Category Archives: homeschooling

Letters to Santa’s heart

Yesterday while waiting on breakfast, see November 27, 2016, my kids had decided to write letters to Santa. I didn’t tell them that Santa had already finished his shopping here and I was a little curious to see what they would write.

They got out some scrap paper, their school boxes, and the crayons. Everyone began working on their letters and they started out quietly but got more excited as they smelled the Monkey Bread. When the timer went off that signaled the kids to clear the table and get ready to eat. They brought their letters and left them on the kitchen island. As they ate I opened the letters and was pleasantly surprised. I think my heart was doing a happy dance and probably still is.

I expected to find endless lists of things they wanted. The boys have been into dinosaurs for so long that roaring, growling, and walking like dinosaurs is second nature to them. The girls of course see an occasional commercial when Grandpa has the TV on and they have expressed interests in the latest dolls, shoes, or whatever new toys are advertised. My 14 year old is into Star Wars, robots, and anything his younger brothers are playing with.

The first one I opened was from two of the kids and goes:

For Santa: 

I love you Santa

You are a good man

Your handsome

I love you Santa. The end.

It also had a picture of a colorful igloo on the back side of it.

The second letter I opened was from two more of the kids and goes:

Merry Christmas  

To: Mrs. Claws

North Pole

We love you Mrs. Claws. 

There were lots of colorful drawings of hearts and stars on this one. Also a drawing of the kids all holding hands and with happy faces. That in itself says a lot to my heart and makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I am doing something right.

These touched me as my kids didn’t ask for anything. Instead they were showing their love and appreciation in more ways than one. The older girls had each helped one of the younger boys without being asked. I can see that they are learning so much and it makes me happy.

Yes, I know the spelling and punctuation need some work but that will come with time. Homeschooling is such a blessing as you can teach them so much more than just reading and writing. I can see so much progress in so many areas and I thank God for allowing me this opportunity.

While they thought they were writing letters to Santa, they were actually writing letters straight to Santa’s heart.

My kids used scrap paper but here are a couple of free printables that I found:

http://www.katesmithdesigns.com/blog/?tag=santa-letter-to-colour-in

http://eventstocelebrate.net/2013/11/letter-to-santa-free-printable/

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Christmas (12/25)

I will try my best to keep updating this post with resources that we have found and used. I will also try to post any lesson plans and/or activities that we do as well.

Celebrate Jesus! at Christmas: For Advent Through Epiphany (This book has a lot of really good reviews. I haven’t had a chance to look through it yet. They also have one for Easter as well.)

Santa Who? (This book has some wonderful illustrations and helps teach children about how Santa came to be a symbol of Christmas.)

All of these books and resources were found on Amazon and I ordered the used books. Some of them were discards from libraries and one of them has a few scribbles in it but they were well worth the money I paid. You can probably find them new on Amazon or at your local bookstore.

Crafts and Activities: (These links will take you to other sites.)

Pinterest

PRESENT FOR YOU

DIY Paper Christmas Tree Gift Topper Tutorial-Video

RED CARDINAL HANDPRINT CRAFT

How To Create Swedish Advent Stars Using Recycled Book Pages

FREE CHRISTMAS COUNTING PACK

Popsicle snowflake crafts

Egg carton snow man craft

Christmas Classics

Foods/Snacks:

Santa Pancakes

Videos:

Welcome to the What’s in the Bible? Video Archive

November 27, 2016

Shhhh! It’s a little before 7:00 am and the kids are still sleeping! This is a rare occurrence here at my house. I plan on surprising the littles with one of their favorite breakfasts, Monkey Bread.

Well, the quiet didn’t last long as Mr. W started calling from his room which is right off the kitchen. He needed to go to the bathroom and said he was cold. Upon further inspection I found that he had put his clothes hamper over top of the heater vent. Silly boy! We fixed the problem and he is now snug as a bug.

Of course, when he went to the bathroom he told everyone else that Mommy was awake and that the kitchen light was on. (We have a rule that everyone stays in their room, with the exception of going potty, and plays quietly until the kitchen light comes on. I almost always have it on by 7:00.) One by one I heard littles making their way to the kitchen to inquire about breakfast.

They will usually ask what day it is as we have the same things for breakfast during the week. When I said it was Sunday my youngest (3) started the guessing game. He saw the butter and the brown sugar and guessed oatmeal. When I said ,’No’, he grabbed a stool to better inspect the ingredients. When he spotted the biscuits his little face lit up with a huge smile. He screamed,’Monkey Bread’, and got down to announce it everyone.

He came back in to help with assembling this tasty treat. The kids love to whack the cans on the side of the counter. Then they love to shake the biscuit pieces in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. (I put them in a large Ziploc container with a tight fitting lid so they can shake away.) He did a crazy monkey dance while shaking the pieces and he had so much fun!

He is a very inquisitive child, actually all of my children are, and he asks questions about EVERYTHING! He asked about the pan we were using. I told him it was a bundt pan, which he pronounces button pan, and he wanted to know what else we could make in the button pan.

When I was adding the sugars to the butter he wanted to stir. So perched on his stool he carefully stirred the mixture with his fork, that he had gotten by himself, while I began to clean up the mess. He watched as I poured the syrupy mixture over the biscuit pieces.

We placed our button pan in the oven and he informed me that I should set the timer so I wouldn’t forget about it. Smart kid! He knows how distracted his Momma can get sometimes and he wants to make sure his Monkey Bread doesn’t get forgotten about.

I cherish these moments because I know how quickly they pass and become distant memories. I can remember when his big brother (now 23) would beg for Monkey Bread. He loved it, and stills does, just as much as these little guys do. Looking back I know that too often I got preoccupied with things that weren’t really as important as I felt they were at the time.

I have the unique opportunity of a ‘second chance’ of sorts. I can use my past experiences as a mother to guide me with raising the littles I have now. I remember the things we loved to do, the things we always wanted to do, and the things we probably should have done but didn’t. I have the ‘been there, done that’ experience that so many people don’t have when they first start their families.

I have also been so blessed that God has allowed me to be a stay at home mom right now. He provides for us in so many ways and He guides my path. I know one of those things I have wished I could’ve done with my older kids was to home school them. I had toyed with the idea but never followed through with it. Well, I got the little push I needed to step out and try it now and we haven’t looked back. I know this isn’t for everyone but it works for us.

God has also blessed me with many lesson from my failed marriages. Things have been really hard for us at times but He is using these hard times to teach us and to mold us into what He wants us to be. These lessons are making me a better mother, sister, and friend  everyday. I think they are also preparing me for a better relationship that may come along in the future. God is so good!

Well, there goes the timer, the kids are getting hungry, and grandpa is getting upset because he can’t hear the news over the kids. Let the day begin!

If it’s not the kids, it’s the cat….

We all know how it is to be working really intently on a project only to get distracted by something or someone. I know my kids never seem to need anything until I am working on bills, my blog, paperwork, or if I get a phone call. A phone call in itself can be a major distraction depending on the timing of it.

When we are doing our school work in the mornings I try my best to keep the distractions to a bare minimum. It never fails that someone will come in and get the kids stirred up or the cat will sneak in and start tickling someone’s feet. Maybe the phone will ring and the kids will take it as a signal to go crazy.

I try to handle important calls and paperwork during nap time when things are generally a bit quieter and calmer here. Sometimes I get side tracked with one of the million other things on my To-Do list. Sometimes I get into a conversation with a friend via text or messenger. Sometimes I start checking emails or log onto my Facebook for a quick peek and one thing leads to another and I end up accomplishing nothing. These are all distractions.

While many distractions could be avoided and sometimes they can cause us to waste precious time, they are not always a bad thing.

On occasion I have been really busy and working really hard on something when one of the kids comes up just to say ‘I love you’. Of course, they usually want something when they do this but I never get tired of hearing those three words. It reminds me that I do need breaks and they need attention and hugs, lots of hugs.

Sometimes I sneak to my room to work on something while the kids are playing in the yard outside of my window. Maybe I get caught up just watching them play and wondering how they have grown up so fast. Then I’ll notice that someone’s pants are a little short and decide to check for sales. Or I’ll remember that someone else needed something so I’ll try to look into that.

If it’s not the kids, it’s the cat. I’ll get all comfy and situated and the cat will come in. He will start by rubbing on my foot, then my leg, then he will jump on the bed. He will make his way across the nightstand to sit on my lap. If the computer happens to be in my lap then he will sit on the computer. He wants my attention.

I know its hard when you have deadlines to meet or something that is really pressing on you to get finished. It is so easy to just say, ‘No, I can’t right now.’ or ‘I’m too busy for that.’. We need to step back for a moment sometimes and ask ourselves if what we are working is really that important.

Is it gonna matter in 5 years that I didn’t get this blog post finished on time? Will it really be the end of the world if I don’t check all of my emails right now?

Occasional distractions can be a welcome relief from the stress of our often overwhelming duties and responsibilities. They can actually help our brains to relax a little and help get our creative juices flowing. Have you ever been stuck on a problem of some sort and walked away from it for a bit only to come back with fresh eyes and have a solution pop up out of nowhere? I have.

I’m not saying that we should give in to every distraction but every now and then its OK to let yourself get distracted. I usually try to keep a list of things that need to get done. My daily list is kept on my FlyHelper app. I also have a weekly and monthly list on there as well. So for the days that I am not focused and get distracted by every little thing I can refer back to the lists to keep me on track.

I also keep a file on my desk for things that need my attention. These include bills, reimbursements to file for various items, school materials to check into, appointments to make, and other things that invariably make their way into my already full lap. These are the items that I try to work on during quiet times.

My desk is situated on a kitchen wall adjacent to the playroom. The playroom is where the kids spend probably 80% or more of their time when they are in the house. This works out good for me as I can keep an eye on them while also working on important things that may need to get finished. I can do my bills, phone calls, menu planning, grocery lists, shopping lists, and even clip coupons from this one area. This may not work for everyone but it does for us. I currently have a roll top desk so I can leave my current project out on the desktop and just pull the lid closed so no one messes with it.

If I have big projects to work on I try to break them down into smaller tasks that I can work on in shorter chunks of time. Many times I am able to get them finished much quicker than anticipated but just the idea of knowing that I can get to a stopping point helps keep me focused.

For instance, one of the couches in the playroom needs replaced but I haven’t had the money or time to go shopping for a new one. The cushions had so many holes that they would leak stuffing everywhere and on anyone who sat on it. We had put a throw on the couch which didn’t stay put for very long with so many kids around. The only other solution was to make some covers for the cushions.

I knew that meant dragging out the sewing machine, the sewing box, and finding some material. Well, I found some material at a thrift store and I set it in an easily accessible place. Then the next time I was in the closet I managed to pull out the sewing machine and the sewing box and set them in a place where I could get to them easily.

One day I had a little free time so I decided just to pull the material out and get it cut to size. That went much quicker than I had expected and the kids were playing quietly with big sister so I decided to proceed with assembling everything. In less than an hour I had each of the cushions covered, fluffed, and put back on the couch. I had also vacuumed up the mess and washed the throw that had been on the couch.

Maybe you are sending out Christmas cards? Break it up into small chunks like buying the cards and stamps, gathering the addresses, signing the cards and sealing them in the envelopes, addressing the envelopes, then mailing them. Or do them in small batches.

Just remember that as life happens distractions will be an inevitable thing. Try to weed out the ones that you can and embrace the ones you can’t. Take each moment, each hour, each day in stride and stay focused on your goals. Don’t let the distractions keep you from your goals but don’t let obtaining your goals cause you to miss out on life and your family.

Our ever changing homeschool routine

Original Blog Post April 15, 2016
I just posted about the beginnings of our homeschooling journey. We have made several changes and continue to make changes as needed to keep everything running as smoothly as possible. When we first started this school year I was a bit overambitious and I was stressed.
I must thank the FlyLady for helping get my routines set up and keeping me motivated! There is also a FB group for anyone who is interested in learning more about this method. With that being said a routine is very important also. At least for our family that is. We have one child who has Down’s Syndrome and ADHD as well as some other issues and another child who has ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder).
Routine is the key to helping everyone stay on track. With a routine they know what is expected and when it is expected. We have tried various charts and methods for posting our routine. It was pretty strict at first but I have relaxed a lot since we first started. We do have a few things posted as a general outline of the day.
I have some visual learners and they really need to see it every day. Then we also have a HUGE calendar that we keep things on also. This has made a tremendous difference with my kids. We did have another schedule board posted in the kitchen. It had our morning chores and morning school activities on it. The kids would move a clothespin down to each activity and they really enjoyed it. The only problem was that occasionally we wouldn’t do something in the order it was on the chart and my one son would get really upset about it. Now its just more of a general ‘To-Do’ list that we need to complete for the morning, afternoon and evening.
I usually get up about 6:00 am and take my quick shower. I will get dressed and fix my hair. Then I head to the kitchen and try to sneak in a little ‘Mommy Time’ before the pitter-patter of little feet. I will fix my coffee and go over my daily schedule on my online calendar. I have been known to forget about a doctor’s appointment or such. I also try to look at the menu and get started on dinner if it is a crockpot meal. (Menus will be another post.) I will usually unload the dishwasher and put away the dishes that go in the top cupboards. I leave the lower cupboard items on the counter for the girls to put up when they get up.
I have been trying to keep the kids in their rooms until 7:00 am to give me a little time but sometimes the little guys find their way to the kitchen before then. I will fix breakfast and usually have it on the table when the kids make it to the kitchen. The basic morning routines for the kids include:
Wake up
Make your bed
Get dressed
Brush your hair
Go potty (I have a few who still need to be reminded of this on a pretty consistent basis.)
Eat breakfast
Brush your teeth
I keep it fairly simple and we do have a small sheet posted with pictures (for those who can’t read yet) and words to help remind them of what needs done.
After breakfast everyone helps with a quick clean up and some chores which vary day by day. We even include these on our school schedule as ‘Life Skills’ as they are learning how to care for a home. While the kids are cleaning up I get the laptops set up for school and get everyone’s work out for the day. (I have a multi-tabbed color coded folder which helps me stay organized. Each child has a different color.)I usually just open up tabs on the laptops with each assignment for the day. When they finish the assignment they leave the tab open until I come around and check.
We then have our ‘Morning Time/Circle Time’, not sure what to call it, where we go over patterns, calendar, counting, money/time, weather, bible, and whatever extra materials I have set out for the day. (Again I have a 3-ring binder with different activities organized by the day. Sometimes we get to them and sometimes we don’t. I used to stress over making sure I covered it all but now I don’t.) We sometimes include a quick workout/dance video or other activity to get the wiggles out. Then we will have a quick snack around 9:30 am. This usually takes us 15-30 minutes.
My 7 & 9 year old will sit at the kitchen island while the boys sit at the kitchen table. When everyone gets settled in to doing their work I will check the bedrooms and make sure the beds are made. (I don’t make their beds for them or do any unfinished chores but will have them go back and do it if needs done.) I also clean the back bathroom and check the second bathroom to make sure the kids have cleaned it. This usually takes 5-10 minutes tops.
I will check on the girls and see if they need help with anything and see if they need help with anything. (My high schooler works independently and she will ask for help when she needs it.) Then I will sit with the boys and we will work with our hands on activities and/or crafts. We will also go through their lessons online and watch a few YouTube videos of their choosing, lately they just want to watch dinosaur videos.
While the little boys watch a short video or two I work with my older son on his reading lessons. On good days he will get finished really quickly and then there are bad days where he says he doesn’t know any of the words. He knows that we won’t go to the next activity until he finishes his reading so I try to keep something he enjoys for last. Sometimes it is ABC mouse or Teach Your Monster to Read and other times it may be a puzzle or game.
Before lunch time we usually have our ‘Independent Work’ completed. This includes reading, language arts, and math. When everyone is finishing up they will begin cleaning up their workspaces. Each child will put their completed work into a color coded folder so Mommy can find it later and decide what to keep for their portfolio. Ideally I like to go through these once a week but right now their folders are overflowing. (This would have driven me nuts a couple of months ago but now I know I will get to it, eventually.)
After cleaning up we will get started on lunch. This is usually around 11:30 am. Sometimes I have lunch boxes prepared with leftovers from the night before or sometimes I just make lunches in the morning and put the boxes in the refrigerator for later. Most days everyone eats lunch together.
While eating lunch I will do some reading with them. (Right now we are reading from Uncle Tom’s Cabin for history.) When they are finished with lunch we have a quick clean up and everyone takes a potty break. I will start the dishwasher and check on my menu if I haven’t already put something in the crockpot for dinner.
Until just this past month everyone would go lie down for ‘Quiet Time’ after lunch. I found that they really didn’t want to finish their work after they got up and it would just drag the afternoon on and on and on. So now after lunch we just go right into our ‘Group Studies’ which are History, Science, Art, Music and PE/Health. Everyone works together on these subjects. We do a lot of lapbooks and sometimes we will look up videos for areas they are interested in. If the work is complicated I will give the little ones coloring pages or another activity to work on while the older ones do their work. This little change has been working much better for us.
After ‘Group Studies’ all of the kids have some ‘Quiet Time’. This is usually over around 2:00 pm. Then they can go outside and play or go to our playroom to play depending on the weather. We just have one rule at ‘Quiet Time’ which is ‘No Feet on the Floor!’. This gives me a chance to work on my grocery list, couponing, or entering grades and checking over our daily schedule to make sure I haven’t missed something.
Once ‘Quiet Time’ is over we will have a quick snack. I will go outside, usually with a kid or two following, and feed the pigs and check for eggs. We will also check the garden and pick any veggies that are ready or anything that we may need for dinner. We come in and wash the goodies we have found.
I will start on dinner between 4:00 – 5:00 pm. This is another thing I changed recently. I ALWAYS had dinner ready by 5:00 pm. That’s another story for another day though. Our family has had some major changes in the past couple of years and I have just had to make adjustments to help us all through it. Life happens and now dinner will be ready sometime between 5:30 – 6:30 pm. Today it was ready by 5:00 pm but that has been a rarity lately. Once 5:30 pm rolls around I will have kids complaining that they are starving and must eat so I try to have it ready close to that time.
After dinner we clean up and do some quick chores. The kids will have some quiet play or reading time and then the kids will take baths and put on PJs. They are usually in bed around 7:30 pm except for the oldest and the youngest. I will sit with the younger ones until they are sleepy and then help them to bed. My oldest will finish up her school work and I will finish up any desk work I have left for the day. I am usually exhausted and in bed by 9:00 pm. Exciting isn’t it?
Now you may notice that we do have chores a couple of times during the day. Our chores only take 5-15 minutes at a time. I have found by having a few ‘quick pickups’ spaced out through the day it keeps us from having a major mess at the end of the day. Even the little ones can help with clean ups. Not every day goes very smooth or ends with a clean house.
With a routine you need to decide what will work for your family. Don’t be too strict about it but it may also be wise not to be too relaxed either. Start simple and as things slowly. Sit down and decide what you would like to accomplish each day/week and decide what the important things are. Assign a general time to have these things completed. I have found that by breaking the day up into smaller chunks of time it really keeps me from being overwhelmed.
Remember that you can change your routine if it isn’t working. With our family what works today may not work tomorrow and may need a complete overhaul to get everyone back on track again. Don’t be afraid of change!
Good luck!

Summer Break

Original Blog Post June 6, 2016
It’s ‘Summer Break’ at our house… more like ‘Wedding Break’ as I had originally planned on schooling through the year. We took a break off to finish up big sister’s wedding and then we were scheduled to start back today. That’s not happening though as I am exhausted.
I bought ‘The Prairie Primer’ to use for the summer but I haven’t actually started it yet. It goes along with ‘The Little House on The Prairie’ series. I loved these books when I was a kid and I kind of want to pass these on to my kids.
I plan to buy some other books to go along with the studies like:
The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories
My Little House Crafts Book: 18 Projects from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Stories
My Book of Little House Paper Dolls: The Big Woods Collection
My Little House Sewing Book
There are other books and materials that I could get also but I’m just not sure how in depth I want to go with it. I guess it all depends on how interested the kids get into the study.
I think this will be fun and big sister has been recording the series on the DVR so they can watch some of them also.
For now though they have been learning about different crafts and activities and also learning some social skills. We will also continue to go to the zoo, museums (which reminds me of a really neat dinosaur exhibit I need to check in to), camping, fishing and other outings as the opportunities come up.
What plans do you have for your ‘Summer Break’?

Life

Original Blog Post April 5, 2016
As we live our lives we learn that sometimes things don’t always turn out as we planned. Things don’t stay the same and forever doesn’t always mean forever. Life is not always easy but we as long as we learn from our mistakes and keep getting back up then we will be successful.
The past few years have been hard for our family. Dealing with many issues like adoptions, births, and family members moving out of the house to start new lives. We have also made the decision to begin homeschooling our children and that in itself has had resulted in its own set of challenges but it has also been a blessing to us in so many ways.
We have many challenges in life and we just have to learn to adjust and find ways to work around them or sometimes to work with them. Today’s burden may become tomorrow’s blessing.
I am starting this blog with the hopes of helping other families, as well as my own, with some of life’s problems and disappointments. I pray that we can be a blessing to others who may be going through similar situations.
Keep checking back in with us and I’m sure that my posts will get better with time. May God bless each and everyone who reads and follows us on this journey called LIFE.

Dear Special Needs Parent

Original Blog Post on July 12, 2016
Dear Special Needs Parent, I see you in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, and at the park. I see the smiles that hide the tears. I see the tired look you try to hide. I hear the little sigh you let out when another mom talks about ‘date night’ or a milestone their child has reached. How do I see and hear all of this? I am a special needs mom, a single parent, a homeschooling mom, and so much more.
I know how hard it is to get up at the crack of dawn because your kid is already up and calling for you, even though they didn’t fall asleep until late. I know how hard it is to divide your attention between the kids, the chores, and all that has to be done. Much less finding time to do things for yourself like shower.
Honestly, I can’t remember the last ‘date night’ I’ve had or even the last time I was away from my kids for a night. (Maybe when the 3 year old was born?) I know that when you try to plan an outing it drains you because of all the things you have to be prepared for. You are exhausted by the time you get everything and everyone packed and ready.
Things that were once fun can still be fun but they are oh so exhausting now days. We have our good days when nobody has a melt down (or maybe just a couple of melt downs for the day), nobody wets the bed, and everyone eats what you made for dinner.
Then we have the bad days. The days when everything causes a meltdown, from the French Toast you make every Tuesday to keep things on a simple routine, to the thunder they thought they heard, or the little brother who is stuck on singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which was big brother’s favorite song yesterday but is irritating him today). Sigh, I know.
Then we have the really bad days were we just want to go back to bed. The days when you have done 3 loads of laundry before 6 am. When you have showered your 13 year old 4 times before 7am and stripped his room (and the bathroom) and completely disinfected and sanitized it for the 3rd day in a row. The days when he has forgotten/refuses to do anything for himself and calls you every bad name he can think of and then some that you can’t and don’t want to understand. I’ve been there. Sometimes these phases last a day or two or sometimes a week or two.
I can remember a few years ago when I had to clean my son’s room. It was a horrible mess. I grabbed rubber gloves and trash bags. I went to his room and opened the window. I filled those bags and started tossing them out the window because it was so nasty and I just couldn’t bear the thought of cleaning the stuff again just to have him repeat this scene again in a day or two. I was about 3 weeks from my due date with our 8th child. While cleaning I started throwing up because it was so bad. I ended up in the hospital for 3 days, at one point they thought I would be delivering the baby early. This was a week before Christmas and we had already planned a party for friends and family. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The party was cancelled and all last minute Christmas shopping went undone. But we made it through that and you will make it through whatever it is that you are going through right now too. (A very healthy baby boy was born 2 weeks later.)
I have my kids 24/7 with only a slight reprieve two times a week (when he feels like coming or something else doesn’t come up in his schedule) for maybe 2 hours a time (which was scheduled to be 5 hours each time but he never makes it that long). I can’t leave because something always happens. Sometimes I go to my bedroom or sit outside but the kids usually wander away and end up with me so I really have almost no ‘Me time’.
I know the brave front you put on when you are out and about. I know the fear when the kid next to you wipes their snotty nose on their hand and then goes to play with your kid. I know that if my kid catches whatever that is that life will be miserable for the next week or two. Not too mention the fact that it will eventually spread through the house and I’ll end up sick trying to tend to 6 kids by myself too. Yep, I know.
I also know that we need to be there for each other. We need to be a support system for each other. Whether by joining blogs or Facebook groups. If someone offers to help then let them. They can do dishes, wash laundry or just sit with the kids while you nap. Maybe when you the kids get comfortable you can even sneak away to do the grocery shopping by yourself.
Don’t keep trying to do it by yourself as you will just crash and burn. Trust me, I know.
If you are a friend or neighbor, maybe a parent or sibling of someone who has a special needs child please know that they do need you and they need your support. I can’t tell you how much it means just to chat for a minute on Messenger or a couple of texts when I am having a hard day. Let me tell you that I will never turn down food, especially ready to eat food. When someone shows up unexpectedly at the door with an armload of pizzas it is a wonderful feeling to know they were thinking about you.

Our Homeschooling Beginning

Original Blog Post April 14, 2016
When we first decided to start this homeschooling adventure in January of 2015 it was overwhelming! I was nervous, excited, scared, and eager to be the best I could be. I just knew that this was the best thing I could do and that I would be the perfect teacher. Well that last thought was short lived.
I thought I would plan for a couple of weeks and then pull my special needs son out of public school. He had a couple of fun outings planned and I didn’t want him to miss out as he was looking forward to them. Well one thing led to another and he had a couple of medical issues that led to him being pulled out earlier than I had anticipated. The medical issues had also prevented me from ‘planning’ out anything. So there I was with him at home and 2 toddlers too. Crazy? Yes!
So I quickly joined a couple of special needs groups on FB. Only to be criticized and put down by my apparent ignorance of his condition and lack of knowledge about his educational programs at school. (I didn’t want to go into details with them about the fact that he was recently adopted and that I really didn’t know a lot about his history. I had broke down crying at the first IEP because I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do and they had revealed a lot of things about his history that I had not been aware of. It was a completely heartbreaking experience. I also didn’t know that there were resources out there to help me through the whole process.) I was a wreck.
Then I had emails and calls from the school system and they just confused me more. I had submitted the necessary paperwork but I was constantly worried. This constant worry made me exhausted. To top it all off I couldn’t get him to ‘keep up’ with his program that we had signed up for. I was afraid that I had made a huge mistake and that I was failing him.
The FB groups had given me a little direction about online programs. I enrolled him at Kindergarten level and we got started. He was excited at first and always wanted to do ‘school work’. The problem was that he would only do the activities that he liked and he would absolutely refuse to do anything else. If I left him unattended he would be playing games or such and not doing actual work. Well in less than 2 weeks I was frustrated, he was frustrated and so was everyone else in the house.
We were spending 8+ hours/day on kindergarten work! The house was really showing it. Dinners were made but not anything to brag about in any way, shape or form. I was trying to keep a smile on my face when others asked how our homeschooling was going. Inside I felt like they were just laughing at me and saying, ‘I told you so.’.
I prayed and prayed and asked God for help. Guess what? I should’ve been more sincere in my prayers in the beginning. I was using google (my best friend) and researching more resources when I found Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. This has been such a blessing to our family and it has lifted so much stress off of me that I want to shout it out to the world. This site is also absolutely free. (There are optional materials that you can buy and you can also make donations.)
I started out using this with just my one son but then the 2 little guys joined in. Wow! Can it really be this easy? Are they really learning? Yes and yes! Once I was able to feel a little bit more comfortable with the homeschooling process I was able to let go of some of my ‘school’ mentality. This is our home, not a school, and this is where we learn but it is also where we live. In short I had felt ‘pressured’ to make our learning are look like school. Once I let go of most of that then our journey really began.
Then as the end of the school year approached I started feeling the stress creeping back up. A lot of talk about evaluations and I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to ‘prove’ what he had learned. He was 12 and working at Kindergarten level. I could see the progress he was making but would this evaluator? Who would I use that would take his special needs into consideration? A million questions and no answers. Again I turned to God and prayed that he would show me an answer. He did. In one of the new FB groups I had joined I read about Florida Unschoolers . It is a completely free private umbrella school in Florida.
Hmm… This was new. I had another million questions. What was an umbrella school? Would I qualify? Can it really be free? Will I need evaluations? What the heck is unschooling? The site will answer all of those questions and more.
There is also a FB group which has been a very valuable resource for me. I researched a bit and then enrolled my son. Shortly afterwards I pulled 2 of my other kids out of public school and enrolled them. I had planned in my head to let them finish the school year out but plans changed. One of my girls, who was in 2nd grade, was having a horrible time keeping up with her schoolwork and she was stressed out by the upcoming end of the year tests. One was in Kindergarten and she was stressing over evaluations and coming home saying she wasn’t ‘smart enough’.
There were also some bullying issues. We had also had a couple of close calls at the bus stop when people ignored the flashing lights and stop signs. They were in elementary school! The stress was causing my 2nd grader to act out and I found myself going to school several times to pick her up because of mysterious illnesses. Then I got an email from her teacher stressing how important it was for her to do her best. She needed to be reading at a higher level (3.2?) and she wasn’t there yet. That was enough for me. I withdrew them from school that week and they were private schoolers the next week.
Last summer as school preparations were being made my high schooler made the decision to become a private schooler too. Yes, we still ‘homeschool’ but technically they are enrolled with a private school. We haven’t looked back. Life is so much calmer. Yes, we have tough days, and sometimes tough weeks. We rarely have a ‘perfect homeschool’ day… actually today has been pretty close… but perfect doesn’t matter because we are learning. I say ‘we’ because I am learning too.
I am learning about my children, each individual soul, and how they learn best. We are all learning better ways to communicate and relate to others. This whole experience has brought us closer together and made our lives so much better. I am able to spend more individual time with each of them, time that teachers in a 30+ student classroom simply don’t have. I also worked with our family doctor and both of my special needs kiddos are completely off their medications. This was an unplanned benefit. With the kids at home I was able to help them learn their triggers and by setting up routines we all know what is expected and when it is expected. When there are changes we deal with them and we learn how to handle them in appropriate ways.
There are also cons to this. I NEVER get a break from my kids. Ok, I do go grocery shopping once a week, but other than that someone is usually always with me. There is a lot of planning involved, which this is mostly my own stubbornness to let completely go of ‘school’ mentality. I like to have everything planned and scheduled so I can keep track of progress. I am also a little paranoid sometimes that someone will show up at my door and ‘demand’ proof that my kids are in school and learning. I was also stressing a bit about high school transcripts. I had never done them and I had researched several sites but I was still a bit confused. I just didn’t have the time to invest in figuring it out.
That brings me to another really important resource that I have recently found. Yes, I had been praying that God would help me get this homeschool stuff more organized. I had a few different things here and there. I was working on my own spreadsheet/calendar system but I really didn’t have the time I needed to get it the way I wanted. We did use a notebook system at the beginning of this school year. It worked wonderfully except that when I had to write down everything for each child it was a lot of work. Again on FB I found an app called Homeschool Manager . This is not a free app but they did, and probably still do, offer a free trial. It took me a bit to set it up because I have so many kids. But within the first week I had signed up and paid for the membership. This site is amazing and they are constantly adding new features. They also have a FB group for support and advice.
With this app I can almost instantly print off reports for attendance and grades. I can print off schedules and the kids can check off the tasks as they do them. I enter grades into the system and it will keep track of everything. It will even print off transcripts when I need them. Well, its about lunch time for us here. I really hope this might be a helpful start for anyone considering homeschooling. I know I don’t have a lot of resources in this post but I will work on future posts that will include some resources.
I want everyone to know that I am not ‘bashing’ public school and I know that it works for some kids. (I have 3 who graduated from public school and are wonderfully, normal young people.) I am also not saying that homeschooling is the answer to every problem but this is what is best for our family at this time. I also want everyone to know that I have not been, nor do I expect to be paid, for naming any of the sites in this post. I just want to be a help for anyone out there with the same struggles that I have been through.

Take a peek into my morning

 Original Blog Post April 21, 2016
Its 9:00 am and I’m sitting on my bed feeling overwhelmed already. I was determined I would make it through the day without crying or feeling sad but that’s not the case.
Something my husband said the other day still haunts me and it saddens my heart for him, our children, and for what the future holds if he doesn’t change the path he is on. I know he says he is happy but I can’t help but feel sad when I think of how he will feel when the day comes and he realizes what he gave up on and what he missed out on.
A friend texted me this morning just to let me know they were thinking of me and that made me smile. Something that I haven’t done a lot of lately. I’ve been worried about my friend too and have been thinking of them and their problems.
I feel a bit guilty because I have not been as faithful in my praying for others the past few weeks so I will set my prayer notebook out to remind me every time I walk into my room. It doesn’t take long to take a peek at someone or something I have written down. I can focus on praying for that person or situation instead of focusing on my own problems. It will also keep me from trying to take things into my own hands and leaving them with God which is where I need to leave them.
I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted to yet and I’ve lost my focus. I’ve settled many disputes over Legos and train tracks, fixed broken toys, cleaned up spilled milk, and fed the animals (and the kids). Time to take a little break and look through my list.
Hmmm…
Wake up ✔
Quiet time/devotion X
Shower✔
Get dressed ✔
Take vitamins ✔
Make coffee✔
Empty dishwasher✔
Fix breakfast✔
Kids dressed ✔
Feed animals✔
Lots of ✔s but one big X. Maybe that’s the problem? I didn’t start out right. Yes, I had my cup of coffee and a little ‘me’ time but I didn’t really need alone time I needed some ‘we’ time. God and me time.
So I’ve snuck to my room for a couple of minutes to read my daily devotional from a book by Joyce Meyers and another from ‘Our Daily Bread’. Just what I needed. It was almost my story told by another person. It reinforces choices I made in the past that I have been questioning. The last sentence says ‘But if our loving Father has handpicked us for our task, who are we to whisper, “I can’t do this”?’. Wow. He knows what we need before we do!
Now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to tackle my next projects and get our school day started. Time to formulate my plan of action. I need to put some oil in the diffuser and turn it on… essential oils have made a big difference since taking the kids off of their medications.
There is a load of laundry that needs folded and put away. I can do that while the kids eat their snack and tidy the playroom.
The kitchen trash can needs emptied so I can give that to one of the girls to take out and hand the mail to another to carry to the mailbox.
I also need to set out some pork for dinner, maybe I should try to convert that recipe to work in the crockpot?, maybe.
After snack and chores we can do our Morning Time get started on our independent work.
The bathrooms need a quick clean which can be done while they are working and maybe I can sneak in a quick vacuuming while the boys watch a ‘Signing Times’ video? .
Ok, focus has been found. Not a whole lot of things to work on but enough to help me feel I’ve accomplished a few things. Then I will take another little break, read another passage from my notebook, and pick another person and/or situation to focus on and formulate my next ‘plan of attack’ for the day’s chores.
It’s almost snack time so I will head back to the kitchen. I can hear the kids arguing about turtles. They are trying to decide if turtles are reptiles or dinosaurs. Now I hear my special needs son calling someone a ‘Butthead’ so he will be going to his room for a little quiet time of his own.
I’m sure this will result in a tantrum with lots of yelling and screaming but it will be followed by a few minutes of quiet and then he will come out and apologize. Then he’ll give me a hug and say he wants to have a ‘Good Day’ and we will start over. (This reminds me that he still needs a haircut.) But before that I need to rescue the alligator from a ‘net’… Have I mentioned how much the kids like Animal Planet and Steve Irwin?
I’ll check back in a bit.
Snack was bananas and some chocolate graham crackers. There was denial of the name calling, followed by a tantrum. After a few minutes in his room he did ask if he could come out. (This was much sooner than anticipated because I think he really wanted his snack.) He apologized and all was well for a few minutes.
Sigh, then the girls were arguing over a word search book. Little sister said she had it first and Big sister said it was her book. Little sister brought the argument to me as she was sure she was in the right. I looked at the book and it was Big sister’s book so I explained to Little sister that she can’t take someone else’s things and claim them. Then that put Little sister is in a grumpy mood… no fun!
That being said the clothes didn’t get folded during snack time. Then when I made it back to the laundry room there were no empty baskets.
The oil diffuser did get started and the trash was carried out. Bonus: The bathrooms got cleaned and I did get the bathroom trash into the trash bag before it was carried out.
I set the pork out for dinner but haven’t had time to decide if I should try to put it in the crockpot.
Morning Time resulted in Little sister going to her bed for a little quiet time. The little boys were fighting over the alligator and the ‘net’. My other son was just LOUD about everything and he would start giggling and shouting ‘I farted!’. which would send everyone else holding their noses and shouting ‘EWWW!’. This repeated itself over and over again.
After giving up on accomplishing any more Morning Time activities I set up the laptops and got out the morning work for the kids. Everyone is now working quietly.
The girls are sitting at the island and the 4 year old is sitting with the 9 year old ‘helping’ her with her math. (Crazy thing is that he can usually get it right.) She is more motivated to get her work done when she ‘teaching’ someone else so they both benefit.
Grumpy sister is quietly doing her work after a little bit of trouble getting started. Teenage sister helped her get through a little problem she had with irregular plural nouns. She is feeling pretty motivated because I gave them a couple of coloring sheets for Earth Day and she really likes to color.
Loud brother is actually coloring quite intently. It takes a lot of concentration to keep the crayon in the lines and he is drawing the family standing on top of the earth picture. I need to go over his lessons but I think I’ll wait a bit. Then we also need to do his reading lesson… that will be so much fun! Actually he is getting much better at reading and as long as he has a fun activity to do after it he will be motivated to get it done quickly. If he isn’t motivated it will take us FOREVER!
The 2 year old has pulled out a puzzle I recently bought at the thrift store and he is working diligently on it while watching Dinosaur Train. I notice that one of the maps has been pulled partially off the wall so that’ll need fixed. Maybe I can do that before I vacuum?
It’s 11:30. Time for me to make some lunch, tuna sandwiches with some tomatoes from the garden?, and maybe fold some clothes while they eat. I will sneak in a little quiet time when I go to put away my clothes and look through my prayer notebook. I will look over my To-Do list and look at what I had planned on getting done today.
Maybe at nap time I can search online for the outfits for the boys. Oldest sister’s wedding is quickly approaching and there is still so much to do. I will at least work on my desk mess a little bit. I know there is a pile of papers that need to be filed so maybe I’ll start there. Then hopefully I can try on the outfit before I go to bed and I noticed yesterday that I need to use the lint roller on it too.
Reading over this makes me realize that sometimes I just put too much on myself. Maybe you do too? There will always be something that needs to be done. Just take it one thing at a time, do the most important things first, break big jobs into little jobs, take rest breaks, and ask for help when you need it!
I hope you enjoyed taking a little peek into my day. I know sometimes I feel like I’ve failed but then I read about the struggles of others and I know that we all have our ‘days’. Sometimes those days are actually weeks or months. Each and every person has their struggles and their own way of dealing with it. Sometimes seeing how others deal with things can help us in our journey.
OK, I gotta go now as Loud brother is now Hungry brother and keeps repeating, ‘Mom, I’m hungry.’
I hope everyone has a blessed day!
NOTE:
While making lunch I realized I didn’t have any tuna so I checked the refrigerator and I had enough lunchboxes from dinner last night to warm up for lunch.
Grumpy sister was still confused about irregular nouns so I went over the work sheet with her and it was such a blessing to watch her face when it ‘clicked’ and she finally understood. She went on to finish the worksheet on her own and got them all correct.
I heard the UPS truck at the front gate but it was gone before I got to the door. Little boys were running around being crazy so I sent them to the gate (which was closed and locked) to retrieve the package for me. I stood at the door watching my little guys and saw how much they are growing and changing on a daily basis. They retrieved the package and picked some flowers. The were so proud when they handed me the flowers and the package.
Big sister helped to clean up after she finished her work and she actually did her reading lesson with no prompting or constant reminding!
Hungry brother probably told me 20 or 30 times he was hungry before I got lunch on the table but he did eventually eat.
Take each day and cherish it. Make memories that will last. Just focus on what is really important in your life. For me right now it is my family. Sticky floors and dirty windows can wait until tomorrow.