Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Old Year, New Year

We are coming up on the end of the school year.  At least, it feels that way.  However, if you look at a few of our school books, you might think it's only November.  (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but we are a bit behind where I would like to be.)  I suppose that's normal.  I am homeschooling my children after all - and it's not always in textbooks that I find lessons for my children to learn.  

It's spring and beautiful and I want to do something other than stay inside!  I want to go to the park.  I want to have picnic lunches on a mountain and read about the artists we are studying.  I want to go geocaching.  I want to go camping and teach my daughters to build a fire and have my son show me how to build a shelter with sticks and leaves.  And, sometimes, the schoolbooks are left behind.

So, April is here and time to catch up.  It's time for me to peruse the textbooks and decide what we need to get through and what we can live without.  While I school year-round, there comes a time when I say, " Enough is enough," and I put the old books away.

The only thing that gets me through the stress of the springtime catch-up and the end of another school year is planning for the next year.  I order books.  I excitedly open the boxes when they are delivered.  I proudly show my kids their new books - to which the older kids groan and run away and the younger kids look through the books with me and ask when they can get started.  I plan for the following year.

I plan for the following year meticulously.  I know what I want to teach and when.  I build in holidays and field trips.  I include movies and experiments and projects.  I draft my own music and artist studies.  I create Excel spreadsheets and calendars.  I have my plans spiral bound at the local office supply store.  And by early October of that new school year, my plans are shot because life and fun and adventure happened!  I still have my plan, but it's only a dream by Christmas.

Every time I plan, I always say that next year will be different.  It never is, but I still plan, and we still get behind.  Why?  It is because I homeschool and homeschooling isn't always about the textbooks!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cubbies, Cubbies, Cubbies

Nothing says simple storage options to me like cubbies.  They're my home, that is!  

These are the cubbies at my front door.  My home doesn't have a mud room and the closets are a bit small, so we keep the kids' coats (and gloves and hats and scarves) in cubbies.  Each of the four older kids have their own cubby.  I have yet to decide where to put the baby's little outdoor duds.  I keep a basket on top for my purse and keys.

 Here are the cubbies I use for clean laundry.  Generally, the I wash all of the children's clothes on Monday and they fold and put away their things on Tuesday.  Sometimes, however, some of their things get washed at other times.  To simplify getting stray clothing items to the children, I just put them in their laundry cubbies.  on Tuesdays, when they fold their clothes, they also know to check their laundry cubbies.  Yes, the tiny girl has a laundry cubby (I actually store her bibs there as my laundry area is closer to her high chair than her clothes drawers).

Speaking of the tiny girl, I have cubbies in my bedroom for her diapers and other diaper-changing necessities.  We converted the changing table to a dresser for the big girls years ago, so we just change diapers on our (appropriately covered) bed.

In the kids' rooms, we have... cubbies!  A few years ago, I decided that I was through spending (what seemed like) hours putting little bitty clothes on little bitty hangers.  Ugh!  All the kids' clothes are folded now.  I do hang my girls' church dresses; otherwise, everything is folded.  Not only do I not have to contend with little bitty hangers, but the kids are perfectly capable of folding their own laundry and putting it away.  By the way, the cubbies in the closets are the IKEA Trofast system.

Finally, no homeschooling room would be complete without supplies cubbies.  Here are mine - excuse the mess.  We use our homeschool cubbies a lot!

Monday, January 27, 2014

10 Rules for Homeschooling Correctly

If you're new to homeschooling - or if you're and old hand at it - there are some rules you should know (if you don't know them already).  

1)  Socialize your child.  Obviously, you haven't considered this because you have made the decision to homeschool and, as everyone knows, homeschooled children are unsocialized.  

2)  Lessons and activities are a must!  Since your child is missing out on being socialized through public school, you must accomplish this task with lessons - piano lessons, oboe lessons, guitar lessons, voice lessons, acting lessons - and activities - ballet, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, basket weaving, art classes.  A minimum of five per child is required.

3) Have 15 children.  This will help with the socialization, although it won't be as complete as in public school, but it's a start.  This will also lower the lessons and activities requirement... to four per child.  (I only have five children and I'm 40; I'm failing this requirement, I'm sure.  My homeschooling permit may be revoked.)

4)  The homeschooling mom should wear the uniform.  Uniform?  Yes.  Straight denim skirt, white t-shirt (preferably man's cut, not a cute, fitted cut), white or pastel trimmed ankle-length athletic socks, and white Reeboks (the ones from the 80s are ideal).

5)  The homeschooling children should wear the uniform.  Uniform?  Yes.  Pajamas.

6)  You can't eat unless you practice extreme couponing and/or raise all of your own meat, wheat, and produce.  Everyone who homeschools does either one or both... trust me.  Not only will either activity ensure you, your husband, and your unsocialized 15 children do not starve, but extreme couponing will count as math and growing food will count as science.  

7)  Cancel cable or satellite service.  Television is evil.  No one who homeschools watches television - ever!

8)  Subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or some service providing hours of watchable education.  Everyone who homeschools watches documentaries - always!

9)  Every trip out of the house is a field trip.  Grocery store... field trip!  Movie theatre... field trip!  Power company to pay the electricity bill... field trip!   And while you're in the car, you have the option of carschooling.  That's homeschool in the car.  More CDs and workbooks, less hovering.  Carschooling counts as homeschool.  Field trips count as homeschool!  All waking hours count as homeschool!  Yay!

10)  All homeschooled children are gifted, so your child must be gifted, too.  That's why you're homeschooling, right?  

Oh!  A bonus requirement:  All homeschoolers must make a chicken mummy.  You have a contractual obligation as a homeschooling parent to make a chicken mummy.  Here's mine (completed in my second year of homeschooling - whew!  I got it out of the way early!):

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Goal and Project Planning Worksheet

I've made a new form!  It's a Goal and Project Planning Worksheet (I bet you couldn't have guessed that from the title of this blog entry).

Just some background...

I have a lot of unfinished projects I need to tackle.  Putting them on my To Do List for the past year and a half hasn't worked for me.  I thought if I made a sheet to break down my project/goal, then I might be able to tackle the project with more zeal... or in the least, detail what I want to do and see if I get around to it!

I made the sheet first, then I looked for similar sheets online.  So far, I haven't seen anything like mine.  I hope it works for me.  I hope it may work for you, too!

So, without any further ado... here it is!!!

Goal and Planning Worksheet link.  (For ease of printing, it is black & white, but I used a pretty font!)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Isn't Over!

I want to scream it!  CHRISTMAS ISN'T OVER!!!  I don't.  I remain calm and know that my tree will stay up until Epiphany.  

A decorated tree clutters my living room.  My life feels a little out of whack.  The manger scene is taking up valuable space and the Christmas lights are starting to get on my nerves.  I would like to "get my house back" but it is still Christmas.  Not to mention, I have several children who will already be heartbroken on January 6th ... or 7th, 8th, 9th... when I finally take down the decorations.

So, my decorations remain - and I'm making the effort to make sure the Christmas spirit remains for a little while longer, too.  It is, after all, still Christmas!

You see, Christmas BEGINS on December 25th (or if you want to fudge a little, Christmas Eve).  In my home, on Christmas Eve, the Advent decorations are joined by the Christmas decorations - the tree goes up, the decorations come out of their boxes, and the lights are hung.  "Advent?" you may ask.  Yes, the period of time when our hearts are preparing for the birth of Christ.  "But I thought Christmas begins at Thanksgiving - or the day after."  Nope!  That's when everyone thinks - and the retailers want you to believe - Christmas begins, but it doesn't.  I mean, think about the word:  Christmas.  What's the first syllable?  Christ.  And the second syllable?  Mas.  You can't have a mass for Christ without his birth, and that's what Christmas is.  It is a celebration (a Mass) of Christ's birth.  That time after Thanksgiving (roughly speaking) and before Christmas is Advent.  Say it with me...  A d v e n t.  

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  That day my Advent decorations go up.  There aren't many - an Advent calendar, an Advent wreath with its candles and greenery, the manger...but without baby Jesus (he hasn't been born yet...remember... Christmas?).  That's all.  Compared to my neighbor's homes, it looks like we aren't even celebrating Christmas at that time.  Guess why?  It's because we're not!  We are celebrating... A d v e n t.

It's after Christmas Day now.  No, my tree didn't go down on the 26th, nor will it go down on January 1.  Why?  It is still Christmas then.  

There are Twelve Days of Christmas!  (There's a song about it, you know.)  TWELVE.  After, not before, Christmas!  They begin on December 25, last until Twelfth Night, and then the next day is Epiphany.  (Some celebrate Twelfth Night the night of Epiphany.)  "Wait!  What is this Epiphany stuff?"  Oh, come on!  You know what an epiphany is; it's when you have a sudden realization.  The light comes on.  The shoe drops.  Something finally hits you.  Well, the Wise Men aren't standing at that manger on Christmas Day... or before Christmas Day for that matter.  It takes them a while to make their journeys from their respective realms to witness that the King of Kings has been born.  Once they get to their destination, thanks to the star, they see for themselves that the Son of God has arrived.  While they are bestowing their gifts on the precious babe, internally, they are saying, "A-ha!"  That, my friends, is an epiphany.  January 6th is the day we celebrate the Epiphany - when the world knew that Christ was born.  

On January 6th, we know Christ was born and we can pack away our Christmas niceties.  So, this year, leave your decorations up for just a few more days...keep the Christmas spirit and the joy of Christ's birth in your home for a little while longer.  And next year, wait... revel in the joy of a child who will be born soon.  The anticipation is something wonderful!  

...Besides, you already know it's going to be a boy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Facebook Privacy Notice - as posted by users

I cannot tell you how many times I've seen people posting messages on Facebook asking me to hover over their name and change the settings in my feed so that the public at large cannot see their posts. If I change the settings so that I cannot see your posts or pictures in my news feed, then why are you bothering to post?  And why am I bothering to be your FB friend?

Recently, I've been seeing posts like this:  "I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future."

Well, guess what?!  You can't do that!  Well, actually, you can, but it doesn't mean anything.  It's not unlike signing a contract to buy a house then writing on a piece of paper (on your own,without the seller's consent or agreement) that the seller is responsible for anything that goes wrong with the house from that date forward.  Contracts don't work that way; neither does Facebook.

In response to seeing all of those posts, I posted this:

To everyone posting these messages that you are letting FB know that they cannot use your profile or anything you post to FB, please know that you cannot presently or retroactively alter your user agreement with FB.  Read the user agreement then decide if you can live with those conditions.  If you do not like the fact your information may become public, then don't use Facebook.

It's easy to find the Facebook User Agreement (you know, the one you haphazardly scrolled passed and checked the box saying you read it before you could have initial access to your account...the one you KNOW you didn't read...Yep, that one!).  On a laptop or desktop computer, scroll to the bottom of a Facebook page and click on the link to Terms.  You'll see something called "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities."  (Interestingly enough, the subtitle to that statement is "Terms you agree to when you use Facebook.")  The same information can be found on mobile versions of Facebook.  Go to the "More" menu and look for "Terms & Policies."  Again, you'll see the Statement.  There is also a Data Use Policy - regarding the information received and how it's used.

Before you post another of those useless messages warning Facebook how they can't use the data you are posting, take a few minutes and read your agreement.  If you can't stomach what Facebook might do with your information, then disable your account.  Thanks! 

[NOTE:  I'm sure that somewhere in that User Agreement, Facebook reserves the right to change the User Agreement; Facebook does change it periodically.  If you have concerns about your information, read the agreement every now and then.]

Friday, September 27, 2013


I'm no photographer but I do have a fabulous camera that makes me feel like a photographer!  I also have lovely, willing subjects - and they help make great photos.

I decided to photograph the baby today.  It was such a beautiful, warm fall day.  The sun was shining around cotton ball clouds.  We have plenty of leaves in our front yard.  So, I grabbed my camera and my baby and headed outside.

I have a Nikon D60 SLR.  I have books and have researched online how to take portrait photos with nice bokeh, but I cheated today.  Hey!  I'm just a mom with a camera and few skills - not to mention I'm photographing an almost 6 month old.  So, how did I cheat?  I slapped a telephoto lens on my camera, flipped the settings to Auto (I can almost hear you groaning), and got to it!  These are a few of my favorites.

Oh, yes...  I made some Photoshop touch ups and created a watermark...  MommyLawyer of course!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Another Reason Why I Home School - #2

A few weeks ago, news broke that the Chicago Public School System was mandating sex education in its schools... for KINDERGARTENERS!  The curriculum calls for an average of 30 minutes a month.

The concern is that parents are not teaching the facts of life to their children (to put it mildly).  The problem as I see it is that the nanny state isn't giving parents the chance!  Goodbye innocence!

I'm so glad I can home school - if only so I can introduce sensitive topics at the time I feel my children are ready... and Kindergarten is NOT the time for my kids.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Big Family Road Trips

This past summer provided some opportunities for travel for my family.  Not only did we take several day trips, but we had some overnight adventures as well.  I don't know if all moms of large families are like me, but I feel if I don't plan ahead, something will go drastically, tragically wrong awry. 

One thing I've started doing is packing outfits in individual bags.  I purchased mesh lingerie bags from the D0llar Store - $1 for 3 bags.  I have enough bags to put each outfit for each child in a bag.  I also put each child's pajamas in a bag as well.  When I say outfit, I mean the shirt, pants (or shorts or skirt), underwear, and socks (if needed) in one bag.  One day = one bag with one outfit.  It's just so much easier than having each child pack their own suitcase (with 5 children, we are a bit limited on space) and I can contain all of the clothes and find each child's clothing quickly if we have one large suitcase.

 Another thing I do is pack snack boxes.  I bought subdivided plastic, leak proof, microwavable plastic "lunch" containers for each of the children, me, and my husband.  I can pack sandwiches, fruit, cookies, cheese sticks, pretzels, crackers, hummus, etc.  The containers I have only have two separate compartments, but I can subdivide them further using paper cupcake cups.

Finally, I always, always make a packing/TO DO list.  So far, my lists are handwritten, but as soon as I decide to type one up, I'll post it!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Microwave Popcorn in a Paper Bag! A Recipe.

Let me begin by saying that I loathe microwave popcorn.  The taste.  The smell.  The headache I inevitably get.  The indigestion that follows.

So, imagine my surprise when I learned you can microwave popcorn kernels - get this - in a brown paper bag!  It's true!  It's amazing!  It's headache-free!

Here's what you do:

Put 1/4 cup of  popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag.  Fold the top of the bag over 3 to 4 times, with each fold measuring about 1/2 inch.  Set the bag upright in the microwave.  Microwave on high for 2 to 3 1/2 minutes.  (The first time I tried it, I cooked it for a little over 3 minutes - TOO LONG in my microwave.)  Listen for the popping to slow.  When 2 seconds passes between pops, turn off the microwave.  Be careful opening the bag due to the steam.  Add melted butter or olive oil and salt or other spices to taste.  I added a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and it was divine!