Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Keeping it Organized- Our 2016 Homeschool Schedule

Well, here we are! Deep into week two of our year. How's it going? Well... after a first day coffee mishap, a smidgen of humility, and a reality check, I decided to postpone our actual first day.

Apparently things have changed a little more than I thought over the last year and half since we stopped homeschooling. I felt like I really needed a little more time to prepare myself and organize my surroundings and lessons before we jumped back in. I'm glad that I took that time. Things are already better.

We now have a semi organized homeschool office and a pretty good schedule to get us started. This week we're practicing "school days" with the littles. We're working with them on obedience and sitting still for more than 5 minutes. Taylor is reading a ridiculous amount of difficult books. Mary is reviewing her math skills and working on some fun writing assignments. Our theme is still "all about me" and we switched our character study to "obedience" for obvious reasons. Next week we'll move on to our "family" theme and try to stick to our original theme plans from there (as soon as I relocate the missing theme plans, that is).

Anyway...a good schedule is a must for me. We have a very busy and different year ahead of us. With three girls taking classes with The Center for Homeschool Enrichment and Tutorial (Chet), all four girls enrolled in ballet/dance classes, and my husband starting a new job, I need be extremely organized and efficient. There are still plenty of variables and monthly activities that will interfere with the schedule, but at least we have a good solid foundation.

I didn't spend a lot of time on the schedule, I just revised the one from a few years ago. It wasn't possible to include each child's specific routine so I did the best I could. For example, Taylor will spend most of her time at home studying, reading, practicing piano, and completing her assignments. She won't necessarily work in any special order. She's independent and diligent. Mary on the other hand needs constant structure, guidance, and lots of follow-up.

I tried to include a few reminders for myself about cooking and cleaning so I won't be flaky. And that's about it.
I'm hopeful that Monday will be our official first day and that I'll be able to report back to you all that everything is going great :)  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sharing Our Plans...... Read All About It!

Hi friends!! Since we're all bursting with excitement about the upcoming school year, I thought this would be the perfect time to plan and organize and share.
In the past, many of our friends and family have been curious about what the girls were busy doing all day, so I'm going to be sharing our plans each month in a little newsletter like the one below. I'll also try to share what curriculum and classes we've selected for the year, special activities and projects, and how it all ends up working for us. I know that I always enjoy seeing what other families are using and trying. Seeing what works and doesn't work for others has really been helpful to me in planning for my family.
I hope that sharing this will be a blessing to those who are planning for their family and also to those who are just interested in how we educate our girls.
So here is August's Newsletter :) 

Happy Hump Day!!  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Detour: Part 2 (Brace Yourself.. Haha)

Nearly one full year ago I wrote about life and death and my sorrow and our detour. I knew everyone would be filled with curiosity when we announced our decision to put the big girls in school. Since I have no problem sharing about our life, I figured that would be the best way to do it, and I was totally shocked when I saw how many people read that post! I guess everyone was even more curious than I expected.

I promised a part 2 so here it is. Better late than never!

School? Yes. We put the kids in school. Why? Because I was sad. Because my bad days were about as many as my good days. Because the opportunity kept presenting itself to me. Because I always have, and always will want what's best for my children and my family as a whole. 

So we enrolled them in a local private school. It was fun and we learned a lot. We learned about academics, life, and some important lessons. 
It turned out that Taylor (15 at the time) did not have a excellent understanding of Algebra I liked I had hoped. She had taken Algebra I for two years already. One of those years with a tutor. So she took it for a third year. Lesson 1: Do not try to teach math if you stink at math (like me). Beyond that, she was just a little nervous about her skills and a little shy with the other kids at first. It wasn't long before her hard work and many hours of studying, more than paid off, leaving her with all A's and scores over 100 in nearly every subject. Mary's experience was similar with third grade. They both did great. They had great teachers, made great friends and everything was great.

I said at the beginning of the year that some times being a good parent means that you have to make crappy decisions that there's no clear answer for. We decided to go to school because that was the decision that I felt was best at that time. I'm not the person that says, if they could go back they'd change stuff. I would never go back and I would never change anything. At least this way, I know what my problems are. If I were to go back and do things differently, I'd have different problems. Maybe bigger problems. So in short, school was fun but it's not for us.

We are officially homeschooling again!! I'm not going to get into every reason why we love homeschooling or the reasons why we'd rather homeschool than attend private or public school. 

School reminded us about some of the great things that come along with a structured classroom setting and I hope to implement those things into our school days at home. Lesson 2: Structure, morning work, repetition, classes, friends, and socialization are our friends :)

Lesson 3: There is no replacement for our family time together. I could go on and on about family time but I'll spare you in this post.

When we were homeschooling, we never woke up wondering if we were making the right choice. And I haven't wondered about it once since we made the choice to do it again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Mushy Heart, Good Light, & Love

As I'm folding the laundry, I can't help but think about our weekend in Breathitt County, Kentucky. The faces of the people we met are fresh in my mind and their stories, still fresh on my heart.

For many years (I don't really know how many) a dear family member of our church family has provided a community clothing giveaway at the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson Kentucky. The people in Breathitt County were always on his heart. He loved them. And I'm pretty sure they loved him. But back in January he unexpectedly went to be the Lord. And although, I didn't know him extremely well, I know the family he left behind and I knew that I wanted to do something in his honor. That's right, the clothing giveaway. So Curtis and I offered to drive the clothes up to Jackson when our church goes up there for vacation bible school in July.

To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about it but I was also a believer in knowing that the Lord makes things work. You see, we have been blessed with a truck that belonged to my dad before he passed away and a trailer that Curtis received as a birthday gift from his parents a few years ago. We had the exact things that would be needed to continue this special work for these special people. We didn't buy either one of them. They were blessings to us, and we were going to use them to bless many others. But God had an even bigger plan than me! We collected so many bags of clothing that we had to rent a uhaul to get it there!


Then, God provided a safer and cleaner Motel for us to stay in. Where we usually stay has gotten really nasty and there was a murder there just last week. So instead, we stayed at Paul's Motel and it was a great little place for our families.

Breathitt County is one of the top five economically depressed counties in our country. Nearly 43% of children under 18 are below the poverty line (and many of those are well below). The median income for a family is about $23,000. There are many families without running water or electricity. One of the men from our congregation went out with the Jackson church van to pick up families for vbs and witnessed a young girl (about 10 years old) washing her hair in a drainage ditch. That family had neither water or electricity. After worship on Sunday morning, the Jackson church had a meeting and made plans to reach out to that family this week. The work there is much. And the people living there, doing the work are far better than I could ever hope to be.

The clothing drive was more than a success! It was a greater blessing than I could have ever imagined. The people were given big trash bags as they arrived and I think almost every person filled up there their bag! One man was searching for underwear like he was looking for a treasure. Another man needed work boots desperately and when he saw a brand new pack of white socks, his face lit up with joy. I could tell story after story of the desperation, the love, the kindness, and the needs. I guess in my old age, my heart just continues to soften more and more. At this rate, it'll be pure mush by the time I'm 40. I wept in the bathroom during the giveaway. I wept in my motel room that evening. I wept when I got home. And I'm fighting to keep my composure as I type this. Mush I tell you!

I've been poor. I've never been dirty or hungry but I've had needs that I couldn't meet on my own. I've been a young single mother on food stamps. I've had to ask organizations for free diapers and clothing for my baby. I get it. I was there and I made it out and I want to help. Romans 8:28 tells us that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. I believe that.
And let me tell you something about my church family! They're awesome. Awesome in the ways that the Almighty God in Heaven is pleased with. They were willing to do whatever it took to make this mission a blessing to as many people as possible. They taught classes and hugged sweet children and sorted clothes and moved bags and handed out flyers and listened to stories and on and on. Even the youth! They worked just as hard as the adults. 
By the end of the clothing giveaway, one lady said that she wanted to take the rest of the clothes home to her 12 family members. The picture below was taken about 2 hours after the ones above. So, every piece of clothing was put to use and if we would have had more, they would have taken that too.
We are already collecting clothing for the next giveaway in October. I was sad to see that we didn't have any little boy clothing and very little children's clothing in general. We hope to collect a good variety for the next giveaway. Men's, regular and especially plus size women's, and all children & baby are needed. Also shoes, purses, socks, new underwear, and household & children's items would be appreciated. I want to be respectful by offering items in good condition but I know the need is probably greater than that and we should bring anything useable. Maybe a pretty purse or pair of shoes isn't a life saving item but it can certainly bring someone joy and maybe lift their spirits enough to keep trying. We're to be the light and salt of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Light and salt make things better. I'm a natural light photographer and everything I do revolves around the light. Good light make all the difference. As I've been off and on the Whole 30 diet, I have come to fully appreciate the way salt can transform a bland vegetable into something I can really enjoy eating. Salt and light!
Thank you to everyone who cared enough to read this post! May you all be blessed :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Here and Now

It's really easy for me to lose my focus. No, I don't have ADHD or anything like that. I'm just a fairly normal human being who gets bored and distracted easily. Probably a little more than others. What happens is, I let discontentment creep in. It creeps in slowly and I don't even notice until that trapped feeling begins to suffocate me. I'm a changer. I enjoy change. Some people are afraid of change. I thrive in change.
So what now? I can't move across the country like I've done in the past. I can't even move. Honestly, I love my home and I love my town and I love my state and I love my country. I love my family, friends, church, and our school. So what is wrong with me?! The only answer is obvious. Not always to me but when I think about it, it's clear. It's my focus. I've lost it.
One of the reasons that I started blogging was because I wanted to take the time to find the beauty around me. The beauty in the every day. In the ordinary and simple. There are wonderful things going on around me that I don't really notice if I'm not focused on seeing them. Even greater than seeing them is photographing them, with my camera or my phone, it doesn't even matter. When I see them and capture them and post them and blog about them, it's then that I really "see" them.
Being a photographer, some times I feel like I shouldn't post photos from my cell phone for some stupid reason, and if my camera isn't handy, I often let amazing moments pass right by me. I'll even forget to tell my family or a friend about something awesome because I never even remember that it happened. I'm so busy feeding people and meeting their survival needs that the beautiful moments in my life are missed or forgotten.
I have big dreams and big plans for my family! I'm filled with ideas and about places I want to take them and things I want to do with them. I know how short life is and it can be discouraging when I look at my big list of plans. But I'm going to keep planning and dreaming and working!
And in an effort to enjoy the here and now, I'm going to make more time for capturing and sharing the beauty (and some times ugly) of my everyday. 
Like, while I read them one of Mary's favorite stories, The Never Forgotten Doll, they drew pictures about the story and then shared them with each other. We practiced sitting still and listening. They need to practice that more often than just in church. They're wild!

During nap time I started thinking about summer and how much I despise summer time in Tennessee. So I forced myself to go outside and get some shots of our summer yard.

The tire swing is the life of the yard. The kids LOVE it! They flock to it and swing on it for hours. Hot or not!

My peony bed has been overtaken by these ugly native trees :(

A favorite! Mary refuses to bring her shoes in the house. I think every single pair of her shoes has been through a rain storm.


And our very late to get started garden. Kinda pitiful right now. Luckily a rain storm flooded the garden right after this (and Mary's Toms by the sandbox).


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Snowy Wednesday... Kind of

As I was walking past my bedroom this morning, to put some clothes away in the girls' room, I noticed the pretty snow falling outside my window and decided to grab my camera.
 Even though we are all a little disappointed by the amount of "snow" we received today, it is still beautiful.
It is still worth taking a picture of the snowy garden that Curtis tilled up last week.

And the iris garden in the front yard that we planted for my mom, who lives in a condo in Florida and doesn't have a yard of her own .

And of course, Buster playing and being all cute as usual :)

xoxo, Holly