Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum Choices {Preschool, Middle School & High School?!?}

Newborn. Two Preschoolers. 6th grader. Sophomore.


We start school in 5 days. I am due with my 5th child in about a month and a half. Am I somewhat scared of how this will all turn out? Yes. HOWEVER, I know God is in control, which means everything will be okay in the end. My children will succeed and I will survive. The task ahead (the weeks and months of transitioning to a new way of life) makes me nervously giggle. But this blog post is about curriculum, which makes me smile. Doesn't curriculum-talk make you smile?

I have spent months and months planning and preparing for this year. For the most part, I am done planning. I have my hardcopy lesson plans done (except Oscar's MOH) so all I have to do is transfer to my Well Planned Day Planner on our off week. This year we will be schooling 6 weeks on and 1 week off from the end of July until roughly the middle/end of May.

In the interest of being real (imperfect parenting) I took all the pictures this morning
with the house "As Is". Life is messy and so is my house. :)

So, here's what my Sophomore is doing...
Teaching Textbooks Geometry
Rod & Staff English 7 (PLUS Writing Strands, English from the Roots Up, novels that correlate with his history and a Rod & Staff Reader- all of which will be done as a group with both the big kids and myself) Can you tell we are focusing on Language Arts this year?
Mystery of History Volume II
Living Language Ultimate Italian (library)
Cat and Dog Theology Year 2 (3 days a week) and Rod and Staff's Story of God's Family year 7 (2 days a week)
Abeka Science Matter and Energy
Speech through coop

It looks like a lot but the way I've scheduled it out... it's really not. For the most part, we have regular school days Monday through Thursday, with Friday being light days- only Togethers and a couple of independent subjects

I've scheduled His MOH like this...
Monday- Lesson, memory card, Bible reading
Tuesday- Lesson, memory card, activity
Wednesday- Lesson, memory card, extra reading
Thursday- Review, reading, activity
Friday- exercise/quiz, reading

I found Illumination's curriculum and literature checklist to be extremely helpful. They schedule MOH II and give lots of good literature to schedule to correlate with the text. Scroll down to the bottom of the link above for a printable version of the checklist.

Our Togethers are books or subjects we/I read aloud and do together on a daily basis. They consist of:
Rod and Staff English (M-Th)
Jesus Freaks (daily)
Naming Living Things and Jack's Insects I'll probably alternate
Both kids have Rod and Staff Readers (M & Th) - they'll read these aloud to me individually and we'll go over the comprehension questions together
What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know- normally I'm not a fan of these types of books but this particular one has a lot of "tidbit" information I'd like to cover with the kids. For example: popular sayings- what they mean and where they came from. This one I'll just pull out a couple times a week.

As we finish these books I'll find other ones I'd like to read together... the list is long. :)

That's Julia's desk... covered with coloring books, crayons, play-dough, the contents of a diaper bag and a dinosaur. Hopefully I'll get it cleaned off before Monday.
That black cube holds her school books- she's always been a fan of the cube-storage-method.
My sixth grader will be doing:
Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra
Simply Charlotte Mason's Mathew through Acts & Ancient Rome (geography, Bible, history)
Queen's Discovering Nature Series: Mary's Meadow
Living Language French (library)
Rod and Staff English 7 (along with all the other LA stuff in our Togethers)
Of course she has a reading list to work her way through also

My preschoolers will be working through Confession of a Homeschooler's Letter of the Week curriculum. The turquoise cube holds the first six weeks of lessons, each of their letter binders and supplies.

And since I was taking pictures, here's our bookshelves and craft cabinet (the half yellow one... don't ask)

Well, there you have our school room, our curriculum choices and our mess.
Happy Homeschooling!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms {a Crew Review}

Apologia Educational Ministries presents Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. Written for moms by homeschooling veteran Mary Jo Tate, Flourish is the ultimate guide to finding overall balance in not just homeschooling but life as a mom in general. Mary Jo has homeschooled her four boys at home since 1997. She’s the host of the “Flourish at home” show on the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network (free online audio shows) and the author of How Do You Do It All? 

I received the physical book to review, which is available for $15.00 on the Apologia website. Sixteen chapters and 288 pages in length, this softback book is packed full of encouragement, organizational ideas, applicable Bible verses, time-management helps and so much more. She also includes lots of recommended resources and planning forms.

The chapters include:
1.       An Invitation to Flourish
2.       Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
3.       The FREEDOM Toolbox
4.       Where Did My Time Go?
5.       Aim High: Setting Goals
6.       What Do I Do Next? : Seven Essential Planning Tools
7.       We Interrupt This Program
8.       It’s Time for an Attitude Adjustment
9.       Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
10.   Training Your Children
11.   Making Memories
12.   Managing Your Home
13.   All of Life is Learning
14.   Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
15.   Home Business
16.   Moving Ahead

I have to admit that when I sat down to write this review, I struggled. There is such an abundance of good information in this book that I couldn’t decide where to start or what to include because I wanted to include it all! Of course, I probably shouldn’t do that so I settled to just share some of my favorite takeaways and what impacted me that most.

First and foremost, the entire theme of this book is based on one reoccurring statement: Find peace in the space between the ideal and reality. We all have expectations… some realistic, some not so much. She is so right, finding the peace between those two could very well be secret we homeschool moms need to hear.

I am a list and schedule maker at heart. I have made more schedules that I can count and my poor kids have had to endure it all. With each new schedule we have come a little bit closer to that place between my ideal and reality. One of the great ideas Mary Jo shares about time-management (or for me, schedule making) is evaluating the detailed circumstances of your life.

She helps you break things down into three categories:
1.       Irreducible facts- what you can’t change
2.       Non-negotiables- what you won’t change
3.       Preferences- what you can and will change

Identifying the three kids of circumstances helps us prioritize what must stay and what can go or be outsourced or delegated.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer

FREEDOM is an acronym Mary Jo uses for meeting all the various challenges and obligations in life:
Focus: What is it that only you can do? What is it that only you can do?
Reflect: How will you set aside some quite time alone to reflect (brainstorm, stay in the Word, meditate on what you can or should change)?
Educate: Are you sharpening you skills and broadening your life?
Eliminate: What activities do you need to stop? What opportunities do you need to say no to (she gives a reminder throughout the book that when we say yes to something we say no to everything else at that exact moment)?
Discipline: How would you rate your level of self-discipline? Are you abusing your freedom and flexibility?
Organize: Is your life generally organized or disorganized? How can you do a better job of organizing your time, tasks, thoughts and things?
Multi-task: Is mental multitasking undermining your focus? What are some ways you can multitask effectively by combining physical tasks with lighter mental tasks?
Of course, there is so much more to these 7 FREEDOM Tools. Where I summarized them in a few lines, she uses a whole 16 page chapter! Her ideas are truly ones to be slowly chewed and swallowed.

"Really creative, innovative thinking seems to come out of chaos more often than out of neatnik organization, but the successful implementation of innovative ideas seems to come about in a most organized, disciplined way." Dan Kennedy, Entrepreneur

 Thinking big is another of her excellent tidbits. Why settle for what comes easy and naturally? However, having two toddlers and a baby on the way in August, thinking big is a bit outside of my range right now. There are some days that if baths and supper get done and everyone survives- I count it a good day. Mary Jo has this to say on the matter, "If you're in the early years of having babies and training toddlers, just getting a decent night's sleep can seem like an unattainable aspiration. Bringing up children well and creating a loving, vibrant home are important jobs with real eternal significance. Don't lose sight of this on the inevitable hard days. Thinking big will look different at different stages of life."  I think she and I could be friends. :)

Her Seven Essential Planning Tools are:
1. Big Dream
2. Yearly Goals
3. Monthly Calendar
4. Weekly Plan
5. Daily Tasks
6. Running To-Do List
7. Stop-Doing List
Along with thorough explanations of each of these tools and how they work together, there are samples in the back of the book and if you purchase the book, there are free customizable, downloadable forms on a website for you to use.
At the beginning of the Attitude Adjustment chapter, she warns you to put your steel-toed boots on because your toes are bound to get stepped on! She covers 7 possible needs for attitude adjustments:
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Perfectionism
  • Whining
  • Resentment
  • Self-Righteousness
  • Negativity
As I got about half way through the chapter, I was almost patting myself on the back for not really dealing with the first four attitude problems. Then she just had to go and talk about Resentment (where are my boots?).
Mary Jo questions... Have you ever envied another mom? (Guilty)
Have you resented something she has that you lack, such as a supportive husband lavish vacations, more children, fewer children, housekeeping help, an ample book budget, free time, music lessons for her children, beautiful clothes, a bigger house, nicer neighborhood, good health, boundless energy, or help from her extended family?
While not all of those apply to me, a good third of them are things I have struggled with.
She goes on to say, "So often we don't know other people's struggles. The apparently abundant life of your local Supermom my hide challenges you can't even imagine. She may need your compassion, not your envy." Wow. How true is that? Her probing heart questions really make you think about not just your private thoughts but actions too. Maybe instead of secretly resenting someone in our minds over trivial things, we ought to see how we can help or pray for her.
Making peace with your own homemaking style was another good point for me. While I try to keep the house looking nice and clutter free, it doesn't always happen. We have to learn to give ourselves grace.
Two of my favorite quotes from the book concerning homeschooling:
"Our approach to education, then, should be one that integrates the heart and mind. This embodies true understanding. Our children need to be nurtured, to be raised and trained with all areas of development take into consideration. And this nurturing does not take place only in the preschool years. It is a continual process. Eventually, the need to be nurtured will mature into the need to be disciple and mentored. Our children need individualized attention. Our children need our time if they are to grow in wisdom- that unique blending of the heart and mind."
"To be educated is not merely to have the ability to answer multiple-choice questions on a test. True education is a process of digestions, where knowledge becomes your own as you take information in, ponder it, grapple with it, and separate the truth from the falsehoods. If you really have knowledge, you should be able to translate it to other people. Once you can explain what you know, you are much closer to true understanding. Simple memorization is not enough. The purpose of education is not to harbor facts with our minds, but to comprehend truths. All the memorized facts come to life only as we truly understand them. Ad we understand them only when we become disciplined enough to ponder, to consider, to ask questions."
Both quotes are from Susan Card, author of The Homeschool Journey. I haven't read  that book but it just made my summer reading list. :)
There is so much more concerning single-motherhood, home-based business and other things in her book but I told myself I would stick with what spoke most to me.
I cannot convey how encouraging and inspirational this book has been. I highly recommend it!
Thanks Apologia for this opportunity and thank you Mary Jo Tate for the amazing book I will refer back to again and again!
Find Flourish on Facebook and author Mary Jo Tate on Twitter!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Random 5 on Friday {7/18/14} PLUS New family favorite recipe!!

This week has flown by; I think I say that every week.

So much has happened. I've gone into pre-term labor (twice this month), been put on faux bed rest, our bunnies died (and by died, I mean eaten- not by us), along with several other more pleasant things that I'll share as part of my "5".  :)

1. I successfully completed training my 11 year old as the Official Laundry Girl. ::GRIN::
Julia can sort, wash, dry, fold up/hang up, put away and even make laundry detergent WITHOUT HELP. We have worked closely for several months and my efforts have finally paid off!

I, Jeniffer Do Nascimento, no longer have to do laundry. I can hardly believe it.

2. I am completely ready for the 2014/2015 school year. Each child (preschool x2, middle school and high school) are prepped, scheduled out and organized for the new year. Our official start date is June 28th. Not to pat myself on the back too much but I've also already put the library books on hold that we will need during the first couple of weeks of school.

3. We discovered a new favorite meal. It's the kids favorite because it tastes great and it's my favorite because it's cheap!! I'm so nice, I'll share...
Ham and Swiss Potato Bake
2 cups homemade cream of celery soup (or 3 cans of the store bought stuff) (.50 for homemade)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (.05)
1/2 cup heavy cream (.50)
32 oz frozen shredded potatoes ($1.99)
2 cups shredded Swiss chees ($2.19)
8 oz diced ham ($2.99)
1 cup bread crumbs (.50)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (.20)

( = $8.92 total / 5 people who ate it = $1.78  per person... except we got two meals out of one pan, so it actually cost us about $.90 per person per meal!!!)

1. Grease baking dish
2. Combine celery soup, mustard and cream
3. Stir in potatoes, chees and ham and dump into baking dish
4. In a small bowl, mix the butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the potato mix.

If you want to freeze it, cover tightly and freeze. When you're ready to eat it, follow the below instructions. I don't thaw it before baking it, just add an extra 30 minutes or so.

To bake it, preheat 350 degrees and bake for about an hour or until bubbly. Salt and pepper to taste. I liked a dollop of sour cream with mine.

I doubled this recipe, making two 9x13s. We ate them in the same week. Seriously.. the kids love this stuff. If you aren't into Swiss cheese, Monterey or white cheddar would work just fine.

This is just one of the many, many delicious and frugal meals in Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook . Normally $16.95, it's on sale for $9.83 right now!! I originally got this cookbook from the library but loved it so much that I had to have my own copy. We make recipes from it almost daily.

4. Because of my complications with this pregnancy, I've had to step down from being the Missionettes leader at our church. I must say, at first I wasn't too happy about it. I've been doing it for more than three years but wasn't ready to pass on the baton yet. But I know baby comes first right now and I've really got to take it easy- I'm talking spending-the-majority-of-my-day-on-the-couch-so I-don't-contract-easy.

5. I finished two books and started two more this week! I finished Flourish (look for this review on Tuesday) and Persecuted - both very good reads. The two I started are Bill Hybels' Not Too Busy to Pray (highly recommend this if you're looking to reform your prayer life) and Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter (look for this review mid August).

Well, there's my week. How was yours?

Check out The Pebble Pond to read more Random 5 Friday posts!!
Thanks for reading and God bless!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday {chore time}

Do you pray for the little things?

We need things every day, right? We go to the store and expect to find what we want, hopefully on sale. I keep ongoing lists of things we need for the house, things I’d like to buy for our homeschool or just things I think the kids would enjoy.

Well, lately, I haven’t been able to waltz out and buy whatever it is we need or want. In fact, I’ve had to be more frugal lately than ever before. I’ve been DIY-ing, reusing and repurposing like crazy. I keep my eye out for deals on those online garage sale sites, free sites like Free-cycle and stuff people offer on Facebook.

I’ve been slowly reading A Life That Says Welcome by Karen Ehman. She speaks so much about being thankful for what you have, finding contentment and doing everything you can with what you have before looking for something new. Her frugal ideas are great.

I’m also about half way through Bill Hybels’ Too Busy Not to Pray. This is the first Bill Hybels book I’ve read but I definitely see more in my future. His teachings are so common sense that it’s easy to make applicable life changes. I have always struggled with my prayer life. I tell people to pray. I tell my kids to pray when they have wants/needs but when it comes to my own... well, I tend to just hope for the best.

How hypocritical am I?

This book is really helping me to turn that around, to turn me around. I’m looking more to God for my daily needs and the big needs to. I’m not exactly in need of a miracle by most people’s standards but I guess miracles look different to different people.

So, what do you say? Do you pray for the little things? If not, will you join me in trusting the One who is able above all else to provide?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Persecuted {a book review} PLUS Giveaway!

About the Book

The Question Is Not IF Attempts Will Be Made to Limit Religious Freedoms, But When

John Luther, simply wants to share the Gospel and enjoy a quiet life with his family. He never asked to be at the center of a political controversy, but an ill wind has been blowing through the halls of Congress, and supporters of a new religious-equality bill see Luther's endorsement as critical.  When Luther refuses to lend his support, he unknowingly sets in motion an explosive plan bent on destroying his reputation and undermining everything for which he stands. His once-normal life is turned upside down as he becomes a fugitive left with only one dangerous option--putting everything he holds most dear at risk while he fights to expose the truth. It is a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that could threaten the very fabric of our nation's freedoms.

What I thought

I have to admit that normally, I am not into suspense books, thrillers or even fiction for that matter. I love gobbling up homeschooling, homemaking and get-me-closer-to-God books. I got this one in the mail to review and it sat on my desk for nearly a week before I mustered up the will to dive in. But once I did.. Wow! This was hard to put down. I read it while making dinner, bathing the toddlers, before dozing off in bed and any other free moments I could find during the day. I even carried it around in my purse so I could pull it out, should I find myself waiting somewhere. I finished the book in 3 days. Seriously. I haven't finished a book in 3 days since before having kids. The fast-paced story keeps you guessing and wondering what will happen next. How will John Luther ever make it out of this mess??!! This riveting book was a refreshing change from my normal reading routine, perhaps I have misjudged the fictional world??

Persecuted is written by Robin Parrish, a journalist who's written about the intersection of faith and pop culture for more than a decade. He's also the author of Offworld and The Dominion Trilogy.

The book is based on a Daniel Lusko Film, opening in July, 2014.

Check out the trailer below for Persecuted, the movie.

And NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Friday, July 11, 2014

WriteShop Junior Book E Review {a Crew Review}


WriteShop is a great writing/composition program for elementary ages. We had the opportunity to review WriteShop Junior: Book E Set, which is recommended for grades 3-6. Most of the products in each of the sets are available in either physical print version or a downloadable e-book version. In our set to review we received the physical Teacher’s Guide, e-book version of the Activity Packet, e-book version of the Junior Writer's Notebook 1: Fun with Story Planning and the physical Time-Saver Pack. Julia (5th grade) and I worked through the different components together, several days a week.
Pricing for the different components of WriteShop Book E
Teacher’s Guide: Physical $45.95 / PDF $35.50
Activity Packet (with Fold-N-Go Grammar): Physical $45.95 / PDF $35.50
Optional Time-Saver Pack: Physical $14.95 / PDF $6.50
Optional Junior Writer’s Notebook 1: Available only in PDF$3.50
The Teacher’s Guide is a wonderful tool that walks you step by step through the many processes of each lesson. It gives helps for teaching multiple students in different levels, a complete material list for activities and book list for reading, creative storage solutions for a writing center and much more!
The program is made up of 10 lessons:
1. Writing a Fable (Unique Characters and Unique Voice)
2. Writing with Humor (Humor and Dialog)
3. Writing an Adventure (Scene and Setting)
4. Writing Science Fiction (Blending Fiction with Scientific Fact)
5. Writing a Mystery (Using Elements of a Mystery to Write a Story)
6. Concrete Poetry (Creating a Shape Poem)
7. Writing a Personal Narrative (Story about a Personal Experience)
8. Descriptive Narrative (Personal Story Describing Three Items or Events)
9. Writing a Book Report (Responding to Literature)
10. Writing a Nonfiction Report (Collecting Facts)
Each of the 10 lessons is comprised of 8 Activity Sets:
Activity Set 1: Fold-N-Go Grammar and Reading Log 
Activity Set 2: Pre-writing and Model & Teach
Activity Set 3: Skill Builder and Journal Writing Practice
Activity Set 4: Brainstorming
Activity Set 5: The Writing Project (first draft), Smaller Steps (suggestions for younger or weaker writers) and Flying Higher (suggestions for more fluent or advanced writers)
Activity Set 6: Editing and Revising the first draft (includes self-editing and parent editing)
Activity Set 7: Publishing the Product (final draft)
Activity Set 8: Evaluating the student's work and optional additional activities
The teacher guide gives a great break down of each of the activity sets and how each of the parts fit together to create a complete, cohesive lesson. I would have to say the Fold-N-Go Grammar was my favorite of the activities. We were able to create something highly functional and applicable to what she both is and will be doing with her English studies. We were able to make 4 of the 10 (one for each lesson) Fold-N-Gos and look forward to completing the entire thing. The 10 Fold-N-Gos cover sentences, parts of speech, paragraphs, compound words, dialog and much more. These are great for younger kids to streamline the learning process and older kids can use them for review.
The student activity pages are exactly that... all the different consumable pages each student will need when completing the program. Since we received the e-book version of the activity pages, I just printed all the pages, hole punched them and put them in a 3-ring binder. Having the material all in one place and ready to go made it easy to move through the program without having to keep coming back to the computer and printing again.
The Time-Saver Pack was definitely an important part in this curriculum for me. It literally saves time, effort and frustration when it comes to prepping for the lessons. It has 20 pages of game pieces, cards and other activities pre-printed on colorful, sturdy cardstock.
The Writer's Notebook is a 23 page PDF download that is chuck full of writing prompts, word banks and lots of other creative stimuli. In general, a writer's notebook is a place to jot down lists and ideas to be used either now or later. Jotting down memories, keeping a log of books read and reviews of those books as well as daily journaling are all ways to use the Writer's Notebook and improve writing skills. It's essentially a vial for all the creative juices as they flow from the student's mind.
My bottom line
This is an amazing and affordable program. Julia and I had so much fun creating a fable and writing an adventure story. She loved the step by step process that happens with each lesson. Being a creature of habit, this set outline is great for her. Walking through the processes from brainstorming to finishing her final product not only gave her confidence that she can create something of her own from beginning to end but also reinforced my rule of "finish what you begin".
I will say that this is a very parent involved program. Even for the independent student, the curriculum is written with the parent being close by in mind. The student often relies on the teacher for the next part of the lesson/activity. The student activity pages do have instructions but they are minimal and almost always require explaining by the parent from the teacher guide. Aside from being teacher-intensive, I really like the program. WriteShop is wonderful at building creativity, confidence and even bonding between the student and teacher and therefore I would highly recommend it.
Thank you WriteShop for this opportunity!
If you are wanting to purchase the entire program together, you can get all four product at a reduced price of $106.95 for the Complete Print Version or $78.50 for the Complete Digital Version.

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