Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Little Word 2010

I just came across this idea today reading through my feed reader and thought it was a really neat way to regroup and focus on a great new year. One Little Word is something that was started by a fellow blogger and you can find out more about it here.

I have decided to participate and the word I have chosen is PEACE.

Definition of PEACE from (emphasis mine)

1. the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.

2. (often initial capital letter) an agreement or treaty between warring or antagonistic nations, groups, etc., to end hostilities and abstain from further fighting or antagonism: the Peace of Ryswick.

3. a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, esp. in personal relations: Try to live in peace with your neighbors.

4. the normal freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community; public order and security: He was arrested for being drunk and disturbing the peace.

5. cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.

6. freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquility; serenity.

7. a state of tranquillity or serenity: May he rest in peace.

a state or condition conducive to, proceeding from, or characterized by tranquility: the peace of a mountain resort.

9. silence; stillness: The cawing of a crow broke the afternoon's peace.

10. (initial capital letter, italics) a comedy (421 b.c.) by Aristophanes.

In the coming year, the word PEACE describes what I am striving for in all areas of my life and family. I want a peaceful home, a peaceful mind, and peaceful relationships to become the norm. Just read the bolded definitions above! Freedom from strife, tranquility, serenity, stillness… Who doesn’t want these things?

Count me in!


: ) Cassie

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saying Goodbye to 2009

I probably say this every new year, but it has been quite a year! There have been so many milestones and memories, I thought it would be nice to reminisce a bit…

Joey had his 1st birthday this past May

Joey learned how to walk

We started using the Workbox System which completely changed the way we “do school”

I tried to institute a chore system (and failed)

I became a contributor for Heart of the Matter online

I joined HOTM forum and became co-admin

I developed a very close friendship with an online friend who has been such a blessing to me

My dear husband started college

My sister was married in August, and Joey was her ring bearer

We moved

My older kiddos had birthdays also and turned 8, 9 and 12

I turned the big 3-0

I got a bread machine and baked 8 loaves of bread in 3 days

I purchased my first laptop

I purchased a second laptop (for the kids’ Christmas gift)

I learned how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch and perfected my recipe

I became a grouch on an almost daily basis (this is a recent realization and I am working on having a pleasant attitude no matter how I FEEL)

We got a Wii as a Christmas gift from my Mom and are enjoying it as a family

Joey transitioned from a baby to a toddler

Drew and Isaiah developed a love for drawing and Lego

We received a need-based scholarship which enabled us to begin using Tapestry of Grace classical curriculum

There are a lot more things that happened this past year and this is just a brief list off the top of my head. There are several things that came into mind as I was writing this list that I wanted to do but did not manage to accomplish. With the beginning of a new year, I find myself contemplating a new list of goals for 2010.


1. Develop a healthy schedule/routine

This is something I have struggled with since day one of beginning to homeschool. Throwing a baby/toddler into the mix has only made this more difficult. Every little change in routine results in HIS schedule being thrown out and I am constantly struggling to get him back to a normal sleep/nap routine.

The boys and I both have a hard time getting up and going in he morning and boy do we like to sleep in! I believe that if we can get out of this habit, we will be more productive every day.

2. Stick to a plan

I am great at writing out lesson plans and routines. I am not so great, however, at actually doing things according to plan. I need to learn how to plan things in a flexible way yet be disciplined enough to follow those plans as closely as possible.

3. No more store-bought bread

Now that I have a bread machine, there is no reason for us to ever have to purchase a store bought loaf. Home baked bread is healthier, tastier, and cheaper! Not to mention there is no wondering about preservatives or other additives that we may be putting into our tummies.

4. Crack down on school

My goal for this past year was to catch up on those subjects the boys are slightly behind on. We didn’t quite get there, but we did make progress. By the end of 2010, I would really love to be able to say they are exactly where the need to be educationally.

5. Start informal lessons with Joey

I had planned on doing this sometime after he turned 18 months, but with moving and settling in, I have not been able to get around to it. My new goal is to be doing regular, informal learning times with him 3 days a week by his 2nd birthday in May.

6. Write more.

Whether it means writing here on the blog, writing for HOTM, or writing some freelance articles for other sites, I would really like to write more and get more comfortable in my writing. I have lots if ideas that have never made it into “paper” that need to be developed and shared with others.

7. Make a chore system and STICK TO IT!

I have recently talked to by husband about this, and I think we are going to sit down and figure this out together. In the past, I have always done it on my own and it has never worked. It is something we need to do as a team.

8. Teach the boys keyboarding skills

My boys are hesitant writers. They love making up stories and things, but rarely get them down on paper because they detest writing things out. They know their way around a computer, but still use the “hunt and peck” method for typing.

9. Get more organized

This is a very general goal and applies to all areas of my life and home. I am good at organizing things, but I am NOT good at keeping them that way. I am less stressed and more relaxed when my home is organized. Enough said!

10. Be a happier wife, mother, and teacher.

As I shared above, grouchiness has become the norm for me. I don’t like it. I WILL change it. I want my children to enjoy being with me and I don’t like being snippy and gruff all the time.

I know there are a lot more things I could focus on improving, but these are the most important to me right now. It should be interesting to reflect on this post at different times throughout the year to see how I am doing in meeting these goals.

I hope your 2009 was wonderful! Here’s looking toward a new year, see you in 2010!


: ) Cassie

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Toddler Baker (12-17-09)

It has been a while since I posted any new videos. I have not slowed down in taping the kids, I just have not been uploading any to YouTube recently. I went through a majority of all my video on my hard drive this evening and picked a few things out to share. Here is a video from a few nights ago, enjoy!

He really had a good time playing with the dough! Maybe I should think about digging the playdough out for him again. I believe he may just be ready to play with it (instead of eating it)!


Cassie :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

HOTM Review: Made With Love Flashcards

Here you can read my second product review for HOTM, enjoy!

Review: Made With Love: Flashcards for Early Education..

December 15, 2009 by Cassie
Leave a Comment
When it comes to e-products there are a LOT more options out there in recent years then there used to be. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review a product that is geared
towards very young children as I have found these resources harder to
come by. Made With Love: Flashcards for Early Education and Speech Delayed Children is one such product. It is also a useful resource for older children
that may have some speech delays. This product only requires a printer,
scissors, and some quality one-on-one time with your child. The
flashcards print in alphabetical order and are in full color. I had the
opportunity to use these cards in my home with my 19 month old son, and
with my friend's 3 year old son who has slight speech delays. I was
surprised to find it very easy to make using these cards an enjoyable
experience for both of them. They both really liked the bright,
colorful photos on each card! There is a wide range of words in this
set, starting with simple, one-syllable words like "ball" and moving on
into more difficult words such as "watermelon". There are 70 flashcards
in all.
For my toddler, we used the cards in the following way: I
went through and chose all of the simple one and two-syllable words
that I thought he would recognize. I then showed each card to him, one
at a time, and said the word aloud to him. Then I gave him the card and
asked him to say the word. He really liked collecting the cards and
looking at the pictures. We even practiced our animal sounds!
my friend's son, I showed him each card to first see if he recognized
the picture on it and could tell me what it was. If he did, I repeated
the word back to him and then gave him the card and asked him to say
the word again. If he did not recognize the picture, I told him what it
was, then gave him the card and asked him to repeat the word. Again, he
really enjoyed making a pile of the cards as he practiced saying the
I would highly recommend this product to anyone with
toddlers just learning to say words up to school-age children that need
help and practice to correctly pronounce common, everyday words.
This product is available for purchase through CurrClick: HERE.

Cassandra Simpson is a homeschooling wife and mother of four children, ages 1, 8,
9, and 12. She is starting her 6th year of home educating in Indiana
and uses a "Classically Eclectic" teaching approach. Cassandra is the
Assistant Lead Moderator for HOTM's forum
and loves talking homeschool with anyone who will listen! Her hobbies
are reading, blogging, sewing, and cooking. You can check out her
family's blog at In His Image.

Monday, December 14, 2009

HOTM Review: Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments (12/14/09)

My very first review with HOTM was posted today! I have quoted the article here for you to read, enjoy!

Review: Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments by Mark Pennington

December 14, 2009 by Cassie
Leave a Comment
As a homeschool parent living in a very homeschool-supportive state I have never been required to have my children take standardized tests. In many ways, this is great for us. But there is a lot to be said for regular testing. As a parent-teacher, you walk away from the experience with a real idea of how your child is performing compared to his peers. Ideally, any weaknesses will be revealed and you can then formulate a plan to strengthen those areas.
The only area I have ever really stressed about educationally is reading and language arts. So very much of education hinges on our mastery of these areas! I am always evaluating and questioning if we are doing enough to prepare our children for a lifetime of learning. I was thrilled to receive Diagnostic ELA/Reading Assessments by Mark Pennington to review!
Let me just start out by saying this is a jam-packed resource. Although it was written with the classroom teacher in mind, every single assessment is totally and completely useable for the homeschool setting. The first 12 pages explain why these tests are useful, if not necessary, for evaluating student's abilities. It is also explained how to go about using and administering these tests. There are 18 different areas that are tested ranging from beginning reading skills all the way through high school writing competency. This would definitely be a resource you could use throughout your child's schooling, no matter what the grade or age. Each individual assessment has a teacher's instruction page which informs you exactly which skills are being evaluated, how to administer the test, and how to record and use the results to help your student(s). Not a single language arts skill area that I can think of is ignored in this thorough assessment package. The assessments are very easy to use and also easy to score, making evaluating your child's skill levels quick and painless for both parent and child.
The fact that this is a multi-grade level resource makes it very much worth the initial investment, especially considering that in e-book format, you can print as many copies as you need for all your students to be assessed on a regular basis. I would very highly recommend this useful tool for any parent who wants a clear picture of how much their child is learning and applying in the reading and language areas of their education.
This item is available for purchase through CurrClick and can be found: HERE.
Cassandra Simpson is a homeschooling wife and mother of four children, ages 1, 8, 9, and 12. She is starting her 6th year of home educating in Indiana and uses a "Classically Eclectic" teaching approach. Cassandra is the Assistant Lead Moderator for HOTM's forum and loves talking homeschool with anyone who will listen! Her hobbies are reading, blogging, sewing, and cooking. You can check out her family's blog at In His Image.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

As if you haven't had enough...

Be sure to check out this week's "I Spy" article (written by yours truly) at Heart of the Matter online! You can find it here: I Spy-DIY Gifts, Funny One-liners, and Imperfect Homeschoolers.
While you are there, be sure to find out what's been going on At The Forum! And if you haven't taken the opportunity to join the HOTM Forum, it would be a great time to do so! I hope to see you there!
Keep an eye out for my first two reviews sometime this week! I will let you know when they are published.


Cassie :)

Gingerbread Painting!

I have been wanting to make gingerbread cutouts for the kids to decorate for a while now. I bought all the ingredients last year, but never made them. So last night, we decided it would be fun to decorate some cookies!
It took quite a while to actually make and bake the cookies (the dough has to be refrigerated for 2 hours before you can roll it out) but they turned out very nice! For decorating purposes, i decided it would be easier to glaze them with a white icing and then paint them with food coloring. To make the icing I used the following recipe:
1 c. powdered sugar
3 tsp. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. almond extract
To make the icing, you blend the sugar and milk til smooth, then mix in the corn syrup and almond extract. It coats the easiest if you then dip your cookies face down to coat then lay them flat til it forms a slightly hard glaze. Then you are ready to paint! This would also be a great base icing for sugar cookies! We used cotton swabs dipped into food coloring for painting purposes. You don't need to use much of the food coloring, a little bit goes a long way.
What's that you ask? Well of COURSE I took pictures!

Here is Isaiah painting away!
Here was my test cookie, isnt it pretty?

And here, Drew joins in the fun!
Our snowmen very very colorful and festive!

My friends son wanted to paint cookies, too
Heres Jazz painting her cookies with friends.

And of COURSE Joey wanted to paint! We had to be super careful as he kept trying to dip his fingers in the "paint"!

They turned out really nice, exactly like I had imagined them! We all had fun decorating them and they taste pretty good too!



Friday, December 11, 2009

Review-Homeschooing at the Speed of Life (12-11-09)

I recently read through a great book full of practical advice and encouragement for busy homeschool moms. I enjoyed this book so much, I wanted to share it with you!

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life By Marilyn Rocket (click on the picture to learn more)

This is a book I highly recommend to any homeschool mom that ever has a hard day full of cooking, cleaning, childcare, and teaching. Many of us find ourselves wishing there were more hours in our days. This book can help you find practical ways to make the hours you DO have count! Not only is there tons of great information in this book, there is plenty of encouragement!
Marilyn has included a cd-rom with the book that contains all kinds of great forms and helps. This book will help you organize your clutter (and clear out the clutter you don't need), develop a practical plan for keeping your home clean and running smoothly, develop a plan for teaching your kids life skills, make a chore system that works, learn to use planning and lists to your advantage, and keep your paper under control. She does all this without making you feel bad about your previous attempts to manage your home, that alone makes this book worth the read.
I read this book off and on throughout a day. It is a quick and enjoyable read and definitely worth the time invested! I found it at my local library. and I am so glad I did! Enjoy!



Saturday, December 5, 2009

What's been going on around here?

I know it has been about a month since I was last here to update my blog, there are million reasons WHY, but I'm not going to bore you with that. How about I just spend our time together here sharing what has been going on in our home in the past month?
As I am sure you have already figured out, we are all moved and settled into our new townhouse. It is a lot nicer then where we were living. The changes in floor plans have presented some challenges for us, but we are making it work. Even though we moved into about 100 more square feet, that space is distributed mostly in the upstairs bedrooms and the fact that we now have 3 bathrooms. We now have a common living and dining room area instead of two separate rooms. This has resulted in no longer having a dedicated school room. I miss it, but at the same time, it is kind of nice to have the bulk of our school things put away out of the main living area. In our dining area, we have our table, two tall bookcases, our dry-erase board, and our workbox racks. It is very uncluttered this way and things tend to stay put up out of the way when we are not doing lessons. My large L-shaped desk is now in our large master bedroom, along with the rest of our school things. We did lose one of our tall bookcases in the move as it was very unstable and cracked as we were moving it. I hope to replace it after Christmas.
The boys' bedroom is downstairs, which is nice because I no longer have the youngest's toys strewn all over the main living area. All his toys are in his bedroom and easily accessible to him. He can get things out as he wishes, but at the end of the day, they all go back into their toy box in his room!  The downstairs bathroom is off of the boys' bedroom and they have their own shower which has been nice.
I love my kitchen set-up. My only complaint is there is really no convenient place to store all my larger kitchen appliances, like my roaster. There are plenty of cabinets, but they are not deep enough or tall enough for certain things. There is also nowhere I can hang shelves like I am used to having for these items. Again, we are making it work.
I have two large patio sliding glass doors downstairs and although they are tightly sealed, as it's getting colder here it is becoming apparent that we need to invest in some insulated curtains to keep the cold out. I am hoping to purchase them for Christmas.
School has been tough since we moved. Naturally, we took our first week here off as I was still getting things unpacked and settled. then we had a half week for Thanksgiving. This past week has also been rough because we have all been passing around a nasty cold. We did school though we didn't get done nearly as much as I had planned to. My goal for the next two weeks up to Christmas is to get as much done as we can. I'm not making any concrete daily plans, just a basic list of where we need to be before Christmas break. We will likely only take a week off as we have lots of catching up to get done.
Joey has been having sleep issues this week since he has had his cold. I am really hoping it resolves itself soon. If not, I may end up reading through Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber again. He is turning into quite the conversationalist and jabbers all day long. His vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. It seems like he learns a new word every day! He is just amazing. I am in awe.
Hubs is still working as a corrections officer in a work release center 5 days a week (and hating it) and going to school 5 nights a week. I am still searching for a part time job, though I haven't been able to devote as much time to this as I had hoped. Getting settled in took more time than I had hoped it would. I pretty much have to put the job search on hold until after the holidays as most places have already hired their seasonal help. I guess I missed the boat there.
There's really not a whole lot else to share right now. Except that I have been invited to join HOTM's review team! I am really excited about it, and I will be linking to all my reviews here on the blog, so keep your eye out for them. I have two that should be posting this week.
With that, I will bid you all ado until next time, which will not be so far off in the future. Stay warm!


Cassie :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

OK, so I'm a little OCD...

because all these stacked boxes and chaos in the house are driving me up the wall! I am soooo glad I only have to live among this mess a few more days. I am very thankful that I have had the past week to get ready for the move but I am completely over it. Everywhere I turn there is a disorganized mess of things I can't do much about. I have tried really hard to keep things somewhat in order, but it has really been a challenge. The closer it gets to moving day the worse it gets!
Tuesday we pick up our u-haul and then we will gladly be loading all of these boxes into it and getting them out of the way. Unfortunately, it will be short lived, as once they are moved into the new place, it will be a whole other state of disorganization and chaos. But at least I will be moving towards my goal of getting settled in and finding a proper place for all of our belongings, and that is definitely something to look forward to!
It just so happened that we got to see inside our apartment last night. We are completely relieved, it is a very nice apartment (compared to our current abode) and for the most part, we really like the layout. Our dining/living room area is a bit smaller than I expected from looking at the floor plan, but we will make it work for us as we always do. This may mean relocating some of our lesser used school things into another area, but we can live with that.
All of our utilities are set-up to switch over into our name, we put an order in to get cable and internet installed on Thursday (yeah!), we have purchased our renter's insurance, reserved our u-haul, and all that's left to do is pay our deposit/rent and sign on the dotted line. Oh, and move in of course!
Oh, also yesterday a part on my laptop broke (sniffle). It is the casing that holds the screen. It is still working perfectly fine, but will not close. I will be shipping it off to HP sometime next week to get it fixed. I will leave a note here on the blog to let you know when I do as I will not be able to blog while it is away (sniffle) getting repaired. Hopefully the process will be quick and they will return my electronic baby back to me like new!


:) Cassie

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Prepping for the Move (how it's going)

imageYesterday our closest friends brought us our first batch of boxes. There were about 10-12 total. I know, not a lot for a household of 6, especially a homeschooling household of 6! She said she would be back today to help me with any packing because she knows we are on a tight schedule and need all the help we can get! When she arrived today, a bit before noon, I had already called a nearby Office Depot and they had some boxes waiting for me, so she kindly picked them up on her way and brought them. There weren't a lot, maybe five or six. I decided that I would call a few more places to see if I could get my hands on some more boxes before they bailed them. I was very lucky to catch two places just in time! Thank you Babies R Us and Best Buy!! We ended up with a good 40 boxes or so, and many were quite roomy!
Well, long story short, we worked until about 8 this evening, and I am proud to announce that I currently have 31 packed boxes parked against the wall in my schoolroom! We were really moving! Keep in mind all this with 4 children underfoot (one a toddler), messy bedrooms, and lots of laundry in between. I think we did pretty good!
We don't have a whole lot more that we can do until closer to moving day. We packed most of the schoolroom, everything in the living room except furniture and electronics, both bathrooms, both children's rooms, a few boxes in my room, and one hall closet.
I am not nearly as worried, after today, as I was about being able to get it all packed and moved in time. Of course, the kitchen is always the worst, and most time consuming, and it will likely be done dead last.
We sign our lease to our new place and get our keys Monday, and have to have our keys handed in here by Thursday evening. Please keep praying for things to continue to go smoothly! I will continue to keep you updated!


:) Cassie

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wow - lots of changes heading our way!

SO it has been a really stressful week for us. We have been behind in our rent for sometime now. We had an appointment Thursday to get help. When we took the paperwork into the leasing office, they refused to sign it because they have to agree not to file eviction for 30 days. The lady said she had to speak with the manager because they were planning on filing on the first of November.
It's really ok though, cause we have slowly realized (after taking a hard look at our budget) that the reason we are always behind is because we can not afford to live here. The gas bills are outrageous and if we paid all of our bills on time, we would only have a couple hundred dollars left over for groceries and gas. I had not realized things were so tight even on paper.
So I have been apartment hunting like crazy all weekend. We are trying to get in somewhere quickly so we can leave voluntarily and avoid the eviction process so we don't have the scar on our rental history. We found a place that will actually save us a good chunk of money. There are some downsides to our choice:
  • no washer/dryer hookups
  • it's third floor with only a small balcony
  • we will prob not be able to use our chest freezer - no room
  • it's 3 bd with less than 1000 sqft
  • its a different school system - which is tough for Jazz
  • not a lot of storage so we will be renting a storage unit
But we all have to make sacrifices at this point to live within our means until hubby graduates school in a year. I DO really like how the floor plan flows so that's a plus, and they actually have two really nice playgrounds for the kids. The complex looks very well maintained on the outside, which I can't say for our current living situation. Oh yeah, and did I mention - we are going to save over $300 a month!
Please keep us in your prayers as we undergo this transition! We need so many things to fall into place just right. Finances, time, and our rental record are all huge factors here!
Thanks in advance for your prayers! I will keep you updated.


:) Cassie

Monday, October 19, 2009

Productive day?

Today was a good day, even though we didn't get any school done. Eeeeek!! I know, but I got a lot of other things done - or at least I am so tired that FEEL like I accomplished something worthwhile.

I started my day with an errand-running spree. I went to Walgreen's, the library, and grocery shopping in two hours! That alone tells me why I am so worn out. Grocery shopping alone usually takes that long! But then again, it's usually a family activity. Today I got to go all by myself!

When I got home, I cleaned up the kitchen and put the groceries away. Then I decided that even though my living room is straightened up and vacuumed nightly, it still didn't look clean. So I dusted every single surface, moved furniture and vacuumed, and cleaned out all my little junk gathering spaces.
By the time this was finished, it was time for scouts. Luckily, I didn't have to take the boys, because my mother-in-law offered to take them. I did a load of laundry and played with Joey for a bit until it was time to go pick them up. When we got home, I made the boys supper and fixed a little something for myself. Then I played with Joey some more and tinkered on the net for a few til his bedtime.

Now I am sitting here waiting for the hubster to arrive home from work, struggling to keep my eyes open, making typos left and right as I type - sheesh!

Is it bedtime yet?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looks like as fun place to work...

A fellow blogger had this video posted on her site and I just couldn't resist sharing it with you! I'm not a big fan of the backstreet boys, but thought this was fun to watch anyway!


:) Cassie

Why is laundry such a pain?

I am not sure why, but I can never seem to get my laundry hung or folded and put away until it has sat in a towering pile in the middle of a high traffic area for several days, been rummaged through at least 10 times to find a specific item, and been drug about the house by the dog and the toddler.

This is a major area of weakness for me. I am praying about it. Maybe the Lord will give one of my children a sudden urge to fold clothes?

Yeah, you're probably right. I should just force myself to do it.


:) Cassie

Friday, October 9, 2009

Who says kids can't enjoy Mozart?

Because I definitely have proof to the contrary! We read about Mozart today in Drew's reading, so we decided to listen to a few selections while he completed a worksheet. This is what happened next...


:) Cassie

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wanna know why I'm so exhausted?

Well, ok, I'll tell you...

Saturday we had Isaiah's birthday party. We played games and had a LOT of fun. Then that evening we had friends over for burgers on the firepit. We all hung out and had a ton of fun. You would think that would be enough excitement for the week, but Sunday I was browsing craig's list and I stumbled upon the perfect desk!! We had already been discussing switching around the school/dining room and living room, so this gave me a reason to get it done soon.
The lady with the desk called me back Monday morning and said they could bring it to us that evening. We called friends and they came over to help us move the heavy furniture. By the time the desk got here, all the other furniture was pretty much moved into it's new room. Hubs got it together in about an hour!
To make a long story short, it is now 11pm on Tuesday and I am finally finished! Everything is in it's proper place and it looks oh so good in here! I can't wait to do school tomorrow in our new diggs! Of course I have pictures...

Here is the view from the playroom side of the room (Joey's area). The kids are playing Life
Here is a slightly different angle
Here is the view from the sliding glass door that leads to the patio. I am really looking forward to having the morning sun shining through!
Here is a good shot of my new desk!! It's HUGE and has lots of places for organized storage. I LOVE IT!! (Can you tell?)
Here is a shot of the bookcases (newly organized).
There wasn't room in the new living area for the papasan chair. I thought it would make a nice reading nook! This is on Joey's side of the room, hence the toys.
Here is a wider shot of the playroom side. I am trying to figure out where else I can put that rocking chair

So there you go! What do you think? I think I will sit on my behind for a few hours now and recover! Phew!


Cassie :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Workboxes and Efficiency

I have been using workboxes for several months now and I have learned some useful things along the way. I thought I would take the time to share a few observations with you about what is working for us!


I have seen from a lot of mommas say that the time it takes to plan and fill the boxes can be overwhelming. I felt the same way the first few weeks we used them, and I am pretty sure most workbox mommas would agree that's the norm! But as you determine to stick with it (because your kids are enjoying school and getting tings finished in record time) you will find that you develop your own system of filling the boxes and getting ready for your school day.

A few weeks after implementing the workbox system into our day, I decided to change up our curriculum. You can read more about that whole process here.

Now that we are using Tapestry of Grace, and several other classical resources, planning kinda took a quantum leap for me. Instead of just planning out lessons by numbers and pages, now I found I had to dig a little deeper and think a little harder about what each day of our week would look like. So, I developed my own little system, using my own version of TOG's daily assignment grid. Yes, I made yet another custom planning form, but we can talk about my paperwork and forms obsession another time. Any how, I made a custom form for each boy, as they are doing different levels of work (Drew is doing UG, and Isaiah is doing LG) and different types of subjects. I would love to share with you, but I can't get them to upload correctly to scribd.

Anyhow, I plan two weeks out at a time. There is a good reason for this other than the fact that I am killing two birds with one stone. Since we are doing TOG at half pace, what the curriculum lists for one week of work, we actually do in two! It's much easier to just split it up and plan the two weeks at the same time than it would be to plan each week separately. Anyhow, that's my first step, filling out those assignment grids.

The second step is to make a to-do list as I am going through my lesson planning. I list all the copies I need to make, resources I need to find/get, craft and projects preparations, and anything else I want done ahead of time. After I am all done with my planning, I go through my to-do list and complete each task, placing any of the weeks necessary paperwork in my TOG binder in the correct week's pocket.

Now comes the third step, which to many seems like a daunting task, but if you plan ahead and prepare, it will be a breeze! Now it is the night or morning before school and you have to get those workboxes filled and ready to go! This is what I do:

First, I do only one child's boxes at a time. I take all the boxes and spread them out on the table in numerical order. I get out my TOG planning binder and open it up to my assignment grids, which are freshly printed and in the front of the binder. Then I get my stack of papers for the week, and I go through my page and place each subjects work into it's box. I also have in a nearby rolling cart for easy access: glue, scissors, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, etc. That way I can just grab whatever I need for each box as I am filling them. Then I put the filled workboxes back onto the cart and start over with the other child's boxes! It takes me about 10 minutes per child to do this UNLESS I have forgotten to make a copy or I have to find extra goodies to fill empty boxes. That usually doesn't slow me down too much though.

So you see, it's all about your method! It's all about planning ahead! Want proof? Go ahead and do this with your curriculum, tweak what you need to, and see if it makes a difference in your day-to-day prep time. YES, it takes a little more planning and attention to detail ahead of time. YES, things don't always go along with "the plan". BUT it is worth the extra effort! Your daily prep time will decrease and so will your stress level! GOOD LUCK!

PS - If you tried this, or do something different that helps you, please share in a comment!


Cassie :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wedding Fun!

Man have we been busy! My sister's wedding was this past Saturday and Joey was her ring-bearer. I had tons of family come in to be there that I had not seen in years! It was a beautiful ceremony and we all had a ball at the reception. I hope to get some pictures posted soon of the actual wedding, but for now, here is a video of my little man gettin down on the dance floor! Enjoy!


Cassie :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Queen of Last-minute Overhauls Strikes Again!

I know I said I would update you before now about our last minute change-of-plans for the school year, but I have been sooo busy planning and doing our first week of:


Yes!! We are doing TOG again. We tried it a couple of years ago, when redesigned was still pretty new. Soon after starting it, I got pregnant and lazy. And after they raised the year-plan prices, I decided there was no way we were going to be able to continue using it in the future. At that time, I was buying all of my books.

Fast forward 2 years to now. We have been doing the textbook thing for a while now. We changed back out of necessity. We weren't getting much done doing unit studies because I was taking care of a baby and that didn't leave me a lot of time to put studies together and organize materials. So I figured a pre-planned, step by step boxed curriculum was our best bet. That way I had a scope and sequence and wouldn't have to worry about any "gaps" I might overlook.

We have been bored stiff. There are subjects I don't want to even teach because the books are so boring. So I started looking at some different unit study, multi-age curriculums on the net. I checked out My Father's World, Time Travelers History studies (Homeschool in the Woods), KONOS, and a few others before I decided to check out the TOG site. When I did I made an amazing discovery!

TOG has gone digital!! Which in itself is great, but what makes it even better is that the individual units are $15 LESS than the pre-printed plans!! Ok, I thought, maybe this will make it more affordable. I decided to download the Year 1 Three-week sample to get a better look at it. I found all but 3 of the recommended books at my local library.WOW! I began to seriously think about using this curriculum again. IF I could use the library for the great majority of our materials, that made TOG affordable for us! I got out my old booklists that I had printed from using TOG before and looked up the entire contents at my library. For the second unit of year one, I found every book (or it's recommended alternative) except one! That was it, I was hooked on the idea of giving this awesome classical, Christian, multi-level, multi-subject, chronological curriculum another go. So I talked to the hubs. He was skeptical. "What ,makes you think you will have better luck using this time?", he asked me. OK, fair enough question. I went through my list of Pros and Cons. He said, "Sounds good, but how much is this going to cost me?" I informed him of the fact that the plans were now cheaper thanks to the DE versions becoming available and that I could get all the books except a few at our local library. I told him I would sell as much of our other curriculum (that DE would replace) as I could to make sure to make the change-over as painless as possible. He said, "OK, but this is it. Once you change to it, you are stuck with it. I am tired of you changing your mind. You had better find a way to make it work." I also told him that I was planning on doing the plans half-pace, doing only two units per year, at least until we get through the first year plan.
Now I just had to figure out what to do about the subjects TOG doesn't cover:
  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Math
  • Phonics and Reading
  • Science
  • Handwriting
So I decided we would stick with BJU for Math, Phonics, Reading (for Isaiah) and 1st grade spelling (Isaiah). We will also continue using our Handwriting without Tears workbooks (they are working out wonderfully). The BJU English wasn't going to cut it because TOG already includes a writing/composition component. I didn't see the point of paying $80 per child, per year for a program that was only half grammar and skipping all of the included writing lessons. So for Isaiah, we are doing a mild introduction to grammar, copywork, narration, and dictation (following a classical model) using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. I already had this book on hand, but had decided not to use it once we went back to textbooks. For Drew, I purchased Easy Grammar 3. I am copying the student work pages in order to use it later with Isaiah, and eventually with Joey! I was thrilled to find it on CBD for only $24.95. For Spelling, I decided to go ahead and use the BJU Spelling 1 for Isaiah I had, since it is tied in with his Phonics and Reading programs. For Drew, I have been thinking of changing his Spelling lately, as the All About Spelling has only 20 lessons per level, and the levels are about $30 to purchase. Which would add up to at least $90 a school year. So through many recommendations, I purchased a used copy of the 3rd Edition of Spelling Power for only $10. I also purchased the additional Quick Start DVD to go with it from CBD. It was also under $10. We are both loving it so far, btw, and Drew is doing great with it!

Science was another issue altogether. SO I decided to follow the 4 year cycle recommendations from the Well-Trained Mind. And since they are in different grades, I decided to allow them to choose a topic to study and we would just continue afterwards with that area of science and move through the cycle as we wish. They chose to study Electricity. This worked out great for us financially, because I already have a project kit for an Electricity study I picked up at Target on clearance a while back. All I had to do was get some kind of guide to help me make sure to study the correct areas, so I bought a lapbook from Hands of a Child. We are renting books and materials from the library to learn more.

So now, I have sold quite a bit of curriculum through online classifieds and have made enough money to purchase:
  • TOG Year 1 Unit 1 DE
  • Year 1 Unit 1 Lapbook DE
  • Spelling Power
  • Easy Grammar 3
  • Walk with Y'shua Through the Jewish Year (a book my library did not have)
  • A lapbooking kit for our Unit Study on Electricity
Well, this has turned into quite a looong post, hasn't it? I think I will delve more into our new plans in my next post. In the meantime, we are having a ball doing our first week of TOG. I will post pictures soon of all the projects we are doing together.


Cassie :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Tired Momma's Plea


Yes, I AM aware it has been several weeks since I last posted. I have been very busy tweaking curriculum choices, chasing my toddler, trying to get the house in shape (a never-ending battle) and feeling generally worn-down. The past month has been a very hard transition for the entire family. Hubs is now working full time AND attending night classes through the week. He is home for maybe an hour in between work and school then he comes home and eats then goes straight to bed. Joey, as a result of not having daddy home through the week, has been very clingy to momma. It's been hard on both of us and I have the aching back to prove it!
We have not done a full school load in a few weeks either. We took last week off so that I could attend the HOTM online conference. There were a LOT of great speakers/topics and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to glean wisdom from them and ask them my burning questions! It was awesome! I learned a lot and had a great time getting to know some other homeschooling moms. This week, we tried to get back into the swing of things, but with me restructuring our curriculum choices (more on that in a post soon to come) we don't have much to do until the new materials arrive. I expect everything will be here by Monday, but you never know seeing as I tried to purchase many items used and it is up to the individual sellers as to when these items were dropped into the mail. SO we have sporadically been doing Math, Phonics, and Reading this week, with a sprinkling of some penmanship. We have not had a structured enough day to use our workboxes, so they are awaiting us in a stack on the bookcase!
So obviously I have been keeping busy with all our big changes, and i am really excited to share it all with you in the next few days! Until then, know we are all marching on and trying to get through the "Daddiless" days with God's grace and forgiveness.
Would you please keep me in your prayers this week, as I have been struggling with fatigue (not sure why) and a very clingy little one. I need to stay focused on what's truly important so that I can focus what energy I have on those things! I am praying for God's grace and wisdom to help me the best wife and momma I can be for my family, who needs me to lead while Daddy is working so very hard to take care of us all!


Cassie :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Printable Workbox Game to Share

Animal Memory Match
I have been working on putting together some fun items for our workboxes and I will be sharing what I come up with here as I can.
This PDF file contains 2 pages of animal matching cards. For best results, print out on card stock and laminate then cut out.


Cassie :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Poison Ivy Hits In His Image Academy

I regret to inform that I will not be doing a weekly wrap-up post about school this week. We only had 3 days of lessons. Why you ask? Because I have 2 very itchy, miserable boys that I am trying to nurse back to health.

The boys went across the courtyard to where there is a line of trees separating our complex and another one a few days ago to climb trees with a few of the neighbor children. Apparently, this area was infested with either poison ivy or oak (I don't know what the difference is between the 2)! Naturally, both boys got it. Isaiah especially is covered. it started as a few small spots on one arm, now that whole arm is covered, his neck, his face, and a bit on the other arm, too. Drew's just showed up this morning and is just on his neck and a few spots around his hairline and wrists.

We are using a special soap to draw out the oils. I think it is called Tecnu. To be honest, i don't know if it is doing much good for Isaiah. I treat him with it twice daily and it still seems to be spreading. I think maybe that's because he had it for a day or two before we started using it, not realizing it was poison oak/ivy. I treated Drew this morning as soon as I noticed it, so I am hoping it doesn't spread as badly for him.

Since it is hard for them to sit still on a normal day, I figured I was just asking for it by trying to get them to sit through lessons today, so we took a day off. I will update you of any progress this weekend and I will be back to do another post tomorrow! Please keep the boys in your prayers as Isaiah may end up in the ER if the rash on his face gets much worse.


Cassie :)

Did you Know?

that everyone's favorite online homeschool magazine, Heart of the Matter, has an awesome forum? I am a moderator there and I want to get the word out to everyone possible! You can participate in TONS of interesting discussions  in dozens of topics, such as:
  • home education according to grade levels, learning methods, and learning styles
  • creative homeschooling: lapbooks, notebooking, workboxes, mini-offices, etc.
  • parenting: discipline, health and nutrition, pre-conception, pregnancy, special needs, single parenting, and according to ages
  • marriage and family life
  • homemaking: share recipes, tips for keeping the home, budget and finance, working from home
  • taking care of YOU: health and wellness, bible study, crafts and hobbies, fashion and beauty, etc.
  • and much, MUCH more!
It's all here at the HOTM forum, waiting for YOU to make new friends, glean wisdom from other homeschool families, get advice, and share your thoughts! So hop on over today and start an account and start talking it up! I can't wait to see you there and get to know you better!


Cassie :)
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