Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homeschool Conference Notes and Tips!

Hello readers! I am so sorry for my disappearance, but my children headed off to camp last week and I took a Mommy Break! I hung out with old friends, had some quiet time and did a lot of shopping. It was great to finally have kids at an age that they could ALL attend camp together. They had so much fun and learned a lot. The best part? They made great friends.
Over the weekend I attended a homeschool conference and really got lost in everything there was to see and do. There were so many speakers, things for sale and people to chat with. I have a few tips to share in the event that you have a conference coming up!
Ahead of Time:
1. Sign up for conference updates ahead of time, even if you JUST MISSED one, sign up to keep updated. This will allow you to find out the exact dates of the next conference and all the information that you will need to ensure you keep that day or weekend free.

2. AS SOON as the schedule is available, print it out and begin to plan your day. There are many speakers that will be there and many topics that will be covered. Do your research if you don't have time to listen to them all. Some may have their speeches on You Tube already or information on their websites/blogs. This will assist you in proper time management.

3. Check the list of vendors if available. Do your research on each vendor so you know if it's a table you will have questions at or just like to browse. Sign up for their updates as well and you may find that they will be offering a conference only coupon! Keep tabs on their facebook pages as well.

4. Have a list of your MUST-Do's. If there are speakers you MUST hear and vendors you MUST visit, have them written out along with times that you need to block out.

5. Prepare of list of items that are needed for your curriculum and what you are looking for.

6. Find a sitter. Our conference didn't allow children, but if they had it would have been better to let them have fun with a friend of family member. This leaves you free to shop and not have to constantly entertain. It also allows you to listen to speakers and stay all day if you wish (I did!).

7. Start saving early! You may have a budget but there will be things that you have not seen before or ones that catch your eye that you will not want to miss out on. (Many vendors offer free shipping at conferences for attendees!)

8. Pre-Register if allowed, this allows you to walk in, find your name tag and move quickly past the registration table.
Day of Conference:
1. Set an alarm on your cell phone or watch for 5-10 minutes before each speaker you would like to hear. You may get caught up with a vendor or see a friend and miss the announcement.

2. Bring sturdy, reusable bags for all your purchases. Most companies offer plastic bags that are not enough to carry 1 book let alone the tons you will purchase!

3. Bring a notepad and pen to take notes during speakers and to jot down certain book titles that you are considering purchasing but not positive about while at that table.

4. Bring the list that you created of books that you are looking for and check it off as your purchase, so that you know what you have left to buy.

5. I kept 3 crates in my trunk to represent my 3 children. When our bags would get full, we would head to the trunk and divvy up the books to where they belong. This gave us a visual representation of what had been purchased and also didn't make for such a headache once we got home.

6. Arrive before opening. There are plenty of vendors offering used books for sale and you can get the pick of the bunch if you are one of the first in the door.

7. Make 1 round of the convention hall BEFORE purchasing anything new. (You want to pick up used books if the prices are very reasonable and there are not many copies of what you need) This allows you to take notes and keep track of who has the better prices on things you need.

8. Keep an eye on your time at all times, so you don't miss speakers or meet-ups that you may have going on.

9. Have a bottled water and snacks in your purse to keep your energized and not spending so much time taking breaks.

10. During your 1st break or while waiting for the first speaker to begin, check out your lists and get ready to start purchasing.
Additional Tips:
1. Try to allow time to go to the conference on closing day as well. After lunch, many used books sellers tend to go to 50% off and you could save considerably on things. It's worth paying a visit to see if there is anything you may need. I have picked up maps, flashcards and posters for less than a dollar!!

2. If you make it the day of closing plan on staying until the very end. Many vendors will try to get rid of some items at bargain basement prices just to not have to pack them up Or some used books will even go for free. (Note: This does NOT happen at every conference, but you never know!)

3. If vendors are asking for help packing up after the conference, see if you have time to stay! They often offer a coupon for the website to helpers or even gift cards! (Note: This may not happen with everyone you help, but at least you did a good deed!)
This is everything we came home with and though our wallets are a bit empty, the price does not even come close to paying someone else to educate our children! Do you have any tips to share??
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...

Life goes on and so must we.
A perfect day for snuggling in with a good book!
No cooking when it's over 100* Cold lunches and Crock Pot Dinners
Happy Wednesday my friends

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pretzel Party!

Homeschooling has been a definite adventure and we learn about one another more and more each day. I don't want my homeschool to be school at home. I want it to be so much more. I keep reminding myself that we are only limited by ourselves, so when I came across this quote, I knew it was perfect for our classroom!
In Math, my youngest is learning measurements and I thought it was the perfect time to do a group project. Making Pretzels became a lesson in Math, Measurements, Teamwork, Baking, Reading, Following Direction and so much more! 
At first the kids tried to each be the boss and realized that it wasn't working, as they slowed down and began to work it out together, they realized how much they could accomplish.
They were so simple to make and we had all the ingredients on hand! My husband thought they needed more of an egg wash and possibly left in longer than the suggested 15 minutes and we also figured that we will try many different toppings instead of salt next time and stick with simple pretzel sticks, so that the dough stretches out more.
My children & husband GOBBLED these up within MINUTES of coming out of the oven and all promptly declared that we must always make our own pretzels! Enjoy your day my friends!! (Photo taken at the St. Louis Zoo)

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Menu Plan Monday...

It's Monday and it's time to share our Menu!
Monday: Cheese Steak Sandwiches topped with onions and green peppers from our garden & served with a garden salad made up of veggies from our garden!
Tuesday: Quesadillas topped with garden fresh salsa and served with homemade pinto beans.
Wednesday: Beef with Pea Pods served over rice
Thursday: Chicken Burrito Bowls (filled with rice, beans and garden fresh salsa)
Friday: Garden Salad & Sandwich Bar at our movies in the park!
Saturday: Dinner with an old friend in Chicago!!
Sunday: Burgers on the grill with steak fries.

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Monday Musings...

Welcome to Monday! I hope your weekend went well. Ours was packed to the gills but we had so much fun and would love to have spent all day today in bed, but alas the week must go on and we plan on tackling it with a smile.
We're ticking things off of our bucket list daily and loving it! The kids love seeing that list get full of lines. they are off to camp next week, and cannot stop talking about all the fun things they will do. I love all the energy that kids have and how animated they can get when talking about everything. Want your own BUCKET LIST? GO HERE!  Please feel free to link up ANY activities you have done this Summer or your own lists! I love seeing what everyone is up to! Even a pinterest board dedicated to Summer will do!
On Friday we hit the park for Friday Night Flix and spent the evening eating popsicles and playing UNO and then watching a movie and eating popcorn. We had an absolute blast hanging out with friends and enjoying the weather.
On Saturday we enjoyed our evening at a Chicago Rush football game. These arena football games are some of our favorite to attend, there is enough action to keep you enjoying the game and the players are so friendly that they sign autographs, pose for photos and even chat with the fans after the game. It's an awesome evening of family fun and never too expensive!
If you are one of the first in the door, you have many opportunities to catch footballs, watch practice, sign up for games that take place in between periods and even get a lot of door prizes!
Our relaxing Sunday was spent tidying up the house and then another movie, this one in a Victorian Village! Have you taken a look at events right in your own community? You will be surprised at what you find and you will love discovering new places and enjoying new things.
How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...123

I am lost in this moment of a Daddy playing with his family during our book club hour...
Ignore this video that is just being posted as a test for something.
Posted on December 3 of 2014

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Happy July! Vacation Memories

Happy July my friends! Sorry for the silence, but we have been out of town enjoying our family and learning about our United States! We visited Springfield, Illinois to learn about our government and for the kids to learn all about what was going on. After a day there, we spent the rest of our vacation in St. Louis, Missouri.
We are a Disney World family and are constantly saving for the next trip along with our big trip to Europe that we are hoping to take in 3 years. That was all changed when we purchased this little Passport to Your National Parks!! This is the most fantastic thing I have ever seen! It's full of National Parks in the USA and has places to get your passport cancelled when you visit those parks, just like a real passport! There is a large map, stamps and other fun things included in this. This is absolutely perfect for homeschoolers, talk about hands on learning!! Many of these places can be done on a long weekend, on the way to longer trips and are all great adventures to take your children on. Our first destinations of Springfield & St. Louis were 2 of the places in this passport that we could tackle in one trip and our first adventure was planned!
We made sure not to rush the trip, which allowed us time to take in so much, but there was still so much more to do!! This is definitely a trip that must be repeated. We made sure that there was a learning aspect to all of our stops and the kids didn't even know it was happening. They thought this was a vacation from school!  We learned about how kids played in the days prior to electronic toys and enjoyed learning how to play many of the games.
The Botanical Gardens had us smiling and relaxing as we watched winged creatures up close and sometimes even land on our heads. Sitting and watching these Butterflies made for quite a Science lesson.
There was a lot of walking where we calculated how much we walked and the distance to certain destinations. We learned how to use maps properly and also calculated long driving distances.
Every time we go out to a new city, we visit children's museums and taking them in is a learning experience in itself! Here we are examining Gabriel's eye and exploring the new place.
Beautiful fountains you can play in?? City Gardens in St. Louis got our vote for the #1 fun family thing to do that was FREE!! It was a great way for everyone to cool off and enjoy a break in the day.
Vacation Tip? Buy postcards and mail some to yourself so that you can have postmarks from your destinations along with memories of what you did that day! I like to have the kids each write 1 line about what we did in that location and then at the end of the entire trip, we have the front desk mail them out. It's a fun and inexpensive diary of our vacation.
Where have you vacationed to recently? Share your destinations with us in the comments!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Homeschooling Myth #1

What a busy and fun weekend we had but it also left me scratching my head. Not many people know we are homeschooling yet, but it is slowly leaking out. One comment we get too often is about the kids and socialization. The kids and not having any friends or playing with their friends. This is the biggest myth out there about homeschoolers.

1. My kids are in clubs and lessons at the college and library, where they interact with other kids their age and older.
2. My kids see their old friends from school at least twice a month.
3. We are part of a co-op that goes on field trips and gets together for study sessions.
4. My kids are outside daily with the neighborhood children throughout the school year and summer months.

To me, my kids get to actually interact with other children more often than they did when they were in school, they are done with studying by 11 in the morning and the rest of our day is spent at lessons, groups, clubs and the like. My kids do not own electronic devices that keep them from chatting with people when we go to parties, family homes or even hospital visits. Car rides, Plane rides and Train rides are all about talking, reading and getting to socialize and work on the art of conversation. Communication is HUGE in our book and also in many other homeschooling homes. PLEASE do not spread this rumor or mention it when you meet a homeschooling family, if you have questions, always feel free to ask! Teaching our children is our passion and we will often answer anything you want and more!
Why can't we all just let one another educate in peace? There is no right or wrong way to do things, we all just do what is right for us. As long as we are personally doing what we truly believe is right for our children, then that is all that matters.
Enjoy every minute my friend!

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Menu Plan Monday!

It's Menu Plan Monday! What is on your Menu for tonight? The rest of the week?
Grilled Pork Chops & Baked Potato Bar with Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Hot Dogs over the fire pit & Garden Salad

Bean Burritos & Potato Wedges

Chicken Stir Fry over Rice

Italian Sub Sandwiches & Chips with Pasta Salad

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Welcome to my Classroom! PART 1

*WARNING* Picture Heavy Post
Welcome to our classroom! Happy Monday my friends, I have been meaning to get this post out for so long, I don't even know when I promised to get it done. I have an ever evolving classroom that is constantly changing to fit our needs. These photos are from last week and already there are a few things different about it! I hope you enjoy tour #1, there is much more to show next time! Here you see our reading area. This library has half of our books organized by subject, except for the chapter books which are organized alphabetically by author and our picture books, which are organized by theme. Above the bench is our behaviour and volume board an a magnetic dry-erase board. Under the bench are bins of crayons, colored pencils, markers and the like. Below that is a large bin of coloring books and activity books. This is a favorite  place that the children can be found, even when class is NOT in session!
Here is our work table. The kids work here everyday while we are chatting, working or playing. This seems to be classroom central. It's not formal, the kids are able to grab pillows and work on the floor, sit in the reading bench...anything like that, but they choose the table a lot. On the table is a basket of pencils, sharpeners, erasers and the like, along with oft used reference materials, counters and their class binders. Everyday it is someone's chore to clear the table top, so it never becomes a source of clutter.
Above our desk area, you will see a black shelf, this holds items that are not used very often but we still need to keep them within classroom reach. Extra counters, models we build, shapes, specimen bottles, Science supplies and the like.
The bathroom is attached to our classroom and we keep the door closed, in order to keep the air/heat inside the classroom and to keep it hidden. We decided to use the door as one of our class gallery walls.
Double duty work is shown here, where I have a shelf that holds containers of things for my use. I covered the shelf with posters and the word wall, in order to make wasted space usable. We can easily remove the posters to reach anything behind and they go up just as quickly. All posters in my classroom are laminated, to make them easier to wipe clean and write on if needed.
This is our writing wall! While at a business close-out sale, I picked up LOADS of wall chart paper that I have hung on the wall with 2 cup hooks. Once all of these are gone, I will be looking to put up a chalkboard or white board here. For now this works and we are using things we have on hand! It's also a great space for Pictionary Family Play! Below the charts I keep a bin of supplies relating to the topic we are discussing. This is Money Math for my 5 year old. I had some markers and a game on hand to play as we learned. To the left of the board is a small bookshelf that holds an entire Science series of books and one on religion. At the top is a basket for our 5-A-Day guided reading and an ice-cube tray-turned-marker-holder for instant access to an array of markers.
This little corner of the classroom is called our Daily Wall. It has things that we look at daily just for a quick review. Our daily wall consists of:
1.  Periodic Table of Elements pages. These are all laminated and everyone gets one. Each day we discuss 1 element and just talk about it. This never lasts more than 1 minute and there are no tests, it's just to get them familiar with the information.
2. State of the Week! Every week we discuss a state, the shape that it is, where it is located on the large map and some facts about it. We spell the state and learn about it's capital. This never lasts more than 10 minutes. During this time we also play our States and Capitals Geography song.
3. Flashcharts Hook. This holds flashcharts that we tend to use on a daily basis. The biggie is How to Write a Book Report but there are some math ones and a Spanish Vocab one on the hook too.
4. A larger clipboard holds recommended reading lists and our word-of-the-day from the SAT Vocabulary Book can also be found here. (Not shown in this photo, because we were working on it at the moment).
5. 2 cup hooks hold Multiplication & Division flashcards for flipping through on a daily basis to keep information fresh.
Beneath the wall is our Science/Nature exploration table. This holds anything we find while outdoors and has different trays for sorting and different things for testing and examining the materials. Below that is a storage unit that holds Math Manipulatives. (Games, flashcards etc.)
This long shelf along the wall of our classroom holds our educational games that can only be played in the classroom and must be returned to this spot. This is also another one of my bookshelves that holds reference books, phonics materials and early readers, our Religion shelf is also on the bottom of this unit. At the top of the unit are smaller word games that were too small for the top long shelf and fit perfectly there. To the right of the shelving unit is our Social Studies area, this holds a globe, relevant puzzles, flashcards and the like. It keeps it all in one place, so that when we are studying things, I know right where to find all I need. This is the easiest way for me to keep my classroom organized, I keep everything grouped by subject and all related to that are kept in the vicinity. The drawer unit under the globe is full of Social Studies and Geography maps, cards, games, and other like materials. To the right of that, you will find our 100 chart, these are displayed on cup hooks and have a variety of different posters behind the hooks so that they are easily interchanged. I LOVE decorating with cup hooks!
This small section of space holds our pocket charts and bulletin board. On the bulletin board is revolving classroom information and community events that are happening that happen to coincide with what we are learning about. A cafe rod holds flashcards that are being used at that time, a bucket of letters for spelling words and 2 more cup hooks hold placemats turned posters! They are inexpensive and super informative! Perfect for using with a dry erase marker and wiping clean when finished. 
This wall is a work in progress. It's missing quite a few things (Just don't know what!!) and lacks color and punch. More placemats for State Learning along with a flashcard ring of states and capitals. Another cafe rod displays and dries artwork. This rod can expand to allow for more to be put on. A sleeve of books, puts books on display that align with what we are studying and at the very tip more Flashcharts on the Solar System and US Presidents. Above that are oversized flashcards on the solar system and above that (not shown) is a large poster of the solar system.
That's it for now! I hope you enjoyed touring our classroom and if there is anything you would like to see more of, please just ask and I can take closer photos!! Enjoy every minute my friends!
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