Monday, June 30, 2014

First Day of School 2014-2015


 What I want to be when I grow up:


 I've been taking this same picture since Daniel was in kindergarten.
I can't believe how these kids have grown.  








Sweet Zucchini Pancakes

Sweet Zucchini Pancakes 

2 cups grated zucchini (squeeze out the liquid)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
2 eggs
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Grate zucchini and squeeze as much liquid out as you can.  
Combine wet ingredients with the zucchini (milk, eggs, vanilla and butter).  
Mix flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and spices.  
Combine all ingredients together.  

Cook on a griddle at 350 degrees just like you would normal pancakes.  
Serve with butter and syrup or your favorite fruit topping.  

The Chicken Chick 
 Homestead Barn Hop
Eating Inside the Box

Sunday, June 29, 2014

7 Reasons Why I Decided to Try Year-Round Schooling

All my years in the public school system as a student and then as a teacher have always influenced the way I look at our school schedule. You can't do something for 20+ years without creating certain habits.   We've been home schooling officially since 2005 with a schedule similar to the public school system.  We have not always lined up with the local school systems start dates, but have managed to have a VERY LONG summer every year.  I usually compensate for our long summer by having my kids do just a bit of school work.  We take very limited breaks during the school year, but schedule days for projects, field trips, game days and other unstructured (aka limited textbook) learning.   

Going into our TENTH year of home schooling, I decided to mix things up a bit.  Sometimes you just need a change. 

So, we are starting school TOMORROW.  Yes, we are starting school before July.  Some people who are reading this are freaking out and thinking how horrible.  What torture for her kids?  Actually, my kids are very excited.  Two of them have pulled out school books TODAY in anticipation of their first day.  

Here are 7 reasons why I decided to try year-round schooling:

1.  It's really not that big of a deal or THAT different

I used to think year-round schooling was quite revolutionary.   When I started to investigate how that would work for us,  I realized it's not so different that our lives are going to experience an upheaval.  It's just a unique way to go about planning our school year.  If we do not like it for some reason, we can always just adjust our schedule back next year. 

2. The endless summer

I'm so burned out by the end of April that I cannot wait until the summer.  We would get our 180 days in as soon as possible and then have an almost 12 week summer.  It was becoming an endless summer.  Even though we had a long break, I never used that time to rejuvenate to the point that I felt good about the summer.  I am productive,  but also fall back into habits, like staying up too late, that are horrible to get out at the start of the school year.  

3.  More breaks, instead of one long break

We are doing 9 weeks of school-1 week off.  Christmas break will be 3-4 weeks and we'll have a 6 week summer.  We will be doing some shorter weeks at the beginning of the school year, because of holidays and summer fun. 

4. School and summer fun--Why not both?

One argument I've always made AGAINST year round schooling (aka short summers) was that I liked to relax during the summer.  By the time, we were done with our almost 12 week summer, I was on the verge of apathy.  Too much free time can be counter-productive.  My family has more fun when we have structure in our lives.  (See my thoughts on Summer Structure)

We are also early birds, so our school is usually finished by lunch. We have plenty of time for summer fun with friends and family. 

5.  Smaller planning units

When you've been home schooling for several years, it can be natural to start feeling some burn out.  I'm excited about planning for nine weeks, then taking a break.  If things aren't working, we can change things up after the nine-week time period.  It's easier to keep things organized.  

6.  Better retention and excitement about learning

Students can experience burnout just like teachers/parents.  My hope is that with this new schedule my students will be able to stay excited about school throughout the year without that semester-end slump.  I'm hoping that our math and writing skills will be improved with less time in between instruction. 

7. I'm learning to let go...

I will be the first to admit that I am a perfectionist.  In the past, I've overhauled my house in the summer, had in-depth plans in place, and things ready to go for the first day of school.  It's taken ten years, but I'm realizing that it's okay just to go with the flow a bit more.  I have our curriculum (well, most of it), the first week of school planned and our schedule mapped out.  I'm going to tidy up the dining room before bed and just go with it.  There is a feeling of freedom in that.  Things do not have to be perfect for you to start school.  

All the pencils don't have to be new!   
The house doesn't have to be spotless!
Go with what you have and build from there!  
Don't be afraid to try something new!

I have always loved learning new things.  I'm excited to see what new things our new schedule will open up for us this year.   

hip homeschool hop

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Life Lessons

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 
Isaiah 43:2 

There comes a time when you just have to face your fears head-on... 

For as long as I can remember I've been scared to learn how to swim. I've always felt I couldn't do it or I had this irrational fear of drowning. JP has wanted me to take lessons for a long time. I've always kinda put it off---no time, his work schedule, we're so busy with the kids, and the list goes on. The main reason being---I was scared! Scared of learning, scared of failing, scared of being embarrassed... 

Well, everything just fell into place this summer. My kids have taken swim lessons for years at Maryville College. During our years, it's been my privilege to become friends with Tanya, the swim professor. She is one of the most encouraging people I've ever met! I've had four lessons so far and I'm doing things I thought I would NEVER do--like floating by myself, putting my entire face under the water, among many other things. 

There are still moments where I have this emotional response and panic, but I'm learning more than just how to swim!

Learning to trust someone else... 
Learning to let go of "my" comfort zone... 
Learning to let go of blaming my past for my present hang-ups... 
Learning to push myself past the fear... 
Learning that I CAN do this... 

This is really hard for me, but I know it's something that I HAVE to do. Not everything in life is going to come easy at first... "and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:4-5) 

The Bible says a lot about fear and the word is almost always proceeded by DO NOT! God, the Creator knew we, as humans would need to hear this message a lot! I'm so thankful that He tells me over and over again that HE is with me and that I DO NOT have to fear! He has sent me an encouraging husband, an awesome coach and the will to keep going! 

I may FEEL the emotion of fear/panic, but I will not let it keep me from doing what I NEED to do. He is with me! 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 
Isaiah 41:10 

  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
 Deut. 31:6

Monday, June 23, 2014


Yesterday wasn't the greatest day....

We arrived at our friend's house for church and I accidentally shut the car door on Tera's fingers.  She was pulling herself out of the car with her left hand as I was closing the door.  We rushed her to the ER nearest where we were and then proceeded to wait for almost 2 hours before seeing someone!  By the time we left, we had been there close to 4 hours. (From here on out, if it's not a head injury or needs an ambulance, we're sticking with our Urgent Care Center)  As it is, no bones were broken (or at least none they could see on x-rays).  Her middle finger has an "abrasion" (fancy word for a big scrap) from the nail almost to the knuckle.  They had to put a hole in her finger nail.  It's going to look bad for a while. 

This morning,  I realized even though the situation was stinky from beginning to end, we have a lot to be thankful for:

  • A few more inches and Tera's hand or all her fingers could have been broken.
  • We have health insurance and a reasonable deductible.  Payment plans are not the end of the world!
  • Prayers of our friends and family.  
  • Tera's pain after treatment has been minimal.  After they numbed her finger, she was feeling so much better.  The numbing was still there when she went to bed hours later.  She only took an ibuprofen and slept most of the night.  
  • Phones with texting abilities.  JP and I were able to keep each other up-to-date with what was going on.
  • Since we were on the way to church, I had some food in the trunk (mostly non-perishable--muffins, cheese, strawberries and bananas).  My boys had a parking lot picnic.  Things would have been so much harder for JP if he had two hungry boys on his hands.
  • That we are used to saying "I'm sorry!" in this family and we also are ready to forgive!
  • Our family can laugh together even in hard times.  Tera and I were making each other smile and laugh while we were together waiting for treatment.  I will say, her smiles were in abundance after they numbed her finger.  That needle was pretty long...that was no laughing matter!  
 God is gracious, faithful and ever-present with us in our daily trials.  We never know why things happen the way they do, but we get through them only through His power and strength!  

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!"
Psalm 136:1

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hodge Podge~ Week in Review

Our last week in no particular order...

A new haircut and swim lessons for ME this summer!  I'm getting over my fear of the water and it's been really wonderfully freeing!   

Cute flip-flop cookies Tera made for our Bible study.  I have been coming away feeling so encouraged every Wednesday night of our study!  It was been an awesome experience this summer!

Last Saturday, Tera and Daniel participated in a small tournament at our local chess club.  It was for all the kids who have USCF membership to establish their ratings.  They are going to have these on a more regular basis.  Tera did better than she's ever done at a tournament, but Daniel struggled.  We talked about how you learn more from losing than from winning sometimes.  He has matured so much and took his losses in stride and is so much the better for it.  I'm so proud of Daniel for that!!

While Tera and Daniel are at chess, Michael and I have been the dynamic duo at the children's programs.  Last Saturday, we heard all about the Appalachian Bear Rescue organization that rehabilitates bear cubs for release back into the wild. 

Daddy and his crew on Father's Day

We surprised the kids by taking them to see Turbo in the Carmike Summer Movie Series yesterday. JP took a half day off of work and met us there. Seeing their faces when Daddy showed up was priceless! (He cannot do things like that often). This was Michael's first movie in a theater.  He enjoyed himself so much. 

Then, JP brought Michael home and I took Tera and Daniel to the library for chess club. I got over 2 hours of just me time!  I read (almost a whole book) and listened to classical music on my MP3 player.  It was so relaxing, I almost fell asleep! 

I picked up some burgers and fries from the grocery store to make for a quick dinner.  It turned out to be one of the best days this summer!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing with Sharon Watson Review


Every teacher has a subject that they shudder at the thought of teaching.  That one subject that you think you just couldn't possibly teach successfully.  Teaching writing can be overwhelming! Even though you are accomplished at something, it's not always easy to communicate that knowledge in a way that your student will become just as accomplished.  

Questions can plague your mind:

How do I grade my student's writing?
What should I cover in a year's time?
What does an "A" paper look like?
How do I break up writing an essay into easy-to-follow lessons for different level writers?

All those questions and more are answered in the writing courses by Sharon Watson. 

"Teaching without fear!  
Students writing without dread!"

Who is Sharon Watson?
"My husband Terry, whom I met in college in Upstate New York, and I homeschooled for 18 years but were forced to quit when we ran out of children. During our children’s school years, I taught literature, composition, and Indiana history to homeschool students, led a homeschool group, and established a group where there was none. Since then, I’ve enjoyed teaching middle school and high school composition, fiction writing, and literature to homeschool students."

The three programs:
Jump In  
Price:  $30 student book; $10 teacher's guide
Grade level:  5th-8th
Price:  $39.98 student book; $14.98 teacher's guide
Grade level:  9th-12th
Price:  $25.05 student book; $9.95 teacher's guide
Grade level:  9th-12th

What we liked about The Power in Your Hands
  • Multi-leveled This writing program is designed to be used with both beginner/reluctant and advanced writers.  The lessons actually give adaptation suggestions for each level.

  • This program can be used for two years of high school writing by combining the daily assignments, essays and the 14-Minute Writing Surges.  (Don't have two years?  Check out the website for suggestions on using this program in a year!) 

  • Easy to follow design!  No guessing about how much constitutes a daily lesson for the student or teacher.  The Power in Your Hands was already divided into 108 lessons that even have a visual prompt to alert students working at their own pace where to stop for the day.  

  • Versatile format that can be used for homeschool, co-ops, and traditional classrooms.

  • Affordable and reusable!  With three children, this is a very important issue for me.  This program can be used with all your students simultaneously or in separate years.  It is totally reusable from year to year!

  • College prep  When students complete the Writing Fiction in High School and The Power in Your Hands they will be more than well prepared for any college writing assignment.

  • The teacher's Grade Toolbox!  I absolutely loved this feature.  The author takes you through the various components to grading writing assignments.  "How to Earn an..."  gives a sample paper with notes for each grade.  The grading rubrics for the various assignments take the guesswork out of giving grades! 

  • Step-by-step writing and proofreading.  Students are taught each skill in small steps leading up to a full essay.  I tried this program with my upcoming 7th and 8th grade students.  They did not feel overwhelmed at the pace or the daily assignments.  

At first, my students weren't so sure they would like non-fiction writing, but this program opened up exciting new skills for them.  They truly cannot wait to dive into the full program! 

I was very pleased with this writing program and fully plan to use it for our high school years.  It calmed my fears about teaching a subject that can be quite subjective.  The Power in Your Hands takes the guesswork out of teaching writing!

To find out more:
Free resources:

To read other reviews, visit Homeschool Mosaics!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jam-Packed Week

One more picture from VBS...

Tera made a beautiful and delicious cake for Pentecost Sunday (the birthday of the Church)

Michael has been entertaining himself (and driving me crazy) with lots of paper...

It's just not summer without snow cones!

This week we've hosted lots of night we had our mother/daughter Bible Study and the next night a girls' game night.  My menfolk had to go out one night and stay upstairs the other.  I think we need to do some boy stuff soon, so they don't lose their minds. 

Oh, and I had my first EVER swim lesson!  I have a great instructor.  I felt so great when it was over.  I floated all by myself and put my face under the water, which are such huge feats for me.  I cannot wait to get past this mental block and really start swimming!  It's only a matter of time!  

Daniel composing the music to "The Departure of Boromir" from The Lord of the Rings book. 

Chess club, returning a rental flute and just life in general.  It has been a  fun, jam packed week!


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