Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Modest Mom Giveaway: A Child's Geography: Explore His Earth

I'm having a hard time teaching geography. It's not that I don't know it, I just don't explain it well. Plus, we don't like using textbooks, per say, we much prefer living books, as in Charlotte Mason's style of education. So, that makes geography a bit harder. There's only so much I can go take the kids to see around us.

Then, on The Modest Mom today, I saw she's giving away not only a geography book, but a geography LIVING book!!! How cool is that? The book is called A Child's Geography: Explore His Earth, and is by Amy Voskamp. You can get it from Knowledge Quest for $32.95, but The Modest Mom is giving one copy away for free!! You can check out her review and enter the giveaway here!

Good luck!!

Logos Bible Software 4 Mac Giveaway!!

Logos Bible Software is giving away thousands of dollars of prizes to celebrate the launch of Logos Bible Software 4 Mac on October 1. Prizes include an iMac, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an iPod Touch, and more than 100 other prizes!

They’re also having a special limited-time sale on their Mac and PC base packages and upgrades. Check it out!

The Modest Mom Giveaway: Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty!!

All this week, The Modest Mom is having giveaways!!  GOTTA love that!!  (BTW, news from me:  I won The Modest Mom's Modestly Yours Swimsuit Giveaway!!  I'm SO excited!!!!!)  Today, The Modest Mom is giving away Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty!  You can see her review and enter the giveaway here.  Basically, the putty is sort of like silly putty, and doesn't dry out if you leave it out.  I think it sounds AWESOME for my 7 yo, giving him something to do with his hands during read aloud time or other times where he has trouble sitting and listening. 

Go check out The Modest Mom and enter!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Modest Mom Giveaway: Mystery of History!

I am PICKY about the history my kids learn.  #1, it has to be ACCURATE.  There's no reason to skew the facts, to either side (commonly referred to as conservative or liberal).  History should be taught in whole, with all of it's ugliness and all of it's lessons learned.  Otherwise, we won't learn at all!

#2, the curriculum we use MUST MUST MUST be taught through a Biblical worldview.  I LOVE the way that Robin Sampson puts it in The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach:

History is the workshop of God.  History is significant because it is the story of people, how they came into being, and what they did.

The history curriculum we use must show how history is the story of how man fell, what sin has done to our world, and how God has worked to restore us to Him.

OK, all of that said, I hear Mystery of History is an EXCELLENT resource for all of this.  I have not had a chance to preview it, but I've been dying to!

Enter: The Modest Mom and her AWESOME giveaways!!  Right now, through August 30, you'll be able to enter to win either Volume 1, Creation to the Resurrection, or Volume 2, The Early Church and the Middle Ages, of Mystery of History on audio!  (This is awesome to us.  Living rurally, we drive, a LOT, so I love having good sermons and books on audio for the kids to listen to on the long drives.)    These sets are normally $42.95, so this is (yet again) an awesome deal!!

Make sure you check out The Modest Mom and join the giveaway!  You can use any of my links, or there's a button on my sidebar.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frugal Homemaking

Every family goes through a dry spell.  God has always provided for us, always!  But, it's also my responsibility as the keeper of our home and helper to my husband to ensure those provisions go as far as possible.  With a family of 7, going on 8, that's not always easy!!  Here are some ways I've found to really help stretch our dollar.

Things I keep on hand always...

Plain white vinegar
Washing soda (This is different from baking soda, and is usually found with the cleaning and laundry supplies.  I have used baking soda in a pinch, though, and it works just fine.)
Soap (I use Ivory, because I've never been able to find anything else, but castille and Fels Neptha work well, from what I understand, too.  Just make sure it's pure soap, nothing perfumed, with lotions, ect.)
Essential oils  (I keep tea tree oil, my absolute necessity, on hand, as well as lavender.)
Olive oil

Here are some wonderful recipes I use to make our dollar stretch:

Homemade baby wipes

Our youngest children have all had reactions to diapers, wipes, something.  They're rather sensitive in that area.  When we use the homemade baby wipes, we have been able to cut WAY down on rashes and the like.  Also, a great treatment for yeast infections occuring after a round of antibiotics!!

2 Cups water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
5-10 drops tea tree oil
5-10 drops lavender oil

Mix the above, and cut a roll of paper towels in half.  (Bounty seems to hold up best.)  Find a container that fits the half roll of paper towel (a lot of people use old disposable wipes containers.  I use a square plastic container I got at WalMart, and pour the solution in there.  Then, stick your paper towels in.  Cover, and let sit at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight.  The solution will wick up through the paper towels.  When it's done, remove the cardboard insert, and pull the first wipe out through the center.  The tea tree oil and lavender are wonderful for your skin, and the tea tree oil kills bacteria and yeast. 

This is what your wipes should look like from the top, with the center being pulled out:

Homemade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

Last week, we ran out, and I had to do a quick search to find some.  This is what I found, and it works well enough that my husband wants me to keep on making it!!

1/2 Cup Borax
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup salt (Sea salt works well, as it's rather course, but I've been using table salt, and it works well, too.)

Mix the above in a container, and add around 2 Tablespoons to the containers in your dishwasher.  I also add vinegar to the rinse container.  Vinegar makes a WONDERFUL rinse agent, whether for your dishes, or for your laundry!!

Homemade Laundry Soap

This one I got from the Duggar's book and website.  It works really, really well, is safe for front loading HE washers (which I have), and lasts my family of 7 (2 still in diapers) for around 5 months.  To not have an issue with copyright laws, I'm not going to repost it, but you can link to the recipe here.  (There's also a wonderful recipe for powdered laundry soap that works quite well with top loading washers, too!)  The only thing I do differently is add some lavender essential oil, for smell.  I also use vinegar in place of fabric softener in my laundry.  It ensures that all of the soap washes out (good for whether you use this recipe, or any soap, for that matter!), and leaves the clothes smelling and feeling wonderful!

She...  strengtheneth her arms. Proverbs 31:17

All-purpose Cleaner

Essential Oils

Find a spray container (you can get these at the dollar store, usually, WalMart, or many hardware stores) and fill 1/2 way with plain, white vinegar.  Fill the rest of the way with water.  Add any essential oils for scent (my husband likes us to use lavender and tea tree oil, although occasionally, we'll substitute the lavender for peppermint).  I use this in the bathroom and kitchen, although it doesn't work so well on mirrors and windows, I think due to the essential oils.  For that, I tend to use just plain vinegar, undiluted.  You can also add borax, from what I understand, but I've never tried that.  I do hear it tends to clog the spray bottles. 

I hope these ideas bless you as much as they've blessed our family!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Have you seen Jesus?

I love this song!  It's one of the most powerful, amazing songs I know.  Trying to picture myself as Mary, seeing Jesus in the garden...  the imagery just blows me away!  But, it also raises an interesting question...

I've been noticing a trend lately, and I just don't understand it.  Christians, professing Christians, whose eyes are so focused on the world, that they don't seem any different from it.  It's something that boggles my mind.  The darkness of modern media, the immoral sensuality of the world's standards of dress, even the way we treat each other, putting ourselves above everything else (even, for the most part, our children!).  We have such a beautiful option!  We have Jesus!!  Why would we keep our eyes on the things of this wicked, sinful world, when we have Jesus??  What's the attraction?  What's the draw?

Then, I realized it.   I'm sure it's not true for everyone, but it does make one wonder how many it's true for.  Many, many professing Christians have never seen Jesus.  We're confused, as to what Christianity is, and as to who we're professing to follow.  We've never "looked in His wonderful face."  We don't know how!  We've been introduced to prophecy, doctrine, even the Bible.  But we've never understood, never truly seen Jesus!

Some of us think we have, yet, we hold onto the things of the world, anyway.  Some of us equate our knowledge of Scripture to knowing Jesus.  James 2:19, Matthew 4, and Luke 4  show us the fallacy in this thinking.  Even Satan knows Scripture, and quotes it, regularly, usually twisting it to suit his purposes.  It's the oldest trick in the book.

So, what does it take to see Jesus, then?  Matthew 6:33 (NIV) tells us to "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness."  Christ is always there, waiting for us, but we must seek Him.  We must turn our "eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face."  Psalm 63:1 (NIV) says, "O God, You are my God; Earnestly I will seek you."  Even David, a man after God's own heart, had to seek his Lord, daily!

Next, we have to keep seeking Him.  Daily, hourly, every minute, every second.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV) tells us to "pray continually."  Does that mean we're constantly on our knees, praying great, elaborate prayers?  Of course not!  I'm a woman of God, following His command to be a keeper at home, be fruitful and multiply, and, as such, raise our 5 children to His glory.  I do have time set aside for prayer and seeking, but all day, every day?  No way!

What it does mean is that we stay in constant communication with God.  When the ones I love most are around, I might not drop everything to entertain and talk to them.  If I did, nothing would ever get done (especially considering the ones I love most are my children and husband... so they're always around!).  I do, however, keep constant conversation going, even in the midst of my business.  It's the same way with God.  I might not stop whatever I'm doing to kneel in petition, but I do talk to God, constantly.  Not "flare prayers" (although, I will admit, I pray those, too, in the midst of my worldly crisis!), but thanking Him, asking Him for guidance, petitioning to Him as I need, and simply conversating with Him, the same way I would my best Friend, and my Abba.

The final thought I would have, is that once you have your eyes on Jesus, keep them there!!  It's so easy to get lost in the cares and concerns of the world.  It's so easy to be seduced by the things that seem good, but, truly, is there anything good in this world?  What does Scripture say?

"Do not love the world, or anything in it.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father, but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."  1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

It's very apparent, but a reading of Scripture, that we're in a war.  There are no neutral sides.  There's no "middle of the road."  It's the ways of the world (run by Satan), versus the ways of a holy, all knowing, loving God.  To say that this worldly thing or that is OK, it's neutral, it's "Just a show, just a book, just a song..."  shows a woefully inadequate understanding of Scripture.  God has won the war, on Calvary.  But, the battles rage.

In World War II, after D-Day, the tide of the war turned.  The Germans knew they had lost.  Did they lay down their weapons and call it?  Of course not!  Did they release all of their prisoners of war, all of the concentration camp inmates?  No!  They got desperate, and continued to fight, and stepped up their evil exterminations. They knew they had lost, but they sure weren't going down alone!!  They would take every soul they could with them.

It's the same evil measure that Satan uses today.  He knows he's lost.  He knew it at Calvary.  He knew it when Mary came to the tomb.  He knew it as Jesus showed Himself to the disciples, and as Christianity spread throughout the world.  Do you really think that he's going to lay aside his arms, and surrender?  Absolutely not!!  The same pride that caused his fall from heaven has now been turned completely to this world.  He's going down, and he knows it, but he's going to take as many of us down with him as he can!!  And one of the best, most proven ways to do that is to claim that the things of this world are "neutral." 

"It's just a book..."

"It's just a movie..."

"It's just a song..."

"It's just a piece of fruit..."

Do you see the connection??  

It's not easy to fight the onslaught!!  It's not easy to go against the tide!!  It's not easy to be called "fanatical," "legalistic," or otherwise "weird."  It's not easy to stand alone.  The hardest thing I've ever learned is that God was serious when He told us that we have to live in this world, but we are not to be of it.   (1 Peter 2:11 calls us "aliens and strangers in the world." NIV)  That I am supposed to be "peculiar," as it says in 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV).  (1 Peter is a great study, in and of itself but verses 4-12 are particularly good for this topic.)  So, how do we handle this onslaught?  How do we stand firm, in the face of such opposition.

It comes back to the original thought.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the Light of His Glory and Grace

We cannot hope to overcome the world, if our eyes are on the prizes the world sets in front of us.  We cannot hope to die to self, if we're focused on ourselves.  Only when we see Jesus, and keep our eyes on Him, only then is it that things start to make sense.  Only then, can we see the big picture.  And then will we enjoy the "transforming of the mind" Paul spoke of in Romans 12:2. 

Seek Jesus.  Cling to Him.  Keep your eyes on Him. 

Friday, August 13, 2010


There's a second part to the question in my previous post, "How do you do it all with so many young kids running around?"  The assumption is either I'm some super version of June Cleaver (HA!!!), or my house is falling down around my ears (OK...we're working on that one...)  The truth is somewhere in the middle.  But, honestly, I don't do it all alone.  I couldn't.  I doubt anyone could, honestly. 

In our family, we take the concept of a "family team" quite seriously.  We fully expect the kids to put their family unit before any other relationship, save, of course their relationship with Jesus Christ.  Other than that, their brothers, sisters, and parents come first.  Our home comes first.  And to that end, we started training them early to work hard in the home, to help keep up the home, and to realize that our home is sort of an embassy for the heavenly kingdom, a small piece of heaven on earth.  (In the same way an embassy in a foreign land represents the home country, our home country is the Kingdom of God, and our home should represent the Heavenly Kingdom.) 

In light of all of that, we've trained our kids to be responsible.  Now, they're still QUITE young, so, of course, they are still being trained.  Here are a couple of the most important tools we use, to help train them in basic skills to keep up a home.  (Note:  Both our boys and girls receive training in basic homemaking.  Only the Lord knows if and when He will call them to marriage, and so we feel it's important for both genders to have a basic knowledge of how to cook, clean, fix, and mend.)

First, we'll look at Chorepacks.  Our chorepacks are based off of the Managers of Their Chores system by Steve and Terri Maxwell, of  The book is a wonderful one, and it comes with a kit to make Chorepacks enough for 4 children.  (If you watch the Duggar's on TV, it's the same system they use, with the little cards in pockets that clip to their shirts.)  You can also subscribe for $10 a year to Choreware which helps you in setting up and printing out the chorepack cards.

It's a great system, but it didn't work for our kids, as it was.  Chorepacks got lost (routinely...), cards got dumped, and lost, and it was just a general mess.  I'm still (months after we stopped using them) finding old chorepack cards in the weirdest places. 

I needed something that had the basic idea of chorepacks, but that the kids couldn't take apart.  Here's what I came up with:

This is Danny's.  One thing I knew, right away, is that God did NOT design me to be the brains for 7 people, while pregnant/nursing, and doing a million other things, also.  I've designed these not just for chores, but for general scheduling, too, so that the kids have a total of 3 schedules they can look at at any time, and know what they're supposed to be doing.  (Our master schedule is on our whiteboard, laminated, they each have a daily schedule in their binders, and then their chorepacks.) 

Everything is pretty much on their cards.  This is Danny's.  It's a fuzzy picture (sorry, I'm down to my phone, again...), but basically it says "Get up.  ***Take Pills*** 7:00 am"  Everything he has to do at 7 am is listed on that one card.  The next card says what I want him to do next, and at what time.  (In this case, Quiet Time with Jesus, 7:05 am.)  And on, and on throughout the day.

We do have a couple of special cards in there, and these are for our chore sessions, after each meal, and for our Morning and Afternoon school sessions.  Here's what Danny's Morning School Session looks like:

Again, I've posted the scheduled times for their school.  They're welcome to work ahead (for example, spelling rarely takes 1/2 an hour), if they choose, but they must be at least that far along, at that specific time.  If, for example, Danny isn't done with Worldview/Bible at 11:00, he must stop and start Literature, and come back to it on his own time.  This prevents dawdling, which is a problem for some of our kids.  ;) 

Here is an example of our Morning Chores session:

Chores here are done after ever meal.  It keeps the chaos to a (somewhat) manageable minimum.  On their chore cards, I list the chores to be done, but not every individual step.  That I save for our checklists (you should be able to see next to "Straighten up Kitchen" and "Straighten up Bedroom" the notes (use checklist)).  

One problem I ran into with our first edition of Chorepacks, was that I knew my kids needed complete, step by step instructions.  This, however, made absolute HUGE chorepacks, and they were completely overwhelming to the kids.  But, if they didn't have it, step by step, laid out, then things were forgotten.  What we came up with were checklists.

On the checklists, I spell out every. single. step in cleaning whatever room it is in.  (Each room has a checklist, with the exception of the master bedroom and bath, because I clean those and frankly don't need one! ;))  Above is our Kitchen Checklist.  You can see there are 3 different sections, one for after breakfast, one for after lunch, and the final (and largest) one is for after supper.  In that room, different things need done at different times, but most of the rooms only have one set of instructions. 

We were able to get these really nifty plastic pocket sticky holder thingies at Staples.  (I know, I'm a master of the English language...)  My wonderful husband tells me that they're designed to hold things like safety and first aid information at job sites, like construction sites.  They're quite heavy duty, and I love them.  (They weren't cheap, though.  Our pack of 50 costs us something like $70, he says.  But the investment was WELL worth it.)  Anyway, I slip the checklists into those, and post those on the wall or door of the specific rooms.  

The hardest thing about these checklists is training them to actually use them.  My kids happen to be uniquely stubborn, I think, and think they know better than Mommy.  They like to do it their way, not Mommy's way.  This is a heart training issue, not a chore issue, and we treat it as such.  Every time they come to report that their chores are done, the first thing they're asked is, "Did you follow the checklist?"  If not, they go back and redo it to the list.  When that's done, I inspect it, to the checklist, and we go over any parts that were missed, explaining along the way that if they had truly followed the checklist, there wouldn't be any missed parts.  

One other thing I do in regards to our chore cards, is specifically for my non-readers.  Instead of words, which wouldn't help them at all, I found free clipart to use to tell them what to do.  Here's an example:

You'll notice that it's white, while all of the others are colored.  The colored cards are easy for me to keep track of. I can tell at a glance who's "lost" their cards, when I find them in the middle of the kitchen floor. ;)  But, colors don't work so well for these, because, well, the pictures are colored!  So, all of my readers get colors, and my non readers get white cards.  It still serves the same purpose, I can still tell who's are in the middle of the floor, and not clipped to their shirts, and it's much easier to "read" for my littles.  

A few incidentals:  I laminate my cards. I laminate EVERYTHING, but these cards are especially important.  They get hole punched and put on a ring, and they will tear up easily if they're not laminated.  I recommend this laminator, and I was able to just pick it up for something like $30, I think, from WalMart.  When it's laminated, it's nice and sturdy, heavy duty stuff.  It works just perfectly for us.  

After they're laminated, they're punched, put on a ring, and a name badge type clip is attached.  All of that you can get at WalMart or any office supply store.  

The only thing I will do differently when I redo the cards (which you'll have to, periodically, as the children grow, you add more kids doing chores, or change the chores up) is that I'm going to coordinate the colors of their cards to the assigned colors on the schedule.  On our schedule, each child is assigned a color, so they can tell at a glance which column is theirs.  When we redo the chore cards, each child will be assigned the same color, instead of letting them choose, which is what I did this time.  I think it'll make it easier when I'm making up 6 sets, instead of 3, and it will save on fighting because so-and-so picked whatever color first.  ;)

Other than that, these work really well for us, to help keep the kids generally on track.  It does take training to get them used to them, but you'll truly reap the benefits, especially as they get older and more independent.


One of THE most common questions a mom with lots of kids is going to get, is "How do you do it all?"  Seriously, I had a mom of triplets ask me that, since I had more than her.  That, I just didn't get. Anyway, since it's a question that so commonly comes up, I thought I'd share probably the one thing that keeps us (somewhat) on the straight and narrow...  Scheduling. 

First, you need to know, every kids is SO different.  Katie is very laid back, relaxed, and doesn't like a strict schedule.  That isn't to say she doesn't need one, though.  She'll spend all day laying in the sunlight playing with her sisters, if I let her. 

Danny, however, is VERY rigid.  He absolutely craves complete structure to his day.  It REALLY messes him up when something interrupts our schedule.  He needs to learn flexibility.  Desperately. 

Now, I am a procrastinator.  (As seen by the fact that I've been meaning to put these organizational posts out for something like 6 weeks.)  I will let things pile up until they're completely unmanageable, and then the chaos robs me of the meek and quiet spirit we're called to have and strive for, as women of God.

Sean and the twins, they could care less, for the most part. Sean does do better when he has many different things planned through the day, but he's also a very opinionated 3-year-old.  Yesterday, for example, I just could not get him to sit still and read during read aloud time with him.  It helps him to learn discipline, that life isn't fair (an important lesson to learn!), and that sometimes we just have to do things we don't want to do.  The twins are learning security through routine. 

So, here's what we do:  First, I use a system based pretty much off of the book Managers of Their Homes:  A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschool Families by Steve and Terri Maxwell of  The Maxwell family have 8 children who have all pretty much been homeschooled.  They have WONDERFUL resources for raising and training godly children, organization, scheduling, homeschooling, and general encouragement.  It's a wonderful website, and I highly recommend it.

When you order MOTH,  you get a chart and colored little papers to get stuck up on it, to organize your day.  (If you've ever watched the Duggar's TV show, it's the same color coded system Michelle Duggar uses.)  This works REALLY well when you're just starting out.   You're able to switch and change up your blocks and activities, very quickly. 

Our problem with that, is that they kept falling off.  ((rolls eyes))  Or getting torn off by little hands.  Then, when we were painting the living room, the chart got some sort of mess on it, and that was that.  I tossed the chart.  BUT... I need something that I can tell at a glance who's doing what when, and that the kids can tell what they need to do and when. 

I opened up Exel,and came up with this:

It's basically the same thing as a MOTH chart, without all the little squares to fall off. :)  Each child is color coded, and my schedule is the yellow one.  It took 2 pages to print, but I cut it to fit into my laminater, which only fits just slightly larger than 8"x11".    The hours on the side of the page start at 6 am, when I get up, and go through 10:00 pm, broken up into half hour increments. I also put each of the kids' daily schedules into their school binders.  You can find a post on that and see that example here.

EVERYTHING is scheduled into the days.  Every school subject, chore time, even playing with their siblings.  Now, it looks at first glance that they don't have any free time, but this isn't entirely true.  Remember Katie, my dawdler?  She could easily take 2 hours for a 15 minute spelling assignment, if I let her.  Instead of scheduling how long a subject should take (nothing they do should take over 1/2 an hour), I give them one-half of an hour for each subject.  If they finish early, they have the choice of either using the rest of the time for free time, or going onto the next subject and knocking that out, too.  Danny usually gets all of his schoolwork done long before lunch.  Katie, not so much, but she's learning.  Once their school and chores are done for the day, they're welcome to have free time to do what they want.  The only things they have to do at scheduled times are meals and chores (they do chores after every meal). 

Scheduling makes our days run SO much smoother.  Just like in a well-organized home, everything has a place and everything in it's place.  It's the same with our schedules.  Everything has a time, and everything in it's time. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

School Year 2010-2011 Part 3


OK, last thing we're going to go over. We specifically chose Tapestry of Grace because of the quality of literature and history books. We don't have access to a great library, so we knew we'd be making a LONG term investment, because we'd be buying all of the books ourselves. (And, no, it's not cheap to do it that way, but, it's an investment, right??)


We also knew we'd need a way to organize everything. Plus, have I mentioned our kids are HARD on books? After scouring blog after blog and message board after message board, here's what we finally came up with!


First, many of the books are paperbacks. NO GOOD for my house!! I had to come up with a way to protect those precious covers, and covering them with contact paper seemed the easiest (and cheapest) way to do that.


Second, when we cycled back to Year 1 (TOG is a 4 year cycle, and we'll keep cycling through until everyone's out of school), I would need to know at a glance what books I already had, and what books I would need for any new levels we were going to be in.


And third, I needed a way to know when I was done using a book, so I could put it away. We live in a pretty small space, so I didn't want books we weren't using out, taking up space, and I didn't want them out where little hands could get to them and ruin them, either.


Here's what we came up with:


TOG has their levels color coded. Lower Grammar is red, Upper Grammar is yellow, Dialectic is green, and Rhetoric is blue. I bought simple foil star stickers with those four colors on them. Some books in TOG you're going to use for one week, some for a unit, some for multiple units. In the same way, some are only for 1 level, and some for multiple levels. I went through every book we bought (we only bought what was on the UG list), and stuck a sticker on them for whatever level they had.


This book is used only for Upper Grammar, for example:


While this one is used for LG, UG, and Dialectic:


Next, as you can see, I took a sharpie to them. I marked them with the year and units we'll be using them for. The top one, we only use for Year 1, Unit 1. The bottom book, we use for Year 1, but all four units. When the kids are done reading the top book, it'll be put away. The bottom book, though, will stay out all year long, as they'll use it all year long.


The next thing I did was cover the paperbacks. I put the stickers and the markings on FIRST, so they were protected, too. I got a few rolls of contact paper, and went at it. There are good instructions on how to do this here. It took me 2 or 3 rolls to do them, and, I admit, I have bubbles, but it's SO much better than letting them get ruined by spilled juice or gumming babies.


For the hardback books, I simply took a piece of clear packing tape, and taped it over the stickers and markings. That should protect them for now.


Now, we take out each book that we need for the week, and put it in our book basket. I also put our grammar book and science book, and anything else they're going to need to finish their lessons in there. That way they always know where it is. The basket's also portable, if we need it to be. ;)


I think that's pretty much it for our organization this year!! We're still keeping their notebooks and binders and such in bins, for simplicity's sake, but they're getting to be too stuffed, so I need a new system for that. Working on that one, and I'll keep you posted! :)

School Year 2010-2011 Part 2

In the last post, I showed you how I organized my teaching manuals for Tapestry of Grace. Here, I'll show you the kids' binders. I love that TOG really encourages the kids to be self-motivated and self-taught!! I'm a firm believer that 99% of my job as a teacher is to teach them how to learn, not just fill their mind with information. If I teach them how to learn independently, the world is truly their oyster, and they can learn anything!!


Ok, kids' binders… I'll be showing you Katie's, but they're both the same. The only difference is that Katie's binders and notebooks are pink, and Danny's are blue. (They chose the colors…)


First, here's a picture of the front. I mentioned that TOG has front covers and spines for your binders on the Loom. This is the same cover and spine I used for my binders.

Nice, huh? :)


OK, for the kids' binders, I got a BUNCH of dividers. I prefer the plastic ones. Yes, they're more expensive, but they're SO worth it, since they're not going to get torn up nearly as easily. You're going to need 3 dividers with pockets on them, and 5 more that don't need them. (If you buy them in a pack, though, it's no big deal, really.) I labeled my pocket dividers as Assignment Sheets, Maps, and SAPs and Worksheets. The ones in the back say Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3, Unit 4, and Maps. 


OK, we're going to start at the front. First is a page protector pocket that has the daily schedule for each child on one side, and a weekly calendar on the other. I print of the calendars every week, so they know what's coming up. Our schedule is loosely based off of the Managers of Their Homes system, which I HIGHLY recommend, especially if you have a child or children who really need a ton of structure, like I do.


Next is their Assignment Sheets. Remember my Master Assignment sheet? They each have one, too. Every Sunday, I take each child individually, and take them through the Master sheet. They copy their assignments down onto their sheets. It's getting them prepared to eventually read the TOG Assignment Sheets for themselves, and write them out (although, realistically, that won't happen until at least the Dialectic stage, about 7th grade). Theirs are written out, not typed, but they still save them as a record. Again, good practice in record keeping and organization. Plus, it keeps me from having to answer the never-ending question, "What's next??"

After their Assignment Sheet are the TOG Reading Assignments, Weekly Overview, Spelling Cards, and Writing Assignment sheets. We go over these on Sunday during our time together. Now they know exactly what to expect to learn this week.


Behind the Assignment Sheets section is Maps. This one is pretty easy. I just put any map they have to do this week into the pocket of the divider. Their maps are assigned on their sheet, so they know exactly when we're going to do them.


Behind Maps, is SAPs (Student Activity Pages) and Worksheets. The SAPs show them what activities they'll be doing this week. The Worksheets are, well, worksheets. ;) I also put any evaluations they have to do in this section.

For our Unit Tabs, I took page protectors and tabbed them, with the headings of Week 1-Week 36. On Sunday, when we go through our upcoming week, the kids take all of their assignment sheets and SAPs/worksheets, along with their calendar, and put it in the corresponding week's pouch. Permanent records! At the end of the year, we'll put them in our big bin for Upper Grammar, labeled by year. 

For Maps, that's labeled by Unit. As they finish a map, it goes in the corresponding Unit pocket. It, too, will go in the bin at the end of the year.

So, that's how the kids' binders are organized, more or less. It's teaching them a lot about independence, and they really do enjoy having their own lists, and schedules, and knowing exactly what comes next. It also frees me up to deal with the littles, and not have to answer constant questions about what's coming up next!!

School Year 2010-2011 Part 1

OK, we're a little late in getting this out… We actually started about a month ago. ;) But, here's how we're organizing this school year.


I've already mentioned we're using Tapestry of Grace for our core curriculum this year. What's nice about TOG is that they explain how to set up everything from the get-go! They have a whole article called Out of the Shrink Wrap that takes you step by step through what you need to do to be organized. Of course, you can tweak it to fit your needs, and I'm thinking most people do. Here's what we did:


We start with my binders. You can buy one unit (9 weeks worth of curriculum) at a time through TOG. That's what we did, to save money. We'll buy the next unit when we're done with this one. You can buy the curriculum as a Digital Edition (DE), as a printed hard copy, or buy both. I opted to buy both. It's slightly more pricey ($45 for DE only, $58.30 for hard copy, plus shipping, and $65.80 for the DE plus print copy, plus shipping), but it was worth it for me. I couldn't see me printing out the whole thing, and I like having it all printed out for me when I started. But, I like having the DE, so I can simply print off the kids' pages when I need them.


SO, you get a BIG binder, I use a 3", and you have the option of either just putting it in the binder as is (it's pre-punched, as the print edition), or putting it in page protectors. I opted for the page protectors, to protect my investment. This curriculum can be used through high school, and you only have to buy each year once. That took TIME, but I really think it was worth it. In the Loom, which you get access to when you buy the curriculum, they have spines and covers for your binders, which look really nice. You'll need one binder per unit, with four units in the year. You can also buy tabbed dividers from them, which has the week numbers on them. I also put my Map Aids keys, and my Evaluations keys with the corresponding weeks.


Then, I go through the activities. Activities are big deals in our house, mostly because Mommy tends to forget to buy the supplies, and we never get them done. ((blush)) To avoid that problem, I make a list of things I'm going to need for each week. I list all of the activities, their supplies, and what book or where to find how to do them. In that page protector pouch, I also print off any extras we're going to need, and stick it in. (For example, one week we're making lentil soup as our project. I printed out the recipe, and put it in the pouch.) This way, I have everything I need at my fingertips.


The other thing I did is order Pop Quiz. Basically, this is a CD and card set that's specifically for Dad. He can listen to the CD in the car on his way to or from work, or wherever he goes, whenever he has time. Then, the cards give him idea starters and questions to ask the kids on Friday, so that he knows exactly what they're learning. I laminated my cards, and stuck them in the pouches with the activity sheet, broken down by week. The CDs I keep in a CD holder sheet in the front of my binder.


So, that's step 1. Step 2, is making my weekly binder. Basically, you're going to work with three weeks at a time. You're going to need three "pouches" or folders, where you store the kids' paperwork for the week. Then, you just take out the pages you need from your big binder for the week, and put them in the weekly one. This way, I'm not sorting through stuff I don't need. We're only doing Upper Grammar this year, so I don't need the Lower Grammar, Dialectic, or Rhetoric pages. By putting them in my weekly binder, I don't have to sift through them.


In my binder, I also have some CD holders, to hold the Pop Quiz CDs we're using. We're also using Teaching Textbooks this year for math, which is all on CD, so we keep our CDs for that in there, too. The kids always know where they are that way, and there's no looking for them. When they're both finished with a CD (there's about 30 lessons on each CD, with a total of 4 CDs), they go back into the Teaching Textbooks folder that they came in, and get put away.


Behind the CD holders, I keep a monthly calendar, letting me know at a glance what I have to do, and my weekly master assignment sheet. This is typed out, and I save it both to my computer, and as a hard copy, so that I know and have a record of exactly what we did each week.


OK, one more thing to go over with this post. I print out in advance ALL of the pages I'll be giving the kids ever week (you'll see more about their organization next post) in advance. So, I needed a way to organize those, too! I simply bought a file folder bin, along with a box of yellow file folders. (TOG is color coded for each level. Yellow is Upper Grammar, which we're working on this year.) I labeled the bin for the school year, and labeled each folder for Week 1 through Week 36. As I print off the pages they'll need, I stick them in the corresponding week. At the end of the year, they'll put their work in the bin, by week, so we'll have a record of what they did this year.


OK, so that's how I organize my teaching supplies. In the next post, we'll take a look at how the kids are organized for this year!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Preschool Giveaway from The Modest Mom!

Another sweet giveaway from The Modest Mom!!  I have heard wonderful things about the Christian Liberty Press curriculum, and now The Modest Mom is giving away a Preschool Curriculum Kit from them!  You can see her review and enter the giveaway here.  It looks like such a sweet set, I'd love to win it and use it for my almost-preschooler when he's ready!!

Also, make sure you check out The Modest Mom's store!  You can head to her blog from my links above, or use the button to the right on my sidebar!   

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Modest Mom Giveaway!!

OK, y'all know I LOVE giveaways!  The Modest Mom is having one, and it's VERY nice!!  She's reviewed and is giving away a Tropical Sands style swimsuit from Modestly Yours Swimwear!  These suits are pretty, MODEST, and, from everything I've heard, wear well.  This particular style will run you about $67, so I'm thinking this is a VERY generous giveaway!  Head over to The Modest Mom (linked here, or use the button on my sidebar) to check it out!!

Also, make sure you check out everything The Modest Mom has to offer for modest clothing! I think her skirts are just lovely, AND she has some gorgeous maternity skirts!