Homeschooling Is a Labor of Love

So, it’s been a crazy few weeks (months?!) around here and more often than not I find myself feeling very overwhelmed and completely not prepared, adequate or capable of fulfilling my calling as a homeschooling mama!  Some days I wonder if my husband and I even heard right when we were called to homeschool.  Surely God didn’t really mean us, our imperfect, sometimes lazy, consistently inconsistent selves to homeschool these 5 blessings He has entrusted with us?!  And then it happens, those little shining moments when God realizes I need some affirmation and encouragement… or else!!  Sometimes those moments come when I overhear my older son encouraging his younger brother while they are building Lego’s or when a math concept that we’ve gone over and over and over finally clicks, or better yet, when we go out to a restaurant and get compliments on how well behaved the children are!  And sometimes, when those kind of moments have been few and far between and I’m beating myself up about my inadequacy and feeling guilty, something else happens.  I go to the mailbox and find “Encouragement” wrapped in plastic with the name of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Just this spring, after the baby was born and we’d spent way more time “living life” than “doing school”, I was pretty sure my kids would never get past the 4th grade, let alone graduate, and I was feeling the big “GUILT” for never measuring up, when I read the most encouraging article by Deb Wuehler.  It was in the Spring 2010 issue titled “That Guilty Feeling”.  As I read, I discovered that I’m not the only one that feels guilty, that she feels the *same* way!  A homeschooling mama of 8, that works for a magazine about homeschooling for goodness’ sake and she feels the *same* way..that she feels guilt about being inadequate, about not getting it all done, about her children and the way they behave and feeling like they don’t fit in!  Wow…I finished reading that article with tears in my eyes and a renewed sense of hope for our homeschooling future!  She reminded me to look to the One who has called us on this journey.  To remember that I’m not supposed to have it all figured out, but that I am supposed to lean on Him “…for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9
There have been many such moments when I’ve been so very thankful for the subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and I am happy to share with you a special opportunity to receive the same blessing for a very small cost!  In fact, it was this very offer last year that enabled me to purchase the magazine and receive the encouragement I so desperately needed early this Spring! 
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The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is extending an extraordinary
subscription offer to homeschool families. Receive a one-year print
subscription for just $7.95 or a one-year plus current issue
subscription for $12.95. One-year subscriptions start with the winter
issue. The one-year plus current issue starts with the fall issue.
Only 5000 of these special subscriptions are available from August 31
through midnight on September 15. Once the 5000 are gone, they're gone!
Hurry and grab this crazy price today!
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* I will receive a free ticket to the Fall Expo-to-Go in exchange for this post as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew.





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Blog Cruise: Technology in the homeschool…or how I can’t live without my iPod!!



Here are just a few of the ways we use modern technology to supplement our homeschooling experience:
iPod – We own an iPod Touch and I have audio books (history, fiction, classic literature), classical music for composer studies, folk songs, hymns, children’s music like Bob McGrath, Expo to Go seminars and more loaded on it.  Not to mention the many educational apps that are available!  As well as the Kindle and Nook apps for reading books.  We keep it in the school room area and take it with us in the car all the time.  The only way I could love an iPod anymore was if I had I had one of these for each of my children, or at least one for the girls room and one for the boys room!  No more lost and scratched audio books!  No more lost voice from reading yet one more book aloud.  No more wondering where our favorite CD is!  I can *not* wait until we are able to purchase an iPad.  I can think of a million and one reasons why it will become my new best friend in my homeschool!
Computer– Ooooh…let’s see where do we start with how we use the Computer in our homeschool?!  Obviously, I love it for blogging, researching curricula, talking about curricula, selling and buying curricula. 
My children use the following sites:
Math U See Online Math Drill – everyday
SpellingCity.com – 3-4x / week.  Love, love, love this for my kiddo’s!  It’s great for practicing and playing games with their spelling words as well as freeing me up to work with one of the other kiddo’s! 
Starfall.com – fun ABC' games for the littles

We have a plethora of E-books, games, puzzles etc.  My children use Google almost daily to look up some random bit of information that I do not have the answer too, like how old was Elvis when he died?! I let my 2 younger ones play on Starfall or other educational sites while I’m working with the 2 older ones on their lessons. 
We check out educational videos or historical movies from the library almost weekly.  My husband and children use our digital camera to make movies and then edit them.
We have also considered purchasing Netbooks for each of the children so they could do some of their work on the computer independently.  Right now they are probably a bit young, but I can see how that will be helpful in later years!
To find out how others use technology in their homeschool, be sure to stop by the TOS Blog Cruise!





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TOS Review: Peterson Directed Handwriting

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My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.  Write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:1-3 (paraphrase)

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I was so excited to be able to review the Peterson Directed Handwriting Program for my children! We are slowly finding our groove with other subjects, finding what works and what doesn’t, but handwriting has had me stumped.  Especially after watching my older two deal with reversals, poor pencil grip, and cramping hands, I knew I needed to find something different, not only to help them but also so I could avoid those problems with my Kindergartner!  After having done some research I had decided I wanted to start my K’er with Cursive and was pleased to see that Rand at Peterson Directed Handwriting offered a cursive first option.  I was given PDF by Hand E-Workbooks for Cursive Steps 1-4 for review.  Each level concentrates on building fluency through movement and verbal cues slowly changing line spacing to an adult level.  The key to this progression isn’t only knowing how to form the letters, but to build fluent movement to help children perform the physical act of writing so automatically that it doesn’t interfere with the creative writing aspect. For many children, the process of writing can be frustrating, not because they don’t know what to say, but because the process of writing is so slow and awkward.
This method of handwriting is very different from most common handwriting programs because it relies heavily on building fluency using rhythmic movement and verbal cues as well as the Color/Rhythm models of the letters.  The Color/Rhythm models show how a letter is formed by each stroke having a different color.  Most letters can be formed after learning the four basic strokes. In all honestly, at first the process was a bit overwhelming to me, but after spending a bit of time with the materials and emailing Rand with my questions, I was ready to go.  He helped me figure out where to start each of my children, what the period of instruction should look like and suggestions for how to progress through the materials.  I was very pleased with the support that Rand offers and consider it a valuable bonus to the E-Workbooks. I was also able to attend a special presentation at the Peterson Meeting Room where he shared more of the nuts and bolts of the program.  This meeting room is usually open to visitors during the week where Rand will be able to answer any further questions and troubleshoot problems. 
I used the Cursive Writing Steps 1 – ABC’s and 123’s Cursive with my Kindergarten son.  I was very pleased to find that I was able to blend it seamlessly with our phonics program.  I have especially appreciated the focus on gross motor movements to help learn the letter formation and the verbal cues.  My son and I have spent a lot of time air-writing our letters and then finger-tracing with the Learning Pages before using the whiteboard for practice.  This process has been very fun for him!  He is your typical wiggly boy and anything that we can do that includes movement is a very good thing.  We haven’t spent as much time using the practice sheets because he needs more time to develop those gross motor patterns for fluent handwriting.  I think this would be a beneficial handwriting program for any student, but can really see the benefits for the wiggly boys!!
I have begun instruction for my older two children as well using the same air writing and finger tracing to build good gross motor patterns.  We do use the practice sheets with pencil to “Write and Say” their letters.  I have also spent a lot more time focusing on proper positioning and pencil grip with them.  I had no idea how important this was until using the Peterson Directed Handwriting method.  My daughter has moved from a death grip and cramped hands to much more fluid movement and better grip.  I did purchase the Cursive Positioning Guides to help my children remember proper paper position as well as a visual reminder of the Color/Rhythm Alphabet.  They are not crucial to using the program but are very inexpensive and very helpful, so I do recommend them.  I also have my children use the basic Stetro Gripper to help with proper pencil grip. 
I have 5 children and really appreciate the value in purchasing E-Workbooks to use for handwriting instruction.  I can print as many practice pages as are needed for each of my children, each year we study handwriting.  Each level is $19.95 and offers Teacher’s Instructions, Fluency Tests and Practice Pages as well as the excellent customer support from Rand!  For those that would prefer daily lesson outlines and physical books, Homeschool Kits are also offered on the website.  Peterson Directed Handwriting makes for a very thorough and economical choice for handwriting instruction.
You can find more reviews of Peterson Directed Handwriting at the TOS Homeschool Review Crew!!





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**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

It’s a small world after all…

Last week we were supposed to go on a tour of the local chocolate factory, but it was sold out when we got there.  That’s what I get for not checking the public school calendar and realizing that this was the last Tuesday before school started.  I guess everyone in town was going to go on a last hurrah before the bus picked the kiddo’s up on Thursday!  Instead we went with a friend to Border’s book store and then to my most favorite used bookstore, Redeemed Music and Books.  Usually I find great deals on things I want to try, or things that would just be fun, but this week I found a fellow TOS mama doing some shopping!  I had just heard her speak on one of the Spring Expo-to-Go’s seminars and about fell over when she was from my area.  We started visiting about something and she mentioned doing an online class, that’s when I asked her if she was from TOS and lo and behold it’s the same mama!  Such a small world!  It was so nice to meet her and get to visit for a bit.  I hope we’ll be able to get together again soon!
Stop by her blog at Heritage Homeschooling and say Hi!





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The Fall 2010 Schoolhouse Expo!!


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It's back to homeschool time and registration is open for the online Schoolhouse Expo, October 4-8. It's five days of top homeschool speakers, fellowship, and fun door prizes.
Save $5 per ticket! Register between August 16 and midnight August 22, and you'll pay only $19.99. Plus you'll receive over $200 in free E-Books.
You'll be inspired by speakers including: Zan Tyler, Dr. Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright,Carol Barnier, Diana Waring, Todd Wilson, Davis Carman, Kim Kautzer, Lee Binz, and many more!
A special teen track is planned--the entire family will definitely want to listen to these special sessions. We've also planned a special focus on a topic that touches every homeschool--writing. Plus, an array of other topics that will inform and inspire you throughout your homeschooling years.
Don't forget, MP3 copies of each session comes with your LIVE event ticket.
Two special preconference shows on August 24 and September 21 with Dr. 
Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright, and Kim Kautzer!
Register starting 12:01 a.m. on Monday, August 16.
The theme this fall is "Celebrate Homeschooling!" We're going to celebrate the unique blessings of homeschooling, the beginning of another school year, our families, and the freedom to tailor our children's education to best meet their needs.
If you cannot make the Live event,  then the October Expo To Go is just your ticket! You'll reserve MP3s from all of the workshops. This week only, pay just $14.95!
You do not want to miss out on this amazing event!  I am actually listening  to a seminar from the Spring Expo right now and am being encouraged as a homeschooling mom!  Deb Wuehler did a daily devotional during the Spring Expo that have all been so encouraging.  I can’t wait to attend the Fall Expo *LIVE* so I can chat and be encouraged by other mom’s who are traveling the same road with me.
* I will receive a free ticket to the Fall Expo in exchange for this post as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew.  However, I was already planning on buying my tickets this week, too, as I have been so encouraged by the Spring Expo speakers!





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Not Back to School Blog Hop: Student Photo Week

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I am so excited to finally be getting to this week!  A chance to show off the houseful of blessings that God has given us.  I am so privileged to be their mother and am continually humbled by the responsibility that God has given me!
Our oldest, Miss J, in 5th grade!  (How is it possible that I am the mother of a 10yo?!  Wasn’t she just a baby yesterday?)

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Mr. Lego, 3rd grade.  Logical, mathematical and an excellent artist.

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Mr. Fix-It, Kindergarten.  Biggest heart and busy, busy, busy.

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Miss Paya, 3yo preschool.  So sweet, yet able to hold her own amongst the boys!

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Mr. Little-Bit, 5 months old.  I am grateful for another babe-in-arms this year!

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Not Back to School Blog Hop: School Room Week

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I am so very blessed and very thankful to have a school room!!  Granted, we end up “doing school” all over the house, but having a place for our stuff is a blessing!!  One of these days, when I don’t have anything better to do than unload all the bookshelves and move the furniture I would like to paint, but I don’t see that happening too soon!
Our school room is in our basement, on the opposite side of our family room.  Fortunately it is a walkout basement, so it gets plenty of natural light and has a door to the outside so I can send Mr. FIx-It out to jump the wiggles out on the trampoline!  We have a dining room table for our book studies, a magnetic chalkboard that took me a week to paint and a desk for me.  The comfy couch and chair are just behind another bank of bookshelves for read-alouds and times when working on the floor is more comfortable than the table.

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The hanging files to the left are my fledgling attempt at Workboxes for the older children.  We don’t have room for the real thing, but I think this will work quite well.  To the right of the play kitchen are toy bins to keep the toddler (and sometimes the older kids) busy.  She has a dollhouse and barn to play with as well.  My desk is to the left of the table.  Directly opposite the dining table to the back is another set of bookshelves like those in the picture.  I really need to prune some of my books and re-organize my shelves, but that hasn’t made it to the top of my priority list yet!
That is a peek into our one room schoolhouse!  Thanks for stopping by to see it!





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**This was written by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew for advertising purposes.

No internet = No blogging...

Boo hoo!!  We live in the country, and while it has many benefits, internet is not one of them!  We have been using an air-card through a cell-phone company with pretty good results but we've had problems the last week or so.  We'll hopefully get it all fixed and figured out soon, but until then the blog will be pretty quiet!!  I can only use the internet at my MIL's or the Library, but with the awful heat we haven't ventured out much!!  My dear husband checks my e-mail for any important TOS Crew updates and lets me know about those, but everything else has been on hold.

I have been having *so much fun* buying school supplies for pennies and quarters a piece!  I'll have to post a pic of my 'not back to school shopping" haul!  I think I have enough glue sticks, pencils, highlighters and more to last us at least a couple of years!!  LOL





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