Still plugging away at school…

It’s been awhile since I posted a homeschool post. I’m just letting everyone know that yes, we’re still plugging away at school!

Sonlight’s Core 300 has been going great. It’s not Otter’s favorite thing to do because it takes a ton of work, but he has enjoyed many of the books and he also really does like the subject matter (20th century history). In science he’s been learning about anatomy but is getting ready to move into the first aid portion of the study I made for him. Here he is working with a kit I bought him to learn about enzymes and the process of digestion:

lab

While it was fun for him, the kit was not worth the 59.95 I paid for it. Basically Otter exposed carbohydrates, proteins and lipids to different digestive enzymes. Chemical tests were performed to see if the enzymes were effective in digesting the different nutrients. I think the guide was not instructive enough and didn’t teach what was going on in clear enough language. Otter spent about a couple of hours with it (that works out to 30 buck an hour for that kit!!!). Now I have to find someone to give it to (as there is still plenty of materials left to repeat the experiments), as we won’t be using the rest of the chemicals a 2nd time. In fact, in the next couple of years I’m going to probably get rid of most of the contents of our “school closet” – specifically lots of chemistry equipment and other science kit remnants, especially if I decide not to tutor students in the future. Otter is wrapping up his years of hands-on science! Next year we’ll be doing forensics with a dash of chemistry and then? I haven’t decided what he will do for 12th grade.

The biggest hit this year has been our recent subscription to WriteGuide.com.

writeguideOtter’s been assigned a writing consultant who corresponds with him daily (during the weekdays). The lessons are totally individualized and the teacher we are working with does a FANTASTIC job. Every day Otter looks forward to seeing his teacher’s feedback and has really been enjoying the lessons which are broken down into pieces that are not overwhelming at all but very instructive. It’s the perfect match. He also lucked out getting a teacher who was an Eagle Scout and whose brother is a police detective! LOL… That’s another plus. His teacher is a male – which seems to be more rare in the homeschool world and something I am glad for. Boys need men to teach them and while my husband does teach a ton of practical things, he doesn’t really have time to teach much in the homeschool realm. I think we’re providing a good balance for Otter (all of his police instructors are also male) so that he’s not just having to deal with “mom” all the time but has a variety of people in his life, all with the goal of helping him to become more accomplished and well-rounded!

The best thing…Otter actually told me he was having FUN writing. Now for someone who has almost always treated writing like getting teeth pulled without anesthetic, Write Guide is quite the deal and worth every penny. I love getting a break teaching writing and he loves working with his instructor. I highly recommend Write Guide if you are looking for an online program that is totally customizable and while it let’s someone else do all of the teaching, you as the parent are still in charge of what is covered and how it’s covered. Want to use a specific curriculum? You still can. Write Guide will do things your way or the consultants will come up with individualized assignments with zero input. It’s up to you! I like how Otter is writing every single day (without a single complaint and I’m not even kidding about that) and that the process has been enjoyable and informative.

As far as Spanish goes, we dumped out of Avencemos. It’s a great program but very hard for a non-Spanish speaking mom to implement. We went with The Learnables instead – something we’ve used in the past that is super easy to use and doesn’t require a ton of writing, etc. I also like it because it doesn’t gobble up a bunch of time but gets the job done. Sometimes a curriculum lures you in with all the extras (hello Avencemos), but it’s the one that is simple that actually gets done and does a better job (hello Learnables). Otter isn’t into learning Spanish so we may not continue with it next year.

Everything else is going along great. Otter’s been going on ride-alongs and still learning tons in the Explorer program. He saw a big, bang-up accident not too long ago while riding out with the CHP that happened because an older teen driver was likely texting and driving at the same time (or reaching for a phone). He said it makes him totally get why you should NOT mess with a phone while driving as he’s seen the results first-hand.

So, that’s our homeschool update! Busy, productive and looking forward to Christmas! ;-)

Happy homeschooling!

My state “collection” and our recent vacation

Ok, I got sucked into this like everyone else lately, LOL…
Here is my map of states I’ve been to:

mystates2

I feel really lucky to have been so many places in the U.S. (and some other places abroad too)! Now I just have to “collect” all those other states! ;-)

Since I’m on the subject of visiting states, here are some pics of a recent excursion to Montana, Wyoming and Idaho! Recently, my husband and I had our first kid-less vacation in, uhm….11 years or so. It was absolutely amazing! No kids asking for potty breaks! No “Let’s stop at this museum to earn Jr. Ranger badges for homeschooling purposes”. No whining in the car because someone’s leg went 3 millimeters over into the other kid’s territory. No 55 stops at McDonalds. No bored faces while mom & dad take 20 years to take just the right picture of the scenery. No little legs that are too tired to go on or it’s past someone’s bedtime. Did I say it was amazing yet? We’ve loved our multitude of trips with the kids, but now with one last teen in the nest we are speeding toward adult only territory and it’s, well, fun. Is that evil for a mom to admit that? Do I lose my ultra-homeschooling-super-involved-mom of the year badge? LOL…maybe not yet, but at least I was able to recharge my batteries with stuff like this:

Buffalo in the parking lot in Yellowstone National Park:

buffalo

My husband taking pictures of steam in the distance (Yellowstone):

yellowstone

A beautiful blue hot spring in Yellowstone:

yellowstone2

The Teton Mountains in Wyoming:

tetons

A steaming, hot waterfall in Yellowstone:

Steaming, hot waterfall in Yellowstone

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

Turkeys walking in a downtown Coeur d’alene neighborhood (Idaho):

Turkeys walking in a downtown Coeur d'alene neighborhood (Idaho)

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

Look at this beautiful sunset (totally unaltered and straight out of the camera) we saw from my mom’s kitchen window in Idaho:

sunset

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

A flower on the hiking trail at Round Lake in Idaho:

flower

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

The forest at Round Lake in Idaho:

forest

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

Jackson Hole, Wyoming:

antlers

White wolf at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana:

wolf

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

A grizzly at the center:

grizzly

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

An elk by the side of the road:

elk

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

Mama and baby buffalo:

buffalo

It even snowed on us!

snow

Pic by my husband: Charles Guest of MemorablePlaces.com

We loved our trip. When the kids were little, I just couldn’t imagine life without children running around. I love being a mother, but sometimes I think there have been times I’ve been so immersed in homeschooling that I’ve forgotten I’m first and foremost a wife. :-) If you can’t go out and collect a state with your hubby, at least go out and collect a restaurant, lol.

Click here to make your own map of the states you’ve been to!

Can finally eat my dinner without laser eyes boring into me

This is a bit off-topic, but maybe it will make you smile… ;-)Kong biscuit ball dog toy

This KONG Biscuit Ball  has been the savior of our dinner hour. Before I purchased the Kong Biscuit Ball, I had this problem…Every time I sat down to eat, my otherwise lovely lab mix would suddenly apply his laser eyes stare of doom. You just cannot escape those limpid eyes, staring, staring…staring. Reaching, boring – into your very soul – tugging, pulling…an irresistible force that always ended up in me throwing choice pieces of dinner into a ready and gaping mouth. And STILL, I’d have to submit to more of those…EYES. LOOKING. WATCHING. Every forkful was intensely studied. I could feel the eyes, tracking, observing, wanting, hungering…THE PAIN on my dog’s face was palatable. We weren’t sharing. He NEEDED little morsels from our plates or he would punish us with that unremorseful STARE. It was like this EVERY NIGHT. I was at my wit’s end. My toes were being DROOLED on. I had enough. I had to do something lest my heart give in and never-ceasing tidbits leave my plate in an attempt to find relief from my beloved canine’s masterful stares and looks of dejection and starvation.

I went to the Internet on a search for answers and found the Kong Biscuit ball. RELIEF! All I have to do is load this thing up with some big boy biscuits (little ones will fall out and result in laser eyes immediately turned upon me in an instant) and suddenly my dog is absolutely and totally occupied trying to pry a biscuit from the depths of this dinner-saving contraption with all the intensity of a category 5 hurricane.

Seriously…when there is a biscuit in this thing he will sit with it balanced in between his paws and go to town trying to dig and pry the biscuit out as if it contained the answers to life. He won’t stop until he’s retrieved every little crumb from the interior. His tongue muscles could probably lift 20 lbs from the workout they get exploring the inner cavities of this amazing red ball.

So far the biscuit ball has held up to his chewing and we’ve called our dog Mr. Destruco for a REASON – but the Kong is impervious so far. It’s held up to his gnawing and slobbering as well as his claws (which are sharp as they have accidentally raked down my thigh once when he was trying to prove that a 60 lb dog really can fit in your lap) as he tries every which way to get his treat out.

All I can say is that Kong should be in the running for the Nobel prize for the peace it has brought us during dinner (no more laser eyes!) as well as when we want to watch a movie without 50 doggie restroom breaks (he has a knack for knowing when we are busy and then insists he must be let out the sliding glass door into the backyard lest he pee a lake on our Pergo floors).

You need this ball if you want to keep your precious pooch occupied. It’s like a doggie babysitter in a ball. It’s a MUST HAVE cure for laser eyes and for adding a bit of fun to your doggie’s day. :-)

Highly recommended! Don’t forget your mutt this Christmas! Max says, “Get a  KONG Biscuit Ball !”

max

I wrote this review for Amazon and thought I’d share it here. If it made you smile, click here and give my review a thumbs up!

Wow! A book-book! I want one!!!

A Garden in Transition

It won’t be long until summer starts giving way to fall. I could feel it this morning when I went out to water the garden – that little nip in the early morning air that wasn’t present just a week ago.

I’m starting to think about our fall and winter garden and planning to go through my seed packets to see what I have. None of the local nurseries sells fall garden plants which is a shame. Our climate here (zone 9) is mild enough to have a garden year round and I plan on taking advantage of that this year!

Even though I’m in fall planning mode…there are a few summer stragglers that keep filling the veggie drawers in the fridge. The picture below shows some of our goodies – most of which I picked a couple of days ago except for the 3 1/2 gallons of elderberries which were given to us by some friends. I popped them into the freezer and will be turning them into jelly when the weather cools down. I love having friends who enjoy the same sort of stuff we are into (canning, etc.). It’s fun to trade jams & jellies and to share the abundance of our garden with others.

garden harvest

So what’s going on in the garden right now?

Our corn has ears that are just starting to swell. I can’t wait to roast some as soon as it’s ready! This will be our first successful corn harvest at this house. We tried growing it when the kids were little, but it was a total flop. It got some horrible corn disease and was all stunted and the ears were inedible. We are much more experienced gardeners now (with tons more to still learn!) and thankfully, this year our corn looks great. Otter took this picture at the end of last week. Even in just the last few days, the ears of corn have grown bigger (and fatter).

corn stalks

Our tomato harvest is winding down (although there are a few of them like the cherry tomato plants that are still cranking tomatoes out). The pomegranates are getting bigger and our oranges are taking on the first blush of color. All of the stone fruit is finished and we aren’t watering the those trees as often to help them harden off before the cold hits.

The granny smith apples are ROTTING on the tree. We still don’t have that tree figured out and fixed. First, I thought it had fire blight. I sprayed it once this spring and it actually made bunches of apples (last year it never got past the blossom clusters because they turned brown & rotted). This year it made apples, but they all got brown spots that soon spread and turned the apples brown. I don’t think they will be salvageable (although there might be a few way up high that are unaffected). UGH. I have so much more to learn about orchard trees. I’m going to spray it this fall and put it on a schedule of spraying (copper). Hopefully we’ll be able to cure it at some point and get an apple harvest in the future. Our Honeycrisp apple appears to O.K. but it’s still so small it only made 2 apples this year. Still, the one I ate was so delicious and juicy and perfect. It’s an aptly named apple as it does have slight tones of sweet honey in the flavor. I can’t wait for that tree to grow bigger.

Otter’s pepper plants are exploding with peppers all of the sudden. It’s as if the excessive heat this summer (100+ degree temps) kept them from producing and now that it’s cooled down just a smidge, they are making up for lost time and seem to be healthier too.  I had planned on pickling some of the pepper harvest but it turns out I bought the WRONG stuff for it. I need pickling salt and instead I bought some pickling lime. Our local store didn’t have any pickling salt so it looks like I’ll have to order some from Amazon. Pickling salt is just pure sodium chloride (salt) without any additives. The additives (anti-caking agents) in regular salt can make the pickling brine cloudy and can also, from what I’ve read, make pickled items turn a slightly purple/off color. You can read more about it here. Ah well, I keep learning about all of this.

We’ve have so many grapes we hardly knew what to do with them all! We’ve picked and eaten them all summer (and given away tons too). I even let the fat robins eat their fill because they hardly made a dent in our harvest despite making it a frequent breakfasting spot. They are so cute when they hop up from the ground to pluck grapes off the vine. I can’t bear to chase them off, lol. We still have some grapes hanging around, but a lot of them have started to dry or spoil.  Still, there are enough to tide us over for at least another couple of weeks or more. I’ll be turning some into raisins with my dehydrator before the week is done.

Anyway, it’s almost time to get our fall garden into gear. I’m thinking about planting things like carrots, cabbage, greens, lettuce, fall peas, green onions and ?? It’s going to be a bit of an experiment to see what works as the weather changes but well worth the work for all of the money it saves us. I love my garden and love learning how to better feed my family with it!

Being a Keeper of the Home

Keeper of the home

When I was younger, I did not enjoy “domestic” type jobs around the house. I thought they were boring and had to force myself (for the most part) to do them. I had a rebellious attitude and heart toward many of the old-fashioned stereotypes of women.  Why should I be the one stuck with the laundry when I had been changing diapers all day and chasing toddlers? Why should I bother to mend pants when I can just go out and buy another pair? So what if the living room wasn’t tidy…I’d been homeschooling the kids all day. Was I a maid too? While I loved taking care of my children, I did not love taking care of my home.

Now that I’m older, I’ve grown into an entirely different mindset. I LIKE taking care of my home. I love learning all of the skills I neglected or trudged through during my younger years. I’ve found that the closer I’ve grown to God, the more I’ve grown to enjoy the role He created for me as a woman and all of the “jobs” that entails. When I was younger, I was often disorganized and messy. Now my home is a place of peace and order (usually, lol). God is not a God of chaos. Everything in the universe has its place and purpose. Our homes need to reflect the God we serve.

I find when I do things His way that I’m filled with a contentment and direction that was entirely unknown to me years ago. I wish I had known then what I know now. Doing things God’s way is not always easier, but it’s always the best way. It’s also the only way to put yourself in a position to receive the full measure of the blessings he wants to pour over you and your family. I can’t tell you how many things, even little things that are just wants and not needs, that God has taken care of and given us. The more I pursue His way, the more I see Him working in our lives.

There are no excuses why a healthy wife and mother can’t take care of her home. Don’t tell me it’s because you’ve been teaching the kids all day (been there, done that) or that you are tired (I am too!), or that you don’t know how to do something (learn!) or the kids keep wrecking it all behind you (train them not to). If you are struggling with keeping your home, you CAN train yourself (and your kids) to do what needs to be done.

The first step is nurturing the right heart & attitude concerning your daily tasks and the things you still need to learn. I list this as the FIRST step because if you don’t have the right heart about something, you will never improve in the long-term. If you feel disaffected having to pick up socks off the floor your husband threw down for the 256th time, you aren’t going to make any progress. Why let it bother you? What’s faster and more conducive to happiness and contentment? Picking them up or making a big deal out of it in your mind and letting it fester in your soul all day? You have to look at being a wife and mom as your job. What sort of review would a boss write about your “work performance” lately? ;-) It’s a gift to get to stay home. It may not be super popular for me to say this, but I believe being a stay-at-home wife and mom is not only a gift, but also part of God’s design for the family. Start working on a grateful & cheerful attitude.

The second step is starting with something – no matter how small! Just keep going from one small step to another. Work on building new habits and learning new things. When I was just starting this journey, one of the things I had to learn was not to step over something on the floor, but to pick it up and put it away, right then and there. It was a small thing, but it made a big difference. Now I can’t stand to have anything on my floor, lol. It drives me nuts whereas before I could ignore it all day.

The third step is to get rid of things and start finding a place for everything. If everything has a place, it’s much easier to keep things clean. There are lots of blogs and websites that have terrific ideas on how to organize everything from closets to under your kitchen sink. Pick one thing to start with and go from there.

The fourth step is to LEARN! What is it that you can learn to be a better wife, mother, house-keeper, etc.? Here are some things I’ve learned or am learning to save money or contribute to a better lifestyle, make my husband happy and other similar reasons that all have to do with being a keeper at home:

  • Gardening
  • Cleaning and organizing – I’m often on the lookout for new and better ways of doing things and work to keep my home environment attractive and peaceful.
  • Sewing – I’m JUST starting to learn how to sew so I can mend my husband’s pants, make gifts and create things for our home.
  • Canning & food preservation
  • Cooking from scratch – I’ve never been a great cook, but am hoping to change that. I’ve started learning new recipes and am trying new things like making yeast rolls instead of buying them, etc.
  • Couponing – I’ve saved as much as 35% on some of our shopping trips.

What do YOU need or want to learn? :-)

The fifth step is to never quit and just keep going. If you fail, don’t beat yourself up. Just do better the next day. After a while things will fall into place.

It’s never too late to become a GREAT (and happy / contented) keeper of your home!

1 Timothy 5:14 – I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Titus 2:5 – To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

 

Geography Curriculum is Finished!

I’ve been in a frenzy working on my geography curriculum and am happy to announce that it’s finished! I may still add new materials as I come across them or tweak a little this or that, but it’s ready-to-go for those of you who would like to use it.

Click on the picture below to check it out!

Geography curriculum

This is what I did today…

Yesterday I pulled a ripe peach off of our tree and realized it was time to pick and process peaches! This is the first year the peaches actually look nice instead of all deformed or small, so instead of turning them into jam, I’m canning most of them. :-)

This is what they looked like this morning when I went to pick them. Some were so big they looked like apples.peaches on the tree

I couldn’t reach them all with the stepladder, so I left some on the tree – but here is the haul from this morning. It doesn’t look like a ton, but that’s almost 3 full 5 gallon buckets worth. I looked it up and a 5 gallon bucket is a little over half a bushel…so we netted approx. 1 and 1/2 bushels, so far. That’s something like 72 pounds! One bushel is supposed to net 18-24 quarts of canned peaches. It will be interesting to see how accurate that is when I’m done.

peaches

 

Here is the finished product – my first 3 jars!

canned peaches

 

I tried a raw pack recipe this time (that’s why the peaches are floating a bit in the syrup). Later this week, when I process some more, I’m going to try a hot pack recipe. The hot pack method is supposed to make the peaches shrink up a little before packing them in the jar so they will fill up more of a jar and float less.

I made these with a medium syrup but I’m curious to try a honey syrup too!

Here’s a link from the National Center for Home Food Preservation that explains both methods.

Canning is so easy and so rewarding! I’m really excited to see the new pressure canner I ordered. It should be arriving later this week and will make it so I can finally can things like spaghetti sauce!

Guest Hollow Geography Curriculum

homeschool geography curriculum

Coming soon! I started working on a geography curriculum that I hope will be finished in a couple of weeks for the new school year.  I’ll post an update here on my blog when it’s finished.

P.S. The dog in the picture above is Beowulf. He’s a character in the book I’m working on that hopefully will be finished by spring of 2015!

Japanese, Russian and Writing Tutoring Services

I posted awhile back about my daughter’s e-tutoring site (email correspondence or Skype lessons).

 http://hannahstutori….wordpress.com/

 She asked me to let you all know that there are new options like advanced Japanese and Russian that are now being offered as she is partnering with some of her native speaking friends. The gentleman who is teaching Russian is a really brilliant and amazing young man (college student).

 She is also offering options for writing where she will either help edit, critique and grade assignments from any writing curriculum or will assign writing assignments and help students edit their work until they have a finished product. Another option is a pay-per-paper editing fee.

 The courses are for any age/grade and even adults. :-)

 If you use the code GUEST you can get 5% off of a course and there is also a 5% discount for early registration which ends tomorrow!!

 I hope this is helpful to someone. She is really a very talented teacher and loves working with students.