Friday, September 12, 2014

{around here} Week of 9.8.14

From the looks of these photos, I apparently only photograph our homeschooling mornings these days.  The rest of the day is a blur of housework, baby preparations and lots of conversations and cuddles with the kids.  I am keeping up, but my body is definitely sending the signals that baby time is near!

Since I'm days away from having four (!!!) little boys in this house, I pulled out Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys from the bookshelf for a re-read.  If you have a little guy at home, I highly recommend this one.

Exciting news of the week: I was so honored to be interviewed for The Mom Next Door series over at Tabitha's blog, Team Studer.  I love how Tab explained the purpose of the series: "Every Mom we see or know carries within her a story and history that guides her in decisions, worries, and the love she gives to her kids as best as she can. This interview series was created with the hope that, given the chance to chat with any mom, we would find that no matter how different they are from ourselves, we would come to see that all moms are really just A Mom Next Door."  Be sure to check it out!  

Favorite homeschool activities this week:

  • It was P Week, so we did all things pirate!  It was fun to devote an entire week to one theme and see how it sparked the boys' imaginations.  We read two of our favorite pirate books, 1001 Pirate Things to Spot and How I Became a Pirate, and made treasure maps, pirate puppets and newspaper hats.
  • D also pulled out our well-loved Ed Emberley drawing book and has been busy creating all kinds of things.  I love how much he loves to draw.
Second Grade
  • Spelling is still a big hit for M.  This week, I had him spell his words using letters cut from magazines and newspaper ads.  Fun for both of us, hah!
  • Math has become a little hard for him, so I've decided to slow way down and supplement with worksheets in between lessons.  I think the extra practice with addition and subtraction facts will really help his self-confidence.  I've had some luck finding free printables around the web, but I think this Star Wars set may need to be purchased soon. 
  • We are also about a third of the way through our study of Ancient Egypt and had a great week of activities.  Deciphering hieroglyphics ("I feel like a detective figuring out a code, Mamma!") and making our own papyrus (using the instructions here) were both big hits.   
One last thing: Do you know Mary from her blog, Passionate Perseverance?  I first "met" her through my Penpal Project last year and she is such an amazing, holy woman to me.  Her sweet family is going through so much right now, so I would love if you would keep them in your prayers or even consider donating through their Paypal button (which you can find on her blog).  Thank you!  

Have a great weekend, friends.  Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I'll be introducing you to our newest addition!

Friday, September 5, 2014

{around here} Week of 9.1.2014

I reached the pregnancy milestone of 37 weeks this week.  Full term.  I'm equal parts amazed that we're here already and panicky that I haven't accomplished everything I need to do before he arrives.  Control freak much?  This is always such a crazy emotional time for me anyway; I'm soaking up the last days with my "current" baby, while pepping myself up for the upcoming labor and delivery of the next.  I'm getting excited for what's to come, while enjoying to the fullest what I already have in front of me.  It's this complicated, yet beautiful and sacred push and pull.  I'm trying to embrace it.  

I just read this post, Pursuing Big Plans in the Middle of Motherhood, and I could draw so many similarities to my experience with Big White Farmhouse.  We are a family business in every sense of the word, but I never guessed how invested my kids would become.  It makes me so happy to see such excitement from them as the company grows.  To hear one of them exclaim, "We got a sale?  High five, mamma!" or "When I'm big, I'm gonna have my own store too."  I feel so lucky to be able to share this adventure with them.  My point to this rambling: if you've got a dream or idea that you keep down deep, maybe it's time to try it out. 

Favorite homeschool activities this week:
  • The change in M's attitude toward spelling has been incredible since we switched gears and tried something new.  He actually looks forward to the subject now!  One of the activities we played this week was Waffle Words and we both took turns creating and completing the puzzles.  I had fun too!
  • D and J are still loving math.  We used Pattern Blocks, which are always a big hit.  I also printed these Transportation Themed Mats for more practice.  For H week, we made hats and hearts.

I finished 
Peace Like a River on Wednesday and wow.  Definitely the best fiction book I've read in a long time.  Have you read it?

A few little things I want to remember about my sweet Sophie, who's almost two and about to be promoted to one of the big kids...
+ how she puts her arm through mine when we sit together on the couch
+ how, all of a sudden, her favorite movie is Frozen (she calls it "Le' Go") and she asks to watch it almost every day
+ how she'll point to my belly, say "Bay-Bay" and then run to find her own baby doll
+ how she loves to sit up on the counter and "help" cook...making chocolate chip cookies is her favorite (for obvious reasons!)
+ how her favorite thing is to go on a date to the grocery store with her Daddy...when he asks her to join, she runs for her shoes, blows me a kiss and tightly grabs hold of his hand
+ how crazy she is for her brothers, as they are for her (Overheard: "Sophia, did you know that you're my best friend?" - J)

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Monday, September 1, 2014

{brave} September Goals

September is here.  This is an exciting month for us because by the end, our baby boy will have arrived!  Honestly, I've reached the point in this pregnancy where most of my thoughts consist of either meeting him or preparing for him.  I'm hoping that by making a few goals for the month, they can be a good distraction.  The last few weeks are the longest! 

1. Take out all of the kids' fall clothes and make a to-buy list to fill in the gaps.  I dread this chore, but I'd rather do it now than sleep deprived with a new baby.    
2. Complete the cross-stitch project I started in August.  I'm about halfway finished, so it shouldn't be too difficult to complete in the next few weeks.
3. Bake a pie.  I've never made a pie with homemade crust and I'd love to try.  Maybe apple to welcome in fall?
4. Make read aloud plans for "school" during our baby break.  We're going to take at least two weeks off from official schooling, but I do want to keep reading aloud during the break.  We'll be reading Owls in the Family and I want to find a few fun activities that the boys can largely complete on their own.
5. Write down all of the kids' birth stories.
6. Read two books.
7. Buy tickets for a surprise trip to Lego Kidsfest for the boys. I have three Lego-obsessed boys here and I know they will flip with a surprise trip with their Daddy in October!
8. Have a baby!

What are your goals for the month of September?  I'd love to read them!  

Friday, August 29, 2014

{brave} A Review of August's Goals

1. Being brave creatively: choose a partially finished craft project and complete it.  Did not complete, oops.  I chose a really simple cross-stitch project to finish, but it definitely fell to the back burner.  When given the option of free-time activities, I tended to reach for a book more.  Hopefully I'll finish up in September.    

2. Being brave in the kitchen: have Mark teach me how to grill something on our charcoal grill.  Technically, did not complete.  Does it count if I sat and just watched him grill our dinner, hah?!  He went through and showed me every step, but I was definitely a spectator and not a participant.  I'll have to try to do the steps on my own once I have more energy.      

3. Being brave in my giving: send at least one surprise package, just because.  Complete!  I "met" a sweet mamma of four last year on Instagram and I've loved seeing her life through her pictures.  She's been quite honest in her challenges recently so I wanted to bring a little sunshine to her mailbox.  It was so much fun to choose a few items to send...I highly recommend you do it too!

4. Month-long challenge: finish the "Walk at least a mile a day everyday for 30 days" challenge I started in July. Complete!  This challenge could not have happened at a better time.  I needed the extra oomph to push through the "pregnancy laziness" that summer always brings and to take the first steps toward a regular exercise routine.  Even though the 30 days are officially over, I am still trying to walk everyday, even if it's only laps around the house.    

5. Read one book. I actually finished two!  I've been trying to read all of the books on the "to-read" shelf, so this month I knocked out Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism and Another Man's War: The True Story of One Man's Battle to Save Children in the Sudan. I'm currently in the middle of Peace Like a River.

6. Pay a big chunk on student loan debt. Complete!  We've still got more work to do, but I feel like the end is near.  Can't wait to have that debt gone!

7. Start checking off the new baby to-do list: buy a new car seat, pack the hospital bag, wash newborn clothing, etc. Complete!  Nesting has definitely kicked in.  The car seat and stroller have been purchased and all of his itty-bitty clothing has been washed and put away.  We brought up the bassinet from the basement and started packing the hospital bag.  There are a few odds and ends still left to accomplish, but nothing crucial.  We are ready for you, baby boy!  

8. Research and make a plan for the second half of 2014 for Big White Farmhouse.  
I'm going to consider this one semi-complete.  I did a lot of product research for the upcoming holidays, but still feel unprepared.  Oh well!  So much of retail really can't be planned week at a time.  

9. Purchase a few frames to start a gallery wall in Sophia's bedroom.  This one just didn't get done this month and I'm not sure if I'll be able to fit in a trip to Ikea before the baby arrives.  Thank goodness Sophie doesn't know the difference.  :)  

10. Make a prayer request book and be faithful in praying daily for others.  Complete!  I took a little hand-held notebook I've had hanging around and wrote down everyone I could remember.  Then, throughout the month, if I was asked to pray, I immediately jotted it down before I forgot.  It has been a game changer for me.  I'm no longer relying on my poor memory!  

Overall, I think it was a very successful month.  I'm looking forward to September!  
How did you do with your monthly goals?

P.S. We're having a Labor Day sale over at Big White Farmhouse this weekend and I hope you'll check us out!  The entire site is 20% with the coupon code "LABORDAY20".  It's the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping!  

Monday, August 25, 2014

{learning} What Homeschooling Looks Like Here: the First 6 Weeks

I think I should preface this post by saying that I am still a total beginner in the world of homeschooling!  A little education recap: we did PreK and Kindergarten at home with my oldest and then he went to public school last year for 1st grade.  My #2 is a totally different learner and because of that, PreK at home last year was much less intensive.  He just wasn't ready!  After a lot of conversation and prayer this summer, my husband and I decided that our #2 would thrive the best by doing Kindergarten at home.  We offered the option to our oldest and while we were perfectly fine with allowing him to continue in public school, he chose to come home as well.  

So here we are.  I have a Second grader, a Kindergartener, two tag-along siblings and a (soon to be) brand new baby!  (They all have birthdays in the fall, so for age reference, they will be 8, 6, 4, 2 and brand new.)  It seems a bit crazy, but I've used the summer to "practice" a routine and I think we've finally found something that works for us.  Here's a little peek into our day, as well as a few survival tips I've learned so far:

Our Day-to-Day Schedule
Day-to-day life with four (and soon to be five) never looks the same, so my first mission was to set aside the notion that we always had to be perfectly scheduled.  My Type-A sometimes twitches at the thought, but really, it's been freeing and I think has made me a better mother.  Most days, we start school around 9am.  But if the boys are playing sweetly together with Legos or they're cuddled up with Sophie watching her morning cartoon, I let it be.  Because really, what's the difference between 9:00 and 9:30 in the grand scheme of things?

We generally switch every other day who gets to "do school" first.  I originally tried to have them complete their work simultaneously, but the multi-tasking was stressful for me.  Now we focus one at a time, unless I read aloud or we do a family-wide craft.  The boys thrive with the undivided attention I can give them and it's been nice to hear their little thoughts on life as we work through the day's assignments.  (Note about the little two: J is generally content to play on his own during school time or he'll come participate with D.  At just three years old, I'm flexible with what he wants to do each day.  Sophia typically floats between the school table and the brothers in the playroom.  She knows that as long as she colors quietly, she can stay at the table with us.)

We take a few breaks throughout the morning, but are still normally finished by lunchtime.  If we have an intensive craft or activity, I sometimes will wait until Sophie's naptime to have one less "helper", hah! Then the afternoons are free for fun!
A Few of our Sonlight Curriculum Favorites from Weeks 1-6

  • For a book with very little pictures, I wasn't sure what the little boys would think of Uncle Wiggily's Story Book, but it is actually the one they ask for again and again.  The little stories focus on helping others and we've had some great conversations afterward.
  • D is flying through Developing the Early Learner: Level 1 and I'm sure will be ready for the next book soon.  I've decided to let him go ahead of schedule if he asks, which is often the case!  I love his new excitement for learning.
  • M's first read aloud was Charlotte's Web and boy, did he enjoy it!  We took our time reading and incorporated lots of extra crafts and activities.  We recently finished and are now on to Ginger Pye.   
  • For science, M is working through the Usborne World of Animals and we're both learning so much.  Each "lesson" is only two pages, but we still have a lot of interesting discussions.  I love when he asks his daddy at the dinner table, "Did you know...?"

Three Survival Tips from the First Six Weeks
1. Every Friday at naptime, I lay out a general plan of what I hope to accomplish in the week ahead.  (I've been using this free printable from Money Saving Mom.)  That way, I can put "school teacher me" away over the weekend and just be Mamma.  Sometimes I'll research a craft on Pinterest on Saturday night, but for the most part, school is done until Monday.

2. Crafts are a BIG deal with the little kids, so I plan one or two that correspond with the Letter of the Week.  I try to do some prep work before the official "lesson" to control the crazy, but that doesn't always happen.  In those cases, I've enlisted M as a teacher's assistant (because what second grader/oldest child doesn't love a little power? hah) and he helps me with Sophie and sometimes J.  He's a lifesaver and the craft goes much smoother.   

3. Being in charge of my children's education is no small feat and I know there is a level of certainty that eventually, I'll start to feel a bit burnt out.  I'm also very aware of the impending postpartum months with the roller-coaster of hormones, "baby blues" and general exhaustion.  So to prepare for all of the above, I've started intentionally setting aside time everyday for me.  In reality, this really doesn't look like much.  I read my Bible for 10-15 minutes every morning after breakfast.  I try to walk at least a mile at naptime.  I read a chapter of my book or work on a craft project while the kids are playing in the afternoons.  I work a bit on Big White Farmhouse after everyone is in bed.  It's not much, but it does wonders for my mental health.               

Whew, what a post!  I hope to come back every six weeks with posts about what's working/what's not and our latest favorites.  And for the readers who stuck it out to the end, please let me know if you have any tips, recommendations or questions!  
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