Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014!

As we close out a year and I reflect back on what was 2014, I am just left a muddled mess. This was a year of love, loss, togetherness, family, distance, travel and so much more. We lost loved ones, welcomed new ones and did so much. We took a large paycut to have more family time and this year saw us lose family members, not to death, but by choice. Sometimes it is necessary to just cut the stress out of your life.
Homeschooling reached a stride where I no longer felt the need to compete with other schools but to challenge my children in new and creative ways, where they learned more than they ever could about topics that interest them and still kept up with their book studies as well.
2014 became the year of our family, we decided it was time to make a difference in our surrounding world by helping out and to strengthen our bonds as parents, lovers and people. It was also time to become a true family unit that shares, plays and talks. We had dinner together every single night in 2014. This sometimes meant eating a very early dinner or a very late one, but we always ate together. This is now our priority. If my husband and I had a date night, we still 'ate' with the kids before we headed out, by sitting and chatting with them at the table.
The year taught us a lot about people and places and things. It made us realize how so much in life is unnecessary and just a waste of time. As our kids grew older and wiser, we learned more about them and they about us. They seemed to really grow into their personalities this year.
Our travels took us out of state 10 times this year and to 7 different states. We made each opportunity a learning one and in doing that we all had fun learning new things. This was a year of blessings and triumphs as well as troubles and scares. We had a happy 2014 but only hope that 2015 brings us an even better year. 
Thank you all for sticking by me this year and for your comments and messages. I truly appreciate each and every one of you and wish nothing but the best for your 2015. As our children grow older, let me remind you once again to take the time to enjoy every minute.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas & Birthdays & School...Oh My!

WOW, it came and it went all so quickly didn't it?! We managed to celebrate the Christmas holiday with friends and family, rush in a birthday celebration for a very special 9 year old and even did some school work! Just because your friends are off of school, does not mean that we have to be! I am one of those parents and it drives my kids insane. Even while out of town for a few weeks, we are still doing school. Oh woe is me..I mean them! How was your Christmas? I am NOT looking forward to finally getting home and having to clean out toys to fit in new ones...oh and my kids all got tablets from my I need to look into filtering them and doing something with those as well.
While getting ready for friends to join us in an evening of games and exchanging gifts, I needed the kids occupied and didn't have time to put anything together. I handed them scissors, tape and coffee filters and told them to create a table runner for me! The result was this snowflake runner and I LOVED IT!!
Being out of town results in a lot of eating out and sometimes even that loses its luster for children and I am so glad my purse is always full of entertainment! (No cute clutch over here) Games, cards, dice, cars, figures, name it, I have a variety in there. I like to use brain games as much as possible or even just hand them a few things and tell them to create their own games. Keeping them thinking is key.
School on the road needs to be quick and handy as well as not take up too much space so these Folders are perfect for flashcard learning! We made these folders out of cardstock and are perfect for the flashcard kids in your life. The folder closes up and stays closed with a rubberband. This makes them portable for a quick run through on the go! It's also a great visual reminder on what your child/student needs to work on. Visual enticements keep the kids eager to keep going, because they see how much they know and want to add to it! My boys are visual and tactile learners and this works so well for anything they are doing. They are always eager to fill in that KNOW column. I tell them that the know column is their brain and the more they put in that slot, the more they are filling their brain with awesome information.
With a new year on its way, I remind you to enjoy every minute my friends!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday...

Here it is Thursday already and I have rudely left you all hanging! We have been out of town on a marathon field trip, shopping, visiting and driving spree. Our homeschool group has left the local area to hit up big cities and take classes, tours and a variety of other things. We are finally headed home tomorrow to prepare for our big Winter Wonderland party!
Traveling does not stop the learning, it just has us bring it on the road with us. One thing I love to bring is a floor mat of the USA that allows the kids to play on it and then we made up popsicle stick states on one side an abbreviations on the other. Pick an abbreviation and find it's state. It's large enough for all 3 kids to fit on the mat but portable enough that it all folds into a gallon size ziploc bag. We also have USA puzzles in a variety of types so that when they build them, they are not bored by what they are doing! We LOVE State Learning as you can see HERE!
As I sit here enjoying my cuppa, I always seem to notice that no matter how old my children get, they seem to always gravitate towards the same toys. Yes, interest in cooler and more mechanical things will always arise but when told to bring things when we go out of town, I realize that the basics of books,crayons, pencils and paper always make it and if we are there for an extended time, blocks and cars make the list too. These tree branch blocks my husband made them always seem to be along for a ride and their montessori style sound and color blocks as well. They are 7,8, & 9 and yet they are still my babies...
LEGOLAND is one of our very favorite homeschool hot spots. They have great classes, awesome employees and their customer service before you even arrive is top-notch. The kids always have such a blast at these classes that I decided to mention the latest one to our homeschool group and many people made the 1.5 hour trek with us and what fun we all had! LEGOLAND Schaumburg is out of this world in our book!
Crazy Charlie is up to his old antics as he too comes with us when we travel! Sometimes he is already in the hotel room when we arrive and sometimes we arrives at our destination some time the next day. Silly elf made a swing of the Ceiling fan! Good thing no one turned it on!! See what else Charlie has been up to in 2014 HERE!
Enjoy every minute my friends!!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Review It: Spectrum Workbooks

Hello friends, it's Finally Friday! Early last month I posted about our great mail day arrival, where our Spectrum Workbooks for review arrived! I decided to truly bring these into our curriculum, which as many of you know is a box curriculum. It took some work to get them to fit in, but I wanted to give a proper review. After once month of using them,  I am happy to say that we will continue using the rest of these books as a supplement for what we already use.
Using Spectrum was a great idea, as new books are like new toys and right away everyone wants to check them out! The kids absolutely loved the titles I chose for them to work on and so did I! My 6th grade got Writing & Science, 4th grader got Writing & Language Arts and my 2nd grader received Math.  We did not go right in row through the book, instead I poked through and picked and pulled what lined up with what they are working on or what they needed a little additional help with.
I absolutely loved that their pages were perforated and allowed me to pull out the pages needed, staple them and stick them in one of our decorated folders to take on the go with us. I have mentioned before how portability is very important to us and these fit the bill!
Spectrum workbooks have very clear and concise explanations for all of their sections and that is VERY important for those that wish to use them as more than a supplement. My 2nd grader was able to look at the examples and figure it out on his own. That is great when I have 2 other children that need my attention every now and then as well. Thanks so much Spectrum for this wonderful opportunity! Be sure to follow THEM ON FACEBOOK, where they share great ideas and awesome free activities as well!
Enjoy every minute my friends!

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**I was compensated for this review but all opinions are my own!**

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tip and Tricks of the Trade

Happy Thursday, it's time to share a round up of tricks and tips for the house, classroom and life in general! Book organization is HUGE in our home, mainly because every room in our house has a bookshelf or 2 or 3 or 6!! We love books here, even our benches and tables have stacks of books on them. For books that have spines that cannot be read, we put them in baskets and bins so that they face forward for easy finding. For larger books, they go in normally and then we use paint stir sticks to label the subjects. I also keep a master list of books so that I can keep track of what we have and where. Whenever new books come into the classroom, they sit in a basket until I can catalog them. I also use the top of the bookshelves as storage space to keep things organized and off the ground!

Keep recyclables handy for storing items!  I use upcycled containers in my large bags to store bandaids, hand sanitizer, bobby pins, chapstick and anything else that is too small and gets lost easily. I don't like using cosmetic bags because if something leaks it makes a mess & I don't like using ziplock bags because they are still hard to find in the bag. These make it easy to grab something! 
I saw this on a blog earlier in the week and could not wait to have the kids try it out for the train village! All it takes is an open window car, an ornament hook and pliers. Thanks All Things Beautiful! 
Our library sells magazines from .10-.25 each and many are just last month's editions! I pick up a few every month just to cut up for collages and the larger letters for our letter box. Perfect for spelling words and other fun things! 
As daddy gets our tree in place, the most important part is the train board. It is a week long process that has my kids giving their undivided attention to Daddy as he tells stories of how this train used to belong to his grandpa and all the memories he has. In the background you can see Charlie, our Elf on the shelf taking advantage of the free train play! See what else Charlie has been up to this year HERE!
Remember to enjoy every minute!
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Happy Midweek!

Charlie got a hold of the model bricks...
Check out other elf ideas for 2014 HERE!

He is in our window along with hot coffee and now sharing a sweater with Kermit

All day field trip made for a long day yesterday!

Love the smell of fresh pine needles!

Love them so much!

Remember to enjoy every minute!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Life is Good...

Sweet surprises abound on Friday when we hosted our first ever Gingerbread House Creating & Decorating Party! It was so much fun for all 15 kids we had in the house and I think the 10 adults had a great time as well! It was something we billed as a family event so that time was spent together and it worked out wonderfully! We went through 8 boxes of graham crackers, countless bags of candy, 5 tubs of frosting, 1 pack of food coloring and 4 bags of marshmallows!!
After letting them sleep the sugar high from the Gingerbread Party off, we met friends for brunch Saturday afternoon and had so much fun. Even though they were adult friends with plenty of chatter and hours of sitting, the kids still managed to enjoy themselves too! A few crayons on the backside of the placemat is all it takes to keep them entertained...that and a fully stocked dessert bar!
Saturday evening had us from 4-9pm with different friends at the Zoo to see their Christmas Light show and events and activities. 5 boys and 1 girl make for an amusing trip full of energy and wild antics!
Sunday morning we headed to mass early and then off to Wisconsin to get some shopping done (Cheese and brats are a must!!) along with a visit to their events arena to buy some tickets for a few shows we want to see next year! They will be delivered via the North Pole express! We enjoyed dinner at our favorite Milwaukee location (Buck Bradley's).
Right from dinner we headed to Starbucks at Arrow Park and then to watch the skaters! We wanted to get on the ice, but we had plans to meet up with friends and it was time to get going!!
Yay our friends had joined us! It was time to watch the Holiday Train from Canadian Pacific pull in and then the concert and SANTA!!! Gabriel even got a high five from Santa!! He believes he may have been injected with magic as that was the REAL Santa you know!! It was truly an amazing sight and I don't know who was more excited; the kids or I?!
Charlie the Elf was up to his usual antics this weekend, including climbing into a lamp and dropping down a scarf for Hot Coffee to come up again! (Please note, this are florescent bulbs, DO NOT try with any other bulbs and on a smarter note, leave the light off!! I just turned it on to take the photo as it was too dark already).
This morning we were up early for mommy to meet her group of friends as we walked the mall and the kids sat down and did their work for the day! Some of those older people can certainly power walk, I have to join up with them!! I think the mommy's just like getting together to chat! Hahaha!
First we had school at the mall and now what?! Crafting for school?! Yup, did you now that writing letters to penpals is the perfect school activitiy? It includes handwriting, spelling and art! Don't forget letter writing, envelope addressing and so much more! Get a penpal and watch your children LEARN & have fun!!
Who would have thought that all it took was becoming a teacher to pull my shy boy out of his shell! This Chess Class kit is just another tool in his belt of confidence. He started teaching chess to beginners and hosting a free play chess at the library and he is just getting more animated and excited as I watch. Find something your child loves and start small! Have them teach a smaller, younger child and then watch it grow!

Menu Plan Monday will be brief with just dinners today as my son is in the middle of a chess lesson and I have to keep an eye on the time!
Monday - Loaded Baked Potato Soup in the Slow Cooker! (Smells so good!) with Tomato & Cucumber slices
Tuesday - Grilled Chicken Salad Bar with DIY Veggie toppings to build it all yourself
Wednesday - Pinto Bean Soup served with Cucumber Slices sprinkled with lime, salt and chile with blue corn tortilla chips & Avocado slices
Thursday - Zootles (Zucchini noodles) with homemade tomato sauce and heirloom tomato salad.
Friday - Birthday Party!
Saturday - Dinner Date with husband as kids go to Parents Night Out!
Sunday - Out of Town to go to a LEGO show!
Enjoy Every Minute My Friends!

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