A happy heart makes the face cheerful...Proverbs 15:13

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Its the messy, simple things...

When you have children under 3 at home, any project that would normally take 15 minutes of your time, takes closer to an hour. This happens to me the most right after dinner time. The time when I am trying to direct children in and out of showers, wash dishes and fill the dishwasher, sweep and mop the floors, wipe the counters and stove, and clean off the table. It is at times like that when your little ones do everything they can to get into everything they can while you are not looking. So, what are some good ways to keep your munchkins busy and in sight? One of my 2 year old's favorite after dinner activities is 'washing' dishes. I normally leave all the spoons and measuring cups, or add a few, for him to 'wash'.
"Ummmm, Do you know how much mess he's making?" My friend asked me while I wiped down the table. "Yep" I said in return. Her look of concern was amusing. This is a friend with children. Her response " I just can't allow my kids to make messes so freely like that". Her look deepened as I chuckled at her. (Luckily, we love each other). You know what, not only was he making a mess, he was in a continuous laughter as the water splashed and spilled. He was having a wonderful time. You know what else, I needed to clean the walls and floor anyway, right? He was playfully helping out. So what if he was getting soaked, he was about to get in the tub.
This stuff used to get to me. Why make the mess? We can play something else less messy. As my kids started to get older, I realized how petty this was.

So, I sucked it up. I piled up all the towels we used to clean up messes through out the day under the chair on the floor and one on the chair so he wouldn't slip, put a onesie on him and let him go at it. I will never forget the laughter that comes from this kind of play. Play time where my child can have some 'creative freedom' and have a blast doing it , without getting in trouble.

It wasn't until I started homeschooling them that I realized how much I enjoy them and how much I enjoy watching them grow and learn. It's so much more fun to just let them be kids. Now, there is always a time for play and a time for work. But when they can play and learn together, you have a perfect environment in my book. A child curiousity is one of the best teaching tools I have!

Let them be young!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Calender Fun

God set the cycle of the seasons and gives us
signs and seasons for days and years (Genesis 1:14)

January is always a great time to start on a new calender learning routine. This January we are doing a 'calender book' of sorts based on the poem The Months by Christina Rossetti. I got the idea for this from the magazine, Homeschooling Today, January 2008 edition. Here is the poem:

January cold desolate;

February all dripping wet

March wind ranges;

April changes;

Birds sing in tune

To the flowers of May,

And sunny June

Brings longest day;

In scorched July

The storm clouds fly

Lightning torn;

August bears corn,

September fruit;

In rough October

Earth must disrobe her;

Stars fall and shoot

In keen November;

All night is long

And cold is strong

In bleak December.

We have begun to memorize this poem. Once memorized the kids have a great understanding of the order of the months. It doesn't hurt to be able to recite poetry either. The grandparents simply adore when their grand children recite poems to them!!

There are a few different ways you can put your book together.

1) You will need 13- 12X18 sheets of construction paper. One for the cover and one for each of the twelve months. Use what ever colors you would like.Fold up the bottom of each sheet of paper to create a 12X12 square. For 12 of your pages, place the pocket at the bottom, facing you. Staple along the right edge to secure the pocket. For the 13th page, place the pocket facing away from you. This will be the cover with a pocket on the back.

2) You could also use no prong folders. You could keep these as individual folders or with each folder, you glue the back of the first folder to the front of the the next folder. You can connect them all by either punching 5 or6 holes and use sting or ribbon to tie them together. Or you could use the folders with the holes in place already and put them in a small binder. If they are all glued together you can use it with out a binder .

Since paper folders don't last well with boys, we are making the small binder. We will keep our folders individual because we will have 3 kids working together and need room for the projects we do. So, we will have a folder for each month. That will give us 2 pockets per month instead of 1. On the front cover will be the name of the month as well as the verse of the poem that describes the month. We will add pictures to the front and inside of the folder to show things we are during the month. Then put our projects in the pockets.

We also keep a calender with the binder. Each day we will go over what the day and date is. We will mark off the day as it passes. We will also mark special events such as trips, birthdays, and sports events. This gives the kids a good understanding of time, distance between days or weeks, and responsibility for commitments. If you would like to take it a step further you can have them draw a symbol for the weather for that day. For example: a sun for sunny, water drop for rain, cloud for cloudy. This can help them understand the seasons.

In my next post, I will list the projects that we will do for each month. They are all based on the poem. I will also add pictures of our January folder to give you a visual.

What are waiting for? Go get your art supplies!! :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You know you've done something right.....

As a parent, one of the best feelings in the world is witnessing your children do good things. Not just cleaning their room without being told type of good things, but sincerely good things. For me, I really emphasize on helping others. I try to express to them that one small good deed could change a persons day or could even change their life. I was able to witness this thorough one of my kids this week.

This is the 4-4 1/2 inches of snow we got. This is our patio banister.

and this is my 9 year old trying shovel the 4 1/2 inches of snow off of our driveway.

Not only did my son go out, without even being asked, to shovel our driveway, but he went across the road and did the elderly couple's drive, as well as the elderly single man that lives next to them. When I looked out the window, I nearly cried. He gets it! He has heard what I have been saying!

The elderly couple happened to pull up as he was finishing. I watched out the window as they gave him a huge hug and then the man reached in his wallet and gave him $2. After he tucked his wallet back in his pocket, he stood with his arms crossed and just keep shaking his head in disbelief. The look of shock continued as my child asked if he needed help carrying in the groceries they just brought home. The man politely decline and roughed up Logan's hair a bit, before sending him on his way.

He came running home. He was so excited that he actually got rewarded for what he had done. All in a single breath he said, "Mom, Mom, Mr. Porter gave me $2 and I didn't even do it for $2 but he gave it to me anyway!" I just reminded him that when we go out to do something that is pleasing to God he will always reward us. Then I gave him another $10 for all his labor. Another lesson of of how hard work will always be rewarded with benefits. 3 driveways, each with 4 1/2 inches of snow, he deserved it.

It is times like this when you know you have done something right.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Toad in a Hole

I don't know about you and your family, but our family could go through 6 boxes of cereal in one week if I allow it. Sometimes, without coupons, cereal can get expensive when you are buying in bulk. To try to cut back on that cost a bit, we have been trying to find some yummy breakfast meals that I can make if we are short on time in the morning. This is one of our favorite breakfast meals. Actually it's a favorite weather we are in a hurry or not. Toad in a hole. Hey to 4 boys, eating a toad sounds appetizing.

12 Slices of bread
12 Eggs
12 slices of cheese
2-3 tbls of butter
Salt to taste

Cut a hole out of the middle of a piece of bread. I normally use a small cup to cut the circle. We throw these circles on and toast them as well.

Butter your skillet(or griddle). Butter one side of your bread and bread circles. Place the butter side up on your skillet or griddle. Give the toast about 10 seconds to brown

Break the egg directly in the center. You want to cook the egg about 3-5 minutes .
Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes or to desired doneness. This is a good place to sprinkle some salt.
Add cheese. It will take about 30 seconds to melt.
Serve with fruit and juice or milk. We normally put Peanut butter between 2 of the toast circles for a mini- PB toasted s'wiches.
Remove cheese or add fancy cheese :)
Add crumbled bacon or sausage
Add chopped onions
Add chopped mushrooms(or other veggies)
Substitute regular bread for texas toast
Cost Breakdown(for 12 servings)
Butter- $.05
1 dozen eggs- $1.34( you could easily get these for $.79, just depends on the store)
12 slices whole wheat bread- $ .67 (from a loaf of 20 slices)
Cheese( 12 slices from a 16 slice package)- $1.44
Meal total $3.50, $ .29 a serving
What do you call this dish in your neck of the woods? What do you do differently?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Reverting to a Wild State

Untamed, uncultivated, undomesticated...3 words that just about describe my 3 year old. I really could have called this post "raising a feral child". Keegan is one of the sweetest, most clever, funniest, Witty, independent, charismatic kids. Those of you that know him fall in love with his impish behavior.However, that behavior can be often annoying, mostly chaotic, messy in every way, and beyond dangerous.

I keep telling myself, "He'll grow out of this". "Really he will!". Oh man, I better start praying harder!

Keegan just doesn't have days. He has an every day of every week.

This is just a portion of what I hear every day.

"Mooooommm, Keegan is painting poop on the bathroom counter"

"Mooooooomm, Keegan just peed on the carpet and on the dog"

"Mooooooomm, Keegans about to jump off the book case" ( 5 shelves high)

"Mooooommm, Keegan won't put his pants back on" (This is when he comes in yelling
("I'MMMMMMMMMMM NAKED) Always naked. I at least have him kind of wearing his underwear now.

Anyone else exhausted yet? No! Okay Ill continue.

As my mother and I were comparing prices at a store, I stopped to check on Keegan to make sure that he was still next to me and he was. Not even 10 seconds later I hear "Gramma, watch!" We turn just in time to see him do a sky dive jump off the tallest dining room table in the furniture section. As we both scolded him, he just watched us with a smirk on his face. I imagine he was thinking "That was so fun".

He also tried this at a park. He climbed to the top of the biggest tunnel slide of the park, which happens to be about 2 stories up. Instead of going down the slide he decided he was going to climb on the outside of the slide to try to go down it...walking. As I watched this, everything starts going in slow motion, I am already picturing my child fall to his death. This time, however, he stood up for a second and the slowly sat down and said down to me "Mom, I think this would break my neck". Ya think son. As I coached him to sit still, I sent his brother up to help him climb back over the rail.

You thought I was joking!

Now in most cases he asks "Mom, will this kill me or break my neck?" My response is normally "Ummm, Both, GET DOWN!"

I am not exaggerating when I say that I cannot leave him unattended for a second.

We work on school work at our desks in the basement. Occasionally, I do need to come upstairs to get some lunch going or get a drink of coffee. How he even finds the things he gets into in the 2 minutes I am away is beyond me. I think God implanted a magnet in him that attracts him to all things trouble. One of my favorites, the sharpie incident. I don't even keep sharpies in arms reach of ANY of my kids. They are one fridge or in my craft closet at the VERY top. How he got it is beyond me. All I know is, it took nearly a week to get it all removed. Sorry about the pic quality, it wont upload properly.You can still see the damage.

Oh and the paint. Can't forget about the paint. I was painting the walls downstairs. Now we were not doing school down there until I was finished painting. So, I cover the paint can and materials with a big plastic cover.While my older boys were outside playing and I thought both of my little ones were napping, I was doing my normal 'nap time' things. Reading, laundry, etc. I thought I heard something down there, but ignored it. Then I heard it again and decide to check it out. Keegan had decided to help me paint. He somehow got under all the plastic, opened the paint can and tried to pour it into the roller pan. The invisible rolling pan! Huge spot on the carpet, his foot prints from the spot, and a little blue Keegan. I think I was to angry to take pictures of that one :)

You know, with all my feral child does and all the....'excitement' he offers, he is my little man. I completely adore him and his impish ways. Despite my love for him, the 4's and 5's cannot come quick enough. Unless, of coarse, they are worse than the 3's. In that case, they can stay away!

What's your favorite story, memory, or disaster from your young children?

Frugal Manipulatives

Just like many other homeschooling families, we are doing everything we can to be frugal, but still provide the best education for our children. Luckily for me, many of frugal homeschooling moms have blogs with ideas of what they do to be thrifty with curriculum. I wanted to share one of my children's very favorite math manipulative's.
One math curriculum I really enjoy is math-u-see. It is a wonderful program, but it is a bit pricey. It uses the block manipulative's to help give the child a visual of what they are counting. Though these blocks aren't too expensive on their own, I decided to try to find things around the house
that would give the same dynamic without costing us anything additional.
FOOD! Who can't get excited about food? Now, not everything we use is edible. We sometimes use those wagon wheel noodles or dried beans. Both of which you can get for under $1.00.We also use fruit snacks, gum balls, skittles, M&M's, marshmallows, goldfish, or cheeze-its. Over Christmas we used mini candy canes. The options are unlimited.
I found that this actually really helps them to focus on their math. Especially if it is something more yummy like skittles or gum balls. They are so excited about eating that treat when they finish, that their little eyes rarely come off the page. By the way they act when you put the 'counting candy' in front of them, you would think that they never get anything yummy.
I think that our manipulative's, beat out the blocks by 100%. Blocks can be boring. However, the little ones do enjoy building them while your working with your older children.
What is your favorite frugal manipulative or curriculum?

From Head in the Clouds to Paws in the Grass

Science is one of our favorite subjects. There are so many options when it comes to science curriculum's. This year we chose to use Apologia. We are studying astronomy. With the Apologia curriculum, the focus is on one subject for the whole year. So, instead of 50 different subjects, they study one and learn it well. However, some times we do get tired of having our heads in the clouds, literally. So we took a few weeks off to do something else.

I let the boys decided between an animal project, a human body project, or 'disaster' project(earthquakes, tsunamis). At this time, we had been at the zoo about once a week. Naturally, they chose animals. I did not want them to study an animal only out of a book or off the Internet. I wanted them to be able to see and watch the animal up-close. So we visited the zoo website. L9 picked the cheetah. M6 chose the penguin. We scheduled a trip to the zoo and we were able to study both animals for quite a while. We stopped and read all the information that was available. We took tons of pictures and we brought paper and recorded their behavior as well.
As for project work, my 3rd grader completed an essay. My 1st grader took his 3 main points and we found magazine pictures to express them and glued them into a collage of sorts. They both filled out animal record sheets. You can find this sheet in the made by me section to the right. I also had my 3rd grader fill out a pre-essay paragraph set-up sheet. This is also in the made by me section.

Not long after we completed all this, I remembered that we would be having a 'zoo show' at the library for the home school program. So we took all of our pictures, mini-books, and coloring pages and made a poster.

They have really enjoyed doing their presentations for us and for their grandparents. To be honest, I think the grandparents enjoyed it more.

Sorry about the picture quality. I had to take them on my phone.

Easy, Breezy Stroganoff with price per serving breakdown

Easy, Breezy Stroganoff- With variations and price break down
I did not eat stroganoff growing up as a kid. My parents made a lot of friend pork chops and meat loaf. The old school, home style foods. It wasn't until I was in the military that I fell in love with this dish. Now, the chow hall recipes weren't the greatest. However, it was always one of my favorites. I have been making it here and there over the years, trying to make it better. This by far is my favorite recipe. Not only is it easy, but it is a inexpensive meal. I have added a meal price breakdown at the end of the recipe.
3 Tbls Butter
1 Tbls Garlic
1 Tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 Pounds Sirloin Tip( I used Top sirloin), cut into thin strips
1 sm onion chopped
8 oz mushrooms
1 16 oz container of sour cream

Cut steak into thin strips, chop onions, and rinse and dry mushrooms

Melt butter in a large sauce pan, add meat. Cook until browned. After 3-4 minutes add onions, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and garlic. Complete cooking until all meat is cooked through.

Turn heat to low. Add sour cream. Reduced fat sour cream is okay, I would not recommend using low fat. Stir and cook only to warm.

Serve over egg noddles. I like this with wide egg noodles, but we made double portion of the thin variety with yesterday's dinner. Saved me time today. I just popped them back into the strainer and ran hot water over them to serve.
-Replace steak with ground beef or chicken
-Minimize or remove mushrooms. My kids are not big on mushrooms, so I normally put in enough for me and the hubby to pick out for ourselves.
-Add less sour cream(half the container at least)
-Add a dash of worcestershire sauce
We are a family of 6. However, I normally prepare 8 servings so that I have extra for leftover frozen dinner meals or a leftover lunch. These prices reflect 8 servings.
Cost Break Down:
Butter- $.50
Salt- $.05
Pepper-$ .05
Garlic- $.10
Steak- 5.70- I used a more expensive steak(top sirloin) because it just looked better then the sirloin tip steaks they had) For the normal stuff I would have spent $2.93.
Sour Cream-$.99
Noodles- $1.19
Mushrooms: $1.00
This meal total: $9.33, $1.17 per serving. With the normal steak: $6.81 , $.85 per serving.
Pretty yummy, for a pretty penny.