Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to School

Today was our first day back to “school.” So, what does that mean for homeschooled children that go to “school” year-round? Well, it means that my kids happily plunged into their new materials that have been sitting on the shelf waiting for them for the past few weeks. We still have a few loose ends to tie up from last year, but for the most part, everyone is moving forward with new materials.

With a new school year comes an updated family schedule. I wish I could tell you that wake up every morning, fly by the seat of our pants, and everything is magically completed at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that just isn’t so. I try every so often to work without a schedule, and find that we just don’t get as much done. So, the schedule is updated and perfected each year to reflect our needs. Again, we structure our time, not our content, still giving us quite a bit of flexibility with our day.

We have also updated our chore chart. The kids were getting tired of completing the same old chores each day, so to mix it up, we decided that we’d change chores every six months or so, so that everyone got a chance at the different chores.

In order to help us remember what we would like to get accomplished each day, the kids have a daily work chart.

If you can’t tell, I am a visual person, so the charts help me to know what we still have left to accomplish each day. I have each chart in a page protector on the refrigerator so the kids can mark off each item when they complete them, with a dry erase marker.

I am working to get a listing of each of their curricula and will post it as soon as I have it complied.

Here’s to a great “school year”!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tackle It Tuesday - Homeschool Papers

For me, I never know exactly what I should save of the kids' "school work." I am one of those who could save every scrap of paper the kids ever scribbled on. Because I know that about myself, rather than fight the urge, I have come up with a mini-compromise...organization.

For school work, I comb bind the kids' papers each year for each subject. Well, actually it has been several years since I have taken the time to get the comb binder out, so that was my challenge for today. I organized each child's work according to subject and year, and then put it all in chronological order.

Putting everything in chronological order is the most time consuming. The kids place their completed work on the right side of their folder, saving the left side for unfinished work. I had multiple folders to go though for my older two, spread over several years, which made for a fun game of hide and seek.

The comb binding is a synch, and takes hardly any time at all. I got my comb binder as a gift one year, and have gotten quite a bit of use out of it. I would highly recommend one for any homeschooling family. It comes in particularly handy for binding handwritten or typed stories that the kids have illustrated.

After my comb binding, I organized all of the kids' completed workbooks and placed them in a box. Not too difficult. I would like to upgrade to a Rubbermaid container at some point, but for now a moving box works just fine.

Next I tackled the unused curricula. It all fit in one moving box as well. I took out the supplies we'll need for next year and organized all of the books by subject. I will have to get the box back down at the end of this "school year" so I can put away this year's books, but they should all fit nicely.

So I feel I accomplished something today. I went from having several boxes of loose papers on the floor of my closet to having comb bound "books" by subject, date, and child. And the three boxes will take up considerably less space in my closet.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Child Safety Seat Laws

Today I did some research on child safety seat laws after talking with a friend about car seats. I thought I knew the child safety seat laws for the state of Florida, but after our discussion, I realized that we had different ideas on the actual "law" in Florida.

I was surprised to find out just how diverse the child safety seat laws are across the country. One state might require a child to be in a booster seat until they are 8 years old AND 80 lbs., while another might only require that a child is in a car seat until age 3.

I am disappointed that Florida has some of the least stringent laws regarding child safety seats in the country. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website, in Florida a child 3 years and younger must be in a child restraint, and children 4-5 years old are permitted to wear adult safety belt. With that said, technically none of my children are required to be in a safety seat of any sort. I'm not good with that. My youngest is 4, but is only 35 lbs, and my 7 year old is only 42 lbs. I do not feel that either one of them should be riding in a vehicle without some sort of child safety seat. In the case of my 4 year old, he is currently in a traditional car seat, while my 7 year old is in a high-back booster seat. To be honest, my 10.5 year old just stopped using a backless booster seat last year, and is about 65 lbs.

I tend to lean on the side of caution and safety, and prefer the guidelines set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA advises parents of four steps to help protect their children while riding in a vehicle.

1. Infants - from birth to at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

2. Toddlers - Age 1 & 20 lbs to Age 4 & 40 lbs When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).

3. Children - from about age 4 to at least age 8 Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall).

4. Tweens - age 8 and older When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).

I would encourage everyone to find out the child restraint laws in their state. If the laws in your state seem a bit lax, you may want to adopt the guidelines set forth by the NHTSA. Sometimes meeting the minimum standard just isn't enough when it comes to the safety of our children.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fieldtrip to the Battleship USS Alabama

This month's Co-op fieldtrip was an adventure to Mobile to see the USS Alabama battleship and the USS Drum submarine. Since Hubby is a US Navy sailor, our family knows a thing or two about ships, but they were all young (or not born) the last time we toured a naval ship.

The USS Alabama is a decommissioned WWII battleship that was purchased with donations collected by Alabama school children in 1964 after they learned that the ship was to be scrapped. On January 9, 1965, the USS Alabama was opened to the public, and was later joined by the USS Drum on July 4, 1969.

The kids had a wonderful time. Some of the younger children were a bit hesitant to go down the first few ladder wells, but by the end of the tour, most of them were handling them like pros. My younger two, on the other hand, did not care for the ladder well at all, so I had to carry Jensen down all of the ladder wells, while Jolie walked down directly behind me so I could catch her if she fell.

It was fun to see how sailors lived during WWII. Many things were different about their "ship life," but there were many more that were very similar to way sailors live on ships today.

Here are a few photos from our adventure. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

King Arthur's Sour Cream Muffins

One of my favorite holiday gifts of 2009 was the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook that Hubby got me. We've sampled quite a few of the recipes, and have loved every one. Our favorite recipe thus far has been the Sour Cream Muffins.

Sour Cream Muffins

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries or diced stone fruits
Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the bowl to ensure the butter is fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients on low speed and mix just until the batter is smooth. Gently fold in the fruit. Refrigerate the batter at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin or line with papers. Scoop the batter by the 1/4-cupful into the prepared muffin pan. Bake the muffins until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 22 to 26 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

We have tried both chopped, frozen red raspberries and chopped, frozen strawberries as add-ins on different occasions. The photos above are the strawberry version. I also have substituted low fat yogurt for the sour cream on both occasions. I don't always have sour cream on hand, but usually do have plain yogurt and have found that the plain yogurt still gives a recipe a similar bite as the sour cream, but without all of the fat and calories.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Room For Everyone

This is the scene at our house most nights.

I'm not sure why we even have another bedroom for the kids. My vote is to buy a king size bed for the kids and the puppy, and turn the other bedroom into an office/guest room. Not really, but the thought does cross my mind from time to time.
Aren't they cute?

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Year, New Blog Layout

Out with the old, and in with the new.

I thought it was about time to give this old blog a bit of a face lift...and hopefully with the face lift will come some more frequent blogs.

I did some searching on how to create my own blog background and found that digital scrapbooking materials do the job well. I found several sites, but liked the materials offered at ShabbyPrincess the best. ShabbyPrincess has some great scrapbooking collections that they offer as free downloads for personal use (even for use on personal, NON-commercial, blogs - check out their Terms). PowerPoint 2007 worked wonders for creating my background and made saving it as a .jpeg a breeze (just be cautious because not all of the older versions of PowerPoint have that nifty ability). I uploaded the background .jpeg and header .jpeg to PhotoBucket (but, again, I'm sure another site, such as Picasa, would have worked as well). A little fiddling with Blogger and I was done.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

If you get a chance, jump on over and check out Jolie's new blog background. She, too, is hoping to get some new blogs posted in the near future. She has already begun writing a new story to post.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pickles on Their Eyes

One of my children, who shall remain anonymous, asked the other day why people put pickles on their eyes. I explained that it was cucumbers that people sometimes put on their eyes, and it was to relieve puffiness. I was then corrected that cucumbers are made into pickles, so technically they were pickles. Rather than argue, I just smiled.

So, here are my little ones with pickles on their eyes...

I Think I Can, I Think I Can...

In less than a month I will be running the Pensacola Double Bridge Run. As the title suggests, it is a 15K run over the two bridges from Pensacola, through Gulf Breeze, and onto Pensacola Beach.

I consider myself to be a fit person, exercising quite regularly. I run, bike, hike, kayak, walk. I even participated in a 5 hour Adventure Race with my hubby last year. But I have yet to run 9.3 miles in one stretch.

I'm working my booty off (literally) in preparation for this race. Hubby and I ran 61 minutes on Sunday (he's running the race too). I'm trying to keep up with Dad, who ran over an hour as well on Sunday. He'll also be joining us for the race.

I'm looking forward to the continued challenge of extending my runs and ultimately running the 15K race. A first place (or any place) ribbon are not on my agenda. I'm just looking forward to the challenge and finishing the race. I'd love to work myself up to a half marathon in the next few years...but let's focus on one challenge at a time.

Hubby and I also planned out our two Adventure Races for the year. We're looking at one in June and one in September. I truly enjoy spending time with him preparing for and participating in these races. Woohoo for marrying your best friend! Let the good times continue to roll.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Goals

With a new year come new goals. January 1st always feels like an opportunity at a fresh start. I used to have New Year’s “resolutions,” but like many, found that they were in some cases too lofty to actually achieve, or became tedious after a few months. Instead of “resolutions,” I like the idea of “goals.” Goals give me something to strive for, and if for some reason I find them to be too overwhelming, I have the opportunity to alter them as needed.

After reading about The Happy Housewife’s goals, I decided to break my goals down into categories, that way I can work on multiple areas of my life this year.

My 2010 Goals

Purge the house – work on one room each month (clean from top to bottom)
Hold two garage sales (spring/fall)
Reevaluate filing system – purge unneeded items; possibly scan others to disk

Stay active – make exercising a priority (30+ minutes 5+ days/week)
Complete two or more running/adventure races
Complete the Detox Strategy or similar detox program
Try an Elimination and/or Rotation diet

Do not add pay increase to budget – save part of the increase (to fund fall vacation), pay down Jeep with the rest
Check budget weekly to monitor spending

Increase time spent reading to kids
Work more one-on-one with each child
Schedule kids’ learning time around their individual clocks (Jolie early morning, Jensen midday, Jake early evening)
Plan and order new materials in the spring to avoid rush

Have some fun – go on a monthly date night with Hubby (rock climbing, kayaking, biking, etc.)
Try hard to stick to my schedule – I know I work best with a schedule, and need to stick to it
Get out in the garden daily (if the weather allows)
Decrease computer time
Read more books that are outside my comfort zone (political, economic, etc.)