Where have I been?

Let me start by saying I’M ALIVE! And that I am sorry.

I can’t believe it has been 2 months since my last post. I hate when you find an awesome blog (hopefully you find my blog awesome) and then there is never another post. It really irks me. And to know I did that is a hard pill to swallow. But to be honest, and that’s what I am going to be, my life has been pure hell. So out of control and way off course, that I literally take it one day….no… one hour at a time.

For the past 6 months or so, my hubby and I have been dealing with some children issues. Basically I have an 18 year old that has lost her way and is making poor choices. It was so bad that it controlled my every thought, day and night. I woke up thinking about it and went to bed thinking about it. I was stressed and aggravated. The mood of the whole house changed to a big, black cloud.

So as you can imagine, I felt I had nothing positive to post. I felt that I could say nothing because of how personal it was. I felt lost.

I think my hubby knew I was at my breaking point and asked me to take a backseat and let him handle it. At first, I was pissed off and angry. But I also felt tremendous relief. A weight lifted from my shoulders.

I took the kids to the park that day. And I just watched and listened to the laughter. I watched the joy on their faces. I realized I had been so focused on her that I was missing out. Later that day, Hubby sent me on an errand and said to go by myself and get a frappe. I drove with the windows down and the music up. I was living again.

My best friend has been my rock. I leaned on her daily through these last 6 months. She witnessed what I was going through first hand the other day. As we watch my daughter walk out the door to go where ever it was she was going, she asked how can you be so calm not knowing where or what might happen. My answer was because I have 3 other kids that need me. I have a 6 year old that craves my attention, a special needs child that needs my attention and a 16 year old that wants my attention. They speak to me with kind words and show me love. They are a bright spot in a dark day.

A situation like this could have easily torn my family apart. Hubby and I could have different views and be on different pages. We could be at each others throats all day, everyday. But instead we are closer than ever and stronger than ever. And that has helped our younger children survive the storm that has become our life.

Our oldest has 9 more weeks of school left. I tell people YAY! 9 more weeks of school and then I go OH only 9 more weeks of school. But we will make it through.

Plus I have been singing a lot of Let it Go from Frozen.

Peak into our homeschool life

Like I had said in an earlier post, we didn’t start a new school year in August. We are still finishing up Kindergarten, 7th and 9th grade. Our new school year begins in January, after our holiday break.

But I wanted to give you a peak into some of the things we have been doing.

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Scavenger Hunt at the park

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Beginning spelling and yes he is shirtless 99% of the time

Growing a large family

This is after he beat me at Go Fish for the millionth time

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Pumpkin fun

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More Park Fun

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She free-handed her pumpkin drawing then carved it.

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My lil farmer boy

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Homeschool Day at the Florida Aquarium

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Turtle Learning at the Florida Aquarium

We have had a lot of park days lately. We also have had quite a few field trips.

This post is partying over at:

Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Deschooling

Deschooling is an important step when transitioning from regular school to homeschool. You need that time to relax and get out of the mind frame that homeschooling doesn’t have to be like a classroom. You don’t have to cover all of the subjects everyday and you don’t have to learn in the form of worksheets and test. You don’t have to leave a paper trail to show progress or accomplishments. Learning should be free and hands on. You should encourage your children’s interest and follow their questions to guide you along their learning path. Not some paper or book or professional that says at this age they should know how to do this, that and this and that.

Let me let you in on a little secret. I didn’t do anything that I just ranted and raved about! I have homeschooled for 8 years now. I took my kids out of school and went straight into workbooks and worksheets. We didn’t deschool. Our lessons took precedence over the fun of schooling. Experiments got pushed to the back burner along with field trips and fun. And I mostly think this is why my oldest rebelled. And why ultimately she went back to school.

So why haven’t I posted anything about schooling for the last 3 months or so. Well…..because I finally realized that we needed to deschool. We needed to relax and take a step back. And find our path that we are meant to be on. And that we did.

We watched movies. We read books. We played. We went to Disney. We cooked and had lots of holiday fun. We played video games. And we relaxed! Plus we also took many opportunities to ask questions and look up the answers. In fact, they ask so many questions at moments when we weren’t near a computer that my daughter started carrying pen and paper to write them all down.

But we were still learning. We also talked about where we wanted our homeschool path to head.

But more importantly we lived by the motto of Live, Laugh, Love.

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Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshops

A little over a year ago, my hubby started taking Lil’ Man to our local Lowe’s for the build and grow workshops. It is usually one Saturday a month. And it really provides a lot of fun and skill building time for the little ones or big ones.

Our first time they gave Lil’ Man an apron, safety goggles and a name tag. Each time you go you will receive a certificate and an iron on patch. You borrow a small hammer and they give you everything you need to make whatever it is you are making that day. It’s awesome!

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Our first building experience

 

And did I mention it’s fun, easy and FREE!? Yes, it’s completely free. You’ll want to go to the Lowes Build and Grow site. There you will see the date for the next workshop, what you are building and when sign-ups open. Signing up early is very important because these fill up fast. Sometimes you can just show up and wait until all the register participants have shown up and see if any are left. But registering is a less than 5 minute task and easy.

Next workshop is Saturday, February 14th at 10 am. Sign ups open February 2nd. And your child will be making a sweetheart picture holder.

Future project looks to be a Monster Truck.

Have fun and enjoy!

Hello 2015!!

New year 2015

 

I know I am a little late, but honestly I don’t start my new year resolutions until after my birthday on the 5th. Why deprive myself of cake and celebration!?! I made it another year and, dang it, I earned that slice of cake!

So my new year starts when winter break is over and normal life resumes. Well as close to normal as this bunch can get.

I have thought about my new year’s resolution for sometime now. Months actually! I feel like 2014 was my year to find myself. I found out that I have a passion for homesteading that I never knew was there. And not only homesteading, but natural living, without all the chemicals and medications. I like being able to keep my family healthy without the use of antibiotics or over the counter drugs. I like cooking from scratch and knowing what is going into my food and that the items are of the best quality that I can find.

But there were many areas that I floundered at. I don’t want to say fail because that is so negative. I feel like I never failed. I may not have put my best effort in to them, but I never failed, so floundered is the perfect description.

So here they are my resolutions:

  1. Learn more and love life~ Enjoy it, every minute! I noticed my anxiety has flared up a little bit and I want to get a handle on it better so I can accomplish this task. Just get healthier in general. I see too many family members fighting different diseases and I don’t want that. I wanna be around for a long, long time.
  2. Expand our homesteading. I would love to get where we can raise our own meat and add some more egg layers to our little flock. Ducks are coming only because they are so cute!
  3. Separate myself from the negativity. Too many times I let other people’s life choices stress me out and worry me. Yes, they are my family and I love them, but they are not my immediate (in my household) family and those are the ones that need my guidance and attention. So I am going to learn to Let it go! (cue Frozen song here)
  4. Blog more and interact with more bloggers. Expand this and possibly make a business that will thrive and I can be extremely proud of.
  5. Spend more time with my kids. This year my oldest is turning 18!!! How did that happen I have no idea?!? But I feel like I blinked and her childhood was gone. So I am using that as an eye opener and cherishing every moment I have left with them all.

To help me with these, I will probably set little mini goals each month. I seem to do well with a to do list type thing. Sometimes I get so busy with just the everyday stuff that I look up and a whole month has gone by. I would like to try to slow down a bit and that is my overall theme of the year.

Slow down and enjoy being me!

December Preschool

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The holidays are here along with the hustle and bustle. This time of year always throws off our homeschooling schedule. I just have way too much cooking and shopping to do. Along with all the fun holiday activities! There is visiting Santa, Christmas crafts and baking, visiting fun holiday places and watching all those movies. So why not make that a part of homeschooling. I know I learn something new every year, so I am sure your kids will too. Plus your kids are only young once and you want to enjoy these little memories before their too big and too cool to hang with you. Believe me! I know!

Activities planned for the month:

  • Elf on the shelf
  • Putting up our tree
  • Visiting Santa
  • Mailing a letter to Santa
  • Baking Cookies
  • Pinecone Painting
  • G is for Gingerbread~ Gingerbread paint, making gingerbread men or house
  • Learn about reindeers
  • Poinsettias
  • National Cocoa Day~ measuring and mixing (that’s math people!)
  • Grinch day~ Learn about kindness. Pin the heart on the Grinch and grinch juice as a snack. Plus watching old and new version of the movie.
  • Candy Canes~ Cane Hunt, Playdough, Paint and erupting Candy canes
  • Polar Express PJ Party
  • 1st day of Winter
  • Snowball Fight and Homemade Snow Fun
  • Advent Calendar
  • Walt Disney’s B-day December 5
  • New Year’s Eve

 

Field Trips planned:

  • Disney World~ At Hollywood Studios, they have an amazing light display called the Osbourne Family Lights. It is the best display I have ever seen. And, of course, the lighting of the castle at Magic Kingdom. This year Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf are lighting the tree. Very exciting!
  • Park
  • Florida Aquarium
  • Lowry Park Zoo
  • Lowes for the monthly building activity
  • Looking at Christmas lights

Because it’s a busy month, I haven’t planned out everyday. I just made a list and when I need an idea I search through and grab the ones that appeal to me that day.

For more ideas visit my pinterest boards. Christmas Activities for school and December preschool lessons

I also have a Christmas board that has a lot of Elf on the Shelf ideas and Advent Calendar activities.

 

 

November Preschool Curriculum

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November is filled with so much learning opportunities that it really doesn’t need much added to it. For my 5 yr old, holidays are a huge event right now. He loves counting down from one holiday to the next. We have several calendars set up and special markers added for Thanksgiving. We also made a paper chain that he can rip off and count everyday.

 

I am choosing to focus mostly on the meaning of Thanksgiving. These are some points I plan on covering this month:

  • Who are Pilgrims and Native Americans
  • Where the Pilgrims came from, where they ended up and how they got there
  • Meaning of Thanksgiving (being thankful)
  • What the first Thanksgiving was like
  • Foods then and now
  • Showing Kindness
  • Basic Thanksgiving words and crafts

As extra bonus, there were a few special days from the calendar this month that I will throw in there.

  • X-ray day (Saturday 11/8)
  • Recycling Day (Saturday 11/15)
  • Button Day (Sunday 11/16)
  • Homemade Bread Day (Monday 11/17)
  • Mickey Mouse Birthday (Tuesday 11/18)
  • Traffic Light Day (Thursday 11/20)

The days that fall on weekends, I usually fit in where ever I need an activity.

There were also 2 days from last month that I either didn’t get to or I couldn’t find my materials that I will definitely work in this month.

  • National Nut day
  • Reptile Awareness Day

Every lesson I talk about letters and their sounds. We will be counting daily. I have a little bit of science, history, geography, art, cooking, and color recognition.  My son and I read books daily. Utilize your library!

I get a lot of my ideas from Pinterest. Follow my board November Preschool Ideas I pin all ideas specific to the month in one separate board to keep me from having to search forever.

I also print out a monthly calendar and use a notebook to keep things easy and convenient.  On the calendar, I mark the days of special events. This gives me a quick cheat sheet.

In my notebook is where I detail everything. I will write the date, the theme and different activities that go with it. Everything from the letters we learn, the book will read and the crafts or activities that I have saved on Pinterest. This keeps me from suffering from Mommy Brain and able to stay on track.

Another thing I do (most of the time)  is print out different activities ahead of time, and keep it in a monthly folder.

I am not a very organize person, but these 3 things keep me on track and are worth my time.

Let me know what works for you!

How I homeschool my preschooler

How to homeschool preschool

Dakota beginning his preschool years (2013)

 

My son hates school. He hates the idea of going away from Mom everyday. He hates the coloring and other boring stuff. He wants to have fun!

When he turned 5 this past July, I knew I didn’t want him to start Kindergarten until he was 6. But I also knew I had to enforce school more. I had to buckle down and make him do it and learn. And then I had a melt down and wanted to (probably did) cry.

I was bored, he was bored, his sisters were bored. Everything needed to change.

Finally, I have found a plan that works for us!

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I signed up for a million homeschooling blogs and newsletter that I barely have time to read. One was from LivingMontessoriNow. About the time, I was ready to send him to a half day preschool, I opened one of their emails. It was a listing of different events or holidays for the month of October. As I was glancing through it, I saw how I could fix our preschool. I was too focused on the letter of the week, number of the day and blah blah. I sucked all the fun out of it.

Stuffed Animal Picnic Day

Stuffed Animal Picnic Day

I used these days as my theme for the day. Then, I tied in crafts, letters and sounds, counting and anything else I could, in with the theme. The days have a much more relaxed feel to it. He is asking if it is time for school. He loves the themes and is absorbing what I am teaching. He can even retell it to his Daddy during dinnertime. Without any prompt, he is telling Daddy or Sissy Alissa what he did or learned. I am trying to make everything visual and hands on. By doing this, I am seeing a difference. By letting him ask questions and answering or explaining things to him, he has become a little sponge!

Not only is my Lil Man loving and learning in school now, but it is cheap to almost free most of the time. I use Pinterest and blogs that provide free worksheets to create my “curriculum.” I use the library to find our books for our themes or movies. I also use Netflix from time to time.

So what has my son learned in the last month and a half.

  • We learned more about chickens.
  • We learned about Ducks. And in the process of reading a duck book, he learned what male/female meant.
  • He went to the movie theater for the first time and saw Dolphin Tale 2.
  • He learned the letters c,d,p,j,s,b,f and e. Meaning he practices writing them and learned their sounds.
  • Started practicing his last name.
  • Learned about Fire Safety.
  • Also learned about different ways to put a fire out and what keeps it going.
  • Learned about poisonous snakes.

One night at dinner, he was telling my hubby and I about how when it’s dark here, it is daytime somewhere else. I don’t even know where he learned that.

I know he learned so much more because he sat in on lessons with his sisters and helped on projects. And my lil guy is always asking questions and wanting something explained.

We have also been taking a lot of field trips! My son is very into maps right now and learning about Geography, where our state is and where other states and countries are. So a field trip to the Food Festival at Epcot was the perfect spot for growing that learning.

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And to play some drums!

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To wrap up the month, of course we had to have some fall fun with a lesson about how pumpkins grow and the life cycle. What letters and sounds do pumpkin and jack o’lantern start with and wrapping it up with a trip to the pumpkin patch.

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And the best part was how Dakota kept saying how much fun he was having. Score for Momma!

 

 

3 year Blogiversary

 

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Growing a large family 3 year blogiversary

 

It was 3 years ago today that I decided to start a blog. A place where I can vent and connect with the world. I also did many searches for large family blogs and couldn’t find any. So I decided that that was the direction I wanted to go. Over the years it has morphed into an eclectic collection of moments in our lives from homeschooling to homesteading. I try to keep it real, but classy and positive at the same time. I hope I have provided some humor along with some ideas and tips to help with your lives. All I ask is that you spread the word.

 

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Now let’s take a look back at my top post over the last 3 years.

First Day of School 2013

Homemade Pizza Dough

Building our Coop de Ville

 

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My Favorite Post:

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits

This is my favorite post because I always ask myself why can’t I make biscuits. I grew up watching Grandma make them. I have tackled some pretty difficult recipes and have honestly impressed the heck out of myself sometimes. But biscuits are my Achilles heel! UPDATE: I still haven’t found and made a good biscuit yet!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

 

Theses are the post that sum me up as a person. These post show who I am perfectly.

Our Frugal Disney Vacation

City Girl living a Country life

Check in with my flock

Family Dinners

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Let me know your favorite post and what you would like to see more of.

 

 

Beginning a new school year

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This is from a few years ago, but totally captured how I felt beginning this new school year.

This school year has had so many ups and downs that I am scared to see what the next 8 months bring. I just couldn’t get everything going. I had no motivation. Plus I was lost trying to homeschool 3 kids at 3 different levels. This was a first for me. Even when my girls were all home, they were close to each other that I could teach them all and then give different activities. But this year was different.

I have a High schooler,Cailin, as if that isn’t stressful enough. All the questions of am I doing the right thing? Am I screwing her up for life? Am I giving her enough classes or too much? What about college?!?

Then I have my special needs daughter, Brianna. She learns something but still struggles with 1st to 2nd grade math. We haven’t moved past basic division because she get so frustrated. She loves Science and Nature but hates writing and history. She gets frustrated if I try to help and then in the same breath frustrated that I didn’t help. *SIGH*

Last is my darling son, Dakota, who is extremely smart and retains things very quickly, but HATES SCHOOL!!!!! He would rather play with video games and toys or watch Disney Jr than pick up a crayon. He can write his name and recognize most letters. He just learned to count to 25 but would rather learn adding and telling time. Like I said extremely smart, but also my “I can’t” kid, which I have never had to deal with before.

Needless to say in the last month and half that we have been suppose to be doing school, there were a lot of struggles, tears and me saying I was done. I sat down with the kids a few times and tried to brainstorm what would help all of us. What I heard was

  • I hate being in my room reading from 10 different textbooks (Cailin)
  • I want more science ( Brianna and Cailin)
  • I want more projects or hands on stuff (both again)
  • I want more art (both again)
  • I like stickers, painting, storytime, circle time, fun games and toys, BUT NO COLORING! (demanding  darling son)
  • Cooking (all 3)

For me, it was research time!

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Maybe we were unschooling all along! Snow ball fight in Florida!

 

Unschooling
Unschooling was one of the first methods I checked out. I knew I was tired of worksheets and blah reading. And I also knew I was burned out. And I knew I just didn’t have it in me to be stressed out and worrying about curriculum deadlines. But I was worried about Cailin not having enough credits or requirements to get into culinary school. I knew she would read and learn on a daily basis, but what about Brianna. During the weekends all she does is sleep, walk around the yard or sleep and watch TV. She has no goals, interest, hobbies or independence. She needs me to lead and direct. Then there is Dakota, who as I stated earlier would play video games all day long.
I didn’t like the couple of days we tried it and neither did the kids, except Lil Man. At the same time, there were some readings about how unschooling is letting go of everything. No chores, no rules, eating whatever they want, basically letting them make their choices. Again this is not going to work in my house.
  1. I am a control freak and so is my hubby.
  2. My kids will eat junk food instead of making healthy choices.
  3. I am trying to go organic and that stuff is expensive. If I let my skinny mini special needs child go on free will by the end of the day my groceries will be gone. She doesn’t eat because she is hungry. She eats because it is 8 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 5 o’clock or because she is bored.
  4. I have a VERY hard time getting the kids to do their chores as is, if I let them choose then nothing will be done, other than me listening to Hubby complain.
  5. I have a large family and I am only 1 person!

So some of the ideas didn’t sit well with me.

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Doing a fun project just because we can!

 

Project based learning
Project based learning was next. I liked how it was very hands on and I knew my kids would love that. But it was once again child led. We tried this for a few days. My oldest began a project, did very well, but hasn’t touched it since. My youngest just wants to read the Mo Willems Pigeon books, but no activities to go with them. And Brianna refused to read the book, picked out a cat, started to make a cat but then got frustrated. Once again I helped too much and then not enough.
Meeting time
We sat down again and went over everything we liked and didn’t like about the last few weeks. The things we took away from this meeting were pretty simple. My kids liked when I was teaching them and planning the activities. They didn’t want to have all that responsibility, but they do like a say in what we learn. Which is fine because I love Pinterest and planning all those activities.
My kids hate writing! So I will include that in with other subjects.  Brianna loved Little House in the Big woods and Cailin wants to read Shakespeare. UMMM OK!!! Everyone wants more science. Heck, if all day, everyday was just science they would be happy. Cailin was doing Biology and she liked what they were teaching just not how and Brianna is very interested in animals, insects and plants. Take away textbooks, add some hands on activities, videos, interactive notebooking and field trips~ you got yourself and very fun science curriculum.
I struggled with History and Art. That is not my thing. American history, YES! World History, NO! So I have my mom helping me to put that together and make it more hands on. They liked our curriculum, Story of the World, but wanted art tied into it and more videos and hands on. I have to admit in my we have to finish this now, I would skip a lot of hands on activities. Yup bad mom of the year here. But it’s okay, because I am reformed now! And again, thank God for Pinterest and lovely homeschool blogging moms who have the answer to my struggles.
This helped with my older kids, but what about Dakota. Well for one, he likes to say he is smarter than his sisters. So I being the mom I am told him if he doesn’t do school and they do school eventually he won’t be smarter. Don’t judge! He is my stubborn one and if it works it works. But seriously, I also noticed that if it is something that catches his attention, he will participate. The other day, the girls were observing and drawing in their nature journal outside, which was his idea (a miracle). He had to have a nature journal too. And so he sat, drawing and from time to time running to catch butterflies. That in my book is a success!
In the end
We can’t and won’t be labeled. We are Unschoolers. Everyday is learning if you really pay attention and think. We think we are just living, but living and learning goes hand and hand. So me explaining why the dumbass who just cut me off in the car is a dumbass is learning. Or why we need to go get this for the chickens or why we don’t buy this brand or version of the food. It is valuable information that they are soaking up and storing away.
We are Project Based because we love using our hands and really being able to observe and process it. We love a good project but also know when to move on. It doesn’t consume our lives.
We are Teacher led because my kids want to spend time with me and listen to my knowledge. And let’s be honest, I don’t know how many more years I have with them and I am going to enjoy them. They are getting older you know.
We are Curriculum Based meaning we follow a curriculum but it was set up based on suggestions from the kids. Which must mean we are Child Led also.
Look I don’t know about you, but recently the reality has hit that my kids aren’t staying little. I have a year and a half until my oldest public school daughter graduates and goes off to college and 4 years with Cailin. Those years are going to fly and I just want to enjoy. I want to make memories and laugh. I want to have fun and live. I want to enjoy this season of my life before the next comes around. So I am not looking to check off a box of another school subject done. The only boxes I want to check off is moments lived!
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Picnic time