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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mondays aren't so bad.


Mondays are a crazy blur of discombobulated oxymoronic organized chaos.  Oh my word, it's not easy getting 6 people out of bed, dressed, fed, and hair "done" for school photos. (You know, "done", as in actually brushed and then rebrushed 14 times before we leave the house, not including the additional hair Mulligans on the way to school.) 



It's even more difficult to grab 4 backpacks (one on wheels because my oldest has to bring ALL her curriculum with her for the school day), a canvas bookbag crammed to full-over with teacher guides, tin whistles and more, a lunchbox full of drink bags, and the day's potluck donation. Add 3 swim bags and a purse that could rival a crane ball as a weapon, and you get a glimpse into the crazy pace of it all.  But "it all" is our life, and truth be told, we kind of like it a tad chaotic. Okay sure, could do without the tin whistles serenading us "cacophany style" down the road, uh hem, but other than that, it's reeeally okay.


Before we know it, my husband and I will have that quiet house we almost wish for (before we push the thought away, knowing it will slither silently upon us all too soon). So for now, we drink in our Mondays as sweet as a gift from God himself, because we know that they truly are.  Hubs spends his morning in our 5 year old's kindergarten class, while I spend mine in our 9 and 10 year olds' class.  I excuse myself for an hour of their class time so I can attend Latin class with my 13 year old. I do love me some Latin. Salve!

I'm so thankful to be able to attend school with my children; to be surrounded by like-minded families who are there to edify and encourage one another's children in their academic and personal endeavors. I'm thankful for the tudors and the many mandatory hours of training they participate in on behalf of my children and the other children in our school. I'm thankful for the leadership of our wonderful director too. And at the end of the day, I'm thankful that 6 people, 4 backpacks, a lunchbox, and a wrecking ball purse make their way back to our aging van so we can grab an early dinner and settle in to an evening of swim practice at the natatorium.  The ebb and flow of family life is exhaustingly exhilerating (that's alliteration, by the way) and I wouldn't trade it for any other life. Okay, Martha Stewart's might be a teensy bit tempting. Just sayin'.
Live wise in Him!
~Toni~
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Monday, September 3, 2012

"Can I join Classical Conversations with an older child who has never been in the program?"

Challenge A (a first time CC student's experience)

Okay, so! We are "up and running", as they say.  We have officially completed our first two weeks with our new Classical Conversations(CC) community.  Specifically, my oldest child has completed her first two weeks. Her siblings have been "doing school" lightly all summer long, and have completed math, reading, copywork/handwriting, math drills, typing, and some grammar review with me each day since their older sister began her new schooling with CC.

If you are an "on the fence" parent (wanting to try CC but hesitant to jump in with older children who have never been in Foundations and/or Essentials),  here is what I want say to you.  Ready?  Don't miss it.  Here it comes....................I want to encourage you, ENCOURAGE you, E-N-C-O-U-R-A-G-E  YOU that your child can succeed and that you will not feel unsupported in your endeavor. 

Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about our local community and the parents, tutors, and highly committed director who are making this transition as painless as possible for my family and me.  I have   sincere encouragement and support and so does my Challenge A student (who has never had Foundations, never had Essentials, and has had only minimal exposure to Latin prior to our joining CC.)

She loves the familiar layout of her days at home (which, with the exception of one adjustment I had to make to her schedule, follows the order of her full day at CC each week; the continuity at home is great for the students.)   I will say she works hard.  We are up at 7:30am and her schooling starts at 8am sharp.  She works a full hour per strand ("subject"), and must stay on task if she wishes to avoid homework or keep it to a minimum.  She finishes her schooling at 2:30pm, completes chores for 15 minutes, then must address any homework promptly, since she's a competitive swimmer and puts in 90 minutes at the pool 5 days per week.  As I said, she works hard.

But the point here is to encourage you.  Do you want the benefit of an intimate group of Christian peers, iron sharpening iron, for whom the academic bar has been raised while full support is given in teaching them to believe they can reach that bar?  Do you want your child to learn to think critically and analytically, and to learn to express their convictions intelligently and persuasively?  Do you want them to be able to regularly practice (and constantly improve) the skills of oral presentation in front of a group of adults and peers alike?  Do you want them equipped to research and to formally document that research according to college standards? Back in the day, I dreaded "term papers" because they were always a "heavily weighted beast" of a foreign object that I had to somehow navigate successfully to the expectations of a teacher or Prof. (with little training or practice in the "how to" of producing such papers.)  Not so with CC.

With CC, beginning in the Challenges, the students get plenty of practice in research, writing, and speaking.  Oh, the absolute joy it brings me to know my daughter is gaining this advantage in her education.
In two weeks, she has already written FOUR papers.  And she has already orally presented two of them. (Keep in mind, she had not previously had public speaking opportunities, other than National Spelling Bee and end-of-year presentations with another homeschool group we participate in.)  Next week, she will orally present the other two papers (using only notecards and a key word outline for one them.)   Sound like too much?  It's not.  Seriously, it's really not.  The students are given much direction, plenty of encouragement, and PLENTY of grace as they learn.  It's such a huge blessing on them.

If you've thought about Classical Conversations but have reservations about whether your children can succeed when jumping in later rather than earlier, please feel free to ask me any questions you might have about our experience.  I will continue to post as we move forward in the months to come.  But as far as our coming out of the proverbial gate, I do believe we're going to have a great run.  I'm very, very pleased that we stepped out in faith and joined CC and that CC has embraced our family as well.
Live wise in Him!
~Toni~
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Preparing for Classical Conversations Cycle 1


So, the summer continues to fly quickly by (as summers are known to do). We've had dance recitals, visits with family, a few hikes through canyons and creek beds, chances to chase fireflies, fireworks (in spite of the drought), cool-offs at the Splash Pad, swim meets, and more. Oh, the sweet blessings of summer.


At the same time, I often feel like there aren't enough hours in a day to plan for our coming school year. Then again, it seems there is oddly little planning I can actually do because our new Classical Conversations venture must, to some extent, simply unfold. I'm trying not to worry too much (as if I'd have any real clue of what specifically to worry about). It's just that I'm so used to planning out our year, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. But this year must simply unfold a bit first.


So, what have I been able to do to prepare? Well, in late June, I attended the 3-day parent Practicum organized by Classical Conversations. Oh my word, I was so inspired, challenged in my thinking, and enlightened. Inspired that the classical model will be good (no, great!) for my children. We have incorporated classical elements into our homeschool learning for years, but I'm excited to make it our main focus moving forward.(I'd be here all day if I ventured into my convictions.) Challenged by parents who in turn challenge their children to their fullest potential. No backing down or "watering down" the hard work of,...well disciplined, hard work. And oh, the amazing things their students are able to accomplish when the bar is raised. (They in fact demonstrated the result of their year-long CC work for us.) Enlightened to the model and method of Classical Conversations as it relates to a classical education.


My oldest daughter will enter the Challenge program without the benefit of Foundations or Essentials. This summer, she has been listening to the Foundations Latin memory work on her mp3, and has been doing daily drills and some accelerated math as well. She has also read all the books assigned in her Challenge level for the year, so she will have a first-run familiarity with them before she has to officially read and discuss them in class. I know she will have her work cut out for her in adjusting to her new schooling, but I also think she will be motivated and encouraged by the friendships she'll form with her peers at CC.


My two middle children have been writing out the definitions of the eight parts of speech, as well as the list of prepositions used in CC (thankfully, they're coming off a year of heavy work with prepositions and prepositional phrases, so the list is merely a longer version of one they had previously memorized at home.) They are also continuing with math and daily drills.


My 5 year old has begun his Kindergarten math curriculum (we use Math-U-See), and is doing some light phonics and sounding out C-V-C words. All four are reading at least 30 minutes per day, the middle children read a page out loud to me, and the youngest listens to stories and sounds out some words in the text as we go.


So, what else can I do to prepare? Well, I'm reading Leigh Bortins'The Core, a book I would highly suggest any "homeschooling" parent read. (To be sure, all parents, who take a committed interest in their children's educations, homeschool to some extent, regardless of the schooling option they've chosen.) This book is literally filled with terrific practical suggestions on how to take advantage of the way the brain learns, to challenge our children to their fullest potential in their school work (or after-school work), and on how to make learning a priority in daily life at home.


I'm also tracking down resources to supplement our weekly history and science focus at CC. We already have many on hand (ie. Story of The World volumes and Mystery of History volumes). But we will also fill our book basket with living books from the library so the children can "sample and feast on" a variety of coordinated books each week.


I've already met several wonderful people from our CC community this summer, and have joined a book club based on The Core, to gain insight from others in the group as well. And yet...our new venture must simply begin to unfold.


And so we anticipate as August 20th quickly approaches. Olivia will begin Challenge A on that day. I plan to sit in on her first two weeks, to get a feel for her days so I can better assist her in adjusting at home. After that, my time will be divided to my other children's classrooms as well. Her siblings start 3 weeks later. We've officially made the transition to year-round schooling, so we'll all be busy doing something of educational value in the midst of our waiting.


If you are using Classical Conversations for the coming year, especially if it's your first year, I'd love to hear how your plans are going. Leave me a link in comments and I'll be sure to visit.


Live wise in Him!


~Toni~

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hello, Classical Conversations

Brandon graduates preschool 5/22/12

This is very much a transitional year for us in homeschool. For the past seven years, we have used My Father's World as the bones of our homeschool curriculum. Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about My Father's World. It combines all the philosophies and elements of homeschooling that I, an ecclectic person, could not choose between; Charlotte Mason, Classical method, and Unit studies. I could have used My Father's World all the way through and never looked back. But alas, I am not the only on who must thrive on our homeschool "diet." Naturally, so must my students.

My students, whom I thought would thrive on the gentle approach laid out by Charlotte Mason philosophy, often took on more of a "lazy" approach; not wanting to be challenged and preferring to take the path of least resistance. "That's natural," some say. Well, just because it's "natural" (say some) doesn't mean it's good for us. Radiation from the sun is natural, but clearly it's not best for us to soak it in. No, I teach my children to strive for excellence and so we (my husband and I) determined that a change was in order. This is the year.

This year, we are implementing year 'round schooling; not only because we feel it's best for our children over the "I'm bored" summer months, but also because our local schools went this route and we kind of like some things about the model.

And this year, we decided to enroll our children in our local Classical Conversations community. Oh my goodness, teacher-mom is overflowing with excitement about this big change. For one, the challenge will be there (ironically, the upper levels are called the Challenge levels, hee hee). It is a rigorous program based on the Classical model of education. My children will study history, geography, math, grammar, writing, oral presentation, science, music and art (classically), and Latin in a classical framework (even 4 and 5 year olds will begin work in Latin). They will attend classes once a week alongside their peers, then work on similar content at home during the rest of the week. This will provide friendship, support and encouragement for them, but also for me, teacher-mom, as a parent must attend along with the student(s). And, this next part thrills me to no end,...all students must give a weekly oral presentation. In the younger years, it begins with a show-and-tell and/or two minute presentation. In the upper years, it is more detailed, where students research and report weekly on science topics and writing projects. This skill is sadly underdeveloped in many educational realms, and I'm ecstatic that my children will be working on it weekly with Classical Conversations.

I'm also quite excited about the positive peer "pressure" that my children will now encounter. I want them to experience other students who are ambitious, driven, bright, and polished. I want them to be motivated by those examples and by facing accountability to another adult instructor other than mom. Oh my word, I could go on and on about the things that draw me to Classical Conversations, but this gives you a glimpse into our thoughts at this time. I am attending a 3-day Practicum June 26-28 to better prepare me for my at-home role as a classical educator. We will still be using My Father's World, by the way. Only, Classical Conversations will now serve as the "bones" of our homeschool, while My Father's World will provide the supplemental "meat."

Stay tuned. My oldest begins on August 20th. I'll be reporting on this new journey as it gets underway.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Spring has sprung and gone.

It's been a busy spring and looks to be an even busier summer. We did some traveling this spring, taking the children to San Antonio in March and Phoenix in May. Found a terrific discount for Sea World San Antonio so we did that. The children loved the shows and the fact that some rides (including rollercoasters) were sprinkled throughout the park.

We also visited the Alamo and 4 other missions, the Japanese Tea Garden (do NOT miss this if in San Antonio; it's not 10 minutes from the Alamo), Fort Sam Houston (wouldn't miss this either; just 5 minutes from the Alamo and your children will love the wild deer, peacocks and turkeys that roam the property), and the sand dunes at Corpus Christi. Drove by the USS Lexington and snapped a few pics while in Corpus Christi, but the museum (on board) was sadly closed at that time.

IN Phoenix, we of course drove to the Grand Canyon. Let me tell you, there is not a photo in the world that does it justice. ONLY the eye can take in such depth of beauty (isn't it amazing that the greatest lens ever created was given to YOU for personal use from the Creator, God the Father, himself!) We saw wild elk while there and learned about the most remote "post office" operation in the USA. There's a town, Supai, that is located 8 miles down in the canyon. It is home to 200+ native Amnerican Indians and the mail is still brought in/out by mule. You *can* visit Supai, but it takes HOURS to get there (even by mule) and you do need permission and a permit.

We also enjoyed a fun-filled day of rafting and water slides at Big Surf waterpark. Olivia spent the entire 6 hours on her raft, becoming quite the "surfer", while the younger children preferred the water slides. This park is part of my childhood and I hadn't been back in 33 years. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it has been maintained and how much it's grown. We were blessed to get a very sizable discount by providing three food donation items (each) when we bought our tickets. Win-win.

We also spent a day driving the Apache Trail, where we ate lunch at the quaint town of Tortilla Flat (population 6), took in the amazing canyon scenery as we navigated hairpin turn roads along the cliffs, and stopped at the Roosevelt dam and bridge toward the end of the trail. Just to give you an idea of the "remoteness" of the drive, there is a survival training camp located back in them thar hills.

We also ate at one of my favorite restaurants, located in Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak Patio. You can eat outside under the stars with the mountains and Seguaro as your backdrop, listening to country-western music, while you have your western style dinner. Their gimick is to cut off the tie of anyone who dares to arrive "so stuffy" and the children got to see this in action, which was cause for lots of giggles. Olivia loved that they keep 3 Rattlesnakes in an aquarium inside the restaurant (our reptile lover). They all enjoyed the place so much that they requested to go again. So we ate their twice while in Phoenix. ;) That's a glimpse of the busy part of our spring, not including swim meets, swim clinics, a dance recital, preschool graduation, a visit from my parents, a couponing class taught by me, heavy school days right up to the end, and lots of dental appointments and expenses (teeth pulled, braces process begun, etc.) I'll venture into our summer plans in a future post.

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

My toilet paper stockpile

Okay, truth be told, I stockpile toilet paper. Now I'm not talking coupon-related (though give me a minute, I'm getting to that). I'm simply 'fessing up that I have a bit of a paper fetish and, yes, it includes good old twa'lette paper as well.

But in the past 9 months, I have taken on couponing as a way to carve out some pretty significant savings in my family's food and household budget. Today, I was able to hit a "stockpile price" on toilet paper. Here's the deal.

CVS has Angel Soft double-roll 12 packs on sale for $5.00 They also have a deal going where you spend $30 on certain products (Angel Soft included) and you earn a $10 gift card (note: this is even better than their Extra Care Bucks program because those rewards expire within a month and the gift card does not.)

So, I purchased 6 of the Angel Soft 12-packs, used six 50¢ Angel Soft coupons plus a $1.50 cash back reward I had earned from my last quarter of CVS purchases. Price was now $25.50. Keeping the $10 gift card in mind, th actual cost of the toilet paper was $15.50. This breaks down to $2.58 per 12pack (or, if you think in terms of 4 packs, then 86¢ per double roll 4 pack.)

But for me, it gets better. I also had another $11 in Extra Care Bucks so my out-of-pocket expense was $14.50 plus tax AND I got the $10 gift card.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is what we call a stockpile price. :)

If you would like to learn about couponing, I suggest checking out the following blogs and websites.
Coupon Mom.com
Money Saving Mom.com
The Krazy Coupon Lady.com

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Are you willing to challenge yourself?



It's that time of year. The time when we make all kinds of failed promises new year resolutions to ourselves in hopes of improving various areas of our lives.

In the past, I have either ignored the whole resolution thing altogether, or set a few poorly defined goals with no real plan for how to achieve them.

This year, I want it to be different.
This year, I am truly motivated to set goals and to work toward achieving them.
This year, I dreamed big and I'm reaching high.
This year is going to be different.

Okay sure, those last few sentences sounded like a self pep-talk, destined for failure (been there, done that).
But in setting my goals for this coming year the question I earnestly asked was, "Are you willing to challenge yourself?"

Challenge, in part, can be defined as, "to arouse or stimulate, especially by presenting with difficulties."
This is what I'm digging deep for.
At the top of my list, I have come up with a personal goal based on dreaming big and I'll need to dig deep (deep!) if I intend to achieve it. This goal will most definitely present me with difficulties, but they are the kind that will force me to tap into my creativity, my will, and my passion for learning new things. I can't reveal that specific goal (at least not at this time), but I definitely hope to share it some time in the coming year.
(Summer? Ish.)

In the meantime, here are a few of the goals I can share for now.

CRAFTY/HANDS-ON GOALS:
  • finish Ohio State lapghan
  • learn to knit
  • master bedroom makeover
  • homemade strawberry jam
  • give Etsy a try
  • teach oldest daughter to plan a week's meal menu, shop, and cook the meals for that week

FINANCIAL GOALS:
  • create a consistently worked family budget
  • increase the amount of our mortgage payoff
  • look into paying cash for a replacement van
  • build our food/household stockpile

TRAVEL GOALS:
  • take at least two "flash" trips this year for educational purposes

SPIRITUAL GOALS:
  • complete daily quiet time (scripture reading)
  • Read at least one book quarterly that challenges me spiritually
  • increase our family's food bank ministry
  • continue Sunday night bible study with my husband
  • log family devotional time for accountability

PERSONAL/MOTHERING GOALS:
  • New year motto: "Grace first."
  • Practice words of affirmation daily basis
  • "date" one child per week
  • create a schedule/blocks of time to work on "the big goal and follow through."

HEALTH/FITNESS GOALS:
  • drink 8 glasses water per day (predictable, I know, but I don't do it.)
  • use cross trainer for 30 minutes, every other day
  • take 2 mile family walks 3x or more per week (doing Pilates instead during inclement weather)
  • one hike per month
  • try at least one new vegetarian recipe per month

So there you have it, some of the goals I'm tackling for the coming year. I intend to visit my list weekly and then "scrutinize" it monthly to guage where I'm at and how I need to change course to succeed (the ultimate goal). This is a much more pro-active approach than I've taken in the past and I'm both excited and challenged by the very thought of going for it.
And I am.
(Going for it, that is.)

How about you?
Are you willing to dig deep and challenge yourself?
I hope you have been inspired to be challenged as well; to enter this brand new year with purposeful intent.
I'd love to hear what's on your resolutional plate for 2012.

Live wise in Him!
~Toni~
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