Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nature Study-ish

This time of year is fantastic. The children and I are able to FINALLY go outside and enjoy our community. Any time it is over 85, I don't go outside much. I have had heat stroke several times, and get very ill when I am overheated. I don't really think passing out or puking in front of my children equals fun outside time, so I have to wait until evening, or push them out early if I want to hang out with them in the summer. I am so thankful for the time we get to spend outside now.

 Because we are out more, I figured I would finally get a chance to do more of a traditional Charlotte Mason type nature study. The concept is simple... Go outside, spend time observing, ask questions about what you see, use a guide to learn about what you experience, and then journal/record the info with a drawing. That seems reasonable, right? I had envisioned my children and I sitting on our picnic quilt, reading stories and drawing together. I anticipated them having eager and intelligent questions that provoked really wonderful discussion. I thought I would be patient and have all kinds of enthusiasm.

 Um..... Then there was the reality of it all.

 My children are so distracted outside, I end up with one child practically memorizing the nature guide, one drawing pictures of stop lights, one rolling down a hill, and one pouting and glaring at me. Pretty close, right? Of course, I handle it with grace and love every time.... orrrrr I loose it for a few minutes, and threaten public school, chores, and dictionary copying. Maybe I chill and switch topics, and we end up searching for shapes in the clouds and forgetting our frustrations. Sometimes, it actually goes well. It works even better when you don't all get eaten by fire ants. Sometimes nature study works when you aren't necessarily OUT in nature.

 We had an animal scavenger hunt, in which the children had to learn about the habitats, physical characteristics, and anticipated care of many pet shop critters. Thanks to an experience with a large green lizard this spring, I have 4 little reptile obsessed students. I have never seen (read:paid attention to) so many reptiles in a pet store! There is a chameleon at our PetCo that I couldn't stop looking at. It was beautiful... ish. Have you ever seen their feet? This little guy was having a blast showing us how his weird feet worked. He even changed colors twice!

Later, we ended up at this super cool duck pond at the local college. We fed and watched the ducks (They even identified the different breeds!) and geese for quite some time. I can definitely see more of my ideal nature time out there. Did you know that geese are considered one of the smartest birds? Did you also know that they used to be kept by wealthy little girls because they were loyal and protective like dogs? Now you do. ;)

Even if things don't go as planned, it is still wonderful to be out, and learning new things this season. 

Blessings, Mandy

Friday, October 11, 2013

Where did you go?

I got an e mail from a friend who reads my blog, but isn't on Facebook.  She asked, "Where did you go?"  Has it really been a month since I posted on here?  I feel like it flew by and took ages all at the same time.  Am I the only one who feels that way about how time passes?  

In the past month,

My second son was attacked by a dog and was left with a hole in his leg and a deep fear of dogs.

All 4 Ferglets became scouts.  I have one Boy Scout, one Webelo, one Bear Scout, and one Girl Scout.  Yes, I have issues with Girl Scouts in general, but we are in a troop with high moral values and a lot of flexibility.  I don't want to argue with anyone about Planned Parenthood and GS.

My beloved drove to Va, turned around and drove back in a week because of the shut down.

My oldest son turned 12.  Seriously?  I have a 12 year old.  *faints* 

I turned 31.  I'm an honest person.  That number freaks me out.  I feel old, but I feel like I have earned the right to say my age.  If you ask me in public, I might not admit to anything older than 28.  I'd like to think I can pull off 28 still.  ;-)

We all got more frustrated than I would like with school and are  reevaluating our school plan.  

I read 32 novels.  I like to read one every night or several on days that we aren't really doing a lot.  I have been enjoying reading through some of my required reading from previous college classes.  I'm still rockin' my nerd banner!

I am sure there are so many other things I could include, but it seems like things have been awkwardly busy.  

My beloved got me a keyboard for my iPad, which is seriously the best invention since the iPad (although I'm digging the other kind from the comparison commercial).  Now that I don't have to sit in the corner to type, and I don't have to fight with autocorrect, I don't have any excuses for not keeping the blog up.
The picture has nothing to do with the blog.  It just made me laugh  That is my Beloved's super visible helmet.

SOOOOOOO  here is where I need your help.  I have every intention for this blog to be a lifestyle kind of blog... a mommy blog with a nerdy homeschool twist if you will.  What kind of topics would you like to see?  I am an organization freak, obsessed with Christmas, a vegan recipe junkie, bibliophile to the max, and consumed with scouts.  If that helps, I know a lot about those things.  ;-)  

PS.. if you are actually reading this, and I am not talking to myself online, HI!  I'm totally waving at you and I appreciate you reading this far and not thinking I am some sort of nut job.  Everyone needs a crazy friend, right?  Anywho.  Hi.  I appreciate you taking a moment of your day.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Homeschool Organization (Part 2)

Here's the one that I enjoy talking about the most...

I have a serious addiction to organizing paper.  I love file folders, hanging folders, labels, tabs, and binders.  It's a sickness.  Truly.
Anywho, our core curriculum this year has no workbooks, but has a million (not really, but at least several hundred per child) pages that we printed out for this year.  It is set up in six week units.  This is how I keep all THAT paperwork straight.... 

 I have one file folder for each week, for each unit, for each child!  At the beginning of each unit, I take the hanging folder and move it to my on the go school bag that my AHmazing friends from Fort Bliss gave me when we moved here.
I keep the 24 folders, our main TM, the readers, my lesson plan folder, and all of my teaching supplies in this bag.  If we were to go on vacation, I could bring everything we would need for school just by grabbing this bag.  I am pretty sure I couldn't live without it!  
I mentioned my lesson plan folder.  I'm on my second homemade lesson planner this year.  The first one was totally overwhelming, so I started to shop for a planner again.  I found one that I LOVED, but I didn't have the cash to invest at this time, so I sort of copied it.  I am still deciding whether or not my guilt about copying the idea is logical or emotional.  

I keep a lot in my planner.  It has spaces for each subject, and lines I can separate the children's assignments on.  Yes, I know it is still pretty empty.  I just printed these yesterday!  All of the planner pages come from  That site is FANTASTIC and has a lot of options.  They also have household planning/organizing pages that I use in my huge household binder.

Like I said earlier, our state doesn't require we keep records, but I prefer to because I like to make sure we always go above and beyond anyone's requirements or expectations.  
So there it is.  It's not as fancy and professional as I would like.  I didn't take the time to type everything in.  It's just the reality of changing everything after a month of school!  
A MONTH... Is it just me, or is time going WAY WAY WAY too fast.
We better make each day count!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homeschool Organization (Part 1)

Yesterday I mentioned that I was frequently asked the same 5 questions again and again.  The second most common question is "Where do you do or put your school stuff?"
I don't have great pictures.  Please forgive me.  I am working on saving up for a new lens for my camera, since mine broke last October.  :-(  I do have enough pictures to show you a basic idea though.  

When you homeschool, you have a lot of stuff.  When you homeschool 4 children, you have a LOT of stuff.  This is how we keep everything organized.

This is a peek at my "school room."  It is the second half of my kitchen.  It isn't super fancy, but we did just get AWESOME desks from Ikea to make sure everyone has functional space.  We also got huge maps because I never really learned geography as a kid and I want my children to have a firm understanding of where things and places are in their world! 

I have one book case near our desks that holds our current curriculum and daily supplies.  We are studying early American history this year, so have a lot of books about Native American culture jammed in one of the cubbies.  At any given time, anything the children need for any subject other than some science, will be either in their desks or in this book case.  I love these 9 square things.  I get them at Target, and they put up with a lot of abuse!
I have a storage room off of my laundry room that I use for holidays, excess kitchen stuff, and our books and supplies.  We call it the homeschool storage room.  I told you I love the 9 cubby things.  You'll see a few more ask I blog more!  Anywho, this light colored one holds the boys' book series.  We have all of the Magic Tree House books, which helps when I need a quick read for someone on the go.  The bottom shelves are used for my Bible study stuff.  

This is our non-fiction shelving unit.  The cubbies are organized in the same order as the ones in our actual "school room."  the boxes on top hold readers by grade level for my younger three.  I rotate the books in the reader boxes so they don't just memorize the books!

The tall bookcase holds our fiction books.  I used to keep all my books in alphabetical order, by size, and by color.  OCD much?  You can see I've let go of that control issue.  I have given away, sold, and donated several thousand books in the last 4 years, which has been almost painful.  I do like that it forces us to explore the library more often.  Libraries make me so happy. :-) I keep 3 tubs of Christmas books in our Christmas side of the room (aka most of the room), but all the other holiday books are in order at the bottom so we can bring them out by season/holiday.  The black box contains extra school supplies, and the blue box contains the second semester books and supplies for our curriculum.

I am WAY more organized with the schedule/paper stuff.  I will post on that tomorrow.  
Now that you've seen all that, I'll admit that I would be a HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY girl if I had cupboards to hide all the chaos in.  I don't like open shelves.  The colors all over make me twitch sometimes.  I don't like seeing school supplies in my home at all.  I'm trying to remember that the home isn't just mine, and that the children will read more if they can see the books.  They will take out more books if I am not being all controlling about where they go after they are borrowed.  This is a functional home.  This is their school.  Order is important, a great learning environment more so.

I'll catch you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Homeschool year 2013-2014

I can't believe we are over a month into our school year already.  Everyone is still alive.  Things are actually getting better again.  I have a lot of friends and family who ask the same 5 questions about homeschooling, so I thought I would do a homeschool mini-series!  That's right.  We are totally getting fancy here.
  I might actually be able to do this blogging thing now that I have a real computer again.  I love having my ipad for a few things, but the darn thing is impossible to type on!  Anywhooooo..... 5 questions.  The question I am asked the most is "what curriculum do you use?"
First of all, I live in Texas.  If you're not a homeschooler you don't understand the significance of it, and if you are, you probably know that we have some of the most lenient homeschooling laws in the country.  You don't have to notify anyone unless your child is already in a public school and you plan on disenrolling.  There are no time or day requirements.  No work samples, tests, or attendance records have to be turned in to anyone.  Having said that, I keep ALL of those records, and we do around 200 days of school each year.
Sooooo... What do we use?  

This year we changed it up a bit, but I'll try to keep it all simple in the list...

Bible:  Calvary Curriculum.  We are starting with Daniel and then working through the New Testament.  Why Daniel? So much of the prophesy comes to pass in the NT.  I want the children to see it unfold!

Math: Teaching Textbooks   We will be using levels 3-6 this year with the children.  2 of my boys LOVE math and would do it for fun any day of the week.  (weirdos! ;-) )

Language Arts: Rod and Staff  We will be using levels 3,4,and 6 in their English series.  We will be doing our own spelling and plugging lists into Spelling City for practice.  Josh and I will be working on creative writing projects together using a curriculum I am writing for him. Anah and I will be reading through Grammarland and illustrating our own version of the story.  We loved the activities for Grammar Land found here.

History, Science, Geography, and Reading:  Trail Guide to Learning: Paths of Exploration.  It contains everything we need except math, but I really feel like my children need a more rigorous Language Arts program.  TGTL uses living books and has a very Charlotte Mason feel to it.  I have found it to be a bit of a challenge with 4 children so far.  We have learned more geography this year than in the past few years because it blends with the history study seamlessly.  We are emotionally invested in the lives of the great explorers of our American past, and that helps us all learn more.  I will go more in depth and add to the science using books we have collected because we are science nerds.

Art:  This is a HUGE one for me this year.  We will be doing a very thorough study of artists, technique, and styles.  We even plan on interviewing several artists.  We are fortunate to be related to several artistically talented or connected ;-) people!  Most of our formal work comes from the World's Greatest Artists, ARTistic Persuits, and various Usborne art books.

Music:  We will be learning how to play the recorder this year.  I learned how to do it in Australia when I was a kid, and I still remember how to play.  I am looking forward to impromptu concerts from the children often.  We are also studying composers, hymns, and music genres.  It is time to expose the children to something other than classical, classic rock, or christian music.

Creative Arts:  We will be weaving, knitting (yes, even the boys), woodworking, and gardening.

Of course we will be READING, READING, READING and celebrating all kinds of feasts, festivals, and holidays Waldorf style!

There it is folks.  Eclectic to the max.
 Now you know.


Monday, August 19, 2013

MPM August 19-25

(This feels like forever ago.  That's my little guy half his lifetime ago in our Fort Irwin house)

Do you menu plan? 

The thought of having to come up with meals randomly from items I purchased at the grocery store half hazardly is terrifying.... crippling... Awful.  Get my point?  On the other hand, being locked in to a plan and having to cook things that sound gross that particular day has no appeal for me either.  I tried using cute pro tables that have daily, weekly, or monthly menu plans that look like calendars.  My husband got frustrated with the fact that I never made what was scheduled for each day.

 Having said that, I hope to consistently post my menu plan, in the format that works for us, each Monday.  I pick and choose based on what activities we have going that day (ie. crockpot dinners on days we are super busy) or whatever I really am hungry for.  ;-)

Breakfasts: all have a fruit option as a side
Toast and eggs
Breakfast burritos
Homemade granola and yogurt

Lunches: all have fruit and vegetable options as sides.
Spaghetti and meatballs
Chef salad

Dinners: I never list side dishes.  I try to keep a well stocked veggie option for sides.
Chicken taco salad
Swedish meatballs
Baked potato bar
Veggie burgers
Chicken fried rice



Friday, June 14, 2013

The bucket

Do you have a bucket list? 

 I've had a secret bucket list for almost a decade.  I don't know why I felt so silly about it.  

I have often felt like a lot of the things on my list weren't worthy of a bucket list.  As if something important to me needs validation from someone else.  The crazy thing is....I don't have to do the same thing as everyone else.  I don't have to like the same things, or value the same things as everyone else.  I'm trying to start living my life the way I want to.  I'm no longer focusing on being the person I think others want me to be.  It sounds like a DUH,  Mandy kind of thing, I know.  It just hadn't occurred to me that I was not living authentically.  I remain a work in progress.

My bucket list (in no particular order) written in 2004
Live to be 30 (I truly whole life... That I wouldn't live this long) 2012
Make a difference
Go back and visit Australia
Shop at Ikea  2013
Become a published author
Stand behind a big waterfall
Treat a homeless family to a fancy dinner
Visit Canada
Hit a bullseye with a long bow
Visit the International House of Prayer
Buy dinner for a young military family
Visit the Smithsonian
Visit the library of Congress
Learn to sew 2010
Learn to knit 2012
Kiss my husband on a covered bridge
Work in a soup kitchen
Go on a cruise 2006
Visit Amish country
Save a life
Make a quilt
Read 500 books in a month 2009
Watch a live Broadway show
Take my daughter to see the Nutcracker ballet
Learn about and create art
Walk through the redwood forest
Meet Beth Moore
Drink coffee in Seattle
Grow my own food
Have my own Etsy store
Learn a new language
Fly in a helicopter
Do a zip line
Hike to the top of Pikes Peak
Visit Ellis Island
Visit Italy
Take my children to the creation museum
See the northern lights
Christmas in Colorado with my beloved and children

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chaos Again....

I am in the process of moving back to blogger from wordpress.  Honestly, this blogging thing is awfully complicated on wordpress.  This simple girl is just going to stick with what works. 

 I also didn't have internet for a weekish.  It's funny how much we rely on it.  I am pretty sure my family was one of the last to get the internet in our tiny little town when I was growing up.  I remember using things like THE LIBRARY or dictionaries, or even....reading a newspaper.  How is that for old fashioned?!

Anywho... I'm working on getting this blogging thing down, and will hopefully offer you more than just apologies.

PS:  What do you think of the new look?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Present and Disclosure Policy

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

― Henry David Thoreau

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