Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School: 2014-2015


So, today we officially started back to school. All the subjects. Whew. 

We started a few things at the end of last week, because I always prefer to get my feet wet (gradually) and not just jump right in. It works for me…and for our kiddos too.


This year, I have a fifth grader, third grader, and first grader. Crazy.

And because I love reading about other people's curriculum choices, I'm going to share ours again this year. (And I've also gotten a couple emails over the summer with requests to hear what I like, so I thought it would be nice to have a spot to refer people!)

We use Veritas Press (a company that approaches education classically) for our history, Bible, literature (mostly), and Geography.

For HISTORY this year, we are studying the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation. Veritas Press has two approaches for each of their grammar stage history courses: 1) Teacher/Parent taught and 2) Self-Paced Online Course.

The past three years of history, I have taught the curriculum, using their guides. This summer, we reviewed the first year of history (Old Testament and Ancient Egypt) using the Self-Paced online course; we all really enjoyed it. This year, we are going to continue with the online course. I'm excited because the course is well-designed, fun, and cohesive. And it gives me a break to focus on some other subjects that I really need to devote more time towards teaching. I will continue with our history read-alouds and a few other parts of history that I really enjoy, like our timeline.

For LITERATURE, we will be using the first, third, and fifth grade read-alouds from Veritas, as well as some fourth-grade that we didn't get to last year that I'm excited about. The kiddos also have daily independent reading, from a selection of books at home and the library.

I love finding good books…I highly recommend Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt and Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson. These books are great guides and offer suggestions of books for different ages, interests, genres, etc. Sarah also has a great new website called Storyformed with booklists and book descriptions and a blog to encourage teachers and parents to instill a love of stories and reading in their children.

My kiddos love the Legends & Leagues GEOGRAPHY guides, Mr. Longitude and Mr. Latitude. This year, we're using the Legends & Leagues North Storybook and Workbook. I'm really excited that they have grown this curriculum in the last couple years!


This year, we're trying something new with SCIENCE. It's a subject they love but one that I had a hard time being consistent with because math and language arts have really been demanding in these early years of elementary school.

Locally, we have access to a classical Christian private school (with students attending two days at school, three days at home,) and we decided to join the school for science class this year. The school uses Apologia for their science program and our kids are enrolled in 5th grade Anatomy and Physiology, 3rd grade Zoology 3, and 1st grade Astronomy.

Despite being a little unsure about uniforms (Madeleine announced after her first day that she LOVED her uniform, after weeks of sulking about it!), they all had a great day, and I think it's going to be great for all of us. During the rest of the week, we will spend a couple hours completing their science assignments. I can tell that it's going to stretch them academically…and I'm excited to see it!

As for MATH, we are continuing with Math U See. This year, we're using levels Beta, Gamma, and Delta. And this year we will be doing a lot of fact drilling. A. Lot.

We are continuing to use Rod and Staff for ENGLISH GRAMMAR. (I still love First Language Lessons, and I think that Shurley English is a great foundation…but both programs weren't a great fit for everyone I was teaching. Rod and Staff is working for all of us.) I'm also continuing to use All About Spelling…but I'm still working to find a great way to make spelling successful for my three. I am a natural speller who married a very creative speller. And I think we have some creative spelling offspring. ;) But time (and more practice) will tell!

Piano lessons for all three this year will be a part of our MUSIC…and I'm always hoping to be more consistent (and fun!) with ART. I'm hoping to share more about those subjects in the next few weeks.

One last thing, as I wrote in a similar post last year:

There are so many great curriculum choices out there now for homeschoolers. But just remember, every family is different. Every child is different. What works for me, may not be the best fit for you. I've even learned that I have to alter some things to better fit each of my own children's unique style of learning. Other homeschoolers are a valuable source of information about what they've used...but make sure to focus on your own family's strengths, weaknesses, learning (and teaching!) styles as you consider what to use in your homeschool.

If you have any questions or want to share a favorite curriculum, I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment, and I'll respond within the comment section! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

This week...



We are soaking up the last few days of summer, as we start back to our homeschool at the end of this week…perfectly timed for the three days of 100 degree weather that's predicted.

Meanwhile...

I'm getting school supplies organized. Final books purchased. Rooms cleaned.

I'm working on daily schedules. Loose year-long plans.

I'm thinking about meal planning. A new blog design. Home decor changes.

I'm trying to find a living room rug. And the balance between staying  up late and waking up early.

I'm missing my sweet nephew who is one month old today!

What are you up to this week?



Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Two different looks at StitchFix


It's been quite a while (almost a year, actually) since I've blogged about Stitch Fix. Since then, I've received two shipments from Stitch Fix and thought I'd blog about them, even though one of them was from last fall. (If Stitch Fix is new to you, I explain the service after my review below.)

I was disappointed to learn that my stylist Jen was no longer styling for Stitch Fix. I really loved her eye and ability to select things I loved while always pushing me a little bit to try something different.

Stitch Fix No. 5 was a bit of a disappointment at first sight. Usually, I'm excited about the pieces even if they don't work out. This box just seemed blah. I noticed a lot of tiny polka dots…which I like but not in three different items all at once. 


1. Kensie Lavon Dot Detailed Button-up Cardigan in blue. This cardi had some cute details but the fabric seemed thin for winter and the length was shorter than I prefer. Pretty color but it reminded me of a cardigan set I had in college. Sent back.

2. 41Hawthorn Jace Dot Print Fit and Flare Dress. I didn't find this flattering at all.

3. 41Hawthorn Longsleeve Knit Cardigan. I love this style of cardigan. I love the softness of the fabric and how it matched so well with the scarf pictured, a gift from a dear friend. I chose to keep it even though it is oh-so-similar to the one I received in my first Stitch Fix.

4. Crosby Ford Bootcut Jean. These didn't fit. I loved the style and details and quality of the denim but I have a hard time finding jeans in-store that I like, so I knew these would be a long-shot. And they were so. very. looooong.

5. Renee C Rossi Polka Dot Blouse. I thought this was cute, but in the end, I didn't think it would get much wear in the winter AND most of my polka dots in my closet are black and white tops. So I sent it back.

Here are some details shots. I noticed that they now send the styling cards as a perforated printout sheet, instead of in the plastic sleeves. Pro…the plastic sleeves were attached by a swing tag to each garment, which often made it more difficult and uncomfortable to try on. And since they're not attached to the clothing, you can keep the cards even if you don't keep the clothes, giving you some future ideas for styling! Cons…I liked having the cards in the plastic sleeve as it seemed more of a personal gesture and not an afterthought. 

Consensus…I had a new stylist, but I got the feeling that she hadn't spent as much time getting to "know" me as my previous stylist. And even though I chose to keep the green cardigan, I was a bit disappointed to receive an almost exact copy of a previous purchase from them. To be fair though, I didn't give many concrete suggestions for what I was hoping for, so I decided that I'd wait until the spring (as I have way too many sweaters for the winter already) and give it another try.

I received Stitch Fix No. 6 in the late spring. It was already getting warm here in Georgia, so I requested some spring to summer items. I also requested a skirt and a new stylist. When I opened the box, I was happy. Ellyn sent me what I had come to expect from StitchFix.
1. Tart Burrowes Striped Short Sleeve Shirt. I wasn't too sure about the shape of this (it seemed a little boxy) but I really loved it once it was on. The fabric was a wonderful quality and the contrasting size of stripes was a great detail. I really wanted to keep this one (and now I kind of wish I did) but in the end $48 for a tee seemed a little high.

2. Loveappella Montgomery Striped Cross-Front Tank. I really wanted this one to work. I love the style, the color, the drape…but in the end, it just didn't look great on me. But so cute. (Made me want some more grey in my closet.

3. 41 Hawthorn Pink Selfridge Cowl Neck. This fabric was baby-clothes-soft. Very flattering and the color was nice. But it reminded me of a similar top I used to have (in style and color) that I never wore, so I decided to pass on this one, especially at the beginning of the summer.

4. Mavi Gold Malcom Bootcut Jean. Different jean, same old story. Didn't fit well. I have always had a hard time finding jeans that fit well in all the right places, so I'm reluctant to spend $$$ when they're not a perfect fit.

5. LA MADE Logan Jersey Swing Skirt. I didn't have a skirt in this style, and I loved it. Love the color. Love the fabric. Love the style. I do wear a slip under this one because this jersey fabric needed a little extra coverage. I kept it and have worn it with a white top and either a scarf in cooler weather or a long necklace in the summer.


So, once again, I'm happy with Stitch Fix. And looking forward to my next order!

If this is all new to you, here's how it works:

1. You sign up (via an invitation link) online, and once your account is created, you complete your style profile. This part is fun...it's kind of like a quiz. You fill out size, fit, and style preferences, as well as a price range you prefer to shop within. You can also link to a Pinterest board, so the stylists can get a good sense of your style. 

(screenshot of a portion of the style profile)

2. There is a wait time currently involved…and lately, it has grown. But it's definitely worth the wait.

3. Once you're approved and your style profile is complete, you schedule when you'd like to receive your first order or "fix." A StitchFix stylist handpicks items for you based on your profile; the fee for this service is $20...but you can apply the full $20 towards your purchase.

4. The package ships USPS and include 5 items. When your StitchFix box arrives, you get to try on clothes in the comfort of your own home...and with pieces from your own wardrobe.  This is one of my favorite features of the company. 

5. Within three days, choose what you love and then send back the rest, using the prepaid Priority envelope enclosed. Go online to StitchFix and checkout. You complete a survey for checkout, which further defines your profile and gives good feedback to the stylist for next time. You pay only for what you keep...and if you keep all items sent, you get 25% off the total purchase. 

6. Then, choose to schedule your next StitchFix shipment as frequently or infrequently as you like! I love that you can leave a note for your stylist about an event or season you want kept in mind when selecting items!

Also, StitchFix now offers gift certificates, so if you've been wanting to try, maybe request a gift certificate for your birthday or Christmas. I love that they offer this now!

Finally, this is not a sponsored post. I am receiving no compensation for this review from StitchFix. However, much like other online retailers (like ZulilyOne Kings LaneSole Society, etc.), StitchFix promotes their brand through referral links. So if you sign up through the links I've given here, I earn a one-time credit with StitchFix if you sign up and purchase. (And once you sign up, if you share your referral code with your friends, YOU earn credit! Win-win!)

I've earned some credit through some of you...so THANK YOU! Let me know about your StitchFix experience! And if you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them in the comments or by email!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Lunch inspiration for a Monday


A few weeks ago, I was very bored with our lunch routine. Later while scrolling through my Instagram feed, I was inspired by Emily and her Muffin Tin Monday picture.

Needless to say, I quickly made our own:


The kids were quite excited and asked that it be part of our weekly lunch routine. (We also do grilled cheese Fridays when I remember!)

Do you have any fun lunch ideas to share? I'm trying more and more to switch up what we have at lunch and would welcome your suggestions!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Rainy Day Fun


I've been yearning over the last week for a little rain. Cool temps and rainy weather seemed to be all over instagram and the United States except for my little patch of grass. I exaggerate, but still.

Today we woke to clouds and a little fall of rain. And a forecast with a chance all day long. Enough to call it a rainy day. 

And so we had tea and cookies on a blanket in the living room while I read aloud. And then we finished the hour reading independently, lost in two different volumes of Narnia, on an adventure with the Boxcar Children, and challenged and encouraged by Emily Freeman. 40 minutes of silent reading, minus Madeleine's announcements of pictures of dwarves and how many chapters she had left.

These are some of the moments I dreamed of as a mother of toddlers…and wondered if I would ever experience as a mother of a late-blooming-reader. It's a joy to see my children lost in stories, wandering in the adventures of their imaginations. 

So it's no surprise that for today's photo-a-day challenge, I chose to share my idea of rainy-day FUN.


I'm not sure if I'll be sharing these daily or not on the blog, but you can follow me on Instagram to keep up daily.  

Here are the prompts if you'd like to play along with The Idea Room's August Photo-a-day Challenge! I am always glad that I've participated at the end! Let me know if you're joining in…I'd love to follow along!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

July in Pictures


It's hard to believe that July is at an end. We had some relaxed days at the beginning of the month, but the end has been a whirlwind of travel. Here's a peak at what we've been up to around here!


Hot Georgia days=old toys are fun!
Picking blueberries locally. Lots of pink but platy of blue too.


 Hot weather fun. 
Fountains and Dairy Queen


We call that Ode to our favorite Kroger salads
Project Organize Kids Rooms


Visiting the Panda Bears at the National Zoo was a definite highlight!


 Enjoying Mimi & Grampa's front yard


Playing in the creek with friends. In the rain. With an umbrella. 
Hadleigh read and read and read. And finished the Chronicles of Narnia!


Seeing their great-great grandfather's stained glass windows 
while exploring the National Cathedral.


Enjoying Rochester's 60-something degree temps
Singing Frozen songs with Uncle Alex on the piano


Meeting my sweet nephew Anders
They are so excited about another cousin! 


Mimi & Grampa with their grandchildren 
Love seeing my little sister become a mother.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My New Favorite



At the beginning of the summer, I began making green smoothies. I wanted something easy and healthy and quick because otherwise, I just want pastries with my coffee.

I found a recipe somewhere, and I've been making them almost daily ever since. Sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for lunch. It took me a few sips to like it, but now I really look forward to my daily smoothie!

A few tips. 1) I use my Vitamix and the consistency is awesome. However, I've made it with other blenders and have had good results too. If your blender can crush ice, you should be set. My suggestion (if you're not using a Vitamix) is to process your oats first before adding other ingredients to insure that they are smooth and fine.  2) The banana can be frozen or fresh; it's a bit icier and colder when frozen, so that's my preference. 3) Sometimes I add a dash or two of cinnamon!

Green Smoothie

1 cup milk
1/4 cup old-fashioned uncooked oats
2 handfuls spinach leaves
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 banana
4-5 ice cubes

1. Place all ingredients in blender, in the order of ingredients listed. (Or order them based on your blender's suggestions for liquids, ice, etc.) Blend until smooth and pour into a glass. Enjoy!

Also, this smoothie does not have a strong banana flavor. The oatmeal and peanut butter are the flavors that stand out! I hope you enjoy…and if you have a favorite green smoothie recipe, I'd love it if you'd share!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Simply Lovely, no. 20




She said to me, "I didn't know that moths could be so beautiful,"
after this little discovery at church on a Sunday morning.
I love how children see wonder and beauty in nature…even simple things become lovely.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

July 4th through the years...


This weekend, as we celebrated our nation's birth and our freedom, I looked back at older pictures that documented the day. 

I love the way an annual celebration is recorded with a few snapshots…it's so special to look back and see growth and change and what remains the same. 

I noticed gaps in our July 4th photographs…years we moved on July 4 (last year), years where we just didn't pull out the camera, and Hadleigh's first celebration which I know we took but is missing in our digital archives. Hmmm. It's fun to see all the different cities and states where we've celebrated our country.

2005 Wichita Falls, TX (and pregnant with Nathanael)

2007 Wichita Falls, TX (and pregnant with Madeleine)

 2008 family reunion in Missouri

2009 Asheville, NC

 2010 Enid, OK

 2011 Enid, OK

2012 Asheville, NC

2014 our current backyard :)

I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Independence Day Sponge Balls


In preparation for a dinner party we're hosting for friends for Independence Day tomorrow, the kids and I put together an old favorite summer project from several years ago.

If you're looking for a last minute 4th of July amusement to keep the kids (or adults) cool and having fun, this is the project for you! All you need are sponges, scissors, and dental floss. (You will want 2-3 sponges and 15 inches of floss per sponge ball.)

I was excited to find packages of red, white, and blue sponges at our local Dollar General. (I bought all they had!)


1. Cut each sponge lengthwise in half. Then cut each half lengthwise again, so that you have four equal pieces, as pictured above.


2. Divide your sponge pieces so that you have a variety of colors (if you wish) in each ball. I'd recommend anywhere from 6 to 12 pieces each. (Several years ago, we used 12 each. This year 6-7, as we needed to make more balls for the number of guests we will have.)


3. Cut a length of dental floss, about 15 inches long.  Take the sponges and grasp them tightly at the base, so that the midpoint of the sponges is just above your hand. Wrap the floss tightly around the center of the sponges 2 to 3 times, then tie securely.


4. You will then need to twist and "fluff" the sponge ball. Pictured above is what they look like after being tied (left) and after being fluffed (right). Gently pull the ends of each sponge towards each other and twist until the shape is rounded and full.


5. Repeat until you have completed all your sponge balls. Cut excess dental floss, about 1.5 inches from the knot. Soak balls in a bucket of water or kiddie pool and watch the fun begin!
 

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