Monday, October 4, 2010

A Favorite Recipe for Busy Days

I have no idea what really possessed me to post a recipe on here, but I just thought it would be a nice thing to do since we all want to "change it up" sometimes. This one is EASY and just calls for a crockpot. If you don't have one, you should invest in one. Mine has changed my life! Let me just say that we didn't do crockpot cooking when I was growing up. We did it the old-fashioned way; from scratch and in an oven. I received a crockpot for my wedding and didn't really know how to use it, so I sold it at a yard sale. Years later I was inspired to try again because a friend of mine frequently used one and her food was always moist and scrumptious! I got mine at Costco for less than $40 and it is amazing.

Without further ado, here is the recipe (passed on from my older bro & his wife):

Curry Chicken:
-Chicken of your choice (I either use 4 of Trader Joe's frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs or 2-3 fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts)
-3-5 Red potatoes, washed and cut into chunks (I have used Idaho on occasion; it's just about the same)
-1 onion, cut into chunks
-Several carrots, cut into chunks
-2 jars Trader Joe's Thai Yellow Curry Sauce (YUMMY!!! They also have a Thai Red Curry Sauce, which is very good, but a little on the spicy side for my kids. Also note**my twins don't normally care for this dish, but last time I added sour cream to theirs as I served it and they LOVED it!)

Put all ingredients in your crockpot and add two jars of sauce. (You can put the thighs in frozen, but if you use chicken breasts, put them in after they've thawed.) You can cook on high for 4 or 6 hours or on low for 8 or 10 hours if you have enough time (before you leave for work).

Serve over rice. Enjoy!! Happy crockpot cooking!! =)

It's Okay to Go Back!

While I was talking to my aunt (who has very successfully homeschooled 8 children...well, some are still in the works) and my hubby, I came across a little gold nugget! The gold nugget is this: it's okay to go back! What in the world does that mean?

Well, it's along the lines of what I spoke about in my last blog post. I have been trying to encourage independence in the girls' studies when possible. They seem to be able to do certain things well on their own, so I let them and I am nearby to help when they have questions. It has worked okay in some areas, but like I said before, one of my girls was having trouble in one area. However, I had a hard time deciding whether or not I should really sit there and go through a whole lesson with her; for some reason it felt like doing that would take a step backward. I just wasn't sure. However, I was frustrated and so was she. So I had to call in the pro (my aunt) and ask her what she would do. Now listen; it may be her personality, or it may be that she gets distracted easily. Whatever it is, I'm hoping we can work through it.

While I was telling my hubby about the conversation I had with my aunt, he commented about something I said that struck him. I mentioned somewhere along the way that in school they just keep on going forward (think MATH!), but here we have the liberty to go back if necessary. That's another area that one of my girl's needs help in. I don't feel like she's strong enough at her basic facts (she doesn't know her basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, division facts quickly enough). Well, we are "going back" and strengthening her knowledge in those. We are moving forward in one sense; we are still progressing in a math text, but we are doing basic math flashcards to get better at the basics. Something she should already "have" but doesn't.

I just wanted to pass along our golden nugget for the day: IT'S OKAY TO GO BACK!!!  You have my permission! (I know it sounds silly, but even though I was considering "going back" in a few areas, I didn't have the peace of mind to do it until my aunt told me to. I don't think I'll have a problem in the future, but I sort-of needed "permission" because in this world we are taught to just keep going. I think I'll change that notion. I'm pretty sure we can get further ahead by sometimes stepping back.)

Happy Homeschooling!! =)

Life is Hard

Ever since last week, it seems like my kids are determined to attend the "School of Hard Knocks." **sigh** After our last field trip, we somehow lost focus, and have been struggling to get through our days, with school and everything else. Even the twins have been extra difficult this week. My husband is extremely busy with work, we have soccer or church every night. Soccer again on Saturdays. Church meeting on Sundays. We are busy from about 5:30 or 6 in the morning, until WAY too late at night. Not to mention, I'm trying to get my Bows-n-Berries business off the ground...if for no other reason than it relaxes me. It's a great stress-reliever. But it still takes time...a precious commodity in our home!

In addition to the "busy"ness, I am working through the difficulties of homeschooling. One child seems to be particularly slow at getting things done. Not that she can't do it. She has proven on other occasions that she is quite capable of doing this type of work. For awhile I was worried about reading comprehension. She was having a hard time reading something and answering questions about it two minutes later. After a couple weeks of this (she usually has at least one reading comp. activity/week), she read a chapter book from the library. I asked her what the book was about, and she told me every last detail. I thought she'd never stop talking! But what a relief!! She "gets" the whole reading comprehension thing. Which means she either thinks the "school stuff" is boring, or she is just easily distracted. I think she is easily distracted...and who wouldn't be in this mad house? So now I know in what direction to move. I think I will read it with her for awhile, and let her answer the questions with me. This will help her learn to focus.

I have some other thoughts too, but this blog post is too long already. Maybe that will be my next post. =)

Our First "Official" Field Trip

Our first field trip was to Chuck E. Cheese's. We learned how to have fun there. Our first OFFICIAL field trip was to the L.A. Arboretum! We happened to have lots of fun there too! Here are some pics from the day...until I broke my camera! Hmph. I'm STILL not happy about that. I loved that camera! =)

There were many beautiful peacocks strutting around.

My girlies!

I love these little trumpet-shaped flowers. I forgot their name!

I'd hate to be the bird who lands on this leaf!

They had some really bright, pretty flowers in the greenhouse.

Here's another one!

My girls being silly!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First "ES" Meeting: On the Right Track!

Sooooo, we had our first meeting with our ES. In case you forgot, that stands for Educational Specialist...aka, certified teacher. Since I am teaching through a charter school, I am required to meet with her every 20 school days to go over our learning. Basically, you need to show progress toward California State Standards.

I first have to say that our ES is A.MAZ.ING!! She is so sweet & fun; someone I would actually hang out with in real life! LOL... And we hold our meetings at Starbucks, which gives her extra brownie points from me (and my girls because they go too)!

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about our first meeting. I was not sure I was actually teaching enough. Basically, right now we are doing Math and English/Language Arts daily, and Science & History each twice/week. We try to squeeze some little extras in along the way too. Our math is okay, but I've ordered something that I'm pretty sure will be better than what we are doing. Language Arts is going very well...I love some of the texts that I've been using and Wordly Wise is an amazing vocabulary workbook. My favorite subjects are Science and History, but once again, I wasn't sure I was doing enough work.

Well, the night before our meeting, I completed a "Learning Log" for each child based on a sample given to me by my ES. Each log turned out to be about 4 pages long. Turns out, my ES said we actually learned a lot and that our learning logs were some of the best she has ever seen! Whew!!! Sigh of relief from me...knowing that we are actually learning! She also gave Emma an oral/written test and my older girls a Math/Reading test online, so we will get to see where they really are and what we need to work on. She said they all seemed to be doing really well, and that they are all smart...which they obviously get from their mother! LOL...hey, remember I can say what I want??? This is MY blog! =) Okay, okay, my hubby is a genius too! There.

**Can I add a little note to say that if you choose to home-school your child, please, please, please take it seriously! I would think that if you are teaching your children at home, it is because you want to give them more of that individual attention so they can truly excel. Well, some people take another approach and want to "un-school," but they take it (in my opinion) too far! That's it. I'll stop preaching now! Just had to put that out there!! =P Thanks for listening.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fun Stuff

We are working on some fun things this week. We learned about animal cells and plant cells and the difference between the two. We made construction paper diagrams of them both (I cut the pieces due to lack of time that day). They are now hanging on our classroom wall!

We also have been working on memorization. This week we are doing poetry, from none other than Shel Silverstein!! =) It was so cute! Click on the links below to see video of Emma and Sophia...sorry I'm not tech savvy enough to put them directly on here. I couldn't figure out how to compress the video! LOL...

Here's Emma:

Here's Sophia:

So, I'll try to catch up on my blogging; I got behind because I was determined to figure out how to add video. =)

Thanks for tuning in!!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

SOMEthing Learned...

My girls playing a science game. =)

So we finished (aka..survived) our first week of home-schooling! Hooray for us! And thank you, Lord! It was a completely insane week, because we started school, had our second week with 3 of our kids playing soccer, had to finish up a bridal party's accessories order, had our exchange students for their last week here (which meant more errands and shopping), and much more. *sigh*...the "busy"ness is overwhelming at times.

I have no real revelations or exciting things to share, but I did learn at least ONE thing. That is, with 2-yr.-old twins in the house, we now need to start with music lessons. It's something the kids can do on their own and gives me a little time to let our twins run around, be loud and have some "mommy time." And I get to update the bloggity and say good morning to my fb peeps on occasion! =)

We got through the "basics" this week (English, Math, Science, History) and a few extras along the way. Not too bad in my opinion, for our first week ever!

Here are a few pics from the showing our school stuff, hair stuff that I created (and cool boutonnieres), our exchange students...a little of everything! =)

Well, here's to anther week, ya'll! Have a good one!

One of the maps in our school room! Can't wait to put a cute border around it. I love maps!
Monkey see; Monkey do. Maya & Matt...

Asuka & Rie with Maya and Matt. These were our exchange students & we miss them!

A GORGEOUS hairpiece I made for a St. Lucia wedding.

An awesome boutonniere I made for the same wedding.

Caitlin's team (she's front center) after they won their beach tourney.

Emma before her first game.

Sophia after her game.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ready or Not...and a Little Surprise!

Soooo, today started our home-schooling journey, adventure, whatever you wanna call it! I am so exhausted that this will be pretty short (yeah, yeah, you're welcome!). Basically, I had a semi-agenda of what I felt we needed to accomplish today. We got 2/3 of the list done, but since we hit all the main points (math, history, english, science), I felt pretty good overall.

It was actually pretty amazing with my 3 girls; they were very excited about it all. The trouble was with my twins. I knew they would be my main problem in this journey (I know that sounds so cliche, but it really is a journey so for lack of a better word...that's what you get). They acted like...well...2-year-olds. =) What can you expect, really? You know how a kid cries and screams the minute you get on the phone? Well, it was sort-of like that, except all. day. long. Yikes! After awhile, you just sort of zone it out. They are right there with you, but you can't pay attention to the crying part. All they wanted was every ounce of my attention. Sheez!

I have decided though, to try to get them a little more involved. I'm going to have to wear myself out to wear them out. So play dough here we come...and every other little thing I can think of to keep their little hands/minds busy.

But the one consolation?? When I left the twins with my mom for a bit to go pick up my exchange students from school, Maya told her, "I have to go to the bathroom." And she took off that diaper, went pee-pee in the "big kid potty," and put on a pull up (she wouldn't wear a diaper right after that)! HA! What a nice surprise. (I know, I know, doesn't take much to thrill me!!) Of course, the excitement didn't last too long, because she dirtied that pull-up within a couple hours, but I'll take what I can get.

And now, with the little energy & brainpower I have left, I'm going to go brush my teeth & drag myself into bed. And maybe give a little prayer for endurance for tomorrow. =)

Nitey Nite all! I survived my first day! Yay!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So Many Ways...

So, how to homeschool? There are about a million different ways! Just some of them are: on your own by creating your own "private school" (you have to fill out an affidavit and turn it in to your district), charter schools, umbrella schools, with a tutor. And there are about a million different methods: Classical, Textbook, Charlotte Mason, Unit Study, Carschooling, Eclectic, Un-schooling, etc, etc, etc... How do you possibly choose???

I started by reading some books & blogs, listening to info on CDs, and by talking to people. Lots of people. =) Several friends were kind enough to loan me some books/CDs that helped them. I also found them to be very helpful. Some of them are:

"For the Love of Learning" by Jenny Sockey
"A Charlotte Mason Education" by Catherine Levison
"Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home" by Elizabeth Foss
"Charlotte Mason Companion" by Karen Andreola
"Home Schooling Methods: Seasoned Advice on Learning Styles" by Paul & Gena Suarez
"The Well-Trained Mind" by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer
Also, a CD by the group that does Christian Classical Education (don't have them name but will try to get it asap!)

At the beginning of the summer, I started reading and researching more about homeschooling. I read the above books (okay, only part of "The Well-Trained Mind"--a mom of 5 only has so much time!). I should note that I'm a Christian, some of the books are by Catholic authors, and it really didn't matter to me! Even if you are neither a Christian nor a Catholic, you could be helped very much by these books. They helped me in so many ways, but really just gave me a sense of direction and a feeling of "calm" about homeschooling, and solidified the feeling that I was on the right track for our family.

I very much appreciated "Home Schooling Methods..." because it broke down the different methods of homeschooling in very simple, easy-to-understand terms. I got this book at the exact moment I needed it. I was getting closer to my deadline and couldn't decide between the millions of options out there! I like so many methods, all for different reasons. And I suppose I may change things along the way, as I see what works for this child and what works for that child.

But for now, because I've had the gift of free books, I've chosen the "eclectic method," which basically just mean I'm using a mixture of methods. Some textbooks, some living books, some Charlotte Mason. I've also chosen to go through a charter school for several reasons:, people! It is still considered "public" school, so you get federal money to go toward your child's education, just as your local schools get funding. You can use this toward curriculum or extra curricular activites, such as sports or music. Also, I like the idea of meeting with an E.S. (education specialist), which I'm required to do every 20 days. It's nice to make sure I'm "on the right page," at least during our first year of this journey. I just met mine today, by the way, and she is awesome! So every 20 days, I get to take my kids and have a meeting with another mom (who happens to be a teacher) at Starbucks! Bummer! =)

Okay, I think I've bored you enough for one day... =) Have a great one!

**Several people recommended that I give out a booklist of books they've found helpful too. I'll definitely do that sometime soon!**

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Big "WHY?"

So, you want to know why I'm homeschooling. Hmmmm, that's a big one. There really is no one reason, but rather a combination of reasons, circumstances and timing.

First of all, you should know that I've had quite a few homeschoolers in my life for many years. My aunt, with whom I lived for 5 years, was one of them. She had 8 children and is homeschooling all of them. I used to think that they would turn out "weird" or, because of their very strict household, they would turn wild the minute they turned 18. I was wrong. Not only are they very well-educated kids (one finished her Bachelor's Degree in about 2 1/2 years, and the other college-aged child is a student at UCSD), but they are also well-mannered (okay, most of the time), fun, SOCIAL (gasp...could it REALLY be true?), and overall well-rounded children. My aunt has proven to me that while it is a difficult task, it is possible. And it can be done without turning your children into "weird" kids.

With that example before me, and some of their kids the same ages as mine, I've had my children ask me for several years to homeschool them. They're used to it because they've seen their best buddies do it for years. My eldest has told me on numerous occasions that she just wants to be home with me. (Yeah, yeah, I've checked...she's a very social creature and there's no bullying or anything strange going on...she apparently just loves her mother! Hey, I better take it while I've got it!) And while I had the heart to do it, I was too scared to try. I had a small child at the time, and eventually two more came along when I had to twins. That was NOT the time to start.

In addition, we are a Christian family with God as our center. (For those of you who know me; well, we try! LOL...We certainly need more of HIM in our lives!) If you haven't noticed, there is not much of God left in the public schools today. You can hardly say the Pledge of Allegiance without someone throwing a fit because the word "God" is in it. I understand where they are coming from I guess, but our nation was founded by believers of God, and it's part of our history, and I want God to be a part of my children's history. He is the whole reason we are on the earth (if you don't agree with me, that's okay, but this is MY blog. LOL). So I want them to learn about God and have this as a part of their day. But in public school these days, there is so much pressure to fit in and to watch certain things (most of which are completely age-inappropriate) and all the boy/girl stuff is getting younger and younger. It's scary.

Another reason we have chosen to homeschool is that, if you haven't heard, California is in a complete budget CRISIS! Teaching jobs are being cut left and right, which translates into much larger classes & less learning. No offense to my teacher friends....all I'm saying is that you can only get so much info into so many kids, especially while there are always some distracting the class. The class sizes are almost doubling this year; from 20 to 35 I believe. That is crazy! In addition to spending 6-7 hours in school, they come home with homework (and any unfinished classwork) that you have to try to fit in between sports (nope, I'm not taking them out of sports with PE classes being cut short), church, baths, and oh yeah, dinner!!! With 5 kids, 3 of which are in sports, and at several different schools, who can do this?? Not me. Something had to give...

That's when I started considering homeschooling again, after a few years of ignoring the small voice in my head. It kept coming up in my mind, over and over again, but I didn't want to tell my hubby. I knew he'd be all for it, and I was so afraid to try. But through circumstances, I met my friend Claudia, who has been homeschooling for several years now & she gave me the info I needed to consider the idea once again. She was so great; talking to me for hours, giving me some amazing books to read. I started doing my "homework." After reading, talking with my hubby, and prayer, we felt that this was the way for us. I also figured that if I went that crazy or had a horrible year, public school is always going to be there... =) But my hope is that, even in the midst of the chaos that is sure to come, we can find our way to do a family. And be closer because of it. I love my children, and really just want the best for them.

So you see, it's not that I believe they can't get a good education in public school; but it's that I want them to have a good education and I want to spend that time with them. I want to be part of it all... If you are a believer, please pray for us and our journey.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome to Our Family...

Hey there!!! Welcome to our little homeschooling blog! I'm starting this blog for several reasons; to answer the big WHY??? question, to give some info regarding how we are doing our schooling in the event that anyone out there is wondering where to start and to give Mama Bear (that's me) & even the kiddos a place to talk about our journey.

Today though, I'll just tell you a little bit about our family. Art is Papa, I'm Heather (Mama...duh), and our kids are Caitlin (6th grade), Sophia (3rd grade), Emma (1st grade) and twins Maya & Matthew (2.5 years). Art is my amazing hubby whose hard-work has allowed me to stay home with our kids since our second child was born. (Okay, okay, I did work at Starbucks for a short time in there to get out of the house a bit, when my hubby was home to take care of the children.)

Staying home is NOT easy, but I have to say here that it is a choice. I chose to stay home and sacrifice a lot of "stuff" to be with my kids. It can be done; even in California where the cost of living is very high. You can live on one modest income and live well. I might not have all the cute clothes that I want, the kids might not wear all the designer stuff that I think is so cute, we might not keep the latest cars, but we eat well, splurge on occasional dates/clothes/whatever. LET ME BE CLEAR: I'm not saying this to condemn anyone, but rather as an encouragement to those working moms out there who want to stay home and think it's impossible. It's not. Take it from me. If I can do it, ANYONE can do it! We've made some monumental mistakes along the way, and here we are. We still have a roof over our heads, we're still eating, we're still clothed (and not too hideously!). That's all I want you to take away from this...that it CAN be done.

Next time...I'll answer the WHY? question. =)

Until then, have a beautiful day!