Saturday, July 19, 2014

Random 5 on Friday (except it's Saturday)

Rick confronted me this week about my quiet blog, and my Uncle John (who is an avid follower) also expressed a desire that I get back to posting more. As with many other bloggers I have found myself doing much more reading, unplugging from the computer, and just living life instead of blogging about it. But blogging is my place to record our lives and our schooling .... our Journey, so to speak. So, I will try to put in a little more effort.

Which leads me to Miranda's Random 5 on Friday. Many times during the week I have random thoughts that just don't qualify as a full post. Here I can share some of those thoughts.

1. I find that I spend as much time worrying and thinking about Kyndal and Dawson's significant others (Collin and Taylar) as I do my own kids. This week they have both been challenged on the job front and I find myself thinking a lot about it and praying for them several times a day.

2. I love my dogs to pieces but they are driving me crazy with their shedding, barking, and allergies.

3. I find myself just smiling at Brynne several times a day because of how proud I am of her for excitedly taking on a full lifestyle change in her eating habits and exercise. She has noticeably lost weight and inches, is kicking my rear when we run and ride our bikes, and is so enthusiastic about making good food choices. She has even started trying AND LIKING lots of different vegetables ... celery, yellow peppers, cooked cabbage. The transformation in mind and body is astonishing.

4. A big struggle for me these days is not bowing to the god of money. I know that God is my provider and I trust Him to provide all of our needs for us. However with an upcoming wedding and a new senior in high school, not to mention homeschooling curriculum costs, much-needed wellness appointments, birthdays, and Christmas being here before you know it, I find myself having to snap myself out of my worry pretty often.

5. I had breakfast for all three meals yesterday. For breakfast I had a whole wheat english muffin and two eggs. For lunch I had a bowl of bran cereal with blueberries and almonds. And for dinner we had french toast and bacon.

This was pretty fun! I think I will try to start posting my Randoms on Thursdays so I have something designated to write about on that day of the week. Check back next week for more randomness! I am sure there will be some.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up ~ An Epiphany About Curriculum Choices

I have been doing a lot of reflecting about our past couple of years of schooling ... the goods and the bads. Although we have accomplished so much in the past two years, I have noticed that we haven't had the fun that I desire for us to have. We spend the majority of our day on language arts and math and when we get to our unit study, we are rushed for time so just cram in what's easiest. We haven't put our full hearts into our unit studies which we desire to be the core of our studies. Somewhere along the way we have drifted away from it. I think it's probably because unit studies take a lot of work and planning, and regular ol' workbooks, dvd and online lessons are "easier". But I am bored. I haven't had my usual excitement to start school, and it's coming up in just a short month. And that has kind of worried me.

I have had a full-year unit study planned for us for this upcoming school year. But I realized that with everything else we have planned that we will only be able to half-heartedly accomplish all that the unit study offers.

And then I had an epiphany moment. The first year I homeschooled Dawson, we used a full-year unit study called A World of Adventure by Dorian Holt. It contained everything we needed except for math. It was a great year! So why not take that approach this year with Eli and Brynne? Why not use our unit study FULLY, doing everything it offers, add in some daily math, grammar and more intensive writing, and call it good?

And it will be good!

So here is our curriculum ...

It will cover Bible concepts and building character, Bible memory, crafts, health, history, government, social studies, geography, history through biographies, literature and language arts, living, general science, animal science, and the human body.

For math we will stick with what is working for us ....

For grammar we will pick up where we left off with Logic of English (and it also has us keeping up with our cursive handwriting) ...

And for writing we will be using WriteShop Junior Book D.

Additionally we will be doing lots of reading, attending programs at the library, and WE WILL GO ON FIELD TRIPS! We did not go on even one last year. Shameful!

And that's it. All of a sudden I am excited about school again. My goal is to make this year as fun and enriching as possible. Learning something is optional. (But we all know how that goes, huh?)

(And next year I think we will pull back out our A World of Adventure and learn all about the ancients in the same way.)

I am linking up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers for her Curriculum Weekly-Wrap up.

Blogging Through the Alphabet (Favorites Edition) - L is for Living in a Small Town

I didn't realize how much I missed living in a small town until we moved back to Missouri. There are certainly disadvantages, but the advantages far outweigh them. Plus, it's just easy, peaceful, and relaxing.

There are things like deciding we need some Red Diamond Sweet Tea at 8:30 p.m. and walking with Dawson and Crusoe to the grocery store to get it.

Speaking of the grocery store .... it may not have a lot of variety and the prices might be higher at times, but the lack of variety actually causes me to spend less in the end. Plus they have advertised specials that the box stores just don't have.

And there's something kind of sweet about bumping into my dad while I'm in there.

There are very few restaurants in town, but who needs them when you've got the Dairy Queen? Hamburgers, foot long hot dogs, ice cream cones and Mister Misty's (that's what we called them in the day ... now they are the Arctic Rush??) are all we need for lunch or dinner if we are wanting to eat out.

And see the green house beyond the Dairy Queen? That's my parents' house. We can walk right there and eat on their front porch.

Walking. We do a lot of that as a family.

And bike riding. In fact, the kids and I very rarely go anywhere anymore that we don't ride our bikes.

If you broke your vacuum cleaner belt, chances are you would run to Walmart for a replacement, right? And you would stand there for about 30 minutes trying to figure out which one you needed for your particular vacuum, right? And you would probably buy the wrong one that you would have to take back and get a different one, right? Yeah ... been there, done that. But our local hardware store is a woman's dream. On Tuesday afternoon I walked in, handed Tim (the salesperson who is always there who immediately asked me if I needed some help) my broken vacuum cleaner belt, and waited all of 10 seconds for him to come back with the one I needed. They are always so helpful and have exactly what I need. Sure beats the hassle of Walmart.

Our library is small, and I cannot homeschool exclusively from it like I used to be able to do with the Tulsa Public Library system. However, they know us by name, hold books back for us that they think we will like, and call me to make sure my kids are on time to sign up for whatever class they are having next.

Just a short drive out of town, in any direction, you will find an Amish store of some kind. We live in the thick of Amish country. I buy all of my plants, flowers, and gardening seeds and such at the Amish greenhouses for a fraction of the cost of larger nurseries and home improvement chains. A fraction. You can also get the most amazing local products there ... like honey, peaches, and homemade washcloths. I won't hardly use anything but these crocheted washcloths anymore. Amazing! The visit there is always so pleasant and the kids are so cute!

Our dog groomer texted me the day after she groomed Crusoe to make sure Dawson liked it; my mom stopped by to sit and talk on the porch swing while she was on a walk with her dog; people stop when driving by to yell to us that the painting and stuff we are doing to our house looks nice; and my neighbors keep me supplied with zucchini and squash, homemade salsa, freshly caught and filleted crappie, and homemade jellies and applesauce.

Life in a small town is so rich and rewarding and I recommend it to anyone who is tired of the hustle and bustle of big city or suburban life. I know we have never been happier.

If you want to see more reflections of my small town living, you can follow me on Instagram at @nikki_taulman.

Ben and Me

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Past Several Days

We have had a very busy week! I feel like I have been saying that a lot lately. But I guess that is to be expected with summer activities.

We crammed in as much time with Tim, Shawna and Bell before they headed back to their home in Portland, Oregon.

Brynne participated in a volleyball camp at a nearby university last week. I loved sitting and watching her play (and sneaking in several hours of reading time!).

She finished her softball season on Thursday night. She and I agreed that we are glad that we have a break from sports for a few weeks. We are exhausted!

On Saturday the little kids and I headed back to Oklahoma to attend the wedding of our only nephew. Tommy and Jenn had a beautiful, albeit hot, outdoor wedding.

Afterward we went back to my brother and sister in law's house, where Rick lives during the week, to spend time with Rick's whole family. This was the first time all of his siblings and spouses were together in many, many years. We had such a good time hanging out and talking. On Sunday we went to lunch with Rick's family before the kids and I came back to Missouri.

We went straight to my sister's for my niece's birthday party and the reveal party for her baby. She is having a girl.

This week things are MUCH quieter. We are enjoying the beginning of a few days of unseasonably cooler weather. I love it!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blogging Through the Alphabet (Favorites Edition) - K is for Keeping my Nose in a Book

I love to read and find myself not making it enough of a priority. I recently wrote about my Florida state of mind and how when I am there for a week I usually read about three books. I come back home after that week vowing to continue reading as much as possible to find myself just getting right back into a routine that involves anything but reading.

A few weeks ago I made a goal for myself to read one book per week for the rest of the summer. I have done well and read some great books so far this summer. I have starred each of the books I would recommend.

A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin

*Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman

*The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

*Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Now reading:

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Reading Next:

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Join Beth at Thinking of Teaching for her It's the Summer ... and I'll Read if I Want to! linky.

I am also linking up with Marcy at Ben and Me.

Ben and Me

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Moving Beyond the Page - Unit Study Full Packages (Schoolhouse Review)

Moving Beyond the Page Review

Moving Beyond the Page has the best unit studies, in my opinion. Period.

We reviewed two of their products last summer and I was waiting (not so) patiently for this summer's chance to review more of their products. I knew exactly what I wanted to review, made the request, and was chosen. Yes! The kids and I reviewed the Language Arts Package - Sarah, Plain and Tall and the Science Package - The Land.

One of the cool features of Moving Beyond the Page is that you can purchase an entire curriculum or can choose individual unit studies. This allows you to do a little delight-directed learning. They have unit studies for literature, social studies, and science, and many of their unit studies have a recommended (but not required) corresponding social studies or science study. Last year we reviewed the book Poppy by Avi and the Life Cycles science study. The two studies could have been done separately, but together they complimented each other perfectly. Thus was the case this year between Sarah, Plain and Tall and The Land.

What We Received

We received online access to the study guide on Sarah, Plain and Tall, as well as the physical book by Patricia MacLachlan. Everything we needed to complete the language arts study was included in the online materials, with the exception of a few odds and ends for projects. All pdfs were accessible for printing. This included writing assignments, discussion questions, vocabulary, and more.

The Land was a full physical product. The unit study was paperback and spiral bound. We also received the book Maps and Mapping by Deborah Chancellor.

Both unit studies were recommended for ages 7-9.

How We Used the Product

As we did last summer, Moving Beyond the Page was our regular unit study for our summer schooling. All we added to it was Bible, math, and personal reading. We devoted about one hour a day to Moving Beyond the Page, which was plenty of time. We usually spent about two days per lesson. This had us reading about a chapter from Sarah, Plain and Tall every couple of days and reading a few pages out of our Maps and Mapping book. We did anywhere from two to four worksheets a day and/or a project, depending on time. With some breaks for sports camps that we had, it took us about 6 weeks to complete the studies with this schedule.

I took pictures throughout our use of the materials and then had a computer crash last week and lost all of my pictures. Unfortunately, all I have are some product photos, stock photos and screen shot examples to provide. This was a real bummer because we did so much with these units.

Our Opinion

Moving Beyond the Page is my favorite unit study product. We have used and reviewed several different types of products, but Moving Beyond the Page just fits with our teaching and learning philosophies. Not to mention that the lessons are just fun!

The product is so easy to use! The lessons are laid out specifically for you telling you what to read, what to say, what to ask, and which worksheets or projects to do. It really takes minimal time to prep for each day's lessons. And I absolutely love the cross-curricular learning that takes place!

The literature choices are excellent with both classics and newer titles. From what I can tell, the selections are all well-written and highly acclaimed. It is cool to me that a literature unit study can be chosen, based on interest or a topic of study that you know is upcoming in your schooling, and then a science or social studies unit is recommended to expand the study. We have had some trouble with our science studies, with finding a good fit. But the Moving Beyond the Page studies are so great that it eliminates my guilt over not sticking with one textbook styled science curriculum.

Moving Beyond the Page has recommended uses for their products. However, you could easily stretch out one unit over the entire summer or fit in the studies during the busier fall and winter schooling season by just doing what your time allows. It is easily modifiable to any homeschool environment.

Typically I do not care for online products. I like to be able to hold a book in my hand and flip pages back and forth. The physical products are only copyrighted for one child. But you can make as many copies of the online version as you want. For this reason, and the ease of using Moving Beyond the Page makes the online versions very attractive to me.

Even if we are not ever chosen again for another Moving Beyond the Page review, I will continue to purchase a language arts study and corresponding social studies or science unit study for all of our upcoming summer school lessons. It's the perfect fit, and the price is right, too.

If you want to get excited about all Moving Beyond the Page has to over, you just need to browse their website. It is beautifully laid out and informative. I have a list of studies I want us to do just by looking at them on the website.

Product Details

I cannot even begin to list all of the titles available by Moving Beyond the Page. Please go to the links for you child's age range to see what is available. They have products available for ages 4-14.

The Language Arts Package - Sarah, Plain and Tall is available as a physical product for $22.98 and as an online product (with physical product of the book Sarah, Plain and Tall) for $18.92.

The Science Package - The Land is available as a physical product for $24.98 and as an online product (with physical product of the book Maps and Mapping) for $20.92.

To read about many of the other products provided by Moving Beyond the Page that were reviewed by the Crew, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Weekly Wrap-upS ~ The Past Two Weeks

We are certainly into the busy part of summer! We have still been doing schoolwork every Monday through Thursday morning, but have had to take some breaks for Brynne's sports camps. She had a basketball camp at a nearby university and started a volleyball camp there today.

We have celebrated the 4th holiday, welcomed my brother and his family back from South America, and continued to work on painting the trim on our house. And by "we", I mean Rick. It looks so awesome!!

And that doesn't include regular softball practices and games, swimming mowing, gardening, and more.

The Past Week in our Regular Life

We experienced a great tragedy when my hard drive on my laptop had a glitch and the only solution was to reformat it and reinstall the software. And you know what that means. I lost everything on my hard drive ... all my pictures, documents, everything. The real kicker is that I have an external hard drive but had not backed it up. Totally my fault for not doing so. Eli was very upset with me because he had the last four episodes of a series he has been doing for Youtube that I had not uploaded yet. He lost them and has to redo. And Brynne about lost her marbles when she learned that everything she has ever built on Minecraft was gone. I told her to just pretend that her Minecraft villages had been hit by a massive tornado. Was she going to leave it in ruins or rebuild? She is rebuilding.

The Schooling Basics


Even though our review period is over, we are still continuing with our Old Testament and Ancient Egypt lessons from Veritas Press. It's a great program! I wish it wasn't so expensive or I would buy it every year.


The kids got a little stuck on fractional remainders, so we took some extra time over the past two weeks making sure we got the concept down before moving on.


We are still reading Sarah, Plain and Tall and have started a new reading club selection called Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead. And the kids still continue to do personal reading.

The Schooling Fun Stuff

I already mentioned that the kids have a new selection for their reading club. They attend that on Wednesday afternoons. They are also continuing to learn about healthy eating and work in their community garden in their Eating Through the Garden class that meets on Thursday afternoons. This week we are adding a new class called Kids in the Kitchen where they will be learning basic cooking skills with the same teacher that leads their gardening class. Our library has provided some great classes for them this year!

The Kitchen

Brynne told me a couple of weeks ago that she really wants to wear a two-piece swimming suit. However, she does not have the build to do that. She has been complaining about her weight and wanting to lose weight. I plugged in her numbers on a weight chart at WebMD and learned that she is classified as overweight. I already knew that, but seeing the numbers really hit me hard. She and I had already been trying to watch what she ate, but we decided to step it up a notch.

I explained to her that if she really wanted to do it, that we would do it. But that it would be hard and would take commitment. She was up for the challenge and I am happy to say that she has gone full blast with it! We are logging her calories on My Fitness Pal and reviewing her nutritional numbers at the end of the day to see where we could be doing better. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are doing Couch to 5K, hoping to be ready for a 5K in September. And on Tuesday and Thursday we are riding 3 miles on our bikes. This is in addition to trying to ride our bikes wherever we can in town, swimming, and playing softball. She is a running rockstar! I can already see a difference in her body.

The most important part is that she told me that she feels so much better with what she is eating and that she is fuller much longer with her meals. She has even started to try different vegetables! I cannot even begin to express how proud I am of her.  We have discussed that wearing a two-piece swimming suit is not our goal. She understands that if we do all of this work and she has a body that is not appropriate for a two-piece swimming suit, that God made her body that way and she needs to love her body and be proud of it. We are a vessel of God and we are to take the best care of our bodies that we can. If she is doing that, then she is perfect!!

The Days Ahead

Brynne started a three-day volleyball camp today and then has a softball tournament starting Thursday night. We are leaving on Saturday to go to Oklahoma to our nephew's wedding.

The Books We are Reading

Mom:  The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (finished), If I Stay by Gayle Foreman (finished), Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

Brynne: A Surprise for Lily by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger.

Eli: Big Nate: In a Class By Himself by Lincoln Peirce.

Read Aloud:  Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead.

The People and the Places

It's been all about family and friends these past couple of weeks with the 4th holiday and my brother, sister-in-law, and baby niece coming for a visit. We also celebrated my niece, Ashtyn's, 2nd birthday at a party at her house with extended family.

The Savings Jar(s)

I have put $5.68 in the change jar in the past two weeks.

The Bible in a Year

I got all caught up on my Bible reading and then my computer crashed. That is where I read my Bible passages every night. I have a reading schedule set up online. And then I couldn't remember where I had set it up since it was bookmarked. I finally figured it out, but am now over a week behind. I'll get caught up again asap. With all the time I have at Brynne's volleyball camp (about 6 hours each day), I can get it done by Wednesday.

The Favorite Things

I hate to even admit it, but my iPhone. I finally let my husband buy me a smart phone for my birthday. My trusty GPS had broken and I rely on it heavily, so Rick talked me into going ahead and joining the iPhone family. I must say, it's pretty awesome! I even have an Instagram account!! Feel free to follow me at @nikki_taulman.

Linking up