My To-Do List

Today’s gonna be a busy day, if I manage to accomplish even half of the things I want to do I’ll be thrilled. The plan is to post this list and then come back and update it with the time I finished each project, but we’ll see how much blogging time I have left over to actually do that! Without further adieu…

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 To-Do list

scrub shower Done!  10:10 AM

finish laundry (finally!)

organize closet Done at noon…the next day lol

As much of dd’s schoolwork as is possible


sweep and mop bathroom and kitchen

clean out and detail my car

organize linen closet (and find some place for extra blankets while I’m at it!) Done! 10:10 AM

vacuum all floors

Make dd’s bed for overnight guests tonight Done at 9 PM

take out ALL trash – including what’s behind my bedroom door! Done, the next afternoon

PUT AWAY CLEAN CLOTHES – just. do. it. Yes, three baskets is a lot.  Suck it up.  Wimp. Done at 6 PM next day

clean and vacuum under couch cushions (and start doing this on a weekly basis!)

make potholders and hot pads

work on gray and yellow quilt  – just do it, get over the block already!

clean out both fridges

upload videos from Shea’s visit Done at 5:3o PM

Move firewire card from old pc to new one

Make lunch and dinner Done

Eat every two hours Fail, but this is an ongoing goal

take pills Done at 9:00 AM

let Sasquatch out and play with her Done at 9:45 AM

take the kids outside (maybe even the park?) Done

quit crying every time I pass a mirror (don’t ask.  Just know it involves my now orange hair) Done at 2 AM – redyed it! yay

cardio – at least an hour!  Quit slacking woman. Didn’t get a full hour but still had fun


You thought I was exaggerating about how big of a list it is, right?  Wrong!  So what are YOU doing today?  Hope it’s more fun than what I’m looking at!


Homeschooling over the summer

As it turns out, we didn’t meet every deadline with school work this year. A tiny percentage of it was due to my disorganization; the majority of the reason we’re behind, though, is that it took DD about six months out of the school year to catch up with kids her age. She had a speech impediment that really slowed her down, even in math, because when she couldn’t say the words or read them, she couldn’t really grasp the concept behind the word, either. We spent a lot of time skimming over important information to focus on the foundation work over and over, simply because she wasn’t getting it. That’s the wonderful thing about home schooling – you go at your child’s pace, the child isn’t forced to go along with the pace of the classroom.

We could have chosen to skip “summer school” and just made up the rest of the work at the beginning of 2nd grade, but I wasn’t willing to do that, for two reasons. One is that I want her to have a fresh start at the beginning of the year – all new books and all new classes. I want it to feel like she’s starting something new, not just continuing the drudgery of last year. Remember on the first day of school, how exciting it was to get your brand new text books and work books? That’s part of the thrill that makes the ending of summer just a tiny bit bearable, and I didn’t want her to miss that. But the main reason was that in just the last two months of school she really hit her stride. It wasn’t a fight to get her to do school work anymore; she was enjoying her quiet reading time for the first time ever; she was answering more questions right than wrong and gaining confidence in leaps and bounds. I didn’t want to put a stop to that and lose the progress she’d made. I didn’t want to crush the spark of love for learning that she was finally feeling.

So we are, in our own way, doing home school summer school. (Try saying that threetimesfast, lol.) Since we don’t have meetings with the teacher at the end of the month, there aren’t any real deadlines that are imposed on us, which takes a fair amount of pressure off me. We have been able to spend more time than ever doing fun projects that revolve around school work.

I have spent hours reading next years textbooks and making bulletin boards, work sheets and projects to go along with each unit. While she’s doing her school work I’m going mine, lol.

But the atmosphere is certainly a lot more relaxed, which works so much better for us.

And the one tip I just discovered tonight is the main reason for this blog.

We have been working on filling in her Math Mini Office (which I will hopefully be videoing tomorrow so you can see it firsthand) and she’s loving each new thing we put in it. She wants to play with it, since she helped decide what should be in there, and she watched and helped with every step of the process. So tonight I let her quiz me, the only rule was that the answer to any problem she asked had to be found in the Math Mini Office. She had a blast! I gave her a pointer so she could feel like a real teacher, and she was really careful to praise me after every answer, which was adorable (and is something I work really hard at, so I was glad to see the effort paying off). After the quiz, and after showing her how to use the mini office, I gave her a two page assignment and left her to do it on her own.

At first she looked at me with deer-in-the-headlight eyes. She didn’t want to have to do it by herself. I reminded her that she wasn’t alone, that she had her mini office to refer to if she got stuck, and that calmed her down a little. After two problems she looked up at me and frowned. “Why is this so fun? Math’s never been FUN!”

And there you have it, the main reason the mini offices are successful. They give kids a way to help themselves, and lets them feel accomplished. Right now she’s sitting on the floor doing math problems happily, and every time she finishes one, she throws her fists in the air and yells something encouraging (it varies between “I’m awesome” and “This is so fun” and “Tada!”) which is such a huge change from last years tears and fits!

So that’s what our summer school has been so far – lap books, mini offices and cheers. It’s pretty great. 🙂

I’m back!

After a week of no phone and no internet, it feels really great to click on the Firefox logo and have my browser open perfectly every single time. It’s even faster than it was before, due to this awesome tutorial. My page load times are so much faster, it’s seriously amazing.

I still have no new project pictures to put up because I have been too disgusted with the whole no internet thing to care about uploading pics. That’s a rotten attitude, I know…so I’ll try to get to it tomorrow.

We have been really busy around here. The marble magnets are a thing of the past; now we have moved on to making magnetic bookmarks. I would include a link here, but we’ve been making our own up as we go along, so there’s no link to include. I will try try TRY to get pics tomorrow.

We have also been making lapbooks and mini offices. As far as I can tell, there’s not a difference between the two, but maybe I’m missing something. We have one for Math and one for Language Arts. They are both based on next year’s curriculum so we haven’t used them much yet, but they are a fun project, and I’m seriously hoping it will cut down on the “Mommy how do you” questions!

The garden is exploding with green tomatoes, crazy amounts of zucchini, and beets that are bigger than my fist and really sweet. We are having a great time checking out how fast things can ripen and how fast seeds become plants (little does she know she’s actually doing science! lol). We are, in fact, getting swamped with zucchini, and there’s only so much fried zucchini one family can stand, so it was time to look for new recipes. Tonight I tried Paula Deen’s Zucchini Lasagna and it was delicious! My one complaint was that the final layer of cheese burned to a blackened crisp and for one split second I was sure I’d ruined an hour’s worth of work. Turns out that the cheese was easy to remove as one big hunky layer, so it didn’t ruin anything. If I make it in the future I’ll just omit that last layer of cheese, because frankly, it may have been too much cheese. I know, I know, there’s really no such thing…but in this case there’s the possibility that there was.

I’m really tired and grouchy so I’m going to shut up now. And maybe upload those pictures…although making another book mark sounds like a lot more fun…hmm.

Homeschool Tip of The Day

Okay, this may be the most basic tip ever, and probably something so obvious that it shouldn’t have taken me two years to do it. But since it did, I figured I’d share and try to prevent anyone else from some of the same frustrating moments I had.

The tip is this: When you get your curriculum for the upcoming year, go through the books thoroughly, front to back, and make notes on what you’ll be covering with your student during each chapter/unit.

For instance:

Second grade social studies is an entirely different world than kindergarten and first grade S.S. were. Now, instead of a textbook and a workbook for practice exercises, we have a textbook, two workbooks and a ton of extra projects that have to be done to meet the California standards. There are 6 major units in the book, with each unit being broken down into lessons that all fall under the theme of the unit.

So I went through each chapter of the textbook and made a vocabulary words list for each lesson (which each chapter is broken down into for easier reference) and also picked one small project for each lesson (there are either 4 or 5 lessons in each chapter, so we’ll cover roughly one lesson each week. This means there’s plenty of time for a small project for each lesson.) Also, for each unit there is a special Focus Skills point, like Comparing and Contrasting, Main Ideas and Details, etc., so I made a note of this point for each unit so we can keep that main thought in mind as we learn. Finally, for each unit I came up with a supporting idea for a Big Project, as we call it. There are 6 of these Big Projects, one for each unit (of course) and all of them will be month-long undertakings that are interactive. Some of them consist of a bulletin board that we’ll add main thoughts to each week. Others of them include making a word web and adding to it each time we learn a new point, making a family story board and a collection of family stories, and other things. (I will try to post these projects on a monthly basis. There’s no promise though. You know me better than that.)

So that covers just one subject, Social Studies.

That doesn’t even touch reading or math.

For these books, there’s a lot more research involved. I have done the same thing with all of her subjects that I did with Social Studies – read each lesson, broken it down into a rough schedule to get us through the month, and recorded all new ideas and main points with supporting projects. For math this year we’ll be doing a lot of hands on experiments to try to better grasp the concept of fractions and decimals.

And of course, there’s Science. Second grade science covers a lot of fun stuff. My one complaint is that the plant unit isn’t scheduled to begin until about the same time that Winter will begin, so we’re not going to be doing as many hands-on things with seeds and plants. But now that I’ve read through the material and made my master list of subjects and ideas for the book, I know what to expect and have prepared for it by planning some summer learning. We’ll be taking pictures of the garden each week and examining seeds and basically covering the unit without doing the paperwork the first time around. Then, when it comes time to do it this winter, we’ll have lots of information, memories and photographs to help get us through the book.

So that’s my extensively long-winded tip today. The main point is, don’t let the books surprise you with what you’re supposed to be doing; be prepared by going through the material before the school year starts and keeping accurate notes on what you’ll be covering.

Oh, one more thought about why this is such an important thing to do…all through the year, you can find all kinds of books on sale and at thrift stores, or put the word out to the family to be watching for prisms if you know you have a science unit on that coming up soon, or plan for a special field trip or movie day that corresponds with a unit in one of your subjects. You can only do these things though if you’re really prepared, which you can only become by looking at the material…right?

Okay, that’s enough outta me this morning. Have fun!

Homeschooling 101, Messymama’s way

*My definition of homeschool is a student who is taught at home but meets with a professional teacher at a school on a regular basis.  All books and study courses and assignments are prepared by the professional teacher and California standards are met through such.  I know there are parents and kids out there who school completely on their own, which is what true homeschooling is, but I also don’t know what else to call what we do, so…lol.

My husband and I knew we were going to be a homeschooling family before we were even pregnant.  We’d both had enough horrible experiences with the public school system to know there had to be a better way; I’d spent just under three years, my high school years, as a homeschooler and loved it.  I graduated a year early and was able to pursue the things I was interested in without waiting for a class to catch up with me.  In my case, however, I had little to no parental interaction, and only saw my teacher occasionally, so I was pretty much on my own.  I knew things would be different in DD’s case and was determined to do the best job possible.  The most important thing to my way of thinking is having a set schedule and sticking to it so that we aren’t cramming last minute assignments in before the meeting with her teacher.

We spend two hours a day on school work.  Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but don’t get all preachy about how homeschoolers don’t get enough school time yet, just hear me out.  We spend two hours on book work.  The rest of our time together during the day (I’m a stay at home mom) is spent investigating little things that we’ve learned about and want to know more about.  It seems like whenever we’re learning about something in particular it seems to pop up more in daily life, so we’re pretty much talking about school and learning something 8 to 10 hours a day.

We always start with math to build up DD’s confidence.  She’s great at numbers, not so great with words yet, and it’s easier to get her on track for school by starting with math.  We don’t do daily calender work; that’s one of our goals, but so far it hasn’t happened.  We aim for five pages a day.  Her book is pretty good about allotting about that many pages before it introduces a new idea.

Then we move on to language arts.  This year she has three different LA books, so we switch off; the Houghton Mifflin series tend to go in step with each other, so we’re usually working on the same sounds or letters or words in each of those books.  We spend a lot of time reading and rereading her favorite stories.  Like I said, her confidence in her reading abilities is a little shaky, so we spend a lot of time reinforcing what she’s learning so she can feel secure.  As a side note I should mention that she has a slight case of dyslexia and a small speech impediment that makes sounding out words difficult for her.  That’s why we aim to get as much guided reading and word work in as possible.  Included in her LA is a bunch of speech work the specialist gave us.  We haven’t spent a whole lot of time on those extra work sheets this month, but we’re still trying.

After LA, we move on to whatever we’re in the mood for that day or week, either Social Studies or Science.  These subjects don’t take nearly as long to do as the others do, at least not paperwork wise; but these are the subjects we spend the most time learning about outside of bookwork, so it evens out.

While we do have a set routine for our school days, we don’t have a set time.  On Mondays we are usually running around doing errands since I babysit the rest of the week; so Mondays, we usually don’t accomplish much schoolwork.  Tuesdays are usually kind of rough as we get back into the swing of the work week so it’s usually evening before we break out the books.  The rest of the week, we just go with the flow – if the baby is sleeping or playing peacefully, we get out the books; if he’s having an off day, we always have time after he’s picked up and before dinner.  I don’t worry so much about the actual time we begin the bookwork, I just worry about making sure we accomplish something every single day.  Sometimes this happens; sometimes it doesn’t work out. but it’s always my goal.

I’ve learned along the last two years of homeschooling that getting stressed out about meeting deadlines is the very last thing I want to do.  It makes me tense and angry with her and then we end up arguing instead of learning.  I don’t want her memories of school time to be of Mommy yelling at her so we work hard to stay calm and have fun.  Our extra projects help with that.

Right now in Social Studies we’re learning about other cultures.  While we finished the book work two weeks ago, we’re still having fun with our projects that let us learn more about the subject.  We’re making a paper mache globe to see where other places are; we’re learning about objects that other cultures use, and we’re pinning those on the globe (a mini Sombrero for Mexico, a woven basket for India, etc.).  These projects are endless, but so fun.

In Reading we briefly covered poetry.  The book moved us through it faster than I wanted it to, so we finished the book work for the month and now we’re going back to recover the poetry unit.  We’re making a book of poems that DD’s written and illustrated.  We’re also expanding her vocabulary and giving her hands on time with letters and sounds.

In Science, we learned about prisms and matter and energy.  We of course have been drawing and seeing rainbows everywhere since then, which helps the concepts of light being colored and refraction and everything else stick in her little mind.

Those are just some examples of the things I try to do to make our homeschooling successful.  I try to be scheduled, I try to be creative, I try to involve her in as much hands on activity as I can…and one other thing.  I collect websites like you wouldn’t believe.  It’s amazing what the internet has to offer to help further education on just about any subject.

My absolute favorite web site for information is United Streaming . We spend lots of time watching videos there.

One other tip I have for organizing and making things go smoother during the learning period – store each subject separately, with all of its necessary accessories, in its own bin. That way when it’s time for Math, all of your countables and worksheets and books are in one spot and you don’t have to spend time looking for each item. This idea has made my life soooo much better!