Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reflecting on Jesus during the Christmas season

Here we are, barely out of the turkey leftovers, and quickly entering the CHRISTmas season.  I struggle with keeping my children grounded in the fact that Christmas isn't all about presents and Santa because that message is all around us; in catalogs, television ads, in the stores and in the news....but in fact, Christmas isn't about those things AT ALL!  Last year, I decided I wanted to implement another facet to our Christmas traditions, one that I had the opportunity to participate in as a child during my CCD (Catechism) classes and during the Sunday masses of the Advent season.  I wanted to work on a Jesse Tree with the kids.  Of course, I waited too long and didn't have much time to prepare and had lots of difficulty finding  just the right branches to use.  You can create your own "paper" tree branches to hang on the wall, but I wanted the real thing...real branches...from the nature that GOD created for us.  It's how I remembered it, and how I wanted to do it in our home.  Since I couldn't find anything that would work, we never got to create a Jesse Tree last year, sadly.  Now the Christmas season is upon us again and of course, the thoughts of creating a Jesse Tree came to surface in my memories.  I thought that I would venture out into the woods behind our new home this weekend and find something.   Today after Church, just like most Sundays, the kids go to play on the playground on the Church grounds.  I was so wonderously surprised to see 2 GREAT and PERFECT branches that I could use for our Jesse Tree.  Well, first I found one that was a bit lopsided only having branches sprouting out on one side.  I thought to myself, that just won't do.  I need it to have branches on both sides.  I turned around and there was another set of branches, perfectly fit so that when I tie them together, they are perfect for what we will use it for!!!  I've included some pictures here


Now, I suppose some of you will wonder to yourselves...WHAT is a Jesse Tree?  The best way to explain it is it is a set of bare branches used to hang ornaments from that depict the story of Creation through the birth of Jesus, our Savior!  Each day we will read a passage from the Bible and participate in a family devotional.  That is the message of Christmas I want my children to learn; that there is NO GREATER gift than that of the gift of  JESUS CHRIST, our LORD and SAVIOR!!! 

Would you like to learn more about Jesse Trees and how to create one for your home?  Here are some resources that I pulled from to create our Jesse Tree and to learn more about the tradition.  I hope that you will enjoy using them with your family. (this is the set of ornament templates we will use.  I really liked the colors and clipart on these)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Homekeeping with a Happy Heart

Let's face it, not many people really ENJOY the tasks involved in homekeeping...well, at least I don't.  And my kids certainly don't either.  Nonetheless, they are tasks that MUST be done.  Over the last few days, I seem to have had a change of heart though...not that I enjoy the tasks any more than I did, but that my perspective and attitude seem to be changing.  I recently attended a Seminars for Encouragment and Enrichment at our Church.  One of the sessions was presented by a mom of TWELVE!  I know how much clutter and chaos happens in my own home and I only have five children and one is off to college.  I figured I really needed to listen to what she had to say.  If she could manage a house, homeschool, take care of all those children and still smile at the end of the day and maintain her sanity, well then I could too!  One question was on how to keep the house clean with all those family members passing through her home non-stop.  She mentioned that her strategy was that each person had a task in the kitchen and in addition to being responsible for their own bedroom space, each was responsible for another space/room in the house entirely.  I thought about this one long and hard.  Today I finally sat down with the kids and discussed it with them, along with some ground rules.  We decided that as far as the extra room/space and kitchen duties go, each child would hold those particular tasks for a month and then they would be rotated.  I decided the best thing to do for the first month was to assign the tasks/rooms myself and then as they are trained in those tasks, they can determine if they can find an easier or more efficient way of handling the task.  Here are some of the tasks we determined needed to be done in the kitchen.

  • pick up the trash

  • set the table/island (we actually use our island as our eating area)

  • wash counters

  • sweep floor

  • clear table/island

  • straighten chairs/put away

  • wash dishes

  • clean inside refrigerator

  • clean inside microwave/stove

  • dry dishes

  • mop floor

  • wash down stove

  • put dishes away

  • wash down refrigerator

  • wash down microwave

  • take out trash

Now these tasks have different frequencies, but most are at least once a day, if not more.  Each child (of those at home) has 3 tasks to do, Mom (me) has 3 tasks and Dad gets 1.  Additional tasks are cooking (mom or dad), organizing cabinets, cleaning out the pantry closet.  Mom will most likely take on those tasks with some recruited help.

Our common area rooms include: living room, upstairs bathroom, upstairs hallway/stairs/coat closet, downstairs hall/laundry area, downstairs bathroom, classroom, and basement storage area.   Each person will be responsible for one of these areas entirely.  Of course, we'll continually work on training to keep things in order so the job isn't so overwhelming.  All these tasks will be covered by specific children during the month of November.  I'll re-evaluate then and hopefully move forward.  I really am looking forward to a less chaotic space.  I'd love to hear YOUR ideas on how to take the chaos out of homekeeping while homeschooling (or even while working outside of the home).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Moms learn, too!

I find it a little funny that the kids think they are the only ones who have to do school work or need to learn new things, but that just isn't so. When we moved, I went on a quest to find a new Church home. A Church that would be welcoming to families, welcoming to children with special needs and give opportunities for continued learning for all of us...I found that place at Merrimack Valley Baptist Church. I'm not Baptist by birth, I was actually raised Catholic. My husband is Protestant and grew up in the Baptist Church. Before we moved we actually attended a Community Church that was a plant of a Christian Reformed Church. MVBC has been wonderful, I believe, for our family. I truly believe that we were led to this Church for a reason....and here's why. They sponsor an AWANA club, which is a group that we've wanted to get the kids involved in and they are all having a wonderful time. The boys got to do some ministry at a local nursing home last Sunday. Surprisingly they were very excited about it and really understood why it was so important to go. The girls are hoping to join other girls in their group this Saturday for a hiking trip and they will also be participating in Operation Christmas Child. This Church also offers Sunday School, not only for the kids but for the adults too! Tom & I looked over their offerings and decided that we would take the "Growing Kids God's Way" course by the Ezzo's. They founded Growing Families International. This class is certainly changing how we (Tom & I) act towards each other and to the kids...certainly we're just in the beginning stages, but it's certainly one of those reasons why I feel we were led here to this Church. This weekend I will be going to Seminars for Enrichment and Encouragement. The two seminars I chose are one by a mom of 12 children (certainly if she can handle 12, I can handle 5! Perhaps she'll have some pointers I can use to help me see things in a better light LOL! The other is one on holiday entertaining and decorating. The other thing I like about this Church is that they have a specific Special Needs Ministry and a homeschool group.

So, you see kids, learning really never ends.....moms (and dads) learn, too!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Struggling with ADHD and non-cooperation

Well we are started on our second year of homeschooling and the children really seemed excited for the year to start...especially with the new "classroom" space....but a few weeks in, and I'm feeling the same old emotions of frustration and failure.....I just can't seem to get ANY of them to sit and listen to the lesson or to work on what they should to reinforce the lesson. My son, diagnosed with ADHD, is the worst offender of this. When I am able to get him downstairs, he's constantly distracting everyone else, fighting, running up the stairs, running outside, etc. If not for anything else, I'll get MY exercise in! Seriously though, it's really got me re-thinking this decision to homeschool....if not just him, but all four of them. But what are my options...send them back to public school or send them to private school? One option brings back the dreaded IEP's and struggles to get the kids what they need and the other brings a financial burden I'm sure that our family wouldn't be able to handle right now...but how do you teach a child that tells you he doesn't like you as a teacher or shows absolutely no interest in learning? I wish I had some answers, some instant solution that would make the struggles go away. It reminds me of the story "The Little Engine that Could"......I have to remember to pray, pray HARD, and remember the little engine's mantra..." I think I can, I think I can....I know I can, I know I can...."....can't I?

Friday, September 3, 2010

On your mark, get set, GO!!!!

We've been working on setting up our new classroom area (wow, I'm still amazed that we have a dedicated "classroom" area) and the kids have all sorts of ideas, as do I!  I certainly got a lot of inspiration from  the photos that were posted by other homeschoolers on The Homeschool Channel's Facebook page.  You can visit their page at!/thehomeschoolchannel?ref=ts.  We have loaded up on books from at least 2 different libraries!  I am so thrilled that the kids love going to the library!!!  We're currently working on learning about hurricanes and tracking Hurricane Earl.  I don't think it's going to affect us much, but thought it would be useful for them to track...they are going to learn about mapping skills - latitude and longitude, how storms form, how they move, what things determine intensity and more, well hopefully.  Some other things we'll be working on is continuing our studies on Shakespeare, starting a study on WWII (I found a GREAT book that not only teaches them about WWII but has 21 activities to reinforce what it felt like to live during that era...things like extending butter (to learn about rationing", planting a victory garden and so much more.)

We've also got books on Drawing, Frogs & other animals, and Bullying.   One other thing we are learning about, and not sure this is a subject we'll be able to learn from a book, is how to respond to people who question what we are learning and why.  I'm sure this will always be a struggle, especially between homeschoolers and public schoolers.  I'm not trying to pit one group against another, but I know that it is a reality.  And for the first time, we are experiencing it.  My kids were pretty upset yesterday when some of the neighborhood kids told them it was stupid of us to be tracking Hurricane Earl since it wasn't going to hit us.  But like I said before, they are learning so much from tracking and it opens it up for us to learn about other hurricane related information.   We can also talk about Hurricane Katrina, which I still cannot believe happened 5 years ago already, and how important preparedness is and how devastating the results can be when you're not....oh the possibilities this could branch off into!!!

All in all, it's going to be a GREAT year of learning and I'm ready to get going!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's official - we're moving

In my last post I mentioned new beginnings...well...they are coming for sure now....we have found a single family house to rent that will give us the space to have a dedicated "school" room.  I'm sure that this will mostly become "school" storage more than anything.  So with a move of this nature...moving from one state to another...comes the arduous task of purging and packing.  There is some satisfaction in removing the clutter that has become part of our lives, but only a small amount...since I am one who doesn't like to always let go of things.  The task becomes harder still when you have children who insist that those pieces of paper with scribbling on them are IMPORTANT!   I feel that the Lord led us to this place at just the right time, though.  Our original intent was to be moved by the end of June.  We looked at houses, duplexes, apartments and just none of them seemed to fit what we needed or there were concerns about location (busy streets), wet (and very mildewy, musty) basements, space and distance to my husband's place of employment.  I was getting very discouraged until a friend reminded me that it may seem like all the doors were closing but the Lord knew what he was doing and he was just preparing the way for what was right for us.  We plugged along and found a house that sits at the end of a cul-de-sac (very safe and quiet), with 4 bedrooms, a living room, family room and another room perfect for "school" use.  The yard isn't huge but it'll work for us.  It's about an hour from my husband's place of employment so that fit the bill and about 45 minutes to an hour from my husband's family.     And the timing was just right....4 of my children are off at camp for 2 more weeks which gives me the time to go through things without worrying about kids destroying the next room over while I work :-)..or kids insisting that we need this piece of paper, toys that are broken or games that are missing pieces....I can purge to my heart's content....

We are looking forward to those new beginnings and a more peaceful lifestyle......

Monday, May 10, 2010

A new home...

Well, there is a change to every season and life has no exceptions...we find ourselves looking for a new home for our family away from the town we live in now.  My husband would love to move to New Hampshire, but we are having difficulty in finding something that fits our needs, both space and budget wise.  And with a child going off to college, if we were to move out of state, it could very well affect her tuition rates as well as scholarship and grants awarded by the college...why can't anything ever be simple???

So we are looking around different towns/cities in the state we live in now and think we have leads on a couple of places...both single family (which we've NEVER lived in before) with more room.  This is a good thing because I would love to have a dedicated space for schooling to limit distractions to our work day.  We'll see how that works out. 

Not only have we been looking for a new "physical" home, I've also found a new "home" for our blog and you've obviously found it here at

Being a blogging newbie, I first tried out one blog host, but didn't care too much for the templates, so I switched to a "homeschool" blog host...they had nicer templates but I found I wasn't really updating the blog all that much (as you can see from my 9 posts over the "school year").  I came to realize that I was having difficulty figuring out how to add pictures or direct info from sites I've visited.  So tonight I decided to take a look around and research blog hosts (and look at other blogs to see who others' were using) and found Word Press.  I am impressed with the ease of adding different elements to my blog (I like things to look pretty :-)) and the variety of templates offered.  So here I am, in a new home....looking forward to really being in a new physical home :-)

May this be the start of new beginnings all around ...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is it Homeschool or is it Unschool?

Well, that seems to be the question I am faced with almost daily.  As we look to wind up our first year of "homeschooling", it's time to look back and assess.  What is going right, what is not?  What do we need to change totally or just a little?  Am I using the right approach with the kids?  So many questions...just as many as I had when we first decided to become a homeschool family.  I wonder if all those questions will ever go away...will I ever feel secure that we are doing everything we possibly can?

I watched a video today featuring Astra Taylor, a young woman and film maker who was "unschooled".  I've not done much research on the subject but the idea intrigues me.  Why?  Because my children have attention issues and to have them sit for any length of time seems to be excrutiating.  It becomes a power struggle on some days.  Because if I even mention that something fun we are doing is "school", some of my kids just totally block it out and move along on to something else...So I've backed off a little and have started to let my children guide their own learning (to an extent).  If they happen to ask a question about something or express interest in a particular subject, I go searching for resources to help guide them into learning more.

I'm still undecided if this is the right route for our family to take for a few reasons...the opinions of friends, family and other members of the communities we belong to...what will THEY think for one...another is that I'm thinking it would be wise to research it more.  I tend to sometimes jump into things before thinking things through and then it just doesn't seem that any benefit comes from it.

I guess the question is how important is the "formalness" of school as opposed to the "eduaction" of my children.  Even I know that learning is never off I go to learn about more new things

Monday, January 18, 2010

Where does the time go????

Ok, I know that in one of my previous posts I said I was going to work harder to post daily or at least more often....I really have to get better at this.....I feel like I'm being pulled in so many different directions, which is why I took a long hard look at what I do and which volunteer positions I really needed to let go of.  For anyone who knows me, this is a tremendous step on my part....ME give something up????   I have to though and I know this....there just isn't enough time in the day for everything anymore.  Homeschooling is certainly taking up ALOT of time.  I'm not complaining about that though....I actually am enjoying that very much....I didn't think I would, but I am.  Even on the most challenging days of homeschooling a child with ADHD and a child with an in utero brain injury due to stroke.  Most days, I actually feel more like a referree, than a mom or a teacher.   The most important thing to remember though, is that I have my children at home with me and for that I am very grateful.

Today is a holiday...Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Today is the perfect time for us to talk about peace.  Peace in our world, in our local community and most importantly here in our own home.  Peace and harmony....isn't it what we ALL dream about?