Monday, May 30, 2016

May's Week Off!

Want to know what we did on our recent week off from school?

Come check it out!

First off we HAD to go see the new Angry Birds movie. I had never attempted to take all 6 kids to the movies by myself before. I was quite pleased with how the entire outing went. The children were well behaved and since we went in the middle of the day on a work day the theater was practically empty.  We had some gift cards from a family member so the entire deal "only" cost $30. For 7 movie tickets AND concession stand treats that was a steal!

Next up we worked on all of the "paperwork" for our camping badges. They are looking forward to going on a camping trip with their fellow troop members.

There was of course a lot of cuddling with mama. I have to say that was my favorite part of the entire week! 

Since we have been studying Native Americans this month we jumped on a chance to go to our state museum to explore their Native American artifacts. The museum got bonus points from me due to the free parking and free admission for our entire family.

Of course we also enjoyed exploring the rest of the museum while were there. The children learned quite a bit about such a variety of subjects that I could not even begin to list them all.

On our way home we stopped at our favorite Amish market for homemade pretzels and whoopie pies. Soooooo much better than Mcdonalds!

 Speaking of amazing baked goods our daughter decided to make her very first homemade pumpkin pie this week. She made the entire pie all by herself. I am even prouder of her for finding the humor in forgetting to add the sugar. We all make mistakes but learning from them is definitely an important aspect of education.

This week I had a lot of exercise help from my littlest buddy. She loves to help me workout and watches me like a hawk. If I dare to attempt to skip a particular exercise she will point her little finger at me and read me the riot act. I think she is going to be a personal trainer when she grows up.

The heat this week has been unbearable. We have gone from the 60's to the 90's over night. I for one was not ready for the swift change. The children spent one full day playing in our inflatable pool. I however almost had a stroke over the amount of wet clothes and the puddles left all over the floor all day long. We needed to find another cool outside activity to keep them busy. Enter pinterest! For $6 we duck taped two plastic drop cloths together and inserted a box fan. The resulting "air fort" was a massive hit.

Lastly we ladies worked on our beauty routines. I happened to get a manicure and a pedicure from the cutest little lady.

I have to say our week was full of adventures, learning, and relaxing. I am already looking forward to our next week off!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Week two of my healthy challenge

Another week and another update on the healthy living front.

My main goal this week was to work on my sleeping habits. My hope was that if I managed to get my lack of sleep under control the rest of the process would fall in to place.  After doing some research I found several tips for a better nights sleep.

I found a free sleep meditation app for my android phone. The app got bonus points from me for not requiring any access to personal data on my phone. After several nights of use I have found my favorite mediation to be a 13 minute instructor led session guided towards relaxing into sleep.

I also dug my essential oils out of storage and set up a jar of dried lavender flowers next to my bed. I added a few extra drops of lavender essential oils to the dried flowers for a little extra boost of scent.

Lastly I started turning the television off at 9pm and going to the master bedroom to relax. We have a giant bathtub in our current rental and I have been taking advantage of it each night. I have found a long soak with a good book to be a wonderful way to relax before bed.

All of these things have worked wonders! I am out cold by 10pm and up and feeling refreshed at 6am. I was shocked the first morning I woke up at 6am feeling refreshed and ready to go for the day. My husband about fell over the fist time I texted him at 5:55am!

Next up was my exercise goals. I dug my fitbit out of a drawer and set a goal for myself to hit 10,000 steps a day. This was just as hard as it sounds. I quickly found out exactly how horribly out of shape I have become. Those first few days were filled with lots of sore muscles. I have finally settled into a routine of three workouts per day. I know it sounds like a lot but I have found that three 30min workouts per day is the best way for me to reach my 10,000 steps.

I have been doing a 30min hills and valley workout on my stationary bike, a 30min circuit workout with weights, and a 30min walk each day. By breaking the workouts out over the entire day and alternating what I am doing I am able to fit it all in and combat any boredom.

I am happy to say that I have hit my 10,000 step goal for the last 6 days! I am considering beginning to train for a triathlon again. I seriously hurt myself last time and it took a year to recover. There are several beginner triathlons in our area. I however need to start working on my running before even considering a triathlon. Definitely something to think about!

Last up was my goal to work on my diet. My goal for this week was to work up some meals for the freezer and calculate the calories for each. I wanted to begin recording my calories each day but have been having trouble finding the time to record everything within our school day. By having the meals already completed and the calories all worked out I am hoping to cut some time out of the process during the week.

I managed to get everything settled and put together in the freezer. After a little bit of time working on the laptop I managed to get all of the meals entered into my tracking software as well as my normal go to snacks. I have managed to track everything for the last 6 days without issue. It has been nice to get back into the process. I feel less overwhelmed with the process and ready to continue next week when we begin working on our school work again.

So far my scale is not reacting to my new healthy habits. I however am feeling MUCH stronger. I am now able to work at a higher resistance on my bike and complete more high impact exercises during my circuit workout. I am holding strong and ignoring the scales lack of motion.

My goals for the coming week: This week we will be starting our 3 weeks of school for July. I want to continue my current level of activity, recording of calories, and sleep habits while adding the chaos of school work. Should be a piece of cake I am sure.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Streamlining our lives with freezer meals

Why is it that no matter how hard we work we never seem to get it all done? There is always *something* that needs to be done in our house. Between the school work, laundry, cleaning, cooking, trips, projects, etc...there are just not enough hours in the day.

In an effort to streamline our lives and make things easier for our family we have once again started making up freezer meals. My goal was to spend one entire day grocery shopping and cooking up meals for the freezer. The first step when doing this sort of thing is to decide on the meal and grocery lists.

I am not a morning person to say the least. So breakfast items were a must for our freezer stockpile. My husband also needs to take his lunch and dinner to work every day. Finding the time to stop what I am doing each day in the middle of school work to make his lunch just wasn't happening. With that in mind I added some simple freezable lunch items as well. This had the added benefit of allowing the children to make their own hot lunch when ever they were tired of sandwiches.

Our freezer inventory:

Breakfast burritos
pancake muffins
breakfast sandwiches
breakfast casseroles
baked oatmeal

Chicken taquitos
pizza bagles
chicken burritos
individual enchiladas
ham and cheese sliders
pizza pockets
individual chicken pot pies

French onion chicken
Honey soy pork tenderloin
smothered pork chops
sweet and sour meatballs
shredded beef tacos
french dip sandwiches
chicken alfredo
chicken with black beans
chicken pot pie
broccoli chicken casserole
Pepperoni ziti casserole
tortilla casserole
tatertot casserole
taco pasta bake
chicken tetrazinni

After what seemed like a lifetime in the grocery store we managed to bring home all of the supplies needed for our freezer cooking spree.

I had the children pile all of the groceries up on the kitchen counter and then I began assembling the meals. I started with the crock pot meals and then progressed through the casseroles. Once all of the dinner meals were finished I began working on the breakfast and lunch items.

Being able to simply pull a meal out of the freezer for each of the three meals a day has been such a blessing! Cutting out the time spent cooking and prepping meals has allowed me to streamline my schedule and add in other things that have to be accomplished each day. Things such as laundry and mopping. Not that I enjoy these things mind you. They kinda have to happen though....unless we want to walk around naked. As appealing as the idea of no laundry sounds the neighbors might frown on that.

I would love to know how you streamline your life.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One week....being healthy is hard.

I apparently suck at making healthy changes.

I have been attempting to watch my calorie intake but have totally failed at recording my calories for each meal. I just do not have the time during the day to enter several separate items into a food tracker for each meal. If I had time to sit down and enter everything into my phone things would go smoother. I have yet to manage that however. It would be easier if I was eating processed and packaged items with bar codes. I could just scan those in very quickly. Eating homemade whole foods makes the process more difficult. I am attempting to come up with an alternative to tracking calories that still allows me to monitor my intake. If I come up with something brilliant I will be happy to share it with you all.

Exercising...yeah...not happening either. By the time I get done teaching the children I am flat out tired. I just want to sit down and relax not jump around the living room with weights. I need to work on that for sure. It would help if I could get up earlier in the morning and do my workout first thing. Problem is that I am still not sleeping. Getting up in the morning at a decent time when you did not manage to fall asleep till 3 am isn't easy.

Why is it so hard to sleep these days? I have resorted to over the counter sleeping pills to get any sleep at all. The problem with those is the "hangover" the next day. They leave me so sleepy the next day all I want to do is nap. I have been trying melatonin as well since it has received good reviews as being helpful with inducing sleep. I am not seeing anything yet but the box says to give it 60 days. If we could cut out the 5 episodes of night sweats a night I am sure that would be helpful as well.

I know I sound like a big whiny baby at this point with lots of excuses as to why things are not working. I am frustrating myself to no end. I think the turning point for me will if I can fix my sleeping issues. If I could go to sleep at a normal time and wake up early in the day feeling a bit spunkier than death warmed over I am sure things would progress smoother on the diet and exercise front. How to do it however is another matter. How do you get your brain to turn off? Mine always seems to be going a mile a minute. Would be different if I was working out the cure for cancer or how to institute world peace. Heck even working out how to keep my house clean would be helpful. I of course think about none of these things.

I remember years ago while preparing for the birth of our 5th child I purchased a set of hypnobabies CD's. The deal was that you listened to them at night when you were trying to fall asleep. They were supposed to hypnotize you into not filling pain during child birth.  I never made it through more than 10 minutes of the CD before I was out cold. I have to wonder if listening to those CD's would help me fall asleep now. Might be worth a try....they didn't help with childbirth but they might be great for getting to sleep!

This week we are "off" from school but still have several field trips and activities planned. I am determined to use this break from school to refill our freezer with healthy breakfast, lunches, and dinners. I am planning to calculate out the calorie count while I prepare them and then mark the bags with the information. That should make it easier to eat healthy and track the calories. I am also determined to start working out again this week so that I am able to get into the routine of doing so again.

I have lost a pound this week. So at least I am not continuing my climb upwards. I am taking that as a win for the week. I keep repeating to myself, "if this was easy everyone would do it." Helps a bit I guess. I need to remember that each day is a blessing from the Lord and a chance to live the life I want to live. I will get there. I just need to keep moving forward and trying each day to be the person I want to be.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May's School Excitement

We have just recently finished our first 3 week block of Exploration to 1850's with My Father's World. Since we are operating on a 3 week on, 1 week off, schedule I am enjoying some down time this week.

 Want to see what we have been up to? Let's go!

 First off was our attempt to recreate the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Having 4 daughters and 3 ships did not work out very well as you can see. We ended up making ships for everyone and then racing them in the bathtub with wind propulsion. It was fun to experiment with the different design possibilities for the ships. Our first attempt did not work out so well. It immediately sunk!

Of course we could not learn about the Native Americans without making a head dress. She is totally humoring me as you can tell. Hard to believe with all those blond curls but she actually has a Cherokee ancestor.

Our youngest was not to be left out of the school time fun. She decided to teach her unicorn how to read. She was having the unicorn trace the letters and say the letter sounds. It was just too adorable!

 One of the big news events this month was that our 6 yr old daughter learned how to write her name! She insisted as usual that she didn't know how to do it but I insisted she give it a try. Turns out she did know how to do it after all.

Our oldest daughter just turned 12 and is beginning her year of 7th grade science. Our current science curriculum has quite a few experiments within each module. I am attempting to remain completely hands off  for the experiments....I have to admit it is difficult for me however. I do love a good science experiment!

Our trip to Victorian Days at our local historical park was a massive hit as well. The children learned a great deal about the games played during the Victorian time period. I might have managed to sneak in a bit of history on them as well.

The second big event this month was a whopper! Our 9 yr old daughter finished her 3rd level in reading! She has struggled for so long learning to read but never gives up. I could not be prouder to be her mama.

Speaking of 9 year old daughters....they do not care for fish dissection classes apparently. She is studying the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates. I decided to purchase a whole fish from the grocery store and dissect it in an attempt to learn about the spinal column. She did admit at the end that it was not nearly as gross as she expected. I guess that is something at least.

Our little bit however found the entire fish deal to be fascinating. She is not nearly as squeamish as  the older girls it seems.

Our third big break through this month would be our 5 yr old son writing HIS name for the first time! I gave him his workbook in an attempt to keep him busy and quiet while I worked with the twins on their reading. When I turned back around he had written his name. I could not be prouder of him. Yes, he is autistic. Yes, he is brilliant. Deal with it! 

I never can get enough of this view. All of my little ones working around the table. It makes my heart smile.

 Can I just say how proud I am of our twins and their reading advancements this month? They are making some serious progress. They both started the month only knowing 4 letter sounds. They have worked hard this month however and can now complete all 26 letter sounds on their phonics cards!

Our 9 year old has also been working super hard this month as you can tell. Who doesn't complete their spelling assignments while playing with a cat?

I hope you have enjoyed seeing what our 3 week block of school looked like. While we are technically "off" this week we will be continuing to learn. I have scheduled several related field trips for this week. I can not wait to get out of the house and go exploring new museums! Also this week we have several historical craft activities to complete. I know there will be some wigwam building and a replica of Jamestown assembled for starters. Our three daughters who are learning to read will also be completing their reading work each day. For being "off" I am sure we will still be super busy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Victorian Days

We are lucky enough to live within 20min of an amazing Victorian village. They have multiple free events available throughout the year, all of which we greatly enjoy. This years Victorian Games Day was a massive hit with our kiddos. 

We started off on the right foot by making and flying our own kites! The kids could not get out of the car fast enough when they saw the kites being flown on the drive in.

The wind was so strong even our 3 yr old was able to get some serious kite flying in!

There were several booths set up along the property. All of which contained hand made items from local vendors. I will admit I am a bit partial to these types of booths. There is something wonderful about speaking to a person who is passionate about their craft.

Of course we HAD to wait in line to get a ride on the mini train!

While touring the Victorian Village we were able to also tour the Underground Railroad Museum as well. 


We also tried our hand at croquet....and some how managed to get through the game with no head trauma!

My favorite game would have to have been Grace. Who knew you could have so much fun with a hoop and two sticks!


Who knew having so many kids would be a full tug of war team!

The younger kiddos decided to try their hand at checkers....I am sure you can imagine how it went.

Lastly we were able to run a Potato Race. We broke the kiddos into teams and let them race against each other. I had no idea my kids could be so competitive!

It is so nice to live so close to such an amazing location. If you have been a reader of our blog for any length of time I am sure you know how I feel about technology for children. I feel quite strongly that children need to be outside playing and exploring their world. Being able to attend these types of activities and learn new and fun ways to spend time outside is amazing for our family.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Making Healthy Changes

Recently I have been having some minor health issues. It seems I am going through menopause. As a 34 year old woman that was a bit of a shock to the system. We have all heard about the hot flashes and night sweats but there are other side effects that we do not really hear about as much. Since beginning menopause I have started to develop not only the standard hot flashes and night sweats but also trouble with sleeping and depression. While going to the doctor to address these issues we found that I also had extremely high blood pressure and heart rate. I now have new prescriptions for anti-depressants, beta blockers, and estrogen replacements.

Now that these issues have been addressed and I am feeling much better mentally and physically it is time to work on my weight issues. While these medical issues were not caused by my weight  I do know that losing some weight will make my more comfortable and help ease some of the symptoms.

So here we go again. I am hoping that by blogging about this I can motivate myself to follow through on not only the weight loss but in maintaining the loss.

At this time I see a need to address three issues.

1. Sleep
    My issues in this area are two fold. Either I have insomnia or I just want to sleep all the time. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. My goal in this area is to develop a more structured approach to my sleep habits. My plan is to "shut down" the house at 9pm and move to my bedroom where I will begin my bedtime routine and be in bed by 10pm. No electronics. No phone (!). I also plan to do some research on how to unwind with some simple yoga breathing and have a less stimulating environment before going to bed. I also would like to be up and ready for the day at 9am. I know this isn't a ground breaking time for anyone. I however am NOT a morning person in any way.

2. Weight
    I would ideally like to lose 40 pounds. My initial goal is to lose the first 20 pounds by October.  That is roughly 5 pounds per month. How? I plan to get back to tracking my calories with   My goal is to start at 1,800 calories a day and start to monitor how my weight reacts.

3. Fitness
   I recently found a faith based aerobic exercise program that comes on every day. I have set the program to record and plan to alternate my workouts between the aerobic program and walking outside. I have found that I have to do some sort of workout every single day or I fall off the wagon. By alternating my difficult workout with an easier workout I hope to give my body a chance to recover as well as staying motivated.

Tomorrow morning is Monday. Seems like a wonderful time to get started on my goals. We are just going to ignore the fact that it is 10:30 at night and I just ate a personal chicken pot pie. Ugh.

So here we go. I think I will keep a running log of each day's progress and post my results once a week. Do you have something you are working on? Would you like to share? I would love to hear all about it!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Our Review of ARTistic Pursuits Inc.

Our family was super excited to be chosen to review ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Sculpture Technique Model
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
As you can probably tell from reading our blog we are a very artistic family. Our children adore doing art projects and I attempt to work some form of art into every subject we study. There is something about working on art projects that helps our children remember facts concerning their studies. We have used ARTistic Pursuits Inc. books within our homeschool in the past and loved the curriculum. When we were offered the option of reviewing ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Sculpting Technique Model curriculum I couldn't have been more thrilled! 
Our oldest daughter has been interested in sculpting for some time but we were unable to take her to the sculpting classes offered at the art center. Loading up 6 children for an hour drive round trip to the art center so that one child could take a thirty minute class just wasn't going to work for our family at this time. It was just too much to ask of the younger children at this point in our lives. I had been feeling a bit guilty about not being able to fulfill her desire to learn sculpting. It was a subject I had zero knowledge about. I had taken some pottery classes as a child but did not feel in anyway capable of teaching sculpting to our children. 

When we were offered the Sculpture Technique Model curriculum it felt like a gift from heaven above! We were sent the spiral bound instruction manual in the mail. The book arrived very quickly and was met with many squeals from our oldest daughter!
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
The book contains three separate units based on the medium used for the sculptures. The units consist of projects based on putty, clay, and fiber mediums. At the beginning of each unit the author covers the elements of sculpture and how we view and understand sculpting. Specifically the mass, scale, and surface of the sculpture. In these sections the child learns the important visual aspects of three dimensional works. The child is able to begin to understand the choices and options available to artists as they develop three dimensional works.
There are 12 different specific lessons found within the book. Each lesson teaches a new technique and builds on the last lesson. The projects begin with a short introduction to the inspirational project and description of the methods used to produce the project. The curriculum then progresses to the project execution. 

In the project execution section the author clearly lists the items needed, any important information you need to consider, and step by step instructions as to how to make the inspirational project.

Our daughter chose to complete her lessons on her own in the late evenings after her siblings had gone to bed. I can not really say I blame her. I would not want to complete my art work with little people hanging all over me either. While we used this curriculum with our 12 year old daughter it could easily be used with younger children as well.

I loved that this curriculum taught our daughter a great deal about the mediums she was using, the different techniques associated with three dimensional works, how artists approach their projects, and the history behind the techniques. This was not a simple project based art book but an in depth education on a variety of three dimensional art work. I could not be happier with the this product! I loved that our 12 year old daughter was able to complete these projects on her own when the creative mood struck her. The mediums were easy to find, thank you amazon, and easy to work with. I honestly could not be happier! Our daughter was relieved to find out that she gets to keep this book and complete the rest of the included products.  
 Want to know what the other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of the ARTistic Pursuits Inc. curriculum they received? Simply click HERE or on the banner below to find out! 
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lesson Planning for 5 children

I have spent the last three years working on finding a method of lesson planning that works well for our family. Now that we have five children doing school work a good lesson planning system is essential to my sanity. It has taken a lot of experimenting but we finally have it worked out! 

We are using My Father's World Exploration to 1850's as our core curriculum this year. One of the benefits of this core curriculum is that they include weekly lesson plan grids. The lesson plan grid however is too small for our family to use for five children. It is difficult to write the individual assignments in the tiny little boxes included. We needed to use a second page for the individual work assigned to each child.

My Father's World allows for their grids to be copied for personal use. After learning this I struck upon the perfect method of lesson planning for our family. 

I purchased a standard full sized yearly planner from the office supply store. This is not a lesson planner. I have found those to be way too expensive and the blocks are too small for planning for 5 separate children. Instead I use a regular planner and then tweak it to my needs.

I copied each weekly lesson plan from the teachers manual and then cut the empty blocks intended for individual assignments out of the grid. I taped the group lessons on the left hand side of the weekly planner. On the right hand side I custom made my own grids for each child and taped them into the planner.

As we work our way through the weekly assignments we simply check the item off.

Super simple and easy to maintain. I love having the lesson plans for all five children in one place. I feel less scattered having everything in one planner. So far we are loving our new system!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Here we go!

 Our new school year has officially begun and we are adjusting to our new school routines. With five children currently doing school work it has taken some creativity and patience to get the ball rolling in the correct direction.

We are currently working our way through MFW's Exploration to 1850 as our core curriculum. The curriculum is written to be used with a variety of age ranges which is amazing for our family. We have grouped the children into two different categories. Our oldest two children are reading through the books intended for the older ages while the younger children are working through the 2nd to 3rd grade books. I can't say enough wonderful things about this curriculum. Being able to work on the same material with 5 different children at once is invaluable to our family!

Our younger set are rocking the early elementary school work. Our twins are working on a mixture of first grade and kindergarten level work. I love that we can tailor their work to exactly what they need.

After what seems like an eternity we are finally seeing some real progress on the reading and math fronts. The girls are now starting to memorize letter sounds and doing simple addition problems on their own. I am not going to lie, teaching children how to read is not my favorite thing to do. So much repetition and patience is involved!  We have begun using our Dancing Bears curriculum with them and I could not be happier with the progress. The curriculum was intended for dyslexic children who are struggling to learn to read. We began using the curriculum with our dyslexic daughter last year and have fallen in love with the technique used within the program. Since we have begun using the curriculum with our 6 yr old twins we are seeing some amazing improvement. We will be using it with our autistic 5 yr old son as well!

 I love watching their little brains make connections and find new interests. Today one of our girls wrote her name for the very first time. I can not even begin to tell you how amazing it is to be the one there to witness these milestones. The look of pure joy on her face when she realized what she had done was priceless. It makes the months of work worth every single second! I would not trade these days with our children for anything in the world.

I can not wait to see what amazing milestones we will reach this year. I have a feeling it is going to be a very productive year!

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