Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Harvest Time

Aaah, Harvest Time. That time of year when the men of the family come home from working 8 hours at their day jobs, and then REALLY go to work for the next 4 hours. This is when farm kids eat at least 4 meals: dinnerer is cookies, milk, and fruit after school, and supper is the main meal eaten at 8 p.m. When Mom fixes supper for the girls and little ones, then takes plates out for Dad and the big boys on their next round in with a wagon-load of corn to dump. When kids learn more lasting lessons than the ones they will sleep through the next day at school- heritage and pride and safety around machinery that can easily maim and kill. It's the time of year when the kitchen door stands open even if it's 20 degrees and the wind is blowing, because we need to listen to the dryer to make sure it's drying the corn right, and so we know when the tractor is coming in with its next load.   It's when we have absolutely no trouble sleeping at night. It's when the daily cares are set aside for more pertinent things like praying that the auger won't break and that the combine won't get clogged with rocks or moist stalks. It's a time for making lasting memories- like the time Uncle got stuck and Dad had to pull him out, or Grandpa forgot to tell Dad that the bin wasn't open and he dumped 1/2 a load of dry corn on the ground behind the bin!  It's a time chilly noses and frosty hands. It's when we get to tease Grandpa about "there goes our profits" when he overfills the wagons from the combine and some of the grain spills on the ground as it is taken back to the bins.  It's when, if you listen and are really good, you might get to play in the corn with sand pails and shovels, or ride back out to the field in the empty grain wagon.  It's a time for counting our blessings and seeing how much God has blessed us over the past several months!

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Brains

Being the mom of a moderate to large family, or even a small one, takes a lot of work and organization. Today I want to share some pages out of my organization file.  I apologize,  I am still learning how to make the documents link so you can open them in a new tab or window.  But, maybe just seeing what I have done will inspire you to create something simple that works for you.  There are a LOT of organization tools both on the 'net and the real world.  Several years ago I combined them into what I needed for my daily life, and this is what I came up with. (I took out the extra spaces for the post.  This is just a table made in a word document.)

Bible reading
Girls laundry
Grocery list
Grocery shopping

Bible reading
Boys laundry
Sort mail
Lead steers

Bible reading
Clean bathrooms
K&A laundry
Bible reading
Water plants
Bible reading
Tidy LR & den
Jeans &
Bible reading
Plan next week
Sunday clothes

Work/ Appts
____ Trumpet Shopping

1p Exercise with friends


Husband notes/ to do






The top section, of course, is where I put my daily "to do" list.  Some of it is pre-printed.  This idea comes from Large Family Logistics and Fly Lady's ideas of having certain things done on certain days.  Our Grandmas were right in figuring that each day needed to be dedicated to a certain thing, and keeping the same routine from week to week helps maintain order in the home!

The second section is Work and Appointments.  I am scheduled to work 1 day a week, but will often pick up an extra day here and there.  This is where my work schedule, along with trumpet practice, church events,  and other appointments go.  Pretty straight forward. We use g-calendar associated with our gmail accounts as our master family calendar.  We like it because each family member can have their own calendar, but then we can "share" our calendar with each other so that the household manager (ME) can see the big picture. The other plus to an online calendar is that any of us can access it from anywhere there is internet access.

The third section is for my notes regarding my husband.  Often he will say, "Remind me to do *something* when I get home," as he walks out the door for work.  This is where those things, along with my Honey-do list of requests or things I want to discuss with him when he gets home get written.  This helps free up my brain so I don't have to remember all day that question I wanted to ask at 9 a.m. Also, then I am not interrupting my man by IM'ing him while he's working.

The next section is meals.  We have the same thing every week.  It's just easier that way. E.G. Mondays are leftover coffee cake or muffins, yogurt and fruit for breakfast, lunch meat and cheese sandwiches with fruit/veg for lunch, and something with ground meat, a hot vegetable, and salad for supper.  The kids get used to the routine, and it makes it easier to plan shopping lists.  More on the in another post.  I DO have a 6-week supper planner sheet.  Lately it has become easier to just write my month's-worth of  suppers on my weekly planners and go from there, eliminating 1 piece of paper from my life! I'll share that in my meal planning post, also.

Notes ends up being everything from school notes to random thoughts that I don't want to stray or book titles/subjects that I want to check on the next time we are at the library. This is my "I need to write this down somewhere before I forget it" spot.

Finances is where I record the bills as I pay them, along with an online confirmation number, if applicable, or what date they are scheduled to go out.  Maybe I will write another post on that subject.  

That's the main part of my brains.  I hope the ideas help you as you find what works for you as Household Manager Extraordinaire!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bear Feels Sick Unit Study

Here is a unit study designed for pre-K to 2nd grade based on a board book my three-year old picked at the library. I filed it under Health in my school plans.  It covers all subjects.  
Bear Feels Sick
Karma Wilson, Jane Chapman

Read the book aloud- either Mom can read it or the kids can read it. Take turns reading a page. Stop and let the kids fill in the rhyming words on successive readings.  Make it fun by substituting other nonsensical rhyming words.

Setting Characters Plot- Talk about the season and bear’s house.  List the characters  (Mouse, Hare, Badger, Gopher, Mole, Raven, Owl, Wren) . Have child(ren) retell story in his/her own words.  Talk about the character traits of the friends- loyalty, kindness, gentleness, patience, peacefulness, love, joy.  Talk about bear’s feelings- alone, achy, tired, stuffy, miserable, hot, cold, pain, grumpy. 

Health- Talk about how cold and flu season is commonly from October to March, during the autumn and winter. List Bear’s symptoms- fever & chills, aches, headaches, stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, sleepy, miserable, wheeze/ difficulty breathing, lethargy. What did the friends do to help that we also do? Warm cozy spot to rest, reassurance, liquids/broth/tea, cool wet cloth to head, herbs & medicines, be quiet, sing soothing songs.  Why did the friends get sick?  How do germs spread (hand to mouth, airborne, touching common things)? Talk about how hand washing is the #1 prevention for spreading cold and flu.  Rest, fluids, and vitamins also help caregivers stay well.  While getting cold or wet doesn’t MAKE you sick, it does diminish your immune system, so getting warm and dry after being out in wintery weather also helps us prevent from getting sick. Emphasize that eating healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, and avoiding unhealthy foods, like sugary or greasy foods, also helps us stay healthy. Remind your kiddos they should NEVER EVER take medicine, even vitamins, without help from an adult.

Hands on- Show your child(ren) your thermometer.  Take their temp or let them take yours. Play doctor with a doll or stuffed animal. Re-enact the story with stuffed animals. 

Seat-work- Color or draw a picture of a bear or sick child.  Following are some writing pages for handwriting/spelling/vocab that can be adapted to your child’s grade level(s). 

Science- identify the different friends. Group the friends by type (bird, mammal), where they live, or size (big, medium, little).  Pick one (or more!) animals to look up in an encyclopedia and learn more about.

Math- Count the friends.  Add 1 bear + 5 mammal friends + 3 bird friends=9 friends altogether.  Count how many times each friend shows up in the pictures.  Which friend appears the most? The least? The same as each other? What shapes can you find in the book?

Give 5 Symptoms that indicate Bear is sick:
1--------------- 2--------------- 3--------------- 4---------------
List 5 things Bear’s friends do to help him:
1--------------- 2--------------- 3--------------- 4---------------
Name 5 of Bear’s friends:
1--------------- 2--------------- 3--------------- 4---------------
Pick 3 words and write their definitions (huddle, wheeze, mutter, moan, grumble, fetch, soothe, coax, smidgen, quiver, fuss, fret, lullaby, celebrate, frolic, bundle).

1------------------------------- 2--------------- ---------------- 3--------------- ----------------

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013
One of the hardest things about being a SAH mom is prioritization.  Like right now, I know it is nap time.  I will go read to the kids, and they will either go to sleep or lay in their beds for the next hour or two. But then what?  I NEED to do a second load of dishes in the dishwasher and wash what won't go in, but I COULD wait and have the kids help with that.  I NEED to sort the mail pile.  Definitely do that one alone.  I'd LIKE to sew.  Maybe put that off til evening, cuz I can do that while kids play.  I NEED to figure out what's for supper.  While I do that I ought to revamp my menus for summer.  Maybe we'll just do leftovers, and I'll put off the menu planning til after the kids go to bed and I am waiting for my husband to come in from mowing or farming. Now I guess I know what order the rest of my day needs to take.... at least until something else comes to mind or comes up.  What about you?  What's your process for prioritizing and managing your household efficiently?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Summer school

May 2, 2013
That's it!  I have had it!  I am DONE being full-time Mom, full-time teacher, and full-time cook, bottle washer, and household manager.  Time for "summer-break"!

The funny thing is, one of the kids just asked this morning, "Mom, can we do summer school?"  The answer is a resounding YES!  She gets it.  It's all about the mental attitude.  It seems much easier to do an hour of seat work in the morning and an hour of reading or educational games in the afternoon, with lots of hands-on learning (playing) in between year-round than to have to "do school" for 3 or 4 hours of concentrated seat-work in the morning followed by 2+ hours of reading and homework in the afternoon for 9 months of the year.

Don't tell any of the kids.  Mommy's brain has checked out for the summer.  I am more ready  than they are to practice my multiplication by figuring out how much the 5 buckets of strawberries we picked at the local farm are going to cost at $.96/lb.  I am ready to teach writing in the form of chalk art on the cement slab where we BBQ and entertain;  and numbers on the sidewalk hopscotch forms.  I am SO ready to talk about the science of making ice cream- why we cook the egg-based pudding, cool it prior to pouring it in the can, add the salt and ice in certain proportions, and why crank freezers are better than electric.  I am ready to teach and learn the science and art of gardening- flowers, vegetables, trees, creepy-crawlies that both hinder and help the growing things.   I am ready to apply creative writing to things like My Summer Bucket List and Our Summer Menu. I'm ready to apply economics to Our Summer Grocery Budget which MUST include $2-4/week for frozen treats like Nutty Sundaes or "store-bought" popsicles that are all gone after each kid and either Mom or Dad get one, but are such a special treat compared to homemade juice-sicles that you don't even have to ask permission to eat.

It's all about attitude.  We are constantly teaching our children.  We are all constantly learning. This is something that maybe parents who educate at home are more aware of than some who don't.  But the attitude toward what is being learned and HOW it is learned might change throughout the year.  I dislike sitting at the table doing endless workbook pages with a crying 9-year-old who is afraid of his multiplication tables as much as he does. on the other hand, we both like standing in the garden, hoe or shovel in hand, quizzing each other on those same multiplication facts.  It's all a matter of perspective and method.

Here's my last thought in this particular meandering.  I see myself as the type of home-school mom who makes learning fun.  I WANT my kids to enjoy learning.  Unfortunately, more often than not I hear them say, "I hate school."  That is one of the reasons I am homeschooling in the first place- to teach my kids that learning is life-long and can be fun.  My heart sinks every time I hear those dreaded words, and I want to agree with the child who speaks them.  I have tried a few different educational approaches in the past 6 years.  None have been perfect, although all have had pieces that were enjoyable.  I am still working out the kinks of our teaching and educational styles and expectations.  Something tells me that our home-school experience will still not be perfected by the time the last one graduates high school or college.  That's okay.  I also have to remind myself ,as well as the children, that learning is NOT always fun, the subject matter is not always interesting, and the method does not always suit our learning style.  But that's okay too.  There are always things we need to learn in ways that we would rather not!   That's life.

I hope this is an encouragement to all my readers, whether you are a home-school parent or after-school parent or just an adult who can encourage the parents and children around you.  Our brains might be mushy and ready for summer break, but we are NEVER done learning!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Go and Do!

Go and Do!

President’s Day, 2013
Today we played hooky from school and went to the zoo.  Never-mind that everyone else was off today too.  It was cold enough that they weren’t all at the zoo, though.  As a matter of principle I try not to take too many days off official school work.  But, on the way home I was thinking about how important it is to just “go and do” sometimes to break up the monotony and routine of every-day life.  I can make lots of excuses not to go and do, from money to housework to “we really ought to be doing curriculum based school”.  We all need a break.  Even kiddos who appear to play more than they work.  And Mommy needs to remember that learning in a fun environment is sometimes more inspirational than learning at the kitchen table.   Mommy also needs to remember that it is more fun, even for her, to be a kid and do kid stuff, than to be a stuffy old adult all the time.  So here are some random thoughts on going and doing.
1.      ZOO  Get a zoo membership if you live within one hour of a zoo.  We have 2 zoos that fit that description, and right now the smaller, cheaper one fits our needs just fine.  It’s small enough that we can spend 1-2 hours and see everything.  It also has some fun imagination-building play areas that the kids love to play on and in.  Non-member admission price for the 5 kids and I would be $45.  A year’s family membership is $72, which I just renewed for $66.  Do the math, and on our second visit we start saving money.  Even if we only make it to the zoo three or four times in the year, it is well worth our investment.
2.      MAGAZINES  So, while I am talking about subscriptions, I have to encourage you to get a magazine subscription.  It’s not a “go” but it is certainly a “do”.  Some of our favorite “educational” investments have been: High Five/ Highlights, Nature Friend, Club/Clubhouse, and Family Fun.  Some are Christian based, some are not.  All of them have been worth the time spent sitting on the couch reading, talking, and getting ideas for future endeavors.
3.      LIBRARY  Get a library card and use it!  Our county library is tied in with the regional library system, so we can get books from all over our part of the state delivered to our downtown library by request.  The library offers toys and games, free classes, and other learning opportunities.  And of course, if you want to learn something, read about it!  Our library even offers home school curriculum and learning resources.  Get to know your children’s librarians.  They will become of your best resources for finding supplemental resources to your home school whether you un-school or use strict school-at-home teaching methods. 
4.      STREET FAIRS  Does your town have free street fairs and seasonal celebrations?  Our little college town offers a farmers market from Spring to Fall, Festa Italiana, Woosterfest (Oktoberfest), Window Wonderland (Christmas), a jazz and arts festival complete with a tamed down Mardi Gras-style parade, and several drive-ins, among other events.  The kids love walking around down-town, and we always enjoying seeing our friends and neighbors.  Street Fairs are free- except for maybe the hot dogs, French fries, and extra large drink that is just big enough for everyone to have a few sips. 
5.      COUNTY FAIR   Our County fair is the best agricultural fair in the state.  It costs a whopping $3 for a day’s admission.  Even before we were involved in 4-H we made a point to go almost every day of the fair, at least for a few hours.  This might not be feasible where you live, but at least one day at the fair is worth its admission price.  You get to see and do so much at the fair!  There are animal barns, arts and crafts exhibits, plants, baking, tractors, demonstrations, and all kinds of other “educational” experiences even without hitting the midway. (Yes, we budget in some money for that and fair food, too!)
6.      CAMP Camping is cheap whether you tent-it or get a cabin or have a camper.  It’s a great time for the family to spend time together with each other and nature.  Some of my fondest memories growing up are of tenting across I-80 on our way from California to the Midwest for family reunions, and camping with other families from church in the great Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Which brings me to my next point….
7.      TRAVEL  Take the opportunity to travel across America.  Go see Washington DC, New York City, Sacramento and San Francisco, and any point in between that interests your family.  Seeing the mountains, plains, and where the history happened brings the history and geography of our great nation alive off the textbook page for kids and adults alike.  A couple years ago we stopped to see the St Louis Arch on our way to visit family in Kansas.  The year before we had driven to a family reunion in Iowa.  Both trips included several trips across the Great Mississippi River.  As we studied Lewis and Clark and Western Expansion after those two trips, my kiddos could picture the land that the explorers, pioneers, and homesteaders traveled, the rivers and streams they crossed, and the wildlife they encountered.
8.      MISSIONS TRIPS  Go on a missions trip.  If Mom and/or Dad feel God wants them to travel abroad to other people groups for two or three weeks, farm out the kids, and GO!  If it is convenient and the kids are old enough, go as a family.  Being abroad and out of your comfort zone will open your eyes to the needs of the world beyond our doorstep.  My trips to Mexico City, Bogota, Colombia, and my husband’s trip to Bosnia were absolutely life changing.  We both see life through different eyes, we see the world through different eyes. We pray for and give to our foreign  missionaries with hearts that know experientially how much they have given up and how hard their lives are compared to ours.

Well, I am sure that gets your mind going as to ways you can get out and see and do things that help maintain “the spice” in your life.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Feb 16, 2013
Well, it's February, and you know what that means?? LUAU!!  Yup! It's a tradition in our household that there HAS to be a luau sometime in February.  Sometimes it is for Groundhog Day.  Sometimes it's how we celebrate Valentine's or President's Day.  Sometimes we invite friends, but usually it is just the 7 of us.  It is just a little way to help beat the winter blues and cabin fever.  Sometimes we have an EXTRAVAGANT true-to-Hawaii meal, sometimes it's simply hot dogs and hamburgers with decorations.
 Our 2013 Feast

So, here are some tips to starting your own winter-busting tradition.
1. First, pick up some cheap decorations during the late summer when they are on clearance.  I buy up beach themed plates, napkins, wall hangings, grass skirts, etc at the end of the summer for 25 or 50 cents a package.  (Fourth of July decor that is bought on the fifth works for President's Day or Election Day themed parties, too.)

2. Plan your menu.  A simple menu might be: Hamburgers & hot dogs, fruit cocktail with a can of pineapple chunks and a can of mandarin oranges mixed in, a veggie platter and homemade ranch dip, and chips.  We like to drink "Margaritas" or "Pina Coladas".  (As the situation arises, I explain to my children that these are made without alcohol, and remind them that we are to be controlled by the Spirit and not drugs and mind-altering substances.)

Easy Margaritas
1 can frozen limeade concentrate
2-3 trays ice cubes
1-2 cans water
Blend in blender until slushy.  Serve immediately in tall glasses with straws, or plastic margarita cups.

Fun Pina Coladas
1 can frozen pineapple concentrate
¼- 1/2  coconut cream (you might have to go to the alcohol aisle for this)
2-3 trays ice cubes
1-2 cans water
(Opt) Juice from the canned fruit you are serving
Blend in blender until slushy.  Serve immediately in tall glasses with straws and tea-spoons.

3. Dress up!  Break out your shorts and ugly Hawaiian shirt or sundress.  Slip on your flip-flops.  Slip a lei around your neck.  Put flowers in your hair.  And be sure to crank up the heat to 80 degrees!
Hula Girls

4. Music.  I have a Pandora station set specifically for when I need to be in a “sunny mood” complete with Beach Boys and other great oldies, as well as Hawaiian music.  You can buy, beg, or borrow a CD by the Beach Boys, Temptations, or Drifters.  A recording by Don Ho or Darlene Ahuna will give such an authentic Hawaiian f eel to your party that you might just forget that it is snowing outside!

 And there you have the makings of a fun party that will help break up the Winter and add some Sunshine to tide you over until Spring finally comes.