Friday, December 30, 2016

The Week Between Holidays


We had a lovely Christmas weekend with family and church. On Christmas morning it is always fun to watch the children's reactions to our carefully chosen 3 gifts. (It still looks like a ridiculous amount of gifts around the tree with 11 people in the family!) Seeing their surprise, enthusiasm, and joy is wonderful. Having children all happily playing together and using their gifts for weeks on end is also wonderful.

We started the week needing to get repairs done on one vehicle unexpectedly (after replacing the battery on the family 12 passenger van last week - oy vey!). The first quote was $1000.00. Not exactly what you want to hear at Christmas time or any other time. We went to a trusted mechanic after that and the repairs were about half the first quote.

Our day to day activities were pretty laid back - sleeping in until 7am or even 8am for some kids, chores, and then free time all day long. Kids played, crafted, enjoyed the new tabletop air hockey, and played Ticket to Ride: First Journey (a gift from great-grandparents). Kids also drew, built more Legos than they knew what to do with, rebuilt Legos into new creations, read books, and ate candy canes.

Tuesday was a temple trip for the oldest two children with their youth group. Wednesday my Boy Scout headed on a cold weather campout that included caves and hiking. He was thrilled. I'm grateful for leaders who make campouts happen so I don't need to.

One frustration this week was the collapse of Landry Academy. Makayla has taken a couple online classes through them and loved each one. She just finished up Veterinary Medicine 1 this month. Next week she was to begin Veterinary Medicine 2 and Criminology. That won't be possible and we are not likely to get back the money we spent on the classes. Such is life, I suppose. We have already purchased the book for criminology so we will do the usual homeschooler thing - study the book anyway. Makayla and I will work through it together, probably later this winter or in spring. We have already started talking about what her goals are for the course.

One last picture from Christmas:

I got some organizing of book shelves done one day, watched some webinars, and made sure everyone was fed. It's Friday afternoon and I'm going to go tackle a few more school shelves before Tobias wakes up from his nap. I'm rotating out some things we've read and making other things easier to find. Then it's on to making dinner and challenging kids to another round of Ticket to Ride!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mid-Year Check-Up: 3 Questions to Direct the Rest of the Homeschool Year


January is fast approaching. This is one of my favorite times of year because it marks the midpoint of the homeschool year. It's time to evaluate how the school year is going. I decide where we have met, exceeded, or fallen short of our plans. I often realize that the priorities and goals we set at the beginning of the school year no longer reflect the children I have now. My children have grown and changed. Depending on the year I may need to tweak things a bit or I may need completely new priorities and plans.

This week I think about each child as an individual. I want to make adjustments to our course for the rest of the school year. It is a simple process that consists of just three questions.

What are this child's strengths?

These areas are ones that I want to encourage but may not need to provide as much support. We tend to use our strengths out of habit. If the child's strengths are writing and art then I'll be sure to offer opportunities for them to use them but I won't prioritize one on one work focused on these areas as often. They don't need me right beside them every day for these areas.

What are this child's weak areas?

These are areas that a child needs more support, areas that they struggle in. In the example above the child's weak areas might be word problems and following directions. When they are doing word problems my one on one support and partnering can be the weight tipping the scale toward success. I can be their guide, their reminder, and their cheerleader. Effort put into practice in a weak area consistently will help it turn into a strength. Eventually.

What is ONE weak area we want to give priority to for the next several months?

I try to select one area that I think will make the biggest difference for my child to have support and to give some extra focus to in the coming months. Choosing more than that makes for an overwhelmed child, and an overwhelmed child shuts down. We have time. They do not need to master every thing in one month or year. Learning is a lifelong pursuit.

An example - My 7 turning 8 year old Oliver and I will focus on reading independence. He is so close to that crossover to being an independent reader. Becoming an independent reader will have massive impact on Oliver's ability to learn any time he wants to. It is a foundational skill.
Giving priority to one weak area means I will do my best to make sure there is consistent opportunity to work together on that weak area. I give support, I find ways to encourage the child's practice, and as much as possible I help to make it fun. With Oliver this means we will work daily in All About Reading level 2. We will play games with words. We will find books on topics he is interested in and will partner read - taking turns sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph.

I have nine children and seeing how they develop and learn in different ways and timelines is fascinating. Children truly are individuals. I am excited to see just what growth and changes will happen with consistent, focused effort in one weak area.

Do you do a mid-school-year evaluation? Will you be adjusting goals and priorities for the next few months of learning?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Books and Art Leading Up to Break

This was a beautiful back at the books week! I decided after last week's break that we should get back on our routine for the week leading up to Christmas. We will take off next week between Christmas and New Years. I don't know about your family but mine gets along better when we are in our routines.

We've done our usual math, reading, scriptures, book club reading (Little Women), writing, and so on. I realized this week that Geometry has been a much better experience with Makayla than Algebra 1, which I'm grateful for. She still doesn't love math, but she doesn't loathe it quite so much.


Homeschool Mom Tip: Little Women is a long book, especially when the listeners are ages 1-15. It's also not quite as adventure filled as some of my children prefer. It takes a bit to get to know the characters and really sort them out in your mind and begin to want to follow their stories. Because of that I added in some help to our listening time. Each day we listen for about 30-40 minutes. Halfway through our listening I pull down an old ice cream bucket from a nearby shelf that has been labeled "Read Aloud". Inside are chocolates. The bucket is passed around and 1 or 2 pieces are pulled out by each person. Because they know chocolate is coming they sit and listen to the story. By the time we pass our bucket around they are into the story and willing to sit and keep listening without much prompting.

The 6th grade and under crowd are pretty antsy about January's arrival because we will begin this year's science curriculum (up to now we've focused more on nature study). I have the experiment kit and book, Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics, sitting out where they can be seen. We got to do an experiment with Makayla this week in Biology and several kids watched in fascination. Then they wanted to do their own experiments. Nope, not happening kids. Experiments are special and we'll do tons of them in science this winter.

Wednesday brought art class with our friends. We went with a Christmas tree theme and did two projects. The construction paper trees were a 'Trim a Tree' project from Cutting Tiny Bites. It was interesting to see the different ways kids chose to layer and create trees. The biggest difference between the original project and ours is that I gave each child a full sheet of construction paper for their background, so they could make more than one tree at a time.


Fingerprint Trees was our other project. I found the basic idea for exploring positive and negative space in this way on Rhythms of Play. The original project made cards and used paint. We chose to use ink pads because they make so much less mess when fingerpainting with a crowd of kids, and they dry quickly. We also just cut our cardstock paper in two instead of making cards. The only unusual need to do this project is painter's tape. I had it on hand because we have plans to do some Piet Mondrian inspired tape resist paintings this winter.

Tobias had a milestone this week: he learned to pull out chairs, climb on them, and then climb on top of the table. Yes, we've reached that stage. You would think that after 8 other 13 month olds I would be ready for it but I never am. He is so proud of his physical prowess but has little concept of just how far down he will fall. I prefer when my babies wait until they are solidly into toddler years before discovering this particular skill. We're working on learning to safely back off the table onto a chair, with the reminder that 'we don't climb on the table'. He's pretty sure we should climb on the table though.

Other posts on the blog this week in case you missed them:
It is Friday morning and we have plans to make potato candy and play dominoes with Grandma. Hooray for family time!  I pray that your family will have a peaceful Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior.

                                                        Merry Christmas - Jesus is born!
(Linking here and here.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our Library Book Shelf, or how I get my kids to try new books regularly

One of the best investments we ever made was at a library sale, when we picked up this forward facing book shelf for $12. We call it our 'library book shelf'. I use it to display a selection of library books and books we already own that I think might interest my children, or that go with the season or topics we will be studying. Seeing bits of the covers is nearly irresistible and they are browsing pages before they know it.

Today I had a quick library trip to look for books. I also brought some books down from our attic boxes. I was looking mainly for books about winter, snow, and wool but I always keep my eye out for books I think will interest someone in my family, so there are a few oddballs here too. I made sure to find at least one poetry book for future poetry tea times. I already had a few books to go with our read aloud Little Women. Want to see the books? Here they are, with links to Amazon where available (I'm an affiliate, so while it doesn't affect your cost at all, I get a small credit on any purchases you make through my link - even if you buy something totally unrelated to the link you click through. My budget thanks you!).

I set the books out on the shelf from my library trip around dinner time. It didn't take long for people to start browsing books, commenting on old favorites or asking for someone to read new ones. Samuel was especially happy with the dinosaur books. I was thrilled to find these because I've read aloud the ones we have many times in the last few weeks. We started with Three Little Dinosaurs and most of my younger boys enjoyed it. Makayla, my 15 year old, was apparently listening in from another room because when the three little dinosaurs who wanted to fly were introduced to 'Terry Dactyl' she laughed and groaned at the literary wordplay.

Do you ever gather a bin or shelf full of books and put them out to be discovered? What are your favorite winter or dinosaur books?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Our Favorite Books Read in 2016

I decided to ask my children about the books they've loved this year. It's quite a process to do this because if I ask one of my middle or older children in front of my younger ones, the younger will often parrot the older sibling's answers - for books they've never even read. It took a bit of work but I managed to ask each child separately and the results are in.

My favorite books for 2016:
  • Ella Enchanted was my favorite for Book Club. My second favorite in this category was Prince Caspian.
  • For my own personal reading my favorite books were Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden (I love her books), The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson, the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (my favorite of the four books is Scarlet), and Heartless also by Marissa Meyer.  Oh, and I reread The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini twice, it's a favorite too.
  • My favorite non-fiction books this year were Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman (a reread for me).
Makayla's favorites for 2016:
  •  Book Club: She loved poetry month.
  • Assigned Literature: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Work and the Glory series by Gerald N. Lund, and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.
  • Personal choice reading: Uglies by Scott Westerfield, Michael Vey book 5.
Joseph's favorites for 2016:
  • Book Club: The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
  • Assigned Literature: The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Personal choice reading: Cragbridge Hall Series by Chad Morris
Emma's favorites for 2016:
  •  Book Club: Rascal by Sterling North
  • Assigned Literature: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  • Personal choice reading: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
Daniel's favorites for 2016:
  • Book Club: Rascal by Sterling North
  • Assigned Literature: Half Magic by Edward Eager
  • Personal choice reading: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Oliver's favorites for 2016:
  • Book Club:  Rascal by Sterling North
  • Assigned Literature: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Personal choice reading: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling (audiobook)
Caleb's favorites for 2016:
  • Book Club: Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Assigned Literature: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (read to him)
  • Personal choice reading: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (audiobook)
Mason's favorites for 2016:
  • Book Club: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Assigned Literature: If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff (read to him)
  • Personal choice reading: A Tale of Peter Rabbit and others by Beatrix Potter (audiobook), anything about pirates.
Samuel's favorites for 2016:
  • Book Club: He didn't have a favorite. He's 3, I'm not surprised.
  • Personal choice books: Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle, The Best Mouse Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Tobias' favorites for 2016:
  • Any book we will let him chew.

Just in case you are interested, here is the complete list we read this year for Book Club:

·         Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reading Dec 2016-Jan 2017)
·         Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
·         Rascal by Sterling North
·         20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
·         Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
·         Stuart Little by E. B. White
·         The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris
·         The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
·         Poetry (varied, for a Mad Hatter Tea Party)
·         The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
·         Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
What have been your family's favorite books this year?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Break Week with Snow

This week we decided that we're enjoying vacation with Daddy - no school! Well, other than the high schooler who had her final exam for her vet class and one last week of early morning seminary before break. Grandma from Utah flew in Monday evening.

Tuesday it started snowing and so there was playing outside in the snow and baking cookies and having beef stew in the crock pot. We have this fairly often in winter and it is super simple so I'm going to share the recipe. A note about the meat - you can use pork or beef. We prefer beef though. I watch the beef at the store until I catch some close to date that they discount. It can be stew beef chunks, but it doesn't have to be. I've often found nice steaks discounted to a better price per pound than stew beef so I'll use that instead, cutting my own chunks.

Crockpot Beef Stew

1-2 lbs beef chunks
2 lbs carrots, sliced
6-8 potatoes, cut in chunks
1 can French Onion soup
Salt and pepper to taste
Water to almost cover veggies

Place all ingredients into the crock pot and then add the water. Cook on High for 6 hours or Low for 10 hours. If you want it to thicken up a bit add some cornstarch in 2T of cold water an hour before serving.

Wednesday and Thursday are a bit of a blur. I know we had physical therapy and Cub Scouts and youth group and a Christmas party for our homeschool book club that was super fun. Several kids did some painting projects. I also know we did more things on these days but I just can't remember what. Except cookies - because we baked about 12 dozen for the Christmas party (our usual batch of egg free chocolate chip cookies is about 6 dozen).

Friday - I was up most of the night with Tobias, who has had a weird week of teething and fever that the doctor thinks was the flu. I took a nap when Tobias did. I had bloodwork done to check in on my new thyroid medication dose and did some shopping that needed to happen. Grandma was still visiting on this day. It's been bitterly cold for two days with wind chills below zero. The kids are climbing the walls a bit.

Saturday - We woke up to a world covered in ice. The trees are beautiful, there are icicles hanging from everything, including the bird feeder out my window. The snow that was on the ground has compacted into a sheet of ice. The kids are doing their weekly Saturday morning video game time - 30 minutes each. So far I've heard Lego Jurassic World and Minecraft. Grandma is supposed to fly home this afternoon. That means the kids are going to be grumpy and sad this evening. They've been talking of locking her in the basement so she won't leave. I'm trying to think of something fun we can do in the house (remember, ice everywhere outside). Maybe we'll do a movie night - we haven't seen Pete's Dragon yet. Or we might do a board game night and pull out a few games to play that have been tucked away in the attic for a while.

That's it for us this week!

(Linking here and here.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

My 2017 Reading Challenge Plan

At the beginning of 2016 I decided I wanted to keep track of the books I read. I kept a list in my planner for months. By the beginning of August I had read 75 books and decided that I was done with my list keeping. It was interesting to look back at my list and see book titles that I read, loved, loathed, or reread because they were so good.

For 2017 I want to do something different. I looked at some reading challenges online but nothing was exactly what I wanted. I decided to organize a reading challenge of my own and invite people I knew in real life or online to join me in a private Facebook group for the challenge. We'll be doing a hybrid reading challenge. On one month we will read a specific book together and on the next month we will each choose our own book to fit a group theme. It's low-key, just chatting in the FB group. If there is a month where someone is too busy or simply not interested in the book or theme they can skip it and pick back up with the next month.

I decided that it would be fun to post about each book I read as the year goes along, so consider this your advance notice! Our plan is as follows:


The Reading Gateway
2017 Reading Challenge
January (Anything!)
A book already on your shelf that you’ve never finished.
February (Classic)
Persuasion by Jane Austen
March (Encouragement)
An inspirational, self-help, or religious book.
April (Historical)
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
May (Mystery & More)
A mystery, ghost story, or thriller.
June (Fantasy)
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time series, Book 1)
July (Travel/Geography)
A book set in another country.
August (Biography)
The Mark of a Giant: 7 People Who Changed the World by Ted Stewart
September (Fairy Tale)
A spin on a fairy tale, a retelling.
October (Science Fiction)
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
November (Nonfiction)
A book that will make you smarter.
December (Memoir)
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis


Have you ever participated in a reading challenge? What books will you be reading in 2017?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Tree is Up!

Today we put up our Christmas tree and I remembered to pull out my camera! Here are a few pictures from the fun. First up, all 9 kids with the completed tree. I probably should have taken a picture before handing out candy canes. Because who wants to stop licking their candy cane to smile? Certainly not some of my sons.

And a second picture just because I can.

This is the first Christmas Tobias was able to 'help' decorate the tree. He loved the ornaments. The actual decorating didn't interest him, he just wanted to play with the ornaments.

A peek at the chaos of decorating.

Now we wait to see how long before half the ornaments are taken off the tree by little hands. And we're making guesses as to who will be the first one to knock the tree over too...

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Winter Homeschool Week


Monday - How did I get a child old enough to study for her driving permit? Makayla picked up her book today at the BMV to study. Ack! I'm not ready for this.

New math lessons abounded today. We're moving right along in their books, everyone is on either lesson 13, 14, or 15. That means they will all finish up their book by late April or early May.

I have two pages of journaling prompts my 6th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd, and Kindergartener are choosing from this week. Joseph and Caleb chose to write and draw about their favorite animal. Daniel wrote how he would spend $100. Oliver shared 3 wishes he would make if he had a genie. Emma wrote about things that make her angry and why. Hers was hilarious!

Makayla is finishing module 13 in Biology today and tomorrow, then she's got 3 modules left (about 6 weeks of work). She's down to the last 2 weeks of her Veterinary Medicine I course with Landry Academy and has learned a lot from it.

Tuesday morning stands out to me because most of the kids needed help with math at the same time. It is always good exercise for my brain to jump between ages. Tuesday was a cold and rainy day so we took our time doing lessons, taking breaks, listening to Little Women, drinking hot chocolate, and just learning together. I love days like this!

Wednesday was the busy day of the week. We had driving to and from Seminary (5:40am and 6:50am. Everyone got dressed, fed, and did their chores. Our friends came over for Art class from 9am-12:15pm. This was tons of fun as always. By 12:30pm Mason and I were doing his daily medical care in the bathroom for 75 minutes. At the same time I had to bake a batch of egg-free sugar cookies unexpectedly for Joseph to use at Mutual (youth group)that night. 2pm had me loading equipment in the van because Mason and I had to leave for Physical Therapy at 2:30pm. We got home from PT at 4:00pm. Dinner was pizza. Yep, used $28 of the leftover grocery budget for 5 pizzas at Little Caesars. It was delicious. At 6:45pm I headed out the door with the oldest 4 children for activities: Mutual for Makayla and Joseph, Activity Day Girls for Emma, and Cub Scouts for Daniel. Thankfully all are at the church so it's just one stop and all happen at pretty much the same time. I dropped everyone off and ran home so my husband could get some more school work done while I got the younger 5 boys ready for bed. (He's doing college while also working full time and being daddy to 9 kids). Then it was back to the church to pick up the older 4 kids, home for family prayer, and bedtime at last.

Thursday felt positively relaxed after Wednesday. We did school. We laughed. We talked about books. It was an easy day. We moved our bird feeder to a new spot and were able to enjoy watching many birds stop in for food. Daddy was home early in the afternoon and the only out of the house appointment was Speech Therapy for Samuel in late afternoon. Dinner was crockpot chili and egg-free cornbread. Yum!

Makayla and I ran to the library this evening to attend the teen art reception. She enters the teen art show every year, with one or more pieces. This year she entered two pencil drawings. The one above is Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with Pickett on his shoulder and a Niffler escaping from his bag. And yes, that is my beautiful daughter, who is growing up all together too quickly.

This second one is a Steampunk Boa Constrictor. It has a lot of fun details when you get a close look at it!

Friday the only real school goal was to get math done before Grandma came to visit and do another Christmas ornament. We got that done and spent the morning playing games, making ornaments, and just enjoying one another. It's been snowing today. Yuck. I don't like the cold. Now we are just counting down to Daddy's return home because it's the beginning of his 10 day vacation. We don't have plans to go anywhere but will hopefully have a Grandma from out of state flying in to visit for part of the time. The kids are already talking about their tradition of baking chocolate chip cookies with her and asking me if we have enough chocolate chips ready for that. I told them it depends on how many batches of cookies they want to make. "Lots," was their reply.

That's all for this week! I'm going to spend a few minutes calling the local music store to check their hours. I need to stop in and order piano books for 4 kids. Lessons are starting soon...

(Linking here.)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Today's Grocery Shopping Trip

People have asked for more information about my grocery budget so I decided to share this week's purchases with a couple tips. We have a $200 a week grocery budget for the 11 of us ($800/month). Today I went shopping and spent $160, which leaves $40 in the budget. I will use that for more milk and probably some more fresh veggies.

The first tip I have is to buy a few extra non-perishable or freezer items each week. If you do this consistently over time you will build up a pantry of food in the house so you never really run out of food and don't have to totally fill the pantry in a single week. For example, buy an extra peanut butter and an extra jelly this week. Buy an extra case of canned veggies. Buy an extra container of oatmeal. Buy more than one item when you can, and stick to items that you know your family will eat. If canned pineapple is on sale but nobody likes it, don't waste your money.

My second tip is to watch for meat sales and markdowns. I check meat prices every time I'm at the store, even if I'm just swinging in to WalMart to pick up a prescription, and grab something if the price is good. This week I ended up buying a lot of meat. Here are the meat deals I found at WalMart:
  • Ground Beef - 5 lbs on sale at $2/lb.
  • Chicken Breast - 11 lbs marked down to $1.43/lb.
  • Pork butt roast - 14 lbs (2 roasts) marked down to $1.07/lb.
  • Brautwurst - 2.5 lbs marked down to $2.08/lb.
Will we eat 32.5 lbs of meat this week? No way! Some will be eaten, some will be frozen for another week. The important part of this is that we won't need to buy meat again until I find another sale or markdown. I already had 3 lbs ground sausage, 3 lbs ground beef, 2 turkeys, 2 lbs polish sausage, 1.5 lbs hot dogs, and 1.5 lbs steak chunks in my freezer (that adds up to another 45 lbs already in the freezer with the turkeys). It means that I can skip buying meat for a month if I need to. It also means the money I would have spent on meat each week can go toward those extra pantry items I mentioned in tip number 1.

This week's menu is as follows:

Breakfasts will be cereal, oatmeal, cocowheats, or toast.
Lunches will be sandwiches, fruit, veggies, salad, leftovers, pasta, rice, muffins.
Dinners will be:
  •  Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries.
  • BBQ Chicken, broccoli, rice.
  • Meatloaf, baked potatoes, carrots.
  • Tacos, refried beans, salad.
  • Chili and cornbread.
  • Spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Pancakes.
  • Pulled pork, mashed potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower.
Here is exactly what I bought at the grocery store this week for $160. I shopped mainly at Aldi, with meat and a couple other items found at WalMart:
  • fresh pineapple
  • 9 lbs apples
  • 3 lbs mandarins
  • 2.5 lbs bananas
  • 10 lbs potatoes
  • 1 lb carrots
  • dill pickles
  • 2 heads lettuce
  • frozen meatballs
  • hot dogs
  • 12 cans pears
  • 3 cans chipotle peppers
  • 3 bags bagels
  • 6 loaves bread
  • 5 lbs cornmeal
  • breadcrumbs
  • 60 flour tortillas
  • cheeses, 3 lbs
  • 2 gallons milk
  • honey
  • ketchup
  • 2 hazelnut spread
  • 2 boxes round crackers
  • 16 hot dog buns
  • 8 hamburger buns
  • 2 bags tortilla chips
  • 32oz chicken broth
  • 3 cans cinnamon rolls
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • 2 bags corn chips
  • Brautwurst - 2.5 lbs.
  • Pork butt roast - 14 lbs (2 roasts)
  • Chicken Breast - 11 lbs
  • Ground Beef - 5 lbs
You'll notice that I didn't mention coupons. That's because generally I just don't use them. I don't buy a lot of packaged foods in name brands that have coupons available. Why? Because I can get things cheaper just by making them myself or buying them at Aldi.

That's all I've got for today! If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Feeling Better, Learning, and Dissecting a Frog


Saturday's report really started with Friday night when Joseph, who already was dealing with pneumonia, joined the ranks of kids who threw up with the stomach virus. Oh yes, I'm serious. By morning the vomiting was over but he still had a headache and pneumonia to deal with.

Daddy is home on Saturdays so I got the week's grocery shopping done. I spent $150, leaving us $50 for this week in case we need more fruit, milk, or want to get pizza one day. The kids played their weekly video game time (30 minutes on Saturday morning). Much Lego playing filled the afternoon when Daddy brought down a different bin of Legos from the attic. We have many Legos so they are stored in more than one bin. When we change bins the kids love seeing what pieces are now available.

Sunday was a quiet at home day to continue healing. It was a low-key day with the unusual fun of a mail delivery. We got several packages including an Instant Pot, cookbook, Adventures in Lettering book, my planner for 2017, and two Kumon cutting workbooks for some of our little boys. I decided to make Tikki Masala for dinner in the instant pot. It turned out pretty good, could have used more spices though.

The kids asked us to dig our Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman dvds out of the attic this evening so we did. We haven't finished the series with them and they were ready to pick up where we left off, midway through season 3. It's always interesting the conversations that come up.

Monday morning was the first appointment of the week. Mommy and Mason went to pick up a new walker and have some old equipment checked out at the wheelchair vendor. I did new math lessons with each child before leaving. Daddy and the rest of the kids handled the morning routine at home while I was gone. I introduced a new writing project idea to the kids. We're going to spend December focusing on journal keeping. We will be writing both personal journals and family stories we want to remember. Makayla will finish her goal of writing 50,000 words on a single story for NaNoWriMo tomorrow, one day ahead of schedule. She's excited.

Tuesday - I love having a day at home with no appointments. Today was so relaxed from start to finish. School work included flash cards with Caleb to see which letter sounds he knows, math with individual children, a fish dissection in biology, reading with Oliver, listening to Little Women during snack time, and preschool fun. I made sweet potatoes in my Instant Pot at lunch. They were easy and delicious! Our Instant Pot has only been here a couple days and so I've got a lot to learn. I decided to just try using it every other day for something.

Wednesday the kids were moving and grooving early. I don't know what got into them, but we went with it. All were doing school before 8am. Crazy and awesome. Caleb started learning to skip count by 2s. One unexpected thing today - the roofers showed up to fix our slate roof. Finally. We went on with our usual morning school work, followed by an early lunch so Mason and I could get out to his physical therapy evaluation. He'll be doing PT weekly again while he learns to use his walker and we build strength and good habits with it.

After therapy I needed to make dinner and it was time to try another meal in the Instant Pot. I wanted to do a recipe I already know we love, so I found similar recipes to get an idea of times and then made the rest up as I went along. It was beef stew and turned out yummy.

Thursday started off with chores, math, and leaving the house. We had homeschool book club today and it was so fun to get together with the other 3 families. We did a jeopardy style game about our book, Prince Caspian, that I put together in Powerpoint. The kids also played a more active game, played, visited, and ate snacks. Our next book, which we're taking December and January to read, is Little Women.

Once we got home from book club it was afternoon medical care for Mason, weekly speech therapy for Samuel, then dinner. After dinner I went to a Relief Society activity at church (for women 18 yrs and up) and made it home in time to get my littlest ones to bed.

Friday morning a friend came over to observe while Makayla did her final dissection for biology - a frog. The audience was quite large as most of my kids wanted to watch. We learned interesting things like how to make a solid gender prediction by looking at a frog's eardrums and eyes. Our frog was female. Nobody named her. Poor frog!

Daniel was working on a drawing of a squid today. He had some interesting questions and along the way we learned that almost all cephalopods squirt ink, and that each species tends to have a specific ink color.
Octopus ink is black, squid ink is blue-black, and cuttlefish ink is brown.

Grandma came to visit at lunch time. We ate together and did another Christmas ornament with her. This time we took clear ornaments, popped off the top, and then curled ribbon and put it inside. The kids had never used curling ribbon before and some loved it while others couldn't figure it out and had help with the curling part.

Daddy is home and it's Friday afternoon so I'm pushing publish on this post and heading off to enjoy the weekend with my family.

{Linking up here.}

Friday, November 25, 2016

Another Sick Week - Puking and coughing and headaches, O my!

Last Friday I had one child who was throwing up, Daniel. By Saturday he was done. A couple of us went to see a movie - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Everyone who went loves Harry Potter and we agreed it was an interesting dive into that world again. The rest of the family had time with Grandma during the movie. Saturday evening Daddy and I finished up Christmas shopping online. Now to wait for things to arrive and get them wrapped!

Sunday morning I added three more to the throw up group, Caleb, Oliver, and Mason. It was not a great birthday present for Caleb, who turned 6 that day. I also got sick but avoided throwing up - barely. The missionaries came over to help my husband give the sick ones a priesthood blessing.
At 11:00pm Tobias woke up and started puking. It was a very long night.

With the throwing up I had to cancel two of Mason's appointments at Children's Hospital on Monday and reschedule them. I also declared Thanksgiving break so we had zero formal lessons for school. Makayla kept working on her NaNoWriMo novel. She started the week about 2 days ahead of schedule to hit her 50,000 words by the end of the month. She also had seminary on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

Tuesday saw many of us recovered from the stomach virus but Emma just beginning. It was a laid back morning with kids playing Monopoly and building with Legos.

Wednesday Grandma came over to visit and make pies with the kids. They made a chocolate pie, a peanut butter pie, and another dessert called cranberry fluff. Illness wise, several people are still dealing with illness issues, tired, headaches, sore throat. Including me. Boo!

Thursday - Wonderful Thanksgiving at home with some of the extended family. Delicious food and leftovers for tomorrow. We played games, watched some dvds, and just kept resting because some are still sick.

Friday I took 3 oldest kids to the doctor. These 3 never threw up but all have headaches, congestion, and other symptoms that aren't easing up. Two have viruses we'll keep treating symptoms. Joseph has pneumonia. We just can't catch a break. We're trying antibiotics because he's also one of my kids dealing with asthma but if it is viral the antibiotics won't help. Only time will tell. He has inhalers and we also have a nebulizer for breathing treatments if need be.

It's Friday afternoon now. We are at home doing quiet activities like playing Dragonwood, building with magnet tiles and Legos, and watching the bonus content for one of our Star Wars dvds. Or napping - depending on how they feel. I'm going to be optimistic and do our December homeschool planning and preparations this evening.

Other things I've been doing:
  • Cleaning for the sick kids.
  • Laundry.
  • Christmas shopping. It's done and now I just need to get things wrapped.
  • Picking out a planner/calendar for next year because we've already got 27 appointments (including speech therapy for Samuel and physical therapy for Mason) scheduled in January and February.
  • Contemplating personal goals for the first quarter of 2017.
  • Tracking down pictures to print for my Project Life scrapbook. I've been pretty inconsistent with picture taking and printing. I want to spend December fixing that.

I hope that if you're reading this you had a wonderful week with no illness!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to pop in and share the words to one of my favorite hymns today for Thanksgiving.
Count Your Blessings

1. When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

(Chorus)
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

4. So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Preschool for my Boys - My LDS Preschool

As a homeschool mother of nine children I have learned the value of investing in quality curricula. This frees me up to spend my time with my children instead of with stacks of books and planner pages. This year I have 1 high schooler, 4 elementary students, 1 Kindergartener, 2 preschoolers, and a 1 year old. My days are busy, fun, and little crazy. I'm pretty laid back on starting formal school work until a child is 6 or 7. At the same time I have all these little boys who want my focused time and attention. They ask to ‘do school like the big kids’. When they don’t get focused time with mom they find other ways to fill their time, usually with lots of mischief involved.

What’s a mom to do? I don’t have time to plan out activities and pull together themed materials that will interest my little boys. They like variety, mess, and movement. I’m not creative enough to come up with interesting activities every week in a variety of skill areas.  
I decided to look for a preschool curriculum to take the planning burden off my shoulders. I found many preschool curricula to be a stack of alphabet worksheets and printables that were exactly the same each week: trace the uppercase letter, trace the lowercase letter, count the themed items that start with that letter, sort the items by size, dot paint the letter, color a picture that includes the letter, glue things to a paper of the letter, cut up the letter into a puzzle and put it together again. Each letter had the exact same pages to do and no real activities, stories, or fun. That wasn't going to be a good fit for my active sons.


In my search I came across My LDS Preschool. It caught my eye with themes included scripture stories and gospel topics my children are familiar with. I started looking into it more and found that it was not just another stack of alphabet worksheets. My LDS Preschool is written for two days of preschool, lasting 3 hours each day. Because I’m doing it just with my own family I can break up the two 3 hour blocks of activities into shorter daily work. I have activities at my fingertips that are varied and engaging for my 5, 4, and 3 year olds sons.

Each week of My LDS Preschool has a theme. The free sample you can download covers A is for Ammon, with an emphasis on service. Each week covers both scripture stories and literature titles and includes calendar time, songs with music to download, full lesson plans, and printables to go along. The activities for this particular week are broken down into categories including:



·         Movement – The children learn to scatter and gather like the sheep in Ammon’s story. They make a sling and shoot cotton balls at a target on the wall (picture of the men scattering the sheep). They play letter detector while searching for hidden letter A’s. They have an apple relay race balancing apples on spoons.

·         Math – Hands on counting of sheep using cotton balls and clothespins, measuring when cooking apple pies, counting apples floating in water.

·         Arts and Crafts – This week includes an apple pie paper plate project and shaving cream sheep.

·         Story Time – Telling the story of Ammon and the King’s sheep, with pictures to help retell the story, time for kids to act it out,

·         ABC Time – The kids learn the letter and sounds it makes, find things that start with that sound, write the letter.

·         Snack – Ants on a log, mini apple pies. Each child makes 2 mini pies, one for them, one to give away.

·         Free Play – suggestions this week include flying around like airplanes or running a pretend apple stand.

·         Songs – This week you’ll sing several songs in calendar time (ABC song, Calendar song, Days of the Week song) as well as Do You Know the Letter A?

·         Literature – This week suggests Enemy Pie and has discussion prompts for relating it to the children and to the week’s theme.

·         Vocabulary – Word pairs introduced in context of the scripture story and a literature book are scatter/gather and friend/enemy.

My LDS Preschool is packed full of activities! And if you want the regular preschool-ish pages to print it has those too:

Each week has 3 PDF documents to download: Day 1’s lesson plans, Day 2’s lesson plans, and all the printables. In a day’s lesson plans it has a single list of materials to gather for different activities and clickable links to take you to each activity or back to the menu of activities for easy navigation. The printables file is in color but often there are black and white versions of the pages in the file to save on ink and offer kids who enjoy coloring pages that can be colored.

When you purchase a My LDS Preschool membership you get permanent access to the curriculum. There are no recurring fees each year, which I love! Right now the membership is $70, which breaks down to $2.50 for each week of lesson plans and printables. On the membership site you find each week’s material organized on individual pages with links to all files (lessons, printables, music) as well as links to videos of the literature books where available. They are also working to add a video to each week giving you an overview of what to expect in that week's lessons. As a member you also get access to a private Facebook group for My LDS Preschool that provides support. It is a place to ask questions, get help, and interact with others using the curriculum. Right now 11 weeks of the 28 week curriculum are already released on the member site. New weeks are released about once a week, with a break taken in December for the holidays, then picking back up with weekly releases at the end of December. The final week’s lessons will be released April 25th of next year. You can visit My LDS Preschool's website here. They are also on Facebook here.

I'm excited to be using My LDS Preschool with my younger boys! I decided to share our journey, so consider this your brief introduction. We're just getting started. I hope to share an update of our adventures in January. In the mean time, check out their website, ask me any questions you have through the comments, and be sure to read my Friday Mash Up posts going forward to catch peeks at what we're up to in our homeschool.

{Disclaimer: I received membership access to My LDS Preschool in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.}

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sick but Persevering - Another Homeschool Week Done

Sick. Still. More. Neverending. Okay, most of the kids are actually starting to get better now, and nobody threw up, even when a few felt like they might. ** Well, I spoke too soon. Daniel just threw up. Anyone want to guess how many kids will get this? **  I'm pretty sure Makayla has a sinus infection again, though, so we're getting that checked later today. We kept a very low-key week, applied essential oils, washed hands, ate good whole foods, and are praying things begin really improving for everyone soon. With all the sick kids I really didn't get many pictures taken but wanted to share some highlights from our week anyway, so those are sprinkled throughout this post.

Saturday Makayla, Joseph, and I spent the evening at a stake youth activity for church. These pictures were taken while youth began arriving and dividing into teams. There were lots of activities to try (archery, tractor pulling, goat herding, riding a mechanical bull, stacking bales of hay, etc) as well as dinner, a fire, and visiting.
Both Makayla and Joseph rode the mechanical bull. Makayla rode once (she's done it in past years) and Joseph ended up going back to it several times all evening so he rode 5 times.

I read a book just for me this week! I love when I get to do that. My book of choice was Heartless by Marissa Meyer. She tells the story of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland that - before she became queen. I really liked it!

Several people finished books this week in their reading time. Makayla finished The Work and the Glory book 5 and started book 6. Emma finished Frightful's Mountain. Daniel finished Ralph S. Mouse. We finished Prince Caspian as a family. It's been a bookish week. After finishing Prince Caspian we started our next homeschool book club title, Little Women. I decided to pull out an audio book for this one because sometimes mom's voice just needs a break.

One fun part of our family read alouds is seeing my children choose quiet activities to do while listening. This week that included origami, coloring, drawing on paper and the dry erase board, and using thinking putty.

Makayla has been interested in steampunk design for a while. Steampunk mixes old and new, the function of modern technology with the Victorian steam-powered era. There is an element of science fiction or science fantasy to steampunk books, fashion, and builds. We discovered one season on Netflix of a show to watch together - Steampunk'd. In the show 10 makers are divided into two teams and tasked to build a specific room for the manor house in a steampunk style. They also have to create fashion outfits and a story for their room. At the end of the episode one team wins, two top makers are chosen who will be the next week's team captains, and one maker is sent home. It was a neat way to wade into the steampunk design waters for most of the family.

Joseph has been busy building new Lego creations this week. Here is one of his most recent. I don't know how he comes up with these!

One new school activity for several of the kids this week has been using XtraMath.org to practice math facts. The kids are at varying points in the mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. As the weather gets colder it always makes me think of things we want to work on improving. Right now our automaticity in math computation is what came to mind. I decided to offer an incentive. When each child masters a function (add, subtract, multiply, divide) on XtraMath, meaning they pass the level with all facts done in 3 seconds or less, they earn a small gift card. This is hard, it may take them weeks or months to complete a single level at that speed. I love that XtraMath is the one tracking and deciding when they're ready to move on, not me. I get to just stand back and be their cheerleader and encourager. They got a kick out of seeing me try the addition level the first day. I didn't pass, but came really close (all but 2 of the 100 facts came in under 3 seconds every time). I think I'm going to be doing the program as well since they enjoyed cheering me on too.

Well, that's all I have time for. Now for that doctor's appointment for Makayla . . .


(Linking to Weekly Wrap Up).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Mash Up: Making Origami, Playing Dragonwood

Monday highlights - Tobias had a rough night that meant only one thing - his cough/congestion/runny nose had turned into a double ear infection. Poor buddy! Daddy and the kids did breakfast and chores while I was at the doctor with Tobias. By the time I arrived home most of the kids had already begun school work. I took care of new math lessons and oversaw our other usual lessons. We also started some interest based projects - stop motion animation, knitting a hat, making bracelets with the rainbow loom, and origami. Makayla had her online vet class mid-morning. In the afternoon we dissected a crayfish and discussed voting and elections. For dinner we made yummy chicken and black bean enchiladas.

Tuesday highlights - I was out the door before light to go vote. We then had a nice, slow and steady morning with chores and school work. I listened to Oliver read, helped several kids through math, oversaw lots of things, and took care of Tobias, whose super power today was dripping snot and drooling through multiple shirts and bibs. Gross, but sometimes that's a mom's life. Oliver and Caleb brought me scriptures to read to them and they chose the story of the Amlicites, (you can read it here). Definitely interesting to read on election day. Daniel and I have been buddy reading the Book of Mormon lately and finished Jacob chapter 5 today too. Then I had kids doing various interest based projects. More rainbow looming, more origami (a bat today). Emma decided that she wanted to draw for today. She created many fairies with a drawing kit we have. We read aloud two chapters of Prince Caspian. I helped Makayla with biology.

Wednesday started out tired. Tobias is still miserable with the double ear infection so night time sleep was only for 30 minutes at a time, then he was awake and in my arms for 30 minutes or more. Then he would drift off again. I had to be up at 5am to drive Makayla to Seminary so I really didn't get much sleep last night. Of course this would be the day that a certain child decided to argue over the necessity of chores. We had a discussion about the fact that chores are part of family work to care for our family, and that cooking food is part of family chores that mom mainly handles, and if you don't participate in your assigned chores you don't participate in the fruits of mine (the cooking). Sigh. The day did get better as it went on. The homeschool routine soothes even the cranky mother as we go through it. Fun project today - Daniel made a new origami project, the transforming ninja star. He even recorded it on video:



 We also got to play a new game today - Dragonwood. It was fun!

Thursday - Tired. That sums up how I felt on this morning. Add to it another child complaining of ear pain in both ears so another trip to the doctor to confirm a double ear infection and get appropriate meds. (The child actually told me one ear was hurting on Wednesday and we decided to wait a day to see if it got better, while managing the pain. By Thursday it was worse and in both ears.) In other areas school went well. Caleb is learning to count and write to 100. Yesterday was the very first day and after each row of 10 numbers he got up to do some physical activity and then ate 1 chocolate chip. His siblings were jealous of that! Oliver's reading curriculum introduced contractions this week and he really didn't get it until yesterday. Now he understands contractions using will (I'll, we'll, he'll, etc) and not (can't, isn't, hasn't, etc). We will keep working on the others but have moved ahead to reading a poem about a snake.

One thing I've been doing for my own enrichment is listening to audio books and talks at various points during the day and night (might as well if I'm up with Tobias, right?). I recently finished listening to Emma by Jane Austen. I've listened to the cds for Calm Parenting University (fantastic!). I'm currently listening to Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and talks from General Conference. I'm hoping to get time to watch some dvd workshops in the near future as well - Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education (I've watched before, just want a refresher). I have a couple more audio cds from Celebrate Calm to listen to as well, including ADHD University.

We introduced Daddy to Dragonwood and the kids have been playing it together as well.

Friday - Tobias slept much better last night, which meant I slept better. Makayla also didn't have seminary this morning so the whole family got off to a slower start. As a matter of fact, we didn't do formal school today at all! Most of the kids were playing Dragonwood as soon as breakfast was over. I got some work done for a church calling. Then Grandma came over (my mom) and we spent the rest of the morning hours talking, laughing, and playing games like Simon Says, Zombie tag, and we also introduced Grandma and big sister Makayla to Dragonwood. After lunch together Grandma headed home and the kids and I have moved on with our relaxing day. I still have multiple kids coughing so we're using our favorite essential oils and trying to rest and recharge. We will do some reading aloud soon and maybe play another game together. I've been wanting to pull out Uno but they may overrule me for another round of Dragonwood.


(Linking up here.)