.  And by ready I mean I had no idea how to start.

My first step was having Blake lie down on a piece of paper (we have a roll of easel paper and I taped two lengths together) so I could trace his body and figure out sizes from that.  And my pattern-making basically followed that process…including having Blake lie on his side so I could trace his head to try and make the hat/head for Yoshi.  Adventures all around, I tell you!  I found myself sitting at my sewing machine with all kinds of paper cutouts wondering why I was going to try this…but I was also intrigued by the challenge so off I went!

There was little error but much paper-piecing and trial to see how best to create Yoshi.  I looked at a lot of websites with characters and game boxes and just decided to go for it.  Blake was really excited when it was done, and I was pretty excited too.  Here are some of the finished product pictures!

 

 

The boys wore the costumes to every place that they possibly could and now they wear them on a fairly regular basis to play Wii or just to make up their own games.  In the end, it was worth it to keep my promise to Blake.  Also, I now know to be careful what I promise…because I may end up making it!

Halfway through Home School

 

Well, I figure we’re about halfway through the home school year.  Not quite, but close enough to start evaluating the process and maybe even make plans for next year’s education.  There have been some really amazing moments with home schooling and there have been some very challening moments.  I definitely feel like it is time to start weighing in on whether or not this will be our plan for the next year.  So, for those of you who are considering home schooling maybe some of my thoughts/experiences will give you a better starting place for considerations and planning since we kind of had a last-minute decision to do this and had help from a few friends but just weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into!!!  Obviously these are subjective to the way that we are trying to work home school but comments or helpful suggestions would be welcome because we are, clearly, still learning!

 

The Experience

This has been a great experience for the entire family:  challenging, humbling, humiliating, and often times full of joy.  Because my DH works full-time plus is currently in a major church ministry the bulk of the instruction falls to me.  I will say, however, that he is amazingly helpful on Saturdays when we are a little behind or after he comes home from work when Blake and I have been butting heads over getting work done.  If you don’t have a spouse who is willing to help out even though home schooling is “your” job, then I’d say you may want to have some intentional conversations about that.  It has been good for Kyle and I to talk about Blake’s progress, where we see him growing or lacking, and how we can speak Biblical truths into his heart and life through this process.  It has brought us together in that…and it has also brought challenges to the marriage.  Mostly because about once every other week I send him a text or a nearly-tearful voicemail saying that I can’t handle it and that Blake needs to go back to regular school.  I love my son but he is willful.  Probably a lot like me.  I would say that overall these challenges have brought Kyle and I together on a lot of issues regarding education as well as on parenting and he seems to understand when I need to “escape” into the bathroom with a good book and a bubble bath on some of these days!  I don’t say it enough to him, but without him we’d probably have been done with home schooling months ago…if you decide to do this, prepare for challenges and know that it MUST be a team effort or it can put a stumbling block in your marriage.

With my children, Blake is currently six-and-a-half and Bryan is two-and-a-half-years-old, there have also been great joys and great challenges.  One of the decisions we had to make early on was the time of the day in which to complete our schooling.  My intent was to make sure that Bryan is not ignored for the time Blake and I worked together…but there is always finding a balance of when Blake will work and when Bryan will be awake.  Definitely a juggling act.  If you have multiple children but only one is school-age I would definitely spend some time considering what your days look like and how you can commit to the education of one and still be attentive to the other.  Some days Bryan is really happy just to play in the basement with us while we do school and other days he wants all of my attention.  Sometimes we even strike a balance where Bryan and I can work on colors or “art” while Blake completes assignments.  It has definitely brought my boys and I closer together.  When Blake was younger (from the time he was born until three years ago) he was in childcare while I worked full-time.   I missed a lot of his life and so when we were together it was almost always “fun” time or “buying” time where he got to make choices and get “stuff”.  Part of the challenge of our relationship has been a near-constant repetition of “It’s not always about you.”  The first few weeks this wasn’t an issue, but it grew into an issue when he balked at doing work so I spent time and attention with Bryan even though it was school time.  At this point it has become a healthier relationship for us because he understands the different ways that he can have my time and attention and that sometimes he needs to have quiet time or play time alone while I give Bryan attention.  It has been great because he really treasures the fun times we have together and I have loved being able to watch him grow and change which I missed much of in his earlier years.  Because Bryan is so young it has also been a blessing for me to do home school because I am able to be much more a part of his early years.  Bryan loves reading books and will crawl into my lap at any point in the day if he sees me sit down because he wants to read!  It’s wonderful to be able to do that…which I understand would happen if I was a SAHM without homeschooling but because I am more aware of the teaching and learning process in the home now I think it has been a real blessing to me.  It has also been wonderful to see the boys grow closer together.  For Bryan’s second birthday my wonderful M-I-L got the boys bunk beds and we moved them in together.  This move was partially to ensure that I didn’t have two rooms full of mess and toys, partially to ensure that we had a guest room for my family or any other people in need of  a place to stay, and mostly because I want my boys to grow up to be best friends and share life together!  It has been amazing to see how their relationship continues to grow too.  Because we are doing home schooling Blake has so much time with his baby brother which he wouldn’t otherwise have.  He reads books to Bryan and teaches him counting, colors, shapes…it’s wonderful to watch.  They also play together all the time which sometimes involves Bryan sitting on the couch holding a Wii controller while Blake convinces him he’s actually playing (he learned this trick from his uncles!) or sometimes involves creative, and often, hilarious play.  Overall I think this has brought all of us together though the experience also tends to showcase our flaws and struggles as a family and in marriage.  It is important to be honest with yourself about where struggles may occur and to be honest as you experience them.  Repentance will also, most likely, play a large part in this process if you struggle with any of your children and strong personalities.

 

Curriculum

You must submit your intent to home school to your district superintendent, per ORC 3301-34.  In this letter of intent you must include a sample outline of the curriculum you intend to use.  We chose Rod & Staff and there are pros and cons for my son and for the way we work together (or don’t…depending).

The pros of this curriculum include:

  • the cost which was one of the lowest for a full 1st grade curriculum.
  • the usability of the materials (worksheets and books).
  • the manageability of the amount of work required each day.
  • the use of repetition across the subjects both daily and as review.
  • the limited number of subjects which include handwriting and phonics (these are connected for the first 1/3 of the curriculum), religion/reading (these are paired with each other), and math.
  • the fact that this curriculum is one used in classrooms can give you a feeling of confidence that it meets educational standards.
  • easy to understand teacher manuals which have some great teaching tips.
  • the use of both phonics and whole word in the reading instruction.

The cons of this curriculum include:

  • there is no “pre-test” or evaluation tool which may have saved us a lot of frustration because, as it is, I have been making Blake work through everything when he really has mastered quite a few of the skills but I wasn’t 100% sure of what he was bringing into first grade.
  • the use of repetition can be tedious and because my son seems to be farther ahead on some of the content it can definitely become a problem when I want to make sure he has a skill mastered and he doesn’t feel like doing it…again!
  • the math worksheets can be frustrating because it isn’t explained well that you need to make additional copies of some of the generic forms (to be used throughout the entire year) and that some of the worksheets should actually be used for two or three lessons…if you don’t get that then you have a child doing a LOT of work some days.
  • the use of many out-of-date words (I believe the curriculum was written in the ’70s) and some that are specific to the way the Mennonite church must teach/speak.
  • some of the illustrations which children are asked to write names for are hard to identify (even for an adult) and some are asking for a specific, out-of-date term which can be frustrating when a child doesn’t have familiarity with that terminology.
  • the use of very traditional family roles which I, personally, don’t find troublesome, can create some hard questions…ie, the roles of fathers and mothers and then the application of that when the children know someone who doesn’t have/live with one of those parents.  Like I said, it doesn’t bother me but I know some people may not like the wya it is presented.
  • the lack of any kind of pacing guide.  Especially since this is a curriculum used in a school it would be really convenient to look and see that I am approximately where I should be.  I fully understand that homeschool operates differently than traditional school but as a first-timer there is a lot of pressure to make sure Blake is getting what he needs in order to function appropriately at grade level or at least make significant progress.
  • because this curriculum is used in schools it definitely has that feel and sometimes there is limited interaction in completing assignments because there are so many workbook pages…we try to find a balance or incorporate additional resources here.

 

The Classroom

The great thing about the classroom for home schooling is that it can be anywhere!  Our school day could take place as a field trip to the Cincinnati Museum Center (which offers a discount to home-schoolers, simply take a copy of your approval letter from the district and you get $20 off a membership), in our clubhouse out back, on the grass, in our kitchen or living room, and often times it is in our “official” classroom.  Because I taught for eight years I initially wanted a more “formal” classroom because I had so many resources from teaching (white boards, book shelves, etc.) and we had so many materials from my classroom, Blake’s art area, and in the form of workbooks and activity books that we had previously purchased.  I will say that Blake did well with a desk and in his classroom but there are drawbacks to that as well.  Blake loves the idea of school and he loves using the whiteboard and chalkboard as well as organizing his classroom.  (I can’t  imagine where he gets that from! 😉  Sometimes, however, it is just not a classroom kind of a day.  For starters we have our classroom in the basement which is unfinished and can get pretty cold.  Sometimes school is later in the day and we need to do work in the kitchen while I make dinner.  And sometimes we just don’t want to sit in the classroom.  The lesson I’ve learned is to be flexible.  I know, those of you who already homeschool told me to do that…but it took Blake and I a while to find our “groove” and to figure out what that looks like best.  I would also say that if you have other children who are not yet in school make sure that you do school where they have access to toys (and to you) so that they can play while you work.  Also I’ve found it has been much easier to work with Blake when I have a space for Bryan that looks the same and some little coloring and workbooks for him to do because he likes to do school with Blake.  As far as purchasing supplies for your child I’d say you have to know them…I know Blake likes to stand up and move around so I wanted to make sure we had a white board and chalkboard for him to use for some of his work instead of just using worksheets.  I also took advantage of yard- and rummage-sale season to find workbooks and other teaching/classroom/activity supplies.  You can get great products for super cheap and my friend, SC, actually hit a retiring teacher’s yard sale and got a ton of amazing tactile learning tools for a tiny portion of the cost it would have been to buy them new!  To be honest, though, all of the curriculum I use on a regular basis can fit into a bag or on a shelf in a closet so if you don’t have room (or the desire) to create a classroom don’t feel like you can’t do this!  Many moms I’ve gotten to know simply pull things out onto the dining room table and they say it works for their family.

 

Timing is Everything

At least, that’s what I’ve always heard.  Be flexible in this part of school as well.  I know that when babies are born there are books that encourage parents to create the routine for the infant; if that works for you and your children, great!  It didn’t work for mine and I didn’t try to force a schedule on Blake because I know we operate differently.  Okay, just kidding…I tried to force a schedule and it ended (on a near-daily basis) in yelling, tears, and sometimes a glass of wine on my part.  My goals was to wake up, watch a TV show and have breakfast, get dressed and “go” to school.  Then we’d finish school and have the entire rest of the day to go places or have fun activities or clean (which is another whole blog topic).  After my bright-eyed idealism wore off and reality set in, Blake and I had several conversations about how to make school run more smoothly and without as many battles of our wills.  We started doing school during Bryan’s nap time (which meant that we sometimes did school at different times of the day if Bryan was off his schedule) or even in the evening.  While this schedule doesn’t fit with what I’d prefer to do, it has eliminated many of the battles.  I still get frustrated sometimes because I’d rather go out in the afternoon knowing that we are “free” from school but I’ve realized that less battles means a happier family.  We try to work out two days without school…typically we take Sundays and Wednesdays off because we like Sunday to be relaxing for family time and Wednesdays because I meet with my friend, AR, and Blake has Tae Kwon Do as well.  It also is nice because we only have two-three days at a time and then a break.  If we are having a long field trip day, we just do work later on Wednesday and take another day off!  Flexibility is key.  Of course I forget that a lot and have to remind myself that it’s okay that home school doesn’t look like traditional school.

 

Resources

Before making this decision, I’d attend some kind of informational meeting.  We went to one that was free at a church in Mason and it covered legal issues, notification issues, evaluation, and various grade-level experiences as well as curriculum resources.  You need to create resources…be they home school co-ops or groups or simply people who are going through/have gone through this process.  I cannot express my thanks enough to my wonderful friends MB and SC enough…these women have been sounding boards, Customer Service reps, shoulders to cry on, and just great friends as I’ve worked through this process and continue to do so!  We chose not to join a co-op our first year simply because it seemed daunting to me to try and find a co-op, pay for it, and figure out how to participate in it since we made our decision so late in the summer.  I would recommend some kind of support system, though, so that your child(ren) can socialize and so that you can as well.  Also it is also great to have other moms who will give objective answers to questions you have.  There are also legal organizations to join which will help with any issues that may arise with a school district issue, end-of-the-year testing, or other issues that arise.  By participating in a co-op and/or legal organization you’ll have access to end-of-the-year evaluations which are required by your local school district to ensure that you are teaching your child and that they are progressing.  I have not experienced this process yet so I can’t comment on how that evaluation will go.  I’d also say that it is a great piece of advice to check out your school district’s policy on homeschooling notification prior to starting the school year.  We have a local superintendent as well as a county superintendent so my notification didn’t actually go to my local school district…thanks to MB I knew that ahead of time!  One home schooling mom recommended that I photocopy my approval letter from the district and keep it in my purse which is great advice because many places (like the Museum Center) offer discounts to educators when you purchase passes.  Bookstores will also honor this and one of my friends says that if you show it at the library you can have extensions on book check-outs as well.  I haven’t tried the last one, so you’d need to ask your local library.  Speaking of libraries…great resource!  We try to go once a week and there are study/meeting rooms that are free and on a first-come, first-served basis.  Next year, when Bryan might stay contained better in one of these rooms, it would offer a great place to do school outside of our house.  Also Blake loves getting audio books and non-fiction books so we always try to get books on new subjects and the children’s librarians at Middletown Public Library are AMAZING if that is where you go, you probably already know how wonderful they are!

 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully some of the experiences we’ve had so far will give you an insight into what the process looks like for us and at this point in the year.  The most important lesson I’m learning is to be flexible while ensuring that Blake knows that school is not an option.  Delicate balance, true, but I’m learning.  My tips for those of you considering this option (if it’s earlier than we started to consider it) are:  go to a home school convention which are typically in the spring because you can actually look at curriculum instead of just looking online and you can start gathering information and networking, attend a meeting in your area for parents who are just learning about/exploring the home school option because these are typically smaller and more specific to the first-timer, ask at your church if there are parents already home schooling or talk to friends you know who already do this, and above all, pray about your decision and its impact on your family.  Because it will be an amazing process.

 

Helpful Websites

  • CHEC (Christian Home Educators of Cincinnati) which offers a multitude of support options and meetings (as well as association with a the Home School Legal Defense Association).  Check out their website at http://www.chechome.org if you live in:  Anderson, College Hill, Greenhills, Hamilton, Fairfield, Kenwood, Lebanon, Mason, Milford, Mt. Orab, West Chester, or Western Hills for affiliated area groups.
  • If you live in Butler County you need to go to http://www.bcesc.org to find out the notification requirements as well as contact information for the process.
  • If you are interested in the Rod & Staff Curriulum you can look at it at http://www.rodandstaffbooks.com if you’d like information on other curriculums feel free to contact me and I’ll send you some of the other curriculum sites that I was given in my search process.

    Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

    I had the realization a few days ago (on the heels of my discovery that Yes, Virginia, you CAN make your own laundry detergent) that my friend, MB, has been making her own for a while and that I may not be as organic as she is…but I probably can too!  So off to the internet and library to gather resources!  My friend, AR, says she used to make her own as well so now that I know two people who make their own and have yet to don a denim jumper with sneakers, a turtleneck, and a bun…I’m going to go for it.  (My apologies to anyone who has just been offended by my comment on their fashion choice.)  I think the most important part of my desire to make dishwasher detergent is to try and save money as well as eliminate some of the chemicals (baby steps) in my home.  My concern is that my dishwasher is not great and powders tend to simply clump together…usually on my dishes.  Since my friend, JL, has the same one maybe I will discover a detergent mixture that will work since I see on her blog that she is also looking to detox her cleaning! 

    Many of the recipes use white vinegar, Borax, and/or washing soda so there will be overlap with some ingredients I’ve found in the laundry detergent recipes so there is a chance to save some money there!  A major concern from a lot of bloggers is that there is a white or cloudy film on dishes although many responses say that adding white vinegar to the rinse aid cup in the dishwasher will eliminate this!

    Of course I am not sure how much money saving I will do since I feel the strong urge to go and buy antique (or super cute new) jars and little shelves on which to put them so I can display (and have access to, of course) my upcoming cleaning supplies!

    Dishwasher Rinse-Aid

    Like using distilled white vinegar for fabric softener in the washer, you can also use it as a rinse aid in the dishwasher.  How much cheaper could rinse aid be?  I’m excited not to be putting all the chemicals on my dishes AND saving money because I am using only a few products to make several different cleaners!

    Dishwasher Detergent

     

    Recipe 1:  My Dear Friend’s Recipe

     

    MB’s recipe

    For dish washing detergent I use this:
    1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
    1/2 cup water
    1 tsp lemon juice
    3 drops tea tree oil
    1/2 cup white vinegar
    Combine all ingredients and store in a glass container. Use 1-2 Tbsp per load…start with one and see if you need to use a little more.

    **This is the recipe I’ve been using.  I actually modified it a little bit and instead of the Sal Suds I used Dr. Bronner’s Orange Castile Soap (because I couldn’t find Sal Suds at first)…and I like both versions!  I think I like MB’s original recipe a little better but part of that is because when I used the Castile soap there was a chemical reaction and the mixture got really cloudy and then separated.  It works great I just have to shake it up before I use it whereas with MB’s original recipe the detergent looks like water and you don’t have to mix it up before you pour it out!  Either way works great!  I like that I can use the Sal Suds and Castile Soap for other cleaning products as well!!!** 

     

    Recipe 2:  Washing Dishes for Pennies

    I can’t reproduce her recipe here, but here’s the link:

     http://www.suite101.com/content/washing-dishes-for-pennies-a24015

     

    Recipe 3:  Jabs Homemade Powdered Dishwasher Detergent

    Using some of the same ingredients as many laundry detergent recipes, Matt Jabs has a great step-by-step guide to making powdered dishwasher detergent…with pictures!  I can’t use powdered dishwasher detergent because it doesn’t work with our water/in our dishwasher for some reason.  But I wanted to link this for those of you who like a powder version better!

    http://diynatural.com/simple-effective-jabs-homemade-dishwasher-detergent-rinse-agent/

      

    Recipe 4:  The New Homemaker’s Dishwasher Powder

    This is her powdered dishwasher detergent recipe plus some links from her site to favorite green cleaning books/sites.

    http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/dishwasherpowder 

    The formula
    Here, after much experimenting, is the formula for dishwashing powder.

    In a plastic container with a firmly fitting lid, mix:
    1 cup borax (20-Mule-Team Borax, available in any supermarket)
    1 cup baking soda
    1/4 cup salt
    1/4 cup citric acid (available in brewing stores among other places–if you haven’t tracked it down yet but must try this formula, use two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon, or you’ll dye your dishwasher! and ONLY unsweetened Kool-Aid!)
    30 drops citrus essential oil–lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or a mixture

    Put all of it in the container, shake it up.

    To use, put a tablespoon or so into each cup of your dishwasher. I’ve found I no longer have to use the scrubbing cycle but can get by fine with the short cycle, thus saving even more money. On average, it looks like this is about 8 cents a load compared with Cascade at 22 cents a load. Compare it with EcoVer or Seventh Generation and it’s a steal. I have also started putting some of this in a shaker canister–the one I have we got at a restaurant supply, it’s aluminum and was made for popcorn salt. I use it to clean my sink and anything else that I’d normally use Bon Ami on. Works great, and the essential oil makes it smell fantastic.

    If you experiment with this, add to the comments on this page, I’d love to know what your experiences are.

    By the way: These are some of the best guides available if you want to make your own cleaners and such:

    Loving my Home Made Soaps!

    I started (and have continued) researching recipes and ideas for making home made cleaning supplies.  I have posted in my recipe section some various recipes for different tasks but wanted to update what I’ve done so far and what I think.  🙂

    I used the recipe from the Duggars to make my laundry detergent and I love it.  The cost for me was as follows:

    $3.50 for a  brand-new 5 gallon bucket and lid.  (I actually had a bunch of buckets but Kyle bought this for me and I didn’t realize you could just buy a lid until later.)

    $1.25 for a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, found in the laundry aisle at Kroger.

    $8.00 for Tea Tree Oil at drugstore.com

    Approximately $8 for a box of Washing Soda and Borax, also found in the laundry aisle at Kroger.

    Now, while I had to pay $8 for my Washing Soda and Borax I only actually used 1/2 and 1 cup in the recipe so now I have a lot left over for other cleaning recipes and for other individual uses…like sprinkling a little in on tough loads.

    So, for about $21 I made 10 gallons of laundry detergent!  (Because you mix the detergent mixture in the recipe with an equal part water when you are actually ready to use it…a 1:1 ratio.)

    I ended up using my Pampered Chef Quick-Stir Pitcher because it mixes my detergent and water amounts easily, pours into an old measuring cup (I use 1/2 a cup per load) and fits easily on my laundry shelf without being too heavy or awkward to use!  Granted I paid about $16 for it but since I had it…it was a perfect solution for me.  I knew if I put detergent in a Rubbermaid container or old laundry detergent jug I’d eventually forget to tighten the lid and end up with detergent everywhere.  Or I’d hit myself in the face while shaking it.  So, the PC Pitcher has been a great solution for me!

    I did not add the Tea Tree Oil to my detergent and, instead, sprinkle about 4 drops in each load as the water comes into the washer.  I like the scent of it though I know some people don’t like that particular fragrance and, to be honest, once the clothes go through the dryer you can’t smell it anymore.

    I have been filling my fabric softener cup with Distilled White Vinegar and, at $2 for a large jug it is much more cost efficient than purchasing fabric softener.  Again, you can’t smell it once the clothes are dried (I can’t really even smell it when the washer is being emptied, to be honest) so if you don’t like the smell of vinegar as much as I do…don’t worry!  It has been working and I’ll admit I was surprised.  I wouldn’t say that it is quite as comparable as a commercial-grade softener but my clothes are definitely soft and fluffy nonetheless!

    For my dishwasher detergent, I used my friend, MB’s recipe except I substituted Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds for Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap.  I LOVED Melissa’s recipe so I ended up ordering the Sal Suds since I’ve read a lot of other great cleaning recipes which can use it.  At first I didn’t think I’d like the Castile Soap formula as well but then I realized that I washed the pot which I used to make my laundry detergent in the load and so that was why my dishes were kind of soapy when I took them out.  I ran the load again and they came out great.  So either recipe is working out great as far as I am concerned!

    I’m definitely having fun exploring this new world and I look forward to making liquid hand soap (my next Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap experiment).  I will keep you posted!!!

    PS, I gave my friend AR some of the laundry detergent to try so I will get her response to it and update the post!

    The Furminator…a MUST HAVE!

    Okay, so we got a new dog (Stack) who is part Basset Hound and Part Labrador Retriever.  He has a sweet hybrid name which is:  Bassador.  I think some people have too much time on their hands, but there it is for you dog afficionados.  Anyway, he is adorable and friendly and Blake and Bryan LOVE him.  I like him pretty well but he sheds which our other dog, Kole, does not.  When Kole does drop his undercoat about twice a year, it is soft fuzzy tumbleweeds that I can simply pick up with my hand and throw out.  Stack doesn’t shed a lot, but it is enough to give me a nervous tic.  Actually his shedding picked up for about two weeks but is slowing down now in part due to the weather change and in part due to the Furminator.  I know, I laughed at the name too and everytime I use it or think of the name I hear Arnold saying it.  But, it is AMAZING.  If you have dogs that shed (or even that don’t) or cats, too, I would recommend this.    Here’s what it looks like:

    My friend, SH, recommended this to me as her dog is a similar breed as far as shedding is concerned and none of her recommendations have steered me wrong so far!

    The down side to this grooming tool is that on the “official” website and at pet stores the newest model retails for about $70.  Would I pay that?  Not before I had used it and possibly I’d save up for it now because I see how well it works.  What I did was found an older model on Amazon.com which is the same basic concept without the new “fur removal” button which I figure God gave me two hands, one to groom and one to pull out the fur so it isn’t that big of a deal.  Mine cost  $8 and I combined an order with something else so I actually got free shipping.  I LOVE it. 

    The thing I like about it is that it is really easy to use, it grabs the hair without tugging or pulling on the dog’s skin and it holds the fur until you pull it out.  Right now I can use it outside and just not really worry about the hairballs but in the winter when it is cooler I can use it in the basement and just put the fur in the trash.  Kole has a long hair coat and he even stands still to let me use it on him which he NEVER lets me groom him with any other tool.

    So if you’re looking for a great pet grooming tool, I’ve loved the investement I made in this one.  And I would probably, realistically, pay up to $40 for it just because I’ve seen how well it works and how the shedding has significantly decreased after starting to use it!