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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dresser makeover

My husband and I got this golden oak hand me down dresser when we got married and the mirror for $10 at a thrift store and in the midst of being busy with work and raising little kids it was just functional but not our style.  For Mother's Day a couple years ago I got a black headboard and footboard for our bed but the rest if the matching set was kinda outrageous so we have had mismatched stuff for a while.  Well this weekend it was finally nice out and I was able to refinish the dresser!  I used an Ebony stain on it after my hubby sanded it down.  We were going to stain the mirror black too but there was some other ugly brown stain in it and we didn't want to sand lazy so the only paibt I has on hand was the left over turquoise paint from my daughters room (it was BEHR Marquee Misty Isle) so I decided to just play around brushed some of that on without giving complete coverage so it has a bit if a rustic vintage vibe.  I don't know if I like the mirror this bright of turquoise set against the black but I like it a lot more than I did before and it took like 10 minute so I can always change it another time if I grow to really dislike it.  So anyways, don't have a true before picture but have the sanded down pic mid progress and the yeah I loved using the ebony stain vs black paint.  The wood grain remains and it just looks nicer than I think black paint would have and it went in so fast and easy and was dry in no time!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Desoto Falls

I am going on about 6 weeks where I have only seen the sun probably 2 times.  I'm feeling a little depressed and am upping my Vitamin D as I have a history of it plummeting to extremely low levels. So while I hang out inside feeling unmotivated, I thought I would go back and finish some posts that I didn't have time to do when the weather WAS nice and we were spending all our time outside and I wasn't posting anything.  So I can remember the nice outdoor days and look forward to them again...spring is coming...spring is coming.... in the mean time lets revisit one of our previous hikes and look forward to doing more of that soon!

Desoto Falls was a great hike to do with the kids.  It's located in Lumpkin County, Georgia.  There is a little history to this area, it is named Desoto falls because a breastplate of armor was discovered in the 1880s that came from the men under Hernando Desoto that were in the area in 1541.  There were originally three falls you could hike to on this trail, but one is now closed after the storm of the century in 1993 and the upper falls are now inaccessible.   

We enjoyed our hikes to both falls.  When you arrive you come to a trail head (with a marker giving the story about the breastplate from Hernando Desoto) that give the history of the area and then you can go either left or right.  We took the trail to the right first, visiting that fall and then walked back and visited the fall to the left of the trail head, which was smaller and a shorter walk.  Both trails are not too long and easily doable with young children.  

This hike is very easy, more of a nature walk than a "hike"

Length : about 2 miles
Parking: $3
Directions and additional info about the trail

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Exploring an Old Homestead

We recently had the pleasure of a wonderful outing at our friends historic family homestead.  We started with a picnic by one of the waterfalls on the property and then hiked around and even got to see old indian markings on the cliff rocks.  There was even a cave where my best friend's mom and her sisters used to build fires and cook noodles as kids.  This land in Cowiche, WA was breathtaking and amazing in the middle of winter, I can't wait to go back in summer!  I hope my friends turn this family property into a wedding venue after they fix up the 100 year old barn!  If I still lived in WA my friend and I agreed we would totally go into business together doing something special out here!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Learning can happen Anytime and Anywhere


As part of our Charlotte Mason Nature Club, we recently made a trip to the planetarium for a celestial show to be followed by going to the observatory to use the telescope and view the constellations and a comet. The kids loved the show at the planetarium but unfortunately we couldn't find the telescope observation place afterwards, out in the mountains in the dark..we just could not find it so disappointed,  we came home.  It was already late for our young kids but when we got home I looked up and the sky was clear and brilliant.  Orion was IN YOUR FACE there, so I had hubby put the boys to bed while I got out sleeping bags and rolled them out on the back deck.  We didn't have to be up early in the morning so we snuggled in the sleeping bags observing the skies and constellations.  I had stepped out of the show at the Planetarium because the baby was getting too excited and vocal so it was neat that my daughter started noticing constellations I didn't know about and missed hearing about in the show and listening to her telling me about them.  Just laying out there for a while, she was able to notice how the stars and moon had shifted in the sky and we were able to talk about that, and what direction the sun rises and sets and same with the moon tracking across the sky as everything spins and orbits.

What was disappointing (missing the telescope viewing) turned into an opportunity to seize the moment and create a special memory and learning experience, and a reminder to me why I love homeschooling and having a flexible schedule...being able to stay up til 11:30 watching the stars in winter snuggled in a sleeping bag, and not having to be anywhere first thing in the morning.  Learning doesn't have to happen at a certain time of day or in a certain place.  It can happen anytime, anywhere.

Monday, March 2, 2015

DIY Maple Syrup - Nature Study

Making Maple Syrup

Nature Study and being outdoors is a huge part of our homeschool life so I was thrilled when my husband decided to try tapping a couple of the maple trees in our backyard and make our own maple syrup.  My hubs ordered the taps off amazon and set them up and then we just had to wait for the right weather as the temperature has to have certain fluctuations overnight to get the sap flowing.  We finally had the needed fluctuation and got 3-4 liters of maple tree sap.

Can you see the 2 trees that are tapped with the 2 liter bottles? That's the maple sap collection set up

We measured it out with the kids and then put it in our largest pot to simmer all day.

 Finally the maple sap had reduced enough and we got about 3 ounces.  Just enough for our Sunday gluten free pancake breakfast!

We poured the final product into a recyled maple syrup glass container.  The maple syrup was just like...maple syrup.  The only difference I noticed with our maple syrup vs the kind we buy was ours had a slight vanilla taste to it.

Here's to learning how stuff's real life!

Have access to any maple trees?  Here's how

Be a Pioneer

So a while back I stopped looking at my teacher's manual that goes with the My Father's World curriculum.  It's a great curriculum, but personally I was starting to just feel limited, tired, suffocated and uninspired by following a curriculum.  Honestly I love the manual and looking through the weekly plans and checklist but then in reality it just isn't me.  Having that checklists stresses me out and thus stresses the kids out.  I also felt like some of what we were doing was just creating more fighting and frustration than benefit...I slowly started to skip doing the math some days and instead switch it up with having my daughter practice her math on ixl, xtramath, matific, starfall or math apps on my phone, still doing math everyday and working on the same skills but not stressing about where it was done, book, app, games etc.  We also do Classical Conversations so the kids  cover all subjects each week and do science experiments, art projects and tin whistle so I decided to just let that be that and I was just focus on 1 or 2 main things for each child for now.  For my second grader, it was reading as that has been our biggest struggle and she seemed to struggle with dyslexia or some other learning issue and then math.  For my Pre K son, it was his alphabet and learning to eat better, he is so picky and tends to subsists on strawberries, bananas, whatever homemade baked goods I make and turkey dogs (healthiest ones I can get mind you)...but that's pretty much it.  My 1 year old was really needing to get a better nap schedule figured out and consistent and focus on getting him to eat well too as he has been pretty much refusing most foods offered.  I also was feeling like I was missing my passion, I was missing that spontaneous creativity that the kids and I enjoyed when we started homeschooling our first year and I didn't use a curriculum and just schooled based off of The Thomas Jefferson Education book, Charlotte Mason, Montessori and Everything your Kindergartner Needs to Know.  After I would get through our "school" that day I would either just feel really frustrated, tired, annoyed and wanting space and the kids were tired of me directing everything so much at that point that we wouldn't ever do the things we really wanted to do.  At the end of the day what was a great, rich and wonderful curriculum just wasn't working for us.  My daughter and I weren't enjoying our time together doing it, we were both feeling resentful..especially me because she can be the queen of stalling and avoiding when she doesn't want to do something and I felt like she was taking up all my time and energy and robbing her brothers of my time, attention and energy.  But in reality, it wasn't her fault it was mine.  I was trying to do what I thought was best but it wasn't what was best for us.  I had actually gone against what I had found worked best for us in the beginning out of fear and doubt.
 No, at this rate she would be better of at school because the teachers are paid to be patient and do the grudge work and I'd be home having a break and could just be happy when she came home.  Homeschooling for life or die isn't the ultimate goal here, a healthy relationship with my children and husband is.  But homeschooling is something The Lord put on my heart strongly and I think I started off on the right track but then got sucked into wanting to do the best of everything with Classical Conversations and My Father's World and all that.  It was good last year when we had just moved and I had a newborn to just be able to open and go and not have to think about it or plan...but as we have gotten more settled and comfortable, I didn't realize what was happening but one day I woke up and just had this strong feeling that I was done, that I couldn't do it anymore.  I wasn't sure exactly what that meant but I knew I had to change things up.

I send a text to one of my homeschool mommy friends that morning and said something like "so I think I'm done.  I just found out there is a Christian Montessori School not far from here my kids could go to part time and still be technically homeschooled.  Why am I not doing that?????"  She called me back in response and was such an angel to me in that moment.  She reminded me that we are pioneers of our own lives...we can make out own path, it doesn't have to match up with what anyone else is doing.  We don't need everyone's approval of what we are doing...we just need to pray and figure out what works best for us and our own family.  I mean that's one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling, being able to tailor and design your own life and schedule to what best suits your own families needs, personalities and learning styles.  She reminded me to just think about some main goals and focus the most on those and not stress so much about everything, and if that means skipping things in the manual then so be it...if it's impossible to not stress over what the manual suggests, then PUT IT AWAY and just focus on doing what you family needs to do.  Be a pioneer.
That conversation breathed new life into me and thus into our home.  Since then, I put the manual away, we focused soley on reading as it was such a struggle and then just did the daily math practice.  And then when times were right, I would still bring out some of our curriculum material and read about pioneer children stories from our book American Pioneers and Patriots, which inspired hours of play afterwards...The result of this experiment?  My daughter went from like 0-60 with reading in a short amount of time (about 3 months).  It went from us fighting over having her read 1 sentence and falling on the floor resisting and stalling to her being so obsessed with reading that it's starting to drive my husband  Yes even good things can drive you crazy! lol.  She now proclaims "Reading is my LIFE!"  The most exciting thing for her is if she can get a new book.  She is currently gotten immersed in the Boxcar Children series and also devoured Heidi and Pollyanna by The Illustrated Classics.  She is turning 8 this month and reads herself to sleep every night.  She is officially a book worm.  She reads a lot during the day now too so I am finding more time to start working more with my 4.5 year old with his pre-reading skills.

Adventures in US History by My Father's World is a great curriculum .  If you really are looking for a curriculum I would definitely recommend it.  I still use the resources that came with it even though we aren't really "doing" it.  But by putting the manual away I've found other things that help with the same topics that give my daughter more independence in her learning as well.  For example, I found a great app that teaches all about the 50 states, it includes spelling, facts and quizzes.  I also found a fun game called Frontier Heros in the App store.  It has different games for different eras....there are native american games where they have to harvest and grind corn for corn cakes, shoot an target with an arrow etc to revolutionary war games of Paul Revere riding and your have to ring as many bells and jump over obstacles, to pioneer/cowboy games like the Pony Express, The Railway etc. They are all fun engaging games that teach about those teach era and activity.  So using some technology to add some independent learning and enrichment on along with the independent reading, it has really freed me up just in time for the toddler tantrum phase and also now we are able to do a lot more of what we enjoy.  A lot more child led learning where we persue their interests in more depth, have more time for creativity and honestly, sometimes all it takes is reading them a story based on children in a certain time period and then they create outfits and go into that world playing for the rest of the day.

Here was a day we read about a pioneer family.  As I read the story I changed the names of the characters to my kids names.  They made me read it again and the second time acted it out.  They put a blanket over the Rody horse toy and made it look a like a sheep and pretended to sheer it, they went outside pretending the cats were wildcats and just actually were pioneer children in their minds.  The freedom from a rigid agenda allows us to roll with it and after that one historical story the rest of the day was played out and all the information about that time period included in the story was forever imprinted on their little brains because they brought it to life.  The same thing when we read about Vikings, rather than just some word they heard but don't remember, we created props and a set and they played it out for 2 days.  So all this to say was that whatever it is in our lives, how we homeschool, how we live, how we raise or kids, whether you homeschool or not, now matter what it is, be a pioneer.  Spend less time trying to figure out what's working for everyone else and trying to copy and live up to everyone else's expectations and norm, and trust the Lord and yourself and your family in being pioneers in your own life.

I thought of this mental image while driving one day and want to make up prints for the schoolroom/playroom.

 Know when to...

Go with the Flow

Fight the Current

Sail to the Unknown

I learned that for me, who never liked school growing up and thought it was jail for kids...I don't do best trying to replicate "school" at the house and "playing" teacher.  I realized that when my kids were younger and they learned to crawl, walk, baby signs, talk, colors, numbers etc, I didn't have structured time where I became "teacher" and forced the skill to be learned during those designated times.  It happened naturally and organically.  I delight in helping my kids grow, learn and develop and I've also learned to trust them.  My daughter didn't walk until she was about 17 months old, according to charts that's getting to be developmentally delayed.  But as a 7 year old she is doing amazing in competitive gymnastics.  If I believe that we are created in God's image, I relate that to having intelligence, then I should trust that God has given them a mind that wants to learn and engage with the world around them.  My job is to fan the flames and mentor them along, not input and program information into them.  The intelligence is already there, I need to just not get in the way by trying to control it.  BUT I know everyone is different, some kids loved school, worksheets and listening to the teacher, and if their kids are like them, then they probably enjoy having a structured "school" setting at home with mom being "teacher" and that's cool too, because as I said, rather than look around at what everyone else is doing, do what works for you and create whatever environment you and your family thrives in best.  Just be a pioneer and discover your own environment that works best, if you are struggling to figure out what is best for your family, then just ask.  The Lord will lead you in the right direction, it's just a matter of trusting Him and letting Him lead you even if it's unknown territory for you and you don't know how to explain it to others.  If you are going in the right direction, you will be content and suddenly not care about about trying to explain to others how you live your life and if they approve or not.  You can just love them where they are at and be blessed that you are happy where you are at.  For me, not switching from teacher to mom all the time but JUST BEING MOM, and mentoring and teaching them as MOM in a natural, organic way has for us, led to actually more productive days than when I was stressing over getting everything on an imposed checklist done.  I came across an article the other day that referred to it as "The tyranny of curriculum"  and I think it was the same article but can't remember, that also compared how if we let curriculum or any other self imposed agenda rule our lives, it can be like an idol in our lives.

The Lord has been so gracious to have already given us everything we could ever need.  An intelligent mind, a body, a soul a beautiful earth to live on and discover, family and friends and most importantly, salvation through his grace and forgiveness.  He only gave us 2 commandments during His life here on earth, to Love God with all our hearts, and to love one another.  If we are all wrapped up in keeping up with a curriculum that it causes us stress, anxiety and worry AND causes us to get angry and frustrated with our kids on a regular basis and we are so busy with that we don't have time to think about others, especially our husbands....well...where does that honor God?  I'm not knocking people who use curriculum and saying they aren't honoring God because many people can do it beautifully if it fits their personality and their kids personality styles but for those of us it doesn't...there is no reason to force ourselves to do something that isn't working for us.  If the call to homeschool is clear to you, yet it isn't making sense because you thought it would be better than what it is...well...just remember, you are free to be a pioneer.  And if you are doing things that aren't working for your family, but are doing them to meet expectations of a spouse or other family member, then just pray for them.  If The Lord can put something on your heart, He can put it on their heart too.  I've prayed many times "Lord, I want to be one with my husband and let him lead so please don't put something on my heart and not work it out in his heart too so I don't have to fight him on it" and The Lord has amazed me with that time after time, sometimes it takes a couple of months but He does answer that prayer.  When The Lord does work something out in my husbands heart that He had previously put in mine and my husband ends up bringing it up, I KNOW that is the best confirmation I can get that I am following the Lord's guidance and not just imagining it! lol!

Here is a song I LOVE by Beckah Shae that can inspire you as you seek the Lord's guidance for the direction of your own life

So in sum, for us as far as homeschool...what it's come down to is a mashup of Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson, relaxed eclectic, interest-led/holy spirit led, unschoolish....if that makes sense...but not school at home.  My heart just wasn't in that method, at all.  So now I just have to decide if we will do Classical Conversations next year, I'm definitely not a Classical Education Homeschool but CC is fun and we enjoy it and they cover a lot there but we shall see.  I love Classical Conversations but the more I learn about our style it may not be for us as we decided where to spend our time and resources.  I think of Abraham Lincoln, he went to school for 1 year and hated it.  HIs step mother loved him very much and let him stay home after that and fostered his love of reading books.  He was allowed to read to his hearts content and became a self learner for life.  That is my desire for my kids.  I don't need to create a "school" at our house, but foster and mentor them in their God given intelligence, direct and inspire them into becoming self learners and be free to seize the moment by not having our schedule too bogged down and rigid.

After writing this I decided to post a couple videos along..but there are many videos out there but I likes these.

If you are unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason there is a lot of info about it out there but here is a great video about it

Intro to Thomas Jefferson Education

Homeschooling Class DIsmissed

Delight Centered Learning

Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life

Saturday, February 21, 2015

He Doesn't need me...

I just Wanted to share something that recently happened in my life.  I have this best friend of 10+ years who had been going through A LOT and I live cross country from her.  Between my dad's health declining with ALS and my best friends life going really rough, it pains me to be so far away and unable to physical be there for them.  Of course I pray for them daily but I can't DO much this far away.  Well the last 3 weeks I was back visiting my parents and helping my mom get their new house decorated and more homey for them since they had to move 6 months ago to a place that my dad could get around in his motor chair.  While there  spending time visiting my parents I had 2 opportunities to make it over to the city where my friend lives, and it was perfect timing too because her baby was having heart surgery so I could actually be there to serve her in person and be the friend I wanted to be and show Her God's love.  

She doesn't have any type of community that would get her signed up on meals and stuff like that you may get from a play group, MOPS or church community so I wanted to stock her kitchen with lots of easy meals and whatever else I could while there.  I was very concerned about her being cared for in that way and had even considered calling a MOPs group or something near her and asking them to bless her with was a big concern for me.  I've prayed many times to The Lord to pour out His love on her over the last year so she would KNOW His now I was going to show it to her by being the best friend I could.  But come the day I was to go over, my son got the flu and I couldn't leave.  My path was blocked and as I was dissapointed, I really felt that for whatever reason it was meant to be that way, so I just looked forward to my next opportunity to see her before we flew back home.  

That last day my path was continually blocked again, we had a rental car situation that my husband has NEVER had before and he rents cars all the time for work so that put a huge dent in our day getting over there.  Once we made the drive over, thing after thing caused delays and at the end if the day I was not only unable to go to the store and bring her any groceries but I ended up showing up completely empty handed...not a card or anything for her or the baby who was just released from the nicu.  All I had to offer was me and some hugs.  I was like what the heck this is sooooo opposit my plan.  But....

While I was there she shared something with me, earlier that week as my path was being blocked to come see her the first time, she had credit card fraud which, for some reason, when she purchased vitamins and a small high chair seat on amazon the vitamins went through but not the high chair even though it was the same order.  So she decided to go on her local city neighborhood Facebook swap & trade page and ask if anyone had a high chair and this woman had one that she gave her for free.  When she saw the lady's profile picture it was the symbol for the same health issue her baby was having surgery for.  When she picked up the high chair she had this weird feeling like she knew her already.  That woman then asked my friend if she could post about her situation on the Facebook page they met on anonymously and my friend was surprised but said ok.  In no time she had meals lined up for the next 3 months, people wanting to help clean house each week, people bringing loads of groceries and dinner gift cards, the outpouring of love and support...from strangers...was totally amazing.

As I left her place that night, I was driving across a long bridge that leaves the city and I felt The Lord tell me "I don't need you.  I have angels everywhere". I couldn't help but laugh!  Like I was a little offended like I've invested so much in this friendship and prayed so much for her and I wasn't able to "do" anything for her but The Lord ANSWERED those prayers and did more than I or any of the other handful of people available could have on our own.  I was just supposed to be her friend and pray for her in this situation and it taught me to trust The Lord even more because He does got it...He has angels everywhere.  It's good that we are willing to be used but He doesn't always need us to do the job that He can do better through someone else.  It was also humbling because no matter how good our intentions, we aren't going to single handedly BE God to others even if we don't realize that's what we are trying to be.  We don't need to be anxious and worry that if we can't be the ones physically being there with someone than God's going to miss them.  That he can't reach them without our involvement.
He loves His children.  He has angels everywhere and our prayers for others do more good than what we, on our own strength, can attempt to do for them.   So, while I was bummed at first He didn't want to use me in this situation to fill a need I knew was there, I am relieved to know His love and His ways far outdo whatever we can think of and so the best thing we can ever do is pray, trust The Lord with it, and move and act when God leads and inspires you to and gives you the grace to do so.  In this situation it was so obvious He was not giving me the grace to do what I thought I needed to and wanted to do, and I am so glad knowing what he was orchestrating behind the scenes meanwhile as he blocked me for now, more LOVE from more people is flowing out into the world, love from neighbors who are strangers but what a good loving father He is to pour His love on my friend with the love of people in her community and giving all those people the opportunity to love their neighbor.  

So, if The Lord tells you He doesn't need you, don't be offended...let others and continue to pray and be ready for when He does.  His ways are above our ways.  

This situation as well as my parents situation living with ALS, is a good reminder of Newton's Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposit reaction.  In both situations of difficulty, the reaction is love and tender mercies poured out and shared by many people in their communities.  It kills me not being close to my parents as they live with ALS, but they too have received an outpouring of love, help and service from members of their community and church.  It still hurts not living closer to them but I now more fully understand....There are angels everywhere.  We can't be everywhere we may wish to be and serve those we may wish to serve but we can pray for them and be ready to serve those we are granted to grace to serve and love.