Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homeschool Year 2010-2011

This school year ended with a fizzle, not a bang. I worked the kids so hard to prep for standardized testing that we were all burned out by the end of April. We spent the month of May mostly reading and taking field trips, nothing in the way of organized lessons at all. They also had a few classes to finish out the year and that was what helped me live guilt-free day to day. But for my own peace of mind, here is a quick recap of the school year, just a month by month list of classes and field trips that we experienced. We started the school year with a packed calendar and by the end of the year had tapered off to focus more on academics at homes. Next year I'm going to try to balance more. All in all, we had a great year and I feel like I'm getting the hang of this homeschool adventure.

August - origami class, world cultures class, PE class (soccer), keyboard lessons, safety class at the sheriff station

September - world cultures class, PE class (soccer), keyboard lessons, science class, Legos Engineering class, Arboretum filed trip, LA County Fair field trip, Brownies started

October - Legos engineering class, science class, PE (flag football), Brownies, keyboard lessons, Universal Studios field trip

November - Peter Pan musical field trip, Brownies, Heritage Park Thanksgiving Presentations and Party, keyboard lessons, Brownies

December - PE class (kickball),, Brownies, X started acting class, ornament painting class, Legoland field trip, basketball through the city parks and rec started

January - City basketball, PE class (basketball), science class, acting class, Brownies, Princess O's Brownie troop talent show rehearsals

February - City basketball, talent show rehearsals, Brownies, science class, acting class, Talent Show, PE class, Ag Fair projects worked on weekly

March - Acting class and final show, PE class (dodgeball), science class, art class, Ag Fair field trip, Brownies, Space Center field trip

April - Art class, science class, PE class (softball), Brownies, STAR Testing

May - Science class, PE class (soccer), art class, Brownies

First Day of Summer

Today is the first day of our summer vacation. Yay! This is definitely not a season I leave the kids to their own ends. No, that was something I learned the very first summer we tried to take a break from any kind of organized schedule and everything fell apart pretty quickly. One thing I always enjoyed as a kid was the summer reading program through the local library. My dad made sure we got involved with the program every year and read our way to some fun rewards, like Dairy Queen coupons or scratch and sniff stickers. Our local library has the kids earn coins based on how much time they spend reading. This is a hit and miss effort by my kids. They would rather be rewarded for finishing a book than try to keep track of time spent reading. It's easier for me, too! So we started our own reading program at home that we do every summer.

We call it Read to 100 and it's fairly straightforward. The kids read 100 books over the course of the summer. We put up a special number line, this year it's frogs, and they work their way to the top. I am pleased with the display this year. It's really cute. Each kid has a different colored frog to move from pad to pad. I also added some bonus prizes along the way to keep them motivated. There is a prize given every 10 books read. There is a better prize given for the 25th, 50th, and 75th book read, as represented by the dragonfly on the lily pad for that number. I also added a prize for the 67th book read just because I had an extra fly decal to use. I placed a gold frog on a lily pad after the 100th book just to represent the grand prize they will receive for reading 100 books.

The prizes are given from my treasure box that we use for homeschooling. I think this is one of the best ideas I've ever used to encourage the kids. I fill the box with toys and trinkets from the $1 Target bins or Dollar Tree or the 99 cent store. For the summer, the box is full of things to use outside or in water, with some girly things thrown in for Princess O, like lip gloss or nail polish. So every 10 books read, the kids get to shop from the treasure box. For every 25 books read, they will get to choose a special treat from McDonald's, ice cream or a shake, something like that. For reading 100 books, they get $20, a fortune to them!

So we kicked off Read to 100 today. Of course, the kids grabbed easy books to read right away. I make them keep track of what they've read in a journal where they list the title, author, and a short sentence about why they liked or didn't like the book. Another bonus of summer is the 2:00pm quiet hour. Usually this is when we are getting home from swimming or playing at the park and it's a natural time for everyone to chill out and read for little while. Quiet time is my favorite time of the day and one thing I look forward to in summer!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Quickie Note

I'm reading this great book, Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach. I found it in the travel section of the used bookstore that I frequent. The travel section is an interesting spot to browse. There are all sorts of books stuffed onto those shelves. Some are true travel guides and others are like the one I'm reading, vicarious travel experiences.

Alice Steinbach decided to travel to Paris without any real plan or job or millions of dollars and just experience life without routine, boundaries, or expectations. This idea appeals to the romantic inside me, but the pragmatist inside me is somewhat appalled. Romantic says, oh bliss, no schedules, no routines, excitement and opportunity around every corner! The pragmatist says, well, yes, but you would appreciate it all so much more if you were organized and scheduled and planned out.

One day I would love to take a trip on a whim and be able to savor the freedom of making every single choice on a minute to minute basis, not worrying about anyone else's needs or wants but my own. But I digress.

I really just want to share my absolute favorite line from the introduction. "Over the years I had fallen into the habit - a quite natural one, I believe - of defining myself in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me as mother, as daughter, as wife...For a while at least, I wanted to stand back from these roles and see who emerged."

I think this echoes the revolving thought that's been in my mind since I turned 35.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Just about every Sunday I get to have some me time and I usually choose to spend it at my favorite fabric store. This past Sunday there was a big sale on scrapbooking supplies and I had so much fun looking through everything. I have been focusing on knitting and my scrapbooking has definitely fallen by the wayside. Since this is the Summer of the Journal, I decided to forgo my yarn purchase (gasp!) and bought some things for my summer journal instead.

A set of knitting stickers?! Love it. Perfect for my knitting goals this summer.

This set is perfect for my summer reading layout.

I made a new goal for myself this summer to find some unique coffeehouses where I can read or knit, not Starbucks.

This is just a really cute journal I found at Target. It reminded me of myself so I had to buy it. Not like I need another journal, but whatever.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I can't believe the school year is almost over. Next Friday is our last day, but since we just had our learning record meeting, we won't be doing anything very structured. I'm thinking book reports and finishing our unit study on California will be about it. The kids have art and science classes, too, so that's still enough to keep us busy.

I haven't really thought much about summer this year. Last year I was finishing my medical transcription certification and looking for a job. The summer before that I was starting my medical transcription program. The summer before that was the Black Summer, or the Summer of Darkness, when I accomplished nothing but dragging myself from one day to the next. So. What to do this year? No job or training to keep me busy. I can basically do whatever I want, but I'm the type of person who needs goals and a plan. Let's think about this.

My knitting has fallen to the wayside lately. I'm not sure why, maybe a lack of free time or just taking care of other things. If I am going to do a booth for the Christmas craft fair though, I should work on building an inventory. That will be goal #1, stinkR inventory.

I have so many books I want to read and so many locations I want to read at. I think I will keep a reading journal this summer, with pictures, of every place I get to read. The beach, Starbucks, the park, the pool, the mall. Hmm. This feels like a good idea.

The kids will be playing baseball this summer and my goal is to NOT be the team mom. I have a way to do accomplish this: when the coach asks for volunteers, look at the ground or pretend I just got a call on my phone. This one should be pretty easy.

I would love to buy a new blender and a recipe book for smoothies and spend the summer blending and sipping different concoctions. This would be a good idea for a journal, too. Maybe this will be the Summer Journal and I can document everything all together.

That's probably the best idea so far! A Summer Journal. So I hereby proclaim this will be the Summer of the Journal.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

So This Was My Day

The mother of all Mother's Days, that's what it felt like today. Next year I am going to claim a different day for myself and let all the other mothers have this one.

Monday, May 2, 2011

So This Was My Day

I got in some Me Time today that was sorely needed after so many days on duty solo with the kids. I really don't know how single moms do it! My max is about four days nonstop with the kids. I love them, I do, and I love my life, yes. But, I also love silence and solitude and very rarely can these loves all mix. This picture is from my first stop during Me Time to Starbucks. I snagged a table in the sun and enjoyed my iced venti vanilla latte while I read the Saturday Big Tent Wedding on my Kindle. Perfect.

I made a quick shopping trip to Target and then zipped to Joann's where I bought...nothing. I have so many projects on the needles right now there wasn't anything I could think of to buy. With a clear conscience. Of course, I can always find something, but nothing struck me.

My last stop was to the drug store. There was a man sitting outside collecting money for homeless women and children. I never have cash. Never. It's a bad habit, I know, but I use my ATM card for everything. Anyway, he asked me to please remember to give him a donation on my way out and I said, sure.

I like to be a woman of my word, so after my shopping, I got some cash back. I went back outside and said, "See? I didn't forget about you," as I stuffed the money in the box and smiled at him. His reply, "Thank you. And, you know, just in case no one told you today, you're very pretty." Now, let me tell you, even if I had just paid him to say that, it was worth it. Because, no, no one told me that today and I really, really needed to hear it. Really.

I think I probably looked stunned, stammered, "Oh, thank you," to which he replied, "I mean that. I really do." And then I just smiled and walked to the car. Wow. That made my day. Even if he says that to every man, woman, and child who comes out that door and makes a donation, I'm taking that compliment and tucking into my pocket to keep forever. Because even if it isn't true or sincere, it made me feel pretty, and I needed to feel like that right then. Definitely a highlight of the day.