Monday, December 10, 2012

We're still alive

We're still alive over here. We have just been enjoying the holiday season.  We went to Thanksgiving at my parent's house in Provo.  We came home on Thanksgiving night due to hubby needing to work Friday.  Since then we have gone to a Christmas parade, visited Temple Square, watched lots of Christmas Movies, listened to lots of Christmas music, decorated the house, made a couple of goodies, and a few other things.  The kids have made an advent chain, some ornaments, paper snowflakes, and a few other decorations. 
For our Christmas School we are doing the countdown found here at Chocolate on my Cranium.  We also have a family Advent calendar with a scripture and song for every night.  Oh, and we also started using Sundays and Mondays to do the devotionals found in A Christ Centered Christmas
We have been enjoying our holiday and have a lot more fun plans for the next couple weeks before we celebrate Christmas Day!!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's in Store

For the last couple of years we have taken a "break" from school for all of December.  Instead we do "Christmas School."  I love Christmas time and I love the fact that I can take the entire month of December and focus my kids on the Reason for the Season!!!  While we do away with History, Science, Spelling, English, Geography, and so on, here is what we DO do. 
Our Christmas School Traditionally looks like this:
1.  Christmas Devotional:  We focus on studying and learning about Christ.  In past years we have focused on all the aspects of the Nativity beginning with Prophecies about Christ's birth and going through his birth and the events that happened in America (from the Book of Mormon).  This year we are branching out and doing this unit study from Chocolate on my Cranium. 

2.  Singing Time:  We take turns choosing both secular and sacred Christmas songs and singing them around the piano while I play and sing with the kids.  This is always a favorite part of Christmas School. 

3.  Reading:  We read Christmas books together on the couch and have a wonderful time feeling the Spirit of Christmas.

4.  Project:  We then do a project of some sort.   These consist of crafts, making gifts for neighbors and/or grandparents, wrapping presents, Christmas worksheets, baking, or other fun seasonal activities.

5.  Family Activity:  When Ben gets home from work we take the opportunity to do family activities.  Some of the things in store for this year are:  Caroling, Willard Bay lights display, Temple Square, sledding, watching movies, going to the city Christmas Parade, visiting Santa, and making Gingerbread Houses. 

Audrey will continue doing her regular math in the month of December as it will be necessary in order to keep her on track.  Other than that, all typical school is out the window. 

We have a great time and my kids really look forward to their Christmas Break because of the deviation from the norm.  What special things do you do for Christmas?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How NOT to Make Rock Candy

1.  Decide to make Rock Candy in the fall, on the week the weather decides to turn.
2.  Put 8 cups of water and 8 cups of sugar into your second largest pot.  Realize that it is already fairly full but refuse to pour it into the largest pot on grounds of dirtying another dish. 
3.  Bring your mixture to a boil, then attempt to add 8 cups more sugar.  Run out of space and decide it is sugary enough and be done with it.
4.  Pour your syrup into jars and add food coloring.
5.  Prepare your skewers by wetting them, rolling them in sugar, then allowing to dry.
6.  Place your completed jars in a window.
7.  Realize there isn't enough sugar in your syrup, and try adding some by just stirring it in.
8.  Realize that is not working and microwave each jar to help the sugar dissolve better.
9.  Put your skewers back in, but don't roll them in sugar again.
10.  Realize that the skewers have NOTHING growing on them.  Take them out and reroll in sugar, but put them back in before they dry.
11.  Have the same problem as in setp 10.  Pull them out, wipe them down, and wait for them to dry.  12.  Put the skewers back in, with high hopes that NOW it will all work.
13.  Wait for days, and realize your candy really isn't going to grow. 

In other news....Audrey finished her 100 picture books/chapters challenge and is moving on to her second one.  This time her challenge will be to read 100 Chapters.

And blogger has been crazy on my computer for the last week and refusing to let me even SEE my new post page, so this is all you get for this week even though I had grand plans of posting pictures, and doing multiple posts. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A week off isn't all it's cracked up to be.....

The title says it all.  We are only 3 days into our weeklong fall break and I am ready for school to start back up!!! 
Don't get me wrong, we needed the break to avoid burnout.  It's just that our days seem so much LONGER, full of so much more TIME to fill!  There is more whining about boredom, and constant asking if friends are home from school yet.  The kids get into more taking Trent's mattress off the bed, dragging it over by the bunk beds and jumping off the top bunk onto the mattress.......yeah. 
There have been some great things about this week though.
I appreciate how much faster our days go when we are schooling. 
I was able to learn about essential oils and get help with my asthma thanks to them. 
I was also able to do a playdate with one of my favorite friends, a fellow homeschool mom, that just had a baby. hasn't been a BAD week, just a LONG one.  I will be very ready to start school back up on Monday.  I just need to survive the next 2 days!!!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Random Ramblings

1.  First off, don't hate me.  I forgot to take pictures of our Volcano!!!  I know, I know.  It was really cool though! 

2.  I had a very proud Mom moment this week.  Audrey accidentally broke a neighbor's car window.  That brave little girl, first went and confessed to the owners, then came home and confessed to Mom what she had done.  She was so heartbroken, upset, and embarrassed.  I felt so bad for her.  Since the neighbors only speak spanish we had to wait for Ben to return home to discuss reparations.  I am so proud of her for IMMEDIATELY doing the right thing!!!! 

3.  This was our last week of schooling before our fall break.  We get next week off.  We will use the week to have fun, deep clean, and relax. 

4.  Our General Conference bags were a HUGE hit.  The kids are loving the treats and activities.  I am loving how quiet they are being and how well they are listening to our church leaders.  This will become a new tradition for us. 

5.  I am baby hungry.  I am feeling jealous of all my friends that have just given birth, are about to give birth, or have just announced pregnancies.  I know there is another spirit that will join our family, I just don't know when.  I am anxious for the new little one to bless our family.  God willing, it will be soon. 

That's about it for this session of random ramblings.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Indians, Tornadoes, and Volcanoes....Oh My!

We had a good week, for the most part.  School at home went great, however we have some changes coming.  We received an email this week from our School partner, stating that starting in October homeschoolers will need to submit year long lesson plans for Science, Math, and English for each of their children.  In addition to that, our children would need to take monthly "quizzes" on those subjects to determine if they are "learning enough."  On top of that, every quarter we would be required to submit work samples for those subjects as well.  Needless to say, the cons outweighed the pros for staying in the program so we are pulling out.  Unfortunately, it means the girls will no longer get their once a week "fun classes."  They were involved in the decision and decided on their own that they would rather drop out than complete the new requirements.  It was a sad day, but after much thought, discussion, and prayers we have decided that dropping out is what is best for our family at this time.  Hopefully we will be able to fill the void with homeschool field trips, a recreational class for each child, and a smattering of all the other wonderful homeschool activities and groups going on in our conmmunity.  Enough of that now.....on to happier things!!!
This week we studied all of our basics (reading, writing, math, english, ect.).  May I just say that I am very proud of my girls right now.  They each have a challenge to read 100 books (picture books on appropriate levels for each of them) or chapters from an approved book to earn a reward.  Audrey is currently up to 60 books and Marissa is at 51!!!!  This plan is working AMAZINGLY.  Audrey's reading has improved greatly in the last few months.
We also had a wonderful time doing our science and history this week.  In History we learned more about Pocahontas and made Indian headdresses.  We also read the book "Sam the Minuteman."  Audrey was enjoying it so much that she took it off on her own on Thursday and read the entire book to herself. 

The kids with their Indian Headdresses....I may have cut them a little too small.
 In Science we learned about tornadoes and volcanoes.  We had a great time building our own tornado, swirling it around, and watching it go.  We also began construction on our volcano.  More to come with the volcano next week. 

Our Tornado.  If you look closely at the top water you can see it swirling.
It was a good week overall.  We are excited to make our changes and start with our new plan.  And I promise that my children do not look like such ragamuffins in the mornings.  I don't know what happens to them at lunch time!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What I learned this week

Homeschooling my kids gives me the opportunity to resdiscover lost interests, revel in things I loved as a child (and some that I still science experiments), re-do those subjects I struggled with or did not like as a child, and learn new things alongside my kids.  Here are 3 things I learned this week while teaching my children:
1. The Americas were named after Amerigo Vespucci who was the first person to realize that this mass of land Columbus had found was not Asia, but a completely seperate continent. 
2.  The first hamburger in America was served in Connecticut. 
3.  Coca-cola and Peanut butter were invented in Georgia. 

Did you learn anything new this week?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekly Wrap up

Yet another week of school has come to an end.  I am enjoying this year of homeschool SO much.  I think the kids are too. 
This week.....
Breanne created havoc, played some with her busy bags, screamed a lot, learned how to say  or rather YELL "OP!" (Stop), napped, made a lot of messes, and ate snacks.  Pretty normal week for our little toddler.

Trent worked on the letter Cc.  We reinforced the letter name and sound, worked on some worksheets (rhyming, beginning sounds, and abc order), did math (Trent's favorite), and a couple of reading lessons from Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons. 

Marissa read a lot of books (she is determined to finish her 100 books before Audrey does), passed off the last of her "black key" piano songs, worked on adding and subtracting (single digits with double digits), learned about reading map keys, and worked on her handwriting.

Audrey read a lot of books (she is determined to finish her 100 books because she REALLY wants fake nails), took her first Math test of the year and (after a few corrections) passed with an 85%, finally passed off the word "giraffe" in spelling, learned how to read a map grid, learned about asking - exclaiming - and commanding sentences, and read from her Book of Mormon reader daily.

In Sciene we learned about the seasons and what causes them.  Each child made a seasons book.  We learned about the water cycle.  We also began talking about weather and made a rain guage.  Both girls predicted that we will have 0cm of rain this coming week.  They will continue to predict and chart our rainfall for the next 4 weeks.   

In History we finished learning about Columbus and learned about Ponce de Leon and how he discovered and named Florida.  Did you know that Florida means "flowers"?  I didn't.  We made old style maps charting Columbus's journey from Europe to America.  Our state for this week was New Jersey.  Did you know that New Jersey is called the garden state because more than half the state is still farms, woods, marshes, beaches and other undeveloped land?  New Jersey also grows 2/3rds of the world's eggplant!!!! 

We had a good week.  3 more weeks to go before our first break!  What did you do this week?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Labor Day Week

This week started off with lots of fun. 
Sunday brought Ben's parents to celebrate Audrey's 9th birthday. 
Monday brought a BBQ with some friends. 
Tuesday brought a homeschool holiday for us, as we celebrated Audrey's 9th Birthday.  My parents came up to join us.
Audrey at her Birthday Party with one of her presents.
Wednesday - Friday brought us back to schooling where we learned about Columbus, made Telescopes, did science experiments, and painted our own planets in addition to math, reading, and writing. 
Trent and his Telescope

Marissa's planet earth

What did you do this week? 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wampum Beads

Today in History we made wampum beads.  Wampum beads were valuable to the Iroquois Indians.  They used them as money, gifts, and messages.  After learning about them, we made ourselves some.  Here are the results.

We made a simple salt clay, rolled the clay into small beads, poked a hole in them with a toothpick, then baked them.  After they cooled down the kids colored them with Sharpies.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Faith in God

I have been asked a few times what Audrey does during her Faith in God time.  This is how we do Faith in God over here.  (I was going to load my checklist, but I can't figure out how to load a document, so you just get an explanation.)

Audrey has a checklist I printed off for her that tells her what to do each day. 

Every day she prays and reads her scriptures.  She grabs the kitchen timer, says her prayers, then sets the timer for 5 minutes to read Scriptures.  I decided this year that she would read from the Scripture Readers. My parents bought these for us a few years back and we use them for our morning devotionals as well.  Audrey wasn't doing so well reading straight from the scriptures, so we're giving this a shot to see if it helps her understand what is going on better.  

After the timer goes off, she sets it again for 5 minutes and does one of the following:
Works on Faith in God Goals, Writes in her S.O.A.P. notebook, works on memorization, or writes in her personal journal.

On Tuesdays she works on Faith in God goals.  For her Goals, she decides what goal she wants to work on and writes the page number down on her sheet (it is in a page protector so she can use a dry erase marker on it).  Then she asks herself some questions:  What do you need to do to accomplish the goal?  Can you do it alone or do you need Mom's help?  How long witll it take to finish?

Wednesdays are for S.O.A.P. Her S.O.A.P. notebook is a place to ponder and study specific scriptures I choose for her.  Again, she sets her timer for 5 minutes and gets to work. 
S is for Scripture:  She reads and copies the scripture I have assigned her for the day.
O is for Observation:  What does this scripture mean?
A is for Application:  How does God want me to apply this scripture to my life today?
P is for Prayer:  Keep a prayer in your heart, asking God to help you apply this scripture to your life today. 

Thursdays are her memorization day.  Currently she is working on the Articles of Faith since she needs to pass those off for her Faith in God award.  When she has passed those off we will start working on other scriptures such as scripture mastery, common verses, verses from her S.O.A.P, ect.

On Fridays she writes in her personal journal.  She can write whatever she wants.  She just has to work for 5 minutes. 

She does not have a Monday assignment because that is her Options day where she is at school all day. 

At the end of each day she is instructed to come talk to me about what she accomplished, what she learned, and what she read about. 

When she turns 12 this box will become her personal progress box. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's in the box: Audrey's 2012-2013 edition

I know you have ALL been DYING to know what's in Audrey's boxes this year.  Well, the long wait is over.  Here is the post you have been sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for!  ;)

So, here we go.  Take a look at Audrey's new workbox set up.  If you look back to older "What's in the box posts" you will see that her boxes are not as varied in color scheme.  There is a reason for this.  I have color coded her boxes according to what type of activity is in them.  The top yellow box is for her school supplies (pencils, markers, scissors, ect.)  The next two green boxes are her independent study boxes.  The four purple boxes are her "do with Mom" boxes.  The bottom blue boxes are her group school boxes.  Now....what is IN each of those boxes you ask?  Read on, my friend, read on!
 Here we have box #1.  It contains her Evan and Moor Geography book.  She will do this independently and complete one page each day.  The tag for this is on the left side of the box.  On the right side is another tag, which is her practice piano tag.  She will be doing this independently this year.
 Box #2 contains her Faith in God activities.  It has her book, her check list, her journal, Article of Faith cards and other things she needs.  Each day she works on some aspect of Faith in God whether it is reading scriptures, writing in her journal, memorizing Articles of Faith or working on goals. On the right side of the box is a tag for her Typing.  We have typing instructor and she works on this every day.  This year I will be monitoring to make sure she is progressing.  Last year I just let her play around. 
 Box #3 is her first "do with Mom" box.  It has her spelling in it.  We use spelling power.  I like this curriculum because it keeps words together in rule groups and goes all the way through 12th grade.  PLUS, with this curriculum she never has to study and practice words she already knows how to spell.
 Box #5 is Math.  We love Singapore Math.  Audrey will be finishing up Math 2B (which is equivalent to beginning 3rd grade level Math) then moving on to 3A.
 Box #6 is for English.  This year we are trying out Rod and Staff grammar.  I am very excited to try it out! 
 Box #7 is not pictured.  It is her reading box.  Whatever book she is currently reading will be in it.

Box #8 begins our group school activities. All of the kids (excluding Bree, who will be napping) will participate together. This box has her Science notebook.  We are doing Elemental Science's Earth Science and Astronomy for the Grammar Stage this year.  It looks fun, and we really liked Biology last year, so I'm hoping we have more success with this curriculum.
 Box #9, and her last box, is her History notebook.  This year we are trying out Elemental History's Adventures in America.  It will take us on a trip of America from the Native Americans and first settlers up through the Civil War.  It looks like a lot of fun!  Unfortunately this is their ONLY curriculum so I will be on the hunt again next year.  :(
That concludes our session of What's in the box.  Tune in next time for........oh who knows what will pop up next!!!!  Hope you enjoyed seeing what Audrey will be doing this school year!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Slow down

Ah.  I can take a deep breath now.  Our summer fun and craziness has come to an end.  We went to Lagoon, went camping, attended a wonderful homeschool activity at Fort Buenaventura, saw some family, celebrated holidays, watched LOTS of extra kids, tutored the neighbor boy, and all this while doing "summer school."  Now we can all take a deep breath and take care of things at home.  I have a long list of things that need to be done over the next few weeks before we resume schooling.  My children are taking the next couple weeks off from school in order to rejuvinate themselves (plus then they will be EXCITED to start school back up to end their boredom!). 
Some of the things I will be doing over the next couple weeks are:
Having the kids do a "fashion show" of all their fall/winter clothes to determine what we need to buy
clothes shopping
School supply shopping
Purging the kitchen and getting it ready for school to start again
Preparing the workboxes for this year's curriculum
And getting ready for my oldest to turn 9 at the beginning of September

I am so excited to start our new curriculums and get going with "full" school as opposed to "summer" school.  I am also excited because I seem to have hit on something that actually is motivating Audrey to read!!!  Hallelujah!!!  I found a link on pinterest to an "I can read 100 books" challenge.  I talked to Audrey and had her decide on a reward she would REALLY want to earn in exchange for reading 100 books.  Her choice?  Fake nails.  So, I have arranged with a friend of mine to go shopping with us to find Audrey some really cute fake nails and then my friend will put them on her with nail glue and make them nice and pretty.  She is so excited she has already read 7 books.....granted they were all picture books, but they were all 2nd and 3rd grade level which is HUGE for us. 

As soon as I get Audrey's workboxes set up for this fall, I will do a "what's in the box" post for her boxes which will double as a glance at our curriculum for this coming school year. 
Until then....enjoy the rest of your summer!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I'm so excited....and I just can't hide it.

I'm so excited for next fall and all it's curriculum!!!!!  I want to squeal with joy.  I want to dive right in and start NOW.  BUT, my kids need somewhat of a summer, we have the neighbor boy over for tutoring and babysitting most days, and things wouldn't be consistent with all of our summer plans.  SO, I will have to hold on to my enthusiasm and wait until August to start. 
My kids will resume TRADITIONAL (as opposed to Summer) schooling on the same day their peers go back to school.  Two reasons for this:  1) I'm just way to excited to wait any longer than that, and 2) the kids get bored and complain if their friends are in school and they aren't. 
I have two other "what's in the box" posts in the works.  One will focus on Bree's tot tray boxes and the other will focus on Audrey's school work.  I'm waiting to do Audrey's until I get her boxes all set up with next year's curriculum.  That way you can also get a look at what we're planning for next year. 
So much fun, I can't wait!!!  I will try to enjoy my summer and not get TOO carried away though.  :)  We still have to reach our goal of trying to get Audrey to progress enough in reading to be on a SOLID third grade level.  Hopefully my interventions will work.  She may never enjoy reading, which breaks my heart as I am such an avid reader, but she needs to be able TO read.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One year ago.

With great anticipation we loaded the bags into the car, hugged and kissed all of the children, and thanked my parents for staying with the kids.  We headed over to the hospital to welcome our newest bundle of joy, Breanne Janeen Stephen. 
After getting all settled into my room, the nurse came to give me an IV.  She couldn't find a good vein and I ended up with black and blue bruises all over my hands.  Finally that was over and things really started moving.  The labor was fast, just a couple of hours, but all those details have faded in my head in wake of the nightmare that was about to unfold. 
Finally, after my hardest labor yet, little Breanne squirmed her way into this world.  She was perfect, and pink, and crying up a storm.  They cleaned her off, wrapped her up, and handed her to me.  Such a blessing.  I held my little baby for a few precious minutes, then it all began. 
Holding Bree before the "fun" began
She started making a weird kind of chattering sound.  It was weird, but I didn't think much of it.  The nurse came over to check on her, and with concern in her face asked if she could just take a look at the baby.  She just didn't think she "looked" right.  The nurse took Bree over to the bassinet and unwrapped her little body.  It was purple.  She called the NICU team right away and began listening to the baby's heart and lungs.  The NICU team arrived and listened to Bree's heart and lungs as well.  During this time, Ben and I were sitting off to the side just holding on to one another, waiting to hear what was wrong with our beautiful little girl.  The NICU team reported that they suspected Bree had punctured a lung during the birth process.  Phew!  A breath of relief.  A punctured lung, I could deal with that.  I knew it meant a few days in the NICU with antibiotics until the lung healed.  My friend had gone through it with her 4th baby as well.  I could live with that.  They would take Bree for x-rays to confirm the diagnosis. 

Bree, after her surgery, hooked up to all of her machines
So, breathing a little easier I sent my baby off for exrays and relaxed.  The time stretched, and stretched.  My anxiety grew and grew.  During my entire pregnancy I had felt that something was "wrong" with the baby.  The first trimester I worried about a miscarriage.  The second and third trimesters I worried about a still birth.  All ultrasounds were positive however, and showed that she was growing and functioning just perfectly.  Still, I could not shake the feeling that something was "wrong."  We received no word from anyone about the status of our baby.  After a long while, I had grown too antsy and NEEDED an update.  I sent Ben off to see what was happening.  He was gone for so long, I began to worry more. 
Holding Bree right before her surgery.  This was the only the 3rd time I had held my baby in 4 days
Ben finally returned.  He said he had good news and bad news and which did I want first.  I asked for the good news first, and he told me that Bree had NOT punctured a lung.  The bad news:  Something was wrong with her heart.  My own heart dropped out of my chest and onto the floor at this news.  NO!!!!  My little baby couldn't have heart problems!  She couldn't die!  She couldn't be sick!
Calling our parents with heavy hearts, we informed them with tears in our eyes, that Bree had been born.  She was beautiful and precious, but there was something wrong with her heart and they were preparing her to be Life Flighted to Primary Children't Medical Center. 
Our dear friends arrived to give love and support and help Ben administer blessings, the first of many to come over the next two weeks, to both Bree and me.  I was wheeled to see my little baby.  She looked so small and tiny in her incubator all hooked up to many beeping machines.  I was so scared. 
With fear in our hearts, we watched our baby be taken to the helicopter.  Ben followed the helicopter down to Salt Lake, while I had to remain at the hospital.  My mom came to spend the night with me.  I couldn't bear the thought of being alone when any moment my baby could die. 

A proud Marissa holding her baby sister for the first time
The night passed, thankfully, with no more bad news.  I was discharged a scant 24 hours after giving birth in order to drive down to Primary Children's to be with my baby.  There, we received the final diagnosis.  Breanne had TGA, Transposition of the Great Arteries, meaning that her heart was basically wired backward.  Instead of blood flowing through her heart in a figure 8, it was flowing in two circles.  All the blood in her lungs only circulated through her lungs, picking up more and more oxygen.  All the blood to her body circulated through her body without ever going to her lungs to be oxygenated.  Without surgery, she would only live a few days at most. 

Audrey finally getting to hold her baby sister
We tried to prepare ourselves emotionally and mentally for our little girl to undergo open heart surgery.  In all of this horror, there was a glimmer of light.  Bree, amazingly, had no other heart defects!!  This is very rare.  Usually children with TGA have multiple other defects as well.  Not so with our little one.  The outlook was good.  The prognosis was optimistic as long as she did well in surgery and the first couple days of recovery. 
Thursday arrived.  Breanne was just 4 days old when she was taken in to the operating room to be operated on.  We waited, and waited, receiving updates periodically.  Things seemed to be going well.  There were a couple of snags, but nothing REALLY serious.  Then, blessedly, my little girl was out of surgery.  She had done so well that they were even able to close her chest cavity up that day rather than a couple days later.  This shaved off a few days from her recovery. 
Now on to recovery.  Recovery went fairly smoothly.  We were told that BEST case scenario, she would recover in the hospital for two weeks before being sent home.  They neglected to take into account the fighter Bree would turn out to be.  After the first couple days she was doing so well that machines just kept being taken off her every time we turned around! 

Trent is finally a big brother. 
The day arrived, not quite a week after her surgery, that we were informed that she would be moved to the surgical recovery floor.  She no longer needed one on one care, and we as her parents needed to start taking a bigger role in her care.  That move to the surgical floor was a huge milestone, but while the hospital staff felt she was ready, I was not ready for my baby to be moved.  I was still so scared that something would go wrong.  However, the hospital staff knew what they were talking about.  Breanne soared through recovery.  The only hitch was that she refused to completely give up her need for oxygen.  A short 8 days after her surgery Bree was discharged from the hospital and sent home with us.  She needed oxygen for the first little while, but other than that was doing amazing. 

Daddy holding his little girl
We left the hospital in joy, and trepidation, as we now knew that all her care was in our hands. 
Having great faith in the Lord, we survived the nightmare and here we are a year later.  Breanne is a happy, healthy, one year old today!!!  A fading scar remains on her chest to remind us of the miracle she is.  I am so blessed to have my little girl, and I am so grateful to my Faith, the priesthood power, and knowledge of God's plan which sustained me through those first few weeks. 
 I am so grateful to so many who did so much for our family over that time.  Friends who took our children full time.  Friends and church sisters that cleaned and sanitized my home in preparation for Breanne's homecoming.  Friends and church members who checked up on us, offered priesthood blessings, and love and support.  We were truly blessed by an outpouring of love.  Thank you to all, and most of all thanks be to God for his tender mercies.  Thank you, Lord, for letting me keep this precious daughter of Thine.  To be able to raise her and love her in THIS life. 
Breanne this morning on her first birthday!  Oh how far we have come!

Monday, May 21, 2012

What ELSE is in the box?

Today we're taking a look at what's in Marissa's boxes.  Marissa is in Kindergarten but has done a lot of first grade work this year.  Marissa currently has 5 boxes.  Come fall she will have quite a few more.  As of right now, these are her boxes. 

Her first box, like Trent's, is her Calendar Notebook and media coupons along with the pens to fill out her notebook.

Marissa's second box contains her Math.  We use singapore math.  I love using it.  It works for us for many reasons.  Marissa has completed level 1A.  After she completed it I decided not to start her out on 1B quite yet and to spend some more time working on addition and subtraction facts.  She will start 1B in the fall (when she is officially a 1st grader) or when she finishes all of her addition and subtraction fact assignments this summer (which she is nearly done with and May isn't even over yet).

 Box number 3 used to hold Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons but she finished it months ago.  Currently it holds nothing because her reading assignments are on the computer doing a program called Funnix.  When she finishes up with funnix, this box will hold whatever chapter book she is currently reading.  Therefore, I just took a picture of the tag on the workbox. 

 Her next box holds her Handwriting.  After learning how to write all the letters, using the Handwriting without tears approach, I moved her into this book by Evan and Moor.  I have really liked it.  She is reviewing all of the letters right now, then she will do numbers and number words.  After that it all becomes copy work.  I can already see improvement in her handwriting.  She will probably be working in this book until the end of first grade.  If she does finish is up before then her handwriting will just be that in her other subjects.
For some reason, unbeknownst to me, she chooses to keep random objects in this drawer.
 Marissa's last box holds her Science book.  This year we used Elemental Science's Biology for the Grammar Stage.  I keep the two older girls together on Science and History and split the difference in their grade levels right now.  We have really enjoyed this curriculum.  Next year they will be doing Earth Science and Astronomy by the same company.  I'm planning on sticking with this company all the way through High School, that's how much I love it! 

Here is a close up picture of her section of workboxes.  You can see that the bottom drawer has 3 tags on it.  In general (and this will become more apparent when I show you Audrey's boxes) I put the tag for whatever is actually IN the box on the left of the drawer.  Tags on the right of the drawer are a visual reminder of subjects that need to be done but don't need a drawer.  On the bottom drawer she has science (which is actually in the drawer), a tag for history (which was a flop this year but will hopefully be better next year), and a tag for English (which we began with but thought our curriculum was so dumb that we stopped doing). 

Next year Marissa will have the following boxes:  General School supply box, Calendar Notebook box, Math, Handwriting, Science, History, and Geography. 
She will also have tags for Reading and Piano

So there's a peek into the school life of my kindergartener.  She is one bright little cookie and catches on to almost everything like lightning.  I feel very blessed to be able to homeschool her where I can allow her to excel in her academics and spend lots of time on character training to help with her temper.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's in the box?

As many of you know we do a workbox system over here.  I thought that maybe you would like to get an idea of how it's set up and how it all works at our house.  I have three sets of rolling drawers.  These work AWESOME for us.  They are portable and lightweight.  They hold most things I need to put in them and they're colorful.  Audrey has her own set, Marissa will have her own set come fall since she will have more drawers, and the purple one will be Trent's (yes, he chose purple) and Bree's.  The tags on our workboxes come from here

Our Workboxes:  Left - Audrey Middle - Marissa (And currently Trent) Right - Will be Trent's and Bree's come fall
  Today, we are taking a look at what's in Trent's workboxes.  Trent is doing preschool.  We use the curriculum from here.  Trent has five workboxes.   His first workbox holds his Calendar notebook, his media coupons, and the markers he needs for his notebook.  We do this box as part of our daily devotional after breakfast each morning.
The other four workboxes are divided up by day.  He does one box on each day of the week.  (We don't do formal school on Wednesdays right now.  That is our homeschool co-op day.)  He gets to choose which box he does on which day.  Here he is doing his yellow box.  The yellow box usually contains:  A playdoh page for the letter of the week, a counting activitiy, a card with his name printed on it to practice writing and spelling his name, and an extra activity of some sort.  Some weeks the contents of the boxes will vary depending on exactly what activities I have for the letter of the week. 
Here Trent is sorting colored raindrops.  Marissa had to help.

Sorting big and little Uu.
The purple box usually contains: A coloring page representing the letter of the week, a Leap Frog video, a puzzle for the letter of the week, and a pre-writing activity.  (Obviously this week is a little off in what's in each specific box)

The green box usually contains:  Lacing cards, a color matching activity, a card to play on starfall, and an extra activity (usually cutting)
This box has been completed this week, but not cleaned out yet, thus the mutilated cutting paper.
 His last box, the red box, usually contains:  A do a dot page for the letter of the week, Big/little letter sorting, size sorting, and an extra activity. 

 Trent has a lot of fun and asks to do his school almost every day.  He's progressing well and will definitely be ready for kindergarten in another year.  Next fall his boxes will get shaken up a bit as he will be ready for more "intense" work.  This year we have been focusing on learning to:  Sit and concentrate, recognize letters and the sounds they make, recognize the numbers 1-10, put a puzzle together, and motor skills like lacing and cutting. 
I plan on doing a post for each child's workboxes so you can get a better idea of what each of their school days look like.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sometimes I just don't wanna!!!

Do you have those days where you just don't want to supervise, help with, and check chores?  That's how I feel today.  I want the house cleaned, but I know that my 4 year old isn't capable of doing all his chores on his own.  I know that the 6 year old needs to have some supervision to make sure everything actually gets done.  I know that my 8 year old needs to have the chores checked to make sure she followed through with everything.  I know that I have my own list of chores that need to be done.  I just don't wanna!!!!!!  Thank you for letting me rant.  Now back to your scheduled programming.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Search for an English Curriculum

I have been searching for a good english curriculum that fits Audrey's learning style.  First, we tried First Language Lessons, but we found it to be SOOO boring.  I was bored and hated doing the lessons and my girls were nearly bored to tears!  So first language lessons went out the window and I started searching again.  I found a wonderful resource called "English Lessons for the LDS child."  It was free and very well written!!!  I love all the poems and scriptures that are memorized in the curriculum.  So what's the problem with it?  It requires a LOT of copywork.  Even when I scale the copy work down, there is a LOT of copywork, and little miss Audrey HATES writing.  She already has to write for spelling, and science, and write in her journal weekly, so adding THAT MUCH more writing on was causing a battle of wills.  So, on to the search again!!!  I am highly considering the Rod and Staff enlglish for 3rd grade.  I would do that workbook and continue the memorization following the ideas from English Lessons for the LDS child.  (Audrey LIKES to memorize).  The rod and staff seems to be more of a fill in the blank kind of workbook, which Audrey would be MUCH more willing to do. 
Does anyone have any experiene with Rod and Staff?  What do you think?  Do you like it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Math Plan

Both of my girls have finished up what I deem the NECESSARY math assignments for the year.  Marissa (kindergarten) has finished Singapore Math 1A.  There is no reason to push her into Math 1B yet.  She's already going to be WAY ahead come fall anyway.  Audrey (2nd grade) has finished Singapore Math level 2A.  I COULD get her started on level 2B, but when I looked at it, it is QUITE advanced for 2nd grade.  I guess that's why the website says that an AVERAGE 2nd grader will do 1B and 2A in second grade.  So we are taking a hiatus from our workbooks and focusing on addition and subtraction fact families from now through the end of the summer. 

The plan:  Both girls will be practicing the fact families 0-9 for both addition and subtraction.  They each get 5 minutes of practice time, followed by test time (Audrey gets 3 minutes, Marissa gets 5) to try and pass off their current fact family.  Each test has 50 problems and they have to miss less than 7 problems in order to pass off that family.  We are starting with addition from 0s and working up to 9s.  Then we'll tackle subtraction from 0s up to 9s.

The motivation:  I have fond memories of third grade math.  I remember working on the multiplication tables from 0-12.  Each table we passed off earned us part of a banana split.  The more tables you passed off, the bigger and more elaborate your banana split.  We have decided to recreate that this summer.  My girls are trying to earn a pizza and banana split party.  We have set the date for the party on August 20th.  Whatever the girls have earned at that point is what they will recieve at the party. 

The Breakdown:  The Banana splits are being earned with the addition facts.  0= spoon 1= bowl 2= banana 3= scoop 1 of ice cream 4= scoop 2 of ice cream 5= scoop 3 of ice cream 6= syrup (choloate, caramel, and/or strawberry) 7= whipped cream 8= sprinkles 9= cherries.
The pizza is earned through subtraction facts.  0= flour (for crust) 1= water for crust 2= yeast for crust 3= salt for crust 4= sauce 5= cheese 6= topping 1 7= topping 2 8= topping 3 9= topping 4.

Hopefully we'll have a big old party with tasty pizza and banana splits in about 4 months!!!  Both girls are already on the +2 fact family!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Where, oh where, has my motivation gone?

I have hit a slump.  It happens every couple months.  What slump, exactly, have I hit?  The "I have no motivation to keep the house clean, but I am bugged by the dirty house" slump.  The problem is three-fold:
 1) Inevitably I get in a "media" funk and stop being as productive as I should be.  The little things go first, like making my bed every morning, and getting a load of laundry done every day.  Then the bigger things slip:  not unloading the dishwasher in the morning and letting the dishes pile up, letting the kids slide on doing their chores fully, ect.  Before you know it, the house that was neat and tidy becomes disorderly and chaotic. 

2) The children stop doing their chores.  This starts with me letting them slide on doing their chores fully.  If I am not doing my chores, out of laziness, who am I to enforce them doing theirs?  Then we enter the "I won't get my chores done and I'll just take the priviledge losses that go with that" phase.  You see, my kids are not allowed to use media or play with friends until all school and chores are completed.  That's all fine and good, except on the days that they simply don't care.  This causes a new problem.  I refuse to do their chores for them but I get bothered by the kids not doing their chores.   Then I NAG, AND NAG, AND NAG, because I want them to get their chores done.   

3) So, now we have a messy home that has gotten so out of control that mom gets overwhelmed at the prospect of getting everything back into order.  I enter shut down mode.  Shut down mode is where I am so overwhelmed by everything that has to be done that I do nothing at all.  I call it the "Mary Poppins issue."  I want to be able to just snap my fingers and have everything put itself back in order, but life doesn't work that way.  So, I do nothing, and the house gets worse and worse, and I get ANGRIER and ANGRIER until I snap. 

THEN the house gets cleaned with a vengeance, but no one is happy about the process because mom is a tyrant.  Life resumes as normal with everyone doing their work and mom checking chores to make sure they are done properly.  The house is tidy and runs well for a while.......until the next slump.  I KNOW that the solution to this whole issue is to just avoid the beginning steps in the first place.  It's a lot easier said than done.  So, if anyone has ideas to help "cure" my family of this reoccurring plague, please share your ideas!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

VERY Opinionated Post

When I tell people that I homeschool I get many reactions.  Most of them are negative reactions, but I knew that would happen when I signed on with homeschooling.  However, there are some responses that REALLY bug the crap out of me.  Some of these include: 

"If things got bad enough I'd homeschool":  Just HOW BAD do things have to get?!??! Enough said.  If that's NOT enough for you, check out this post by another mom, that nailed my thoughts exactly on Why things are already bad enough.

"I don't know how you do it.  I'd never have the patience.":  I am not a saint.  Some days I have more patience than others.  I do this because the LORD CALLED ME TO DO IT.  If HE wants me to do it, then who am I to argue?

"It's ok to homeschool if you......(keep your kids on track, do it like the schools do, ect).":  Frankly I have some friends who subscribe to an unschooling philosphy of school and their kids are just as smart, or smarter than other kids their ages.  What really matters is the mother being ENGAGED in the education of her children.  Not the way in which she goes about educating them.

And my ultimate pet peeve............
"My children would never learn from me":  Do you want to know what that comment tells me?  It tells me that your children are holy terrors that run your home.  Do you not teach your children to be respectful?  Do you not teach your children to clean up after themselves?  Do you not teach your child to follow the rules?  Teaching your children academics is no different than teaching them discipline and courtesy.  Is it hard?  YES.  Do we have good days and bad days?  YES.  It's all about the expectations.  If you want to leave the education of your children in the hands of others, fine, but DO NOT tell me that you do it because your children CANNOT OR WILL NOT LEARN FROM YOU. 

And that is the end of my post.  Remember that this is simply MY opinion and it in no way reflects upon you or your decision of how to educate your children. I simply hope that the decision you made was based upon revelation for your family and not simply the traditions of society. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I suppose I should post SOMETHING

Not a lot has been going on around here.  Life has been usual.  Maybe ya'll would like to see what my daily schedule looks like....or at least the GOAL of said daily schedule.  If you don't care, then don't read it, at least it's SOMETHING to post.  lol.
The goal for a typical day in the Stephen household is this:
7am  Mom wakes, shower, feed Breanne breakfast, tidy up my room, and then take a few minutes computer time if there is time.
8am  Kids wake (we are working on the goal of them waking, making beds, and dressing before coming's a long slow road), Make and eat breakfast, Kitchen chores.
9am Morning Devotional,
9:30am Bree goes down for her morning nap.  One on one rotations:  Audrey goes first with mom and gets 75 minutes to do Reading, Math, and English.  The other two kids play.  Then she does her individual school which consists of Typing, piano practice, Faith in God and handwriting depending on if it got done during English or not. 
While Audrey starts on her individual school I work one on one with Trent, which usually only takes about 15 minutes.
Then it's on to one on one school with Marissa.  She gets 45 minutes to do Reading and Math with mom.
Sometime around 11am is when Baby wakes up, so when Audrey is done with all of her school she gets out Bree and plays with her while I work with Marissa.
11:30  Lunch, clean up, and play time.
12:30 Bree school (I just put a bunch of activities to do with Bree in a jar and the kids each pick one to do with her) followed by Science or History.
1:30ish  Chore time.  Each kid has 4 chores (an upstairs, a downstairs, and two kitchen).  Mom does Laundry, helps Trent, makes bread, plans school, makes menus and grocery lists, ect. 
2pm or whenever chores are done is free time.  Bree is usually down for a nap around now.  The kids can use media coupons here to watch tv, play computer games or wii, or watch a movie.  They can play with toys, board games or outside.  Mom gets to blog, read other blogs, facebook, read, or whatever I so desire. 
4pm  Mom is usually getting dinner ready, feeding Bree her dinner, and making sure the house is ready for daddy to come home.
5pm  Dinner then kitchen chores
6pm  Family time
8pm Bedtime for kids

Well, there you have it, the typical day over here.  I should note that during bedtime we read aloud chapter books to the kids.  This is a great bonding time for us, it helps the kids settle down, and it's recreating one of my fondest childhood memories of my brother reading chapter books to me at my bedtime. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012


If I ever question what I am doing in homeschooling my children, all I need do is read THIS to remind myself why I chose this course.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A GREAT find!!!

I am SO excited!  I just found an AWESOME English/Grammar curriculum.  You know what?  It was FREE, and it's LDS based!!!  Now, tell me that's not the find of the century! 
While browsing on one of my favorite homeschool sites (here) I noticed in her "Year 3," (or basically 3rd grade) she had her own english curriculum.  I have NOT enjoyed our current curriculum as it is SO BORING!  I contaced the owner and was directed to her yahoo group where I could download ALL 4 levels of her curriculum for free!!!! 
This curriculum is the best.  It covers:
Copy work/Handwriting in almost every lesson
Memorization of poems, scriptures, and quotes
Gramma lessons
Note Taking
and Public speaking.
I started it with Audrey last week and I loved the very first lesson.  The quote from the first lesson is
"I am; I can; I ought; I will."  Charlotte Mason.  This has become my new phrase for Audrey. 
I'm happy with this curriculum so far, although Audrey is not too happy with how much more intense it is than our previous curriculum. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

One of the perks of homeschooling

First off, let me say this:  I tried and tried to figure out how to rotate the pictures on blogger but failed miserably.  Therefore I am sorry for the sideways photos. 

Now, to the point of this post:  Observe the footwear worn in these pictures.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back to School

Today started us back to school after a month long break in December.  It was a good day, but did not go completely as planned. 
1) We started our new calendar notebooks (from here).  I am very excited about them since we are SO bad at doing calendar activities!  I added a telling time page, a money page, and a name tracing page since we're really bad about getting those in too.  They went over really well and the kids were excited for them.  I forgot to get my play money last week though, so we didn't do the money page and it took us longer than expected due to it being the first day using them and having to fill out the calendar for January. 
2)  The neighborhood kids don't go back to school until tomorrow so I let Audrey off the hook a little bit.  She had to do Math, Reading, Handwriting, and Spelling but I didn't make her do Piano, Typing, or Faith in God. 
3) Trent was VERY excited to get back to doing school.  It was fun to watch how happy he was to do his school again. 
4) Taking a month break from addition helped Marissa a lot.  She did much better today on her activity than she had done on ANY assignment from November!  Just a little time works wonders.
5) I am VERY glad I didn't start up my music students today and decided to wait until NEXT week.  It's been a good but hectic day as the kids and I get back into the swing of routine. 

It's going to be a good last half of the year.