Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy New School Year

My oldest child was sad to discover that her plan to pretend school wasn't really starting this morning, alternated with yelling, "OH NO!!" over and over, did not in fact stop it coming.

While there are always things we love about school, none of us love trying to get back into the groove after a whole summer away. 

Today Makenna informed me that History is her new favorite curriculum.  Why?  It's one of the few that remained the same from last year.  I think it feels like a comfortable, old friend and the rest feel new and scarey. 

Fortunately, the solution to the new and scarey is to get going.  After a few weeks, we'll be back in the swing of things.  Yep, we will.  For sure.  Mostly sure.

What I am sure of is that my children like making funny face pictures a whole lot more than the smile and try to look good (please) pictures. 

Josh started Kindergarten today.  My baby.  He's also the only one that jumps up and down shouting things like, "Zip-ee-day-dazz!" whenever I mention school.

After expressly telling anyone who would listen that he was NOT looking foward to school, James excitedly told his grandmother that today was AWESOME! 

And I just have to say, his funny face picture is a little freaky.  It looks like his head is stretching out toward the left.  Not normal.  I haven't shown him yet, he's going to love it.

Do you think Ben looks a little bit like a little old man in that first picture?  Good, I'm glad it's not just me. 

Makenna is in 8th grade. 

Yes, I know you can read, I've been repeating it to myself at random intervals today and thought I'd share.  She's growing up.  I know, crazy right?

People can tell you and tell you, but until you actually experience it, I'm pretty sure you can't know what it's like to watch your children grow. It's exhilarating and terrifying at the very same time.

Our first day went pretty good, better than I was expecting.  Probably due to my awesome kids.

We have some wrinkles, but I'm sure they'll work their way out as we keep on keepin' on.

Happy first day of school, from our slightly strange and wonderful family to yours!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Plan Your Sharing Time in 5 Easy Steps

Thank you so much for the wonderful emails you've sent thanking me for the sharing time ideas I've shared with you over the past year!!  As many of those emails also mentioned that you'd be missing my ideas, I thought I'd tell you all my sharing time planning secrets to give you a little boost.

We split up sharing time by month, so if you do it by week instead, just substitute the word week for month and it'll work pretty much the same.

1. The Sharing Time Outline

Get out your Sharing Time Outline in whatever format you prefer: hard copy, online, pdf and open it to the month you'll be doing sharing time for.  Then read it.  The whole month. 

Now, the important thing to keep in mind is that you need to do this about a week BEFORE your first lesson. 

Yes, I do know how very much fun those late Saturday night planning sessions are and if you'll keep reading, you'll discover you can still use them. 

2. Study Materials
The purpose of the reading is to get a feel for what the month is all about.  It's more a quick read than an in depth study, that's what this next step is all about. 
Next, I get onto lds dot org and move on over to their General Conference section so I can search for the different topics I'll be teaching throughout the month.  From the link in the previous sentence, there is a search box in the middle of your screen that says "Search Conference." 
Make sure you don't click on the box in the upper right hand corner, that searches the whole website.
For example, in the month of August, I typed in things like: family prayer, family home evening and family scripture study.  If the talk looks like it goes along with my topic, I'll click on it and skim the first paragraph or two to see if it really does fit.  Those that do, I print.
While you can print it out from lds dot org, I prefer to copy and paste into my word processor so I can format it all the same and save some paper and ink.
I limit myself to two talks per topic (at the most), otherwise it's too much to keep up with.  Very overwhelming.
3. Read
Read the talks you've found.  Some months I have more time than others and I read through all the talks at once.  Other months I break it up and read them one week at a time. 
If you have a chance, I'd suggest reading them all at once.  The weeks often go together and I'll find ideas, quotes, and inspiration for week one in a talk I've printed for week three (just as an example).
4. Percolate
After I read through the Sharing Time Outline and the articles, I like to think about it for a few days.  I'll often have ideas occur to me while reading through one or both of them, but I still like to have time to think it over, to let inspiration have time to soak its way in.
5. Plan
After taking the time to think and pray, I read through the Sharing Time Outline again, just for the next Sunday, to plan
As you're reading through, as you're making plans, the most important thing to remember is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. 
You only need two things.  An activity to teach and involve the children and the Holy Ghost. 
Of course, we cannot make anyone feel the Holy Ghost no matter what we do, but I decided not long after I started working in the primary that my only job is to offer.  I try to invite the Spirit as I teach and pray that those I'm teaching will feel God's love for them.
I thought about and even started to write a few different paragraphs on where to find activity ideas and how to go about it...but I kept deleting them.  If you've done some research, read through the Sharing Time Outline and prayed, you will find what your primary needs.  That might mean it occurs to you while you're in the shower (I'm not sure why, but that seems to be my idea spot, I need some waterproof paper), you'll find that the Sharing Time Outline is perfect or maybe you'll "stumble" across it while perusing on the internet.  It will happen and you don't need my help.  Trust me.
Heavenly Father wants your sharing time to be a success.  He is there, giving us inspiration and trying to help us along the way.  The point of this whole process is to give Him the openings to penetrate our often very full lives. 
Happy Sharing Time!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Brand New Year

Sometime in the last three years I read that the average homeschooler only lasts three years. 

Okay, what I read probably didn't state it like that, but that's what has been running through my head this past summer.  I'm not even sure how accurate it is as I can't remember where I read it, but that's not really the point.

Sort of like poking a bruise to see if it still hurts, I kept examining and re-examining myself to see if I was ready to send my kids out of my house and back to a brick and mortar school.

While there were times I thought, "YES!!"  I don't think I thought it any more often than any previous year.

Although, at the end of the school year, I did find myself looking forward to summer break with much greater impatience than normal and I remember wondering if I would be ready, mentally, for school in the fall.

Amazingly, miracle of miracles, I am.

Even as I worried a little about feeling ready on the inside, I was slogging through getting ready on the outside.

We keep all of our toys in a closet in our school room.  I had to take EVERYTHING out so I could sort through them.  All of them. 

For some reason, the toys manage to find their ways into the wrong bins until one day, each bin seems more like a mixture of every sort of toy found in the closet.  Those darn toys.  I'm sure it's just my toys.  Uh-huh. 

Once that was done, I then had to pull out our old curriculum and school work and sort through it.  I also knew I wanted to reorganize our shelves a little as last year didn't work how I intended (more on that in a minute).

Even though it really is a lot of work and makes I big enough mess that one day I walked out, closed the door and pretended the room wasn't actually part of my house, I love it when it all comes together in the end.  Walking into an organized room with everything in its place makes me smile. 

There are a few changes from last year

I got a new map of the United States.  A HUGE map, at least compared to the one I had last year.

Due to its size, I moved our coat of arms underneath the table glass (the kids smaller ones are on the wall to the left above the white board).  When the kids saw it they told me the coat of arms looked like it was actually part of the table!! 

I also ended up getting some wire from IKEA along with clips to hang our art work.  It's long enough for about four projects, so as we complete the fifth, I take down the first and we slowly rotate out the old for the new throughout the year.

I also added the cube shelves on each side of the white bookshelf.  At first I thought it might make things a little claustrophobic, but I love the extra storage.  When it comes to homeschool curriculum and supplies, I've yet to figure out exactly what too much storage is.  Does it exist?

I also busted out my labeler and put it through its paces.  Now my kids can put everything back in the bin it belongs in and I will always be able to find what I'm looking theory, at least.

Last year each of my kids got their own shelf, but we ran into issues.  We first tried standing all the curriculum up next to the binders, but everything kept falling down.  So, we laid down the curriculum and left the binders standing up.  Except, the binders still had issues and we would "lose" books in between the binders (they're narrower at the back end allowing for books to be back there and not be visible from the front). 

While it's possible the "losing" wasn't always accidental, we still needed anther solution.  Especially when I realized I had another child beginning "real" homeschooling and not another shelf.  At least not one I wanted to empty for him.

So, this is my solution.  We put every one's binders on the top shelf.  Binders and only binders make their homes there which should stop all but the purposeful "losing" of other books and curriculum.

Then, I gave each child half a shelf divided by a smaller bin that houses some of their folders used for our lapbooks.  My only worry is that there may not be enough room for their flashcards on their individual shelves (there are some on there now, but I have new containers that are much bigger).

I thinking we'll figure it out as we go.  I'm flexible like that.

Okay, if you knew me you'd either be laughing hysterically or looking at me in shock at that last statement.  But, I am trying to do a little more rolling with the flow.  It's good for me. 


Okay, now onto curriculum.  I'm not going to go into too much detail.  You can read about what we chose last year here, we're still using A LOT of the same curriculum. 


Makenna has the most new curriculum.  Like normal.  She's so lucky, she gets to be my experiment child.  Luckily, I'm also an oldest child so I do have some empathy for her. 

We're moving away from Latin (although she'll still be slowly reviewing her flashcards so she doesn't lose everything she learned the last two years) and on to Spanish.  We're trying out Breaking Through the Spanish Barrier having heard it really focuses on a grammar approach, which we already know we like. 

To be totally honest, I'm pretty terrified to teach/try and learn this with her.  I don't speak Spanish (even though I've been doing the Spanish app duolingo all summer to give me a little bit of an edge) and it looks likes a demanding curriculum.  Wish me luck.  Lots and lots of luck.

She's also doing a computer programming course through Homeschool Programming, Inc and I've finally purchased Artistic Pursuits after reading about it since before we began our homeschool adventure.


Ben is pretty much working his way through the next level of each curriculum he was using last year. 
The only exception is in writing.  I've discovered I'm not a huge fan of Writing with Ease for the later grades.  I love that it introduces my children to so many fun books, but Ben was done with dictation less than half way through last year.  The rest of the year was sort of torturous (or very, depending on the day).  So, we're trying out WriteShop this year.  I've read some good things about it and I already love the detailed lesson plans.

James is starting a few new to him curriculum, but ones I've used before and still like.  He'll do a few words from English from the Roots Up each week and he's transitioning from Horizons math to Teaching Textbooks.  Everything else is a continuation from last year.


Josh is ALL NEW.  Well, it's all new for him, but he'll be using the same curriculum James did two years ago.  I'm not sure if we'll start with all the workbooks at once, we might hold off on the Spelling Workout, for at least a little while, and see how he does. 


Our last new curriculum is science.

I'm really excited to try out NOEO.  It looks like something I would design for myself if I had a lot more time on my hands.  They find amazing science books, great experiments, and put them all together with a syllabus. 

Makenna will be working through Physics 3, while Ben, James and Josh will work on Physics 2. 

Now, even though they're both physics, the material they cover throughout the year won't match up at a weekly level, but I've decided we're still going to do all our experiments together.  All my kids LOVE experiments and they love doing them together even more.

Then, we'll split up and do our own assigned reading and assignments.  I'm not sure exactly how it'll look just yet, but, you know, I'm going to go with the flow. 

We will be using our weekly checklists this year to help us stay on track.  I've made up the rough drafts and even have them printed out sitting on our schoolroom table already.  I've also grabbed a pen and made a few changes already, too.  That'll happen through most of the first month as our "flow" gets a little more normalized.

I think I'm ready.  Inside and out. 

How about you?


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Radio Silence

A little more than a month ago I was thinking about writing a post and I realized I wasn't looking forward to it. 

It was a strange realization because I'd spent most of June trying to write every day.  Not just writing, but enjoying the challenge of writing about a greater variety of topics. 

As I thought more about it, I also realized I'd been spending the majority of my free time either thinking about what I was going to post, getting things ready to post or actually writing a post. 

A few years ago, I was sitting with a friend I don't get the chance to see very often (we live in different states) and we were talking about all the things we want to do "someday."  She asked if I thought we'd be able to do all of our someday things and I said, "Nope."  I think she was a little shocked.  My reasoning was that every time we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do anything else.  I'm pretty sure my explanation didn't do a whole lot to soothe here, but I've though about it off and on ever since.

As I was sitting thinking, I wondered if I was spending my time as I really wanted or needed to and I wasn't sure. 

So, I chose not to post at all.  I decided to think about it, pray about it and post when I came to a decision. 

Except, it's been a month and I still haven't come to any big decision.  I sometimes wish I could just get a roadmap for my life delivered in the mail, instead of it taking so much hard work (and way too much patience) to find the direction I know is waiting.  Probably right in front of my face. 

What I do know is that I've loved having more freedom with my time these last few weeks before school starts.  Time to be go hang out at the park with my children, go on bike rides, and sit and read a book (or ten).

I also know that I love to write and if I go too long, I greatly miss it.

So, my conclusion for now is that I will still post, but not regularly.  The posts will revolve around how I choose to spend my time, so they'll still be about LDS Primary, homeschool, life with my family and any fun things I learn along the way. 

I do have more than a few posts about all of those things up already, if you click on the links above, you can read through them topically.  Or, you can search through my posts for a specific topic using the search box to the right.

Thank you to all of you who have sent emails checking on me, they've meant a lot!!

I hope you're all having a wonderful summer,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Sharing Time - The Church of Jesus Christ Has Been Restored

Okay, first I have a confession.

I'm not exactly following the Sharing Time Outline. 

I read through it a while ago, read through some General Conference talks and got really inspired.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Then I read through the outline again and realized I'd remembered it wrong.  My idea covered a lot of the same information, but in a different way. 

After thinking about it, I decided that my original inspiration is what my primary needs this week.  As it does cover the same information, just formatted a little differently, I'm sharing it with you, too.

I'm going to open with a quote from Elder Tad R. Callister, of the Seventy:

"A few decades after Christ's Resurrection, His Apostles were killed, His teachings were corrupted, and the priesthood was taken from the earth.  But Paul, seeing our day, prophesied "that in the dispensation of the fulness of times [God would] gather together in one all things in Christ."  He would restore Christ's true Church to the earth once more."

We'll talk about what exactly that quote means by discussing things like:  How was the priesthood taken from the earth?  How were His teachings corrupted?  What does it mean to restore? 

After that, I'll read another quote from Elder Callister's talk to introduce our activity (with all quotes, whether I read them verbatim or summarize depends on how I feel the kids are doing and which they'd listen to/hear better).

"In many ways the gospel of Jesus Christ is like a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  When Joseph Smith came on the scene, perhaps 100 pieces were in place.  Then Joseph Smith came along and put many of the other 900 pieces in place...  As for Joseph Smith's role in the Restoration, the Lord defined it clearly: "This generation shall have my word through you" (D&C 5:10)."

I really like that quote for a couple of reasons.  Probably the biggest is that it brings home the FACT that we are not the only church to have truth.  There were already pieces here.  There are still pieces of truth in places outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  BUT (and it's a big but), we are the only church to contain every truth that has been revealed so far. 

With only one piece of a puzzle, it's hard to tell what picture it will make, what the end product will be, but once we put them all together, we then can see.  Line upon line, truth upon truth.  God did not just pour all knowledge into Joseph, he spent years training him (the four years before he was allowed/prepared to receive the golden plates) and then God let Joseph learn, ponder and ask before providing him with more truth.

To help us learn (or remind) of some of the truths Joseph learned and restored for all of us, we're going to put together our own puzzle.

The front is a picture of the First Vision where Joseph learned several of the truths we'll be talking about.

The other side shows some of the truths brought back to us through the Restoration.  All of these I got from two great talks, Elder Callister's (which I've been quoting from) and Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge's from our most recent General Conference.  Most are direct quotes and the few that aren't, I summarized. 

I thought about restating all the truths in a language more easily understandable by all the primary children, but I decided not to.  I want to stop after each piece and talk about what it means, both dictionary definition wise and for our lives today.  I'm hoping we can have some really great discussions.

I'm going to print out each, laminate or glue them together (or both), cut them out and hide them around the primary room.  If you don't want to hide them, you could stick them in a basket or all over a chalkboard mixed up.

I'm going to close with another quote.  My favorite of the day, from a talk by Elder Robert D. Hales, he said:

"I exhort you, I pray for you - if you do not know these things for yourself, follow the example of Joseph Smith and the pattern of the Restoration.  Turn to the scriptures.  Kneel in prayer.  Ask in faith.  Listen to the Holy Ghost.  Learn that your name and needs are known by our Heavenly Father, just as Joseph's were.  Live the gospel with patience and persistence.  And in the name of Jesus Christ, I promise, "If ye will ... ask [Heavenly Father] in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping [the Lord's] commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you."

If you want to download the puzzle I made, you can get it from Google Docs (JPG: First Vision, Truths; PDF: both together).


Sunday, June 29, 2014

What We're Reading This Week

We are reading The BFG as a family right now.  It's pretty darn great.  Both the book and how much we all love family reading time.  My kids all look forward to it and, so far, have been willing to try out any book I want to read.

I first read The BFG in third grade.  Well, actually, it was read to me by my third grade teacher.  I can't remember her name, I do remember she was from the south and had a wonderful accent.  I loved reading time. 

So far my kids favorite chapter is "Frobscottle and Whizpoppers."  If you haven't read it, you really should, I guarantee that chapter will get a few, if not more than a few, giggles.

Makenna wants to make a giant dictionary when we're finished reading it, the Big Friendly Giant's vocabulary is unique.  And awesome. 

When I was younger, I would spend lots of time wandering around the library.  I loved to look at the spines, randomly pulling off books that looked interesting and finding new authors/series to read. 

After not doing it in years (lots and lots of years), I started perusing again a few weeks ago. 

It's been a lot of fun and while not every book I pull off has been a winner, I really enjoyed this one.  Thistle and Twigg is about two older women who, after becoming friends, discover a dead body and proceed to uncover the mystery surrounding it.  In the process they befriend an eccentric elderly man and his dog, shoot a lot of different guns, and save a beautiful forest.  It was definitely fluff, but good fluffy fun.

What have you been reading lately?


Friday, June 27, 2014

Homeschooling in the Summer?

My first few years of Homeschooling I had big plans for the summer.


We were going to continue with some subjects, do some extra things (fun things, of course), and go on great field trips. 

Every year, summer would come and we would all have so much fun doing absolutely nothing, I'd put it off. 

Just until the next week.

And then, before I knew it, school would be starting again.

What I've learned is that we just need down time.  To put our school books away, close the door to the schoolroom (metaphorically, we took the door off to give more room for our white board), and PLAY.

So, what do we do in the summer?

I change up my kids chore charts, giving them the opportunity to learn new skills (aka, a few more chores).

We go and do fun things.  We hike, visit museums and play at the park.  But not every day.  We really spend most of our time playing in and outside our home.  Free play.

One thing we do continue from the school year is reading a book together as a family.  I am amazed at how much we all love it (okay, my 5 year old mostly tolerates it).  They ask everyday when we're going to read and if we're too busy, they're disappointed.  I love it.

And that's pretty much our summer.  It's pretty wonderful.

What's your favorite thing to do while not in the midst of schoolwork?

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