Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baby Steps Part 2

I have to confess with being sick and being busy, I seem to be right back where I started in the way of working out. I'm getting right back on the wagon though (finally). Yesterday I started my morning with yoga. Yesterday evening I RAN on the treadmill for the first time...not just running mind you, I alternated running and walking. Today I started the morning with yoga again. This evening I did the Ab-doer. My waist was getting smaller...now I'm maybe half an inch from back where I started.

Others might describe me as a health nut. I kind of am. But I'm really, really bad at excercising consistently. I've also been not so good at eating well lately. Not really bad eating, just not as good as I should be.

I have a battle with my body. If I'm not careful I could wind out with a major skin breakout like I've had three time in the past oh, three years, I think. We are talking all over the body, head to toe, eczema...which is just a fancy word for super dry skin that doctors don't really have a reason or cure for. Well, I have a couple reasons: stress and not taking care of myself. If I don't get a nice moisturing bath on a regular basis, use good lotions (I use Miracle II moisturizer and Forever Living Aloe and Bee Propolis Lotion, watch what I eat (not junk food, minimally processed, lots of fruit and veggies, and good oils!)...well, then there's trouble. I get mini breakouts from bad behavior, too. I start my mornings now with a mixture of Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice, C-Boost, liquid vitamins, and Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. I can tell when I've gone without it for a day now!

Anyway, now that I've sort of fallen off the wagon all over the place (though I haven't missed my morning "cocktail" for more than a day in months), I'm ready to start fresh. I've been reading about Green Smoothies on a few different websites. I finally got the nerve to experiment with them last month. I'm now on my third batch. I made a pitcher with the blender tonight and I want to start making that my main sustenece for awhile. We'll see how that goes.

The other reason I'm doing this, besides health and feeling good, is that this July 4 will be our 10th Wedding Anniversary and we're renewing our vows! We even got the preacher who married us to agree to marry us all over again. My sister will take pictures and in her words, "give me the attention that she didn't give me 10 years ago" (sorry, Sis, if I didn't quote that exactly right). She was just a teenager when I got married. I want to wear my wedding dress again.

My darling husband has been shedding pounds in the Fat Boy Challenge at work. Actually he was the first place winner this year! I'm so proud of him! I want him to be proud of me, and me to be proud of me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Homeschooling on a Budget

Do you like to save money?
Has the economy got you down?
Are you homeschooling on a budget?
Would you like to get curriculum for FREE?
Have you been wanting to try unit studies or lapbooking,
but don't know where to start?
Would you like to home school with practically no money
and still choose your own curriculum?

If you answered "yes" to more than one of these questions, then
Homeschooling on a Shoestring and Lapbooking
is the class for you!

That was the ad for my workshop at the local Mini-Conference. I shared the ad in a post back in January. I also said I would probably share my handout for the class in a later post. Well, later has arrived! The original handout was designed to be notes for the workshop, so that the attendees would not be scrambling to write things down as I shared. I have worked over the formerly five or six page handout to make it more informative for someone who was not there; now the handout is nine pages.
I start with a little bit about myself. Topics include: how to homeschool with a shoestring, Charlotte Mason, free curriculum, unit studies, lapbooking, using the library, and more. You can view and download the handout by clicking HERE.
For my own motivation, I will add that I'm thinking of taking pieces of the handout and using them as individual posts and adding pictures. Some topics could really benefit from visual aids. I had a giant laundry basket full of visual aids for my workshop. Also, I want to say "Thank you!" to my friend Lori for helping me get the handout in downloadable form!
****Someone just let me know that the PDF link is not working. I believe I fixed it just now, but you comment or e-mail me, I will be happy to attach the handout and send it to you via e-mail. Thanks for your patience and understanding.**** 2/2/2010

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reduced price for A Woman Inspired Online Conference

Well, the news in my in box was good today. I didn't win tickets to the A Woman Inspired Online Conference, but the next best thing...they are reducing the price for us till April 1 at midnight CST! Tickets are only $12.95 for a FOUR day conference (April 6th through the 9th)!!! That also includes a gift bag full of free goodies valued at over $100! How much better can it get? The conference will be recorded, so if you can't be there at the exact time it's happening, you can still download the sessions and listen later.

There is no traveling, childcare, or even makeup required. Just something to occupy the kids while you hit the computer. Then again, since you can download it later, you could always hit the computer after you put them to bed! What a deal! What a savings. The conference I was sort-of wanting to go to was going to cost me $80 for the ticket alone...not to mention food, gas, etc. I love these ladies...geniuses.

Well, check out the site at A Woman Inspired! I'll be registering before the April 1st deadline!

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Woman Inspired Conference

I am so excited! Heart of the Matter is sponsering an online Women's Conference. I know it's hard for me to get things arranged to get out of the house and go the a conference. I've managed to do it for three years now for our local Homeschool Conference, but even that always seems like a bit of an ordeal. I am so excited that they are offering online conferences (they also have their second annual online Homeschool Conference coming up!!). I couldn't make it to the Women of Faith Conference this year, but an online conference is a whole other matter!

They have a line up of great speakers including one of the founders of Heart of the Matter, Amy Bayliss, and one of my favorite authors, Shelia Wray Gregoire. To see info on the conference and the give away click HERE. Those who attend the online conference will also be entered for some great prizes and all of the attendees will get free Mandisa downloads!

Here's hoping I'm a winner!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Favorite Homeschool Planner

The topic this week at The Heart of the Matter’s Organizing Carnival is Organize your school schedule, including schedules on paper, reviews of planners, time allotted for subjects, etc. I’ve been tempted many times to try out a new planner, but I always go back to, and buy, Amy Knapp’s Homeschooling Organizer. I’ve purchased them from both Amazon.com and Amy Knapp’s website. I first discovered Amy Knapp’s Christian Family Organizer at Wal-Mart and fell in love with her style of planner.

So, what do I love about Amy Knapp’s Homeschooling Organizer? Well, there are so many things. Sadly, some of them I don’t currently use to the fullest extent. As I was thinking about writing this, I thought how much simpler I could make my life if I was using every aspect of this organizer to the fullest.

The addition to last years Organizer is one I definitely use, pockets to the front and back covers. I keep our Co-op Directory in the front, along with the kids’ Book It coupons. The back pocket contains miscellaneous papers along with the schedule for both Co-op and our Home Educator Support Group.

The first page is for personal information and emergency phone numbers. I don’t know why, but I always enjoy filling that page out, making the organizer mine. Also included in the beginning of the organizer is a yearly calendar and Amy’s tips for organizing/planning.

The back of the organizer has ten pages of useful planning pages which you can copy and use over and over including a Book Log, Chore Assignment Log, Personal Development Worksheet, Grading, Field Trip Log Ideas, Completed Field Trip Log, Budget Planning, and Individual Budget Planning. The very last section of the organizer contains Babysitter information pages and Quick Reference Children’s Organizations pages. I know that after doing this review, I will make better use of these back sections. I almost forgot they were there! The key, for me, will be to copy them at the beginning of our school year and begin filling them out right away.

The middle of the organizer is what I use the most…though I have to used this to the fullest since I had my very first Amy Knapp’s Christian Family Planner. Each month has a two page monthly planner where I put in all of our dates for Support Group, Co-op, Library, Field Trips, and the Home School Conference at the beginning of each year. It also includes a Monthly Projects list on the side. Since I am the Field Trip Chair for our Co-op, I use that to keep track of the families attending and the number of children for each field trip. I love to have this at a glance look at each month.

Then, after each month, is the two page week at a glance. The left hand side has a tear away strip Grocery and Supplies List next to a spacious Lesson Planning area divided into five spaces, with a mini-two month calendar at the bottom. The right hand side contains a tear away Meal Planning strip divided into seven sections, which are then divided into five lines to plan for meals and snacks. Next to the Meal Planning strip, is a spacious section for the whole weeks planning divided into the day and a smaller To Do/To Call and Chores spaces.

Currently, I use the Lesson Planning section as sort of journal to keep track of what we do each day and the hours we spend on each subject. Since we live in Missouri, that is what we have to keep track of, along with a portfolio each year. So, the Lesson Planning section is a stepping stone to my hours log. I haven’t been much of a detailed pre-planner these first “official” years of homeschooling, but I believe that next year, I will use the calendar days for lesson planning our school days farther ahead of time, and continue to use the Lesson Planning section for my log of what we get accomplished each day.

I did make good use of the tear off grocery list back when I got my first Amy Knapp Organizer and I’m not sure why I stopped using it. Now that I am actually planning meals for the week, I should take advantage of the meal planning list, too. I love that the Organizer is large for writing in, but I wish I could shrink it to carry in a smaller purse. I would love to have a cover for the planner…something with zipper…maybe I should get out some material and try to make what I want. Anyway, I love this planner and as long as Amy is making them, I will be buying them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Family Heritage

This weeks Friday Meme at The Heart of the Matter was My Family Heritage. They defined heritage as something passed on from previous generations. That got me thinking about something I've been wanted to write about for a while.

I have a wonderful family. The best heritage of have from them is their belief in God. I did not realize I knew a member of our family that was ever a non-believer, until I was reading a self-published book of poems and memories that my great-aunt Mearl wrote. In that book was the story of her father, my Great-grandpa Jack.

My Great-aunt titled this story "Back to the days of my childhood". I will just type from her book, since I'd like to have this saved on here both for future generations and in case something might happen to the book.

Jack and Dulcie May were united in Holy Matrimony Oct. 28, 1912. They spent some time with Grandpa and Grandma (Jack's parents).
Then came the time for them to leave to get a start in life. Dad had a team of horses, a covered wagon, a gun and a dog.
Mother had a Bible, a sewing machine and an incubator. So they loaded heir belongings and started on their way to Arkansas. Dad's dog followed all the way, but decided to go back home the next morning, which he did, back to Manes, MO.
Bill and Mert Kimbrow lived in Arkansas.
Dad and Mother moved close to them and started growing cotton to get a start in life. They worked hard and got by with what they had until they could do better. Then in Sept. 13, 1913, Marie, my oldest sister, was born. Mother and Dad were very happy, and she was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen, according to the paper.
And March 7, 1915, mother gave birth to twin girls and named them Mearl and Pearl. Pearl weighed 2 1/2 lbs. and I weighed 3 lbs. We were very small at 9 months after we were born, we all took Malaria fever, so we made our way back to Graff, MO on Beaver Creek, the place Grandpa found for Dad, our home.
Mother and Dad worked hard to provide for their children, whom they loved very much.
Mother was a Christian and taught us the Love of God. They very best teacher a child could ever have. (Misty's note: I hope one day my children can say this of me.)
She said there would come a time in our life, that we would know that we were lost and at that time we could become a child of God.
My name is Mearl, at the age of twelve years, I realized I was lost, and I wanted to be saved. We were going to a Revival at Green Mountain, also at Manes, and I was deeply troubled for two days. I was miserable, until I gave my life to God. I prayed for my Dad every night at Mother's knee. Then Mother would tuck us in bed and kneel in prayer to God.
Dad loved to go fishing, and he spent a lot of time fishing. That night for some unknown reason, his light would not burn and he came back to the house.
And Mother was still on her knees praying. He watched from the window and saw her get up and she was so happy she clapped her hands and shouted all over the house. We were asleep and she was alone.
Dad said that is the happiest woman I have ever seen. I'd give anything to be that happy. Up until that time, Dad thought that people who shouted at church were just putting on. But Dad said "I know that is real, there is no one to see her. Her children are asleep and I am fishing. Ha-Ha!"
The next morning was Sunday and Dad said "I want to go to church today. But I want to go alone." Mother had been taking us to church, so we all stayed at home and Dad rode his mule to church. He listened to the message and started home, was very heavy hearted, so he decided to ride among the trees by the side of the road, where he could be alone with God. He got down on his knees and prayed a prayer something like this: "Lord I want to know if you are really real. If you will make me happy enough to hug those blackjack trees, I will believe in you." And Dad said he became so happy that he could hardly wait to get home to tell Mother what God had done for Him.
I shall never forget that day, Mother and Dad both shouted all over that yard, and Dad told Mother that he had to tell his neighbor across the creek what God had done for him.
Then Dad came back and said, "I am still so happy, I must go tell my Dad at Manes (which was seven miles)." The happiness Dad had was real.
Dad spent the rest of his life living for God. We were truly a happy family. (End of story)

I am blessed to have had two sets of great-grandparents still living when I was born. I was around seven years old when Great-grandpa Jack died; Great-grandma Dulcie died when I was just over a year old. I saw Grandpa Jack, but only know him through stories. The first and last thing I witnessed him saying, was "Baby", my first visit to him as a baby. I don't actually remember that, of course. He was an invalid when I remember him. The author of the story, my Great-aunt Mearl, took care of him till he died at age 98. I love this story though. Such a legacy.

My Great-aunt Mearl wrote hymns. Some of which were published in her lifetime. She was a very devote woman, as was her sister, Pearl, my Grandma. My Grandma Pearl actually typed the entire Bible on a typewriter...just because.

There are so many things I could tell about my family, both sides (I have wonderful stories about my other great-grandparents...Edgar and Blanche, who were married 73 years!), but I will stick with this line for now.

So, next in my line would be my Mother, Judy. She was the youngest of six children! She lived most of growing up life on a farm in southern Missouri near a river which flooded many times. The water would go up over their neighbors houses and nearly up to their own. From my child's memory, I remember my Mother telling about when she asked Jesus into her heart. She wanted to be sure that if a flood did come up to their house, and she died, that she would know where she was going! I think she was around seven years old, give or take a year. I was seven years old, when I remember her telling me this story.

I grew up in middle Missouri, on a three acre suburb home. I had no fear of floods, but I did understand mortality at that age. Maybe around the same time great-grandpa Jack died. I remember dreaming about him dying, before it actually happened. I also remembered from Bible stories that Jesus taught people to pray in private, so I got myself into my favorite private spot, my bedroom closet, and prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. I didn't tell my Mom until a year or two later, when my brother told her he asked Jesus into his heart. I am sorry now that I kept that to myself so long, because later I realized (as Grandpa Jack did right off!) that the happiness of coming to Christ is something to share.

The story goes on with my baby sister, seven and one half years my junior. I loved her so much, I wanted to be sure that when I died she would one day join me in heaven, that I took every opportunity to witness to my my precious baby sister. She asked Jesus into her heart at age five. My brother, sister, and I were all baptised together by our Father when I was 13 years old.

My husband was raised a Catholic, I explained to him that only a personal relationship with Christ would get him into heaven. I witnessed his prayer to ask Jesus into his life, the same week we got offically engaged at his oldest sister's wedding. I remember him saying he felt a newness or a warmth right away.

I began witnessing to my children in much the same way as with my little sister. I could not imagine leaving this earth without knowing that I would be with them again. My daughter asked Jesus into her heart, on her knees, in our living room, with Daddy and baby brother witnessing, at about age 5 (I was shopping at Wal-Mart). We had just been to see her Uncle John preach. No one came forward at the invitional in the church, but his message had an impact on her little heart.

My son, asked Jesus into his heart at about age 4, sitting on our bar in the kitchen. He, his sister, and I were readig The Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado. Suddendly, he stopped me reading and asked what he needed to do to go to heaven when he died.

I know that my children were very young, but I do believe they understood. I think of Jesus saying that to come to him, we have to become like little children. I also know that they understand mortality as I did at a young age. I have never kept my children from funerals (Ellie attended her first as a baby, Wyatt as a toddler), or the knowledge that this life on earth is short. Now my job, like that of my Great-grandma Dulcie is to be the teacher they need to continue to grow in the their relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

8 Ways to a More Organized Homeschool Carnival

Well, I put the cart before the horse in posting on Clutter before posting on the 8 Ways to a More Organized Homeschool Carnival at the Heart of the Matter, but there was a deadline for the first entry. I think I would've gotten around to writing the article sooner, but we all got the stomach flu at our house. Wyatt got sick a week ago today, I got sick Sunday night, Ellie got sick Monday morning, and my Darling Husband got sick yesterday morning. So, I just squeezed in writing that post between nursing myself and all the other sick people in my house.

The Carnival is quite exciting. You can check it out by clicking on the link in the first paragraph. The weeks topics are as follows:

Weekly Topics

1. Organize your physical space: cutting clutter, ways to store books and supplies, tips for small spaces, etc. Posted 3/6.
2. Organize your morning: morning routine, time with God, chores, breakfast, getting off to a good start, etc. Posted 3/13.
3. Organize your school schedule: schedules on paper, reviews of planners, time allotted for subjects, etc. Posted 3/20.
4. Organize your records: grades, tests, attendance, etc. Posted 3/27.
5. Organize your projects: storing paper, lapbooks, notebooks, and old projects. Posted 4/3.
6. Organize your kitchen: menu planning, recipes, etc. Posted 4/10.
7. Organize your activities: field trips, co-ops, etc. Posted 4/17.
8. Organize your heart: priorities, good attitude, etc. Posted 4/24.

I'll be participating in the weeks that I feel I have something to contribute. Looking forward to everyone sharing!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Best Clutter Solutions

The Heart of the Matter is having a Carnival on Organization. The first topic is clutter. I have read a lot of books about organization and clutter over the past few years in an attempt to clean up the constant messes in our home.

So, I'm going to share with you my best clutter solutions. One of the worst problems I've had is with mail! I started with a double basket hung on the wall in the kitchen next to the door that goes out to our garage. That is usually where we bring the mail in, since we live out in the country, and don't get our mail delivered directly to the house. We bike, walk, or drive down the lane to the mailbox. The idea with the baskets was to have an incoming and outgoing basket. It worked pretty well in the beginning. Later, it just became a basket for junk mail...and usually became piled up...as you can see from the picture.

My better solution came with the addition of recycling bins (drawers actually) in our garage, right outside that same kitchen door. This way the junk mail or extra junk papers in the mail generally do not even make it in the house. Recycling was another clutter problem. I didn't have a good place to sort or keep recyclables, but I felt terribly guilty when I knew I could recycle something, but instead threw it away. So, we had plastic bags full of mail that need to be recycled or shredded. I had stacks of cans, cardboard, 1 and 2 plastics, which got put in trash cans to be sorted again before actual recycling. Since we live in the country, we don't have the luxury of curb pick for recycling, but actually have to cart the recyclables to the center ourselves.

So, with the addition of the drawers for recycling (good old Wal-Mart, back in the Hardware section), I moved our shredder upstairs next to the door and the drawers. I used to keep the shredables and recyclables in a plastic bag to be sorted later. Of course they would pile up. Then I would have to shred them a little at a time, or the shredder would get too hot and stop on its own. Now, they get sorted each day. I have one bin for paper to recycle. I take that to the paper recycling at our local library. The paper we recycle helps to buy new books for the library. I keep the paper we shred in another drawer to add to our fireplaces when we start fires in the winter, or to our fire pit when we're roasting marshmallows in nice weather!

If you don't have a shredder, or a recycling center, you can still deal with the mail clutter. The thing is to deal with mail everyday! My sister has a house set up like mine (basement through the garage & bill paying in the basement). She lives in the city, so she gets her mail delivered to the front door. She has a wooden mail sorter that hangs next to her kitchen/garage door. She has a large trash can right outside that door. She tosses everything that is not important to save right away. The things that I would shred, she rips up into tiny pieces. This is also her trash can for kitchen stuff and dirty diapers, so no one in their right mind is going to be digging through those tiny pieces of paper!

I love to use tote bags for keeping clutter under control. I collect free tote bags, tote bags on sale, and each Mother's Day, I take a picture of my kids and make an iron on for a new tote bag. I keep a tote bag for the magazines and books I'm reading. I have a separate tote bag for our Co-op papers and binders. Being homeschoolers, we use the library often and books can easily get misplaced or mixed up. I keep different tote bags for the two different libraries we use. That way we keep them sorted and return them to the correct library. The library books get returned to the proper tote when they are not being read.

I love baskets for small books. There were so many years that the kids would pull all their books off the shelves to find one or two books. You know, those thin books that don't have a spine with the title on it. I bought cute little colored baskets at the local Dollar Tree and sorted Thomas and Bob the Builder in a blue basket, Barbie in a pink basket, and so on. Then the kids could just pull out the basket they want and thumb through the fronts of the books to find the book they want. I haven't cleaned up a giant pile of small books since that idea!

My other best solutions are clear plastic containers with lids. I collected a bunch of shoe box size ones at the Dollar Tree to organize our school supplies: crayons, glue with tape and scissors, chalk, flashcards, and more, each in their own box. We use large clear containers to clean up the kids toys in their rooms. They don't play with all their stuff at once, but having it all their rooms wound up meaning most of their toys were always in their floors. We organized the toys by category into containers. For my son, we have containers of Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train, tools, Cars. For my daughter, we have containers of bears, Care Bears, Disney, dolls, Barbies. We keep the containers in the storage room and they swap out toys when they're done playing with them. I know my Mom used to use a similar trick of rotating toys. My six and eight year old mostly handle this themselves.

The other thing we have a continuing problem with in our home is shoes and house shoes. We have to go through our garage to get to our basement...which house the classroom, playroom, workout room, laundry room, family room, sewing room, and storage room. Until I put in the three basket cart, I was constantly tripping over house shoes in my kitchen. We don't have a closet in our entry way, so shoes and coats were tossed everywhere. When we wanted to go somewhere, or even outside, we had to go on a shoe hunt. I put up one set of hooks for coats, and had my Hubby make up the lower version for the kids (with my instructions), and I bought the shelf for shoes in the Hardware Section of Wal-Mart. We're still working on everyone remembering to put their shoes on the shelf, but having a place for them has greatly helped.

I have to say I have been in the state of "Where in the world do I begin" all too often. One of the best ways I learned to combat that feeling is to pick something up that's out of place every time you leave a room. Sometimes I'd be annoyed that no one else moved the object, sometimes I left it myself, sometimes it's just a piece of trash that wound up in the floor (still annoying), but leaving it there only made things worse. Now I try to pick up as many things as possible when I leave a room. Sometimes I have a notebook with me to write in one room, but really I need that notebook in another room after I'm done writing.

I do still leave most of the children's things for them to pick. But I'm setting a good example for them. I try to remind them to take their things with them, rather than ordering or nagging. You catch more bees with honey! You also get more results with consequences. If they don't pick up their things in a reasonable amount of time, I pick them up and put them in holding until they miss them or earn them back (depending on the object).

So, those are my best tips. Hope they are helpful to someone! Maybe my own kids someday.