Thursday, May 30, 2013

K is for Kickoff to Summer Reading


Next Monday, June 3rd is the Kickoff to our library's Summer Reading Program. We always do the summer reading programs at our local libraries. The kids are required to read 20 books by August 3rd for a Sonic coupon and a free book. As my kids are reading chapter books now, I will have to be sure and throw in some picture books each week so that they can reach their goal. I think I will set a goal of 5 chapter books and 15 picture books. Anything extra will be bonus.


I'm even going to get involved in the Adult Summer Reading Program! Our goal is to read 10 books this summer. Oh, how wonderful it would be to read 10 books!! For each 10 books I can enter for a Prize Drawing. For me, however, the real prize is just getting to read!!

I know that there are lots of other reading incentive programs out there, like the Scholastic Summer Challenge, Barnes and Noble Summer Reading, Pizza Hut Summer Book It. Hopefully I will be diligent in sending our reading lists in to earn some other prizes for the kids as well.

Want to have a child who actually wants to read in the summer? This article from Barnes and Noble has some great insight. It refers to The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I studied this book two summers ago and posted all of my thoughts on this blog. You can click on this link to read the points that stuck out to me and actually helped me to move my kids into a positive attitude towards reading.

How about you, do you read a lot in the summer? Got any books on your list that you would like to recommend?

I am linking this post up with Marcy at Ben and Me.


Simplified Pantry ~ Schoolhouse Review


 photo tn_zpsd0054245.jpg I enjoy grocery shopping. I enjoy planning meals and making grocery lists. I enjoy finding new recipes and experiencing new foods. But sometimes I grow weary coming up with ideas! I feel like we eat the same thing every night, and we often get in a rut with our meals. I was given the opportunity to review Simplified Dinners by Mystie Winckler at Simplified Pantry. It is a cookbook, of sorts ... a simplified cookbook. Instead of being full of hundreds of completely different recipes, this e-book gives you a system for cooking similar types of meals using, primarily, a stocked pantry.


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Here's an example. In my freezer was a roast. I could have made the same old roast I always make by throwing it into a crock pot with potatoes and carrots and onions and some beef broth. We are bored with that meal! But we still had a roast in the freezer that needed to be eaten!

I pulled up my Simplified Dinners e-cookbook, conveniently downloaded onto my iPad, and went to the Slow Cooker Roasts section. From there I was able to follow some simple steps to build a roast dinner that fit with our cravings for that particular night. Were we in the mood for Savory Beef Roast or Cranberry Wine Roast or Balsamic Roast? It didn't really matter, because the steps to create the roast dinner were the same. The only differences were in what seasonings and other ingredients we cooked with it.

That night we had Rich Roast. The next week we could have used that same roast and had Cranberry Wine Roast by changing the seasoning from a bottle of beer, red wine vinegar and thyme to red wine, worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, and the other ingredients from sliced onions to dried cranberries. And the next week could have been a completely different meal using the same roast.

The key to making this work is to have a stocked pantry. I remember a time when I wanted to make a cake from scratch that I found in a magazine. All of the ingredients were regular pantry items that anyone has in their pantry. And the cake was amazing without me having to go to the store. The Simplified Dinners recipes follow the same premise. With purchased meats and a fully stocked pantry, any of the meals in the e-book can be prepared without leaving the house for any additional ingredients.

And there are many varieties of recipes to make, including:
  • Slow-Cooker Roasts
  • Slow-Cooker, No-Defrost Chicken Pieces
  • Chicken-in-a-Pot
  • Skillet Cutlets with Pan Sauces
  • Marinades for Grilling or Broiling
  • Foil-Packet Fishes
  • Stovetop Pasta
  • Bean Pots
  • Fajitas
  • Quesadillas
  • Taco Bars
  • Burritos or Enchiladas
  • Taquitos
  • Frittatas
  • Oven Omelettes
  • Pizzas
  • Simple Stir-frys
  • Potato Hashes
  • Baked Potato Bars
  • Bean Soups
  • Stews
  • Blended Vegetable Soups
  • Quick Soups
  • Main Dish Salads
  • Vegetable Side Dishes
  • Side-Dish Salads
  • Starchy Side Dishes
This is certainly my preferred way to cook. The only downfall is that in order to start, you really need to get your pantry stocked. If you haven't been doing that in the past, it can be a costly upstart. I will be honest: that kept me from utilizing the cookbook as much as I would have liked. I simply just didn't have many of the ingredients needed for many of the recipes. And I didn't have the grocery budget to fully stock my pantry with what I needed to make it work as simply as it should have.

If you would like a simplified way to build your weekly menus, I highly recommend Simplified Dinners. The recipes are tried-and-true family recipes. They are simple, yet delicious. And I am certain your family will love anything prepared from it.

If you would like to download a sample of the Simplified Dinners e-book, including the pantry list, you can do that by clicking HERE.

Do you need gluten free or dairy free recipes? Then try Simplified Dinners: Gluten Free/Dairy Free e-book edition. And Mystie at Simplified Pantry didn't stop at simplifying your cooking, either. She also has an e-book called Paperless Home Organization. Ahh ... wouldn't that be nice? I did not review either of these e-books, but others did at the Crew so you should stop by and see what they had to say.

Both Simplified Dinners cookbooks can be purchased in e-book format from the Simplified Pantry website for $12.95. (The Paperless Home Organization e-book is in Kindle format for only $3.99.) But you can also receive a 30% discount through June 3rd by using the coupon code TOS2013. What are you waiting for? Get the e-book, stock your pantry, and get cooking!

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Note of Encouragement


Gina Suarez from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine included this note in her most recent "The Homeschool Minute" e-mail. I just wanted to share it today as a word of encouragement. I know I felt refreshed when I read it.


Sometimes homeschooling slips into summer because life got in the way of hitting the books. Other times, it's a deliberate decision to keep those kids from forgetting key information or keeping the momentum with newly learned skills. The most important thing when considering your homeschool calendar is to pray about it and get your husband's advice. Here's some more advice about keeping your eyes on Jesus and letting Him direct everything you do . . .

Hey Mama, just wanted to pop in and help you put your eyes on Jesus. He is still on the throne. While the world has gone mad, He is the same, unmovable, unshakable. He is our great and holy God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We get so caught up in the details of our current problems, but God has already worked out EVERY last detail. Do you think your problems surprise Him? If we've already given the problem over to Him, it's in His hands, so why do we keep going back and snatching it back out? By fussing over our issues, do they go away? By allowing ourselves to become completely engulfed in the trials of our lives, not even able to breathe, do we glorify God?

The problems are there. That's right. The trial continues. Yes it does. But say this today with me: Lord, I don't know what to do, but my eyes are on YOU.

Glorify Him today, Mama. Set your eyes on Christ, your Redeemer. He lives. He is not asleep; He misses nothing. He sees it all, and He will un-weave this web. I promise you; He will fix it. Rise up and go about your day, knowing that if you are in Him, you will not be shaken.

I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 (NASB)

Mama, embrace this day, love on your children, respect and cling to your hubby, obey the Lord in all things, and just . . . walk. He promises to do the rest. Set your eyes continually on Him. You will not be shaken.

~gena

Friday, May 24, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ And .... We're OUT!!


In our regular life this week…

It was a stressful one! In fact, it was one of those kind of weeks where I just really wanted to curl up on the couch in my jammies with a bottle of wine (or four) and not leave it. Those of you who know me might think, "isn't that what you usually do anyway?", minus the four bottles of wine, of course. No, I mean get on the couch in my jammies and not get up for ANY reason for MANY DAYS IN A ROW kind of week.

I feel like we are a family who just kind of does what we are supposed to do when we are supposed to do it, not bothering anybody. And all around us are many who are not doing what they are supposed to do, trampling on everybody in their path and getting away with it. It's exhausting! And sometimes I just need a pity party .. in my jammies ... with wine.
Moving on ...
In our homeschool this week…

We finished our last week of this school year! Well, sort of. I mean, we will be taking a week off and then starting our summer school schedule (yeah, we have joined the schooling year-round bandwagon). And even though we are at the end of the kids' third grade year, they will still be third graders until probably January because we will still be doing third grade concepts through the fall. But since our public schools ended this week, we'll call it the end of the school year.


An update about Spelling: We used the sample lessons of Soaring with Spelling this week and LOVED IT! The kids really liked it and I loved the vocabulary, copywork, and syllable dividing aspect of it. It was like Spelling Plus! We will definitely be using it next year!!!

And the seeds are in! Finally!! Our Outdoor Classroom is ready for students!


I ended up making the grids for our Square Foot Garden out of some old fishing net we had. It worked perfect!! (I was going to braid ropes out of plastic bags, but that was taking forever.)

Eli was the director of the planting. He held the grid plans and told us what to plant where and how much.


We spent several days finalizing our plans. We made our first draft, then made changes so that we were sure that the tall plants weren't stealing sun from the low-growing plants. Then finally we researched "plant buddies" to make sure each plant was next to a friend and not an enemy. I've lived in a neighborhood with nasty neighbors. It's no fun!


Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

As this was a finish-up week, we stayed at home most of the time. I did have an out-of-town appointment all day Wednesday, so the kids hung out with grandma. They did their schoolwork and she rewarded them with a couple of hours at the park and Dairy Queen treats.

Tonight we are going on a Scouting campout as a family. I can't say I am looking forward to it, but I am sure it will end up being fun.

We may try to go to the lake on Sunday for the day. And then again, maybe not. We'll see how things go. 


A favorite thing this week was…

This was a tough week, so I'll dig deep and say that it was the frog eggs my friend brought me for our Life Cycle study. Told ya I had to dig deep! Actually, she came to the door with her daughter carrying a small tray with a little bit of water in it. I swear I thought it was a snake in there! I've seen tadpoles before. But I have never seen them in the egg stage. Fascinating! We have our string of eggs and tadpoles in a shallow bucket on our back porch. We will be plotting their growth and watching them turn into little frogs. Pretty cool!


What's in the kitchen this week ...

I put a whole chicken in the crock pot early in the week that fed us for a few meals. I am already bored with summer cooking and summer hasn't even started. I am sure that will change when I can start cooking out of my garden.


What we're reading ...

Mom: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, Becoming a Titus 2 Woman by Martha Peace, Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. ** I am STILL reading these books! Very little reading has been going on. Ughh!!

Eli: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney. 

Brynne: Scout (Puppy Place) by Ellen Miles

Read-aloud: Secrets of the Scotch Broom (Herb Fairies series) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming.

I ordered a bunch of books for the kids for their summer reading. Brynne got more Puppy Place books and Eli got Captain Underpants and George Brown, Class Clown. They are pretty much set for the summer. I also made a new list of books I want to read this summer.


Things we're working on…

Well I am working on tiny bits of landscaping whenever I can. I spread a little grass seed yesterday after I got tired of mowing our dirt. I can't wait to have a plush, green yard with bushes and flowers. For now I am just planting a little here and there. I bought a couple of Salvias on clearance and planted them by my hummingbird feeder. And I bought some spring planting Peony bulbs that I am hoping will take! I also went to my grandma's and dug up some hydrangea roots praying that they will grow. My grandma has the most beautiful hydrangea bush at her house that died last year, but it has new shoots coming up. I would love to be able to carry that on!


I’m grateful for ...

Simple living even when people around me try to complicate it.


In the garden…

Is that a jalapeƱo??


And a green pepper?



What's coming up this week ...

A week of summer break which means playing for the kids and reading for me (I hope!). My mom has a hankerin' to start on some of my household projects I have been putting off, however, so I am fearful we may be doing some of that. She and I are heading up to Kansas City on Wednesday to see all of the remodeling my sister has been doing in her house. I have my women's circle at church on Tuesday night and Brynne has a softball game on Thursday night.


Things you might have missed at Journey to Excellence ...

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

School's out!!!


We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:






Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Best Part About Graduation ... The Party!!


After a couple of extremely stressful days in our personal life, it's good to spend some time putting together this post about Kyndal's family graduation party. Because when it's all said and done, family is all that really matters anyway.

On Saturday our family, and a few friends, celebrated Kyndal's high school graduation with a cookout and fun day at my parents' lake house. Those attending were me, Rick, Dawson, his girlfriend Taylar, Eli, Brynne, my mom and dad, my niece Rylee and her boyfriend Cade, Kyndal and her boyfriend Collin, Collin's mom Pam and brother Austin (dad Tracy was working on their deck), my uncle Jon and aunt Dixie, next door neighbors at the lake (and boys who Kyndal actually went to high school with for a time in the first town she lived in with her dad) Channin, Dalton and Dakotah.


Oh, and Crusoe was there!


We grilled burgers and hot dogs, had hashbrown potato casserole, pea salad, pasta salad, chips, brownies, lemon bars and drinks. The adults mostly just sat around on the deck and the dock and enjoyed the beautiful day!


The kids fished and rode the wave runner.


And we went on a boat ride. The little kids even got out on the couch for some splashing fun!


It was just such a great day spent with family and friends celebrating Kyndal and her accomplishments!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So How Did We Do? ~ An End of the Year Review



I don't know about you, but I cannot believe the school year is coming to an end! It went by SO fast! We had a few little bumps along the way, but mostly this was a very successful year and there really isn't much I would change about it.

It was a transition for me to send Dawson back to public school (I have missed him and the high school subject matters a lot!) and to bring Eli home to school with Brynne. But, the kids all did well and I know that we made the right decisions. I do still wish Dawson was home and, in fact, I wish that I would have homeschooled all of my children from day one and graduated Kyndal this year from home.  (I don't care a thing about bowing down to the oppression of government institutions ... had to deal with the harsh realities of that this week!) But she has graduated and Dawson is doing fine and is where he wants to be, so I guess all is good.

Speaking of graduation ... now there's an adjustment! I have a graduated child. So strange! She is very excited about her future plans of attending cosmetology school, which she will begin in the fall. She and I will be going to tour the school next week. She will do a great job, I know, because it is something she has always wanted to do! My sister is hoping to apprentice her so that she can take her booth here in the town where we live on the days she is not able to work it. So, Kyndal might come out of school with a booth and clients already established. That would be a blessing!

So, onto what worked and didn't work for us this year in our homeschool ...

Bible. We started each morning with a Bible lesson out of Grapevine Studies: Stick Figuring through the Bible - Old Testament Overview Level 3-4. I would read passages from the Bible and the kids would then draw stick figure drawings in their journals. We learned about:
  • Creation
  • Adam and Eve
  • The Fall
  • Noah and the Flood
  • The Tower of Babel
  • Job
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph the Slave
  • Joseph the Ruler
  • Moses
  • The Deliverance
  • The Exodus
  • The Law and the Promises
  • The Tabernacle
  • The Twelve Spies
This was a perfect way for us to start our day and we will use this book again next year and do the last half of the series. Excellent!

Grammar. We started our year using Easy Grammar, but it just didn't seem to work for Eli the way that it worked for Brynne. So I spent some time just printing free worksheets off the internet. We focused a good deal of our time on nouns, verbs and adjectives using Rainbow Sentences and Samson's Classroom. But, both of those things ran their course. We were doing so much reading and writing that I decided to abandon formal grammar for the rest of the school year. We replaced it with Spanish lessons. I would really like to find a good fit for us for grammar. I do believe the kids are getting loads of it with all of our reading and writing, but I would still like a formal program. My heart has always leaned toward Cozy Grammar. I may just have to buckle down and buy it.

Writing. We spent the year doing the lessons out of WriteShop Primary Book A and are finishing it this week. I have really liked this program a lot. I don't know that the kids love it, but I feel like it has given them so good foundation in writing. They covered these topics:
  • Personal Writing
  • Thinking of Ideas to Write About
  • Selecting a Title
  • Constructing a Beginning, Middle and End
  • Using a Period at the End of a Sentence
  • Using Word Families to Write Stories with Rhyming Words
  • Using a Story Web to Organize Ideas
  • Introducing the Personal Narrative Story
  • Writing About Events in the Order They Happen
Brynne loves to write. Eli does not. I realized this week that part of his problem may be linked to his Asperger's (took me long enough), so I need to spend more time allowing him to get his thoughts out orally and then helping him to put them in writing. This causes him a lot of stress, usually combined with a lot of tears.

I have already received WriteShop Primary Book B and we will use it next year.

Additionally, we have also begun cursive handwriting using Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Handwriting. We will continue to use this throughout the summer. It is wonderful and the kids have really taken to cursive. (Do you know they don't even teach that in public school anymore? What???) My children will learn to read and write cursive. Next year we will move onto Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Success for 4th graders.

Spelling. Ugh. We used All About Spelling this year, starting with Level 1. I thought we liked it. By the end of the year, and midway through Level 2, I decided we did not. We abandoned the tiles early on as tedious work. I don't know how to explain it. We just didn't like it and it was one of those subjects that got LOTS of groans! We homeschool. Groaning is not necessary. I considered abandoning formal spelling altogether and just doing copywork. But, honestly I think Eli would groan so much through the extra writing that he would miss the spelling aspect of it. So this week, at the recommendation of a friend, we are using some sample lessons from Soaring with Spelling and Vocabulary. LOVE! I think it is exactly what we have been looking for! I love the games and the vocabulary aspect! I think I will definitely be purchasing it for next year. Whew!!

Math. We started out our year reviewing facts with Addition and Subtraction Teaching and Learning Made Easy by Glenda Brown James. It was a great way to start the year. Then we moved onto Math Enhancement Programme, a free math curriculum that I absolutely love. It is intense and wonderful! Brynne loves it! Eli, not so much. But then we had some math programs to review through the Schoolhouse Review Crew. We did lessons with A+ Tutorsoft, did some of our own lessons on measurement using living books, and then found the wonderful world of Math U See. This came at a perfect time because it was time for us to start multiplication!

We will continue to use Math U See Gamma throughout the summer to work on our multiplication facts. The kids also play Math Rider everyday and do Multiplication Math Wrap-ups. They will continue this, as well.

When school starts back up in the fall, we will start our year with Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy by Glenda Brown James. After we complete the book (6 weeks) we will finish Math U See Gamma and then move onto Math U See Delta to work on division.

Unit Studies. For social studies and science, we do unit studies. This also includes literature studies. I just build these on my own based on interest, community events, literature and Schoolhouse Review Crew products. This year we studied:
  • Caves
  • The Story About Ping (Five in a Row)
  • Penguins
  • Fairies
  • Insects
  • Fall Equinox
  • Lentil (Five in a Row)
  • Clown of God (Five in a Row)
  • Nigeria
  • Indonesia
  • Halloween
  • Election
  • Japan
  • Charlie Needs a New Cloak
  • Atoms, Molecules, Crystals
  • Gingerbread Friends
  • Arctic Animals
    • Denmark/Polar Bears
    • Canada/Snowy Owls
    • Norway/Arctic Fox
    • Sweden/Whale
  • Australia
  • Rocks
  • Birds
  • China
  • Valentine's Day
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Stick Man
  • Light
  • Shells
  • Vikings
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Recycling: Plastic Bags
  • Herbs
  • Square Foot Gardening
This was a fun year learning about a wide variety of things. But next year it's time to start a more concrete area of study. I am planning for us to do an entire USA geography study using Road Trip USA by Confessions of a Homeschooler. Eli and Brynne love Geography and I think this is going to be a great year-long study for us. Any science we do will be nature or product reviews.

Art, Nature, PE. These things were done intermittently throughout the year as time and interest arose. Next year we will probably just do it the same way. We had days where we just went to the park for nature study, or played on the playground. We took lots of walks and rode scooters. We did some art projects here and there with our other lessons and independently. I was happy with what we did.

Co-op. We miss our Co-op in Oklahoma. It was a perfect fit for us and we had great friends. We joined a Co-op in a town 30 minutes away, but it just did not work for us. The kids took two classes: Holidays Around the World and Water World. We just didn't like it. This fall I am hoping to start a very small Co-op with a few local families to meet on Friday mornings. I would like for us to do some type of weekly art lesson. And then I thought I might lead a study through Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling since we never seemed to get to it this year. And I want to!! I am still working through this in my mind.

Reading. This was a biggie for us this year! The kids did LOTS of independent reading, progressing very nicely! They read every day for 30 minutes. Then we also had several read alouds. This year we read:
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Secrets at Sea
  • Stuart Little
  • Peter Pan
  • The Storm
  • Snowshoe the Hare
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles series
  • Bud, Not Buddy
  • Herb Fairies, Stellaria
  • Herb Fairies, Secret of the Scotch Broom
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • And loads and loads and loads of picture books and non-fiction books
I would have to say that all-in-all, this was a successful year with excellent products and great progress! With only a few tweaks, we have next year all mapped out with few changes. We have a relaxed summer schedule planned with continued learning and then will start back full-time in late August.

How was your year? I am linking up with the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog Cruise, and you can go to their blog to see how other families felt about their school year. It goes live on May 25th.

Monday, May 20, 2013

J is for Journey to a Frog, Butterfly, Chicken



We will be schooling through the summer, with a more relaxed schedule. Our schooling will occur from 10:00 a.m. to noon, to allow for lots of afternoon playtime and swimming. We will do Bible, math, reading, and a unit study each day.

Our unit study will consist of our Square Foot Garden and the life cycles (aka Journey) of a frog, butterfly and chicken.

We are starting with the Journey of a Frog. We received a bowl of tadpoles from a friend. Starting this week we will be reading about the life cycle of a frog and notebooking the changes in our tadpoles as they make their journey to full froghood. Then we will release them back into the water source from where they came.


In a week or so, we will begin learning about the Journey of a Butterfly. We will be reading the book Poppy by Avi and will be growing butterflies with our Green Earth Butterfly Kit. (This is all part of a review we are doing for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.) We will also be doing lots of butterfly life cycle activities and reading other books.


In July, we will be receiving a loaned incubator from the University of Missouri Extension Center, twelve eggs and a lesson plan to plot the Journey of a Chicken. We will hatch our little eggs, plot our chicks' growth, and care for them until they start stinking too much. Then we will give our babies to a local family who will use them as meat chickens. No, the kids will not know that. They will think they are going "to the farm".

Our read aloud while we are hatching the chicken eggs will be Omelette: A Chicken in Peril by Gareth Owen.


This will be a great unit for us to do this summer! I am really looking forward to it! I hope the kids enjoy our Journey, too.

Linking up with Marcy at Ben and Me.

Dating Through the Alphabet ~ Church



Well, I have to admit I have not been diligent in planning dates for Rick and I. It seems that when he is here on the weekends, our weekends are full. What that really means is that I have NOT made a date night a priority like I had intended. For that, I feel horrible. We allow his weekends here to be monopolized with time spent with the kids, family events, kids' activities and yard work. It is only my fault that I have not made that intentional effort to set aside time for just the two of us.

This weekend was no exception. But, we did get away without the kids on Sunday morning as we travelled out of town with my bell choir from church to play in a little country church that had invited us. We were with other people, but we still had some fun together without the kids.

After our performance, nine of us went to a local winery for lunch. It was kind of funny for all of us to show up in our United Methodist Church shirts to eat lunch and drink wine. Yes, we drank wine. We had a GREAT time!! Lots and lots of laughs and a beautiful setting! The food was great! It felt like we were in Italy. Gorgeous!!

Who says Church can't be fun?? And who says Church can't be a fun date??



Do you have a date you would like to Link up?? I'd love for you to, if you do.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The End is Near, But There's Another Beginning


In our regular life this week…

This has been another crazy, busy week. We have been away from home every night this week! Monday night we drove four hours to Tulsa, went to WWE Monday Night Raw, then drove home another four hours getting here at 3 a.m. On Tuesday night, after a late afternoon power nap, the kids wanted to go for a walk so we walked to Dairy Queen for dinner and stopped by Grandma and Papa's to eat it. On Wednesday night we walked to and from church for dinner and bell choir practice. On Thursday we spent the day in Kansas City (an hour and half drive each way) and then came home for Brynne's softball practice. Last night I needed to run some errands to get supplies for Kyndal's graduation family party at my parents' lake house, which is today. Then tomorrow morning Rick, Brynne and I are getting up bright and early to travel to a nearby church for our bell choir to perform. Afterward we are stopping at a winery for lunch with some of the group. Whew! I need a full week of doing NOTHING! And I need to stop driving my car! The trip to/from Kansas City on Thursday cost $39.10 in gas! Ridiculous!!


In our homeschool this week…

We did our basics all week, lots of reading, cursive handwriting, and multiplication worksheets and drills.

With ongoing frustrations with spelling, we have decided to change up our spelling routine for these last two weeks of school and by using some sample lessons I printed online from Soaring with Spelling and also playing games with that list on Spelling City.

I love a planner page with lots of check marks, especially on a Friday!

We had taken a several week break from our WriteShop writing program to do Spanish lessons for a couple of different products we have been reviewing. With only one lesson remaining in WriteShop to finish Primary A, we picked it back up this week to get it finished by the end of our school year. We are practicing story sequencing.

Our unit study this week centered around our Square Foot Garden. We spent a lot of time planning and discussing the importance of proper placement. Then we filled out a grid of where we will plant their seeds. After a little more research and revision, we made final plans. The seeds will go in on Monday.

This might be their final plan for their Square Foot Garden. We'll look at it again one more time on Monday morning before the seeds go in the ground.

With the weather so beautiful and FINALLY spring-like, although it's almost summer, the birds are just happily chirping away. And that brings us out the front door and into the yard several times a day.

Where are those Starlings? I can hear them but I can't find them!

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We have been reading aloud the book Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.


It has been our favorite read aloud of the year. It is about a young orphan in the 1930's who believes that his father is a famous musician and he goes in search of him. On Thursday we went to Coterie Theatre in Kansas City to see the play based on the book. It was SO good! The adaptation was amazing! We really enjoyed it!


Then after the play we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Fritz's. The food is mediocre, but the train delivery of it makes it all worth it!



A favorite thing this week was…

The beautiful temperatures that had us outside every day playing, riding scooters, going for walks, playing with the dogs and planting flowers.


What's in the kitchen this week ...

It's been another week of grabbing whatever we have handy. We did walk to Dairy Queen for dinner one night, had church potluck on Wednesday, and cereal for dinner Thursday night since we ate out for lunch at Fritz's. I finally sat down yesterday and organized our schedule for the next two weeks, got menus planned, made a real-live grocery list, and went shopping. I haven't accomplished that in weeks! We'll be having some favorites: chicken and noodles, chicken cigars, fried fish, burritos, spaghetti, and popcorn chicken with waffle fries. Gotta get those veggies worked in, too!


What we're reading ...

Mom: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, Becoming a Titus 2 Woman by Martha Peace, Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. ** I have not been able to read much because of our crazy schedule the past couple of weeks. Looking forward to summer!

Eli: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney. (I just ordered him a box set of George Brown, Class Clown.)

Brynne: Flash (Puppy Place) by Ellen Miles (She is blasting through this series and I just ordered her the next five books.)

Read-aloud: Secrets of the Scotch Broom (Herb Fairies series) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. I picked this old hardback up for 50 cents at our church garage sale several weeks ago. We were excited to see that the Coterie Theatre (that we went to on Thursday to see "Bud, Not Buddy") will have a production of  "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" next June!! I love when that kind of thing happens!



Things we're working on…

Finishing up our last five days of this school year. We will take a week-long break and then start on our summer school schedule on June 3rd.


I’m grateful for ...

The freedom to set our own schedule when homeschooling. I know the kids won't be excited about doing school work in the mornings this summer. But, I think they will be happy when we are able to take a couple of two week vacations in the fall because of it. That way we can enjoy some extended sunny Florida weather in October or November, and then an extended Christmas break here at home!


In the garden…

I got my peppers, jalapenos, red onions, parsley, and purple basil planted this week in my pizza garden. I will finish off that garden box by planting regular basil and oregano.



What's coming up this week ...

We will be working hard to finish up what we are doing so we can begin a more relaxed summer schedule! Brynne has a softball game Monday night that her daddy gets to go to while Eli and I are leading his Scout meeting by teaching about landscaping. We will be planting flowers at the Scout cabin and making mini greenhouses. The rest of the week might be kind of quiet?? ... I hope ?? Then on Friday night the family is going camping with the Scouts for one night. Boy, I can't wait (insert sarcasm here).


Things you might have missed at Journey to Excellence ...

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

Yesterday morning Brynne said, "Eli and I are almost in 4th grade!" I didn't tell her that we are really doing 3rd grade again because she is only 7 and Eli could use another year of reinforcing "3rd grade" concepts. If I don't do this, she will graduate when she is 16. We'll just call this 3/4T for 3rd/4th transitional. Or maybe our school year will be January to January so that we can spend this summer and fall doing 3rd grade work and graduate to 4th in January. Whatever.


We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:






Friday, May 17, 2013

Summer School


Do you school year round? In past years, we have followed the public school schedule and stopped schoolwork in the summer months. We would have an occasional unit study day (that I would count as a school day for the following year), but otherwise we would give our brains a big ol' break.

But this year, I have plans to do things differently. We will have a modified schedule for summer that will involve fewer subjects. The kids are in the middle of learning their multiplication facts and I don't want to break when we are making good progress.

They have also really improved on their reading skills and in their stamina with read alouds, so I want to keep reading everyday!

Since we don't get to a lot of science in the school year, and since the kids are planting a Square Foot Garden, we will do Science unit studies all summer.

And I came across a really neat short Bible/Culture lesson that will take us around the world.

And we will also have various Schoolhouse Review Crew products we will need to be reviewing throughout the summer.

So here are our summer plans:

  • We will start each day doing a Math-U-See workbook page and then will split up to play Math Rider and to practice facts on our Multiplication Wrap-ups. This should take us about 30 minutes.


  • The kids will read independently for 15 minutes every day out of the book of their choice. I will also read a chapter or so out of another book as a read aloud. This will take us about 30 minutes.


  • We will work on our unit study. In addition to caring for our garden, we will be doing a summer-long study on the LifeCycle. We will be hatching chick eggs in July (using a program offered by our local university extension office), growing butterflies (as part of an upcoming review), and (hopefully) gathering some tadpoles to watch the transformation to frogs (gonna have to get those the old fashioned way ... out of the pond). This will likely take us about 20-30 minutes a day.


  • We will finish our lessons by doing Around the World in 60 Days by Thriving Family (by Focus on the Family). This is a daily devotional, cultural, activity and prayer program that covers 27 countries in 60 days. We will add stickers to our passports as we study each country. This will take us about another 15-20 minutes a day.


  • We will also have to put in our time doing reviews as they come available. That will take a few extra minutes a day, as well.

All total, we will do about two hours of schoolwork each day. I plan to keep track of our hours. Every five days of summer school will earn us two days of logged school. In 60 days we will earn 24 days of school that we can take off throughout the rest of the school year on trips to Florida or extra days off around Christmas! That's totally worth a couple of hours of school work a day, huh???

We will definitely be done by noon each day and our afternoons will be spent at the city pool soaking in the rays, reading (mom) and playing with friends!

How about you? Will you have summer school?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

WWE were there!


Monday night Rick and I had the time of our lives with Eli and Brynne. We attended WWE Monday Night Raw in Tulsa! Oh ... my ... gosh ... IT WAS SO FUN!


Now, this is one of those things that had you told me a year ago that I would be doing it, I would have laughed in your face .. like REALLY hard! (That ranks right up there with getting a tattoo! Who am I?) But right before Eli's birthday this past year, he received some hand-me-down WWE figures and a ring from a friend and he has been hooked ever since. I mean really hooked! Which means that we, as a family, eat, sleep and breathe wrestling. It's been contagious and Brynne is almost as big a fan as Eli.


When we found out they were coming close, we had to go! We had the BEST seats! We were right on the corner of the ring in the risers, 10 rows up. And we saw EVERYBODY we wanted to see (except for Rey Mysterio, Eli's favorite). Yes, it's staged and acted out, but it's like seeing any other celebrity. It's just fun! And, it doesn't hurt that a couple of them look pretty, um, nice in their costumes. (I have the hots for John Cena, Rick has the hots for Randy Orton.)




The kids were so excited and so cute! They sang theme songs, cheered, boo'd, gave thumbs up and thumbs down, screamed chants. It was awesome! Brynne just kept saying, "I can't believe we are here." and "This is the best night of my life!" and "I am so glad this is not a dream." Eli was so overwhelmed that he was, literally, speechless at the end. He was in a daze.

Here are just a couple of pics. I won't bore you with the other 77. If you don't follow WWE, you could care less, I know.

Sin Cara ... a very exciting pre-show surprise!

Eli spent the majority of the time in this position, or high-fiving Rick.

Randy Orton ... yeah, we kind of like him.

My love, John Cena.

Eli and Brynne jamming out with the 3MB.

The steel cage match. THIS was a good one!

What memories we made Monday night. And, it won't be our last live WWE event. It was really just too much fun!! Money VERY well spent!!