The purpose of this blog is to capture some of the high lights and low lights of just normal day to day life. Our life is loud, busy, and fast, but we love it!


Our Homeschooling far!

Since we started homeschooling, when Chiara came out of the womb when Chiara turned 3, there have been many trials and errors, happy days and days where I wanted to quit it ALL, different curriculum, lots of pencils, and major changes to the look (and location!) of our school "room".  I thought it would be beneficial to write out information for those who have been asking and for myself to look back on.   I have taken some photos from my home and I will provide links as best as possible. Many of the free printables I use also come from Pinterest so feel free to follow my school board and of course call and email me if you can't find something I wrote about here.

This is by far the best I have been organized!  I have been able to be a little lax in this area until recently.  I am teaching 4th grade, 2nd grade, Kindergarten, and managing a curious, smart, and "I want to do everything my sisters do" 2 year old.  I had to rein things in to be able to function each day.  My biggest helper has been Confessions of a Homeschooler!  I highly recommend watching her school room tour videos.  Now, my budget is not as big as hers, but I made things work for us, our budget, and our space.  I am a HUGE fan of the workbox system that she uses, but had to fit it into our space.  I use a hanging folder system with colored file folders.  All the folders are labeled with the subjects the girls are working on.  

What makes this work so great is that it has eliminated the questions, "Am I done with school?", "What do I have left to do today?"  I place the folders in the order that I choose for the day-I try to place them in a way that I am not overlapping my time direct teaching and anything we do all together is placed first.  The order is somewhat consistent, but our subjects can vary from day to day.
The girls grab the folder in front and work-or they have lesson before they work-when the work is complete it goes back in the folder and is placed in a file basket so that I can take it, grade it, and get is back to them.  It really does work that smoothly. 

For two years I have used a weekly planner from Donna Young's website. I love the 2-Page Weekly planner.  It uses excel, so I can edit subject names, extend the format for as many weeks as I want (just copying and adding new worksheets), and make changes as needed.  For instance, if someone gets sick, we have unexpected "life" stuff happen then I can go in and move, copy, paste, and make it work without a big to-do.  I work in 6 week increments.  Last year we worked for 6 weeks and then took a week off.  It worked really well.  I would schedule playdates, doctor's visits, etc on our week off.  This year I stretched it out to 7 weeks on, but we started a little later and I wanted to get in our groove.  Of course I plan for birthdays off and make sure to note field trips and such from our family calendar (thank you Google!!!) to make changes to the days coming as needed.

So, the plan sits in front of their "work folders" and they can check what their assignment is and then mark off that they completed it.  I usually print two of their weekly plans because I have a binder that I store my copy in to refer to what I am teaching and if I need to make a quiz or worksheet up.

Two other organizational items are the supply caddy and the "stickered" work area.  Both ideas are modified from 'confessions' and I am not sure I how lived without them before.  I got my carousel organizer at Micheal's for 40% off and it is larger than the one she has...good and bad.  We had to make room for it and bring in some trays. I like the big desk space we have now, but look forward to a large table area when all the girls are a bit bigger.  The girls love to sticker their completed work and place it in the basket.  From the basket I file it into their folders and then we will go through the work and put it in a 1 inch binder that contains all important work for the year. Yes, it is limited to a 1 inch binder-otherwise we would save everything!

Here is our awesome Ikea shelf and other organizational bins.  This was a lot of work for me this summer, because I did a lot of re-purposing of containers and bins.  Just last week I finally finished the Ikea shelf the way I wanted it.  I need to be able to find things easily since I do have a lot of school stuff.  I am just using show boxes to organize the subject areas-this is great because everything stands up now and I keep their work folders in their if they are not being used.  When I am planning I can take the entire box out and prep!

My last bit on organization has nothing really to do with school.  Meals.  When I had two little girls running around I was so good at planning meals, then I just got into the habit of having ingredients in the house, but not a plan.  Then I finally got to planning a week of dinners at a time.  NOW, I plan the entire month's meals (yup- breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner!).  It has helped with arguments over what to eat for breakfast and stress for me after a long day and not knowing what to make.  You may alreay be great at this so I will keep it short.  I use Confessions Meal Calendar each month and edit for our family.  I do one huge shopping for meat and such, then I am making a weekly plan for which fresh veggies and fruit to have on hand.  This is my second month doing it and I can say it takes a lot of work upfront to plan, but then you are set for the month!!!
Curriculum/What We Use
I have been using BJU since Chiara was using 1st Grade material.   I enjoyed using it for 1st - 2nd Grade, but by the third grade I was finding it to be exhausting and lacking in the critical thinking I wanted Chiara to do.  I am going to continue to use it for the girls 1st - 2nd grade because the phonics and beginning math is fantastic!  I highly recommend that....from 3rd grade on I would suggest picking and choosing what works for you and your children.  I do like the spelling and both girls are using that.  I also use (in conjunction with other materials) the Heritage Studies (Social Studies/History/Geography) and Science.  I have been very blessed by a dear friend and fellow homeschooler who has gifted us the teachers editions for BJU so we will continue to use pieces from it as long as we have those.

Here is why I changed from using 1 set curriculum to picking and choosing....I have more than one kid.  I just do not have the time to teach like I did in the public school....and really, I do not want to.  I hate readers-I want Chiara in books...novels...great pieces of work!  I want them to be able to think beyond filling in a bubble.

So, for this year this is what it looks like:

Chiara, 4th Grade:
Spelling: BJU & Word Roots by The Critical Thinking Company
Bible: Grapevine Studies- we are starting this in the new year after a test drive in November
Reading: Literature Studies; Reading Detective by The Critical Thinking Company
    *Check out her lapbook for Charlotte's Web much fun and great learning!!
Writing: Excellence in Writing (I borrowed the DVD's from a HS friend 2 years ago)
Grammar/English: Editor in Chief by The Critical Thinking Company
Handwriting: I found free printables of cursive words, sentences, and paragraphs. She also has to write final drafts in cursive for writing
Math: Teaching Textbooks (I hated to give up teaching math, but I had to- Mayah will start this next year. We have learned it is about 1 yr behind where BJU is so Chiara works on the level 5 cd's.
Science- BJU and Unit Studies (we are working on Butterfly's right now)
History- BJU and Learn Our History videos; I am also incorporating national symbols into this

Mayah, 2nd Grade:
Spelling: BJU
Bible: same as Chiara
Reading: BJU
Writing/English: BJU - Mayah needed the basics of sentence structure before using Excellence in Writing, she was just getting too frustrated
Handwriting: Workbook pages that I copy
Math: BJU
Science and History are the same as Chiara

Leah, Kindergarten/1st:
Starfall (only $36 for the year-great investment. Emma uses it too!!!)
Leah starts work folders after her 5th birthday....a deal I worked out with her.  She will be doing some handwriting practice, using Starfall and Sheppard Software.  (Mayah has used Sheppard as well for Lang Arts games and Science; Chiara for math and science games!)
Leah also does some work with unit studies (e.g. Butterfly) and we have a couple other supplemental books about Nursery Rhymes and Folk/Fairytales that we do all together. Fun for the older 2 and learning for Leah.


I just came across this FREE curriculum that I am checking out.  It is all on the computer, utilizes Starfall and may work to start Leah out with a set schedule.  We will see. 
**I will be starting Chiara and Mayah on the Typing link she has!!  

Everyday the girls have a Daily Notebook that I got from Confessions.  It is great for calendar work, number sense, temperature, and handwriting! I like that Chiara's is in cursive, Mayah's in print, and Leah's tracing.  

Free Stuff

I subscribe to a couple HS emails that have already provided some awesome Free Kindle Books, printables, etc!

Other Important Notes

-We are members of a HS group in Chandler!  Field trips and hanging out.
-I have a mentor "veteran" HS friend....she is my go-to when I need help and advice. She is a blessing to me, my girls, and my HS journey!
- My oldest two girls go to a HS program at a school in Ahwatukee once/week.  They get science, art, music, PE, and love it!  ME TOO!   Leah starts next year.  The older two also take a Spanish class offered to HS kids. They also do American Heritage Girls, swim lessons (all 4) and a weekly church program.
-I still make time for ME-I work out at least 4 time a week and run my photography business.
-The girls all have chores; I use and love Accountable Kids (like everything else, I make it work for us)
-We homeschool year round and take breaks when we need/want to. 
-I need to make time to get ready for the next before it gets here!  I like to set up their work folders after school is done, if possible, otherwise I do it before they get up.  It just makes things run smoothly.

I truly love homeschooling, but I will be the first to say it is a lot of work and sacrifices have to be made.  I do however believe that my girls are getting the best education they can get and this is exactly where we should be.  I understand and accept that this is a work in progress...that this, like everything else, changes as we change.


The Start of Our Butterfly Unit

The girls and I have been so excited to do this science unit.  I was geeked to find a free lapbook to guide us along our journey! Check out this Butterfly Lapbook for building your own unit.

Today we just talked about the symmetry of butterflies.  Just a little paint makes for happy kids!  Even Emma got in on it.  

We ordered our catterpillars and I am expecting them this week.  In a week we head to Butterfly Wonderland to experience and observe the real deal!


Friends, cooler weather, and a creek!

A couple weeks ago the girls and I made a day trip up to Prescott to see our friends who moved up there back in May.  It was so great to sit OUTSIDE and talk with Lisa.  I have missed her living only 10 minutes away, but it is so awesome to see what God is doing in her life and the lives of her family!  I love her kiddos and even her dog Chica!  The girls had a blast and the kids just played and played....we rarely saw them!  Connor, the oldest, asked if we would please stay the night.  I could just squeeze that kid!!!  We can't wait to go back!

 Mayah and MJ are best buds!  They get along so well.

 Emma enjoying going outside...and inside...and outside...and inside!
 Our walk to the creek down the street from their house.  Caught Chiara and Connor holding hands.  Adorable.  Good friends!!!

 Lisa and Emma...she wanted to be in the creek like everyone else, but was still a bit small to be on her own out in it.

 Leah heading in...she ended up completely submersed and soaked.  She was not happy.

 Apparently, Chiara did not went to wet her shorts. 

 Now this is homeschooling at it's best!!!  I love how they were exploring. 

 Love this photo!

 Leah is photo bombing!

 Gianna!  This cutie loves princesses and getting down and dirty with the boys!  She rocks!

 All the kids

 Gianna found this little guy.  Mayah was lovin' it!

The girls love Chica.  They took turns walking her home.  

Love time with friends.  Love going through life with someone who gets where you are at.  Can't wait to head up north again and do it all over again....ok, maybe minus the creek!

First Day of School 2013

Our first day of school came and went without a lot of excitement I must say.  Maybe it was because we never really took off the summer.  Maybe it was because we just got back from a crazy weekend in California.  Maybe it was because David was still away.  Not sure the reason, but things were just not the same this year.  

I made a bunch of changes- a huge thanks to the website Confessions of a Homeschooler - for her awesome organization ideas and other great things that I have worked into our home school.  I adapt her ideas to work for our budget and our needs. One of them is the Daily Notebook.  I think it is a great way to start the day and get focused. Along with handwriting, calendar, and weather work.  

The girls enjoy doing it. 

I am hoping to get some new photos of how much things have changed in the 5 weeks since we started.  Always fine tuning!