Category Archives: Homeschooling

Update & Direction for the Summer

Good morning! I wanted to quickly give an update on what I’ve been doing lately and where the blog is going. We have just wrapped up our homeschooling year and are looking forward to summer! It’s already hot as blue blazes around here, so I admit there has already been a good bit of water play and swimming which has been a welcome relief. We still have some math to complete over the summer but my two girls are now officially 5th graders and my wild little man is going to be in 5K. I can’t believe it! Each year of homeschooling has brought new challenges and I admit sometimes I do not feel equipped to do this job. However, for the time being I feel like this is where we are supposed to be. It’s hard but I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

When I rebranded the blog last year, I was uncertain of my direction. I was still focusing on deal alerts and was only in the first stages of what has become a big life change of simplifying, editing, and re-focusing. When I chose the name, I chose something that has deep significance to me, but I had no idea what a perfect choice it would turn out to be. Once I realized I wanted to pursue minimalism, it all started to click into place. Santee was absolutely and by far the most minimalist and simple place I’ve called home and it was the most peaceful oasis I have ever found. I love that my direction and blog home have merged into a very concise journey of simplicity and minimalism.

However, as often as minimalism is the focus of my posts, I want to make one thing very clear. Minimalism is merely a tool that I am using to reach my goals. Minimalism is not the end-game, not by a long shot. I talk and share about minimalism because cutting out the excess in my life has allowed me to have freedom and better focus on what is very important to me. My goal is to love God and love others. To seek His will for my life. To raise my children in the knowledge of Christ. To build a marriage based on a common goal of obedience to our Savior. So every tip, life hack, 10 ten list, or recipe I share is only a tiny effort to make more room in my life for what really matters.  And that’s what I want for my readers as well.

Psalm 73:25-26

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Thanks for being here! I hope you stick around; it’s going to be a great summer!

What’s on my Kindle

I was delighted to discover one of my favorite books from childhood is available for free for the Kindle: Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter.

This is a beautiful, soulful story of an orphan who finds his home in the Limberlost and falls in love with an “angel”. The theme of redemption is moving and the vivid descriptions of the swamp creatures, birds, and foliage are mesmerizing.

The book is free, but I discovered that you can purchase the audio for many of the free classics for a few dollars (in this case $3). The girls and I have been listening to this together and the narration is wonderful; the reading level on this is probably 7th grade and up but younger listeners will enjoy. You have to grab this book for the incredible vocabulary if nothing else! Also check out these titles (and many more) by the same author:

Freckles

A Girl of the Limberlostfreckles

The Harvester

Nothing can quite take the place of the gorgeous antique copies of these titles that I was lucky enough to be gifted, but I do love digital books also! Remember that you can download the Kindle app for free for your phone or right now Amazon has some great prices on Kindles, check them out here!

Friday Favorites: Fancy Edition

This week Friday’s Favorite is a flashback favorite to one of our favorite authors, Jane O’Connor.

I try not let my prissiness get out of control, but I’m really a girly girl at heart. Fortunately, my children seem to be a little more well-rounded; loving animals, sports, books, and still playing with dolls and wearing tutus occasionally. We all love the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner.Fancy Nancys

The illustrations are beautiful and the stories sweet. Not only does the series tickle a little girl’s pink funny bone, but it teaches a lot of great vocabulary words, even some basic French, while encouraging kindness and empathy. In Fancy Nancy we meet the Clancy family, and Nancy who feels it is “hard being the only fancy person in your family”. In Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly Nancy apologizes to her mother for her behavior and learns that you must choose to have a good attitude even when faced with disappointment. The Clancy family learns about responsibility in Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy. One of our favorites, Fancy Nancy and the Splendiferous Christmas talks about the importance of family and establishing traditions and memories.

The series isn’t just about glittery boas and lacy accessories, Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraordinaire delves into plants, insects, and exploration from a “fancy” perspective. I love how it shows girls can be strong and feminine at the same time. We love these books and recommend you look to Jane O’Conner’s many titles for your daily fancy fix!

Name Bubbles Coupon Code

Even though we homeschool, we have been using Name Bubbles personalized stickers for years. With identical twins, we tend to have issues keeping tracking of whose items are whose and these perfectly solve the problem. Name Bubbles has several combo packs that include laundry safe and dishwasher safe labels. I have never had a label come off or even start to show wear, even after dozens of trips through the dishwasher or washing machine. As a matter of fact, I have even pulled the laundry stickers off of outgrown items and re-used them on the bigger size with success! That’s impressive. If you think you don’t need name labels for your child’s stuff, I invite you to take a look at our Homeschool Lost & Found. The mountain of hoodies and lunchboxes says it all! Today only get 17% off with code LUCK!

Homeschool Uniforms

I remember when I was a child hearing that a homeschool family we knew was using uniforms and I was gobsmacked (to be fair: I was easily gobsmacked back in the day). I couldn’t fathom why someone who chose homeschooling would choose uniforms to promote conformity and rigidity. Homeschooling to me was a choice of flexibility, creativity, and opening up a world of options; whereas uniforms communicated the exact opposite to my young mind. In fact, I pictured a crowd of storm troopers.

Uniforms took away individual choice. Uniforms made the wearers look like mindless drones. Uniforms were ugly.

Fast-forward to my current mindset: homeschooling is all about access to the best materials, methods, and resources and having the flexibility of embracing any and all roads to a quality education.

Homeschooling means that what I use this year may be in next year’s curriculum sale crate. Homeschooling means if today isn’t working, then we re-assess and re-map. Homeschooling means being open-minded and innovative.

Last week, my husband and I were having a HHH (Homeschool Heart to Heart) with the girls. We were addressing the fact that their behavior at school (our hybrid program) was virtually above reproach. I’m very proud of how respectful, focused and hard-working they are in the classroom. Unfortunately, that behavior doesn’t always translate to our “class time” at home. Of course, I don’t expect them to behave exactly as they do in public when we are at home. However, I do want them to give their best effort as much as possible and that hasn’t been the case recently.

During this HHH, I blurted out: “Do we need to have homeschool uniforms to remind you that this is school time?” Suddenly, I realized, this wasn’t an altogether horrible idea. Simply doing something to differentiate our free time from work time could be a way to “shake things up”. I started mulling things over and doing some reading online about the pros and cons of uniforms. I was surprised how many homeschoolers consider this idea.

school uniformLess than I week after I started exploring this idea, I was flipping through the racks at my favorite thrift store and what did I find? Two size 10 girls navy school jumpers. For $1.20 a piece. It was a homeschool bargain miracle. Clearly, the uniform experiment was being set into motion despite any reservations on the part of my children. Fortunately for me, they pretty much roll with the punches when it comes to my brilliant ideas for life improvement. So let our experiment commence!

Be sure to follow Chasing Santee to read the riveting conclusion to this controversial topic. Or to hear how I wasted over two dollars and failed miserably at improving the educational process.

Math Makeover (Part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1, Math has not been a favorite subject for my two girls. On the other hand, my almost four year old totally thinks he has mastered it (he perceives himself to be a master of many things). The following is an actual conversation I observed between my three children:

S&S: “What’s 1+1?”
C: “Two!”
S&S: “What’s 2+2?”
C: “Four!”
(me: getting excited about his math prowess)
S&S: “What’s 3+3?”
C: “Fire engine!”

He was looking right at them when he said this. There was no fire engine in sight. This is actually a fairly typical conversation with my son. No one really knows what he will say or do next. Anyway, back to math.

This year, I wanted to “heal” us a little from the bad math vibes from last year. I wanted to give my kids confidence in their skills so that they could realize math can be fun.

That’s when we discovered Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

bedtime2
Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

Just as it says, Bedtime Math makes math fun, relate-able and relevant. It transforms numbers from something kids dread into something they can really look forward to, (like staying up late for a bedtime story). While it isn’t a curriculum, it is a fun stand-alone story book that my kids ask to read. Each short story has three different math problems at the end, geared toward three different knowledge levels. Sometimes my three year old can answer the first question, and my older girls can usually get all three, so these are really geared towards younger children. My youngest likes to flip through just looking at the silly illustrations about food and animals. If you use any similar math “storybooks” please let me know in the comments!

lifeoffred
Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred)

educents-life-of-fred

At this time, we are using Life of Fred as our “core” math, but we’ve been supplementing heavily. Personally, I’m hesitant to endorse this yet but the reviews are excellent. There is definitely a lot to like about it: well-rounded stories with lots of educational rabbit trails (skimming into topics like geography, vocabulary, and anatomy). A silly, yet substantial introduction to math subjects that gives kids the basics while also introducing much more advanced concepts. It’s definitely the gentle approach I was looking for this year but it remains to be seen if I’d be comfortable using it all through elementary school.

boo
2 X 2= Boo!: A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories

We picked up a book from the library that all three kids enjoyed, so I wanted to mention it as a fun supplement. 2 x 2 = Boo! Although witches and creepy-crawlys have never been a favorite in this family, we thought it was a fun read. We enjoy how the author combined story/poetry elements with multiplication. Just like we expose our children to many different kinds of literature over the years, I’m starting to see the value in exposing them to math from multiple angles and formats if I expect them to enjoy it. This book definitely fits the bill. I hope you enjoyed our Math Makeover! Check out Part 1 here!

Life of Fred Elementary Series Complete 10 Book Set (Life of Fred)

Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

2 X 2= Boo!: A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories

Return of the Lazy Blogger

So this is what happens when I get distracted….two years and no blog entries at all! I’m rather dismayed but I have been busy with life. This is my second year blogging regularly at EveryWomanBlog; you can check out some of my posts here. I have just joined the ranks of creative ladies at Columbia City Moms Blog. Since I love reading what these women have to say; I can’t wait to start writing on this new platform.

As a brief update, we are still homeschooling my identical twin girls, age 9 and in 3rd Grade. I can’t say raising twins hasn’t been a challenge, but it is a daily joy. My little guy is getting close to his 4th birthday and is just as wild as he is cute. He hasn’t exactly been the “easy third” child that I planned on, but we all adore every crazy minute of life with him. I can’t record every hilarious quote, but I’ll try to share a few here soon. Laughter helps to soothe the exhaustion of keeping him safe from constant catastrophe.

We are still loving our half-homeschool life through our university model hybrid program. For us that means two full days of classes with our friends and dedicated teachers and three days at home that combine heavy homework (facilitated by me), lots of reading, field trips, writing, art and a healthy dose of life-skills. This has been a huge blessing and a great way to “ease” into a homeschool lifestyle with the support of a fantastic teaching staff and community of families.

Thanks for popping in and I promise to update more frequently! I am ready to make writing more of a priority, as it’s always been a great passion of mine.

Math Makeover (Part 1)

This post contains affiliate links. As always, I only recommend products that I use or want to try for my own family.

For multiple reasons, math has been a struggle for the girls so far. This year I am making math a high priority so that it can become more natural and less painful. My main goal was to approach math from different angles and to dissolve some of the number-angst that had become habitual; basically, integrate math into our daily lives in a fun way. IMG_6392

If these goals appeal to you, I’d like to recommend a few tools and products that I have been super pleased with this year. The first one is Times Tales, for multiplication facts memory.

Times Tales DVD

We just got this DVD last week and I am already blown away by the progress we’ve had. At first the girls were apprehensive but after watching part one only twice they have been able to complete all the worksheets quickly. To sum it up, each number has an accompanying picture, each problem has a story and they are all introduced in such a way that they are easy to remember and reference. Not only that, but they move immediately from multiplication to division so the relation between the processes is very clear. Over two days, my kids became confident with the number stories and began working on the worksheets unprompted over the weekend. To be clear, this is not typical math behavior in this family.

times tales
Times Tales DVD

Times Tales DVD

I am thrilled with this program and I have to recommend it very highly. I would buy this one again and again! Please check out Part 2 for more Math Makeover ideas!

Back to (home) School

It’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that school is BACK in session. This summer has been so rainy in our area that I feel very cheated in the laying-by-the-pool and playing-in-the-sprinkler arenas. I’m trying to keep my attitude in check though, and face the year with courage! My sweet girls are excited to be FIRST graders and they are definitely ready to meet the challenge. I was able to spend about a half an hour praying in the quiet of my car this weekend (a very unusual opportunity for me) and I can say that I am now feeling better prepared mentally and spiritually! I’m still a bit overwhelmed, but I know we can do it!

This year will be fun as we return to our homeschool “school” that meets two days a week at our church. It’s a wonderful set-up and we are so thankful for the opportunity. They will study core subjects as well as chapel, electives, and PE. I couldn’t be happier with this “best of both worlds” approach to homeschooling. I know that my family would have loved this scenario as homeschoolers in the 90’s! Things really have changed, in a wonderful way. This gives me some time at home alone with the baby, and gives my kids some much enjoyed time with friends and fantastic teachers; what could be better?

For our study at home, we will be using a brand spankin’ new curriculum that I am very excited to explore. This week we will start Dew Learning*, which is the first Christian homeschool curriculum designed for use on the Ipad! My girls are pretty impressed that they will be able to use the Ipad every day for learning! I’m excited that the curriculum is portable, interactive and that all progress is stored online. We can’t wait to get going with it and I am happy to share our experiences each week. Look for more on our Dew Learning Adventures very soon.

Now, what you have all been waiting for: photos of my children in their backpacks and first day of First Grade outfits! I would like to mention, in frank bargain-boast form, that these outfits were each $1 at our local thrift store, and came in the girls’ favorite colors, with lots of lace and ruffles!  I’m definitely addicted to thrifting!

Sophiab2s Scarletb2s

*Disclaimer: I received free products for evaluation purposes in return for my reviews and feedback. You can trust that I will be 100% honest in my discussion of said product and seek to help other consumers make the right purchases for their own families.

 

 

 

The Homeschool on-the-go Bag

In the interest of full disclosure, please realize that I have become an Amazon partner, so I will receive a small (really, minuscule) compensation for any items purchased through the following affiliate links. As ya’ll know I have been shamelessly raving about my favorite things for years, so I just thought I would finally try to get a little cash flow from my role as consumer enabler. Thanks for taking a look at my recommendations!

Once again, I ask, how did folks homeschool before the advent of Pinterest??

When I feel particularly overwhelmed with the clutter, I tend to browse the internet for the magical cure. Sometimes I get distracted by how to catch mosquitoes in a two liter bottle, how to decorate a mug with a sharpie, or the best way to dress for your body type. Other times, I find something truly helpful that I implement right away like this idea for a homeschool mom bag*…I love it and it has really helped me keep life organized!

This method works great for me because we have a fairly small home with limited dedicated school space, I want to be able to homeschool “on the road”, and I’m not the world’s most organized mom to begin with. All you need to make this work is a Thirty One Organizing Utility Tote**, (look at all the pretty color options!), an open top file box, file folders, and your basic craft/office supplies (the things you want to keep close at hand for school).

No instructions are needed, you simply fit the file box into the bag, add the file folders, and fill the outside pockets with supplies. Here is what I keep in my bag:

  • folders labeled with each child’s name, the previous school year’s records, this school year’s records, each subject, and forms.
  • My Homeschool Planner
  • pens, pencils, sharpies
  • glue stick, craft glue, tape, small stapler, glue dots
  • post-it notes, small notebook, reward stickers
  • hole-punch, scissors, rubber bands, paper clips
  • hand sanitizer, some random string or yarn, and a small screwdriver just in case (I’m pretty sure I could moonlight as a secret agent with the contents of this bag).

When we are at home, this bag lives on top of a rolling cart in our kitchen. If we are traveling, I can remove the file box portion and fill the heart of the bag with workbooks, notebooks, readers and whatever else we may need. It makes it so easy to homeschool on the go! I’m still not great with organizing, but with this bag, I can totally fake it! I’d love to hear any of your ideas!

VID03518

*I originally found this idea at IHeart Organizing!

**Please note, I am NOT affiliated with Thirty One Bags in any way, and in fact had never owned any of them until I found this idea. As it happens, I purchased my tote on ebay, but if you’d like to find a consultant in your area, look here.

Summer failures…..and successes

The fact that it is now August is really blowing my mind! I have so many things to do to get ready for school….it isn’t even a little funny. Fortunately for me, my girls are really excited to get back to work and are always pretty motivated (easy to say as they are still only 6). Over the summer, I had some grandiose plans of projects, crafts, and educational adventures. In fact, here is a sampling of what I intended to accomplish:

  1.  Finish up all the little homeschooling odds and ends: workbooks, lists, lesson plans, projects.
  2. Completely clean my house and purge a ton of stuff in preparation of the new school year.
  3. Travel and and make great memories.
  4. Start a blog about homeschooling.
  5. Teach my youngest to sleep through the night. Or even halfway through.
  6. Organize all my to-do lists.

Things I have actually done this summer:

  1. Decided that most teachers do NOT finish all of their books, workbooks, lesson plans and projects.
  2. Purged a few things and bought a whole bunch more, mostly unneeded. Barely kept the mess at bay all summer long.
  3. Made it about 30 minutes down the road on a day long road trip and turned around due to multiple factors which need not be discussed. Memories, yes. Fun, not really.
  4. Started a blog about homeschooling. At the same time, realized that starting said blog is certainly the easy part and continuing will most likely be the actual challenge.
  5. Allowed my youngest to slide into the laziest, most ill-advised sleep schedule in the history of toddlers.
  6. Discovered website that might possibly allow a new career in the making of to-do lists but as yet have not actually fully utilized said website. For your consideration: Wunderlist.

In addition to these worthy accomplishments I have: NOT purchased needed school supplies, NOT set up several appointments I’ve been putting off, NOT put the van into the shop for pesky issues just barely still covered by warranty, NOT read any of the book for my Sunday School class, NOT started elimination to diet to get to the root of allergy issues, NOT finally had that yard sale and NOT totally made-over my grocery buying system.

On the other hand I have: played outside with the kids, read to the girls some of my favorite childhood books, spent some time with extended family, made some cash by selling unneeded items, kept the kids fed, clothed, and relatively clean, and lost all the baby weight. So there’s that.

Oh and I taught the baby to feed himself. Actually, he just picked up the fork the one time but as you can see, I was clever enough to capture it on camera so I think I deserve some credit.

Image

4 Perks of Homeschooling in 2016

I just put this list together off the top of my head, in no particular order. Of course there are lots of pros and cons to homeschooling (and, indeed to most educational options). However, as a second generation homeschooler I am struck by some of the huge leaps in the field since my parents set out on the homeschool journey over 25 years ago. Things are so different and most of the changes are very positive! I have to remind myself of these when I am feeling discouraged or flat out exhausted!

1)      People know what homeschooling is. This made be perplexing for some of you young whipper-snappers but actually there was a day not too long ago when the term homeschooling provoked only blank looks and an occasional weak, “You mean homebound?” I used to dread being asked where I went to school, not because I disliked homeschooling (quite the opposite) but because I hated having to explain to random cashiers something that seemed new and radical (when in fact it is the oldest teaching method there is). Now it is more likely that the stranger is also a homeschooler or is close to someone who is.

2)      Legal standards are more flexible. This may be the understatement of the blog. My mother and her contemporaries had to turn in detailed lesson plans to the school district where they were met with animosity and mistrust. My mom had to walk me at six years old to the school for standardized testing but wasn’t allowed to enter herself. We were required to have PE facilities but weren’t allowed to utilize those of the school. The list goes on. As homeschoolers, we still face prejudice, injustice and misunderstanding but in almost all areas of the US, things have vastly improved.

3)      The internet has revolutionized EVERYTHING. I’m at a strange in-between age where I remember the days before cell phones yet have trouble believing those days really existed. The truth is, when we asked my mother a question about history, science or anything else under the sun she had to know the answer or use some kind of archaic encyclopedia to hunt it down. The mind boggles. And don’t even get me started on the beautifully crafted homeschool blogs that make what you are now reading look like a post-it note my toddler created.

4)      Curriculum is cheaper, better, more specialized and absolutely abundant in availability. From traditional, to classical to technology based, our choices are enough to make a new teacher’s head spin. In fact, one of the challenges I have faced is being absolutely overwhelmed with the options. For heaven’s sake, I can order art supplies, text books, or a full blown telescope from Amazon and have it at my door the day after tomorrow! If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

5)      The homeschool community rocks! The truth is the homeschooling community has always been strong, supportive and relatively united. But now with veteran homeschoolers paving the way and talented and knowledgeable newbies bringing fresh ideas and techniques, more and more parents feel empowered to make the switch. More of us are gathering and pooling our collective resources, maximizing our strengths and forming a united front politically. There is strength in numbers and we are over 2 million strong and growing. It gives me confidence that homeschooling will only gain strength, recognition and respect as we face this task together!