Monday, November 12, 2012

Jesse Tree

I'm starting to think about Advent - scary, considering that it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, but I'm a bit of an over-planner!  Anyhow, I wanted to share a few ideas with anyone who might be reading (and also save them here for my own future reference).

Holy Heroes offers a great Advent Adventure - they email you every day, and all you have to do is click on the videos & craft ideas and share them with your kids!

One of the things I've done with my kids for the past several years is a Jesse Tree.  This blog shares the best files for setting one up, and she's already posted her schedule for 2012!

Now I just have to dig out the Advent Wreath...

Friday, September 28, 2012


How is it possible that September is nearly over, and I haven't managed to write a single blog entry in over a month?!  I suppose it's a combination of business and a general lack of inspiration.  Anyhow, here's a brief summary of what we've been up to this month:

  • First, the bad: about three weeks ago, I had a motorcycle accident.  I was riding home from a parent orientation meeting for one of our homeschool co-ops and someone tried to turn left in front of me.  I couldn't stop, and hit her and was thrown from the bike.  Miraculously, I walked away with nothing more than some nasty bruises, but the bike was totaled.  I felt incredibly blessed, particularly by the witnesses who stopped and stayed with me, calling 911 and waiting til the firemen and police showed up.  Everyone (including the other driver) recognized that the accident was not my fault, and my insurance company has taken excellent care of me; now we just need to wait for them to recover my deductible from the other driver's insurance company.  And yes, I'm still riding, but I'm a little leery at night (especially at intersections)!  
  • Now, the good - school is going very, very well.  We've stuck to our schedule this year, which includes not only Classical Conversations on Thursdays but a fine arts co-op on Tuesdays, as well as piano lessons and Tae Kwon Do.  (The kids are doing great at TKD - they're testing for their yellow belts in a few weeks, and I'm testing for my orange belt at the same time.)  I'm very happy with all the curriculum I selected for this year, though I'm thinking of adding a more rigorous reading program for my son; I got The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Reading from the library this week, because I read online that it can be a great follow-up for people who used Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (which I did for both my kids).
  • Yesterday my husband and I celebrated nine years of marriage!  We're having date night tonight, I think we're going out for sushi and possibly to see a movie if there's anything decent showing.
  • Next weekend, I'm going to Miami for my 20th high school reunion.  It doesn't seem possible that it's been twenty years!  In preparation, and also because my husband and I decided it's time for us to get in better shape, we started the South Beach Diet.  I really miss carbs (especially bread - sigh), but I've lost 14 lbs. so far!  Now if I could just get motivated to exercise on a regular basis... TKD does count, but that's only once or twice a week.  Anyhow, the reunion weekend is going to be great fun - DH didn't want to go, so he's staying home with the kids, and I'm going to spend the weekend hanging out with my best friend who is flying in from San Diego!  I'm quite excited, and I bought a fabulous dress to wear to the actual reunion Saturday night.  (It was on sale at Kohl's, so I don't feel too bad about indulging.)
  • Speaking of indulging, we've been so busy with school and activities that cleaning house fell completely by the wayside.  After some discussion with DH, we agreed that we can afford to have a maid service come in biweekly to help me out.  It's been a tremendous help, and has eased my feelings of being overwhelmed.  I do feel a little guilty, as I feel that a stay at home mom should be able to take care of the house - but the truth is I do work the equivalent of a full-time job, between schooling the kids, volunteering at church, etc.  (Did I mention that I'm now tutoring the Masters Class for our CC group?  I'll write more about that later, I'm sure.) Also, we paid off my car this spring, so we did have a little wiggle room in the budget, and DH doesn't think I should feel guilty at all.
 So that's pretty much everything.  Right now, I'm using my favorite CC tool to review the kids' memory work - it's available through CC connected, and looks fabulous on my iPad:

This week, my brilliant husband showed me how to "mirror" it from the iPad onto our television, and the kids love doing their CC review in the living room on the big tv!  The Geography portion is especially helpful, since the maps are quite detailed this year; and the Science section is great too, particularly Weeks 3 & 4 where they memorized the parts of animal cells and plant cells.

Review is almost over, time to get on with our school day!  I'll try not to let so much time lapse before my next blog entry.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

20 years ago tomorrow

I was going to write an entry about our first day at the new CC community, but that will have to wait - because I have just been reminded that twenty years ago tomorrow, one of the most traumatic events of my life took place.

It was Hurricane Andrew.

My family moved to Miami in 1984, when I was ten years old.  In August of 1992, I was an 18-yr-old high school grad excited about heading off to college.  I remember hearing about Andrew, but not really worrying much about it - after all, we'd lived in Miami for eight years and hadn't been hit by a hurricane yet, so I just assumed life would go on as it always had.

Not so much. 

I remember helping my dad use our neighbor's staple gun to put plywood over our windows; hurricane seasons had been so mild during our tenure in Florida that we hadn't even bothered to have proper hurricane shutters installed.  I went to bed that night thinking what a pain it would be to take all that plywood down the next day when nothing had happened.

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by the wind, which truly did sound something like a freight train.  I heard our dogs mewling, and went into the kitchen to check on them - and when I came back, the window over my bed had blown out.  As in, it was completely gone, frame and all - it was sucked right out of the wall. 

I freaked out, and ran into my parents' bedroom - they were awake by then too, and we heard another loud noise, which scared me enough that I ran into their walk-in closet.  I will never forget standing in that closet looking up at the door that led to the attic and watching it move - I was convinced that the roof was coming off, and we were all about to die.  (Incidentally, we found out later that our roof actually did come off, but not entirely - it was picked up and set back down.  Scary.)

The rest of the night is a blur.  I do recall my mom being in my bathroom (the only room in the house with no windows) with the three dogs, and my dad and I trying to hold shut the double doors on the front of the house - which became pointless after the sliding glass door directly opposite the front doors in the living room blew out. 

Hurricanes aren't like earthquakes or tornadoes; don't get me wrong, I'm sure those things are awful and terrifying, but they are over relatively quickly.  Hurricanes last for hours.  We were somewhat fortunate, in that Andrew moved relatively fast for a hurricane; by the next morning, the worst was over.  We were also somewhat unlucky, in that we were on the north wall of the eye, so our neighborhood was pummeled relentlessly all night - we didn't get to experience the freakish calm of being in the eye of the storm.

So much damage was done to our home, and those of our friends and neighbors.  I was able to go off to college a few days later as planned, but my parents lived in our house without power for almost a month before the insurance company moved them into an apartment so our house could be torn down to the studs and rebuilt. 

It was years before I could sit through even a normal thunderstorm without having at least a mild panic attack, and the threat of a hurricane sent me heading for the hills for the rest of the time that I lived in Florida.  I actually kept a list of hotels in N. Florida and S. Georgia that accepted pets so I could load up my little yellow dog in my Honda Civic and take off at a moment's notice if necessary. 

It's such a relief to not have to worry about that so much anymore.  I still experience a mild panic when it storms here in the Atlanta area, especially when the tornado sirens begin their eerie wail - but it's nothing like the sheer terror I felt that night twenty years ago.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I fail at blogging.  I either blog every single day and spend so much time reading other blogs that I ignore other things that I really should be spending time on, like cleaning my house, or else I completely neglect it and end up writing once or twice a month.  My current goal is to post at least twice a week (but not so much that I forget to feed the kids), let's see if I can maintain a reasonable pace this year!

We officially started school on Monday.  It's going very well so far!  I'm easing into it this year - we're working on handwriting and reading a lot of books at present.  CC starts on Thursday, so we'll get into more academic subjects after that. 

I bought myself The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and I'm so glad I did.  I have so much to keep track of this year, between parish religion classes, CC, Tae Kwon Do, piano lessons, Cub scouts, and all our other activities - it's great to have such a tremendous tool to keep me organized.

Hopefully having weekly planning sessions will prevent me from getting behind, as I did last spring, and then having to rush to catch up.  I'm especially hoping to avoid that since this is the first year I have to report attendance to the state, now that my little boy is in first grade!

I'm debating reading The Hobbit aloud to my kids this fall, in preparation for the upcoming movie. I know they are a little young for this kind of thing, but I distinctly remember going to see Star Wars in the theater with my dad and one of my brothers when I wasn't much older than they are, and I'd love for them to see an epic movie like that in the theaters. Maybe I'll start reading a chapter a day and just seeing if it holds their interest - it might be too far over their heads!

It does feel nice to be back in the school routine - it gives our days a sense of purpose that we were lacking over the summer. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Getting Ready

I'm in the throes of preparing for our new school year.  Public schools in our area started back on Monday, and it's hilarious to me that everyone I run into wants to know if I start on the same day!  For me, one of the fantastic things about homeschooling is being able to create a calendar that works for our family, not following the one that the public school officials have established.  For instance, we don't take a lot of the Monday holidays (with the exception of Labor Day, when I will be at Dragon*Con - but that's another story), but we do take days off when we are traveling or have other plans.  I also don't start school at 8:00am - I am not a morning person, so we take our time waking up and generally get started around 9am. 

Anyhow, we will be starting school this coming Monday, and since I'd been throwing things in the school room all summer without any attempts at organization, there was a lot of work to be done in there!  I spent most of the day Monday in an organizing frenzy, and accomplished quite a bit.  Thanks to Freecycle, I found a new home for two large boxes of stuff - books that the kids have outgrown, educational materials that my mom and sister (a college professor and an elementary school teacher) had given us that we weren't likely to use, etc.  At the end of the day, the room was looking orderly and ready for us to get started!

I'm also teaching first grade religious education at our church this year.  Those classes start next Monday as well, and I'm much more nervous about that than I am about starting our homeschool year!  I've taught religious ed previously, but only to preschoolers - this will be a change.  I'm fortunate to have an experienced co-teacher and two teen helpers, so hopefully that will help the year go smoothly!

It's going to be a busy fall semester.  I need to spend some time with my All About Spelling materials, but other than that I feel ready to go curriculum-wise; I just need to pray for peace, and the discipline to maintain our schedule this year! 

Friday, August 3, 2012


I'm back at last!  August is a month for new beginnings, school-wise - so I figured it's a good time to take up blogging again as well. 

Things have changed since I last wrote here.  You may recall I was planning to start a new Classical Conversations community at a church mere minutes from my house this coming fall; alas, that is not to be.  After months of marketing and working to recruit new families, I ended up with only eight students (including my own two kids), and a facility fee that just wouldn't work for most families.  I prayed for an answer, and after meeting with my families, we decided to approach another new group that was forming only five miles away from us and see if they would be interested in merging with us.

I emailed the director, and she called me right away - turns out she had similarly low enrollment, and had also been praying for a solution.  Merging our communities seemed like the answer to both of our prayers.  I was prepared to hand over directorship to her and just be another family in the community, though I did offer to tutor either Essentials or Foundations if necessary; but I was already looking at our budget to see where I would find the money to pay for my kids' tuition and fees, an expense that would have been covered by my profits if I directed my own community.  However, the other director is so grateful for my assistance (as well as my willingness to step aside and let her lead, which I truly believe is in everyone's best interest since she has a strong relationship with the church where we will meet), that she has offered to cover my kids' costs for this year. 

This was an incredibly difficult decision, but I'm completely at peace with it now.  We had a meeting for all the families at the new (to my group) location this week, and it was just perfect.  I'm relieved that there is a place for everyone, including the two women who wanted to tutor for my group, and that it's all come together so perfectly.

Now I need to turn my attention to getting our schoolroom organized!  I've been piling books in there all summer, and I need to go through them and get everything sorted out and put away before we start school in the end of August.

My most immediate priority, however, is getting ready for my daughter's birthday - it's hard to believe, but she's going to be five years old next Friday!  We're having a tea party for her at a local tea house, and I can hardly wait.  My in-laws are already here, and my mom is arriving on Monday - we're actually going to Jekyll Island with her for a few days before the birthday party.

Maybe the week after that I can breathe, and start to get properly organized...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Aislyn's Dream

I can't believe it's already almost August!  I'm getting ready to return to blogging (and schooling, and basically the end of all our summer slacking), but for now I just wanted to post this link.

It's a link to my friend's fundraiser.  Her beautiful little girl needs an artificial arm, but it's incredibly expensive - so we're fundraising to help her family raise the money they need to make Aislyn's dream come true!  Click through and take a look, and feel free to donate a dollar or two if you are as moved as I am by her story.