Prepare Your Family’s Hearts for Christmas

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional

Jesse Tree Advent Devotional

Tis’ the Season to Prepare for the advent of Christ’s birth.  Advent starts November 27th this year.  It is time to order the Jesse Tree Advent Devotional and Lapbook kit.  This is a super fun way to prepare your families’ hearts for Christmas.

What does it look like in our house:  We add Christmas lights in the dinning room along with the candles and often have special desserts (especially on Sundays).  Our kids love advent!  At dinner we turn off the regular lights, light the candles, read the Bible and devotional (included), put an ornament on the tree (included), and sing our favorite Christmas songs.  The kids love to blow-out the candles.  Your kids will love this tradition, and you will love that they are excited about the real advent of Christmas.  They will know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and have a lot of fun doing it.

Jesse Tree (Click to buy or get more information about the kit)

Some extra ideas to add to the celebration:

  • Donate something each night
  • Make special meals like red and green dinner (everything is red and green)
  • Shepherd’s Night (I’ll explain on a future post.)
  • Christmas Cards (decide who, sign and stuff, address…sprinkle it though out the week)
  • volunteer at a food bank
  • Creative Sundays on Sunday (SOS: make your own ice cream sunday)
  • Christmas Cookie decorating
  • Make Christmas presents for the animals (i.e. pinecone bird feeder)
  • Make cookies for a widow/someone lonely) you know and go visit
  • Go Stealth Elfing!

DITIR Grading System and Planning

Simply Planned Planner

Simply Planned: A Practical Homeschool Planner

It is time to start planning for the school year. I love this part. Honestly, my planner helps me love it more. It reminds me of all the things I need to think about while I make my children’s home education plan. I am quite excited about the planning because my oldest child is joining our homeschool setting this year. I will have a highschool/college student along with the young ones. I needed to start planning early this year. I want to just give a little insight into how I grade using my Simply Planned Planner. I use the DITIR system to focus my energy on mastery instead of completion.

Simply Planned Homeschool Planner (click link to get more information)

Grading with a DITIR system:

When I first started homeschooling, I thought I would have no need for a grading system. The “Do It Till It’s Right” plan means that they will always get an A. As they have gotten older I have realized that in the main subjects it is nice to track their DITIR. I started recording their grades on the calendar day they complete the test. The grades don’t have to be in a row since they will be As. Calculating As is considerably easy. How do they always get As? They take the test/quiz once. I grade it and go over the answers with them. If they get below a 92%, I have them do the section, in which they had the most trouble, over again. They can get half the points they missed back. If they get a B, they repeat the test. If they get a C, or they continue to get a low grade after I’ve explained things to them, I may have them repeat the section of the workbook that is giving them the most difficulty. With a D, they should repeat the entire workbook. We use Christian Light for language arts, and it is easily broken down into small manageable sections. My goal is mastery. I want them to master the concepts of a lesson. A test just allows me to identify where a child needs extra help. After I tutor them in that area, they should master the concept. This system seems to work well for the younger grades. We will see how it works for the older children.

Make planning fun. Go to a coffee shop and have a parent teacher meeting with yourself. Or stay over night at a hotel while you go to a homeschool conference. That intense planning time can do a lot for your morale and anticipation for the coming year. Most of all be encouraged that you are doing the best for your children, even when you feel discouraged. Our job is to plan and implement, it is God who make the whole thing workout. So prayer is the most powerful thing we do as parents. Be blessed and enjoy praying, planning and playing this summer.

Lent Prophecy Devotional and Calendar

Preparing Our Family’s Hearts for Easter!

Cal and mag

 There is no better way to reinforce our trust in who God is, than to review the prophecies God made in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of them in the New Testament as it pertains to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Great preparation for Easter!  My pastor wrote the devotionals and I drew the pictures.  (He is so gifted at writing in layman’s terms.)  I used the Lenten calendar as the bases for the time table.  The first 40 days (including Sundays) review a prophecy (Bible and Devotional), the last 6 days (Easter Week) include a hands-on object lesson that will help the children have fun while learning, along with the Bible reading.  This is a great way to bring in excitement and learning to our family devotional time(no matter the family size).  I have just completed  a printable artistically designed Lenten Calendar to follow along with the Devotional Book.  The calendar is in the shape of a cross. If you would like to purchase and download this great resource just follow this link to the product page.

What do you get with the downloadable Kit? 

  • An informative 47 day Devotional (40days: Old Testament Prophecies, New Testament fulfillments and a devotional each day; 7 days: week before Easter object lessons and fun activities)
  • An awesome cross-shaped Calendar to follow
  • Graphics for a fun magnet to keep tract of your progression towards Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday)!
  • Directions to assemble this kit for the family fun and learning

What Does it Cost?

$15  for a downloadable copy the Lent Devotional Kit (Click here for more information at my store)

More Pictures:

lent wreath


proph devo

Homeschool Curriculum 2012-2013

My Favorite Curriculum (Preschool, Kindergarten, 3rd-4th)

Have Curriculum will Travel, “Camper School”

What do I do for homeschool?

All the best methods combined to work for my family and each child. I have a hands-on math curriculum that will continue through to calculus, and each child has their own rate of progression. English, reading book and spelling is another “out of the box,” progress at your own rate curriculum.  Typing, yes typing for pre-school/first grade, is computer based.   At 8 years old my older daughter is typing 11 real words a minute after one year. And Spanish is a DVD series that I watch with them. All of these subjects are what I like to call, “student driven.” Well, that is the intention of them, and that is what we are working towards. For those subjects I am a teacher’s aid or facilitator, I do as a group.  Science, History and Bible are unit study based and teacher driven.  Noeo Science is a Charlotte Mason  style.  Meaning they use living books to tell the children about the world of science.  So even though it is teacher driven, my class which includes all of the children are being taught at the same time. The intensely colored pictures and exciting content of the books help to keep the attention of the young ones.  For history, I read a book while they are eating.  Eating keeps them sitting still long enough to here (even the younger ones).  I do a Bible Devotional (sometimes intense) in the morning while they eat breakfast.  I read several verses from the New Testament (and go deeper/describe), a few verses in Proverbs (describe), and 2 Jesus Freak stories.  We have an additional Bible study with The Picture Smart Bible(older) and SundaySchool Pages(younger) two times a week.  How do I keep track of all this?  One laminated card on the refrigerator that they check off as they do their daily work.  Check out my post on De-cluttering my Life to Free my Brain–simplifying my homeschool day.

Language Arts:  Christian Light Language Arts includes Grammar, Spelling, Handwriting, and Composition.  I am completely impressed with Christian Light Language Arts and Reading.  I made laminated sleeves to put on each page the child is to do that day.  They use wet erase markers to complete the pages.  I check them, go over any wrong answers with the child, then run the laminated sheets under water to clean.  The wet erase markers come right off with running water.  For several years I have stayed away from Christian Lights workbooks, because of the preconceived notion that workbooks don’t work with children.  I think I got that crazy idea from my collage classes on education.  Not only do they work, the children seem to like them better.  My only sorrow is that I didn’t start them sooner.  Now, I’m a year behind in the curriculum, and we have to play catchup.  I am using it for Grammar and Handwriting.  I am evaluating their spelling and composition.  The spelling seems better then most.  I happen to like Phonics Zoo for it’s jingles that aid in spelling rule memory.  I also will add Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Student Writing Intensives for their complete instruction in writing outlines.  They live up to their name’s sake, “Excellent.”

History:  We are reading about the government.  Being an election year I thought it would be appropriate.  I like to read to them about American History from Sept. to Thanksgiving.  After that we go to selection in time broken up into 5 years increments.  Countries and Cultures, Ancients, Middle, Modern, America

Dictation and Narration:  For Dictation, I write words that they won’t know how to spell on the board.  I read sections of a poem from Pizza the Size of the Sun.  They write it in their composition books.  The books have a place to draw a picture on the top.  When they are finished they draw a picture of what they wrote.  For Narration, I have them remember the poem and stand on their chair at dinner (carefully).  They tell their poem and show the pictures.  We call them speeches not narration.  The kids have taken a liking to this speech format.  (When else can they stand on a chair and have everyone’s undivided attention?)

Bible: I have been reading through the New Testament.  One paragraph at a time, or until I find something I want to emphasize/describe in more kid friendly terms.  I then read a verse or two from Proverbs.  To some up our time, I read two stories in the book “Jesus Freaks.”  This amazing book gives one or two page stories of martyrs and/or amazing acts of faith.  It deeply encourages us.  We often say, “if God can come through for them in that amazing way, what amazing way does He want to come through for us?”  Faith is contagious!  And ultimate faith is extremely contagious.

Dance: We use to go to dance class, but it was so hard to leave the house.  Every time we would leave, we wouldn’t get our homework finished.  I decided this year that we would try an online dance class.  I will let you know what I think of it later.  I’m not sure how it is going to fit into our school day.

Kindergarten/Preschool:  I don’t have the time I had to do preschool and kindergarten as I did for the older children.  But the younger ones still seem to be doing quite well.  We use Christian Lights Kindergarten workbooks.  They have phonics, math and writing in them.  With our preschooler (girl, are 4) we started her on the activity books, and then we will go into the workbooks.  Our Kindergartner (boy, age 6) is fling through the Kindergarten workbooks.  After he is finished we will do the activity books and then the first grade work books.  For someone that wasn’t ready until later, he seems to be catching up very well.  He has also started the first Math-u-see book (Primer).  My husband has taken over the reading program.  He lets them read a Bob Book to him.  In exchange for their efforts, they get legos.  As you can imagine, our reading program has taken off.  For fun learning games, I made up some large plastic folders of games.  Each game pack has all the activity/game requires to play.  Both little ones love these activities.  I also have art projects in ziplock bags already to go.  This is a great summer project.  All this prep work allows the little ones to have a full preschool/kindergarten even with a time strapped mama.

Art Class with Video

How do I get it all done? I don’t! …by myself.  If you are the teacher of your children, that is a full time job. A job I love, but my husband has to help with the house work. The children also help a lot. The family is a team not a performance of mom and dad. I’m working on fine tuning this. Each child I add to the family the more I understand the importance of teamwork. Before I just thought I could do it all, now I know I can’t. In addition to the extra work force, I needed to simplify meals. Length of time cooking doesn’t effect me as much as amount of work the hour before dinner. I can let chilli, soup, or beans cook in a crock pot all day. I can save money, and I am just supervising their progress, not making them cook. I have tried freezer meals, but many of them require a lot of cheese or meat and are expensive. Though spaghetti sauce, cooked meat and soups can be frozen very successfully, a seven person family eats more than I have been able to cook and freeze. I may need bigger pots and pans? We didn’t just simplify our meals, after our month trip across America, we started to streamline all things in our house.

  • Daily Schedule:  I needed a way for the children to keep track of their own progress throughout the homeschool day, while I monitored their progression.  The refrigerator is a central location in our house.  The schedule needed to be small, yet complete.  It had to change through the week without me having to constantly print something out, which costs time, money, and environmental resources.  I finally settled on a 5 day schedule, laminated with magnets.  We rotate through the week.  Each day the children check off the tasks with a wet erase marker (erases with water).  The week of sheets are connected by two hoops and the marker is stationed on one of the hoops.  All that is required to complete the activity is contained in the task area.  This principle serves well for another area.  (Remodeling my schedule post)
  • Workboxes:  Each child has a work box (a travel hanging folder box).  The box has a hanging folder for every subject.  All that is required to complete each personal subject is in the box, along with personal output (there is a folder for art that has been created.  Writings that are generated are usually in a writing notebook that is housed in the English folder.)  All necessary tools are in a compartment on top of the box.  The things that aren’t housed in the box are join subjects.  Sometimes they share the books they are using.  Those books are located in file holders screwed to the wall.
  • Clothes: I have 6 buckets that fit one outfit for each person in the family.  The outfits are similar colors so they can be washed in one load.  None are folded, sorted into color, or sorted into person.  It is easy and who ever doesn’t want to participate can do their own laundry.  This method has saved me hours a week.  If you are interested check out my Laundry Debacle –Solved!
  • Chore chart: All the children need daily, weekly and monthly chores. The Duggar’s call them jurisdictions. I have found that it works best with the little ones to have the jobs organized into age appropriateness. I gave them each their larger daily chore and it has taken a year or more for them to really do it well. My thought is that they shouldn’t rotate until they can do the current job well. It is getting easier with more children. They not only help, but they “encourage” the others to do their jobs.
  • Stuff Management and purging: Everything you own costs you something more than the initial investment. It costs time and maintenance (some more than others). Storage and retrieval energy to use. Be sure you are fully aware of all the costs of each item and the combined total cost of all items. Is that where you want to spend your time and energy? I’ve noticed that some items cost more in clean-up and storage than they save in convenience. Dreams can be bigger than the reality of your energy.  Check out Rules of Engagement for Downsizing.

Why do I add house hold advise to a homeschool article?…It is part of the total picture. Homeschooling is a life style not a “job.” Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, daily life holds many learning opportunities. Opportunities the children miss when they are away from the family for eight hours a day. Fully embrace the life style, be real about the costs, and strive for the goal. What is the goal of education, including home education,…to fully prepare each child for the life God is calling them into. That is in a nut shell “no regrets parenting.”

De-cluttering with Kids

Keeping the house up is a full time job, especially with homeschool.  It seems all my efforts get thwarted by 5 engineers of destruction.  Ok, it’s not that bad, and quite honestly I contribute to the mayhem that surrounds my house (at times).  I keep thinking, “If they would only understand how difficult it is for me to keep-up, they would put their stuff away.”  I know faulty thinking.  That isn’t how kids function.  Given this history, you don’t know how excited I was to see 3 eager-beaver cleaners, this very morning.  They didn’t just all of the sudden embrace my faulty idea.  They were working to get their stuff back.  🙂  You see the idea of picking up the toys at night was drudgery to me.  Knowing full well I would be back in the same position the next day, I had no motivation.  To get them to pick up, I would have to be their motivation.  And by the end of the day, I am completely out of that type of energy.  So, how did I have eager cleaners this morning?

De-clutter Box

The idea was originally from pinterest.  It took me about two hours to come up with more small chores and graphics for the cute poem (someone else’s poem, Just Another Day in Paradise), print, cut and glue them to the sticks.  I will give you the pdfs to make it easier for you.  It was worth every minute.  This is the way it works:

  1. Set up the box:  tape the clever poem on a box, glue the chores on popsicle sticks, and make two pockets.  Pick small chunks of chores.  Example: Instead of the whole bathroom, just the mirror on one stick, the toilet on another and the floor on yet another.
  2.  Tell the kids about the system.  Have them clean up anything they want to keep.
  3. After they are in bed, pick up every toy that is not put away and place them in the box.  (I will wait a few weeks to add their room to my areas of clearing.) –The house looks clean!  Yeah!
  4.  They have to do one chore to take out one toy from the box.  They pick the stick, do the chore, put away the cleaning stuff, put the stick in the done holder and get out one toy.

* I marked the chore sticks, that little ones can do (4 years), with a purple marker.  I have quite a list, but I may have to add more.

* For my teenager, who doesn’t have a lot of little toys, I included food and utensils he may use.  If I use them too, I will hid them.  In order to use them again, he will have to a chore.

The beauty of this system is that the house gets cleaner either way.  If the toys I picked up aren’t worth cleaning to get, they should find a new home.  We have less toys to throw all over the floor.  I love downsizing!  If they do want the toy back, bad enough to work for it, my house gets cleaner!  The whole family wins both ways!  I hope to need a smaller box…sooner or later (I hope sooner.).

Pick up box (click to download)

Cleaning under the Cabinet

One shelf is clean!

One shelf is clean!