Ora et labora
~St. Benedict

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Organized homeschooling with your heart in mind

Meant to inspire mamas to get where 
they need to be and let go of the rest.

What does being organized mean to you? I ask this because so many homeschooling moms are in a quandary regarding organization. Sub-topics can include, but are not limited to: scheduling, managing a household while teaching, meal planning, coordinating materials and supplies, and so on and so forth.

I used to feel very overwhelmed when thinking about everything I had to do in a day, let alone the things I thought I ought to be doing, and let's just throw in there the things I thought I couldn't do. I would wake up in the morning feeling like I was behind and then forced my depleted self to bed feeling like I didn't accomplish nearly enough.

I had set myself up for defeat, but how?

Surely, organizing a home and school can be recognized as a type of physical discipline. Well let's back up a step, although the practical applications are there - consider the attitude of such an undertaking. Have you ever tried new organizational methods or products to find that they only worked for a while, before you ventured right back to your old ways? It reminds me of a diet of sorts, the Organizing Diet would go something like this, for 3 easy installments of $19.95 "Get yourself in order, stay in order, & never fear clutter again!"

Organizing may not come easy to you for several reasons, like you are needing 36 hours in a day rather than a mere 24, you are wrangling wild animals and kids as a side job, you are stressing and eating Nutella from a jar, you are planning curriculum and cool field trips, or just too busy being social with other homeschoolers. Whatever the case, you want it done, but would rather not, or don't know how.  

Perhaps you just need a push in the right direction! Our homeschooling universe is quite unique and savvy. We are not separating learning from our lives, but embracing it as a way of life. Home educators in general are very giving and forthcoming when it comes to sharing information and even valuable time with each other.

If you have tried organizing yourself before and failed, then I encourage you to drop your current attitude. Yup, perspective is everything! Let go of your fears, be positive by not uttering the negative, pray, and breathe in and out. Do whatever is necessary to release any tension that may be lingering in your life. Surround yourself with other homeschool parents outside of your home that are positive and upbeat. Get out of your house and attend a homeschool activity, even if only once a month, but preferably more. You will find that support comes in many forms and can be extremely motivating. You may even discover that your idea of organizing changes or evolves over time.

Okay, so what about some practical ways to get your house and school in order? Big or small, there's always someone in our amazing community that has clever ideas to share. I'm excited to join forces with some local HS mamas to see just how they structure their family and school lives.

Join me in welcoming veteran homeschooler, Jennifer Jones, in our next weekly post. She will be guest blogging and sharing some of her favorite organizational tips that she uses with her sizable and charismatic family.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Mexico roadschooling notebook deconstructed

One of the perks of homeschooling is that we get to visit places when everyone else is at school and work.  So, in the middle of last March we packed up the kids and drove from Texas to New Mexico to try snow skiing for the first time.

Our goal was to get to Roswell, approximately 8 hours away with a nursing baby in tow.  Although our trip took a little longer, we made it to the little city by dark & then enjoyed all the aliens and UFO's it had to offer the next morning. Our final destination to Sipapu was only 4 hours further.

The boys did not rely on a bunch of movies or video games for entertainment.  In fact, we did a little prep before hitting the road & made some roadschooling notebooks to keep occupied. We included items like tape, pencils, map pencils, glue, sketch books, & magnifying glasses. They also brought along books to read and we played car games.

Here's our notebooks at a glance: 

Little T's notebook
I put together some facts and pictures regarding New Mexico, so the boys could familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. Even though we have things like Yucca plants in Texas, they still had fun pointing various ones out on the trip. 

I also mapquest our destination and printed out the map for them, along with the Sipapu trails they would encounter later.

Little T had "The Snowman" and "The Snow Queen" stories in his binder. I read them aloud to him, so he could close his eyes and visualize the stories. This helped him to unwind and relax. You can find these short stories on OMazing Kids.

Large manila envelopes are wonderful to punch holes into and add to 3 ring binders. They not only hold stuff (wonderful stuff), but add a sense of mystery and excitement. I found these neat little puzzles that I added into one pouch, along with a design your own snowflake worksheet.  The other envelope housed a design your own alien comic strip with crazy clipart included.

Building upon the skiing excitement, a short story called "Learning to Ski" from Have Fun Teaching was an attention grabber for Little T. Big T had ski slang definitions added to his book and we all had a great laugh. Plus they acquainted themselves with various parts of the ski gear they would soon be using from a simple Google search. 

Another resource I liked using and will be using again is called Printable Paper. They have every type of paper form imaginable that you get to print for free. I used some of the storyboard templates for the loose comic strip designs.  The snow globe worksheet came from OMazing Kids.

Our last secret manila envelope consisted of the "Pipe-cleaner Masterpiece." My handwritten instructions: Design a buddy, sculpture, or work of art! You can hang them around for fun. 

We had tons of "art" that was made and then scrapped and then made again.

My God-daughter and Little T with their pipecleaner art crowns.

Other items that lived in the binders were gallon sized bags with holes punched into the bottoms. A hand written index card let the boys know to collect items like pamphlets and post cards along the way. We even found some cotton in a field that made its way into one of the bags.

The favorites out of the notebooks were probably the games. We had two that kept all the kids and adults busy both ways on the trip. We played the license plate game, collecting one from each state and had a pretty decent travel scavenger list going.

The boys also worked on Boy Scout and Cub Scout badges and pins.  Little T was able to complete his Snow Ski and Board Sports activities, so earned the pin.  Big T worked really hard on his, but still needs to master those moguls. He'll have another opportunity at the beginning of the year. 

I don't think that TnT even finished everything in their notebooks, and that's okay with me. They learned a ton and were active participants in family discussions and knew what was going on around them at any given time. The important thing is that they were connected with us and the world around them and not buried in a video game or other electronic device.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Made-up pumpkin cakes

Blog entry by:  Big T

My little brother really wanted some pancakes, but we discovered that alas, there were no eggs to be found. 

In my brilliance, however, I had the amazing idea of using pumpkin as a substitute.

Fantabulousness ensued...

We added homemade granola.

Awkward photo moment. I couldn't stop laughing.

Our made up on the spot Pumpkin Cake Recipe:

1 Cup Pioneer Brand Pancake & Waffle Mix
3/4 Cup Milk
1.5 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
Butterscotch Chips (as many as you desire)
2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
3 Dashes (to taste) Cinnamon
1/2 Can Pumpkin Puree 
1/4 Cup Homemade Granola

Mix everything together, but don't add the granola or butterscotch chips yet. Preheat your pan & lightly spray with cooking spray or drizzle some olive oil onto the surface. Use a tablespoon to form your circular medallion cakes. Sprinkle granola and butterscotch chips onto the top of each little cake. There will be no air bubbles visible, so flip cake when it holds together & lightly brown other side. Be careful and don't burn the scotchy chips. 

No syrup needed, although we added a dollop of real cream! Eat up and enjoy!

Happy customer!

Even Baby T enjoyed it! We left the granola & chips out of his.

                        Nom Nom, sticky finger licking good!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homeschoolers are engaging and fun

Sometimes it's hard putting "homeschooling" into words. After all, we do so much! Here's part of our year in a nutshell. Yes, this is only a snippet of what my family is involved in, but it's a pretty good sneak peek into our world.

If you are on the fence about homeschooling, I hope this motivates your family in the right direction. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ear solution for your fur baby

Our mascot/fur baby has another ear infection! We took him into the vet a while back and it was diagnosed as a yeast infection, not mites. He was treated and it eventually cleared, but now it's back.  We really don't know why he's prone to ear infections, perhaps the change of food when we went out of town. 

I looked it up and found out some information regarding the type of yeast, candida. Anyway, a friend of mine said she had a remedy even better than what the vet's office could offer.  She uses it on her Irish Setter and can not say enough positive things about the mixture.

I was more on the cautious side and investigated the recipe she gave me even further.  Apparently, it's been around for a while and originally made by a veterinarian.  Dog owners swear by it and it's safe for felines as well.

Step one is to flood the ear canals with the solution & massage in at base of ear.  Your pet will shake his/her head vigorously, so do it in an area where it's okay for a little splatter mess.

Then you administer 1-2 drop in each ear for 2 weeks.  You can wipe any excess wax that comes out with a piece of toilet paper or cotton. 

At first I was afraid to clean Nico's ears, but after his doctor showed me how, then I didn't feel like I could hurt him.

Their ear canals go down and then back (different from ours), so you can give the outer portion of the ear a good wiping without fear.  I simply hold the scruff on the back of his neck, bend his ear flap back and do what I have to do quickly. Amazingly, he doesn't try to scratch or bite, he just runs off after I let go.

When applying the drops, I quickly release the ear and fold over to shut so I can massage for a few seconds before he shakes...sometimes while he shakes.

And I had an extra pair of hands to help with the first two applications before I got used to the procedure and felt comfortable doing it on my own. Now I can pretty much do it one handed, while my other hand is holding the scruff and keeping him still.  I also find it better to sit on the floor and use my legs to sort of corral him.

I have completed 1 full week of the cycle.  For the first few days I saw a lot of dark waxy debris, but while cleaning his ears today, I noticed he didn't have as much. Once the two weeks are completed, he'll get another good ear inspection and hopefully it will be okay to administer the formula once a month for maintenance and use as a preventative. 

Blue/Purple Power Wash Recipe:

16oz Bottle Witch Hazel
4 Tablespoons Boric Acid Powder (found at local grocery store with medicines)
16 Drops Genetian Violet 1% Solution (Walgreens will order for you at no additional charge & it's inexpensive - I ordered off of Amazon) **Side Note, this solution is a dark purple & stains like a permanent marker in its concentrated form.
1 Dropper (I chose to get a glass amber bottle with dropper)

Mix all the ingredients into the Witch Hazel bottle and shake until everything is dissolved.  Be sure to shake before each use!

Please be careful and don't get into your or your pet's eyes!  

The above notes are what I'm doing with my small pet - upon researching a bit, I chose to amend the recipe to a lower dose and not flood the ears every time.  

The original recipe and treatment can be found at Woodhaven Labs.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Making liquid laundry soap for our family

Our original laundry soap recipe was taken from the
Duggar's favorite recipes page

I use a Fels-Naptha soap bar to treat our stains (especially baby stains) on a regular basis.  Also, it's important to use cold water when pre-treating stains so they don't set in.  Place soiled clothing in sink & rinse with cold water while working soap bar into stain(s). Leave a little bit of the soap on the stain when rinsing and then wring and hang until you are ready to wash.

My Amended Cleaned to a "T" Recipe: 

1.5 bars of Fels-Naptha
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (must use sodium carbonate, so just adding baking soda won't work)
3/4 Cup Borax
4 Cups hot tap water
5 Gallon Bucket to store detergent
Container to hold detergent you are using (an empty liquid laundry soap container works or a large plastic Arizona tea container does the job)
Essential Oils (Optional)

*All of these ingredients with the exception of a really nice essential oil, are cheap. I paid 99 cents for my Fels-Naptha bar (found in laundry detergent aisle) & $1.99 for the Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.

Grate your soap bar into a pot with the 4 cups of hot water.  Stir it until melted and soap is dissolved over medium heat. 

Get your 5 gallon bucket ready by filling it up halfway with hot water & then adding the cooked soap mixture. Add the other ingredients with the exception of the essential oils and stir until everything is dissolved.  Fill the bucket up with some more hot water. 

This is supposed to set over night.  It will thicken and become like a gel with some clumps in it.  The first time I made this, I was unfamiliar with the Fels-Naptha bar & used Ivory (big mistake). My mixture didn't quite thicken as anticipated.

Take your funnel & container that will house your detergent & pour gelled soap in it until it reaches the halfway mark.  Fill the rest with hot water and use your essential oil at this point.  I used doTerra's Lavendar and Lemon oils (about 10 drops each) & then ended up adding Sandalwood oil later, because I thought it was a perfect "natural clean" scent.

The detergent will continue to gel and clump, so it's important to shake before each use. I use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load based on the types of material & how much I'm washing - for instance, I would add more in a jeans load as opposed to a baby clothes load.

Good for cleaning up your family one load at a time, enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mother's Day Gift

Here is a simple Mama's Day gift that can be made at home!  I used Microsoft Word and just imported some of my favorite pictures. I'll have the boys and my God-daughter fill them out as a little side activity from our normal Friday history reading.

And yep, I made this sheet up and have no qualms about giving it to my children to fill out.  I'll close my eyes of course and place them in an envelope until Sunday. Oh and my God-daughter's will of course go to her sweet mom.  

History has proven that you are
the very best mother for me because you know my heart!
You are special to me because _________________________________

My favorite thing to do with you is _____________________________

I think you are the most _______________ in the whole world!

If you were famous, it would be for ____________________________.

I find comfort in your _____________________________________.

I thank you for _________________________________________.

Your smiles, hugs, and kisses make me feel ________________________.

One day, I’d like to __________________ just like you!

God put us together because __________________________________.

Love Always,

Here is another one set in a slightly different format for grandma: 

An Oma is special, but you are extra
special because you belong to me!

I like seeing you because _____________________________________________.

I love the way you _________________________________________________.

Your ___________________ is great!

I have fun with you by _____________________________________________.

I like when you __________________________________________________.

You are the best at _______________________________________________.

Your secret talent is ______________________________________________.

If you were famous, you’d be famous for __________________________________.

I’d like to _________________ with you one day!

Love Always,

I printed these out using card stock for extra durability. The beauty of this easy, but heartwarming project is you can customize your own with different wording, adding borders, or whatever tugs at those mom heartstrings. BTW, I think this format is great to use on small kids all the way up through teens. My husband is graciously filling out the one from our baby to me, can't wait!

Happy Mother's Day, may we count our blessings!