24 November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving today!  

I'm looking forward to a lovely day with my family.  
We'll be busy eating too much, talking too loud, and 
just enjoying being together.  

Here's what's on our menu for the day:

07 November 2016

Feeling Thankful

So it's already November!  I absolutely cannot believe how quickly this year has gone by.  

And it's not just an adult thing--my kiddos keep saying the same thing.  It makes me a little sad that they feel the years speeding up already.  I think it took me a little longer as a child for that to sink in.  

No doubt it's a sign of the busy lives we lead.  I sometimes long for quiet days with no appointments or obligations.  Days where our time is truly our own and we can take our time doing whatever we want.  Reading books, baking cookies, taking walks....

As homeschoolers, we do have much more control over our time.  But it's almost impossible to not be caught up somehow in the busyness of life in 2016.  It's a fast-paced world we live in here in the United States.

Which is perhaps why I feel a deep longing to savor this Thanksgiving season a little bit more this year.  It just seems that focusing on the gifts in my life is more important than ever.  With so much dissatisfaction in our nation, so much entitlement pervading our lives, so much complaining everywhere you listen, it leaves a bad 'taste' in one's soul if one lets it.
I believe the remedy for this sickness is gratefulness.  

So, my friend, don't rush past this season of thankfulness (which should really be all year round).  Instead let it invade your life.  Take a few moments every day to stop and think of all of your blessings--all of the gifts in your life.  It's so easy to take these for granted.  I'm so guilty of that.  I don't want to be guilty of it anymore.   

So in the morning I will brew my coffee, light my 'honey pumpkin' candle, and sit down for some quite time with God to start my day.  Hopefully I'll pause during my day to remember to be thankful.  Thankful for my children--even when they're pushing all my buttons.  Thankful for laundry, for dirty dishes, for a house to clean up.  Then, as the day comes to a close, I want to pause once again with my children and add another leaf to our garland.  Leaves with verses of thanksgiving.  And hear what they're precious hearts are thankful for.  

15 July 2016

A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages: a review & a giveaway!

Anyone else have a newly-turned teenager in their homes?  Our daughter just turned 13 back in March and we are entering new territory.

Not bad territory, mind you.  Just new and different.  I keep having to remind myself that it's time to begin allowing more freedoms and giving more responsibilities.

We are also in the throes of much angst.  Brought on by a million hormones, I'm sure.  In all of that, I am constantly reminding myself to speak my daughter's love language.

I am a big fan of Gary Chapman's books The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children.  They are chock-full of so much wisdom!  I even keep a little poster on my fridge of how to practically live out the love languages with your family.  

This new book, co-authored by Gary Chapman and Paige Haley Drygas, is A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages.  I love the subtitle: How to Understand Yourself and Improve All Your Relationships.

I wish I could have read this book when I was a teenager.  I probably would have been easier to live with..ha

This book covers the 5 love languages, of course: Words, Time, Gifts, Service, and Touch.  It also has chapters dealing with family, anger, apologies, and a Q&A chapter with Gary himself.

Throughout the chapters are text boxes that include various relationship tips--very helpful ones, I might add--and relationship warnings.  And at the very end of the book there is a love languages profile, just in case you aren't sure what yours is.

Overall, I was very impressed with this book--as I have been with Gary's other books on the 5 love languages.  He really gets right to the heart of relationship matters and give such amazing practical advice on loving one another.  I am always so convicted and inspired by the principles he lays out.  I believe this book will be incredibly beneficial to my daughter (and my son in another couple of years).

You can find this book on Christianbook.com or on Amazon for around $9.  It is also available for Kindle as well.

And about that giveaway mentioned in the title of this post....

Side Door Communications is offering a free copy of this book to one of my readers!  Just enter using the option below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by Side Door Communications at no charge in exchange for my honest opinion.  No other compensation was received and all thoughts expressed are my own.

28 June 2016

One Way I Refresh During the Summer as a Homeschool Mom

As our homeschool takes some time off this summer, my mind almost never stops thinking of and planning ahead for the upcoming school year.  This is probably because I'm Type A and an obsessive planner...lol

Whatever the reason, I do enjoy this season of planning.  

But I also need to be refreshed as a homeschool mom.  Homeschooling can be incredibly exhausting and all-consuming.  It's not easy and it's a lot of responsibility.  And I take that very seriously when I am researching curriculum and planning toward the next school year.  So also taking some time to rejuvenate and refocus myself is very important.  

How do I do this?  

Each summer I take some time to read something inspiring and motivating that speaks to me as a homeschool mom.  Some of my fave reads from past years--that I have nearby on my shelf and refer to often--are Educating the Wholehearted Child, The Well-Trained Mind, The Charlotte Mason Companion, A Thomas Jefferson Education, and Dumbing Us Down.  

This summer I am reading Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie ...and I am LOVING it.  It is just what I need right now.  I also downloaded the companion journal guide (and had it spiral bound at OfficeMax very cheaply).  It might not be completely necessary but I am appreciating it very much and it definitely helps you 'flesh-out' the key thoughts from the sections of the book.  

Also available to go along with the reading of this book are three Periscope recordings--one for each section of the book--that are really good!  Sarah is great on-camera, very relate-able and adorable, too.  

I am not finished with the book yet because I am not rushing through but trying to take time for notes and journaling ...and because we are in the midst of VBS here-ha!  It's also sometimes hard to find a quiet place and time to read (note: the above photo was taken one day when I was able to escape to my kiddos' treehouse).  But I am thoroughly enjoying my time in this book.

Taking some time in between--or even during--your schooling time to do a little personal study, reflection, and re-focusing can be a huge blessing to you as a homeschool mom and I highly recommend it.  

I'd love to hear what is refreshing to you!

15 June 2016

Summer Reading--it's the BEST!

Well, summer is in full swing around here.

School work is completed for 5th and 7th grades, VBS prep has more-than-commenced, vacation anticipation is growing, and there is LOTS of reading happening.

This is our 3rd summer to do our own family reading program.  Yes, we do partake a little in library programs and even some store-sponsored ones, but my kids' favorite (and biggest reading motivator) is the one I put together using internet resources.

You can read all about the basic program here.  This is still the main plan that we follow--hey, it works!

However, this summer, in an effort to help my kids choose more different types of books (thus not spending the entire summer on one single series--not that it's a terrible thing, just trying to add variety) I have also incorporated this reading 'map' found here.  We aren't using this entire program, just the map which has all different genres and types of books suggested.

I like to shake things up :)

And so far, so good.

I also have my own reading goals for the summer.  I love to read and summertime is my time to get lots of it in!

I am loosely following Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2016 Reading Challenge.  So far I have 3 boxes checked off.   Not too bad.

We also have a current family read-aloud (we really enjoy those) which is Pollyanna.  While I am very familiar with the story via Disney, I have never read the book.  So far it's a hit with all of us!

Before I go, I just have to tell you about my favorite book that I've read lately.  I'm still in amazement that I never heard of this book until recently.  It is utterly charming and I absolutely ADORE it: Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster.  My daughter and I have both fallen in love with it and we must share our new love with all of our fellow book-lovers!  Let me put it this way, if you love Anne of Green Gables you will also love this book.

I'd love to hear what you're reading this summer!

07 June 2016

Planning, Sorting, Purging, Organizing

It's summertime!  And for our family that means a break from schooling for the kids and lots of planning for the next year for me.

Of course, for me, that is something of a domino effect.  Planning means sorting curriculum and books that I already have.  Then I have to purge books we no longer need or want to keep.  And finally comes the organizing of what's being kept (which is always too much).  

So that's what I've been working on for the past few days.  Cleaning off shelves, making piles of books to sell, piles of books and resources to give away, and since I've put this off for so long ...a piles of my kiddos' used-up books that I need to take samples from for their portfolios then dispose of the rest.  

So a lot of piles.  

I am trying to be a bit more ruthless this year with the purging.  I have such a tendency to collect lots of great resources, only to put them on a shelf and forget about them all together.  And that helps no one, right?  I've already found several resources I could have used this past school year but had forgotten that I had them.  Bummer.  Oh well.

This summer I also continue the oh-so-belated project that I began last year: school scrapbooks for each of my kids.  Thankfully there are only two of them!  ha!  I figure if I keep plugging away at this rate I can give them as their wedding presents.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  

I'm not only busy planning for our family's homeschool for the upcoming year but also for our homeschool group.  This will be my second year to serve as the co-op director--a job I really enjoyed last year (at least, most of the time...lol).  So planning sessions for that and for our homeschool group in general begin this month!  Oh, yeah--I have a pile or two of things for those meetings as well ;)  

In the midst of all of this is some summer FUN though!  I've written a few reminder words for us on our chalkboard (probably more for me than for the kids).  Summer vacation is a good thing!

03 June 2016

Expect the Unexpected

This past weekend we were in Fort Smith, Arkansas--the city where I was born and where our children were born.  Even though we no longer live there we have lots and lots of extended family and friends in the area and were in town for a couple of family reunions.  

While there we just had to check out the latest project that Fort Smith is doing as part of the revitalization of the downtown riverfront area: The Unexpected Project.  This project is a celebration of street art and they have placed it beautifully all over the downtown area.  

My sister, my daughter, and I had fun on our scavenger hunt of sorts looking for all of these amazing murals!  They are just so beautiful and creative!  

The Fort is such an interesting area anyway.  It was the border to Indian Territory before Oklahoma became a state in 1907--so not that long ago really.  And it was one wild west town back then!  If you've seen any version of the movie True Grit ...well, that story takes place in Fort Smith and bordering modern-day Oklahoma and is most likely quite true to how life was at that time.  

If you're near the River Valley area of western Arkansas, a visit to Fort Smith is totally worth it!  Of course, we're biased because it's our former hometown, but there are some interesting sites to see there.   

Our top 5 things to recommend to first timers would be:
  1. the Fort Smith National Historic Site (Judge Parker's courthouse & more)
  2. the park at West End (ride a vintage carousel and farris wheel)
  3. the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center
  4. the Fort Smith Museum of History (don't miss the soda fountain!)
  5. Wild Things Farm
(After they get the US Marshal's museum built, that will be a great attraction, too!).  

Oh--and just for fun, some of our fave restaurants there are:
  • Green Papaya (Vietnamese food--best egg rolls ever!  Also, try the #18 with beef!)
  • Las Americas Too (for amazing tacos!)
  • George's (great burgers and gyros)
  • Joe's Cantina (great Tex-Mex)
  • Taliano's (classic Italian--get the manicotti!)
  • Geno's pizza-by-the-slice (dip your slice in their yummy ranch dressing!)
  • R Landry's (delicious Cajun food + live music!)
(Did I mention that we like to eat?)

(I think this is my fave mural of them all.  
It just fits the western spirit of the Fort.)