Saturday, August 30, 2014

Homeschool Tour 2014

The lazy days of summer are fading into a distant memory, and back to school commercials have begun.  Starting is always the hardest part, but it was time.  Kids run out of things to do and start to argue with each other, and I had begun to worry that their brains were turning to mush.  So, I dusted the shelves, reloaded them with new books, paper, art supplies, fun new learning games, etc. and sooner or later, the kids began to drift over to our school area and look through everything with curiosity.  The quickest way to get their attention is to clean an area up.  To them, that means a clean slate to dive right in and make a mess!

We began the 180 day grind the second week of August...

As you can see, we added one more student to our class!  I'll give you a quick tour, and then I'll show you our class in action...

My homeschool "room" is basically our dining room area and our foyer.  Our home is an open floor plan, so this means that I cannot just shut the door at the end of the day.  Therefore, we try to clean up at the end of school time and at least keep it neat.  Someday, we will have a real room, but for now, we are grateful for the space we have!  So, as you tour, keep in mind that we don't have four actual walls surrounding our space.

This bookshelf holds it all...our curriculum, practice books, math manipulatives, art supplies, readers, and so much more!  I have things labeled and organized by subject and by child.  Organization is the time for searching during our school day!

This is the main table.  It is where both big and little kids gather to begin our day with prayer time and our Bible lesson.  We have "calendar time" with older kids helping the younger ones with their calendar notebooks.  We move on to the pledge and the national anthem (Yes, we do those in our homeschool!).  I lead some fun songs with plenty of dancing with my younger two kids, but my older two always want to join in...and we don't mind!

You can see my calendar in the background, which we use to learn weather, seasons, counting, time, money, months of the year, days of the week, and SO MUCH MORE!  Calendar time is very important for younger students!  You will also notice the numbered carts of boxes on the right side of this picture.  These is a modified version of the "Work Box System."  This is the method that I use to keep both myself and my children organized and on track.  All four of my "students" have these boxes, even my preschooler.  I have organized their daily work in each of the boxes, and it is done in such a way that they do not all need me at the same time.  It takes a lot of thought and preparation, but once we work out the kinks, I just easily reload the boxes at the end of each school day, and the kids are ready to go after our Bible and calendar time.

Both tables have school supplies on them.  In the past, we used personal school boxes, but this is just easier for everyone.  I keep plenty of sharpened pencils and everything they need within easy reach. They each have their own crayons (some take better care of them than others), but we still keep them within easy reach.

I have a couple of fun shelves that have learning toys of all sorts.  Even my preschooler knows that if she finishes her work early, or if she needs help but mom is busy, then she can choose something off the shelf.

This is a really cool set of learning toys that are modeled after the Montessori style of learning.  It is called "Spielgaben," and the man that created "Kindergarten" created this cool stuff!  I will have a separate post on that later.  Each box is filled with wooden toys/manipulatives that can be used for preschool through 6th grade.  You can cover many areas of learning with this kit.  I have binders stored below it that are guides for me and play mats for the kids to use with the Spielgaben toys.

 I begin the teaching and instruction on the other side of the schoolroom.  This is where my younger two kids have their work boxes and everything I need to teach them.  I found that it is better to start with the younger kids first.  My older two work through their work boxes independently while I am instructing the younger ones.  This table has smaller chairs, which allows my little kids to be able to plant their feet on the floor while learning handwriting, etc.  You can also see a magnetic board that is the home for our reading and spelling program.

This board is used for "All About Reading" and "All About Spelling."  My preschooler uses the puppet, "Ziggy" while learning about letters, letter sounds, rhyming, syllables, etc, and she loves Ziggy!  My 1st grader uses the same board for both spelling and reading instruction.  I highly recommend this program!  He easily learned to read within the second week of kindergarten, and this is my child that lives in his own happy, little world!

This is actually a shoe shelf, and it blocks my front door (although could be tossed aside in case of emergency!).  It houses everything I need to teach our reading and spelling program for my younger two kids.  We have fun things for practice too, like stencils, sandpaper letters for crayon rubbings, etc.

We also have a reading nook.  This space spills over to our great room, but it is a cozy place to read.  I curl up in this area, right along with my first grader as I read his science or history books to him.

Some things are portable and can be carried to another room.  This is a bag filled with "Write Shop" activities for my 4th grader.  It is a great writing program filled with fun activities that actually guide children into being better writers...willingly!  My 7th grader and 1st grader also use this program, although theirs are geared toward their ages.

So what does "Little Miss" do while we are learning?  Well, I have tried to set up a fun zone just for her.  Does that mean she plays over here while we have our school day...?

Of course not!  She wants to go to school too!

There are some mornings that I just wear her around in the baby wrap, and she is pretty happy being carried.  On those days, she gets a good little nap, and I can get quite a bit of teaching done without a lot of distraction.  

Now that school has begun, we have worked out our routine.  Although we are super busy, we are super blessed as well!  I love spending the day with these five wonderful blessings!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

4th of July "Sister Outfits"

Sewing is still my favorite hobby.  I may not always get the peaceful, quiet time needed to indulge in some creativity...but when I do, it is so rewarding!  It's been a looooong time since I have made anything for my preschooler to wear, and I have never made any clothes for my baby girl (hangs head in shame).  My boys would rather me sew toys, like stuffed animals, and my oldest girl has her definite preferences...although I think she would definitely appreciate it more now.  So, summer is here, the homeschool room has been organized for the upcoming school year, and Momma found some sacred spare time (ok...maybe I forgot to cook dinner).  It was definitely time to find my creativity...

Show and Tell #1:  I started by making a different version of the typical pillowcase dress.  This one is the "Sew Flouncy" tiered pillowcase dress.  I don't enjoy gathering, but I do like the look.

I love the twirl power of this dress, and my daughter liked it too.  There was a little moment where she told me that she loved the dress, but she didn't want anybody to see it.  I don't attempt to understand the mind of a spirited, four year old girl.  However, I was thankful when she happily put the dress on and actually seemed to enjoy wearing it.  Whew...

Show and Tell #2:  Next up is an adorable baby romper that I made for my youngest.  Sophie is at that wonderful age where I can put anything on her and she is happy.  I need to take advantage of this time because, judging form my other girls, it won't last!

This little romper pattern did not include the bow embellishment, but it definitely adds a touch of girliness,which we love around here!  I made the 6-12 month size for my baby, which she wears, but it will need to be adjusted for next time because I found it a bit short in the stride.  You can find the pattern here.  I also used larger leg holes... My girl has chunky thighs, and I can't stand for elastic to leave red marks on her.  I overestimated, however, and she ended up with looser legs that looked more like capris.  It turned out very cute and comfy on her though!

Happy Independence Day!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Monkey Bread Muffins

Now that school is out, there is more time to try some of those divine looking dishes that I have been pinning on Pinterest.  This morning, it was "Monkey Bread Muffins," a recipe using Pillsbury canned biscuits.  Sometimes, there are "Pinterest Fails."  This is not one of them!  This recipe is so delicious, that I decided to share it here with extra pictures and a few helpful tips, after trying the original on Pinterest.  With just a few simple ingredients, you will wow your family and friends... (Recipe at the end of this post)

Begin by dividing your canned biscuits and cutting them each into six pieces.  Roll each piece in a sugar and cinnamon mixture and place in a buttered muffin tin (six pieces of dough in each muffin well).

You will fill up eight wells in the muffin tin.  Then, hold whatcha got 'cause there's more..
Next, you will boil brown sugar and butter into a caramel mixture.  This is when the kids will start showing up in the kitchen.  Just tell them to be patient...It will be worth it.
Keep boiling until the sugar is dissolved, and then spoon this heavenly goodness over your biscuit dough.
Now, it is time to bake this for about 10 minutes in your preheated oven.  Here is an important tip:  Either put something under your muffin tin, or be prepared to set your oven to "self-clean," which I am currently doing...
When you take your tray out of the oven, the biscuits will have popped out partially around the wells.  Just use the back of a spoon to push them back into the wells to give them more of a muffin shape.  You can also spoon back any caramel drizzle that made its way off of the biscuits.  At this point, the kids will be back in the kitchen.  Send them away one more time, we aren't done just yet.  These babies need to set for about 10 minutes so that they will pop out and stick together. 
In the meantime, you can use this time to make your cream cheese drizzle (as if these weren't already delicious enough!).  Mix up cream cheese and powdered sugar, adding in vanilla and about a tablespoon of milk.
After placing your muffins on a serving dish, drizzle the icing on top.  My kids LOVED these, and I am now the "best mom ever!"
Monkey Bread Muffins 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 can Pillsbury Grands flaky biscuits
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Cream Cheese Icing
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temp.
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat oven to 375* F.  Butter 8 muffin wells (or line with paper liners).
2. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.  Separate dough into 8 biscuits and cut each biscuit into 9 pieces (I cut them into six pieces...each half in thirds).  Roll biscuit pieces in sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Place 9 (or 6) biscuit pieces in each muffin well.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat butter and brown sugar (you can add a couple of teaspoons of water if needed, but I didn't) to boiling, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir for about 2 minutes, dissolving brown sugar.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
4. Carefully spoon the caramel mixture over the biscuit pieces.  Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.
5.  Remove from oven, and carefully use the back of a spoon to gently push the biscuit pieces back into the muffin wells.  Allow muffins to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing to a serving plate. 
6.  Prepare cream cheese icing by mixing cream cheese and powdered sugar with an electric mixer.  Add in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk until well combined.  Drizzle icing over warm muffins, and serve immediately.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Natural D.I.Y. Sunscreen

Toxic, chemical-based sunscreens have made a lot of headlines lately.  They can be just as dangerous as too much sun.  Even the "natural" sunscreens found in stores cause one of my children to have a reaction.  He has very sensitive skin, and anything with zinc oxide causes his skin to turn bright red and burn, usually causing his eczema to flare up.  I have a recipe for sunscreen that has been tested on four of my children with great results, and they all have different complexions.  We also have a pool, so if it worked for them, that's pretty good results.  If you do not have sensitivities to zinc oxide, you can add it to this mixture to make it much more waterproof.  Our sunscreen has worked for us, but I just make sure to reapply it often on my kids after they have toweled off or have been in the water for awhile.  All of my ingredients can be found on Amazon. 

D.I.Y. Sunscreen:

1/4 cup fractionated coconut oil
20 drops of carrot seed oil
*Optional*  You can also add lavender oil to improve the scent of your sunscreen.  An added bonus is that bugs don't like it!

That's it!  This will have a SPF of 40.  Make sure that you get the "fractionated" coconut oil and not the stuff you cook with.  Fractionated coconut oil remains in a liquid form...the other stuff hardens at room temperature.  Also, it is important to choose a good carrot seed oil, or you will end up with something that makes you more sensitive in the sunlight (photo toxic)...not good when you are making sunscreen.  I used Eden's Garden brand, and I even emailed them to ask how they extracted their carrot seed oil.  They steam expel it, so there are no other chemicals used in this process.   Lastly, I used a glass spray bottle.  Plastic can break down when using natural oils and you could end up with toxins in your sunscreen, which we are trying to avoid!  This is a natural mixture, so remember to shake it before spraying it on!

***Please be careful in the sun.  If you are extremely fair skinned, this may not be enough protection for you.  You may need to don the hat and find a shade tree!!!***

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Daddy Cake!

I have a recipe for a chocolate cake that is an absolute "keeper."  It is so easy to make, and everyone loves it!  It is one of those cakes that can slice up like a brownie if allowed to cool, but if you can't wait that long, then enjoy the gooey deliciousness with a spoon and some ice cream!  It was formally named "Darn Good Chocolate Cake," but since we had it for dinner on Father's Day one year, it has become a tradition to eat it on Father's Day...whether it be for dinner or dessert.  This is why we renamed it, "Daddy Cake."  Besides, we really would rather our kids not say "darn" anyway.

This is not a "completely from scratch" cake, but it is so good!  I get asked for the recipe all the time.  Ready for your own copy?  Read on!

List of ingredients:
1 box of devils food cake mix
1 box chocolate pudding mix (instant)
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I don't measure.  I just dump in the whole bag!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan.  Mix cake mix, pudding, eggs, sour cream, warm water, and oil with electric mixer at low speed for one minute.  Scrape sides of bowl and increase speed to medium.  Beat 2-3 minutes.  Fold in chocolate chips.

You can see that the batter is much thicker than regular cake batter.  This one is more like pudding, and I guess this is what makes the cake so moist and delicious!

Pour batter into cake pan and smooth out with a rubber spatula.  Bake 45-50 minutes.  Cool 20 minutes in the pan.  (Trust me on this!)  Use a knife to pull cake away from pan and invert onto a serving platter.

If a lucky child happens to hear the mixer and wander into the kitchen, then give him the mixer paddle to lick.  This will appease him, so that when he happily skips off, giggling at his good fortune, you can then lick the bowl and spatula with no one the wiser.  Just be sure to wipe the chocolate off your face!

We enjoyed it warm with a side of vanilla ice cream! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes!

For the 2012-2013 school year, we began our homeschool journey, for the first time, with all the kids.  The year prior to that was only a half year with one of my children.  I was determined that I was going to start blogging again for the 2013-2014 school year, but then this happened... 

Big Baby in Here!

At 40 years old, this was a little scary for me, but all my fears turned into joy when this little big girl was born...

Our 8 lb 11oz bundle of pure sweetness captured all our hearts (and attention), so blogging was put on hold for awhile while we mixed school with special times like this one...
Little ones truly do grow fast, and our youngest is now 6 month old!  She has fit right in and even participates in school...
Enjoying the reading nook

Celebrating 100 Days of School

Before we knew it, we had completed a school year and went out to celebrate the big day at The Cheesecake Factory (one of our favorite restaurants).  We dubbed this night our "First Annual Awards Night."  I hope this means I can look forward to a repeat of the delicious dinner I had that night!!
Our "Class Picture"
Anyone with a big family knows that there is no easy or fast way to have dinner at a restaurant like The Cheesecake Factory.  That's ok, though, it was sooooo good!  We decided to pass out awards at home, complete with a kindergarten graduation ceremony for my youngest son!  (My oldest son was a bit delirious from a late night and a full belly!)


 It's been a really great school year, but we are all thrilled to be enjoying a little rest and recreation!!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hello Homeschool!

It has been over a year since my last blog post...I even considered deleting my blog.  However, it seemed very sad to wipe out everything that I have shared and comments from sweet readers.  So, where have I been???  Well, last year (January 2012), I entered the world of homeschooling.  Always be careful about saying, "I would never do that!"  God had different plans, and I am thankful that He did, because it has been such a wonderful blessing to my family!  Do I still craft and sew?  Yes, but not as much.  My children have grown to be a 5th grader, 2nd grader, pre-K(er), and an almost 3 year old!  Homeschooling keeps us tremendously busy...then you add in extracurricular activities and...whew!  I do try to carve out time for myself, whether it is a little soak in a hot bath or on occasion, sewing a project for the kiddos.  I really am going to attempt to be a better blogger!  Only now, I will also include things that may help other homeschooling families.  I was a kindergarten teacher for 7 years before having babies of my own, and I really feel that God used that to give me a comfort level that I needed to ease me into being a teacher again...this time to my very own children.  The thought of being completely responsible for my children's education was terrifying at first, but now, it seems like the most natural thing in the world!

I'll close this post with a few pictures to share our homeschool area and my kids in well as a picture to show my latest sewing project.  :)  Please excuse the blurry photos!  They were all taken with my phone... I must get back into the swing of things!!!

Sombrero Cookies for Spanish class! 

I highly recommend BJU Press Spanish Kit A for elementary kids.  It is so much fun for all of us!  Kit A only concentrates on speaking and understanding Spanish.  The kids sing songs, memorize Bible verses in Spanish, and learn so many fun and interesting facts about Spanish speaking countries.  It is so much better than any Spanish class I ever had!  Kit A can last 3 years, so it is worth the money.  Kit B is also available and meant for older elementary children that have completed Kit A.  It focuses on writing and reading in Spanish.  My 5th grader is enjoying Kit A with the rest of us, and it does give suggestions on things to do with an older student.

My little preschool group!  


I'm VERY glad we replaced the dining room table with a sturdy, play-doh safe table!


Baby Girl Loves!!! 

 2nd Grader hard at work!


5th Grader...posing!  :)


100th Day of School

Earlier this week, we celebrated the 100th Day of School!!!  Woohoo!!!  We did many activities, but they really enjoyed working together to color a 100" Inchworm.

Lastest Sewing Projects...

This is my first attempt at a soft sculpture baby.  I used the Dinky Baby pattern, and it was a lot of fun to make.  The dolly diaper bag was sewn up on Christmas Eve (nothing like the last minute!), and I stuffed it full of goodies that every little mommy needs to take care of her new baby.
Well, that is just a smidge of what we have been up to!  I will continue to share project that hopefully inspire my crafty readers, but I hope to share ideas with fellow homeschoolers as well!  :)


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