Friday, February 26, 2016

A Busy Week in Our Homeschool (Feb. 19-26, 2016)

We have been busy beavers around here over the past week or so, and I thought I would give a glimpse of all that we have been up to!

Every day since last Friday (Feb. 19), Big Brother has finished up his "regular" school work by about noon and has spent the rest of the afternoon with other activities.

Last Friday was a super busy day! We worked together all morning on school work and laundry. Then my mother came by to sit with Little Brother for the afternoon while Big Brother and I went out together.

Our first stop was the horse barn where Big Brother takes his riding lessons. He is so comfortable in the saddle, and his teacher is really proud of his riding skills. I was happy to watch him ride and snap some good pictures. After his ride he brushed the horse, and then he insisted on getting in the pen for awhile with his teacher's pig! He loves animals so much. I am glad he is able to interact with animals regularly this way even though we are unable to have our own at this time.

Since he also had a 4-H homeschool club meeting that afternoon, we decided to make a mother-son date of it and go out for lunch together. So we had a nice little lunch at McDonald's. :)

At this 4-H meeting, the homeschool club was filling drawstring backpacks with necessities and toys for children entering foster care. Big Brother and I had gone shopping earlier in the week, and he had picked out some simple board books, preschool puzzles, Play-Doh, some balls, a soft blanket, socks, and markers. My mom had also donated several items like toothbrushes and nightlights. Big Brother helped sort these and all the other donated items out on tables and helped with deciding which items should go in each backpack. He was able to personally fill a backpack for a 7-8 year old boy.

During the meeting, the county 4-H agent announced the county 4-H Demonstration Contest coming up next week. She encouraged Big Brother to participate even though he is a Cloverbud and would not be able to advance past the county level. So much of this week has been spent helping him prepare his demonstration. More about that in a bit...

After the business of the 4-H meeting was finished and the backpacks were all filled, the club members finished out their meeting time with some fun games. Big Brother loved learning to play a silly game called "Statues." Most of the members of this club are a bit older than Big Brother, but I was VERY impressed with how the teenagers in the club really went out of their way to befriend Big Brother and make sure he had fun, too.

Following the club meeting, we picked up Little Brother and Daddy at home, went out to the library, out to supper, and made a quick grocery run before finally coming home where I literally crashed on the couch! Phew!!

Over the weekend we had several fun things going on. The weather was nice, and we took the boys out to play in the backyard. Our neighbor on the little farm behind us introduced the boys to some cows. Little Brother especially enjoyed that as he loves all things cow
right now.

Sunday after church we were invited over to some friends' house for lunch, and the boys had fun playing with friends close their ages. Big Brother especially had fun playing LEGOs with several other boys.

Sunday night, much to Little Brother's delight, we attended a Gospel singing nearby featuring one of our favorite local Southern Gospel quartets. Little Brother has a huge love for music and singing, and he was totally engrossed for the entire 2 hour service...totally unusual for a 22 month old!

Tuesday night, Big Brother attended his first 4-H Cloverbuds meeting. Cloverbuds is a special club for 5-8 year old 4-H members. The club leader is a sweet older lady who has a grandson in the club. They ate a snack, opened the meeting with pledges (both U.S. and 4-H), played a game to learn about recycling, and used fabric crayons to make their own 4-H t-shirts. Big Brother had a blast!

Our county 4-H has created a butterfly garden in the county seat, and now all the 4-H clubs are collecting plastic lids to be recycled into a nice park bench for the garden. 400 lbs of plastic is needed to complete this project! The clubs are having a little contest among themselves to see who can collect the most plastic. This week, Big Brother and I set up a little "recycling corner" in our kitchen to remind us to drop in our usable plastic lids. Such a simple and educational community project!

Every afternoon this week has been spent preparing Big Brother's 4-H demonstration! He has chosen to demonstrate how to do speed cup stacking. This is an activity he enjoys with our homeschool co-op, and he will be showing exactly how to stack the cups in 3 different official patterns. He has to have posters as visual aids for his demonstration, and he has enjoyed getting to use the computer to make them.

He is pretty nervous because he has obviously never done a demonstration before. But the skills he is practicing like organizing his thoughts, creating visual aids, and speaking in front of an audience will serve him well as he grows up.

Since he is just a Cloverbud, the contest itself is not the focus. This is really to help him to learn how to give a demonstration and to prepare him for more serious 4-H competitions when he is a bit older. We are looking forward to giving him a special reward next week for his bravery and for doing his best on this project! He has really put a lot of work into it for being so young.

Another neat thing I want to quickly share is about Big Brother's new pen-pal! As part of Love for the Elderly's Senior Buddy Program, he has been connected with an elderly lady who lives in an assisted living facility in another state. They are writing letters regularly back and forth, and it has been so nice. I encourage you to check out Love for the Elderly!

So, yes we have had a really busy week around here! Right now we are looking forward to a 3-day weekend as my husband has Monday off from work. We are planning a little family fun day for Monday! I love how homeschooling offers us so many wonderful opportunities and so much freedom to pursue activities that we love!

I hope you have enjoyed this little window into our lives this week!

Linking Up: Weekly Wrap Up

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Speaking Your Spouse's Love Language

I hope each of you my readers had a wonderful Valentine's Day surrounded by those you love!

With all the emphasis on love at this particular time of year, I thought I would share a post about love languages. It can be all too easy as homeschooling families to put all our time, energy, and passion into our homeschool while allowing our marriage relationship to suffer. This is never a good idea, of course.
I do not write marriage posts very often since this is such a private and personal subject, but I did want to share a couple things that my husband and I have found to be very helpful and eye-opening to us as a couple.

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!

First of all, if you have not yet read a copy of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then I highly recommend you find a copy! (There are also editions of this book that are geared toward singles and even children. If you give or receive can benefit!)

My husband and I read through this book while we were engaged and have gone through it again several times since we have been married.

Basically, the author introduces the 5 basic ways that different people give or receive love. They are:

-Words of affirmation
-Physical touch
-Acts of service
-Quality time

Each of these represents a different "love language." Most people have one (or maybe two) primary love languages that they are most comfortable "speaking" and receiving. So it is extremely helpful to know which love language is most important to your spouse in order to show your love to them in a way they will best be able to receive it.

Does this mean that if your husband's love language is, for example, words of affirmation, then all you would ever have to do to show him love is to speak encouraging words and write him love notes every day? No, the other love languages are still good to use, but it DOES mean you would definitely want to be intentional about regularly giving him those affirming, encouraging words he so longs to hear from you!

And what if you say, "That just isn't me?" You do not do well at expressing words of love, appreciation, gratitude, and encouragement to your husband (or anyone else for that matter!). Then you probably have a different love language, but you can show your husband so much love by learning how to speak his language! Get outside your comfort zone a little bit. Marriage is not about doing what comes easiest for you. Marriage is about losing your selfishness and putting the other person's needs above your own. That is true love!

My husband and I recently completed this free love language quiz to help us to sort out what our individual love languages actually are. I encourage you to do the same! Our results surprised us both at first! But upon further examination of ourselves and our unique personalities and life experiences, we realized that not only were our quiz results spot-on, but the specific ways in which we feel truly loved has had a tremendous impact on our lives and our marriage!

When I began the quiz I thought perhaps quality time was my primary love language. BUT as I answered the questions that were asked and truly began thinking about what really makes me feel loved, I realized that was not actually the case. My own personal primary love language by far was actually words of affirmation! Then in second place was acts of service, followed by quality time, then physical touch, and last of all receiving gifts. And the more I have pondered on this, the more I see it is true! If my husband tells me something that he loves about me, or that I look nice, or that I did a great job at something, or if he leaves me a sweet little love note; I am over the moon! That is what REALLY makes me feel loved.

I had (quite mistakenly!) assumed that my husband's love language was words of affirmation. Since this is my primary love language, it is also the one I "speak the most fluently." I love words! So I am always leaving him notes, telling him how much I love him, and such. He does appreciate all that, of course. But after taking the quiz and discussing it more with each other, we discovered this is not my husband's primary love language at all.

And in fact, my husband actually has 2 primary love languages! That means he gives and receives love most easily in 2 ways. His primary love languages are acts of service and physical touch. (And I must say he really does communicate his love to me in both these ways exceptionally well! I really should have known these were his languages all along!) Now I realize that if I truly feel like I want to show him some love, I can pack him a delicious lunch or offer him a back massage. For him, actions speak much louder than words. His two primary love languages were followed by quality time, then words of affirmation, and last of all receiving gifts.

This has been very eye-opening as we each have looked back and realized how the other spouse has been communicating their love all along, just in ways that seemed "foreign" to the other partner sometimes! Now we are more able to both give and receive love in ways that are most meaningful to us! What a blessing!!

Click here to get your own copy of The 5 Love Languages book!

Click here to take the FREE Love Language Quiz!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A World of Adventure - Unit Study Curriculum

The mailman has made my day! Our brand new curriculum for next school year has arrived, and we are beyond excited! Big Brother and I both broke into cheers of excitement, and I am sure the neighbors were scratching their heads...oh well! :)

In my last post, I shared that we would be making the switch to a year-round homeschooling schedule and listed our reasons for doing so.

I also left a few unanswered questions about exactly what we are going to be doing in our homeschool next year!

First of all, as you may have noticed if you've been reading this blog for very long, Big Brother has been working one grade level above his age. He started Kindergarten at age 4, and up to this point I have allowed him to continue advancing grade levels each year. He has done extremely well, and I am very proud of his academic accomplishments.

However, I sense the need to slow him down. Home education should not be a race to see who's child can graduate the earliest. Although I could send him on into the 4th grade level ABeka and R&S textbooks, I do not honestly think it would be fair to him to do so just yet.

I have always said that we would probably at some point need to take a year to just let him mature before going on. And I believe we have reached that point. Childhood is so short as it is, and I see no need to rush him through it.

So what "grade" will Big Brother be in next year??


He will be completing his 3rd grade work on May 20th (or so), and then starting the new school year in early June 2016. Then (unless we decide differently) he will be progressing on to 4th grade ABeka and R&S textbooks in June 2017! BUT the curriculum he will be using next year (2016-2017) usable for PreK-8th grade!!

So...I'm not sure we are going to worry about assigning him a "grade level" at all next year! Just way too confusing! :)

Now for the big announcement! What curriculum are we so excited about using for the 2016-2017 school year??? Drumroll please...

We are going to be using a complete unit study curriculum for the first time! We have done short week-long unit studies in the past (like "LEGO week" and "Cowboy Camp" the past couple of years before school started), and Big Brother has LOVED them! He enjoys having a unifying theme to explore while covering different academic subjects.

We have purchased Volume 1 of the Learning Adventures curriculum called "A World of Adventure!"

Big Brother is a history buff, and he loves hands-on learning. This curriculum seems to be perfect for him!

A World of Adventure is a full 180 day unit study based on world history. It is Christian based, and it covers all subjects (except math...we will be reviewing his 3rd grade R&S math and using games, etc.).

There are 6 units, and each unit will take about 6 weeks to complete.

These are the historical time periods we will be studying in each unit:

Unit 1 - Ancient Egypt
Unit 2 - Ancient Greece
Unit 3 - Ancient Rome
Unit 4 - The Middle Ages
Unit 5 - Renaissance and Reformation
Unit 6 - Age of Exploration

The science topics covered during each unit relate in some way to the historical time period being studied. These include:

Unit 1 - Deserts & the Nile River
Unit 2 - Human Body
Unit 3 - Geology
Unit 4 - Botany
Unit 5 - Astronomy
Unit 6 - Oceans

Each unit also includes Bible study and memorization, language arts activities (grammar, spelling, writing, etc.), fine arts (hymn singing, hymn studies, classical music, art projects, art history, etc.), and literature for read-alouds that are all related to the specific history or science theme!

The main curriculum is geared toward students in grades 4-8, and I also ordered the supplement books that give more ideas for including younger children in the unit study activities. I am so excited to be able to include Little Brother as he adventures through world history along with us on his own level!

This curriculum is very different from the textbook approach as there are no actual...umm...textbooks. The author, a veteran homeschool mom named Dorian Holt, has written out detailed daily lesson plans to guide parents as they choose their own learning materials (library books, videos, encyclopedia, internet research, etc.) to use with their students as they dive head first into learning about each topic.

The guide is huge! I am going to have to purchase a large binder to keep it in! You can see sample lesson plans on the Learning Adventures website. Everything is very well planned out for me, but there is still plenty of room for any adjustments or supplements we may want to make as needed.

Another awesome aspect of this curriculum is the really neat learning game called "Worlds of Adventure" that we can play to regularly to review and reinforce skills and concepts that are covered in each unit. I ordered this game extra, and it looks like it will be well worth it!

There are so many great projects, crafts, cooking ideas, games, field trip suggestions, and more! We are going to have a hard time waiting until June to get started!!!

We are looking forward to 2016-2017 for a fun, exciting, and refreshing school year for us! I hope to share it with you right here!

Be sure to Follow me on Pinterest as I have already been busily pinning lots of things to use with these unit studies!

I am not affiliated with Learning Adventures. I am not using any affiliate links in this post. I urge you to check out and purchase this curriculum directly from the publishers on their site. All opinions are my own. Thanks!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Year-Round Homeschooling (and New Things Ahead!)

I dropped a hint at the end of my last post that we had some new plans for next school year. Actually I have several things to share! I will probably spread this over a few posts, so please be sure to stay tuned!

Yes I am fully aware that this is just February and I am already making plans for next school year. But this is really the best time for me to think about it. We are over halfway through our current year now, and I can see pretty well what works and what does not. It also helps avoid burnout and keep up the excitement level at this otherwise blah time of the year if we are making interesting plans for the future.

In this post, I wanted to explain one of the major changes we will be making. Once we complete our current school year (somewhere in the neighborhood of May 20), we will be joining the ranks of year-round homeschoolers! We will probably take a couple weeks off to decompress and get new materials and activities ready then start our new school year in early June!

Why are we making this switch? I'm so glad you asked! 😉

We will have an entire calendar year (June-May) to complete 180 school days rather than try to cram them all into the 9 months of a traditional school year. This means we can take a slower pace with our studies.

We will have the freedom to take more frequent breaks when we want or need them. We will have so much more flexibility with our schedule! Since we have a whole calendar year to fulfill our attendance requirements, we won't have to feel so stressed and rushed if we need to take a few days (or weeks) here and there off for sickness, travel, or just to rest.

And of course no super long summer break means we won't have to deal with that dreaded "summer slide" where the child promptly forgets and looses a month's worth (or more!) of what they learned the previous year.

When I was homeschooled, we also followed a non-traditional schedule. Our school year usually started sometime in June and we would finish somewhere in April. We would have most of the Spring off when the weather was just right, and we were able to take a break for our family vacations in the Fall when places were cheaper and much less crowded! I would get a week off to go to Bible camp in the Summer several years (although I am pretty sure that was counted as school time!).

I am going to try to stick with a June through May schedule, taking breaks as needed throughout the year.

Thankfully Big Brother is in agreement with this plan as he likes the idea of taking stress-free breaks as we need them.

Next post I will be announcing a couple more exciting new things: why Big Brother is going to have no clue what grade he is in next year and what totally different curriculum and homeschool method we are going to be giving a try! You won't want to miss it! 😀