Sunday, December 1, 2013

Great Deal on Composer and Artist Resources!

My business, Classical Composers Monthly, is offering a huge, awesome deal for newbies!

Get ALL 3 of the composer collections
BOTH of the Fine Art Pages collections
BOTH of the artist collections
for a whopping 40% off!

This is a GREAT value for so many resources that you will want to use again and again through the years as you homeschool!  This sale runs through Tuesday, Dec. 3, and won't be repeated this year, so hurry on over and get this deal while it's hot!  :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Something fresh and fun for your homeschool!

In the 17 years since I've been homeschooling my six children, I've found that it is really helpful to bring fresh, fun new resources into the mix in the middle of the school year.  It livens things up and puts a spring in the step of our sweet kiddos, which is great for moms too!

Well, my friend Diane Hurst from Gentle Shepherd curriculum offered to create a special deal just for you guys that I think you will enjoy!  This 3-ebook bundle includes a sweet and simple alphabet and number pictures book, and two different picture and writing books for both younger and older children.  All of these ebooks offer a nice balance of structure, writing prompts, and space for your child's creativity!  If you have little ones that are eager to "do school" or slightly older ones that need something that gives them a little bit of structure while also being creative, these will be *perfect* for you!  I also love it that these ebooks will not use much ink at all, and that you can use them over and over again with all of your children.

Diane has put this set together at a nice big 30%  discount for us, so go on over and check it out.  I can easily imagine how helpful it will be for you in the busy days between now and Thanksgiving to have these fresh pages to occupy your children while you work to prepare for the holiday!  This offer is good til the weekend, so hurry and take advantage of it!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

1940s Dance Night!

The Danville Community Arts center is hosting a ballroom dance night with a 1940s theme!

Friday, November 1, 2013.

8-9pm is a dance lesson

9-10pm is open dance

Admission:  First timers are free, others are $5 per person.

Everyone is welcome, from beginning dancers to those who have been dancing for years!  We would love to see our Challenge friends there!

You can dress up in a 1940s theme if you want to!  (you don't have to, thought!  Don't let lack of costume keep you away.)

Ladies, here are some ideas for how to do 40s hairstyles:

Guys:  Here are some hair styling tips for you!

Wondering what to wear? Here are some ideas!


 This brings tears to my eyes. 

 This is the reminder that

 ~anything is possible

 ~that our society does not know to value the abundance we have

~that our opportunities are so, so valuable.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Columbus Day Freebie

As a busy homeschool mom, I know all too well how some “lesser-known” holidays come around and I haven’t had time to prepare anything special to teach my children about it. Well, over at Classical Composers Monthly, we are aiming to make things easier for you by doing all the legwork! Our hope is that this Columbus Day resource collection will make it super simple for you to just jump in and enjoy sharing the information with your kids. We have bunches of printables, videos, and interesting things to learn. Whether you have little tykes or teens, there is something for everyone here.  You can help yourself to the collection by clicking here.

Would you also let other homeschoolers know about this free resource?  We'd love to share it with all of them!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

CC Art Week 5: Perspective

My very favorite project to do with my class for week 5 is a One Point Perspective project.  I have done this with kids 9-12 years old with good results. I first learned about it on Deep Space Sparkle.  The original site for it is here, and it includes step-by-step instructions, which I absolutely, positively recommend that you write down and practice and then take your class through.

I start the lesson by explaining what perspective is, how perspective changes a square into a cube, how it can give depth, etc.  I bring some art to show some examples.  If you can bring a laptop and show the pictures on the original site for this project, that would be perfect.  I get big pieces of paper ready ahead of time, by either folding the horizon line and the diagonal lines, or lightly drawing them on with a pencil.  This just saves time and frustration since we only have 30 minutes in CC to do this project.

I tape my own sheet of paper to the white board and I draw every step along the way, explaining and showing as I go, what they are to do.  I think it helps them to see the actually demonstration.

We go through each step.  Room moms help make sure the kids are understanding and following instructions.  The process is quite counter-intuitive, so there may be some erasing involved.  Explain what parallel means, because it will be a helpful word for them to understand!  I found that the step where they put the sidewalk lines in is pretty hard for them.  They all want to make the lines diagonal, but they need to be parallel with the bottom of the paper.  (straight across)  Have extra pieces of paper ready because some will need to just start over rather than erase madly.

In the half hour that we have for art I have always been able to have all the kids have the street, trees, buildings, and some windows and doors on the buildings.  We just sketch it all in pencil.  Encourage them to take it home and add color to it!  Or, for week 6, since it's sort of a free choice week, you could have them continue to work on this piece.

My students this year (11 and 12 year olds) seemed very excited to realize that once they understood the concepts for the slants and so forth, that they could apply this to make different types of landscapes and scenes that they were interested in.

Good luck!

Challenge B: Linnaeus resources

Here are some resources that I found related to our study of Linnaeus for the science project in Challenge B.

Here is a chart showing the Linnaean Classification System.
More information here on classification.
Information about Carl Linnaeus from the Encyclopedia Brittannia.

Challenge A week 5 Geography: Central America, etc.

I thought I'd share (when I'm able to) what we're doing to help get through Challenge A, in case it is a help to others.  I was completely lost and struggling my first year.  This year is somewhat better.

I have chosen not to have my children do the freehand drawing for geography.  Instead, we label blank blackline maps.  (they do show the outlines of the countries and the features.  I just made copies of the map provided in the ChA guide.)  I choose features and capitals as I feel they are important.  We do leave some stuff out.  My goal is to have my children master the items that we do learn, rather than barely know a bunch more.  So, we spend about 45-60 minutes a day working on learning and adding on bit by bit.  I aim to get as much of it as possible, and get it well known by my kids.

This video might be a help to you:

What I did for Day 1 of learning this area:

--I gave out a blank blackline map of the area and a labeled version of it as well.  You can use the blank map in the ChA guide, or you can print from this site.

--We went through the main countries and labeled them one by one in this order:  Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama.  After labeling, we chanted through, and I would say the country name and the kids would repeat and point to the country.

--Once we had that, we went on to the Greater Antilles.  We went in order, labeling one at a time. One helpful thing I did was I used a highlighter and went around from child to child, highlighting the next item that we were labeling.  This way they knew how to spell and what country we were looking at.

--We chanted and pointed through those as well.

--We then added some bodies of water:  Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

That is all we are doing for Day 1.  Tomorrow I will build on it, starting with giving everyone a blank map and asking them to fill in everything they can remember.  After they get as much done as they can, we will look back on the labeled maps to see what was missed, and fill in those.  Then we will add on some additional items.  We will repeat like this each day until we have everything that we want to get on the map.

At some point I will work on teaching the capitals for the countries.  We will probably not learn every single island in the Lesser Antilles, and I seriously doubt we will learn the capitals for the ones we do learn.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Getting easier!

Encouragement of the day: Consistency pays off.

We have been doing school since Aug. 1. Many of the things we are doing are short little things (like a 2-3 minute timed test for math, 15 minutes of practice on penmanship, etc.) and it is so nice to see that now, a month later, there are less groans, and more confidence!

One son, who tends to believe he is not going to be good at a lot of things, is coming into his own and going a beautiful job in so many areas. It feels so good to see this and I know it feels good to the kids to gain confidence!

 I think the biggest key is to do a little bit, consistently, with gentle love and encouragement and fun. (and cookies! Sometimes I start handing out cookies when times are tough at the desks!)

There is no need to be cross and pushy and grumpy with your children.

If something is really, really hard for them, think of a way to help.

Maybe ask for less for awhile.

Maybe hand them a cookie or two.

Maybe find a different way to do the thing. (I found that using the white board to help kids get the hang of difficult cursive strokes really helped. Making the letters bigger helps them see the parts of the letter, and it involves more muscles when they make it. And you can use fun colored markers, too!)

 Reminds me of, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!"

What are your favorite ways to add a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Motivational Tickets

So I'm using something new, and I thought you all might find it useful as a jumping-off point in your own homes.

We've had two persistent character issues going on this school year:

1.  Complaining and fussing.  Mostly about school work.  "This is SO HARD!"  "I'm DYING!!!"  (over something so strenuous as 15 minutes of penmanship practice for a 5th grader....)

2.  Mean words toward one another.

The other day at our CC tutor meeting, our director shared Proverbs 12: 18 with us as something that had helped her with her own children.  The next day I made a print out of it, in a modern translation, and we are reading it together each morning before school.  It says:

Some people make cutting remarks,
but the words of the wise bring healing.

I have a roll of those perforated carnival tickets.  (got them in the office supply area of Walmart)  I decided to give each boy two sets of 3 tickets per day.  One set is plain.  One set I draw a red stripe across. They write their name on the back of each one.  The plain ones are for complaining:  If they fuss or complain about something, they pay me a ticket.  The "red line" tickets are for cutting remarks.  (cutting=blood=red)  So if they make cutting remarks, they pay me a ticket.  

The goal, of course, is to still have tickets available at the end of the day.  I have a container that all of their kept tickets go into.  I have a small stash now of tickets that they paid me for complaining or for cutting remarks.

I thought this up on a whim, so didn't have the reward portion of this figured out when I started it, and I don't have it figured out now.  I'll come up with something.  I think that for my sons, just having something tangible to remind them to think before they speak is helpful.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Discover Europe

I've not typically been all that interested in notebooking, but Jessica's fabulous sets have really inspired me!  I already own both the Discovering Africa set and the Out of This World set about planets, and now I am so excited about the Europe set!

Jessica does a beautiful job of designing each page, and since she's a homeschooling mom of four, she knows what to think about for inclusion, interest, and ease of use.

The price is certainly right, especially considering that you could use this for an entire year of Geography, or to teach a small class in a co-op setting or something cool like that!

As a special introductory offer, you can get $3 off the already bargain price on the Discover Europe set by using coupon code backpack3.  Gotta hurry--the coupon expires Sept. 11.

You can also help yourself to some free page about England by clicking here!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

CC Cycle 2 Week 3: Saturn

After our science experiment today related to Saturn, my class had so many questions that I decided to find some additional resources.  Maybe they will be of interest to you:

And these:

Monday, September 2, 2013

September: It's Time for a Contest!

One September day last year, we were in the midst of the school day when I declared, "Dance Break!"  I got this song going on the computer and got some of the kids to boogie a little and shake out the school day wiggles.  As I watched that video today and thought about doing another September video this month, I thought:  Why not a contest?

So here it is:

1. Make a September video with your kids using the classic Earth, Wind, and Fire song.  It can be unrehearsed, or it can be scripted and edited to perfection.  It can be just the kids, or it can include you/your husband/other family members/pets.  Just have fun celebrating September!

2. Upload it to youtube, and then  3. leave a comment under this post with the URL of your video.  I'll share it on our facebook page so people can vote for their favorite!  Make sure you've already Liked our page so you don't miss a thing and so you can get your friends to vote!

What will the winner (the video with the most votes) get?

Well, I'm going to work on this, but right now I can tell you it will include a prize package currently valued at over $100:

A set of ALL of our collections from Classical Composers Monthly
A set of ALL of my ebooks from Supermom's Health and Wellness

Depending on what else I can rustle up, maybe some other stuff too.  :)

So, get crackin' kids!  Fun is in the air!

Contest will run for the entire month of September.  I want to see A THOUSAND fun videos!*  (do you think we can do it?)  

Will you tell your friends?  Post this on your blog?  Let's have some fun!

**Fine print, rules, FAQs, and whatnot:

Family-friendly videos only.  Anything deemed inappropriate will absolutely, positively be deleted.  "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

"Can we submit more than one video?"  Sure, if you want to.  The more the merrier.  And, I don't have time to police or enforce anything else anytime.  Again:  "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

*"Did you really mean it when you said you want a THOUSAND videos?!"  Well, um.....yes and no.  See above:  "Ain't nobody got time for that!"  Well, we'll just see what happens, ok?  This is my first time at this rodeo.

"What if we're not homeschoolers?"  Oh, well!  You don't have to be a homeschool family to have fun.  Join the contest!  (And, really--how on earth would I know anyhow?  Say it with me:  "Ain't nobody got time for that!!")

"How do I make a video?"  I don't know.  All I do is play the song on my computer and use my cell phone to take the video.  If you know a fancier way, go for it!  If you want to share a link to a How To for all of us, do it!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Words to live by

"Always remember, Son, 
the best boss is the one 
who bosses the least.
Whether it's cattle, or horses, or men;
the least government
is the best government."

~Little Britches, page 80

I like this so much.  It is very similar to my parenting philosophy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Laminator Pouches!

For those of you that have a laminator, or those who still need one, now is the time to stock up on 100 laminator pouches for a GREAT price! (How does 43% off sound?!)  If you have Amazon Prime, all the better, because these will ship to you fast and free!  The Scotch laminators are still at a great price of only $24.97.

Although this photo shows a box of 200, the deal on the site is for 100 for just $13.99!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Month With Fancy Hands

So I've already told you twice about my love for Fancy Hands.  My first month with them is now complete and I wanted to tell you how it all turned out.

My first month was half-price (you can get a half price month, too, by clicking here!) so I got 15 tasks for $22.50.  Here are some of the things I had them do for me:

Researched 2 business services I was wondering about and didn't have time to deal with.

Made a printable list of low glycemic foods for me.

Called around to some dentists about a specific service I was looking for, found out if they take my insurance, etc.

Helped me plan my anniversary, which also gave me a ton of other great ideas for future activities and dates with my husband.

Did some research for my son's birthday.

Researched several different potential trips and day destinations for us.  This gave me many ideas I didn't know about, and saved me a bunch of time by checking on the areas I was interested in and the budget-friendly items I was looking for.  I now have a file of info on visiting Nashville, NYC, the Carolinas, Cinci, Washington DC, and more!

They did several tasks to help me get the info I need for a business project.

They did all the legwork for me to find out about dual credit options at several area colleges and universities.  Each school will be sending me a packet of information that I need to help my teens.

All-in-all, I am very happy with all the help I got and I think it would have been worth it even at the regular price.  Some of the tasks were short, but several ended up being rather lengthy, and for the most part I was really, really happy with how it was handled.  The service was quite fast, and in the case of the ones that took a little longer, my assistant kept me up to date on what was going on, what they had done, and what they were waiting for to complete the task.

By the end of the month I was really straining to think of things for them to do, but I didn't want any of my tasks to go to waste (unused tasks don't roll over) so that's why I ended up having them do so many trip research projects.  For my second month I'm only going to have 5 tasks and I'll see how that goes.  If I get to the end of the month, I have a few non-urgent items that they could do for me while I use up the remaining tasks.

I can see how this would be great for homeschool moms to have.  Fancy Hands could help you:

--find curriculum options
--find scholarship leads
--research colleges and college-related info for you
--track down or create learning tools that you need
--schedule appointments/find new medical providers/make calls to customer service
--help you plan field trips or educational trips
--find household help/repair people
--do the legwork in calling places like bakeries, caterers, etc. for anything you're planning, from birthday parties to homeschool events
--plan weddings or special events
--track down Christmas or birthday gifts or other special shopping needs

Now if I could find something like Fancy Hands that would come to my house and do things like "Please change that lightbulb" and "please hang up this picture" and "could you find my binder of calculadder?" that would be even better!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do You Laminate?

I love my laminator!  Things I use it for in our homeschool include:

--laminating our presentation cards for CC.  They are super-sturdy, and therefore I can save them and re-use presentations from year to year.  (I have a whole Presentation Box where all the stuff goes after we use it.  Now I just have the kids pick from the box most weeks.  Sweet!)

--making easy game boards by printing onto card stock and then laminating

--you can give anything a dry-erase surface by laminating it.  Great for task lists, check lists, maps, etc.  Your kids can use a dry erase marker, wipe off, and be ready to do it all again when you laminate!

--Your kids can make sweet little gifts for friends and relatives, make your own bookmarks out of scrap book paper or original artwork, etc.

Today is a great day to get a laminator since it's on sale at Amazon.  I've had mine for almost 3 years now and feel it was a very worthwhile tool to add to our home.

Monday, August 5, 2013

P.S. to my day filled with doubts and fears

One of the sweet moments of my day was when two of my sons noticed that I was looking a little deflated.

"What's wrong, Mom?"

I honestly told them, "Well, I'm just really feeling overwhelmed by everything there is to do and I don't know how I can do it all, and I just feel like crying."

They both hugged me and said, "Mom, you're doing a great job!  Look at all this stuff you've already done with us today!"  as they pointed out the array of binders, copies, 3x5 cards, textbooks, and more.

My son that is beginning the Challenge program said to me, "Thanks Mom!  You're the one that got me all the way to Challenge.  You did it!"

And right there?  That sort of thing.  It keeps you going.

Even without all of the variables being perfect, when you see that your kids have thankful, kind, loving hearts, you know that you're building a good thing.

A Day Filled With Doubts and Fears

Today has been a day plagued with doubts and fears.  

I don't see how it is possible to accomplish all of this.

I don't think I can do it.

Have I made a huge mistake?

Are my kids going to be able to do all of this?

Should I have chosen a different curriculum?

Can they get as good of an education if I don't use this curriculum?

Can they get a good education if I'm overwhelmed by the curriculum we're using?

Will we enjoy this?  Will there be any joy in our days?

Are we setting out into a school year filled with drudgery?

Honestly, I don't recall any school year feeling this overwhelming and hopeless and intimidating and miserable as this one feels on Day 3.  Frankly, I'm a little terrified.

We've had a tough year.  The first half of 2013 was solidly marked by The Unknown.  And Hard Stuff.  We took off June and July from all school work to have time to rest, recover, and experience joy.  I thought we were all set and ready to go.  And yet here I am, freshly plunged into the icy waters of the new school year, with a panic attack lurking just below the surface.  

So what is a homeschooling mother to do?

I am reminding myself that....

We may not get it all done.  But we will get a whole lot of it done.  And since we are aiming high, wherever we land will be ok.

It might be a "mistake."  That's ok.  It won't kill us.  It's a curriculum/program choice, for goodness sake.  I am free to employ an additional observation point through this school year to evaluate and inform my decisions for the next year.  We'll stay the course for this year and see what we think from there.  Because you never know when PMS or stress or lack of sleep or being over-informed might mess with your head and whisper scary stories in your ear while you try to carry on through your school days.  One thing I have learned well in almost 2 decades of homeschooling is to Ride It Out.  See what the consistent, long-term thoughts are.  Don't make any big decisions based on sudden bursts of extreme feelings.

Can they get a better education elsewhere?  Sure, probably.  There are always other paths that could have produced other outcomes.  We all have our journey, which includes all that we experience, and excludes everything else.  No educational setting can give a person everything.  What I *hope* to be able to give is a love of learning, and an understanding of how to learn.  I hope to give them the tools they need to do whatever they want to do.  I'm pretty sure we can accomplish that with whatever curriculum we use.

I don't know if my kids will enjoy or thrive with their programs this year.  Just like I never know if they will like brass band festivals or celtic music or a particular kind of art or new recipes or going to a theatrical performance or a trip to the zoo.  I keep giving them a variety of experiences and then see what happens, because I believe you never know what will inspire a person.  So, the same applies here.  While one child may have discovered a passionate hatred for geography, another might find that he is extremely interested in cartography.  You never know.

Will there be joy?  Yes.  Because I couldn't survive without it.  We have a family culture that is fun and playful and chill, and not even the rigors (man-oh-man if I see the words "rigorous education" one more time today I am going to scream!) of Latin or Logic can take that away from us.  If we have to make up jokes and crazy dances and raps about ad hominem attacks or 5th declension noun endings, we will.  You can find us acting like crazies in the kitchen.  Count on it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Real Life Personal Responsibility: What I Could Have Done to Make Our First Day of School Better

Yesterday I shared about my belief that most disappointing behaviors we observe in our children can be traced back to a downfall on the part of the parents.  Today I'm going to give you a simple example.

Thursday was our first day back to school.  I had been doing a lot of thinking about how I wanted things to go as far as a schedule, goals, etc.  However, the only thing I told my boys was that school was starting the next day, and I would probably be waking them up at 9am.  (We are spending the first week+ easing into our schedule.  We'll eventually be up earlier.)

First glitch of the day:

I woke up earlier than expected, so I woke up the boys earlier than they expected.  And I had one person who was, justifiably, bleary-eyed and asking, "Why are you waking me up now?  I thought I could sleep til 9."

Yes.  He's right.  And I apologized for the surprise earlier waking time.

Things I could have done to make it better:

1.  Been less specific about the wake up time.
2.  Chosen to not wake him til 9, since that is what I originally said I would do.

My kids are flexible, but they like to sleep in, too.  :)

Second glitch of the day:

I wanted the boys to follow a specific schedule that included some chores before school time.  This is not how they have been doing things for quite some time, so they did not expect it.  A couple of the kids were not happy with my expectation that they would do chores right after breakfast, and one child in particular got pretty frustrated about it because his area was already pretty clean, and he was already getting sidetracked into the wild and wonderful world of Legos.  There was a not-nice interaction between this kiddo and me, which, when boiled down, was a clash of expectations.

What I could have done better:

1.  I could have explained my new schedule goals with my boys before it was Day 1.  (Why didn't I think of that?!)  If they had fully understood the how and why to my plan, they would have been ready to go without much (if any) resistance.

2.  I could have been more patient in taking time to help my one especially frustrated child.  His room was already pretty nice, and he was not really sure how to take care of the one area I pointed out to him.  I had chosen to try to spend the chore time actually doing my own chores, and so I didn't take the time to lead my child, and he needed it.  It would have been better if I had set aside my own wish to straighten up my bedroom, and instead helped my son in a kinder, gentler, more productive way.

What I did:

After lunch I did take some time to talk to the boys about my wish for our schedule, about how well this approach had worked for us in the past, and the benefits I felt it would provide for us.  We talked about some chore specifics, and ideas for additional things to do in their chore areas when the regular-and-obvious things were already done.  They were all perfectly agreeable to the plan, and I'm pretty sure that things will go more smoothly now that they know what the goal is.

What do you think?  Do you have a real-life situation that you need help figuring out how this would work?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Asking Yourself: What Could I Do To Make This Better?

It is tempting, in the world of parenthood, to see something that one (or more) of our kids does that we don't like, and start thinking things like, "What's wrong with him?" and, "Why does he act like that?"

I'm not sure how many years ago my thinking on this evolved or how it came to pass, but I started to experience these small disappointments with my kids, and rather than the old thought patterns, I would instead ask myself, "What could I have done that could have avoided this?"

It's revolutionary, really.  Because when you are willing to look at *yourself* you can find a solution.

Let's break it down with an example:

So, your children have left the lunch table and there is all manner of plates, cups, food items, crumbs, etc. left all over.  

You could fuss and scold, or you could ask yourself:

What could I have done to avoid this?  What can I do to not have this outcome in the future?

The answer, if you are honest with yourself, might be:

If I had stayed at the lunch table and eaten with my children instead of eating my lunch in the other room in front of the computer, I could have provided leadership that would have avoided this.

If I had not been distracted by my phone/trying to do laundry/the baby I could have been there to coach the children through the steps to clear their spot/put away the leftovers/wipe off the table.

Or your answer might be something else.  That's not the point.  The point is that for whatever your kids have done that you didn't like, there is probably *something* you could have done differently to avoid, provide for, change, or help.

Now that you have honestly answered your question, you are in a position to bring about a solution.

What you are NOT supposed to do is stomp your feet and fuss and yell and snarl at your children about this job not getting done.  That just junks up your relationship with them and pollutes what could be a sweet atmosphere in your home.   It's also lazy and kind of dishonest.  If your kids are leaving the table a mess (or whatever else they do), it is because you have failed to make it happen.  Whether by example, by your presence, by training, by oversight, by foresight, or whatever.  Kids are kids and they don't want to do housework any more than anybody else.  Don't be surprised when they prove this to you.  Instead, embrace the concept of Personal Responsibility, and start walking the pathway to solutions in your home.

You might need to commit to eating your meals with the children, and not taking the opportunity to mentally check out during lunch.  (though I am sure there is a whole chorus of moms who appreciate your felt need to do so!)

You may decide that your felt need to mentally check out during lunch is worth spending 5 minutes on your own cleaning the table yourself after your lunch break, or kindly calling the children back to the table to join you in a group cleanup.  (and that's ok, you know!)

You may need to commit to consistent training for your children on how to clean up after they eat.  

Maybe you will make a sign for the wall that will tell/show them the steps they should take to do this job properly.

Maybe you will assign one of the children as Table Captain and have them be in charge of helping the other children remember what steps to take to get the job done nicely.

Maybe you need to have a reward system (here's mine) in place to motivate and encourage them to remember and feel appreciated.

My goal in finding a solution would be to provide leadership, kindness, and simplicity.  There is no need to yell, spank, fume, get angry, or anything else.  You are the leader, and if you are willing to lead by example, lead sacrificially, and lead consistently, you can have success.

Tomorrow I'll share a real-life example of what I could have done better to make our first day of school go more smoothly.

What do you think?  Are you willing to observe issues with your children and choose to look at yourself and take personal responsibility for how to provide a solution?

Thrift Shop Thrills

Pop Quiz:

 If a homeschool mother/CC tutor stops at the local thrift shop to make a donation, and ends up finding a Continental Congress ice bucket and a Midnight Ride of Paul Revere insulated mug, should she walk on by?

No.  No she should not.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back to School Time

Ready or not, the time has come! For us, today is the day we start back to school.

No, I did not feel ready.  My To Do list is never-ending.

I did not get everything done over the summer "break" that I had hoped to.

Some friends suggested I put off getting started.  But you know what?  I wouldn't be any more ready in a month than I would be today.

And so, we begin.

First, the fun stuff:  How about some cute printables for the first day of school?  Print 'em out, hand 'em to the kids, and snap a pic.  They'll thank you in 20 years when nobody knows which year it was.  For us, we will always want to know which year was the year that our kid decided to try out being a bottle blonde.  :)  (This site also has Last Day of School printables, so you can plan on that, too.)  (Making note to self to schedule a post for May 1 to remind us all, because....YOU KNOW what will happen, don't you?)

Here are my four sons that are homeschooled.  I love how each picture captures their individual personalities.  Also, it is handy that my school supply organizer will also double as a measurement of their height!

My fresh new blonde son commented that he felt like he was posing for an arrest photo, so we had to get profile shots too:

Today (by 11am)  included:

--first hissy fit (by me)  (If I told you what brought it on, you'd be on my side.  I promise.)  ;)
--first child negotiating for less work to do
--first child tearing up over frustrating school work
--first physical altercation between brothers
--first fantasy of expelling a child from homeschool

But it also included:

--a successful grammar lesson
--everybody learning the ropes of our basic schedule
--everybody getting one or more math lessons done
--chores done
--out to lunch to celebrate Back to School
--and some unexpected thrift store finds!

It is now after 3pm and we are done.  I have been reminded of several things I could have done to make this morning go more smoothly and I will be writing about that soon.  Even (especially?) on the days that are not ideal, there is much for MOMS to learn about how we could help facilitate more peace, joy, and love in our homes!

One way or another, it's gonna be a good year!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fancy Hands....To The Rescue!

Recently I told you about my new, rapturous love for Fancy Hands, the wonderful personal assistant service I discovered.

Earlier this month I had Fancy Hands do a variety of helpful things for me, including researching specific services with local dentists, business research, and more.

This morning before I even got out of bed I was asking myself, "What could Fancy Hands do for me today?"  After all, I still had 9 tasks available to have them do before my month is done.  (unused tasks don't roll over to the next month)  I remembered that my husband and I still haven't figured out what we want to do to celebrate our anniversary this weekend.  I decided to text Fancy Hands from my phone and ask for their help.  (they make it so easy to tell them what you need.  I can choose from typing in a request on their website, texting a request from their app, speaking a message to their app, or leave a voice mail on their phone line!) So without leaving the comfort of my bed I sent this:

My 22nd wedding anniversary is this Saturday, August 3. 
Could you help me figure out something fun or special to do that day? I'm interested in knowing about any special events, festivals, concerts, dances, etc in our general area. Perhaps within 2 hours or so of our home. Our zip code is xxxxx. The closest city is Lexington Kentucky.

I don't just want to go out to eat. I'd like to find something different.

We enjoy:

Craft and art fairs

Organic and local foods

Music of most types

Flea markets and secondhand sales



We probably wouldn't be interested in anything like bungee jumping or sky diving or hot air ballooning. My husband is recovering from open heart surgery, so nothing too strenuous. (Light hiking could be ok)

I don't think we can do an overnight. It would have to be limited to just Saturday.We don't have a huge budget for this. We'd be more likely to enjoy doing a few lower-cost items throughout the day.

In about an hour I had this lovely, organized list waiting for me.  Eureka!
Hello Erica, 
The first six events listed below were found at  

Saturday Aug 3, 2013 
The Bluegrass Farmers Market provides 100% locally grown/produced products. They grow, raise, bake or make what they sell. You can purchase a wide assortment of vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruit, farm fresh eggs, local honey, jams, soaps, herb rub, baked goods and much more! Time: 9am to 2pm. 3450 Richmond Road in the parking lot of Fast Signs and Pedal the Planet Bike Shop. 
(859)548-3516 ( 
Location: Richmond Road 

Saturday Aug 3, 2013 
Every Saturday at Cheapside Park visit the Lexington Farmers Market! You can purchase herbs and spices, honey, beeswax, candles, body care products, organic products, eggs, meats and fresh, seasonal produce! Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Fifth Third Bank Pavilion next to the Old Fayette County Courthouse. 
(859)608-2655 ( 
Location: Cheapside Park 

Saturday Aug 3, 2013 
Dress to impress and be ready to dance to the best salsa, meregnue, bachata, regaeton and more! Time: 10:30pm. Cover: $6. 112 Esplanade. 
(859)259-2754 ( 
Location: Natasha's Bistro & Bar 

Saturday Aug 3, 2013 
Featuring captive bred reptiles and supplies from some of the top breeders in the country. See fascinating reptiles, amphibians, spiders, insects and more and learn more about them by talking with experts in their care. Almost all animals and products offered at wholesale prices. Time: 10 am - 4 pm. Admission $6. Kids under 6 are free. Lexington Convention Center, Heritage Ballroom. 
(859)233-4567 ( 
Location: 430 West Vine Street 

Saturday Aug 3, 2013 - Sunday Aug 4, 2013 
The juried event attracts the elite among regional artisans as well as up-and-coming new artists. Time: Monday-Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 9:30am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 4:30pm. Admission: $10 ages 13 & above, $5 ages 6-12, free 5 and under. 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg, Kentucky. 
(800)734-5611 ( 
Location: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill 

Saturday Aug 3, 2013 - Sunday Aug 4, 2013 
Guided food walking tour traverses the beautiful, historic downtown stopping at Lexington's best eateries. Sample the fare that makes each place an iconic restaurant. It's a stroll through the park with a side dish of history, a dash of culture and a taste of the Bluegrass. Time: Saturday 10am and 1:30pm, Sunday 1:30pm. Tickets: $49. 
(800)979-3370 ( 
Location: Downtown ( 
Saturday, Aug 3 8:00p to 11:00p 
Lexington, KY 
Contra dance with caller Liz Natter and band Intellectual Property (Tom Cunningham, David Atcher, and friends) 
Saturday, August 3, 2013, 8-11 p.m. (beginners lesson 7:30-8 p.m.) 
Price $8 adults 
Read more here: ( ( 
Saturday, Aug 3 7:00p to 10:00p 
114 Lisle Industrial Avenue Lexington, KY. 
Every Saturday night Kenny Whalen & The Travelers, along with various special guests, take the stage for a night of fun-filled entertainment. If you are looking for a good family atmosphere, food, and entertainment, bring the family to Musicland. 
Price $ 10.00 (adults) 
Read more here: ( 

Saturday, Aug 3, 7:00p 
Fairyhouse Hall 
Lexington, KY 
Join Slow Food Chef and farmer, Shane Haffey, (Ire) for his summer harvest dinner party series prepared with 100% local ingredients; including Fairyhouse heritage pork,, poultry, paté, and heirloom veg and including such delicacies as Kentucky caviar. 
Formal tables will be set for Lexington locavores to enjoy food and drink under the stars at Chef Shane’s Lexington farm. 
Read more here: ( ( 
Saturday, Aug 3 7:30p 
More dates & times (3) 
Pioneer Playhouse 
Danville, KY 
By Ken Ludwig 
The Hays are fading stars of the stage, still waiting for their big break. When a Hollywood director announces he’s flying in to catch their next show, it’s a dream come true…or is it? Can a zany theater family hold it together for one more career-making performance, or will some seriously silly drama – and the blizzard of the century – blow them all apart? Playhouse faves Pat Hammond and Eben French Mastin star in roles made famous by Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco on Broadway! 
Price Dinner and show: $28 adults, $15 children 12 and younger. Show only: $16 adults, $9 children 12 and younger. 
Read more here: ( 

Saturday, Aug 3 9:00p 
Raven Run Nature Sanctuary 
Lexington, KY 
View the night sky through a variety of telescopes provided by the Bluegrass Amateur Astronomy Club. Far from the city lights, Raven Run is an excellent place to see planets, nebulae, galaxies and the Milky Way! The program is free and lasts two hours. 
FREE event 
Read more here: ( 

Food SpecialDate: Active Thursday July 25, 2013 through Saturday August 3, 2013. 
Time: All Day Event 
Location: City Wide 
Try to be in town during Lexington first Restaurant Week. From French bistros to gastropubs, all types of restaurants will participate. There are no coupons or tickets to purchase or download. Restaurants will offer a special $25 prix fixe dinner dining experience, excluding taxes, drinks and gratuity, in addition to their regular menus. More details to follow. ( 

Kids / FamilyDate: Active Wednesday June 12, 2013 through Sunday November 3, 2013. 
Time: 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm 
Location: Shaker Village 
Price: Tickets: $10 ages 13 & above, $5 ages 6-12. Free ages 5 & under. 
Enjoy a relaxing cruise through the scenic Kentucky River Palisades, along a stretch of river with high limestone cliffs and untouched natural beauty. See the oldest exposed rock in Kentucky and High Bridge, an engineering marvel built in 1877. Ride schedule is subject to weather and river conditions. ( 

Theatre / DanceDate: Active Thursday August 1, 2013 through Sunday August 4, 2013. 
Time: Times Vary 
Location: Carriage House Theatre 
More than a tribute to the legendary country singer. The show is based on a true story about the friendship between Patsy and her most devoted fan, Louise Seger. It all began when they met one night at the Esquire Ballroom outside of Houston. Complete with down-home humor, true emotion and the story of a relationship that any fan would dream of having with their idol. Includes many unforgettable hits, 27 songs in all, including "Crazy", "I Fall to Pieces", "Sweet Dreams", and "Walking After Midnight". Time: Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 p.m. ( 

Kids / FamilyDate: Event occurs every Saturday of every month. 
Time: 1:30 pm 
Every Saturday and Sunday May 18 to the end of October enjoy a 11 mile 90 minute round trip train excursion through the horse farms of Central Kentucky. Time: Train leaves at 2pm. Tickets: Adults $11.50, Senior Citizens $10.50, Children 2 to 12 $9.50, Children under 2 Free. ( 
3rd Annual "Lexington Cityscapes" Paint-out 
Date: 8/3/2013 
Time: 8:00 AM TO 9:00 PM 

401 W. Main Street 
Lexington, KY 40507 
Event Description: Artists’ Attic and the Plein Aire Painters of the Bluegrass are joining forces to continue a great downtown Lexington tradition by hosting the 3rd Annual “Lexington Cityscapes” Paint-Out on Saturday, August 3rd. Artists will be showcasing downtown Lexington, with its wide range of subjects from historic streetscapes and gardens to the color and charm of the outdoor Farmers’ Market. See Plein Air artists in action, all within a six block radius of Artists’ Attic on Saturday, August 3rd, from 8 am – 2:30 p.m. 
Artists' Attic is located on the 4th floor of Victorian Square in downtown Lexington. Artists will check in between 8 - 9 am at Artists' Attic, paint scenes of downtown Lexington until 2:30, and return for the Opening reception and awards from 6 - 9 pm that night. 

Take care, 
Christina Courtney H.
How awesome is THAT?!  One hour.  While I was getting up, making smoothies, and rambling around getting started for the day, Christina from Fancy Hands was doing my bidding and sending me a list of the best ideas for doing something fun and different this Saturday. LOVE. IT.

Could I have done it myself?  Sure, I guess.  But I have a million other things to do, and if I had gotten into researching this for myself, I would have ended up spending hours getting sidetracked into all sorts of things for later in the year.  And frankly, I don't have time for that today.  We're supposed to be starting back to school tomorrow, and there is a lot waiting for me to do.

Because I was specific about our likes, limits, etc. I got a list that is really pleasing to me. Although there is absolutely no chance that we will choose to spend our anniversary with reptiles ;) , most of the rest of the suggestions are ones we would be interested in.  I am confident that whatever we decide to do, it is on that list.

I love, Love, LOVE Fancy Hands!  Now I need to figure out how to use my remaining 8 tasks before the middle of August.  :)

If you want to give them a try, click here to get 50% off your first month!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Buying Curriculum--A veteran homeschooler's perspective

I saw a discussion on this topic today and thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the subject.

We have been homeschooling for most of the last 17 years.  Here's where I'm at on buying curriculum:

1.  I'd rather buy new every time, because I want a complete program that will work without any hitches or surprises.  I'll be using it for maybe 4 more kids before I'm done, so whatever it costs will be well worth it.  And when I'm finished with it, I'll sell it.  Price doesn't dictate my purchasing decisions.  Not because it's easy to afford, but because when I know what I want, I know it is worth it to me to get it for my kids.  

2.  I sell used curriculum online without much effort or difficulty.  Facebook has a bunch of popular used curriculum groups.  I sold almost everything I had in my For Sale pile this summer in a few weeks.  Here are some of the spots where I have sold used curriculum recently:

3.  I have learned that I almost never utilize ebooks.  Ever.  My brain is one that has to see my stuff to remember that I have it.  So, every single cookbook, science experiments, life skills, or anything else in ebook format that I ever bought has gone unused, unless I immediately printed it out.  (which I have, for a very few things recently)   Now I no longer consider buying much of anything in ebook format, because I know I probably won't remember to use it.  (sidenote--this is precisely why I designed our Classical Composers and Artist resources to include regular reminders to the purchaser that they have materials available to them.  I want to help them remember what they bought, and help them get back to access it in their member's area.  I hate buying stuff and then not remembering how to get at it again.  Too much trouble.  If you have an ipad or kindle or nook that allows you to use these items consistently and conveniently, that's GREAT!

4.  Despite our many years of homeschooling, I do not have heaps of unused physical curriculum.  I purge every summer. (and throughout the year as well. I have a container where all the For Sale items get placed.)  I get rid of anything I didn't like.  I part with stuff as the youngest outgrows it.  I try to keep what is on our shelves to be the stuff we are using or definitely plan to use in the future.  I have also chosen to get rid of some things that we "might" use in the future but it would be many years away.  Benefits to this:
  • I feel like I'd rather let some things go and loosen up the funds and shelf space for things we need now
  • I'd rather get the resale value of the item now, rather than bearing the burden of keeping the thing safe for the next umpteen years til I *might* use it again.  If it gets spilled on or something, will I be glad I kept it?  I'd rather sell it in nice condition and rebuy later on.  The margin between buying new and reselling is small enough that I'm comfortable taking that chance.
  • Sometimes parting with an item that you won't use for *years* lets you get rid of it before that curriculum gets an update.  For instance, we had the original Teaching Textbooks Geometry set and used it for our oldest child.  It was going to be at least 6 years before it would be used again, so I decided to sell.  Now Teaching Textbooks has a newer version of Geometry, and I think we'll be happier to have the newer version than the older version when the time comes.  No regrets, even though we'll re-buy that program.  Remember--it'll get re-bought, used for four kids, and then sold. It'll be a bargain, how little we'll have paid per kid to use it!

5.  In the early years of homeschooling I didn't overbuy because we couldn't afford to. I was extremely careful and gave the materials we did buy a good, solid try to make them work for us.  In the more experienced years of homeschooling I didn't overbuy because I had a better idea of what we want, what we will use, and what is valuable to us.  Also, frankly, I no longer look at anything I'm not specifically in the market for.  If we already know what math we like, I never, ever look at any new math thing, no matter how many people are singing it's praises.  It's a time suck and I don't need it.  IF we have a specific need for a subject or curriculum, I do some research and then choose and go back to my cave.  ;)

6.  I don't borrow curriculum from friends (except for possibly a quick look-through to see if we would be interested in buying the item) and I do not loan out curriculum either.  These are my tools and I need them here for my family.  Their items are their tools and they probably need them for their family.  (I also do not want to be responsible for keeping someone else's tools safe.  Accidents can happen, and I do not want them to happen to someone else's stuff.)  Good curriculum that meets the needs of my homeschool is well worth purchasing and owning my very own copy.  It ensures that we have the tools we need in order to do a good job educating our children, and it honors the good people that developed the curriculum.  I want to reward those that help me educate my children!  Very often these are other home educators who have shared their time and gifts to develop something valuable and wonderful.  I don't have any desire to use any illegal copyright-avoiding schemes to avoid paying them their due.  Please be aware that most file "sharing" sites are offering curriculum that is not free, and in a way that is violating copyright law.  Please do not copy CDs or send out electronic versions of your purchases to others.  

What about you?  What's your current philosophy on buying/selling/keeping/using curriculum?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rapturous Love for Fancy Hands

I'm SO PSYCHED about this service!  Fancy Hands is a thousand personal assistants waiting to do your bidding.  Between my busy life as a mom and a business person, there are always at least several phone calls/research items/etc. that I need to get done but haven't gotten around to yet.  (or things I need to do but am avoiding or just plain don't want to do)  After learning about Fancy Hands, I had to give it a try.

I signed up last night and promptly added 6 tasks to my account.  I woke up with most of them DONE.  (The ones that I'm waiting for have to be done later in the day during someone else's business hours.)  Honestly, I feel awesome to know that I can cross so many niggling details right off of my list and move forward.

Things Fancy Hands did/will do for me today:

--call two dentists to get info on a specific service I need, whether or not they take our insurance, if they are taking new patients, etc.  (This task alone has been waiting, not tackled by me, for probably 6 months or longer!)

--call my son to help him with an ipod problem that was draining my sanity

--created a printable list of low-glycemic foods for me

--did several different business research tasks for me that would have taken me quite awhile to do

I can see how Fancy Hands would be great for all sorts of people:

--homeschool moms who are trying to research a particular service or curriculum, want to track down free resources, need to order and ship gifts or school supplies, want to comparison shop for curriculum/educational toys/contact lenses/whatever, and tons of other stuff that we all have on our To Do list but is weighing us down and never getting done

--busy parents and professionals who have too many phone calls to make and things to check into  (need to find a violin teacher?  gymnastics class?  summer camp?  orthodontist appointment?  estimate on your HVAC?  pick-your-own apple orchard?)

--anyone trying to buy or sell a house or relocate (so many calls/things to research/etc, like finding school and activity options, churches, new doctors, taking care of getting new utilities set up, etc.)

--parents trying to navigate colleges, financial aid, or other services  (find out when they have prospective student visit weekends, track down scholarship opportunities, take care of paperwork, find answers to questions that are frustrating you, learn if the colleges you are considering will accept CLEP credits or transfer credits from a community college, etc.)

--business people who want to outsource simple tasks very inexpensively, rather than tie up your more skilled assistant with little stuff  (making reservations, adding items to your calendar, scheduling appointments and meetings, doing research for you)

--small business owners that need an assistant, but not by the hour  (a quick item needing to be handed off to someone else and doesn't require your expertise)

So, anyhoo, that's my testimonial for today.  I LOVE to get stuff done, and Fancy Hands has made me a very happy camper in less than 12 hours.  I'm hooked.  You should try it.  Since I referred you, you'll get an even AWESOMER deal of 50% off your first month!  (and, yes, I'll get a credit on my account, too)  It's a great deal and I bet you will LOVE it!  Make a little list of things you can hand off to Fancy Hands to take care of for you, and then set it up and start smiling.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Getting enough sleep

“Happiness consists in getting enough sleep.”  

~Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

I saw this on the Brave Writer blog and seeing as how I was just about to head to bed, it seemed appropriate and true.  Although I do love to stay up later (and sleep in...), I do think it's probably better for my health and state of mind to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  During the summer I can get away with the late nights, but during the school year it can hijack an entire day's productivity if mom wakes up late and is sluggish all day.

AND, you may have seen this article that's been going around.  It discusses the importance of regular bedtimes for young children, and the impact this has on brain development.  While I started out my mothering journey being extremely flexible, as the years have gone on I've found that having the kids in bed at a reasonable hour is really helpful.  It's good to be able to go Off Duty at some point before I have to go to bed, and it's nice to have time alone with my husband.  On days when my husband works, after-the-kids-go-to-bed is when I do a lot of my business work too.  Even if the kids are older, it can be really nice for them to have some quiet time to unwind by reading or listening to an audio book or some quiet music in their bed, rather than being bombarded with lots of stimulating computer/electronics/media right up until bed time.  For this coming school year I'll probably have my kiddos ages 10-13 into bed by 9pm.  I'll have to talk to my older teens about this and see what they might think is reasonable for their schedule.  (I know that in a large family, the older kids often cherish the quiet, slow pace of late night just as much as the parents do...)

What time do your kiddos go to bed?  How old are they?  What time do you go to bed?  What works best at your house?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homeschool Bloggers? You Will Like This.

It's no secret that in addition to this modest little blog, I do a few other things, like running Classical Composers Monthly and Supermom's Health and Wellness.  So, naturally, I'm always keeping up on tools and resources that can help me keep all the plates spinning as much as possible.  Even if you're focus is on homeschooling + blogging, there's a lot to keep up on if you want to do it well!

For many years I've utilized the materials, membership site, and classes offer by Kelly McCausey of Solo Smarts.  She has a ton of practical and affordable stuff to help with business, blogging, podcasting, and much more!

Her latest program is one I bought the minute it was available, and I'm excited about it!  (you will be too)  While I often pass along articles of interest to my facebook peeps, I've not often taken the time to write more about why I liked them.  Kelly's program, Smart Curation Skills, has helped me see how I could effectively *and efficiently* keep a pulse on the issues and topics I'm interested in (without getting sucked into chasing down a million blogs and getting bogged down) and later turn them into blog posts where I could share my reactions, responses, and insights into blog content.  PLUS this allows my blog to become a place where I can share the great stuff that's touching my heart and making a difference in my life with others.

Right now Kelly is having a big affiliate contest, which is what nudged me to go ahead and let you know about this, though it honestly *was* on my To Blog About list for about a week (since I got my copy of Smart Curation Skills and realized, "Hey!  I need to tell the other homeschool bloggers about this!").  I'm not a big-time blogger (I'm barely a small-time blogger) so I don't expect that there is any chance at all that I could come close to winning Kelly's contest, but I did want to get this info out to you  regardless.  Just her one tip about using an RSS aggregator and learning how it could benefit me has already been fabulous for me in just a week!  (and when I first heard her describe it I didn't even think I would like it!  Ha.  I was wrong.)

I know that a lot of homeschool moms are blogging, and a lot of you wouldn't mind making money while you do.  Go see what Kelly has to offer.  I bet there's something you'd like to do that she can help you with!