so yeah, we homeschool

We have six kids – one in college, two in high school, one in elementary school and two at home being homeschooled.  Thomas just turned five and Muffa is three and a half.  Muf isn’t really into the school thing, so with Muffa, I use the term loosely.

When we started down this road a year and a half ago, I had no idea what I was doing.  The first year was kind of hit and miss, more miss, but I figured what the heck, it was preschool.  It was more of a test run to see if this was something that was worth pursuing long term.  By the time that first summer came along, we knew we liked it, and we knew we needed to step things up a bit, so we did.  In case you’re interested, here’s what we’re doing.

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History/Geography – Our main course of study is The Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times.  Really like it, but not totally thrilled.  That being said, most of the map work, activities, and additional reading suggestions found in the accompanying activity book keep it interesting.  It’s fun to see Thomas make connections between the various ancient civilizations.  For geography, we do basic map work based on the ancient world and are working on knowing all of the continents and all of the United States just for ducks.

First Human Body Encyclopedia (DK First Reference Series)DK First Animal EncyclopediaFirst Science Encyclopedia

Science – We’re focusing on the living world this year.  We began with plant study in the fall, and  as we were knee deep in gardening it seemed like a good place to start.  Then we moved onto the animal kingdom, and we’ve just started the human body.  For our texts, we’ve relied on DK First Science Encyclopedia, First Animal Encyclopedia, and First Human Body Encyclopedia.  Science is by far Thomas’ favorite subject.  These books are well loved.  I think we’ve seen every documentary ever made on big cats and have seen every single shark week episode at least a dozen times.  We just finished up a week of study on the skeletal system, and he can label most of the major bones in the body.  Sheesh, he knows more than I do.

Math – We’re working through the Math-U-See Alpha Level.  Holy cow, I love this program.  At little hands on, but not so much that you get lost in it.

Alpha Instruction Manual and DVD

Reading – We try and do a few extra books each week having to do with whatever history or science subject we are currently studying and a ton of reading just for the fun of it.  Favorites this year have included Beatrix Potter and the Magic Treehouse series.

Growing With Grammar Level 1 Student Workbook

Grammar – We’re using Growing with Grammar Level 1, and I love, love, love it.  The other day I overheard Thomas explaining to Muffa noun verb agreement.  Not only can he do the worksheets, but he understands the concepts.  Heck, I’ve even learned a thing or two.

Phonics – We’re using MPC Phonics Level A, and I can’t stand it.  Definitely will not use this series again so I’m not even going to include a picture.  I will say it is colorful and the cover is cute, but that’s about as good as it gets.  There’s no clear teaching of the rules, it just assumes the kid should pick it up as he goes along.

Gospel Study – I had a hard time figuring out exactly what we should do with gospel study.  We bounced around by topic for a while and that didn’t work very well.  Then one day it hit me that I should follow the seminary schedule.  By the time they graduate, Thomas and Muf  will have gone through the stardard works three times in a very orderly fashion.  Perfect.  This year, we’re doing the New Testament (that’s the seminary curriculum for this year).  We’re using the New Testament Stories book.  We supplement with things from the Mormon Channel and random things I find on youtube.  This is our current favorite.  We sing it all the time.

 Anyway, that’s what we’re doing.  It’s work, but not overwhelming, crazy and fun.  The hardest part was just starting.  I’ve truly felt guided by the Lord each and every step of the way.  What a blessing.

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yummy and healthy — hurray

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Somewhere along the road of life, I got it into my head that nice moms always have cookies around the house.  I want to be a nice mom, but the good mom in me knows that cookies generally have the nutritional value of a cardboard box.  (Do you like that phrase, my mom always used it when referring to the corn flakes we begged for on a weekly basis – we were a straight up cheerios kind of family).

The cookies you buy at the store are pretty yucky and most of the recipes out there call for white flour and refined sugar.  Boo.  A couple of years ago, I took matters into my own hands and tweaked a pretty standard recipe.  Now, when the kids ask for cookies, I can be that nice mom and say, “sure.”

Let’s get started — Gather your ingredients

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½ cup butter (you’ll want to let this set out a bit just to soften it up)

½ cup coconut oil

1 cup brown sugar (not packed, this cuts down on the amount of sugar in the cookies)

½ cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 cups old fashioned oats (not the quick kind)

1 cup chocolate chips (the dark ones – I like costco brand – yummy, affordable and best of all fair trade.  It was a happy day when I found them.)

Combine the butter, coconut oil and sugars.  Mix at slow/medium speed for at least three minutes.  I actually set the timer for myself otherwise I get too antsy-pantsy and don’t let it mix long enough.  It’s done mixing when it’s super creamy and kind of glossy.  Here’s when I preheat the oven to 325.  It’s freakin’ hot in Arizona, and I don’t want the oven on any longer than need be.  Next, add the eggs one at a time.  I know it’s a pain, but yes, it does make a difference.  Add the vanilla.

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In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  I always used to skip this step and just dump everything in at once, but once again, it really does make a difference to combine them first.  Stir the flour mixture to your creamed mixture until just blended and then add your oats and chocolate chips.  It should take next to no time at all to mix them in.  One note if you are using a kitchen-aid — once you’ve mixed everything in, use a spoon to quickly scrape the bottom of your bowl and make sure everything is truly mixed.

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Next, get out your handy dandy scooper (I use the tablespoon size, it makes it easy to say yes when the kids want another cookie, they’ll want another one no matter how big they are) and start scooping.  At this point, you can either put your little balls directly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (love, love, love parchment paper) or you can lightly roll the ball in flour, tapping off the excess prior to placing it on the baking sheet.  The flour helps the cooking retain its shape a little better.  If you go this route, flatten them out a bit after putting them on the baking sheet.

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Put them in the oven and bake for 9 minutes (my oven tends to be hot, so keep your eye on them, yours may need to cook a little longer) and let them cool on the pan for five minutes prior to placing them on a wire rack.

Using the tablespoon scooper, this recipe will make approximately 6 dozen cookies depending on how much of the dough you eat – come on, you know you will.  Super yummy, I promise.  You can’t even tell they’ve been healthified (I’m going by what others have told me since I’m not so sure my taste buds are to be trusted).

Get to it, go be that nice mom.

two little words

Two little words, that’s all, just two little words.  How hard can they be to say?  Apparently pretty hard, when the two words are “okay mom”.   Almost every time I asked a little one around here to do something, all I got was a “no,” or an “I don’t want to,” or my personal favorite, “why”. 

Sunday afternoon, I asked one of the boys to do something and got the usual “no” response.  Much to my own surprise, instead of getting my panties in a wad, I very kindly said, “We’re not going to do that anymore.  From now on, we’re going to say okay.”  I went over to the cabinet and grabbed some little mason jars.  (I know — I have a slight mason jar fetish.)  Next, I pulled out some silly dollar store pom poms I had purchased for who knows what.  I told the kids that each time they said okay, they could put an “okay puff” in their jar.  When their jar was full, they could have a surprise.  Of course, the first thing they wanted to know was what’s the surprise.  That required some quick thinking on my part.  I told them they could choose to go on a bike ride, play a game with mom or dad, or even go to the dollar store.   They were totally on board, it’s the dollar store for heaven’s sake, life doesn’t get much better than that when you are three and five.

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Well, we’re four days into it, and I’m still hearing okay.  We haven’t had a single argument on making beds in the morning or brushing teeth.  It’s not perfect, but way better than before.  Currently, Thomas and Muf are working toward purchasing an alphabet app for the tablet.  They have to fill up their jars twice before we can download it. 

 I’m not sure how long this is going to last, but I’m going to enjoy it while it does.  Who knows, maybe it will actually stick.

a mom’s second best friend

If I had to name my second best friend during cold season, it would definitely be melaleuca oil, commonly referred to as tea tree oil.  I was first introduced to its magical powers several years ago by another sister (oddly enough, the one who makes fun of me for being a granola).  Muffa was just a little guy and had gone to the doctor for a regular check-up.  He had an ear infection.  Not knowing that I had other options, I filled the prescription the doctor had given me and figured we’d be done.  A month or so later, he had another one.  Boo.   The doctor gave us another prescription.  Something inside said there had to be another way.  My sister suggested I try some tea tree oil.  I did, and it worked, and it’s continued to work.  We haven’t used antibiotics for ear infections since then, and boy we’ve had our fair share.

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There are several ways you can administer it, but this is what has worked best for us.  Mix equal parts melaleuca oil and a carrier oil (I use olive oil because we always have it on hand).  Dip a q-tip in the mixture and gently rub the oil around the outer ear – not actually in the ear canal itself, just on the part of the ear that leads to the canal.   Don’t fret if you go a tiny bit inside the canal.  Whatever you do, just be gentle.

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I usually apply it several times a day for a couple of days and then maybe once a day for another couple of days.  When is pain involved, I apply it as needed.  The pain calms down within a few minutes, and it’s never taken more than a day for the pain to completely go away.  When I’m a really good mom, I start using the oil as soon as I see a cold coming on just to be safe. 

That’s it.  I promise it works. 

a mom’s best friend

A while ago, I was talking with my sister about this cough Muffa couldn’t seem to lose.  He was usually okay during the day, but night was another story.  I was sleep deprived and desperate.  I had even used an over the counter medication — something I rarely do.  Anyway, my sister suggested using vicks vapor rub on his feet.  While I liked the idea of not putting any funky chemicals in his body, I was a little uneasy after finding out what was in vicks, so I went on a mission to find something a little more natural, and oh am I glad I did.  This is super easy, natural and best of all, effective.  It truly has become my best friend during cold season.

All you need is some coconut oil for your base (other oils will work as well, but coconut is by far my favorite all purpose oil) and peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils. 

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To 3/4 cup coconut oil add

  • 30 drops peppermint oil
  • 30 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 14 drops rosemary oil

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Then mix it all together.  You can either do it by hand or I prefer to use my handy dandy immersion blender with a whipping attachment.  It makes the final product really creamy.  After it’s all mixed up, I like to transfer it to an 8 ounce canning jar — the squatty one, it’s just easier, trust me.

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I apply it every night before the kids go to bed regardless of whether or not they are coughing.  I put it on both feet and then cover with socks.  I also put it on their backs and chests.  It can be a bit messy, so I have them put on an undershirt before putting anything else on.  During the day, I apply as needed.  This stuff is amazing.  Within a couple of minutes of applying, all coughing stops.  Here’s to coughless kids and rested moms. 

a little blog

A few weeks ago, Thomas, who’s four, and Muffa, who’s three, were sitting on the couch.  Thomas was reading a book to himself, and Muffa was staring off into space.  I knew that he wasn’t really feeling well.  With hardly a thought, I started to do a little jig for him.  I’m not quite sure why — it just seemed like a good idea.  Usually, I leave the silly fun stuff up to dad.  I’m the hugs and kisses one, but I went out on a limb hoping to bring some joy into his sad, little life.

Unfortunately, my limb broke rather quickly.  I got nothing from Muf.  And Thomas, Thomas looked at me without any animation and said, “That’s a nice little talent you’ve got there.”  To this day, I don’t know whether he was paying me a compliment or simply displaying his mastery of sarcastic humor.

Anyway, today, I’m going out on another limb.  Maybe this one will be a little stronger, maybe not.  I’m going to start a nice little blog.  I can’t imagine I’ll say anything that hasn’t been said before, and I’m sure it will be more for me than for anyone else, but maybe, just maybe, it might help a fellow traveler find a little joy along this ordinary road we call life.