Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You HOMESCHOOL all your kids too?

  Though a family with five children seems to be the average in Minnesota from what I've seen, or at least within my social circles… I still get the look and comment of "Wow, you got your hands full." My replies are getting better, with a little sarcastic humor. "Yes, you want one?" or "Yes, and I homeschool them all too." You'd think I shot off a batch of fireworks with all the oohs and awes I get. They figure I'm either crazy or a saint. I've pondered both, and just figure God thought I'd be crazy enough to go for the idea and become a saint in the process. Time will tell.
Mothers Day
"I can't do this - but Lord, if you want me to, I will!"
- Patty Armstrong, speaker

* These are my notes from a workshop by Patty Armstrong, seasoned homeschooler of 8. She was really encouraging and just the refreshment I needed to continue this roller coaster lifestyle. I've added a few of my own tips too.

Homeschooling a Large Family
It's new to most moms who have not been homeschooled themselves, so don't feel as if you need to have it figured out from day one. It might feel awkward at first, but reach out for support and good examples. Develop a routine!

1. Get up first. Mom's need to be up before the chaos begins - so it won't!
-- I myself am not a morning person, so I've been gearing up for an early start all summer. Training my brain to recognize the alarm at 7:30am and not sleep through it. I'd like to be the one who greets them in the morning, instead of being awoken by the sound of a crash, someone slamming the fridge, or candy wrappers opening despite all our safety locks.

2. Start with an activity - the Mass when possible. Begin your school day with prayer.
-- Fit your day around God, not fitting God into your day.
-- The prayer above is our family prayer I wanted to share with you. It's so simple and gets our kids to recognize that when we say this, it's time to get to it!  We sometimes exaggerate to make it a morning stretch.
> Dear God [hands folded]
> Help me spend today [hands open, giving]
> with a Smile on my face [point to a smile]
> Love in my heart [hands together over heart]
> Joy in his grace [hands up in the air]
> and my thinking cap on all day. [Hands on head]
>Amen. [Hands folded]
-- Even "Help Me, Jesus." is a good prayer to begin with.
-- Starting the day needs a transition or routine. Get dressed, have breakfast, and a startup activity.

3. Find out your students' needs and learning styles. Plan accordingly.
First Day of School - Year 5
-- My Daily School Planner
-- Desks are nice for storage, but honestly - EVERYONE ends up a the dining table!
-- Schedule one-on-one time with each student on a daily basis.
-- The unschooler likes a multi-media, relaxed approach.
-- The wanderer would prefer kinesthetic learning, or hands on. Try workboxes.
-- The disciplined learner will be your bookworm.
-- The feeder needs group learning opportunities.
-- With multiple learning styles and ages, you'll naturally find opportunities to learn as a group. Consider after the lesson to have children draw, write, speak or type what they learned. They can share it with the group or during your one-on-one time.

4. Teach them "how to learn." Teachers guide and help, but it's the student who is self-taught.
School Days
-- Children need independent learning/study.
-- Don't spoon-feed all the information and directions.
-- Having a structure with flexibility is important. Have a schedule with open times.
-- Self-motivation through group learning, independent study and personal rewards.
-- As in any work environment with multiple people, there will be distractions.  It is something they will learn over time to get past. For those who cannot, like my son, have a quiet place they can go for study.

5. Have outside help
Sabrina with VSmile game
-- Have a person you can call if you need backup to run errands, or an older child to call upon to help with others while you are in a one-on-one with another child. Some hire mother's helpers.
-- Some mothers schedule nap/quiet time for all children, where they must be in their rooms reading or sleeping. The mother takes this time to do some chores or nap herself.
-- Have educational videos or PC games available. We like our v-smile!
-- Quiet Time. Have busy time assignments such as instrument practice, quiet reading and playtime.
-- Family learning = Interactive Learning = a Higher Education! Plan for group lessons.
-- Preplan meals, letting children help where you can.
-- No mother can say enough about chores! Whether you have a chore chart or not, everyone can help - usually after lunch for about 30-60 min. [Age appropriate chore list] [Chore Charting] [Print Chore Cards]
-- Improve on yourself, evaluate yourself each year… each quarter… each day. Confession and the sacraments. A great way to show your children you are doing all you can to be the best mother and teacher.

6. Other Tips
-- Weekly Spelling Bee, words given to each student from their spelling list.
-- Preposition Bingo [Directions and Printable Cards at this link.]
-- Have students Self-Check, but always review during one-on-one time.
-- Group foreign language lessons, group physical education, group science and art…

The Essentials:
-- It takes humility, discipline and God's grace.
> After a few of Patty's kids graduated she figured she'd have some extra or "leftover graces" to handle the rest at home. Turns out, God gives you just the amount of grace you need for what you have to do. That works too! :)
-- Be Joyful. [Hands in the air!]
-- Ask yourself "Why AM I doing this?"

A Few Online Resources:
Homeschooling In Minnesota: Large Families
Magnum Opus: Yahoo Group for Catholic Homeschoolers of 4 or more

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Doing it Old-School

Snake River Farm FT 032511

I was really inspired this summer by the conference speaker on the practices of a One Room Schoolhouse Teacher, or School Marm. As well as visits to local schoolhouses, and knowing my Grandmother was a school marm in the 1930s. Homeschooling (and "Un-Schooling") was the norm up until then, and then around 1920 it was standard to send your children to the public school. But it wasn't at all like today, and that's what I like about it. They reared and educated self-motivated, polite, moral children back then. I hope to implement some of these ideas into our upcoming school year.


Pioneer Park

Old School: No grades, rather you work progressively as an individual through the series of books. When the school year ends, you stop and pickup there when you come back. You progress with success, because you don't have to "Catch up" to anyone. Multi-aged children and families are stronger because of the classroom diversity. The younger children thrive on learning as they watch and play with the older children. Kids wanted to learn because it was a privilege and a chance to just be kids.

Pioneer Park

New School: Kids are separated by age and committed to succeed or fail based on your grasp of the material given to the group. If you don't understand it, you move on quietly or fail and repeat the entire grade - secluding the child as a "special needs child," which is not always the case. There is no multi-age variety, so kids are attached to their same-aged peers rather than their family. Now that an education is considered a right and law, kids are not drawn to it as before.


Snake River Farm FT 032511

The School Marm was a single woman with educational training ($65/mthx9) or a college degree ($125/mthx9). She had no other obligations, and she treated the children as her own. She kept records of attendance and progress basked on skill level and age. She recorded pages completed as time brackets, not number of pages. Each subject had a daily time schedule, which included a one on one meeting with the teacher for recitation and narration. This is like today's Classical Homeschooling.

Pioneer Park

Tools included the basics of chalk/board, ink/paper, classic books and a Bible. There was no spelling until the Webster Dictionary was published in 1828, so that was still relatively new to many. Testing was usually done orally, and with evaluation of copy work and dictations. There were no computers and gadgets, just plain old creativity and ingenuity.

Snake River Farm FT 032511

Public Speaking and Reading was taught from early on through Storytime/Devotionals with Elocution. Choral reading was group recitation to encourage and correct for success. Multilevel learning helps younger children grow in knowledge as well as confidence. This is shown today in research that encourages families to read to each other.

Pioneer Park

Physical education was still a priority, not an extra to be dismissed. A full-rounded, classical education was seen as necessary to form a self-sufficient adult. You didn't hear about an epidemic of child obesity prior to the 1980s.

Pioneer Park

Family's were resourceful and there was no need for subsidized school lunches. Kids brought their pail full, and that's what they ate. No Lunchables, nor artificial colors or flavors!


Pioneer Park

Discipline I've learned is first and foremost important in creating a successful schooling experience. The old nose to the board in a Dunce cap isn't just a joke. Rather the idea that children are reprimanded by the teacher and later by the parents is most effective. When a teacher would keep a student after class to finish work, to clean up or other as punishment, the natural consequence was in the returning home late to a parent who had been awaiting their help on the family farm. The children learned quickly that their actions not only affected themselves but it had an affect on others. Today, discipline is removed from schools to "protect children" from mental and physical abuse. Children are given leeway and disregard authority, while the Parents and Teachers are slowly loosing authority over their children. If discipline is not taught in the schools where our children are, and parents aren't home or don't care to oversee their moral upbringing - where are they left to learn their behavior than that of their same-aged, adolescent friends?!


Homeschooling in Today's Culture

*Notes after hearing a talk "Homeschool - A Shipyard for Saints NOT Just a Safe Harbor From the World" by Marcel LeJueune.


1. Homeschool in order to prepare children to CHANGE the culture, not to avoid it.


2. Homeschooling Expectations

- God doesn't love us more or less for our skill level. It's just pure love,as we need to focus on.

- We are "stewards, not owners" of our children.

- Contemplate "free will" even that of our children.

- Give them opportunities to be self-sufficient.

- Is my child different, or unique? What was St. Francis, St. John the Baptist, Joan of Arc…

- Is God's idea of a successful day of homeschool that our checklist is done? that there were no blood and tears? or that they were loved and learned love?


3. Jesus' Personal Field Trip in the Temple

-Homeschooled Jesus was confident as he "went missing" and his parents searched for him. His parents view of the world shifted from "decent with some dangers" to a sudden "dangerous world." But in the end he was just fine, because of how he was taught by his parents. In the same way we need to know when it's time to let go and trust we did our job.


4. Think: What if everyone in your family was HOLY? How many lives could be changed!? What would be the impact on our current culture of death and selfishness?



Here are links to Cathie Baier's workshop printouts: Discussion & Resources


Read more about Marcel LeJeune here: You might enjoy books he's written and contributed to including "Set Free to Love; Lives Changed by the Theology of the Body" and "The Church and New Media."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Family Time

It's about forming real, meaningful relationships. It's not just getting together on the holiday, but to make everyday moments special too. It's making sure everyone feels welcome, and occasionally entertained. It's a time when no one feels awkward or left out. It's having conversations about your world, whether it's inside your home, out and about, at work or global. You just need to have a two way conversation. But don't forget to clap when you change subjects or the men get lost in the conversation.



Happy 3rd Bday to my little Iron Man who finally got his Capin Merica [Captain America] scooter. Prior to this day he'd stand tall on my bathroom scale. I'd ask him what he was doing. He'd say "I'm getting bigger so I can ride my Capin Merica  scooter on my birthday." He believed the scale itself made him bigger, as if it charged him up! I made him this Iron Man T-shirt that he could wear anywhere. He specifically wanted the Iron Man 2 triangle chest piece, not the Iron Man 1 circle piece. So cute, Jonathan. We just entered a video of him to America's Funniest Videos doing his thing in his Iron Man mask! Crossing our fingers!


Eddie 5mths Old

Happy 5 months to my little peanut, Eddie. He didn't step on the scale, but he sure is growing. He talks by making a growling sound. I know it's just baby talk, but it's new for him and still exciting for us!

Eddie tells us the whole story!

Edward's First Meal

He had his first tastes of organic bananas and homemade squash - but he doesn't want anything to do with that mush. Of course he loved munching on a piece of my zucchini bread! He seems to prefer texture?

Pioneer Park

On a recent field trip, he did this thing where his toes were up in the air the whole time. I just had to tickle and eat them up. :)


Mikayla Launderer

Mikayla has been a real Mother's Helper. She doesn't always like it, but she can do it. This lovely picture is her looking at the laundry tub at a local pioneer village field trip. She of course prefers the electric washer. She's looking so grown up lately… it's just a matter of me blinking and she will be.



Stanley's godparents came to visit, and they saw what a big boy he's become. He's wearing a Thor t-shirt costume I designed and made for him. He LOVES the cape. His godfather called him Thor most of the day, to which Stanley just smiled back.


Daddy and Thor showing off their muscles with tattoos. Stanley, Mikayla, Sabrina and Jonathan are all building their muscles at weekly Gymnastic lessons. We finally found an activity that fits us well. Daddy's muscles come from lots of hard work in this 90-110 degree weather fixing the cooling towers at a local coal power plant.


Sabrina is really that middle child, who just blends in with the rest most days. She always makes it a point to come over to me a few times a day, give me a gentle or wild hug, and let me just give her the lovin she needs. On her off days, she's the only one you notice - as she sings loudly in the restroom, finds new ways to entertain herself and Jonathan, loudly proclaims that someone has wronged her in some way, or raises her already high voice to talk to Eddie. She's starting Kindergarten this year, and she's very excited about her Tumble Bug gymnastics lessons continuing. My persistent, bubbly ball of energy I believe will really surprise us as she grows up.


I love them all so very much.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lazy Summer Days

…too hot for anything else.


Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th

Albertville FireworksAlbertville Fireworks

Happy 4th - Sabrina and Eddie


Always has his tongue out and blowing bubbles…

Monkey Butt Eddie

He's on a roll…

Monkey Butt EddieMonkey Butt Eddie


He's Iron Man even in the pool…

Summer Bdays

Summer Bdays

Lovin' my sisters belly!


Another excuse to take a snooze…

Summer Bdays


Garage Sale Finds…

Freebies at Garage SalesFreebies at Garage Sales


Loving the Fishies…

Eddie loves the fishies

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4 Our Country - Helping Our Soldiers

4H Pledge

4H Pledge Bookmark

Our 4H Club is packing boxes. We're sending off needed and fun supplies to our modern day Captain Americas - our heroes in the military. Here are some details to help you if you decide as a homeschool group, club or family to share a little love with those who sacrifice for us every day. Here's a picture of some of the kids that helped pack!


Prayer for Our Troops

O Prince of peace,

we humbly ask your protection

for all our men and women in military service.

Give our Soldiers unflinching courage to defend

with honor, dignity and devotion,

the rights of all who are imperiled

by injustice and evil.

Be their rock, their shield, their stronghold,

their constant companion, their strength in battle,

and their refuge in every adversity, that they may draw

their strength from you. Guide them, O Lord, that they

may return home in safety.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.


Organizations Who Take Your Donations:

Mary's Project - (Catholic Publishing Co) Dedicated to providing Support and Free Materials Worldwide to our Soldiers, Military Families, and the Global Church in Need.

*Please let me know if there are more i can add?


Applying to Support a Soldier or Platoon:

Adopt A Platoon: New Supporter Application

Operation Shoebox: New Supporter Application

Operation Shoebox: School Classroom Signup




12"x 12"x 5 1/2" boxes are available from the USPS.

If it fits, it ships® for one low cost of $13 per box

"Our troops work hard for us overseas. Far from home, few things brighten their days more than mail from friends and loved ones. Technically, APO/FPO/DPO ships at domestic rates, however, you’ll need to follow these special guidelines.  Use the service member’s full name: All mail must be addressed to someone specific; addressing mail to “Any Service Member” is no longer permitted. Include the unit and APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office™, Fleet Post Office or Diplomatic Post Office) address with the 9-digit ZIP Code™ (if one is assigned)."

How to Pack and Send a Care Package:


* Get your free boxes from the USPS

* Decorate the inside with drawings, poetry, scrapbook paper, tissue, etc.

* Fill up the boxes!

* Don't send: (Their Rules)  No pork products, or immoral/obscene items. No aerosol cans, liquid hand sanitizers, postage stamps, nor things that could melt. No food that isn't ready to eat or instant in the microwave.

* Be sure to fill out the proper forms available at the post office.

    >How to Fill out the form


Complete List of Needs:

Care Package Needs

Request Form for your Adopted Soldier/Platoon


Prayer Cards & Holy Medals:

*Free Printable Prayer Cards (click image to print)

Prayer Cards - front image Prayer Cards - back prayer


Toiletries Tote:

Sew a basic drawstring tote bag. Include a dark colored wash cloth, travel sized shampoo/conditioner, soap/body wash, q-tips, razors, lip balm, breath mints or gum, nail file, nail clipper, floss, tooth care, wipes, etc.

> For fabric, I chose to sew bags with Super Heroes. You could use camouflage fabric, or misc fabric from your own pile. The women got floral bags from us. Then I added yarn for the drawstring.

>One 12x12x5 box fits 8 bags tightly with all that inside.


Sample Care Package Themes:

Military Box Supplies



- Playing Cards

- Dice

- Poker Chips

- Frisbees

- Nerf Balls

- Game Bandanas (for teams, flag football, etc)

- Mini First Aid Kits

- Insect Repellant Wipes

- Crystal Light & Gatorade Powder Packets

- Chewing Gum



- Stationary

- Blank Greeting Cards

- Pens & Pencils (sharpeners, erasers)

- NO Stamps! [They get free postage]

- Calling Cards

- Instant Coffee

- Non-melting/Non-Perishable Snacks



(So proud, Sabrina wrote her FIRST letter!)



- Wash Cloths (dark colors)

- Nail Files

- Nail Clippers

- Tweezers

- Soap & Face Wash (double bagged to keep scent and spills out of other box items)

- Lip Balm

- Baby Wipes

- QTips, Feminine Pads, etc



- Mini Sketch Journals

- Colored Pencils, Drawing Pencils, Erasers, Sharpeners

- Yarn and Crochet Hooks, Idea books

- Harmonicas

- Puzzle Books

- Magazines

- Mini Sewing / Repair Kits

- Clean Hand Snacks: Beef Jerky, Hard Candies, Gum



- Stuffed Animals / Mini Toys to hand out to the local children

- Party Supplies

- Holiday Supplies


**Cards from your children!**



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