Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Self Directed Learning

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I have to say there are somethings in life that I will never get tired of seeing. My children taking the lead and delving into topics that interest them would definitely fit this bill. 

We are not unschoolers in the traditional sense of the word. We do have a curriculum that we follow and I do make sure they are doing certain lessons each day. I do however let them spend quite a bit of time working on their own projects and interests through out the day in an attempt to encourage self directed learning.



There is nothing sweeter to me than to see children really investigate and learn about a topic that interests them. The fact that they are doing this all on their own makes it even sweeter.


You never really know which way their interests is going to take them on a given day. They may spend one entire day working on airplane collages and learning the name of every single air frame they can find (thank you hubby!). Then the next day they are learning how to build little cottages complete with peaked roofs and decorative accents.


I love watching their little brains work on new projects and follow their investigative instincts to new discoveries. I would have to say it is by far my favorite part of homeschooling!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A day in the life

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I have been hesitant to post this "day in the life" piece simply because I do not want to make any other mothers feel they are not doing enough....or show that *I* may not  be doing enough! I decided to go ahead and send it "out there" to the world in an effort to show how our lives flow while homeschooling 5 children and trying to keep everyone alive in the process. This is a "typical" day in our lives. Every day is not like this however. We are just like every other family out there. Some days go smoothly and some days are a struggle. It is what it is. I hope you find these notes on how our day progresses to be helpful.

The breakdown: 7th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader, 1st grader, kindergarten, and 3 yr old. Oh, and a husband who works nights.

Ready?

Let's go!

6:30am
  The children and I wake up. The kids brush their teeth and get dressed while their father dishes up the breakfast I made the night before.  After they eat it is time for the rabbit to be fed and then the children are free to go play. Meanwhile I am still in bed checking out what has happened on the internet since the night before.

7:00
  Hubby comes down and joins me in the master bedroom. We spend 30min together talking about how his night went and any plans I have for the day. This is the only alone time we have during the day.

7:30
  Hubby goes to sleep for the day and I head upstairs for my breakfast. I have my breakfasts made up in bulk and stored in the freezer. I make a quick protein shake while my spinach, egg, and feta quesadilla heats up.

7:45
  Time for my first workout of the day. I complete 35 minutes on my stationary bike completing a hills and valley routine. The children are still playing quietly together. This early in the morning they still like each other.

8:20
  I am done with the bike and start my morning chores. This is when I clean up the breakfast mess in the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I also take this time to pull a meal from the freezer and get it started in the crock pot.

8:45
 I pull out all of the books needed for the day and call all of the children to the table.

8:50
  Our oldest 4 children (12, 9, 6, and 6) begin working on their math work for the day. Meanwhile our 5 yr old works his way though his kindergarten workbooks and our 3 yr old works on her coloring and playing with the math manipulative blocks.


 9:05
   The twins (6 yrs) finish up their math and move on to their handwriting practice. Sara (9yrs) also finishes up her math and moves on to her spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

9:10
  The twins move on to their phonics warm-up. I have found that having them do a quick phonics warm-up before starting their reading helps their letter recognition greatly.


9:20
  Sara (9) finishes her spelling and starts her morning break. The twins progress to their reading work.

9:40
   The 5 youngest children (9, 6, 6, 5, 3) sit down to watch the Leapfrog Talking Words video. Why do musical frogs make everything so much easier to learn?

9:45
  I move on to helping our oldest daughter (12) finish her math lesson. Why do percentage symbols and decimals make everyone crazy?

10:00
  Our oldest moves on to her spelling, grammar, and punctuation work.

10:10
  Snack for our youngest two children (5 and 3). The Leapfrog Talking Words movie has finished so all 5 of the younger children head outside for "recess".

10:20
 Our oldest has finished her spelling, grammar, and punctuation work. I spend a few minutes going over her remaining assignments for the day focusing on the work she needs to complete on her own. She then heads to the playroom for her "teenage" time alone with just the tv.   At this point I head to the kids bathroom to pick up the dirty laundry and clean the dried toothpaste off of the sink from the morning brushing frenzy.

10:25
  Time for my 30min morning workout with Faithful Workouts. The church ladies really kick my butt when it comes to squats and weights. Do I know how to have a good time or what?

10:55
  I am all finished with my workout and it is time to make a snack for our twins.

11:00
  The twins start their science and history work.

11:10
   Our oldest two (12 and 9) join in for their half of history as well.  Our youngest (3) comes to the table as well to color another picture.

11:30
  Sara (9) starts her eye exercises, Hailey (12) starts her reading work. The twins and our son take a break while I straighten the kitchen, dinging room, and living room again.




11:35
   Sara (9) is off on her break and we all begin our lunch routine. My lunch again comes from the prepared meals I put in the freezer over the weekend. The children make their own lunches consisting of sandwiches or leftovers.

12:30
  Sara (9) starts her science lessons. I read the material to her while she works on drawing a picture concerning the material covered. I have found that when dealing with dyslexia, eye muscle weakness, and ADHD it is best if she keeps her hands busy while listening to her material.

12:45
   Sara starts her reading work. We use a dyslexic curriculum for her and it has been a Godsend. The work is difficult for her but she is progressing through the material on a steady basis.

1:00
   Sara is done for the day and I am off to start the laundry from the kids bathroom hamper. After getting that started I clean up the mess in the kitchen from lunch and load the dishwasher.

1:05
  Our oldest daughter starts her science. She had 2 experiments to complete today which is always fun for everyone in the house. Of course this is also when my husband wakes up to ask for a sandwich and a glass of milk. I quickly take him his sandwich before getting back to the science experiments.


1:30
  The youngest 5 are all headed back outside to play in "chalk city". I love having a large paved area in our fenced in back yard. The children are able to ride their bikes and set up chalk villages all day long.

1:45
  Our oldest is finished with her science and headed off for some alone time in her room. I forgot how much "alone time" a pre-teen needs. She is very thankful to have her own room in this new house.

2:00
  I get a few minutes to spend some time working on my blog.

2:25
  I head off to check the laundry and  watch the oldest 4 girls put on a doll fashion show with the outfits they made all on their own.

2:30
 Off to the grocery store to get the essentials for our field trip tomorrow.

4:00
Back from the grocery store and mom gets a snack and some time to watch the news. Meanwhile our oldest finishes her writing assignment and 2/3rds of her reading assignment.

4:30
Time to make lunches for our field trip the next day. We will be heading to a living history village! We go with simple bagged lunches of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, oranges, and juice pouches.

5:00
I make rice to go with our crock pot dinner, pack husband's lunch and dinner for work, and then wake hubby up. We all sit down to eat dinner while hubby has his breakfast. This is usually a short affair as the kids never like what I have made for dinner and I am usually so hungry I eat like it is going out of style.

5:15
 The twins (6) and Meg (3) get their dunking in the bathtub. With 8 people and 1 hot water heater we have to spread our showers out throughout the day and double up when possible.

5:30
  I am off on my 40min hike through the local state forest. I love having this time alone to just think and decompress from my day. Meanwhile hubby is headed to his shower before work.

6:15
 I am finished with my hike and and headed for a shower and then a rest before it is time to get the rest of the children clean and ready for bed.

6:30
 It is time for Brent's bath. After finishing up with his bath I make breakfast for in the morning, clean up the kitchen again, and give twins their anti-seizure medicine. Hubby grabs his lunch box, kisses everyone goodbye and heads to work for the night.

7:00
Bedtime for the 4 youngest. This is my downtime to do whatever I want. I am a wild woman and head to the master bedroom to lay down and read a book. Meanwhile the older two girls are required to have quiet time in their room until their brother is asleep. Once he is asleep they are welcome to watch some tv until their bedtime. They are expected to turn the tv off on their own and begin their bedtime routine at 9pm.

9pm
 Older two girls take turns in the shower and then bed time. After her shower our oldest (12) finally finishes her reading for the day. I guess better late than never.

9:30pm
  I am exhausted headed to bed!

So there you go, a day in our lives. We completed all of our school work, the house is reasonably clean, meals for tomorrow finished and everyone is clean and in beds. Now to do it again tomorrow.....oh wait tomorrow is a field trip! Definitely the best part of homeschooling! Our lives may seem chaotic and slightly insane but I would not trade this time for all the money in the world. We are truly blessed each and every day to have this time together.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ice Cream!

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We have been working on a very fun badge this month! ICE CREAM! I don't know anyone who would turn down ice cream especially at the rate that our children have been consuming it this month.

Before beginning our adventure into learning about ice cream I had no idea that there was so much controversy surrounding the origin of the sweet treat. We quickly learned that no one really knows who created the dessert item. Honestly it is kinda nice to know that there are still some mysteries in the world.....even if they do center around milk and sugar.

Since we could not begin at the beginning we  chose to start our lessons in the 1800's. I may have chosen this time period since we are currently studying the early 1800's in our history lessons....don't tell the kids that I snuck education into their ice cream explorations!

We began the process of learning about ice cream at a local historic village. We are so blessed to live within a short drive of an actual 1800's village!  The creators of the village moved original buildings from all over New Jersey into one central location and decorated them in period furniture. They also have volunteers in each building to teach the visitors about life in the 1800's. We really enjoyed meeting the lovely ladies at the Ice Cream Parlor and hearing about how ice cream was made and transported before our modern conveniences.


After learning how homemade ice cream was made we had to give it a try ourselves! I am glad we have such a great group of families at our meetings all of whom had a lot of fun shaking bags of ice and cream to make our very own vanilla ice cream.

 

After learning about the history of ice cream and how homemade ice cream was made we moved on to how modern ice cream is produced. We were able to make a trip to Pennsylvania to the Turkey Hill Experience. At the Turkey Hill location we were able to work our way through an interactive museum and learn all of the steps of producing ice cream. From milking the cows to making commercials to sell your creation we had a blast learning how modern ice cream is produced!


Of course the fact that Turkey Hill offers as much ice cream as you can eat did not hurt the process at all!


I think I will take this container of ice cream home with me!



It has been a really fun month learning about ice cream. With the heat index in the 100's I could not think of a better time to consume massive amounts of the creamy treat! 


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Healthy Meal Prep

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As I have mentioned though out the last few months I am attempting to change our dietary habits from the Standard American Diet to a whole foods diet. 

While this is a noble attempt there are some stumbling blocks that seem to pop up when you are least expecting it.

Whole fresh food takes time to shop for, prepare, and eat. You are not grabbing a box of processed food items, throwing boiling water over it, an then swallowing it down without any real effort to chew. Instead you are purchasing multiple separate items for each dish. Then there is the chopping, washing, and assembling of the meals before taking your time to sit down and eat a meal that takes effort to chew and process.

In an effort to continue to eat a whole foods diet while raising and homeschooling 6 children I have had to find some shortcuts and easier methods for our meals. Of course the first step in any meal plan is to actually plan the meals.  Our family now eats a diet high in vegetables, fruit, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates. With these things in mind I sit down each week and make a list of the meals we will be eating through out the week. One of my big tricks is to serve the same meal at least two times a week. This cuts down on the time I need to spend in the kitchen as well as the expense of buying multiple items for multiple meals. I have found that my family does not mind eating the same thing several times a week as long as I space them out a few days and rotate to new meals the next week.

 The main "trick" in my arsenal is to take one afternoon to meal prep for the entire week. This can include pre-cooking our protein for the entire week and chopping all of the fruits and veggies in one sitting so they are ready to be assembled at meal times. Another tip is to assemble completed meals in individual servings so they are simply "grab and go" items.

For this weeks meal prep I decided to make up a bunch of single serve meals. These meals are available to anyone who wants them at any time they feel they are hungry.

This weeks meal plan for lunch and dinner looks like this:

Berry salads with spinach, strawberries, blackberries and a blackberry vinaigrette


Chicken burrito bowls with wild rice, chicken, black beans, corn and avocado




Pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts, green beans, tomatoes and wild rice


Baked sweet potatoes with kale, black beans, and green goddess dressing
   

As you can see I do not have a very big refrigerator and it all still fits inside along with tons of extra veggies, fruit, dairy items, and lunch meats. I, or my children, could use the remaining items in the refrigerator or pantry to make several more meal combinations if the repetitiveness of meals gets boring. I intentionally only assembled salads for myself since portion control is important to me....and I wanted to make sure there were strawberries set aside for my portion! There however is plenty of salad items to make salads every night of the week if we chose to do so.





A typical day's meals for our family looks something like the following:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with apples and honey
Lunch: Strawberry and spinach salad with chicken
Snack: Watermelon
Dinner: Chicken burrito bowls

I am getting hungry just looking at all this yummy food! I think it is snack time for mama!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Our Laundry Routine

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Having eight people in one house means a lot of laundry! I am not an expert by any means but we have finally found a routine that works for our family. In the interest of making things easier for other families I thought I would share what has been working for our family.

The first rule in our home is that if you are capable of doing your own laundry you do so. That goes for my husband as well as our oldest daughter. They are both in charge of washing, drying, and putting away their own laundry. If I am feeling particularly gracious I will do my husband's laundry but for the most part he is in charge of his own clothes.  Now before you think I am an evil wife you should know this was his idea and he is happy to take the load of at least one person's laundry off my shoulders. The key to this system working is to make sure they each have their own dirty laundry hamper in their rooms. Keeping their laundry separate at all times makes the process go much smoother for everyone. 

I am in the process of teaching our youngest 5 children to be in charge of their laundry as well. This is different for each age and ability obviously. It all begins with our clean clothes sorting system. A while back I built these laundry basket hanging systems. I can not say enough wonderful things about this system! 

                                             

Each hanging basket corresponds to a specific clothing size and child.  The top basket is for mine and my husband's clothes. Then from the top working down we have baskets for each child based on their heights. The shorter the child the lower their basket. This means that if they need a clothing item and their clothes have not already been put away they can go to their basket and find their clothes on their own. 

I am getting a bit ahead of myself though. You see the washer and dryer are right next to these baskets. When I pull laundry from the dryer the clothes are immediately sorted into the correct child's basket. No more mountain of laundry to sort through! I only touch each piece of laundry once to place it in the correct basket. 

When each basket is full it is time to put it all away. Our 9 yr old daughter is completely in charge of  putting away her laundry. I simply hand her her basket and she takes care of the rest. She is a bit too short to operate the machines but will soon be able to start washing and drying her laundry on her own as well. 

Our 6 year old twins create the most laundry by far! There is something about this age that just makes laundry piles. It is too overwhelming for them to be in charge of sorting their laundry. I bring their laundry basket upstairs and sort their things into piles and they take the piles to their room and put them away on their own. I then inspect to make sure they put everything away as instructed and not piled on the floor. 

Then I move on to our 5 year old son's laundry. He is 100% able to put away his own laundry but gets a bit distracted. I work with him to put away his laundry. He handles the items that go in the drawers while I hang his clothes up. 

Last up we have our 3 year old daughter. She knows where her clothes are and gets herself dressed every morning. We have a similar arrangement as with the older children. I sort the clothes into piles and then she helps put them in the correct location while I supervise and help her. 

So that covers the clean laundry routine but what about the dirty laundry? How in the world do you wash that many clothes and towels each week? My husband always does his laundry on Saturday night because his work week starts on Sunday night. I have set aside Sunday as our laundry catch-up day. I am usually woken up in the morning by our oldest daughter starting her laundry in an attempt to get to the machines before I do. After her clothes are done I spend the entire day making sure that the laundry is running continuously and that all clothes are washed and put away by the end of the day. Having that day set aside to making sure that the laundry is completely done each week takes a massive load off of my shoulders during the week. I do still attempt to keep up with the laundry here an there throughout the week but it is definitely hit or miss to say the least!

The one thing you will notice is that I do not fold or iron any clothes, not even my own. It is just not important to me. Our wardrobes consist of mainly play and gym clothes. If we by some fluke have a special even to go to those clothes are kept separate and handled according to their instructions.

Will this system work for everyone? Maybe not, it however works for us. My goal is to teach my children to be self sufficient and I am attempting to do so based on their abilities. 

Do you have a laundry system that works for your large family? If so I would love to hear about it!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mid Year Neurology Appointment

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Every six months we take a trip to the neurologist to see how the twins are doing on their epilepsy medications. Five years ago when our oldest daughter was diagnosed as epileptic these appointments terrified me. The thought of her having a seizure during the routine EEG's was enough to keep me up at night worrying. It did not help that she did in fact have have seizures during the EEG's.

 Watching your child go through a seizure is horrible and not something I would ever wish on another parent.  By the time our second child was diagnosed as epileptic I was starting to get a handle on my emotions and able to take the seizures as they came. When our third child was diagnosed I knew that there were medications that would make it stop and that their doctors would do everything in their power to take care of our children.  I am not going to say I am relaxed on the subject but it no longer terrifies me.

Every June we go to the neurologist for a routine EEG and neurological check up. This June we added a fun trip to the pet store before their appointment.


 


I love watching them interact with each other away from their siblings. The twin bond is really amazing to watch!

After a fun lunch and trip to the pet store we were off to the doctor's office. I love that the children's hospital keeps them together during the entire time they are undergoing testing.



This time we had wonderful news! Lacy's EEG was perfect and she has been seizure free for two years. That means she gets to wean off her medication and attempt to maintain her seizure free status. If she can make it a year off of her medication without a seizure she will no longer be considered epileptic. Her older sister took this journey a year ago with wonderful results. I am still pretty nervous on the subject especially around water but it has to be done at some point.

We are excited to start this new journey towards a seizure free life!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Our Beach Trip

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I grew up in a small town in Kentucky and did not get my first experience with the ocean until I was in college. Not surprisingly I am more at home in the woods than on a beach. That is probably why after living in New Jersey for 5 years we just took our 3rd trip to the beach, our first as an entire family.








Our children had an amazing time and wore themselves out rather quickly. Hubby and I were shocked that we out lasted the kiddos. It seems sitting around in a chair and watching people play in the waves is not nearly as exhausting as being out there actually playing. Who knew?!



I would like to say that we will be heading back to the beach soon but the waves make me a nervous wreck. I much prefer water that does not move!
 

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