Works for Me Wednesday

The dynamics of managing a large family is all encompassing...the more people living in a home, the more there is to manage, right?  Well, one summer after loading a full dishwasher of CUPS (are you kidding), something had to change.  I mean many cups do you need in a day?

Here's what works for us:

Each morning the children select their cup.  We label it with a strip of masking tape and write their name on it.  For the sippy cups we try to write a date on it, too.  (How many of you have FOUND a sippy cup with milk or juice remnants in it after 'hiding' for a few days?  Not pretty, although it could make for a great science experiment!)

A simple label with initial or name and date to help keep cup consumption under control...Works for Me!

Wallah!  Now, we have severely decreased our cup consumption, thus saving TIME and RESOURCES (electricity, water and chemicals needed for washing all those cups).

Hope that helps some mom of many out there...

Happy Cup Reducing ~

P.S.  I hope you'll pop over to enter "A Thankful Heart" giveaway I'm hosting...see what the Lord has placed on my heart, join in the challenge and enter the giveaway. 

This post is linked up to:

Breakfast ~ at our home

So, what does breakfast look like in our house?  Each morning, for the most part, we gather around the table together.  Before each "school year" begins, I work on menu planning.  Our menu plans include:  breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner.  These are guides providing benefits like:  eliminating the famous "what's for ...?", saves time and money, is designed to make meals manageable on busier days of the week, includes input from the whole family based on their favorites which makes for happy children & husband.

My breakfast and afternoon snack menus (unlike our lunch and dinner) are a one week plan, which means every Monday we have "x", every Tuesday we have "y", etc.  This makes the start to our day easy and keeping breakfast items on hand simple.

Here's our breakfast menu (click here for my printed form):

~ Sunday: Homemade whole wheat pancakes (a large batch is made and the leftovers are frozen in a gallon sized Ziploc to be eaten on Tuesday)...some mini chocolate chip, some cranberry chocolate chip and the others are plain

~ Monday:  Scrambled eggs, fried seasoned hash browns, toasted bagels

~ Tuesday:  Leftover frozen pancakes

~ Wednesday:  Eggs, bacon or sausage and biscuits

~ Thursday:  Homemade whole wheat muffins (made on Wednesday night in three batches...millet, mini chocolate chip and either blueberry or apple cinnamon)

Millet and chocolate chip muffins cooling while more are baking

~ Friday:  Yogurt, fruit and homemade whole wheat coffee cake or homemade cinnamon rolls

~ Saturday:  French toast or waffles

Typically, breakfast preparations are done by our oldest sons or on the weekends my, I am not the breakfast maker (only on rare occasions ;-D ).  We try to incorporate all the children in the kitchen at some point or another, giving them basic cooking skills that will help them when they have their own homes someday. 

"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day...TEACH a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime."  This statement applies to so many areas of child training...basic life skills are an important part of our family ~ cooking, doing one's laundry, helping with household chores, etc.  Not only are the skills learned helpful to them for when they are on their own, it is always a means of teaching them responsibility, building character and allows them to contribute to the family.

The few mornings when our oldest leaves early for work or classes or when my husband has to leave early for work, have been planned as easy to prepare breakfasts.  For example, of the older children can easily help heat up pancakes for everyone in the microwave.  Those that are home, gather around the kitchen table and have a time of prayer and enjoy our simple breakfast together.

Other breakfast favorites include:

~ Ham n' Jam croissants (quick and EASY)
~ Brunch Egg bake (usually make for special occasions and for Christmas morning breakfast)
~ Breakfast tortillas (when I make homemade tortillas, sometimes we will use the leftover tortillas to wrap scrambled eggs, shredded cheese and sauteed veggies or sausage altogether...delicious)

The sign of a tortilla maker on our table is a happy day!
What does breakfast look like in your home?  Who handles the preparations and is it a time everyone is still home, able to sit and start the day together or do schedules dictate a more varied start to the day?  Are your children incorporated into the morning preparations and if so, what parts do they play?  Every home is different, with different needs, schedules and priorities...what have you found to work for breakfast time?  Any tips or no-fail recipes?  Your comments are welcomed and a blessing to be able to glean from.

Blessings ~

To see how other families do breakfast check out 4 Moms:  35 Children where they are hosting Breakfast themed.

Also linking to Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for Cooking Thursday.

Making My Home a Haven...Music

This week's challenge from Courtney at Women Living Well is to play soft music everyday.  Our focus challenge is to be peaceful through our words and as mothers to work on gentleness.

Today began harried, with much needing to be done.  What was missing?  I always start my day in prayer, committing the day to the Lord and asking for grace to handle it as He may direct.  I try to meditate on a Scripture verse before starting my day as well.  The missing element this morning, music.  I try to play hymns for instrumentals as a backdrop each day in our kitchen so the tune is subtly carried through our living areas.  It seems to set the pace for things and a volume of low.

Well, afternoon is here...actually it's near evening and one of my favorite CD's is playing.  His Faithfulness ~ The Poetry of Amy Carmichael set to music by Jim Spencer.  Her lovely poems are peacefully sung by Sarah MacIntosh, Ingrid Dumosch and Shannon Wexelberg.  I highly recommend this treasure of poetry to feed your spirit. 

This week I will attempt to be diligent to watch my words and tone, extending gentleness for harshness (Proverbs 15:1).  I will try to be slow to speak and to never speak when angry {a lovely reminder while attending our weekly young ladies (and Mom's) group last week}.  I will try to extend antidotes of love sweetly whispered in my children's ear each day to remind them of my love for them in the midst of this confused world.  What will you do to practice peace through your words this week?

My day is usually ended as it began, in communion with my Lord.  All is still, the next day prepared for and everyone has been tucked in...the house takes a breath then and I breathe in His words.  I confess my stumbling and renew my mind with His forgiveness, His truth, His mercy with each morsel of those God-breathed words from His book.  What a gift we all have to be able to open It, read It and proclaim the truths that are found in It!

May peace be present in your homes this week as you create a haven for your families ~ 

If you would like to join the wonderful challenge Courtney is doing this month, click here to read more.

Making Your Home a Haven

Greetings! I pray that with this season change upon us (our Northern friends are surely in full thrust of rich colors now); it has brought about a refreshing breeze to your homes and lives. Like a breath of fresh air the Father above gives us through His word as we breathe it in daily, I hope this season will bring a renewed desire to be intentional in our living. If this is your first time visiting, be sure to leave a comment and say “hello” (or if you have visited before…leave a note to say you stopped by). My hope is that while here you will be encouraged in your calling as a wife, mother, daughter, sister…

Well, as a further encouragement during this lovely season, Courtney at Women Living Well is hosting an October challenge ~ Making Your Home a Haven. This challenge is broken down into weekly challenges for the month of October for intentional living as we focus on making our homes a haven.  (Monica from the homespun heart is also doing a similar challenge this week.)

As wives and mothers our days are full of Distractions, Demands and Duties…sometimes we can allow these to hinder our Delight. I intend for this challenge to help me intentionally refocus my attention onto the Lord and to pray more, live more intentionally and focus more on how my behavior and attitude can set the tone of my home.

Courtney’s first challenge for this week is to:

  • Light a candle everyday in your home (well, that’s pretty simple) AND
  • Every time your eye catches sight of your lit candle, to say a prayer for peace to be in your home. (This is what I would call the intentional part.)
    One in the hub of our home...the kitchen
Another near a beautiful reminder of God's quiet time candle

I did light a few candles yesterday (as well as today) and my prayer is for peace to be the tone of our home ~ peace between each other, peace with the Lord’s direction for our day and peace to take over when things may not go smoothly (with a home full of children there is always sharing and kindness with everyone putting others needs before their own usually a squabble to be had at some point … several points… during the day). As the aroma from the candles fill my home, I pray that peace will also be the unseen aroma that resides throughout it…by God’s grace and my intentional actions to aide in bringing that about.

Yesterday, we spent some time bringing out our autumn decorations and creating focal points of the rich colors this season provides. Our Creator is so giving to design us to have senses…senses to smell the fragrances of His creation, senses to tastes the fruits of each season, senses to see the beauty of His design (if we will just slow down long enough to look at it), senses to hear the sounds associated with a change in season and senses to touch that can warm our hearts.

How are you intentional in living, in such a way, to create a peaceful home? What have you found to be a way (or ways) to encourage peace and joy to be present? Your comments may be just the means used by the Lord to encourage someone today that is struggling in this area…

That peace would be evident ~

If you would like to participate in Courtney’s challenge you can click here to see the challenges for this month.

I am also linking up with Monica over at the homespun heart, doing a similar challenge titled Make Your Home a Haven each day during this week.  She has a lovely blog reflecting the beauty of her creativity and making her home a haven.

Frugal Fridays: Money, Resources and Time

Frugal, as defined in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, means to be economical in the use of money, goods or provisions of any kind. Frugality is not a principle to frown upon, but one we should embrace as it is a means to freedom…be it, financial freedom, freedom from the bondage of “stuff” or freedom to do things the Lord puts before you to do (minister to the sick, to be hospitable, to serve others, etc.) because we have managed in such as way to allow us the “time” to do so.

Here are some of the frugal things that work for me in each category:

Money ~

We make our own laundry detergent and save much money by doing so. Here is the recipe we have found to work for us:

Ingredients ~

1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1 bar of Fels-Naptha (grated)
¼ cup Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Soap (we have used Tea Tree, Citrus Orange and Unscented for laundry soap making purpose…lavender would probably work just as well, too)
6 gallon bucket
Hot water (about 6 gallons)

Click here for my laundry soap post for instructions and my cost analysis.

Goods ~

I try to conserve resources (water, which we pay for) but limiting the amount of dishes I dirty in meal preparations. Whenever possible, I use one pot or one bowl for recipes. For baking recipes that say “cream” this in one bowl and “mix” dry goods in another, I “cream” in the mixing bowl and add the dry goods to it. My recipes have never flopped from not using that other bowl. When making a casserole or soup recipe, I use one pot for all my preparations…brown the meats, then add the veggies that need to be sautéed then the rest of the ingredients. Once again, our meals have turned out fine and I have saved from dirtying extra dishes, which ultimately saves water usage as I am washing less dishes.

Another water saving tip…catching rain water and using it to water plants or using cooking water to water them (once cooled). Why pour good costly water down the drain?

Time ~

I try to save time (which ultimately saves goods AND money) by menu planning. I have planned our meals for years and have found having a meal plan works for us. I have a breakfast menu, which is simple enough that the children (assigned to a couple of them) can prepare for the family. Our lunch menu was selected based on three factors: preparation time, nutritional balance and ease in preparing. Although they are not the most frugal lunches, they are still fairly economical when feeding a large crew. Our dinner menu is a four/five week rotation, without repeating any dishes (typically) for the month. I take advantage of sales and have built our pantry and freezer inventory over time, allowing me to keep those levels maintained which ultimately saves money and wasted trips to the store.

Another time saver is making a grocery list each week. I refer to our menu plan before each weekly shopping trip and base my shopping list on what items are low in our food inventory, the fresh produce items which will be needed for the upcoming week and any sales that may be happening at the two stores I buy from. Coupons are used (for items we regularly consume when I have them) and sticking to my list both save time and money. Our food budget for our family of 9 is around $150 per week and I regularly am able to stay within that budget. Now, I do not buy strictly organic (if I did that would reek havoc on my budget), but instead buy certain items such as milk, eggs, chicken, beef and pork (both purchased as part of a co-op locally) and some other basic items consumed regularly.

Well, those are my frugal tips for saving MONEY, GOODS and TIME. What do you do to save in those areas? I love learning from all you ladies out there, so leave me a comment, sharing your tips and helpful hints. If you would like to read what others do to be frugal, click here. This post has been linked up with Frugal Fridays.

Blessings as you save money, goods and time ~

Storage Solutions ~ For Our Family

This week’s focus at 4 Moms, 35 Kids is Storage Solutions. What fun…in our house with so many various ages and needs at any given time, I am always seeking to maximize our home’s space.

The best storage solution is NOT to have more than you need so that you limit the NEED for storing. Now, with that said, we also must be wise and good stewards of we have…so the answer isn’t to give everything away either. For those of us still in child bearing years, keeping items we know we would use with subsequent children is a good idea…or regarding schooling, keeping items we know we will use with children up and coming in various grades is also a good idea.

How do we utilize storage tools? I have done a couple posts in the past about organizing which may provide you a better understanding of how our use of labeling and baskets, bins, and totes are great tools we use. Maybe, seeing how we improved our school closet or pantry will provide you a few more ideas on maximizing closet space to its fullest potential.

School closet (normally has mirrored by-pass doors on this closet) is our foyer closet conversion...shelves were added (years ago), bins/plastic baskets, magazine racks, paper racks, and plastic drawers are labeled to help organize our materials better.

Our most recent project is remodeling one of the girls’ closets to accommodate a drawer system in order for “Little Bit” to have some dresser space. The local home improvement store carries this line of closet systems we have used in all our bedroom closets to fit our needs. Fairly economical and they have held up in all the rooms so far…so…

Closet emptied and new unit being installed with 3 separate closet rods...

In the bedrooms, I have combined the different closet systems with bins, baskets, hooks and storage boxes to help keep our things orderly. Labels are added on the containers to help everyone know where to put things. Hangers are color assigned to each person to help with putting laundry away and to keep closets looking uniform (see another picture at the bottom of this post).

 All out of season clothing or clothing that is outgrown is stored in the large Rubbermaid totes in our attic. I also utilize these totes for storing seasonal decorations, toys that are brought down for rotation purposes, baby/infant items and homeschool portfolios (not kept in the attic). I use our Print Shop program to print picture/word labels for the fronts of the totes so they can be easily located when needed.

In the living areas, baskets are one of the methods to increase storage. Books are typically kept in them to allow easy access and easy clean up. Now, we have a lot of books, but for the little ones I like to keep most of their books in a basket. We all have books on bookshelves and night stands, as well. Homeschooling has a tendency to cause book collections to GROW. An ottoman doubles as storage for baby toys (see picture at the bottom of this post).

Children's books are easily accessed for reading time and quickly put away using the basket storage method (surplus books are kept in the book cabinet or book cases).

 My husband (last year) added windows, vinyl flooring, shelving and paneling to our screen room to allow added living space that could be used daily no matter what the season/weather. I moved all the toys (after purging took place) to the now Florida room and put them in clear plastic bins, baskets and plastic dish pans with colored labels that include a picture of the contents and the content name. This has helped greatly to keep bedrooms clean and orderly, as well as keeping messes confined. Clean up is something even little ones willing can do because of the labeled bins with pictures. Love our space…great for play, reading and keeping an eye on the children when they are outside playing!

Our well used and enjoyed Florida room...adjustable shelves mounted to the wall to hold all the toy bins and plastic baskets.

An example of the Print Shop label I made to help identify each bins' contents...this picture/word label works great for helping little ones with clean up time.

Other baskets have been incorporated throughout the house for storing scrapbooking items on my floating shelves above my desk area or a hanging basket above my husband’s stand to hold charger cords for cell phones (see end of post).

I love using these floating shelves to hold books, scrapbooking tools, and display some special keepsakes. 

 Finally, not so long ago my husband added sliding wire racks inside our kitchen cabinets which I love (not an agape kind of love…just the practicality of them)! They have saved on bending and lifting of a lot of my HEAVY cookware…cast iron pieces and stoneware pieces (see another picture at the end of this post). Not only have they saved my wrists from lifting out of awkward places inside the cabinets BUT these sliding racks have allowed my cookware/bakeware to be better organized so that I can easily access all of them…which means they can be used….which means happy tummies. I’d say that’s a win win situation.

Sliding wire racks mounted in our cabinets to make accessing heavy cast iron cookware easy!

 So in summary…my preferred storage tools are:
  • Baskets
  • Plastic bins and totes
  • Shelving and drawer systems
Labels whenever possible really help to keep things organized…be it labels from our label maker or printed off of Print Shop. So what storage solutions work for you? Leave a comment (I love learning new tips…) or participate by linking your storage solution post here.

Always seeking to maximize space with storage solutions for our ever growing family ~

And another section with one single sliding wire rack and one double tiered sliding wire rack to hold stones and glass bakeware AND our KitchenAid...all quite HEAVY!

Hooks are another method to utilize wall space for storage...a hanging basket for phone chargers, keys and ceramic plaques to remind us of God's goodness.

Our ottomon serves as a storage area for baby toys...

Baskets to hold cloth diapers/burp cloths, travel crib bedding, etc.; girls are assigned "pink" hangers so all their hanging clothes are neat.

Laundry System...for Our Large Family

As you can imagine, in a family our size there is RARELY a day that the laundry bins STAY empty.  Try as I might, when there are children in the home, it is a very RARE occasion that clothes are clean for long.  So how do we try to manage the endless task of keeping laundry clean and keeping the dirty laundry organized?

Well, here's a tour of "Grand Laundry Station"...a place where the dirt stops and the aroma of bleach is a common scent.  ;-)

Looking into our laundry room from the hallway

A Blurr of a Week...

It's hard to believe it has been over two weeks since my last visit to blogger.  Life kicked in to full throttle this past week and our family put to practice what a primary caregiver overseeing/responsible for 24/7 care needs to do.  It was a challenge to be 100% present for Mom and still keep things (school, business, caring for our children and managing our home) on the homefront going as close to normal as possible...which was far from "normal".

Here's a glimpse of how the week went without getting into too much detail...continually thankful for your prayers:

Sunday ~ church…call afterward to check on Mom (not well at all)…arrive at her home, Hospice nurse there and stayed until 11:00pm (a little better, with some “good” signs, so I went home for some rest)

Monday ~ call to wake Mom up (this is the day I typically take her food shopping and out on errands…doesn’t answer either phone, leave my house (kids) and go to hers…not doing well at all (again). Try to get her pain & nausea under control…a friend comes to sit with my children (for the day…Mark is working), I stay with Mom…update Hospice on status and proceed to provide necessary care until my sister arrives for a few hours after she gets off work. (Austin goes to Orchestra…) I go home gather some things to stay the night, have dinner with my family, check school work and return to Mom’s. (No rest this night as I checked on her about every hour…quite concerned.)

Tuesday ~ with Mom, still not doing well…called Hospice, nurse comes out and another ailment added to her issues to monitor and care for. My sister arrives (her ½ day at work, around 12:30pm, and stays until 8ish) allowing me to go home for a while (another friend has come by to be with the children…Mark worked and oldest at college all day, so quite a bit of juggling ensued this day. We return around 8 and I stay with Mark until 11ish…he takes the night shift, I go home to a teething 11 month old…not much sleep this night either ~ Mom did okay through the night though...praise the Lord.

Wednesday ~ Mark and Zach trade places, I get kids on to their school; try to catch up around the house and then go down to get Mom situated with pain, nausea and care. Go back home for an hour, then return when Hospice nurse arrives…stayed 1 ½ hours this time (another friend helping with the children so I can go back and forth throughout the day…a gift)…return home, try to get some business done for Mark…then return to Mom’s again before little ones have their afternoon naps. Make sure she is on schedule with care/medications and monitor her for a while. She gets up – hallelujah! – Nurse comes for another check-up, but she returns back to bed not long after. (Austin goes to Orchestra.) I return home, my sister comes again after work for a few hours. Mark and I go back down when she leaves and Mark takes another night shift at Mom’s…I return home for that teething little one…nursing to comfort throughout the night.

Thursday ~ Mark is off (pre-planned weeks earlier due to homeschool function) so he stays a bit longer in the morning at Mom’s, I run out to do business errands, a friend picks up Alyssa for our monthly Mother/Daughter Bright Lights Young Ladies Group meeting…I return from errands and trade places with Mark. He stays with the rest of the children (Zach at classes again all day). Friend returns with Alyssa and stays for a couple hours, allowing Mark and I to get some business work done and me to meet with the Hospice nurse. I stay with Mom until my sister comes for a few hours after work. Mark and I return to Mom’s with Mark taking another night shift…I return home to the teething girl…a little rest this night – hallelujah!...Mom up and signs of some improvement.

Friday ~ Mark and I trade places for about an hour allowing me to provide morning care to Mom, kids get ready for a field trip (decided I would take them, since we both could not go…event planned a couple weeks ago), then we trade places again. Seems to be making more improvement with Mom being up a bit more today…not as nauseous although pain level still high off and on. Hospice nurse comes to check on Mom, I return back from the field trip and Mark and I switch places again. I stay until my sister comes after work again for a few hours, allowing me to return home and get things on the home front in order. Zach goes down until Mark and I return after kids are settled in bed…switching places with Zach. I stay with him and Mom until about 11pm, and then return home to – you guessed it- the teething girl. ;-) Mark sleeps soundly, Mom sleeps soundly after eating a good dinner (not necessarily healthy, but solid) and things seem to be improving.

Saturday ~ Mark and I switch places in the morning; I get her care in order, continue with her home tasks and prep lunch/dinner. A friend of hers calls desiring to come visit, which works well. Mom up and ready for a visit, enjoying a few hours with her friend, I, in exchange, go home…getting lunch and grocery shopping done for the week, then my sister goes to Mom’s for the night. Things seem much better now (under the circumstances) with some concerning issues seemingly subsiding after some medication changes…time will tell. All will be home tonight in their beds – the first time since Sunday night late. Thanking the Lord for this time…

Sunday ~ able to attend church together as a family and things with Mom seem improved…sister goes home in the afternoon, I return to check on her and ready her for bed. Praying ailment eases and the Lord provides added strength to her days…

Much to praise after this challenging week for her…

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Because of Him ~

Homeschooling...then and now

To understand the now, we must look back at the then.

What does homeschooling look like in our family? Not surprisingly it is probably different than everyone else's day. The curriculum choices may be different...our family dynamics are probably different...our homes are equipped differently...our children's abilities, interests and personalities are different...our schedules, I am sure are different...our methods are different. What a beautifully unique picture every homeschooling family can portray ~ each one reflective of who they are, their experiences, beliefs and spiritual gifts, skills and talents.

Why do we homeschool? Well, I must say we were not Christians when we began homeschooling. We were parents to only one child way back then and simply desired to do what we believed was best for him. It was heartbreaking when the time came to send our son to kindergarten...I put on a good front for his sake, but inside I was little boy, going away from home for most of the day five days a week. Hard.

He was reading when he entered kindergarten, knew his numbers and colors and other things that some kids were just learning. We thought maybe first grade would be different, so another year later, more of the same. It seemed like a repeat of kindergarten. The teacher needed to teach to the norm...the students that excelled were bored (Zach, which manifested in being talkative because he finished his work quickly) and the students that struggled had to fight to keep up...God bless teachers and all they are trying to accomplish (a whole other topic). A hard place for a classroom of over 20 students. We strongly pushed for testing for the gifted program...but that could not happen until third grade. Oh my, I thought...two more years. So, as a way of them working with us, Zach was able to go over (with a small group of 4-5 other students) to the second grade class during reading time.

Well, that may have helped a little with the reading issue, but it did not solve other the negative influence of behavior and habits that he would come home sharing. What were we to do? Well, because we were not Christians, homeschooling was not something we had ever heard of...until his first season of soccer. His coach was a home school dad...and a Christian. He had our family over (he and his wife) and shared with us about homeschooling and the Christian homeschool support group they led. We were thrilled to learn of another option for teaching our son...but the Christian homeschool group ~ not for us. (If we only knew how the Lord was leading us back then.)

Wanting to seek counsel from those we valued opinions from, we went to his teacher and to the teacher he worked under for the "school's post office"...we spoke with our parents (both my husband's and mine) and of course, we spoke with Zach (funny, looking back now). Zach was excited, we were excited, our family was non-supportive (we were not "qualified" to teach) and the teachers said he was a social child who "needed" the socialization...what does socialization have to do with academics? Besides, a public school setting in a classroom of 20-30 other same-aged peers is not a very well rounded setting. He would need to get along with people of all ages in the "real world", we thought. Furthermore, who loved our child and desired more for our child than his own parents? (Remember, these were OUR reasons and may not reflect yours or other homeschoolers or non-homeschoolers.)

So, against the grain, we withdrew Zach and began our 'adventure' to homeschooling...loving it! That was over 14 years ago with Zach having graduated from 'home learning' in 2008 with some college already under his belt, graduating from the local college this past May with a 4.0 and his AA degree and now working on a dual major at another college these next two years, Lord willing, majoring in political science and economics.

When we started homeschooling, we only had Zach and Austin (who was by my side practically every moment until he was 5 ~ making teaching very easy). We took lots of field trips, read a lot together, played lots of learning games, I wrote his curriculum until 5th grade using the library and workbooks and hands-on activities set around themes...unit studies. When it was time for Austin to enter "school" (age 6 in our state) we had no other thought of how he would home. Now, five other children are part of our family dynamics...all of whom we plan to homeschool (3 of which are currently being homeschooled).

Each year our schedule changes to accommodate our growing family, learning styles, interests and needs in our family...all the while learning happens...academics, yes, but even more important things like character, ministering to others, real life opportunities. I love seeing the delight for learning that takes place when they find something that interests them and they can't learn enough...from history (Civil War, armed forces, the history of our country, Presidents, etc.) to musical instruments (guitar, keyboard, cello, recorder, lap harp) to more hands-on learning (cooking, archery, construction, gardening, etc.). We desire to provide a rich learning environment with opportunities to visit the places they learn about or do what they have read and find interest in.

The Youth Orchestra playing during the Youth Music Festival being directed by the gifted music director, Mr. May ~ we miss him...

A tour of the US Air Force Museum...
guided by a very knowledgeable OH...
Another visit to the Creation Museum in KY...
4-H Archery Camp...

We use a variety of curriculum to fit their learning styles and our family's needs. As they get older and have higher education needs we have the blessing to utilize various resources from video curriculum, online classes or even dual enrollment at the local state college (when and if it is right for that child). Co-operative learning and field trips and private instruction are rich supplements that enhance our children's learning.
Unlike then (14 years ago), the Lord has saved us and our further desire to teach our children truth is now an integral part of "why" they should learn anything. It is the desire to "do all to the glory of God".

Our typical day includes academics like mathematics (from 2nd grade through Algebra), reading (beginning readers to reading the classics), science (through experiments, various curriculums and observation), history (reading from original documents, biographies and other lessons), Bible (Scripture memorization and lessons from Bible curriculum), language arts (poetry, writing, grammar, spelling), geography, state history, thematic studies (like the US Constitution, biographical studies on people such as Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, presidents, missionaries, etc.) and so much more.

Our learning doesn't stop at just the academics though. There are real life skills being learned like cooking, budgeting and managing bank accounts, home managing skills and maintenance, caring for others (important character skills: learning to get along with others, to lend a helping hand, to show compassion and tenderness to the sick or hurt, etc.), responsibility and work ethic (through chores, doing odd jobs well and completely, going above and beyond what is expected, being dependable by keeping one's word, etc.).

Making lunch...

We continue to learn about history, science and geography when visiting different locations on our field trips (re-enactments, docent programs at museums, marine and science centers, state/national parks, etc.). We document this learning by creating books or scrapbooks and journaling about what has been learned.

A trip to Fort Matanzas where re-enactors
made history come alive

Read alouds are another special time of learning our younger children enjoy. Sometimes they will illustrate pictures of what I read, as I read. This is a great way to help with comprehension and retention. I have even scanned some of their illustrations in the past, then had them dictate (if they were too young to write) or write captions under their pictures and created a book which they bound.

We have enjoyed participating in and hosting various learning events including other families with us such as creating "family heritage albums" and manners/etiquette classes to lapbooking classes on different themes/people and oral presentation events.

A wonderful luncheon to complete the two day training in the
Young Lady in Me class...
A Victorian Scrapbook class we hosted to commemorate the
Young Lady in Me class the month earlier...
The scrapbooks that each girl created during our class...

The days as a homeschooling parent are full and the work is not easy...however, anything worthy is usually not easy. We have our times of tears (sometimes from frustration and other times for laughing so hard), our times of setbacks (maybe due to illness or ministering to sick family, neighbors or friends...but that's learning of another kind for us), our times of struggle (maybe a concept just doesn't click...guess what, we can slow down if we need to, look for "another way to teach" it that may make more sense or maybe wait until they are ready in their ability and understanding level instead of plowing through it) ~ but these situations are great opportunities for growth in other areas, be it character or relationships.

For us, being able to teach, direct and provide opportunities for our children to learn and to grow not only in knowledge, but Lord willing, truth is an abundant blessing and I believe, a high calling. One for which I am thankful to have the right to do in this country...for us, learning is living ~ the two are intertwined and the foundation is truth and our hope is in the grace found there.

Because of Him and for His glory ~

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