Organizing Technology

I am contemplating the New Year and how to best go about what the Lord has asked of me…mainly to use what I have.

And what I have is a lot!

So many pdf files saved from wonderful homeschooling mothers who share their visions and hard work openly wanting to knit community. For these women I am thankful!

I took last year to organize the files by creating folders and subfolders within folders based on subject. This worked well for maintaining a database of information on my computer and made it relatively easy to keep up with as I added new things throughout the year. I kept up the orginization and am still going strong.

Only problem…I forget what I have at my disposal. And there is a lot of good at my disposal! Some I can use now. Some I will use later. My quandry is in the forgetting. I forget the treasure trove I have and therefore don’t utilize the printouts.

While reading this post over at Amongst Lovely Things I thought to myself, I need some sort of system like this. It looks beautiful and I am all about mixing beauty with function But after my post the other day about crashing computers and bookmarks I started thinking more expansive. What if I did a whole system like this, not just Christmas?  Would I print out a full binder of printouts (maybe one binder per subject) with a table of contents in the front? Or would I make one binder with a sort of master list of all that I have saved on the computer? Would I convert my ever-failing file crate system (sorry, Dawn, just can’t seem to make it work for me!) into folders with master printouts? Or would all the printouts be missing the whole point of having them neatly saved and organized on computer?

My very unorganized desk/filing system. Can you see the two file crates artfully hidden under the miscellaneous mail, bills, and school papers?

What do you think, dear readers? Any other homeschooling moms dealing with this issue? How do you keep track of all those freebie goodies in cyber world and translate that over to your homeschooling orginization/utilization? Maybe I need the forum for this one! “Sigh”

Keeping the Hours

My Google Chrome Internet link crashed this past week. I was devastated at first. All those bookmarks gone. We tried re-downloading but a nasty virus had snuck in and we had to shut down all together. Internet Explorer it is. Slower, older, unfamilar. My heart ached for all those new blogs I had found and bookmarked but never made time to put up on my blogroll. Most of the really good homeschooling sites I have tucked away on a paper (the old-fashioned way of backing up!) but was bummed about the research I was going to have to redo on all the Great Depression and World War information that I had found but hadn’t written down yet.

At first I frantically tried to recall what I could. Then I moved to pouting. Then I moved to looking at a few of my old bookmarks. I saw faithful friend-blogs that have always been there since the beginning and were still favorites…still encouragers of Him…still food for my homeschool mothering soul. And the few that I remembered and could re-add were also soul encouragers, blogs of kind words that only uplift.

The Holy Spirit started speaking to me. I remembered verses about all things passing away, about not putting my heart in treasure that will rust. As I nursed and starting cleaning up my files (to evade any more viruses) the Lord, again, reminded me of how much I already have that I forgot about and am not using. Simplifying was my motive when moving out here. A fresh start. Use what we have to school. And yet here are a mountain of library books stacked up…most unread and I look over while quietly nursing in the night lights of Christmas the bookshelves full of books we already have to read being ignored. Why do I always forget?

And I realize that God is closing a door to prevent me from sliding a slippery slope towards bondage that he wants me free of. Today I am deleting some old bookmarks that no longer exist and I slip among these lovely words. A Mother’s Hours. And I think of last night and picking up the little’s mess of my books and seeing Holiness for Housewives and remembering the beautiful prayers that I was going to type up and put around the house and set to memory in my heart for those oh, so overwhelming mother moments. He is helping me to remember. Just Him. Nothing else. And if there is just that then the rest will come. And I see grace poured out and feel foolish over my own silliness. How so many good, but worldly, things slip in unnoticed to take up heart worship. Thank you that he is a jealous God. Thank you even more that he is gentle and compassionate and always there to take our hand and lead us home!

So please, go over to Evlogia and tuck those Mother’s Hours into your hearts as well! Be blessed, my friends!


Unschooling Fun

Weeks of December 12-24, 2010

I decided to include our unschooling activities separately. I kind of, for my own personal records, want to keep better track of our unschooling activities 1) to count towards school hours for the state and 2) to remind myself how much learning happens informally lest I start freaking out about school records come spring!

I would love to create a button for this for others to link to but am not that computer savvy yet and have too much on my plate right now. But I love the linking that is happening within the community (so many good blogs and info out there!) and eventually want to learn how to be a part of that. My own unschooling personal challenge!  I digress..


  • Read from The Periodic Table (science)
  • Built repeatedly using his new Lego Brickmasters set
  • Rereading SuperFudge and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his Encyclopedia Brown books
  • Worked in Visual Thinking Puzzles book (math and logic)
  • Wanted to know what ‘in excelsias deo’ means ~ looked up at Wikipedia, read Latin prayer and history of song, found and listened to a gregorian chant of the Latin prayer (Latin, Bible, computer and researching skills)
  • Played Kinect Sports (physical ed – thank you, Uncle Snoopy, for the early Christmas present!)
  • Checked out from library Nature Crafts and read
  • Read new book given to us by a neighbor: Science Crafts for Kids
  • Did algebra problems with dad (math)
  • Learned about centrifugal force and what makes a toy top work (science, computer, research skills))
  • Read Open Wide: Tooth School Inside after a trip to the dentist (health and science ~ may have to buy this book! Is chock full of tons of information wrapped up in a cute story that the kids will spend hours looking at!)


  • Also read from The Periodic Table (science and reading/phonics since she spent most of the time sounding out the long, complicated elemental names and wanted no help from Gabe)
  • Read Why Does It Snow? (a Just Ask science book)
  • Read Killer Whales by Seymour Simon and regaled me with all kinds of trivia tidbits (science)
  • Read Wild Bears (also by Seymour Simon)
  • Played Kinect Sports (physical ed)
  • Also read Open Wide: Tooth School Inside and then drew a tooth diagram
  • Played school with her American Girl dolls and taught them phonics
  • Read extensively to Delilah and Ivy – too many books to list!
  • Christmas crafting (art)

Blessings Amidst the Christmas Blues

Christmas was a laid back, mellow affair this year. We didn’t go out (#281). Others came to us (#282). Adam picked up last minute store items (#283). I mainly nursed a baby. Presents were fewer and naps still got taken (#284-5). This, to me, is a present in itself.

That being said, I woke up the Sunday following Christmas with a serious case of the blues. This season was not how I envisioned it. This year was suppose to be more intentional. And we did do that to a degree. We managed advent every night and did it with dad (#286). We sung carols and actually taught the kids some songs (#287). We incorporated the Jesse Tree tradition and made it a point to teach the real reason of Christmas (#288). We slowed down and tried not to stress gifts (#289).

But Christmas day came and there was a disconnect…a let down. This still didn’t seem like a day of celebration and jubilee. Of course the kids were excited in the traditional way of waking up early and wanting to tear into presents. But I meant for a Jesus peppermint birthday cake to have been made. I meant to watch the Nativity cartoon with the kids. Instead I was wiped out physically. I napped. I nursed. And in between I did chores (since the kids were absolved for the holiday!). We managed to watch the traditional 24/7 TBS Christmas Story special but somehow missed Jesus. Where was he this day? I couldn’t seem to find him and I was too wiped out to try. I felt failure. My heart longs to connect and this season is just so overwhelming to me.

My dear husband has been such a blessing trying to help me organize and set up routines (#290). I humble myself and try to maintain a servant’s heart while listening to what needs to be changed by me in order to bring the lack of discipline up to speed. And I was encouraged by this wonderful small, but mighty, little post over at Small Notebook (a wonderful #291!) that let me know it was okay. A perfect Christmas wasn’t in the cards and it was okay.

So today I will post what pictures I have taken this holiday season (way less then usuall) and allow the Lord to minister to my heart as I look into the faces of my dear children (the best of all #292).

Other blessings this season to be thankful for. Small victories is our theme of the week in the house with a new born, doing school, and ending the year.

#292 ~ the first 4 hour stretch of sleep during the night for my new wee one at only 3 1/2 weeks!

#293 ~ nursing well enough to get that stretch.

#294 ~ wearing a T-shirt and not looking like I’m 6 months pregnant!

#295 ~ a mellow little guy who actually sleeps occasionally to the bouncer vibration and for car rides (baby #6 is the first to do this!) and sometimes even through dinner!

#296 ~ down to one dose of ibuprofen before bed

#297 ~ my boppy

#298 ~ iron pills

#299 ~ the up and down head-bob nod that Ivy has mastered

#300 ~ no more pine needles to vacuum up!

#301 ~ baby’s first smile!!!!!!!!!

Happy Holidays Readers! Hope everyone had a blessed Christmas and an upcoming favored-by-God New Year!


Woods, Winter, and the Ingall’s Girls

December 13 – 24, 2010

I am just now getting a chance to sit down and write about our history and science days of last week. We officially started our Unit Study of Little House on the Prairie. On our official “history” day we will be reading from the book, discussing, doing activities to supplement and putting together our lapbook. For our “science” day we will be studying the forest as a compliment to this book and making our own field guides.

I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant on how they would take the Little House study. I am super passionate about these books and this time period so, of course, I was excited. But sometimes history sends Gabe straight into eyes-glaze-over mode. I thought Lily would like it, as most girls who read this book do in the elementary years. I wasn’t so sure if Gabe would enjoy the book or not. To my surprise, they both loved it. Gabe even did extra reading and volunteered (hear that cyber world….volunteered!!!) a narration on his reading to put into his lapbook. Even the two smaller ones, Luc and Lilah, wouln’t hear of being left out and made me print off lapbook pages for them to do as well. Our two hour schooling window expanded to a 5 hour window (with a break for lunch of course!) and I was amazed at the enthusiasm.



Activities ~ Making our own butter. At first everyone one was so excited and fighting over who got to shake the cream. By the end of 20 minutes they were all trying to shove it off on each other and no one wanted to finish. We got it to the butter just starting to seperate out from the buttermilk stage before they gave up all together and were no longer interested. Gabe said he sure was glad we could just buy butter from the store now!

Lapbooking ~ picked and colored cover pages and put together lapbook folders, hotglued popscicle sticks onto a log cabin (Luc and Lilah’s fave activity), made food preservation mini books, made a mini smokehouse replica (Gabe and Lil’s fave since it involved Liquid Smoke), wrote about our Christmas versus the Ingall’s, wrote about a favorite gift and used as copywork/penmanship, made mini books about making bullets and gun safety, made a mini book on the Ingall’s weekly chores

Language Arts

These past two weeks we also concentrated on reading. That pretty homeschool picture we all have in our head of snuggling on the couch and reading great books rarely happens around here. Mainly because mommy is always busy and interrupted with the needs of littler ones and we do a lot of our reading separately by subject.  But since we have forgone stories at bedtime to replace with our Advent activities, I really didn’t want the Christmas season to go by without reading some of the classics! Plus, we needed to return some library books that were too good to not let the kids get a chance to hear read aloud! So our whole day of language arts this week just focused on reading great children’s literature. I let each of the kids pick a book and I took turns reading their selections (which they loved!!!) and then I would pick a selection and read. This took time, but it was nice time that we all desperately needed. And it fostered some great discussions. We talked about homophones (hair and hare), about hibernation and dens (science), about the real meaning of discipline and it’s oppositte meaning (dictionary skills and bible character training), and about what would truly satisfy you and make you happy on Christmas morning (Let’s just say my kids have a long ways to go! Apparently a tin cup and one peppermint stick or a new pair of mittens would not make them as excited as the Ingall’s girls. Who knew?)

Literature & Poetry Reading  ~

Spelling ~ Both Gabe and Lily worked on the Scripps spelling bee list for the upcoming spelling bee. They practiced alone, with each other and with mom. They picked out the words they needed to work on independently and worked on them at Lily and I talked about memorization tricks and visual learning (picturing letters as colors).

Phonics ~ Lily did several pages in her phonics workbooks concentrating on long vowel rules.

Grammar & Mechanics ~ Gabe and Lily both did a fun worksheet on alphabetizing Christmas words (Gabe’s was more intense). Lily did a Christmas worksheet on forming compound words.


Gabe ~ Math U See – all of chapter 9 and test (finding the area of triangles), all of chapter 10 and test (division by 4’s)

Lily ~ Kumon Counting Coins book (adding nickels and pennies together, adding dimes and pennies together), Kumon Time book (telling time by hours, the different ways of writing o’clock)


We did a lot of science reading too. Our favorites are Jim Arnosky’s books. I will be investing money in these this upcoming spring. Though Lily is pretty convinced that she doesn’t want to go back into the woods after all the precautionary talk we did, I assured her it’s a lovely place to explore but she is now hyper-worried about disease and poisonous plants!


  • Creatures in the Woods (National Geographic book)
  • Walking in Wild Places by Jim Arnosky
  • Wild Tracks by Jim Arnosky (By far the most looked at book the past couple of weeks. We will be adding to our home library this spring. Includes fold out pages that have life-size tracks pictured. That impressed us all!)
  • Whose Tracks Are These? (a fun book where you were given clues and then had to guess the animal who made the tracks – kids loved it)

Discussed: Ticks, Lyme disease, poisonous plants, bee stings, water pollution, reindeer (what kind of real deer they are), protective forest clothing and why.

Activities: All went out to the forest and prairie area and had a great time looking for animal scats and tracks before it snowed. The kids had great fun with this. We think we may even have found mountain lion tracks! And Luc was beyond thrilled to discover real deer poop! I also had kids look through several different types of field guides, plants and animals, to see real-life examples of how they are put together. They’ve looked at these a million times before (by far the most used books in the house) but were now looking with fresh eyes. Do they want to use real photos or sketch? If real, use a camera or pull off internet? If sketch, pencil or paint or colored pencil? What information to include? Bound or spiraled? Laminated or paper? I told them we will discuss their ideas after Christmas and each one would be unique to what that person wanted to do.

Gabe ~ made an illustration of a forest biome including the canopy, understory, brush, herb, and floor layers to include in his field guide; read his new National Geographic magazine

Lily ~ tried her hand at sketching a deer and also sketched some tracks (deer and mountain lion) to include in her field guide; read her new National Geographic magazine

deer tracks

deer scat

cat tracks

The much bigger mountain lion tracks!

Faith & Advent

  • Read The Nativity by
  • Read nightly out of The Jesse Tree by
  • Made ornaments for our Jesse Tree.
  • Practiced singing carols and learning words (The Cherry Tree Carol, The First Noel, and O Come Emmanuel)

Living Math

Today started out not quite as serene as yesterday…ironic considering I actually got the most amount of sleep last night then all other nights combined. I still woke up feeling like a train had run over me…head hurting, body aching, hip bones moving back together, sore throat. Maybe last’s night trip to the grocery store was a little premature on my part! Guess I still have some healing to do.

Yesterday we focused on language arts, today we focused on math. I had our two hour block all planned out but God had other plans. Gabe decided to do his workbook early so he would have time to play his new lego brickmaster kit. Adam came home from work unexpectedly when his lunch got canceled. Doing school while dad is home is always a chaotic struggle at best. But I was determined that we would forge ahead. I couldn’t give up on day two! Luckily, daddy set to giving kids baths and allowing for me to have a bath, much needed all around. This gave the older two time to get morning chores done while I was still groggily moving around trying to get things together and nurse the baby. Our two hour block turned in to a little here and a little there. But get done it did and I feel good about our day overall!

Here is what we did:

Formal Math

Gabe – Math U See Delta chapter 8 (video, 3 practice pages, and the test) over division

LilyKumon My Book of Time Minutes book and Kumon Counting Coins book (about 3 pages in each)

Informal Math

Living Books – Read first two chapters of Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales by Theoni Pappas over lunch. The first chapter was on two dimensional objects and the second chapter was on decimals. The kids loved listening to these stories and begged for more. This is an excellent living book on math – one of the best I have ever seen! And the story on decimals sparked a learning moment conversation between Lily and I. She loved the story but had trouble understanding what it was about. We visually worked it out on paper together. I will be ordering his other two books this spring for the upcoming year!

Memory & Music – Listened to a compilation of math songs. Some of the songs came off the Best of Schoolhouse Rock while most of them were downloaded from the Counting Songs CD through Amazon. The kids absolutely LOVE these songs. They concentrate on skip counting and all ages love to dance and count to the rap-style beats.

Games/Spacial/Logic – Gabe played the flashcards game at Math Fact Cafe. All the kids played legos at the kitchen table. This carried over into most of the day for all of them.

Each week we will do one day of math with formal work first then a sensory break with the memory work through music, settling down with a living book and then free time spent playing a different math game either on the computer or physically with mom. I figure this gives us a wide variety of math choices and topics to pick from without tiring the kids while still focusing on math concepts for one whole day. We are working on this one subject a day thing (my husband’s idea). So far I like it. It is more easy going and is giving me a chance to do those things I always mean to do but always get pushed aside for what has to be done like the music and the games.

Saint Nicholas Day

It is back to the grindstone…back to school. And it feels, well, refreshing. The baby sleeps during our two hours of morning work. Spelling lists are downloaded for the HEN spelling bee and the kids are excited to practice spelling. Lily squeals in delight over her phonics II book. We read on the couch while muffins are baking. And we only concentrate on language arts today. No trying to squeeze in too much per dad’s request. There is order and it’s like a little slice of heaven!

We ease into structure on the perfect day ~ Saint Nicholas Day. The kids put out shoes by the fireplace the night before anticipating a treat as a new tradition is started!

We read about the true history of Santa Claus (okay…maybe there is some history thrown in! Go here for some great links and info!) and tied it in with the legend of the candy cane (fun site here and here). This afternoon we will decorate our tree and make paper snowflakes (here and here). There is activity and it motions the day forward…the momentum carrying us past many discipline issues that have been cropping up due to idle hands and too much freedom while mommy is trying to cope with a new house and new baby.

The day is far from perfect. Chocolate ends up on bed sheets and extra laundry is created. Two little kids still need to be quieted numerous times during the stories. A muffin ends up in a trillion pieces all over the couch and just-vacuumed living floor. A poopy diaper comes off prematurely due to eager toddler hands. There is still sibling squabbling and reminders to quiet down. Chores are still slow-going despite the numerous proddings from me. But overall there is normalcy and that is huge in my book right now! It is a light at the end of the tunnel and I get excited just thinking of sharing an actual learning day with you!

Language Arts Day

  • Phonics: Lily works on silent ‘e’ and ‘ing’ words; I work with Luc on reading some Bob books
  • Grammar & Mechanics: Gabe shows Lily how to look up the word ‘ridiculous‘ in the dictionary (from our morning reading at their request) and introduces her how to use guide words; Lily works on a Christmas worksheet on alphabetizing words
  • Latin: Gabe reviews flashcards from Volumes I & II of workbooks
  • Spelling: Both review the wordlist for the spelling bee and practice spelling words for me. We dot (with red pen) the words they hesitate over or get wrong. Dotted words are practiced at until mastery is achieved.
  • Literature: read Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend and The Legend of Saint Nicholas and The Legend of the Candy Cane and (just for fun) The Christmas Troll by Eugene Peterson (author of The Message ~ and by far the fave of today’s reading for the kids)