Friday, September 12, 2014

Six weeks done!

I can not believe I've been homeschooling for six weeks! The time has really flown by! I've been thrilled with the progress of everything! I can see the kids are learning and every week I'm learning how to more effective in our classroom and in prepping. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There has also been sweet finds along the way...C has really stepped up numerous times and helped M when she has a question or a problem. They work pretty well together (minus the time they are arguing, lol). C really enjoys being able to read to his sister and she loves helping him with artwork and she is always good about telling him how well he is doing!

We had one day that was about to try my nerves. C just would not settle down and work on school. I figured I could sit and fight with him or I could give up for the day, but since this is all so new I didn't want him to think if I just throw a fit no school. Plus I want to try and stay on schedule, because I know there will be days we will need to miss. It was beautiful outside, so I grabbed most of our books and threw them in a bag. I told the kids to get in the car and we drove to a local  park. I let them run around and play, then we read from our book CHARLOTTE'S WEB, played some more and then they were happy to sit and do homework. The only fail was I forgot to pack drinks.

We've been keeping very busy. We just completed our topic of volcanoes. The kids loved erupting a volcano in our backyard! We watched videos, read books and of course did artwork. The kids are brimming with ideas, so we set up a jar where we write our ideas down and pull a topic out of the jar. This is has helped with the fighting over who gets to pick. There will be some I will pick myself. I'm very excited to do a unit on Autumn!

Our first book order!!! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

"A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life.  Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving -- this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Lone Wolf

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

My thoughts...Wow! Storytelling at its finest. Five Days Left had me sitting on the edge of my seat with every single page. This is going to be one of those reviews that is hard to write because I don't want to give too much of the story away, but I want to write a review to give this novel justice.

The novel is told from the viewpoint of Mara and Scott. They both know their lives will forever be changed in five days. One has a choice the other does not, but the choice isn't an easy one--it's heart wrenching. Storyline wise, I was more connected to Mara and her story. I could completely understand to some extent where she was mentally. I could understand her dilemma, felt her turmoil, I found myself sickened for heart in agony for what she must have been going through. I respected her fight. I personally have seen both my parents parish to cancer...I've seen the evil of what a disease can do. As a child of parents who have been ill, I scream fight for me. Mara's story is powerful.

Scott's story was also painful. He poured love into his little man for a year. He knew where it was going to end. He put all sorts of love into this little boy and he's leaving...going back to where we hate to think of kids going back to. Scott's heart is breaking, yet his wife not so much. She had opened up her home to bring the little boy there for a year-but she didn't fully invest. Now with the boy leaving, it is almost as if Scott is holding it against her for not being fully devoted, not to be falling apart like he is. He changed the rules without telling her. Then everything changes. Where will this lead this couple?

If I'm going to recommend one book this year...this is the book! 

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Buy a copy of Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Return to the golden beauty of Minnesota’s Butternut Lake in this emotional story that vividly captures the joy and pain of first love, as a mother and daughter each come to terms with the desires of her heart.

Summer at Butternut Lake—a season full of surprises . . . and life-changing choices.

Preparing for her final year of college, Daisy is crazy busy now that she’s back at Butternut Lake. She’s helping her mother, Caroline, run their coffee shop and trying to build a relationship with the absentee father who’s suddenly reappeared. She never expected to fall in love with Will, the bad-boy from high school who works at the local garage. With every passing day she and Will grow closer to each other . . . and closer to the day they will have to say goodbye. As summer’s end looms, Will and Daisy face heartbreaking choices that might tear them apart.

Caroline already has her hands full trying to make ends meet at the coffee shop without having her no-good ex suddenly show up. Now that Jack is back, he’s determined to reconnect with the family he walked out on twenty years ago. But with the bank pounding on her door and Jack’s presence reminding her of the passion they once shared, Caroline’s resolve begins to crumble. As Daisy’s departure looms and her financial worries grow, Caroline just may discover the support she needs . . . in the last place she ever imagined.

My thoughts. I absolutely loved the first book in the Butternut Lake Trilogy, Up At Butternut Lake. I was so disappointed when the book ended and had thought this would make a good series, so I was thrilled when I found out it was going to be. Now that is a lot of excitement for a book to live up too. That said, I'm sure you wanna know what I thought of book two! Well two fold. I was disappointed when didn't I read more about Allie and Jax. I loved these two characters and in the second book there was a bit of a cameo, but that was it. I really felt they easily could have made a few more appearances to help us with what Caroline was going through. It wasn't like they were needed to move the story, but I think girlfriends being there for her would have been nice. Plus they were such a part of book one.

I overall enjoyed Butternut Summer, but not nearly as much as Up At Butternut Lake. I want to add the book really pulled me in near the end. I felt the story moved at a believable speed and loved getting to know Caroline and her daughter Daisy more. I feel the book was very good, but like I said I loved the first one so much, the second one had almost too much to live up to. On the positive, you could read this as a stand alone, but don't! These are really wonderful characters I really recommend you read them in order! Now I will say I am hopeful the third book will really come back and focus on all four ladies! I'm a fan of Mary McNear and this series (I'm actually bummed it is only a trilogy)! I could see how you could add more characters and stories making a number of books, hint hint to the author! I am recommending Butternut Summer! Make sure to grab a copy for a great read this Labor Day weekend!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

A few weeks in

We are now beginning our fourth week of homeschooling. I wouldn't say its been all fun and games, but I wouldn't say its awful either. It is work. Lots of work. I found teaching cursive to be very difficult with the curriculum I was using. C felt stressed. It was disappointing because I've seen a marked improvement with his handwriting in general. His cursive is much cleaner than his print and even his print has improved with me able to remind him to hold his pencil correctly. I was at my breaking point. I have a curriculum to get through. I suppose I'm a bit of a type A personality. I follow the rules. We have to get it done...wait a minute...wait...I'm homeschooling. I can set the rules.
outside play

I made a trip to the store and picked up a few cursive writing workbooks and I've decided to do one lower case letter at a time and move on once he has mastered it. This instead of both upper and lower case at the same time and moving to a new letter (or two) everyday. C is feeling more relaxed and so am I.

I've also really enjoyed how much C has been reading on his own. Today I introduced a sheet he will fill out with each book, so I can tell how much he is comprehending. He tells me the characters, the setting, the problem and the solution. I hope in a few weeks to start having him fill out the same sheet for creative writing. I'm super excited!

M has been a bit of a challenge. She has significantly less work than C, so it's harder to keep her engaged. I can't really send her off to play otherwise C will have a harder time focusing. She is pretty good most of the day, but I've picked up extra workbooks for her to do. She also has learning toys in the school room she can play with when I work with C.

Last week, we began a week long study of stars. I decided I want part of our homeschool experience to include some child lead studies. For our first week the kids wanted to learn about stars. We read a number of both fiction and non-fiction books, watched a Magic School Bus episode (thank-you Netflix) and a few star art projects. The kids loved the study and were excited to pick the next two studies.

We are planning a trip to the Planetarium before we begin our next study on a few Ocean animals (Whales, Dolphins and Jellyfish). I wish we had an aquarium here in Memphis!

The kids are also meeting with daddy one night a week. He is working on music lessons. C is learning the recorder and M is playing on the keyboard. They also practice for 10 mins each day. C has also began practice for the Christmas church musical. He practices one night a week. They've also had three karate classes (they both love) and C has started soccer.

Keeping busy at the library, while mom looks for books
Next week Cub Scouts start back up for him, and M will be starting Heritage Girls in a few weeks. We are also looking into starting horse riding lessons or tumbling for her, as well.

I'm very excited with how things are going! It's a lot of work, but the rewards have been amazing! I've seen improvement with C. He was a good student last year, but struggled with handwriting and his spelling. I can see improvement with holding his pencil, his handwritting is more clear and he did fantastic on his first spelling test! Have I mentioned I'm using phonics to teach and it is amazing! So many neat rules to help him! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

IT IS DONE! The first week of homeschool is in the books!

What a week! I will be honest in saying I was prepared for the worst and I am excited to admit it went much smoother than expected. As I say this, I will continue to be ready for the inevitable melt down of, "I don't want to do school." Overall a very good week.

As we began, the first thing I noticed was for as organized as I felt I was, I wasn't. I had all (most) of the worksheets pulled and placed in day of the week folders for the kids (I also made copies for M for when she is in second grade). This part of it was fine, but it was all the little prep work I fumbled with. The four different types of flashcards, the little counting objects, and constantly trying to remember what book I was teaching from. By the end of the week (today) it ran a little smoother, I believe Laura has found her groove.

On Monday, we went to a local church who has a Karate ministry for homeschool kids. It was the first Karate class the kids have ever taken and they really enjoyed it. M cracked me up because she is so loud when they yell. When we got home it was snacks, change clothes and right to the school work. I was pleased with how easily the kids transitioned.

M has less work being she is only in Kindergarten. I did try to find things for her to play/learn/work with when she completed her tasks. Her favorite was playing puzzles.

Each day the kids have their tasks of updating the daily calendar, feeding the fish, collecting and charting eggs, and adding a bee to our 100 day sun poster (count down till our 100 day party).

What concerned me most about homeschooling was the moving back and forth between the kids. I have to say there was very little issue.  I just had to help M with her wanting to talk and talk and talk. Sometimes I was even able to take a moment if they were both working...

When C (2nd grade) found himself done with his work and I was still working with M, he would grab a book and start reading. He has always enjoyed books--but it has been with a bit of a push towards them.

On Tuesday, we ventured out to the library where those amazing ladies were holding two large stacks of books on hold for us. I also allowed the kids to use their cards to get some books they wanted. They each grabbed a number of books and broke in their cards. Between having the time and feeling big getting to check out his own books it seemed to encourage his reading time. Oh and we are charting all his books. I told him after every ten he reads I'd buy him a new book---ummm gonna have to make that a higher number or I'll go broke!

 Another discovery this week was learning M can't sit still while learning. The girl is on the go! Every time we did seatwork she was either standing or fidgeting. I made sure to give her plenty of work she could do on the whiteboard where she was able to stand up. This seemed to help keep her focused.
I also just had to get over the idea of her sitting still and working. Let her learn and move about the way that works for her. She enjoyed learning the more she was able to move around. Even when I just sit and read to the kids, she is rolling around or hopping about. I told my husband I couldn't imagine how she would do in a traditional classroom. I'm sure she would end up fine, but it would be counter to her personality.

I found most of our days lasted between 3 to 3.5 hours. It's funny how that really doesn't seem that long, but when you are teaching it seemed much longer! We did have a set start time and break time. If the kids were hungry or thirsty they could of course get something, but at break time I had them go play out in the back yard just to recharge and get some fresh air.

We finished the week off with no clips being moved to red, so they both got to dip into the treasure box. I have to admit I am excited for next week!

Monday, August 4, 2014

First day of homeschool--ever!

Today is the day. Today we begin our adventure into homeschooling. I'd be lying if I said I'm not nervous...I am very nervous. I am also very excited to be able to explore learning with my youngest two children (C and M). We will start the day by heading out to a homeschool karate class, so I am feeling pretty confident about that, hahahaha. When we get home we will have snack and start lessons. Thankfully the curriculum has our first week pretty easy learning week. If I was being honest I am most nervous about teaching two at a time. How does that work? I have my expectations pretty low to begin. I've read enough out there to just try and relax and allow ourselves time to find our groove. Let's be honest the first week kids are in elementary school have a slow start too.

Here are some final pictures of our classroom. There are a few changes, but overall I'm pretty happy with the way it all turned out.

Friday, July 25, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

 American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted stateside, she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation, Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story that reads like a modern-day Two for the Road.

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

My thoughts...I admit it, this is the first novel by Jojo Moyes I've read. Now I've been buying her books along the way, I believe I have three others--but I often don't get a chance to read books I buy when I'm trying to keep up with my review piles. Well I have been missing out!

I have to start with the main character Jess! I absolutely loved Jess. Here she is working her bum off to take care of her family--no one helping her, but she could really use the help! She is resourceful, helpful and wants to do right by her kids. She is everything a mom should be. She honestly reminded me of my own mom. We also struggled financially and she just did everything she could to put us first. I was sad for Jess, wanted to cry for all the struggles, yet I was clapping for her and cheered her on because she doesn't want anybodies tears.

Then there are Jess' children, Tanzie and Nicky. What great kids and they love their mom. Tanzie is just a sweetheart who loves her Maths. I could completely understand how Jess would do anything she could to help Tanzie get into a good school--I mean I wanted to pull out my own checkbook to help! Oh and Nicky...I just wanted to give that boy a hug!

These characters felt so real. Their story felt real. All the mishaps, sadness, joy--life. Moyes captured the beauty of the ordinarily wonderfulness of life.

One Plus One is a wonderful novel, with imperfect characters with messed up lives who are just trying to get by. Told in multiple voices (mostly Jess). A book you don't want to miss. One Plus One equals a perfect summer read! Highly recommending.