Thursday, October 8, 2015

Trader Joes: The Secret Animals!

I shop at Trader Joe's a couple times a week (no joke...I head there twice a week just for produce trips).  I love the store, plus it's close to my home.  I've become pretty skilled at taking 4 kids shopping with me, but still, it's always nice to have something to "do" at the store.  If the ever-changing decorations at Trader Joe's weren't enough to entertain the children, many locations hide little stuffed animals for the kids to find!

Our store has Billy the Goat, Rosemary the Bird, and Milly (I haven't seen her in a while; not sure what species she belongs to).  They move them often, so it's always fun to hunt.  

They're almost always up high, out of the kids' reach, so keep your eyes looking UP!  

Once you find your store's little animal, be sure to head to customer service and tell them you found "so and so" and where he/she was.  They give out lollipops or other little treats once you've located their friend.

My children LOVE looking for Billy each time we head into the store.  As of late, they've been particularly excited because both Billy and Rosemary have been out and about.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Easing into the School Year Saved My Sanity

We are just entering our 3rd year of homeschooling.   What started out as a "let's see how this works" thing, has now turned into a "I LOVE this" kinda thing.  Homeschooling isn't easy, especially at first. But it does get easier as time passes and you figure out how you can best teach each of your children. This year's big challenge is that I have 2 "official" school children (K & 3rd), plus a preschooler and toddler.  Zoe did complete about half of Kindergarten last year at her own pace, but because of her birthdate, I had always planned to "hold her back" a year, making this her first official year in school (read: where I actually have to make sure she's on track with her learning). We're still figuring it all out, but it's coming along nicely.

Anyway, you know how the start of a new school year (whether homeschooled or not) is always a bit crazy?  You start new routines, new school work, etc. all at once and it's TERRIBLE.  Everyone ends up stressed, the kids are crying, I'm hiding in the hall closet crying and eating chocolate, and it all sucks.  By week two everyone hates school (and life, for that matter), and you're already counting down the days to fall break.

This year was going to be different.  I wasn't going to be stressed or lose my mind.  I wasn't going to put all our school year routines on my kids and myself at once.  I wasn't even going to have an official "first day of school."  Weird, right?  No-genious.

I started by writing down what our typical school days have look liked in the past, and adjusted for things that didn't work or that I wanted to add.  For me, these are the things that change/transition when we shift from summer to school year:

*Personal Hygiene Routines/Chores: The summer is very relaxed around here.  Once school starts, though, the kids eat breakfast and then are expected to get dressed, make their beds, brush their teeth & hair, and tidy up their rooms immediately following.

*My Chore/Cleaning Schedule:  Again, in the summer I just do things as they need to get done (or let them get way out of know how that goes).  During the school year, I typically start at least one load of laundry in the morning before school, and another in the afternoon.  I unload the dishwasher after breakfast and do all the morning dishes before school starts. I clean the bathrooms on a particular day, wash all the bed sheets on a particular day, etc.

*School Time: This is an obvious one, but we did do a bit of school this summer, so this year, our school routines would feel a shift too.

*Activities: Although some activities ran through the summer (gymnastics, piano lessons), others would start in late August/September (Farm School, soccer classes, homeschool co-ops, and choir).  This meant that our daily schedules/times we're home would change.

After I made the above notes (I LOVE notes, lists, journals, spreadsheets, etc.- ha!), I then assigned them each to a week.  I gave myself about 3 weeks of leeway before I wanted to be "going" with everything.  So, since my goal was September 1st, I started on about August 10th.

The week of August 10th, I began having all the children get in the habit of their morning routines.  Breakfast, getting dressed, picking up rooms, teeth, etc.  By the end of the week, no one was complaining anymore, and a couple of them had even started doing it on their own, without prompting. We still enjoyed our summer, and visited parks, the discovery museum, and played with friends.

The week of August 17th, I added in my chores, as well as the kids chores.  We started getting into our laundry routines.  The kids started helping do their own laundry loads again.  I started making sure the kitchen was clean after breakfast (a messy kitchen is a huge distraction while homeschooling).  I also started adding back in my trips to the gym (where they have FREE childcare-woot!).

The week of August 24th, I began adding in our school work.  We just did a little, and didn't spend a ton of time lesson planning this week.  I did a little each day and we'd take breaks when I began to get big push back or huge frustration from the kids.  By Friday of this week, they were starting to ask for their next assignments or what our next science lesson would be about, and their frustration levels had already decreased significantly.

By this week, we are in full "school mode."  We're getting our chores done, our routines are in place, I've gone to gym everyday, the house is (mostly) clean, and we're doing all the school we need to do.  The kids are in good spirits, they aren't burned out from an overload of new changes, and I still have my sanity.  We still have a few activities to add in to our schedules this month, but I know it won't be a big deal since we've got everything else going already.

By easing into our school year, we have definitely started out on a better foot than any other school year in the past.  I will, without a doubt, ease into all future school years in this same manner.

Now, I totally get that if you're NOT a homeschooler, this will look a bit different, but after seeing my public schooling friends' stressed out posts on Facebook, too, I definitely encourage you non-homeschoolers to find ways to ease into your next school year as well.  Perhaps start with getting bed times and wake up times back on schedule, and following that up with morning routines.  That way, by the time school starts, the only NEW thing is that they are headed to school during the day (which is still a big adjustment in itself).

Easing into the school year for the WIN!

Friday, July 17, 2015

10 Reasons Why I Want My Kids to Do Competitive Sports

Growing up, I played soccer competitively.  I loved it, and at times hated it.  I did ballet, tap, and jazz as a young child, and did gymnastics until I was about 10-12 years old.  I never got to a level of competitive gymnastics, but I loved it while I did it.

I believe that competitive sports have a number of things to teach our children.  While I want my still young children (7, 5, 4, 1) to try a variety of sports before settling on one (or two) to focus their attention on, I would really like each of them to have the experience of a competitive sport-whether that be a team one such as soccer or basketball, or a more individual one such as gymnastics or tennis.  There's simply so much to learn from it.  Here are a few of the skills and life lessons I hope my children will take from competing in sports someday:

1.  Mastery takes hard work.  You're not going to be "amazing" right away, but you can be if you keep at it.  Kids need to learn that it takes lots of hours of hard work to get better and more proficient at something.  You can't be excellent at your sport if you only practice once a week.  This is a valuable life skill.  Apply yourself to the task at hand, and work hard to get better.  While some things will come more naturally to them, others may require a bit more "umph" to get through.

2.  It's not all about you.  Competitive sports are never done alone.  You have a team.  Even in solo-type sports like swimming or gymnastics, you have a team of people that you work and learn with (and from).  Guess what, kids?  Everything does not revolve around you.  Helping others out, encouraging them, and rooting for them to be their very best is an important part of being a functioning member of society.  When our minds and hearts are not focussed solely on ourselves, we are better people all around.  I need my children to understand that life is not all about them, but it's about others, too.

3.  Sometimes people don't like you, respect them still.  Sometimes coaches or teammates won't like you.  That's life.  Not everyone will like you, and sometimes they won't even have a good reason as to why.  I remember at 10 years old having my very fist coach who didn't like me and didn't play me.  Even when I'd jump through his hoops (i.e. score two goals and I'll let you play the whole game), he would still refuse to let me play.  Unfortunately, I had this coach on and off through high school.  Only once did I ever say something disrespectful, and I immediately regretted it.  I quickly learned that even if he didn't like me, I needed to be kind and respect him.

4.  Don't give up.  Being a part of a competitive team means you're needed.  Each person is key to the success of the team, and you can't just quit.  You finish what you start.  You don't just give up mid season.  You push through the hard stuff, and keep going.  You find ways to motivate yourself, and you finish out the season.  I don't want my children to quit at the first sight of boredom or frustration or loss of interest.  They don't have to do it forever, but they need to learn to finish what they start.

5.  Things have a cost.  In everything that we do, there is a cost.  Saying "yes" to one thing means we're saying "no" to another.  Saying "yes" to soccer in high school meant saying "no" to other after school activities.  Saying "yes" to gymnastics means my girls are saying "no" to playing with other friends or neighbors on gymnastics days.  It also means saying "no" financially to other sports at the same time.  There is a cost.  Choose what you want to do in life wisely, and fill your time with things you enjoy.

6.  Physical exercise is important.  I want my children to be healthy.  This means they need to eat healthy foods, and establish healthy routines for exercise.  I credit competitive soccer for my love of exercise as an adult.  While I'm not always in the best shape, I do regularly work out.  I'm thankful that I learned at a young age that working out is important.  I want my children to learn the same thing, and to value their health.

7.  Their bodies are capable of far more than they ever imagined.  I remember the first time I ever puked after a run in high school soccer.  I was SO proud.  I didn't know I could run that fast or that long or that hard.  I never knew what my body was capable of until competitive teams.  Although Ellie is still in recreational gymnastics (and will be for a long time, I'm assuming), when she moved up levels and had her first longer practice, she came home and puked.  She worked harder than she had before.  She did more sit ups than she knew she could.  And she was proud because she had worked hard to move up to that next level.  I want them to understand what their bodies are capable of doing.  That instead of saying "I can't," they can say, "I will."  They are strong.

8.  They are stronger than their fears.  Everyone has fears.  Competing in front of people can be scary for many people.  Being chosen to take that penalty kick is scary...what if you miss?  Doing that new flip is scary...what if you fall?  Being the next batter is scary...what if you strike out?  What if you fail?  What if's are all around us.  Try it anyway.  If you miss, fall, strike out, etc., that's okay.  Try again.  And again.  And again.  Overcome your fears of failure and keep going.  My children will be stronger than their fears. They will keep going.

9.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.  Both are okay, and life goes on.  It's fun to be on a winning team or to place well in your individual categories.  Celebrate the wins, and be a kind winner.  But sometimes you lose or place poorly.  Even worse, sometimes your team loses every game for an entire l-o-n-g season.  Of course it sucks, but don't give up.  Don't be a poor loser, and don't be a jerk to the winner.  In fact, get over yourself and go congratulate the winner.  And for parents, as hard as it is to watch your child lose, I promise, it's a great learning experience.  Don't "rescue" them by pulling them off the team and placing them on another team mid-season.  Teach them to finish what they started, even when it's frustrating and hard.  My children will learn to be gracious winners and losers.

10.  Sports are fun.  Perhaps the best thing about sports (competitive or recreational) is that sports are FUN!  Sports are enjoyable, a great way to get exercise, a great way to grow as a person, and so much fun.  My girls tried soccer for a few seasons and had a fun time.  They weren't fabulous at the sport (but they're still so young), but they had fun, so it was worth it.  My girls have currently settled on gymnastics.  They have a blast every week.  They work hard and come home sweaty, but their teachers are so incredibly sweet and patient and fun, and their class mates are all becoming their friends, too.  They look forward to gymnastics each week, and like to have "fun" while learning the sport.

I want my children to pursue a sport at a competitive level.  I want my children to gain a love for exercise and sore muscles, see how much they're capable of doing, learn to respect others, value other people and cheer them on, become persistent people who don't give up easily, and reach and strive to meet their personal goals, even when it's hard.  The lessons from these activities will make them better and more well rounded people.  This is why I will encourage my children to compete in a sport.

What other life lessons would you add to the list?  What were the most valuable lessons you learned from the competitive sports you played as a child, or that you've seen your children learn from sports?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why We Don't Have a Homeschool "Classroom"

We've been homeschooling for two full years now.  Although it took a little while, by the end of the first year I totally loved it.  For a long time, I really struggled with where we should have our school room.  I was previously a teacher, and I imagined using one of the kids rooms as a school room.  It would be so cute, with little desks or tables with chairs, posters all over the walls, easels, cabinets with neatly organized literature, curriculums, and workbooks, endless tubs of learning activities and resources and more.  It would be SO cute.  

But then, I realized this would not fit our schooling lifestyle AT ALL.  While the cute little school room was a great idea for somebody, it is not for me.  Here's why:

1.  I don't want to spend my time in a single room.  Sitting all morning in a small (albeit cute) room sounds awful.  Bouncing back and forth from that room to make snack, lunch, play outside, get the mail, vacuum, finish the dishes, etc. seems like a large feat of musical chairs.  Plus, I have 4 kids.  They sure as heck aren't going to all want to sit in that room all morning together either.  

2.  I don't want my children to think learning happens in a single, particular space.  For me, I want my children to really understand that learning happens anywhere and everywhere.  I don't want them to associate school with a desk or a table or even a quiet room.  I want them to view everywhere as school.  My children are free to take their independent work to a comfy couch, under a shady backyard tree, while walking around, on their beds, or even at the kitchen table.  Wherever they're comfortable is fine with me.  Yes, much of our teaching still takes place at the kitchen table, as that's where my curriculum books and whiteboard are, but we often use the living room floor or the backyard table for instruction, too, not to mention the numerous beyond-our-house places we utilize for learning.  

3.  I can multitask better in the main living space.  My children do not need me right by their side for all of their school time, though they often need me within earshot.  After I give them some instruction, I can often do the breakfast dishes and clean up the entire kitchen area, all while guiding them through their work, administering a test, and answering questions as they arise.  If I had a school room, it would probably be VERY clean, but the rest of my house would be awfully messy.  

4.  I don't always homeschool all the children at the same time.  Sometimes I work with one child, and then do the next one.  I don't always have all the kids together for school.  On days when I work with one child at a time, I would be stuck in that little room all morning, and would probably end up running in and out of the room to mediate arguments and such from the other 3 kids who are running amuck.  

Frankly, as much as I want a cute Pinterest-y school room, there's simply NO WAY it would ever work for me.  

So what do I use?

I currently have one bookshelf in a hall closet for less regularly used curriculum books, and one bookshelf next to my kitchen table with our daily-use stuff.  I would honestly love to put doors on it someday to hide everything away, but it works for now.  I have a white board hanging on the wall next to it, as well as a map of the USA right now.  We do our school in the main area of our house-our kitchen/dining area, which leads to the living room on one side, and to the backyard on the other.  I can hear pretty much everything that's going on, see the kids who are in the backyard, clean the kitchen area, AND homeschool each of my children.  It works so well for us.  It's far less cute, but fits our lifestyle nicely.  

Where do you homeschool?  And why?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June Goals

This "me not blogging very often" thing is becoming quite the bad habit.  Thankfully, Pinterest continues to bring in loads of traffic even when I'm not actively blogging :)

Apparently, I have a lot going on.  Apparently, being a homeschooling mom to 4 kids can take up a lot of time.  And apparently, I'm getting better at not worrying so much about "getting it all done."

My children have spent the last couple days at grandma and grandpa's house so they could go to their VBS.  This means Ben and I have had a couple of magical days alone.  My house is so wonderfully clean, and I've caught up on a ton of my work.

Here are some of my June goals:

1.  Read my Bible everyday and journal (that journaling thing has been lacking as of late)
2.  Pick a new book and read it (I just finished The Maze Runner, which was decent)
3.  Menu plan consistently (again, I've been busy and tired and this has fallen to the wayside)
4.  Visit Lake Tahoe at least once
5.  Take the kids fishing with their cousins (this will be their first time!)
6.  Get my homeschool cabinets under control
7.  Continue to exercise 4 times/week
8.  Run a music camp (this is a full week and takes a ton of prep, too, but is so fun!)
9.  Finish at least one furniture project (I'm half way through a bunch, and they're taking up space!)
10.  Blog at least once a week (hey, it's a start)

What are some of your current goals?  Any fun plans for summer?

Friday, May 22, 2015

DIY Herb Pallet Garden

For Mother's Day/my Mother-in-Law's birthday, the three daughter in laws built her this herb pallet garden.  It was so simple and turned out so cute!  I now need to build one for myself :)

We started with a small pallet.  I then cut spare boards from other pallets, as well as some leftover 1 x 4 boards to fit the bottom of each row and screwed them in.  

We then used chalk board paint to create a writing surface, and stenciled our herb names onto each space.  Soil filled in each of the boxes, and then we planted our herbs!  We included basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and strawberries.  You will need about 1/2-3/4 of a regular sized bag of soil to fill a small pallet like this.  

I loved how simple it was to create, and how cute it turned out!  I can't wait to find another pallet for my own herb garden at home.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week- Quick, Easy, & Simple Gift Ideas

"Thanks for making me one smart cookie!"

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!  Do you have any teachers in your life?  Although we homeschool, we have gym child care staff, gymnastics teachers, church teachers, and others that I very much love and appreciate.  

My sister in law is an amazing teacher!  And her school has been so good to her (and all the teachers) this week.  She's been texting me pictures of all these wonderful ideas to share with you!  

"Cannot erase your impact on me!"

Here's a little tip: teachers LOVE Expo markers.  

"You've been the highlight of my year!"

"How are you so flipping' awesome?!"

This spatula is accompanied by a little bag of pancake mix!

"You're simply the best!"

I hope you now have some super quick, simple, and inexpensively cute way to say "thanks" to a teacher in your life!  


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