So many questions…

People ask me all the time how we:

  • support so many children on one salary
  • homeschool so many children
  • homeschool children with additional needs
  • keep our house in order (HA!)
  • have a date night when we had so many littles
  • have family devotions with a 10 year age range on the kids
  • keep our sanity
  • etc…

Lately I keep thinking of things I wish younger moms knew. So I am going to start trying to send out short tips regularly. Some shorter than others. Hope you enjoy them, even more, I hope you are encouraged. I want you to see there is light and it is not just at the end of the tunnel.

Tip number 1, you don’t have to be supermom. Just do your best. It really is enough.

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My Homeschool Heart

One day when I was sixteen I was standing in the hallway of my high school when I had the strong impression that God really wanted me to home school. Over 20 years later I can confirm that was Him directing my life and that of my family before I even knew why it would be so important.

When our first child came along and was ready to school I chose a Charlotte Mason style schooling. I loved the living books and good literature. I wanted to be out exploring nature with my children, doing hands on learning. It was wonderful with the three little ones we had at the time. Then number four came and it got a bit harder to get out or to lesson plan the way I needed to so I moved to more textbooks. I still did lots of good literature and tried to get out as much as possible but with a 3 month old, a two-year old, a four-year old and a 7 year old…well, you get the picture. Oh, and then I got pregnant aging, and agin, and again… Throwing an etopic in there that almost killed me after #4… rough year..

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Park day a few years ago.

We have 6 children. DD1 is 17 next week, DD2 is 14, DS1 is 12, DS2 is 10, DD3 is 8 and DD4 is 7. My hubby manages a cell of paint stores and is an ordained minister. I am mom, wife, and everything that comes with that along with an organizational junkie who works with my hubby and family in Kids Ministries at our church running the Sunday morning and Wednesday night programs.

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Field trip to a Native American Village & French Voyager Trading Post reenactment.

When Little Miss, number six, was born our oldest was 10. Our oldest son was six at the end of that year and diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. Between that and the 22Q diagnosis and apps. I was worn out and stressed. I don’t know how I would have felt with having to be on a public school schedule. Some days we had a ton of appointments or a sick baby or a boy who was melting down. If you have never seen an ODD meltdown consider yourself blessed. The first two years while we were figuring out the dietary triggers, supplements and coping methods were the worst years were VERY hard.

Homeschooling allowed us to take a break when needed, or to school on a Saturday to make up missed time on a weekday. We were doing even more structured schooling at this point because our life was so chaotic otherwise we needed it. We got school done and the kids were learning. We did some field trips and some projects to make it fun for us like processing sheep wool and learning about the fiber and lanolin. Or teaching the big girls to sew. It even allowed our oldest to take a trip to Uganda with her dad to work at an orphanage and school. It would have been very difficult to do that if she’d been in school. IMG_0239IMG_1113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Working on spelling and reading.

Little Miss has been “schooling” since birth. Therapies started at a year old when she was falling behind in every area. As I watched the therapists I realized that this was just an intense preschool. Pre-pre-school. By the time she was 3 or 4 she was using the I-pad to learn letters even though she is non-verbal. At 5 we started to work on sight-reading with flash cards. This past year we added in math with Math-U-See which has been working, slowly. It will take us a few years to get through each book, but like with everything else, we have learned that as long as there is progress, no matter how slow, it is good.

Little Miss has always sat in with us while have done history and science but this coming year will be the first year she will be officially doing work with us. I have invested in a TON of great coloring books from DK that she can color while she listens. I plan on using her communication device to have her answer questions I ask her about what we have read. She also uses it to put her memory work for Awanas in order to get credit for saying her verses. It has been a process to figure out how to best school her. One of the biggest things I have learned is that something might not be working now, so I change what we are doing if that is the case. We might come back to it later or we might try it completely different. I think marrying yourself to one way might do a disservice to you child if it isn’t working. Or to your family. Your school doesn’t need to look like everyone else. It just needs to work.

This year we are moving back closer to our original methods. We are doing more reading, more time outdoors and more project based learning and nature journaling. We start our day off with breakfast and chores, devotional time, and then the older kids work on their own while I work with the younger kids individually. Then we all work together on the subjects we can. I like doing the same history with all the kids and I just expect more out of the older kids. Same with science up until about 7th grade when the kids each start working at their own level. Throw therapy in there one afternoon a week right now, and an office afternoon at the church and a few outings for different things and you have our week. It is what I call “in flux”. We have learned to have a schedule but roll with it when it needs to change, which is a lot with a child working and doing an internship while taking drivers ed, another with a babysitting job and the 2 home school groups we belong to in town. We are busy but lately it has been a happy busy instead of appointments, surgeries and illnesses. I will take it!

If Little Miss were in public school she could be going into first or second grade this year, her birthdate is right near the cut off. We are calling her first grade though her skills are scattered K and below. Our oldest is a senior. Yikes!!! How does that happen? I would say-enjoy it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. It goes far to quickly. Every moment is precious.

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Summer School?

People often ask me if we school through the summer. I have to laugh because when you home school  even if you don’t “school” through the summer, you usually really do. The other question I get asked from non-home school parents is “What can I do with my kids to work with them through the summer?” I decided to put together a possibilities list. This is just a starting point, the sky is the limit.

Nature journal IMG_0691

Get a good quality sketch book, some nice colored pencils, sharpener and a small backpack to put it all in. Carry it everywhere. When you get a moment have them take it out and sketch what they see. It could be a plant, animal or tree, anything really. They will learn observation and improve their drawing skills all at once. Have them label each piece with the date, time and a short description of what they saw, working on neat handwriting so others can read it. Then when you are at home pull out field guides or the internet and find out what they saw. Then go back and label what they found with them. You just did art, science, research, handwriting and spelling all at once!

 

Geography ideas

Learn the states and capitols. Use the Animaniac’s song on Youtube, the States and Capitols version of Sequence or US puzzles. We did this a few years ago and the kids still remember lots if now most of them.

Get the different Ticket to Ride games and learn continents, countries and major cities.

Use the GeoBee app. to filling time riding in the car learning world geography. My kids LOVE this app. Sometimes we use it to compete against each other for highest score.

Build an egg incubator and hatch chicken eggs –

My #2 daughter did this a few years ago and it was a lot of fun. You can read about it in my set of blog posts.

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Use online resources or your library to learn something new –

Some things we have done and you could learn to do:

Crochet

Cook- Then make a cooking show video. We did this one year. The kids learned to make a script, shoot each scene and the edit. We posted a few to FB for family and friends.

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Computer Coding

Build a playhouse

Learn to process wool

Gardening

Soap making

Get a monthly subscription –

Google monthly kids subscriptions. They come in the form of crafts, science projects, magazines and all kids of crazy stuff.

My son just started doing one called EEME. He is learning about electric circuitry. He is sent a project at the beginning of each month and a link to online lesson plans. There is 1-2 hours worth of stuff to do on each project. Super cool!

Build a solar oven – This is what my kids are doing this week. Everyone is building one and we are going to test them out against each other when they are done. Before you build learn a bit about solar power and look at a few designs. Talk to the kids about heat sinks and reflective materials. We are doing this along with Apologia’s book Chemistry and Physics. It is full of great projects.

Volunteer –

Food pantries, libraries, nursing homes, churches…they all like the extra help, even if it is only for a few months. You would be surprised the skills you learn volunteering.

IMG_0232Go camping as a family –

Either go to a campground or find a family camp where there is family friendly activities. Build you family relationships. We go to Spencer Lake Christian Center’s Family Camp every year and absolutely love it. It is the least expensive vacation we have found that offers so much to do.

 

If you are still at a loss –

ASK THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO LEARN. In the summer when I have more time I let them tell me what they are interested in. They usually come up with some of the best ideas.

When all else fails, Pintrest. I typed in homeschooling just to see what it brought up. You could do this on your own, make a folder of ideas you are interested in and then let the kids pick from that.  There were all kinds of great ideas! I might try some new ones.

 

 

 

 

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18 Days of Christmas…

So, we made it through about 18 days of Advent for Christmas before life started flying by so fast I gave up and was just drug along by the flow. In those days we went looking for a bell-ringer to bring hot cocoa to and found no bell ringers. In fact, we had a hard time finding bells in general. Luckily I am at Hobby Lobby often enough to know that there is a bell there so that is where we ended up. Unfortunately there was no ringer.

So we improvised.

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We rung the bell. It is amazing how many more people put money in the bucket when there is someone there ringing the bell. If you want to do well for someone who will never know what you did for the be a bell-ringer next year, even if it is only for 20-30 minutes. You will feel a family for a few days with the money collected during that time.

We also went out to see Christmas lights one night.  We put together a gift and card for the mailman,  jingled someone and baked cookies. I know we did a few other things, but my mind is drawing a blank.

I am learning that we need to be deliberate. We need to not just plan opportunities, because it doesn’t always happen. We need to look for opportunities to show God’s love. Sometimes it will be a big thing that people see and are in awe but sometimes the best thing we can do is the smallest. It can be as simple as slowing down and giving someone our time, a smile or a hug.

I need to ask myself daily, “Who have you given your time to today?” Because if I haven’t given my time to anyone that day then maybe I haven’t given it to God either.

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

-Matthew 25:40

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Candy Canes & Snow Flakes: 25 Days of Christmas

Please forgive me, I am in a bit of a tired, worn out funk as I write this. My feelings may change after I have had some good sleep and down time (HA!) So I am writing from my current emotional state. No one can ever say I am not real with them.

I have decided that doing something everyday up till Christmas was a stupid idea. Sounds good but the reality of it with 6 kids while homeschooling, going to therapy, doing church stuff and everyday life, like sick people in the house…

Stupid.

Next year we may do something every Monday or Friday or what ever day until Christmas. I live in the real world and have realized it. Feel free to join me and rebel against those who make us feel like if we don’t do something this grand we are failing as a parent. God is teaching me through this. I can admit that I can’t do it all and it is freeing!

BUT… here is what we have done up to this point.

Day 6 – Family Christmas Movie. The big girls were going to be gone to a youth group Christmas movie night so we decided to do a family Christmas movie night with everyone else. We watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, which the kids groaned over at first. Then the little dog, Max, came on the scene and they were all giggling and remembered how they liked the movie:) We talked about the line afterword about how “Maybe Christmas is more than what you buy at a store” or something like that. Not a very deep a meaningful night in the way I hoped our month would look but I am learning sometimes it is the small minutes that add up to make a big difference with our kids. It is how we live our lives every day and every minute, not just during certain seasons.

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On Day 7 we made candle holders as gifts for unmentioned people who have not gotten them yet. We took simple dollar store glasses with thick bottoms and made our own decoupage out of elders glue and water, added Christmas crepe paper and …TA-DA! candle holders. We even added good smelling candles so people would open them and wonder what the heck they are:)

IMG_2768                                                                           Day 8- We covered spoons in melted chocolate and dipped them in crushed candy canes to use a coco spoons. It was a bit messy but they seemed to have fun pounding the candy canes. These will be used as gifts for many people over the next few weeks.

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Daddy was having a bit of fun:)

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It got a bit messy at times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9- We cut out paper snowflakes. The kids learned a new skill, some of the younger ones had never done this and Little Miss got practice with scissors. We will use the snowflakes to go decorate Grandpa’s apartment this weekend.

Day 10 – We gave the spoons made earlier to the kids teachers at Awana as gifts, or the kids who remembered them did. The other kids will remember them next week, hopefully.

Day 11 and Day 12 ended up on the same day due to life, as afore-mentioned. We made borax crystal snowflakes, which goes perfectly with the Lesson we are on in science about crystals. Happy day for a 2 for! We will see how they turn out tomorrow morning.

These will end up either decorating Grandpa’s apartment too of we will find someone else to bless them with.

Most of the crafts I post are found easily on Pintrest. One day I’ll learn how to post one of those little blue “here” spots for you.

 

Tonight, for Day 12 we are having another family Christmas movie night because a few are sick here and we need the down time. Actually, I’d like a week of down time but I don’t think that is in the mommy contract.

 

I will be honest, the best thing that happened this week was unplanned. While out with our Sweat Pea I had the opportunity to pray with/for someone. It was totally unplanned, spur of the moment. Someone we ran into was having a rough day. It was not a long beautiful prayer but she was so thankful. THAT is something worth doing.

 

Lego scene for the night. We don’t do Santa here, except in Lego.

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25 Days of Christmas

So, life is busy, especially when you are doing extra activities, so here is an update.

Some days have gone better than others. Some nights I thought, “Why am I doing this?” or “God, you need to make them get what You want them to get out of this because I’m not so sure they are getting anything tonight.”

Why, you ask?

Night 2 was good. Hubby was gone, we had been really busy, so we did something simple.

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We strung popcorn for the Christmas tree. How is that covered under what I said we were doing for the season? Sanity. It only took until Day 2 to realize we were going to need to have some days where we just did something at home that was simple because we have a full-time life!IMG_2707

And this was good. It taught the kids to enjoy each others company, me to not free out at the mess so they could and they cleaned ALL the popcorn up that was spilt and crumbled over the floor with out me asking:) Happy Day.

 

Day 3 was harder on some of the kids. It was Bake Treats For J & Z.IMG_2731

Buddy & Z have food allergies. Most days they see us eat goodies and they eat a snack so I thought we could all do something for them and bake 2-3 goodies for the month of sweets we are in.

Yea. The looks on some of the kids faces said it all. “You want me to spend my afternoon baking something I won’t eat? For them?”

 

IMG_2732                                                                               It wasn’t the fail I thought it was going to be though. After a heart to heart with those two kids one accepted the way things are and the other flat-out repented of the attitude. Score! There was growth, and this is what I wanted. I forgot that not all growth is nice, clean or painless. It was a bit of a reminder for me.

 

 

Day 4 was Angel Tree. Our church has a tree we can pick names off of. we buy gifts for a child whose parent is incarcerated and can’t buy for the child themselves. The child is given the gift from the parent, not us. I shared the name and age of our child and that he wanted art supplies and we went on a trip to Hobby Lobby and picked out what  we think we would want if we were a 4-year-old boy.

Then the next morning my Z decided we should pray for him and his family. Score again!

Day 5 was for us as much as it was for the recipient. We have a family that we know and really enjoy. Their daughter, who is a friend of my daughters is in a Christian ballet company and they were putting on a performance of  “His Gift”. We took the family and my parents to see it and support her.

It was AMAZING!

If you ever get the chance to go I strongly recommend it. The dancing was professional, the costumes beautiful and modest and the story told by the performance…breathtaking. I think it will be a yearly tradition.

So, what do I hope you take from this post?

1. Be flexible with your Advent. I haven’t been filling each activity in until the day we are doing it just in case life happens.

2. They might not “get” it right away but if you keep your cool and talk about why you are doing what you are doing they will understand it and learn to enjoy it much faster than if you don’t try. Sometime it takes more than others but the only way to learn is to have the opportunity.

3. It is ok to do some fun things that might just build family relations. I mean, if your family relations aren’t good what is the point?

And of course, I have to share another scene from the Lego village being built in our basement to close this our, so here it is.

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25 Days of Christmas

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Day 1: Pray

Day 1 :

Tonight we turned over the first number on our Advent calendar to read the word pray.

Prayer had to be day 1. I want this Advent to be Christ led, Christ inspired and Christ centered.

I want us to go into this month with introspection into our own lives and motives.

I want us to spend the month focusing on who God is and how He loves everyone.       (John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.)

I want to come out of this month with a stronger desire to serve Him and the people He created. I want us to be more Christ-like.

I will admit, I wasn’t sure how the kids would react. They know what this month is about for us but they are also expecting some fun stuff to do for others. I’m not saying that prayer isn’t something we enjoy, but for some of the kids they are still developing their prayer life. What if this bombed? I was so concerned that I prayed about it this morning while they were all still sleeping.

I shouldn’t have been worried. We let the youngest flip the first number and we read it. They gathered around and we prayed for all the people we will come into contact with this month. We prayed for ourselves and that we would emulate Christ. I think one kid may have even prayed for good sleep?

Then we shared how we each made our decision to follow Jesus and asked each other questions about their faith. It was fun and we learned some new things about each other. It is funny how you can live in a house with 6 little someones their whole life and still learn new things about them if you take the time to listen.

Day 1:Pray=success

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And as a bonus Sweet Pea started her annual Lego winter scene. I will share a bit more of her creation each Advent post:)

 

 

 

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