Soap!!

Hello! If you’ve found this blog because you purchased some hand crafted soap, you’re in the right place! This site is mostly a hodge podge of things, but enough people have asked if I have an online shop for soap, that I decided to set that up.

I’m so busy with holiday markets, that an actual online shop may take some time. I’ll try my best to get it up and running for the new year. If you click the button on the right sidebar to follow this blog, I’ll keep everyone updated about buying soap online!

Happy holidays, and don’t forget to wash your hands!! ūüôā

-Elaine

Fix It! Grammar

Grammar. Oh grammar. It took me such a long time to find a way to teach you! I remember early in my homeschooling journey I asked a fellow homeschooling mom what she used to teach grammar. She responded, “Oh, I don’t. As a matter of fact, many homeschoolers don’t really teach grammar anymore.” Dear reader, no. At the humble dwelling, I want my kids to read critically, to communicate thoughtfully, and to revise and edit their own essays. In order for that to happen, we must teach grammar! But all of the programs I found had such contrived exercises that my kids hated doing.

I want my kids to read critically, to communicate thoughtfully, and to revise and edit their own essays.

Finally someone suggested Fix It! Grammar from IEW, and we’re now on year 3 of using and loving it! Fix It! Grammar is a program with 6 books that model proper grammar within stories. The stories keep my children engaged, and I’ve seen them use this knowledge from this grammar course in other areas of their schooling. That alone was worth continuing with Fix It! I’ll explain a bit about how my kids use this and the benefits they’ve gained.

This is the binder I create at the beginning of every school year.

IEW offers the option to get a student e-book or printed. I opted to get the ebook so I can make grammar binders for the kids. This way my children have easy access to their printed out books, vocabulary, and copywork.

An unedited page from the student workbook.

Each week is divided into 4 easy days of work. Using the teacher’s manual, I go over the lesson that week on day 1. The kids then work each of the 4 days for about 10-15 minutes per day.

An example of Book 3: The Frog Prince

The beauty of Fix It! Grammar is that the work the kids do is labeling and correcting a story. The example above is work done by my 7th grader. I’ve started noticing that when he edits and revises his essays for various subjects, he uses methods he learned with Fix It!, especially when it comes to usage and homophones. The kids, knowing the reasons for the fixes they do during grammar, are able to better edit their own work!

An example of some of the vocabulary.

Each day the students are given a word (in bold) to define within the story. The benefits of this exercise are that the students improve dictionary skills, and I see many of these words trickle into essays throughout the school year. I also really love that the kids are learning nuances in our language. There may be many definitions for one word, and Fix It! Grammar allows them to figure out which definition best fits a particular sentence.

Fix It! Grammar copywork.

After completing the vocabulary portion, the students flip to the last section of their binders and copy the corrected story. By the end of the year, they have a complete, grammatically correct story copied! This copywork allows the kids to slow down and internalize all that they have learned. The fact that it’s one complete story makes the copywork really enjoyable and brings such satisfaction with the very last punctuation mark.

Grammar Cards

Fix It! Grammar also comes with quick reference grammar cards that are very helpful. I put them at the beginning of my kids’ binders for easy access.

Using stories to teach grammar and vocabulary is really engaging for my children and teaches them these skills in a natural, uncontrived way. And who can beat 15 minutes a day!

***This post contains affiliate links.****

Time to Exhale

This picture…these boys. I snapped this of the boys right after Max’s First Holy Communion. May has been rough with end of the school year activities. All activities seem to converge in May so that by the end, we’re all just exhausted! But there are so many good things…sacraments, school plays, smiles after winning unexpected awards. Still, it’s time to slow down.

Part of our slowing down involves exploring the area for fun parks or hikes. The more rustic the park, the more the kids seem to enjoy. Yes, my May calendar is still full, but I’m making sure to be more deliberate in spending time with the kids. High school planning is looming, and the planning is making all my time with them seem so fleeting.

So if you need us, we’ve decided it’s time to exhale. We’ll be sitting on the porch, still sweaty from playing at the park, waiting for the blueberries to ripen. Come pull up a chair and exhale with us. The blueberries are almost ready.

A little bit of this and that

Way back in November, I wrote saying we’re emerging from wonderful rest, blah, blah, blah. Y’all, after Christmas, our schedule got crazy! You guys may all be thinking “But you’re super mom! You can handle anything!” Well I’m here to tell you I spike my morning coffee one drip at a time just like everyone else. More on all that schedule in a bit…

House(blog)keeping: I was looking through all of the curriculum I’ve posted so far and decided to change it up a tad. I cut out some unnecessary parts and simplified here and there. I don’t want to overwhelm people who are just starting out with this whole homeschooling craziness.

Music: I stumbled upon an awesome Patreon! I have a secret love for folk, bluegrass, and old country music. I cannot sing at all, and the kids remind me of this, but I love listening to and learning about folk music. Well Annie Hatke had a wonderful idea of going on a traditional/folk tale tour this summer and posting videos about it, including bits of history about the songs. I’ve never done Patreon before, but I’m definitely willing to make this my first! Go check it out!

This has nothing to do with this post. I just needed a picture to break up the novel of a post. And to demonstrate what a toddler can MacGuyver up with a rock, chalk, and scissors when left unattended for 0.5 seconds.

Reviews: I have some curriculum reviews I’m working on since it’s curriculum hunting season. If there’s anything in particular you have questions about, either comment, email me, or find me on Instagram (@elainemj7) I’m planning IEW, Elemental Science, History, Math Mammoth, and a few other reviews so far.

Schedule: Back from the crazy schedule I mentioned. A word to the wise…don’t fall into the trap of “Oh no, my kids aren’t getting a “real” school experience because we’re not in this group or that activity!” then proceed to sign them up for everything and volunteer yourself to help with all of it. We all burned out. We’re still not done with everything since my kids’ Odyssey of the Mind team advanced to state competition and one child has a play in May, but I see the light at the end of the school year. The lesson learned is even after almost a decade of homeschooling, I still have to remind myself that it’s a good thing homeschool doesn’t look like public or parochial school otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps if I put this in fancy quotes on my blog, I can remind myself of this at the beginning of every school year.

The lesson learned is even after almost a decade of homeschooling, I still have to remind myself that it’s a good thing homeschool doesn’t look like public or parochial school otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps if I put this in fancy quotes on my blog, I can remind myself of this at the beginning of every school year.

Me, 5 seconds ago

Emerging

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I’m emerging after a year of enjoying my family, learning new crafts, and all around rest. Since no one really reads blogs anymore (ok, yes, I still do because there are some really lovely blogs out there!), I’m revamping the site to be a homeschool resource for Catholic homeschoolers. As I’m approaching high school and a decade of teaching my children, more moms are asking questions about what our day looks like, what books we use, and how I keep my sanity.

New features of this site will include:

  • What curriculum I use for each grade level (with links)
  • Posts on curriculum in action
  • Tips and Tools on how I keep organized
  • online resources for middle and high schoolers
  • what our plans are for high school and beyond

I hope I can help at least a few of you navigate the world of at home schools! Be on the lookout for new content trickling in on this space.

Sometimes the best laid plans can get eclipsed.

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Last week, our first week of school, went so smoothly.  I was sure, SURE, this week would be the same.  I had all the lesson plans written out!  The calendar is filled in until May.  I was all set to teach a few neighborhood kids our first science class of the year.  Then one by one, my children dropped.  It started out with little innocent coughs and sniffles.  Suddenly, high fevers and lungs threatening to burst with each breath.

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It took us until the 6th day to have our first sick day.  However, Mother Nature stepped in  and took charge!  The clouds cleared just in time for us to put our pinhole projector into use.  In between rests, the kids came out with eclipse glasses in hand that a neighbor had generously given us.  We shared with other neighbor kids who were in and out of our back yard testing various pinhole contraptions.

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The five year old even came out for a look despite being fearful of “ending up like Helen Keller.” ¬†He survived with all senses working perfectly.

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As a bonus, monarchs and swallowtails flew all around us and we found quite a few monarch hatchlings! ¬†A container now sits on our windowsill with swallowtail larvae as well. ¬†The kids and I were also given an opportunity to research how to get rid of aphids without killing monarch caterpillars. ¬†Let’s hope soapy water works!

The kids are on the mend, so I think we may get back to our schedule tomorrow…or we can just wait and see what Mother Nature gives us.

Saint Coins Revisited

Cleaning out the classroom closet, I unearthed our old Saint Coins!!¬† I did a post about these seemingly forever ago.¬† I thought it would be a good idea to use them again with my younger children.¬† But when I told them about it, the older kids begged to be included!¬† They remembered fondly “the family store” on Friday nights.

I’m happy to report The Family Store is now back in business with a few changes.¬† We no longer use the laminated task sheets.¬† I implemented a hanging tag system a few months ago that works really, really well!¬† I can move tags around to give kids turns with chores and add in monthly chores, such as vacuuming the van, when needed.¬† When the chore is complete, the card is flipped revealing washi tape.¬† Once all the tape is showing on a kids’ row, they can have screen time, friend time, and almost earn their saint coin.¬† I say almost because the one other “task” they must complete to earn the coin is to joyfully complete school that day.¬† Bonus coins go to kids when I see them acting kindly or serving someone when they don’t think anyone is looking.

I’m surprised at how excited the kids are to earn that saint coin every day.¬† The family store is stocked with candy that costs 5 saint coins a piece. Awesome candy around once a week, sounds like a deal to me!

Some of my coins need to be updated, however.¬† I still have a Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul II.¬† I need to visit Happy Saints again!!¬† I’m sure I’ll find many new saints I want as well.¬† It’s so exciting to share these with my little kids while bringing back fond memories for my older ones.

You Won’t Finish Your Curriculum

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You’ve spent all summer planning, ordering, reading.¬† The calendar is perfectly filled out through May 31st.¬† Now the books are all lined up nicely on their shelves.¬† All of the supplies are bought.¬† Digging through the sofa cushions and looking under beds, the kids find all the missing pencils from last school year.¬† Sharpened, they are ready to write beautiful essays and reveal the most difficult sums.

Before you settle in that first quarter of school groove, know this, you¬† won’t finish every single bit of your curriculum…and that’s ok!

When I started out eight!! years ago,  I was so wrapped up in doing it all.  I researched and purchased what was of course THE BEST of all curriculum.  And we were to complete everything by the end of May.  It was written in the calendar darnit!

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As the years went on, I changed curriculum more than I changed diapers.¬† We’re settled now on the best curriculum FOR OUR FAMILY.¬† Even that may change as the little ones grow.¬† And you know what, many, many times we don’t finish our curriculum before we declare summer break and jump in the pool.

Did the kids suffer?¬† Did anyone have to repeat a grade because we didn’t finish everything on my list?¬† Absolutely not!¬† The key, I finally discovered, was that it was my list.¬† In the beginning, I set expectations so high because I wanted to be the perfect teacher, prove to all that I can do it!¬†¬† Eventually I started becoming so interested in the things my kids were learning, I became a kid myself.¬† We all started learning together.¬† Learning turned into a 365 day affair from dawn to dusk.¬† Each year we spend less time at the desk and more time on field trips, at the library, reading, playing, making art, just getting out there!

So take a deep breath.  Finish what you can of IEW or All About Reading or that geography book with good effort, then put on those hiking shoes and get out there in the world!

 

Last and First

Today was our last weekday of summer. ¬†We spent the last few days exploring forests, visiting turtles, climbing trees, sword fighting in the backyard, swimming, and reading…lots and lots of reading. ¬†It was a good, slow summer that is now meandering into the school year.

Monday is the first day of our 8th year homeschooling. ¬†While we don’t have definitive grade levels here, the kids are of age to be in 7th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, K, and the toddlers bringing in the caboose. ¬†The 7th and 6th grade boys are getting older and thus needing a bit more privacy.

So while I will keep blogging here for the few people that read, I think I’m going to switch to just a homeschool blog. ¬†I’ve been working on compiling all the things I’ve learned (and some that I should have learned) over the past almost decade of homeschooling. ¬†I hope I can help at least a few of you out there in the homeschool trenches! ¬†I’ll still be in the same places on social media since that’s where most of the great discussions happen. Here’s looking to lasts and firsts! ¬†Have a great school year!

Birthdays…obvious and sweet

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One and eleven. ¬†We teased the boys saying that combined they are the age Bilbo was when he left the Shire for good…111.

Our sweet Henry is one. ¬†We had a quiet little celebration with just the siblings and his wonderful Godmother and her daughter stopped by for a visit. ¬†This past year with Henry has been one of such joy. ¬†He really is such a kind baby. ¬†I know that’s not a typical adjective that goes with baby. ¬†Usually one uses such words as cute, silly, or cranky. ¬†Kind is, however, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Henry. ¬†His hugs and kisses are given freely and often, and anytime one of the other children is crying, Henry crawls right over to them and pats their back. ¬†I’ve never seen a baby so young do such a thing. ¬†I bet the Blessed Mother smiled so big the day Henry was born.

If kids can have “emotional twins” then Henry is Jack’s. ¬†Jack is so thoughtful and empathetic. ¬†I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming and can’t wait to see him grow (well, I can wait just a bit).

Jack will be eleven next week, but we celebrated early before his friends left town for the holiday. ¬†Jack’s strange but awesome sense of humor is well known around our home. ¬†Often he’ll run away from me while saying “Running away sounds, running away sounds.” And no question is returned without wit or sarcasm. ¬†He’s a Ravenclaw for sure. ¬†To return the humor, I threw him a party with the theme “obvious.” ¬†It was a big hit! ¬†Who knew something so simple would bring so much laughter. ¬†Happy birthday, Jack! ¬†May laughter ever flow from your smile.