Sorting Things Out

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been writing a lot of posts lately with the hopes of encouraging others. I think that’s my spiritual gift. Having said that, I obviously don’t have all the answers, and there are several things that I’m trying to sort out in my own mind. Things like Should I regulate screen time? and As a Christian, what are my thoughts on birth control? These are just two of the slightly incoherent thoughts I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around lately because, truthfully, I don’t know what I think of these things, and it really bothers me.

So, I’ve decided to start a sporadic series of posts entitled “Sorting Things Out.” My goal is to get your opinions on these, and other, matters that I just can’t seem to make a decision on. I say “sporadic” because there won’t be a set period of time for these posts. They’ll just happen randomly as a therapeutic effect to help me sort my thoughts.

If any of you have specific topics you’d like to discuss, leave a comment or email me. I’m really hoping to get a back and forth dialog going with you. I get to post my opinion here. Now I want to know what you think.

Tomorrow I plan on posting about the pros and cons of screen time. Hope to see you there!

Our Month in Pictures- February

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Kenzie never makes it into my posts, so here she is!
Kenzie never makes it into my posts, so here she is!
Summer's always a mess, isn't she?
Summer’s always a mess, isn’t she?
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Only pic in existence with us and all of our kiddos
Only pic in existence with us and all of our kiddos
In case you can't read this, it says, "Family is like chocolate, mostly sweet with a few nuts." Sums it up rather well, I think!
In case you can’t read this, it says, “Family is like chocolate, mostly sweet with a few nuts.” Sums it up rather well, I think!

I hope your month was as fun as ours!

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The Five Funniest Things My Kids Have Ever Said

Only pic in existence with us and all of our kiddos
Only pic in existence with us and all of our kiddos

Having a family this size means that we hear lots of funny stuff from our kids…all the time. It was hard narrowing it down, but I think these are the most comical things our kids have said.

1. I found my 3-year-old (who’s now 12) in the bathroom, and she had used almost an entire roll of toilet paper and had clogged up the toilet. As I was cleaning it out, I said,
“You don’t have to use this much toilet paper. You don’t have a big butt!” She looked innocently at me and replied, “Only you do, Mommy?”

2. When my oldest was about 6, I was out back hanging up wash when he came outside and said to me, “It’s all gonna end, you know,” I just looked at him and asked him what was going to end. “Life.” Okaay…yeah, my kids get a little morbid at times, like this next one will also illustrate.

3. I was driving with Devin when she was about 5 when I heard her mumbling something. I asked her what she said, and she replied, “Mommy’s gonna die soon.” I would be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little freaked out for a few days.

4. Luke has the most beautiful, curly, blonde hair, and I’m always telling him so. A few months ago, he was mad that he got in trouble for something, and he said, “Okay. That’s it…I’m gonna go mess my hair up!” He came downstairs a few minutes later with his hair combed flat against his head in the middle but still curly on both sides.

5. Choosing this one was difficult because there are so many more examples but here goes. I told Summer that she was naughty because she had done something wrong. She looked up at me and said, “But me still pretty?” I couldn’t stay mad at her anymore. “Yes, you’re still pretty.”

What are some funny things your kids have said?

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Weekend Review- Creativity Abounds!

Caollin made this just this morning- the idea was completely her own!
Caollin made this just this morning- the idea was completely her own!

We’ve had quite a fun week here at the Sangrey House. To top it off, our snowfall was measured in inches this week, instead of feet, so that was a big plus! (Sigh of relief). I think actually seeing the sun this week has had a positive effect on all of us. It’s been long overdue!

On Monday, I finally got my implanon removed, so that’s a huge weight off of my shoulders. Arianna went with me and had the pleasure of watching them take it out. “I could see your meat, Mom!” Yeah, great. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad I had my head turned the other way. Although she’s only 12, she also got to listen to my doctor badger me about birth control. Even though it was uncomfortable, it was a good opportunity for her to see me stand behind my pro-life stance, so some good did come out of it.

Devin went to the eye doctor on Tuesday for her contact lens teach. She’s waited so long to be rid of her glasses, so she’s really excited. Arianna also got to watch her lesson, too. (She’s just been around for everything lately!)

Wednesday, my husband had a vacation day, so we headed out to Staples for a new whiteboard to replace our chalkboard.

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We had the chalkboard for about seven years, so it served its purpose, but it was time to move on…and the fact that my kids colored all over it with crayon didn’t exactly help, so I really couldn’t use it anymore, anyway. After picking up a few more things there, we headed to Dollar Tree for some bins for organizing and some odds and ends for crafting.

Other than those few excursions, we’ve been homebodies the rest of the time…and that’s the way I like it. All of the kids have been so creative this week in so many different ways. And the thing is, I didn’t initiate any of these activities. Everything was their idea. (Although I did print out some free placemats to color from Write Bonnie Rose.) This is why Dollar Tree is so great. I’m able to get all sorts of goodies there for $1 each, and the kids’ imaginations soar!

Making foam crafts
Making foam crafts
Caollin making her little robot person. She inspired the other kids to make them, as well.
Caollin making her little robot person. She inspired the other kids to make them, as well.

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Dillon spent hours building World of Warcraft Lego sets this week. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Several of the kids built with the Lincoln Logs, too.

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I almost forgot. Devin, Arianna, and I also went to A.C. Moore for Devin’s art supplies and to Party City for Arianna’s theatrical makeup. Devin has just started taking a drawing and painting class at the local art school, and, so far, she loves it. Arianna is still obsessed interested in makeup of all kinds. This week she’s made her own lip balm and makeup remover.

Attractive, right?
Attractive, right?

She’s really starting to rub off on Caollin and London because now they’re trying to do theatrical makeup on the little ones. Today London decided to put red nail polish all over Summer’s hands to look like “blood.” Yeah, apparently, I’d better watch her more closely.

Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and Bailey have all been busy writing stories on the laptops. Okay, Bailey was only copying words out of a book, but he’s 6. I was really excited to see him doing that.

Score!
Score!
Caollin writing and illustrating her story
Caollin writing and illustrating her story

Lastly, my husband got World of Warcraft, so Devin, Dillon, and he have been spending time playing that together. In truth, I wasn’t too thrilled about this, until I found out that there’s so much to it. I almost did a backflip when I saw the kids using maps to navigate around the worlds. Geography- check.

Friday I expect to be more of the same, although we will be going grocery shopping, so there will inevitably be a conflict over who gets to go with. I’m not taking all ten of them. That’s for sure!

Kenzie never makes it into my posts, so here she is!
Kenzie never makes it into my posts, so here she is!

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Have a good weekend, everyone!

How’s your week been? Are you doing anything fun this weekend?

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Share the Wealth Sunday

Welcome to Strewing Central!

These are a few of the baskets I use for choosing  items to be strewn.
These are a few of the baskets I use for choosing items to be strewn.

Since writing this post a few days ago, I have received a flurry of questions about strewing- what it is and how I do it. I guess my definition would be placing potential objects of interest in strategic areas around the house with the hopes of inspiring learning. So I guess that answers what it is.

Here’s how I incorporate this method… Before we started unschooling, I used to keep all of the children’s toys in their bedrooms to help keep our living area clean. This helped with our downstairs being readily fit for company at a moment’s notice, but it caused a problem. Our children rarely spend time in their rooms. They spend a good 90% of their waking moments almost literally at my feet- even the older ones. I’m certainly not going to complain about them wanting to spend time with me because, let’s face it, a lot of children don’t want anything to do with Mom and Dad. While I didn’t think about this much while we were homeschooling because I always kept them busy with all sorts of projects, this really posed a problem when we began unschooling. They didn’t want to be upstairs, but there was nothing left for them to do downstairs. This may have contributed to some of the blank stares I used to get when we first started this method of learning. So, obviously, the solution has been to keep some most of their activities downstairs.

Doing foam crafts
Doing foam crafts

Obviously, this makes for a much messier house, and, therefore, more frequent bouts of straightening, but it has been so worth it. Toys that sat around for months are now being played with, and, honestly, it’s much easier for me to keep track of puzzles and games when they’re where I can see them.

These legos are kept in our living room. They're sitting on top of a bin full of picture books.
These legos are kept in our living room. They’re sitting on top of a bin full of picture books.

Although keeping the toys (I keep referring to toys- remember, children learn through play, so don’t discount them as learning resources.) out and in full view has worked wonders, it’s sometimes not enough. You know how after you walk past something a hundred times you kind of just start to ignore it? That happens here, too. So what I’ve started doing is pulling out a few items everyday and placing them on our dining room table. I don’t call attention to them. They’re just there. Sometimes I’ll lay out a few puzzles, some freaky facts science books, crayons, and paper. The other day I found some US states cards, so I put them on the table with an atlas and some blank maps. Somedays they’ll get used; other days they won’t, and that is fine. My goal is to remind them that it’s there, and sometimes that is enough because a week later, I’ll find them playing with said toy. Some days my strewing items are a hit. Today I gave the kids a plastic bin filled with foam sheets, foam shapes, glitter glue, and crayons. That kept them quiet for quite a while. I also pulled out our solar system model that comes with an interactive tablet today. I found Luke(5) listening intently to the narrator this morning, and today at bedtime, I was reading The Magic School Bus book to Bailey about our solar system, and he was able to answer the questions correctly…and it wasn’t because I ever taught it to him.

Solar System model
Solar System model

Now sometimes we may have valuable resources that can’t really be strewn, so it’s important to get creative. For example, we just replaced our chalkboard with a white board today. The kids didn’t really take much notice to it because we’ve had the chalkboard for years, and they had started to ignore it. I really thought this could be a great way for the children to write and have fun at the same time, so all I did was this…SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I wrote on it. That’s it, and believe it or not, that was enough. What I had hoped would be used for some writing practice turned into this…

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Now please keep in mind that these are girls who hate math! I was happy as a lark when I saw them initiating math on their own.

Another pleasant surprise came later on. Bailey asked if he could go on Paint on my computer, so I said yes. I thought he was going to draw. A little while later I went to make sure he wasn’t destroying my laptop, and I found him typing the words from a book that I had unintentionally set on my computer desk.

Score!
Score!

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about strewing, though, is that it is not meant to force a child to use the chosen activities. Think of it more as just giving your child an idea…maybe for now, maybe for the future, and maybe never. That’s okay. Speaking from experience, I know that the more you push a child into doing something- no matter how you sugar-coat it- the less they will want to do it. Another important thing is not to separate school from life. I’ve actually stopped referring to it as school because it’s so much more than that. It’s living intentionally.

Do you have any other strewing ideas? I’d love to read some new ones!

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Is Unschooling Just Lazy Homeschooling?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ever wondered just what those unschoolers do all day? Sleeping in late, watching TV, playing a computer game and then counting it as a school day? Apparently, this is the view many people take on this method of homeschooling. But is that all there is to it?

While all of these activities do take place at our house (okay, I don’t get to sleep in :(), this is not an accurate picture of what we do. Today I’m going to discuss exactly that.

Firstly, the role of an unschooling mom is different than that of a school-at-home mom. Neither one is more important or involved than the other. They are just different. Instead of acting as a teacher as a more traditional homeschool mom, my role is as a facilitator. I am there to answer questions, provide a stimulating environment, and introduce, but not force, new concepts.

Another misconception about unschooling is that the parent has absolutely no involvement in the child’s learning activities. I don’t know about other families, but in our home this couldn’t be further from the truth! Are there things that I think my children would benefit from learning? Absolutely. But I am not going to compromise my children’s love of learning by making them do anything.

Speaking from my own high school experience, I can tell you that I really don’t remember anything from the required subjects that I had no interest in. Was I a lousy student? Actually, I was quite the opposite. I was a gifted/advanced placement student who graduated in the top 10% of my class. So obviously, I did learn lots of things…but after exams were over, it was like I opened a valve in my brain and let out all the information that I deemed as unnecessary. I have, however, retained all of the useful information from the classes I chose to be in.

This is exactly why I’m approaching my children’s education differently. As I mentioned before, while there are things I’d like to introduce to my kids, I will not force anything on them. So how do I do it? There are two methods I use that seem to work nicely.

– Strewing. Everyday I set different books and activities around the house that I think may interest my children. Today, I pulled out Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Guinness Book of World Records books and laid them on the table. I also pulled out some paper and giant coloring books. Did everything get used today? No, but that’s okay. They have seen it and know that we have it. Oftentimes they will go looking for it at a future time.

Today was a great example of that. My kids kept themselves busy all day with items I had strewn last week even though they had no interest in them when I laid them out. Dillon spent two hours putting together a WoW lego set, Luke and Ireland played with clay for a long time, and Bailey spent quite a bit of time drawing, coloring, and then cutting out animals. Arianna painted for a while, and Caollin and London used some stuffed animals to play “crane machine.” (Their latest obsession since Daddy won them all animals out of a crane machine at Denny’s Diner last Saturday) Just because you introduce something to a child does not mean they’re going to be interested. Be patient. They’ll learn about it when they’re ready.

Another way I engage my children is…

– Family read-aloud time. I am very intentional about the books I choose to read to everyone. If there is a concept or a time period I think they would enjoy, I’ll look for a corresponding book. Over the summer we read Little House in the Big Woods. I can’t even begin to tell you about the flurry of activity that that started. I would find my kids outside everyday playing Little House. They dressed in pioneerish clothing, made their own “little house” with pieces of wood we had lying around the yard, and I could hear them discussing things like churning butter and making salt pork. They were interested, so they learned! We just finished Little House on the Prairie, which also brought some wonderful rabbit trails to our home. Today I started reading The Odyssey to them. I can’t wait to see what springs from this because we all love Greek mythology.

Hopefully, I’ve put to rest the idea that unschoolers, particularly unschooling parents, are lazy and uninvolved. We are just as involved and passionate about learning as other moms. We just do it in a different way.

How do you introduce new concepts to your children?

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Here’s Why Public Schools Should Be Grateful for Homeschooling

Image courtesy of debspoons / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of debspoons / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been noticing lately that many public school teachers have a thinly disguised disdain for homeschooling. One of the most popular reasons I’ve read is because they feel that since most homeschoolers come from affluent families (a myth), lower income students are at a disadvantage. Honestly, I’m not sure I see the correlation, but that’s okay because I’ve compiled a list of reasons why public school should be grateful for homeschooling.

– Homeschoolers contribute to a lower student to teacher ratio. One of the largest complaints of public schools these days is that they’re overcrowded. They don’t have enough room, and the amount of students per classroom is growing, which makes for an overwhelming situation for teacher. Let’s take a look at some homeschooling statistics. In 2007, there were approximately 1.5 million homeschooled students. Now that was seven years ago, and I’m sure it’s risen since then, but we’ll go with that figure anyway. If homeschooling were to suddenly become illegal, our school system would be deluged with over 1 million new students. Now that would be a disadvantage to students everywhere.

– While we still pay school taxes, none of that goes to our children. I’m not complaining about that. We’ve chosen to homeschool, and we’re fine with this scenario. But let’s put this into perspective. School districts everywhere are hurting because of the growing population and the fact that there are many low income residents. There just isn’t enough money to go around. It’s an appalling situation, and I get it. So this is why I don’t understand why some people hold such animosity towards homeschoolers. We are helping public school students. How?… I’m getting to that.

– There are less students to buy curriculum for. I realize that some homeschoolers do use the school district textbooks, but they are firmly in the minority. I happen to be in an inner-city school district. When my kids were in school, they didn’t even have enough books for the students who were there. They actually had to share with other kids. Imagine what would happen if 1 million new students enrolled in our school system. It wouldn’t be pretty. Think about it.

– Our school district provides free breakfast and lunch to everyone in the district, regardless of income. There are that many destitute students. I’m so very thankful for this program because these free meals may be the only meals that some of these children eat. I will never put down our school district for this program as so many people do. It is needed. Some of these children go “home” to sleep in cars. The district even employs a homeless liaison. So it’s quite plain that less students means more money per student for these lifeline programs. Homeschoolers are given meals at home (or at co-op, or at the park- you know what I mean). This means the precious little amount of money budgeted for these students can be stretched a little further.

My conclusion? Homeschoolers unknowingly put public school at an advantage. I agree that every child deserves an education. Our choice is not only good for our children, but it also benefits those in brick-and-mortar schools, as well.

What are your thoughts on this? This is a touchy subject for some, but it needs to be addressed. I’d love to hear from you.

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How to Homeschool Without Breaking the Bank

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today is Part 2 of my Homeschooling on One Income series. Part 1 described how our family manages daily living on one income. Before homeschooling, it is essential to work out a budget plan for day to day living if you have a limited income.
One of the many arguments I see coming from opponents of homeschooling is the myth that only affluent children can be taught at home because of the costs involved. This is laughable to me. We homeschool an extremely large family on a welder’s income, so there goes that idea. To make matters worse, many prospective homeschoolers buy into this reasoning and begrudgingly enroll their children in public school because they feel they can’t afford it.
I’m here to tell you today that, no matter the homeschooling method, there are enough resources out there that, given the right amount of research, almost anyone can afford to homeschool.

Here are resources that we have used for homeschooling that have been very affordable, if not downright free!

– There is such an abundance of free homeschool printables covering pretty much every subject online that I really could just stop right here. There are also wonderful unit studies available- again, for free! Take time and look through homeschool blogs. There are so many writers who are excited to share their wonderful ideas with you at no cost.

– I have gotten my younger children workbooks at Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree. This store is actually where I get most of my school supplies throughout the year.

– More expensive does not always mean better. Do your homework. Our family used Konos unit studies for years. The initial price tag of $110 might sting a little (although this is considered inexpensive compared to other curricula), but you have to look at the big picture. There is enough material to cover 2 1/2 years of schoolwork, and there are activities included from K-8. So this is perfect to use with multiple children; you could even have the younger children go back through it again when they’re older because there’s that much material in there.

– Instead of buying Language Arts curriculum, use lapbooking to fulfill that area. And I don’t necessarily mean those lapbooking worksheets that you print out and just have them fill in. Let them decide what they will put in it. Encourage them and give them ideas, but let them have the final say. I promise you, they will enjoy it so much more, and they will remember more.

– Don’t forget the library! Even before we started unschooling, the library provided the abundance of our learning tools. It’s not just for books anymore! (although that’s my favorite part :))Our library has movies, music, free online foreign languages through Mango Languages, story times, and toys that you can borrow and take home. Devin and I always jokingly say that if the library starts selling food, we’re moving in!

– Buy used. Ebay, Craigslist, and Amazon are but three of dozens of places where used curriculum can be bought and sold.

– Let life be your curriculum! That’s right…life…because every waking minute of your child’s life…of our lives…we are learning. Let them explore! Let them collect rocks and salamanders and leaves! Teach them to use search engines (also free!) to identify and classify their finds. Even watching the dreaded TV will provide learning. (I’m not one to let them watch unlimited TV, but I will allow it 1-2 hours a day if they wish to watch it. Sometimes they don’t.) Just the other day, I overheard Caollin correctly use a scientific term that I knew I didn’t teach her. Where did she learn it? Spongebob!

This is how we’ve afforded to homeschool in our household. We are so blessed to live in a society in which we can find an abundance of learning resources in as little as the click of a mouse. So before you nix the idea of homeschooling for financial reasons, I say stop. Take a step back, and rethink it. The world is at your feet.

What are some ways that you have cut costs in homeschooling? Leave a comment…you just might give the advice someone desperately needs!

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