Monday, October 22, 2012

Today is a Gift!

This morning is a gift from the Lord.  God has given me another day to love my children, to pray for them. to teach them the Bible, to be kind to them.  He has gifted me another day with my precious husband to serve him and to minister to him as his helpmate.  God has sent me trails today.  Maybe big and maybe small, but He permitted (ordained) them to enter this day to mature me and to perfect His work in me.  God has gifted me today some opportunities to do some of the good works that He prepared in advance for me to do: things He created me to do.

What a loving, precious, generous King!  I will treat this day like a gift!  I will delight in it, be thankful to the Lord for it.  I will not complain about it or grumble about either the circumstances or the people that enter this gift day.

Thank you, Lord, for the abundant gift of this day!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Food on Friday

So Friday is my menu day and my grocery shopping day.  I try to spend as little as possible (under $60/week) on food and I usually can because fresh vegetables here are SOOO cheap.  So here is our menu for this week.

Lunch: Left overs
Dinner: Black bean and cheese fritata

Lunch: Crock pot Swiss Steak:  Really tough (and cheap) beef cooked all morning with a thinly sliced onion, 6-8 dices roma tomatoes, some salt, garlic, and chili powder served over left over whole grain rice.  This served with fresh green beans steamed then sauteed with olive oil and fresh garlic, salt to taste.
Dinner: Clean out the fridge night.

Lunch: Veggie pasta: all kind of veggies (carrots, bell pepper, spinach, onion, celery, green beans, etc) chopped super small with food processor sauteed in olive oil with garlic and italian seasoning until soft.  Add prepackaged spaghetti sauce and serve over whole grain pasta.  Served with garlic bread.
Dinner: Chicken and Dumplings  This is a new recipe I'm trying out.  We'll see how I do!

Lunch: Tuna tortas: 2 cans tuna, mixed chopped veggies (like above), an egg, house seasoning and some bread crumbs, mixed and made into patties and fried.  This served with homemade pasta salad: frozen mixed veggies, pasta, mayo, bacon if I feel like it, and house seasoning.  By the way, we use house seasoning on EVERYTHING.
Dinner: Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Lunch: Black beans and rice and homemade corn tortillas.  And coleslaw.  YUM!
Dinner: Baked Spinach Ziti and salad.

Lunch: Lentil Minestrone Soup
Dinner: Left overs.  By now we will have a ton.

Lunch: Refried black beans, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, and home made tortillas
Dinner: Family fun night!!  Fruit, cheese and popcorn made on the stove top (NOT the microwave)  and maybe peanut butter sandwiches if the kids want them.

The secret to my low budget is looking at what I already have in the pantry, and using up perishable things first.  I only have to buy a few things like coffee, milk, etc.  I only buy things that go on my menu (and cereal when I find it on sale) and things that I keep a running list of when I run out like baking products.  I RARELY buy extra snack foods.  We always keep a bag of tortilla chips on hand, but we don't use them to snack on during the day.  For snacks we eat fruit, and left over food in the fridge like a tortilla with beans and cheese melted on it.  I also don't buy things like canned tomatoes, etc, because for less money I can chop tomatoes.  But it might not be that way in the states.

Let me know if you have any questions or budgeting tips about menu planning!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Let's have a GIVEAWAY!

We have a winner!  Chantelle Virag, I will get you your free curriculum!  Thanks to all who entered.  Hopefully I can do another giveaway soon.

I will be getting everyone who entered a 20% off coupon...the only rule is that it is one per person who has entered the contest, and one time use only.

Time for a Giveaway!  

Fitness 4 Homeschool Physical Education Curriculum

 Family Time Fitness is a homeschoolers dream for a P.E. program.  I have tried several times to incorporate a P.E. class into my home school curriculum, but lets just be honest, it never got done well.   I would plan some games or some activity or a lesson on how to throw a ball, and I could just never seem to get to it.  It was always the thing that got put off and put off.  AND I spent my precious time planning these lessons out, to not use them.  Plus, I'm not a P.E. teacher...I was just trying to do what I remembered doing in my P.E. class!

Family Time Fitness is a thorough and fun way to do PE as homeschool.  The cool part is, they tell you what to do, how to warm up, what games to play!  And there are video demonstrations for each activity if you can't figure out from the instructions what to do.  I have never had to watch the videos because the explanations are easy to follow, but it is nice to know they are there.  

Here is how the program works:  They send you an e-mail everyday with the activites to do that day.  Easy! You don't have to do it everyday if you don't want to, but there is enough material for a fun and interesting P.E. class daily!  

And the good part, at least for me, is that it was a workout for me, too!  I love doing it with my kids and even the 2 yr old tries to join in the fun.  

So here is the good part...Family Time Fitness has given me a Home School package to giveaway.  That is 260 lessons sent to your e-mail, and it NEVER expires!  That is a retail price of $199!  (cheaper with their "web" price of $57).  

What is included in the Fitness 4 Homeschool Package?
The Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum includes a startup guide, PDF lesson plans, video demonstrations, assessment tools, reminder emails, lifetime curriculum and video updates, access to online webinars and certificates of completion. One curriculum purchase can be used for all your children, and we never charge any subscription fees or annual renewal fees.
Startup/Training Guide - The Startup Guide is a guide for parents and includes an introduction to physical education, information on what to expect from the program, safety information, how to integrate physical education into your curriculum, teaching tips and equipment information.
Lesson Plans – Each of the 260 professionally planned lessons arrives in PDF format and includes a List of Supplies, Warm-Up, Activity, Cool Down and Suggested Outdoor Activity. Each exercise is described in a detailed, user-friendly format for easy access. Each lesson provides 30-45 Minutes of physical activity. If you do all the activites that is over 7800 Minutes of activity a year! If you do the suggested outdoor acitivy you get an additional 10-15 of physcial activity.
1-Page Summaries– Each lesson has a One-Page Summary to facilitate easy printing and portability. The summaries keep you from printing all 900+ Pages of Lesson Plans.
Video Demonstrations – Each exercise includes a demonstration video with real kids doing the exercises. There are over 200 instructional video demonstrations available to you with this curriculum, and you are guaranteed lifetime access to these videos as we update them.
Assessment Tools – We provide tools to help track progress of the basic fundamental movements. Other downloadable tools include nutritional logs and meal planners for a comprehensive fitness approach.
Encouragement Emails – During the first year of your course, we send you reminder emails each week day to keep you and your children motivated on your fitness journey. We also always include nutritional and fitness tips in the emails.
Online Webinars – You have access to our regular online webinars and our webinar archive for further in-depth instruction and tips on the curriculum.

To enter, you just leave a comment here on my blog!  
You can have an extra entry if you subscribe via e-mail to my blog (just stick in your e-mail address on the right)
You can share this post on your own blog (one entry) - 
or on your facebook page (one entry)

Just leave a separate comment for each entry telling me what you did.  

ALSO, They have given me a 20% off coupon code to give to any person who doesn't win the contest.  So, it never hurts to enter!  Have fun and good luck!

I will be selecting a winner on Friday with random number generator, so enter, enter, enter!  

Monday, September 03, 2012

New Giveaway Tomorrow!

New Giveaway!!!  Starting tomorrow I will be hosting my FIRST official giveaway!  I am going to keep it a surprise until tomorrow, but you will have all week to enter so check back!

Here is a hint...wanna get fit as a family?

See you tomorrow!

Oh, if you want to subscribe via e-mail to this blog you will receive automatic notification of when I post the giveaway and the winner.  Just put your e-mail in the little box on the right.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Must Haves for Mommies (and their babies)

Ok...after having 3 kids in 4 yrs, I have what I consider real experience with little ones.  We travel a ton, and I am crazy about fun and inventive products.  There are a couple of things that I want every mom to have, products that have been essential for our family, and I wanted to list them here.  These are the things that I tell friends about when they want baby or kid gift ideas.

The first of these things is the Miracle Blanket.  It is our favorite swaddling blanket and is good for newborns up until they are old enough to wiggle themselves out...way older than for a normal swaddle.  We call it the baby straight jacket!

Next is Hooter Hiders.  This is my favorite cover up for nursing!!!  I had one last almost 3 years (2 kids nursing for a year and a half) and loved, loved, loved it.  Before the Hooter Hider, I would break out into a sweat if I had to nurse in public, it was so stressful!  I care a lot less now about nursing in public, but it allowed me to be discreet...always important!

We also adore our Tiny Diner.  This is a rubbery placemat that you roll up and back out and it has suction cups that stick it to the table with a little trough at the bottom.  Awesome for restaurants where you little ones can eat off the table w/o either getting some gross disease (haha) or messing up the restaurant's table with mac and cheese and ketchup!  We just wipe ours off with a baby wipe at the restaurant and wash it when we get home.

Every busy mama needs a good sling! I can't find mine on-line, but here is one that is close: The Maya Wrap

My favorite sippy cup is the Learning Curve sippy cup.  It can be hard to drink from, but if you cut the valve slit a little bigger w/ a razor it is THE BEST!  It is the only sippy cup that has lasted in this house.  The kids can't chew up the valve, and I don't have to have a dishwasher or a sterilizer to get the valve clean.  I LOVE IT!!!

I seriously recommend that every mom get some cloth diapers. Two of my favorite cloth diaper stores are Cotton Babies and Green Mountain Diapers.  Cotton Babies gave me a diaper grant because I'm a missioary, and it was the only way I would've ever gotten started with cloth diapers!  They are a very cool store. Green Mountatin Diapers has the best selection of inexpensive cloth diapers and they give free evangelism stuff with an order!  Love them, as well.

My latest love is the GyroBowls.  These are AWESOME! No, they are not completely spill proof...a kid, if trying hard enough, can get the stuff to fall out of the bowl, but my 2 yr old can walk up and down stairs, carry the bowl in the car, walk around the house with it, and not a bit spills.  GET THESE!  They are really super cool.

Our favorite toys are the Little People sets and anything LeapFrog.  Both of those brands have held up to years of hard play and the kids LOVE them.  When I need a gift for a little person, I go first to check out those products.

For older kids are the Leap Frog video series and the TAG reader system.

Ok mamas - and it is always good to know of a good store to shop the coolest mom invented products:  Check out Mom 4 Life.  It is owned by a Christian mommy who has a really cool store.  She also has free shipping on all her stuff, which is AWESOME! It is an awesome store just to browse in.

Now...go do some shopping!

Our first adoption loss: Adalyn

If you have been on Facebook in the last week, and if you are Facebook friends with either Brandon or me, then you've seen this little girl:  Adalyn in Russia.

You've also seen that we had decided to adopt her.  We had been planning on adopting a special needs child and I had been doing hours of research every day to try to figure out which country we should adopt from.  I started with foster children in the U.S.  Then I called adoption agencies in the U.S. to find out if they have hard to place children from birth-moms there.  Then I found myself ruling out country after country either because of cost, or age of children, or length of stay in country, or restrictions of the number of children already in the home, or minimum income levels.  Russia had was not on our short list.  It was just too expensive.  Double that of another country we were looking at.

Then one evening we get an e-mail regarding a sweet girl in Russia who needs a family.  Would we be interested in adopting a cleft palate?  I sadly responded that no, because Russia was just too expensive, but I would begin to pray for the little girl that a family would find her.

Well, the owner of the agency, because I said I would pray, forwarded some pictures of this little girl to me and to another woman in order for us to pray for her.  It wasn't a professional e-mail, but a personal one.

That is when I saw sweet Adalyn.  And my heart was sickened. I stuck her story on FB and asked for money to adopt her or someone else to adopt her.  I thought is worse than tragic that there was a precious baby who was without a mom or dad in an orphanage and because to get her costs what it costs to buy a car, I couldn't rescue her.  I balled and we prayed and I balled and we prayed some more and finally Brandon had to come and escort me to bed.

Then the next morning arrived.  Brandon woke me up before dawn and asked me to come look at Facebook.  We had received so much support and so many offers for help that we were totally overwhelmed.  All of a sudden it seemed that the huge expense (originally the only reason Russia was out for us) was not going to be a big deal!  People were opening their hearts! And they promised to open their wallets!

We started researching what all it would take to get her home and to take care of her.  We spoke with a plastic surgeon, we researched online, we got in contact with other adoptive families who had cleft palate issues.  We prayed a lot.  It seemed that God had put this little girl right in our path!  And we were committed.  We were prepared to handle multiple surgeries, severe speech problems, possible hearing loss, attachment issues, undernourishment, using feeding tubes, raising a child whose face isn't like everyone else's.  We, with the Lords help, knew we could do this.  That we should do this.  That our discomfort and our difficulty was very worth this child's life.  We could handle it all...


We got the e-mail from Reece's Rainbow that told us that they hadn't had a chance to add this to Adalyn's profile, but she looks as if she has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).  A couple of facial features, along with the hole in her heart, along with her cleft...all of those are super consistent with FAS and being that she is from Russia, the likelihood is great.  We had done some research on FAS.  We did some more.  Brandon yelled at the Lord (really yelled, with tears), I cried.  I felt sick to my stomach.  The more I researched it, the more I felt that this was something I just can't handle.  Brandon felt the same.

I want to write an entire blog telling all the reasons why we don't feel like we can adopt an FAS baby, but I need to just get this over with.  It is so painful.

An FAS child can have a spectrum of problems, ranging from learning disabilities to severe mental retardation.  FAS children are usually very likable and sweet, generous to a fault, and usually have poor impulse control.  FAS children can have short term memory problems and be very untrustworthy because of it.  FAS women (in the moderate to severe range) tend to have FAS babies.  They don't have the ability to reason through the consequences of their actions.  They tend to be very sexually active when they are old enough because they don't reason well cause and effect.  They are extremely trusting yet resist anyone who tries to control them.  As younger children, they are apt to wander off, can't always remember simple instructions.  But always appear very capable and normal.  They are brain damaged.  The result of a birth-mother who drank while pregnant.  The severity of the FAS is normally related to how much the mother drank, but there is no way to tell until the child is older as to what disabilities she will have.

What we read said that parents of FAS children need to provide as much stability and routine as possible.  They they have to keep their eyes on them and give them a lot of wiggle room if they forget to do something after you told them the 100th time.  That their impulsiveness is a result of brain damage, not because they don't want to obey.  An older FAS child needs an advocate at all times.  They don't have the ability to make good decisions about where they go after school or with whom.  They are likely to get themselves into compromising situations.

I had to take a look at myself as a mother, and our family.  We don't fit that.  Our life is anything but routine!  We travel and change plans at a moment's notice.  We plan one thing and then we have someone show up at a door and our entire day changes.  We have to be entirely flexible!

I don't think I'm the kind of mother that can take care of a child that needs that level of micromanaging.  I am a big picture mama and my kids are very independent for their age.  I need BoyD to help me with BabyK so that I can buckle GirlM into the car.  That kind of special need...I just don't think I can handle it.  And saying that out loud and writing it here makes me sick.

I was raised to believe that I can do anything.  Literally.  It has never occurred to me when faced with something difficult that I couldn't do it.  Want me to climb that mountain? I can do that!  Want me to get an Engineering degree?  I can do that!  Want me to move to Guatemala with my family?  I can do that!  Want me to adopt a special needs child?   I can do that!

And then I am faced, maybe for the first time in my life, with something I don't think I can do.  It is very humbling.  It is sad to think that this girl won't be in my family in part because of my weakness.

I know that God has a plan for our family.  I know that God has a plan for that little girl.  My struggles with all this do not call that into question.  I will continue to walk forward trusting in Him for what is best for sweet Adalyn.

We ask for your continued prayers.  Please, lets pray Adalyn into a family!  A dear friend told me I could be Adalyn's prayer momma.  So that is what I am.  Please pray for us on this adoption journey that God would council us and continue to guide us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My favorite outfit!

Well...I think I posted a while back a picture of the first article of clothing that I ever made GirlM.  I made it over a year ago, but since GirlM doesn't grow out (only up) and hasn't gained any weight in a LOOONG time, she can still wear it!  And, I have finally completed the "look" and it my favorite outfit that she has!

There are really 3 flowers on the shirt, a red one, a yellow one, and one that is red w/ white polka dot (like the skirt).

The skirt I made from one of my favorite websites of all time,  If you like to sew, but aren't an expert, then you must go there right now and bookmark that page and get started!  I have done several of her projects (tutorials) and they have all turned out fabulous!

Then, the shirt...After about 50 stores we finally found a feminine white t-shirt w/ a tiny ruffle on the collar and the sleeves.  I bought it, used some other tutorial that I found on-line to create those flowers from some scrap fabric, and attached them to the shirt.

Now I had a serious is relatively cold here.  Even in the "summer", which is really just April and May until the rainy season starts, it is cool in the mornings and the she was NEVER gonna get to wear that skirt!  Unless I found some cute tights/leggins/something.

Then I got the fantastic idea (I know, I'm brilliant) of looking for some BabyLegs.  Do you know what those are?  They are leg warmers for babies!!!  Oh, my gosh, there are always so many fun styles and colors, and when I found the ones for this outfit, I was overjoyed! (In the photo it looks like a different red than the skirt, but it is actually a good match)  My only problem is that GirlM wants to wear them with all of her skirts...and needless to say, they don't all match.  So I got her a couple of other pair, and as long as she wears them with the right sort of color family, we're both happy.

Oh, I even have some BabyLegs that I got for BabyK when he was younger, and it was the best b/c he could crawl around on our cold tile floors w/ just his little cloth diaper on, and it was so much easier to change his diaper!  I didn't have to worry about taking pants on and off a squirmy baby.

Anyway, I haven't made GirlM anything since Christmas, so I need to go sew, I guess!  Have a happy week!
(By the can click on "BabyLegs" above and it will take you a cute store where you can buy them w/ free shipping)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Being a Missionary Mom

Wanna know about what it is like being a missionary mom?  I get some people, after visiting us here say "Wow!  You life isn't that different from mine!" or they say "I could never do this..."  So, I thought I would let you know what it is really like being a missionary mom.

I am not going to write a complaining blog because my life is amazing.  I just want to outline some of the struggles that I have.  I have no idea what parenting is like in the United States.  I have only really been a parent in a foreign country.  You will have to let me know how our struggles compare.  Many of them will be the same, I imagine.  Some not.  In some ways my life is a lot easier that it would be if I lived in the US.  Some ways, not.  Let me explain.

As a missionary mom, I don't have to clean my house.  Ever.  I do have to pick up messes, wash some dishes, sweep/mop/vacuum on occasion, and I am in a constant battle to keep things put away, but you will never see me dusting, cleaning toilets, cleaning out the fridge or behind the stove.  I have a full time maid who does all of that for me.  She cleans my kitchen after breakfast and lunch, and keeps my house from window smudges and dust bunnies.  So that means I have freedom to do all kinds of things that I wouldn't have time to do if I lived in the states.  Write this blog, for example.  Have time to plan meals, homeschool, Sunday school, research things online.  All things that would be a struggle if I had to spend my time cleaning my 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 2 LR house.  Especially since houses in Guatemala get much dirtier than houses in the US.  We have no central heat and air.  That means that our house isn't climate controlled.  Think of a storage unit that isn't climate controlled.  What does it look like after a month...that is what my house would look like!  haha!  We basically live in a large, nicely decorated storage unit!  :)

As a missionary mom, I get a ton of fresh, inexpensive vegetables to feed my family, and I have my wonderful maid, Gladys, wash/bleach/rinse/chop them for me most days...all the hard things.  I just get to cook them and eat them.  We get like 2 dozen carrots, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, 3 bell peppers, 3 cucumbers, 3lbs of potatoes, 5-7 lbs of tomatoes, zucchini, celery, 3lbs of onion, broccoli,  mango, watermelon, melon, pineapple, and more each week for about $10.  Crazy, right?  The reason we don't buy more vegetables is because we don't have room in our fridge!!

As a missionary mom, I don't get much of a break.  Babysitters are hard to come by, and grandparents even harder.  We do have Gladys who watches the children on occasion if I need to run quick errands, and once a month or so she stays late so Brandon and I can go to a matinee movie.  There is no mother's day out, babysitting trading, or MOPS groups. There are very few dinners out with Brandon because it's not safe to be out too much at night.  If I go to the women's meeting at our church (which I never do) I have to find someone to watch the childcare there.  If Brandon and I want a night away at a hotel or something...well...we have to go back to the states so Grammy or Mimi can watch them.

As a missionary mom, I have very few girlfriends in my town.  3 to be exact.  I've 2 other dear friends, but one lives a town away and the other about 2.5 hrs away.  This just makes coffee dates and play dates somewhat rare.  I am working on getting a better relationship with a couple of Guatemalan women, but they both work full time so that makes spending time with them when I have time difficult.  And there are still cultural barriers that make heart communication more challenging.  

As a missionary mom, errands take hours instead of minutes.  Trying to go get cash, pay the cable/internet bill (have to go to the cable company to pay), pay rent and the electric bill (must pay at the bank), and grocery shop takes 2 -3 hours depending on wait times at the bank and if I can find a parking space.  None of that can be done online or by mail.  Taking the children makes that take longer as I'm sure you can imagine.

As a missionary mom, I have to live without Target...enough said.  :)

As a missionary mom (this happened to me this week), Brandon had to make a trip into Guatemala city to go by immigration, go by a friend's school to get some papers, and run our friend Brynne back after spending almost a week with us.  He ended up having to spend the night and all of a sudden I was alone for the evening, night, and following morning.  Not really a problem normally, but I was so tired I almost couldn't stand up, had been going, going, going all day, and was hormonal on top of that.  My poor children!  haha!  I whined at Brandon and complained when he told me and got jealous that he got to go with a friend to go see a movie in English!  Then sat on the kitchen floor and cried.  haha!  I'm such a jerk!

As a missionary mom, I can't take my kids on regular walks, there aren't really parks to take the kids to, or sidewalks to speak of for a stroller ride...even regular trips to go get a chocolate covered frozen banana have to be done with no discernible pattern of leaving and coming.  I have to be very diligent and always keep an eye out for security threats, and although we are relatively safe, this is tiring.  Not ever really able to relax when I'm alone out of the house even more so when I'm with my kids.

As a missionary mom, I don't have much of a support system in this whole mom thing.  It is hard, and lonely at times.  Not probably any harder than any mom's job, and in some ways, much easier, but hard nonetheless.

As a missionary mom, I get to demonstrate to my kids daily that we are foreigners in the world...that this is not our home...that we are awaiting the return of our King,  I get to show my kids almost daily how to feed the poor, take care of the fatherless. My kids get to be the minority group and get stared at.  They get to learn Spanish and have friends that don't look like them or have as many toys or even a bedroom separate from their parents.  They get to feel a little dislocated from any culture.   This is amazing, but it brings with a separate set of parenting difficulties.  

I don't have space in this blog to cover all of the benefits for my children living in another culture.  I haven't talked about the enormous blessing it is to live in such a beautiful country, to be a very small part of what the Lord is doing here, or how I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Let me know how your struggles are different!  Let me hear from you! I'd love to compare notes and maybe we can encourage each other.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review of Time 4 Learning

Ok...this is a little overdue, but I need to get it out there.  We received 30 days of Time 4 Learning free in exchange for a candid review of the curriculum.  

Time 4 Learning is an online educational curriculum that includes language arts, math, social studies, science, and preschool.  The monthly membership is $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child, with nothing else to buy.  It is for preschool through 8th grade. 

 Here is our take on it: In the month that we had the program, BoyD (6yrs old in the middle of a 1st grade curriculum) only got on once.  After a full home-school day, (8:30-12pm) we just didn't have time.  In the afternoons I use the computer so he didn't really have much of a chance.  We also have an old LeapPad (like with books and cartridges...not the ipad type thing they have now) plus he has a Leapster, and a Tag reader, so a child can only have so much electronic time.  We only give him limited "screen" time, so he always chose other activities.  After looking over the curriculum, it did seem that it had a lot of great stuff, but I want face to face time with him.  I purposely chose the curriculum that we use because it requires me to teach him.  Not a DVD or internet program. On the website there is a cute photo of a mom and daughter working together on the computer, you assume mom helping daughter with whatever the daughter is learning.  I know that wouldn't be me.  It would be hard for me to just sit and watch the kids work w/o feeling like I needed to get up and do something around the house.  We might do things differently when he's older.  

GirlM (4yrs) used the preschool part while I would do some specific teaching with her older brother.  She like it a lot and had an easy time (for the most part) switching between activities, etc.  I did have to help her occasionally, but as I'm not looking for a babysitter for her, that wasn't a problem. 

Ultimately, I wish BoyD would have had some more time to use the product so I could give a better review for his age level. He is very far ahead of most kids his age, so that would have made a good review.  I really liked it for GIrlM.  It was all very fun games that fit her level well.  It was a lot of community education and basic phonics...right where she is at.  It seemed more fun than educational for her age, but that suits me fine.   I do like that it gives parental reports so you can see how your child is doing and in what areas they need help.

The cost is a bed negative for me.  Although if that were the only curriculum that you used, it would be CHEAP, I have already purchased our curriculum.  For me it is an unnecessary extra expense and we are on a very tight budget.  If I had that money laying around my house with no other predetermined use, I would pay the membership fee and let my kids use it for fun.  If you have they money to spare, I would highly recommend doing their free trial to see if you like it as it may suit your needs fine.  I have nothing negative to say except that we just don't need it at this time, and so I can't justify the expense.  

If you use it, or decide to try it, let me know what you think!  I would love to hear another perspective!  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Homeschool Life

I've been wanting to post on this for a LONG time, but I always have something else that I feel like I need to do.  Today I am putting off all that other stuff to do so that I can actually create a record here of what we do in our house for homeschool.

I want to write about our reasons for homeschooling, our schedule, our curriculum, and our school room.  This will have to be done in a series of posts.  I am committing to myself to get these blogs out there.  It is my wish that I would be a regular blogger, so I just have to "habitualize" it a little bit. (is that a word?)

Anyway, when we first moved to Guatemala in 2005, BoyD was 10 months old and we had not thought through what we were going to do for him in terms of schooling.  I loved "teaching" him at home, but that was all really just play, books, and animal flashcards!  The thought of teaching him how to read and how to do math was overwhelming to me.  I was open to the idea of homeschooling simply because I didn't know what other options were available for me here in Guatemala.  

Since then we have had 2 more kids and my philosophies regarding parenthood have morphed somewhat.  That is either a benefit or a drawback of living out of the US, depending on your perspective.  I have definitely become more conservative/extreme.  I think that it is because I don't have the American culture pushing in on me all the time.  Even though we live in Guatemala, we don't have the Guatemalan culture pushing in all the time either because we aren't Guatemalan!  We live in an American style house, we read books in English, and generally don't live exactly like the Guatemalans.  (Maybe we should be more immersed in the culture here, but that is the subject of a different post altogether!)  So...we sort of form our own culture to an extent.  This is one reason why missionary kids are sometimes called "third-culture kids."   

So, that being said, let me just lay out for you the reasons we have chosen to homeschool.  [Disclaimer: I realize that homeschool isn't for everyone.  I would never set myself up as judge over another person's family choices in regards to how they educate their children.  This is just our perspective.  Please don't be offended, although I welcome discussion and dissent for the purpose of growth!]

1.     Our schedule.  Brandon travels quite a bit.  We travel as a family quite a bit.  We have meetings across the country in the middle of the week.  We travel to the states at various time of the year.  We have visitors that come and stay with us from a couple of days to many weeks. Brandon works so many weekends, that any mini-vacations we take usually take place during the week.  If the kiddos were in school, we would have a heck of a time trying to keep them up to date with their school work.  

2.     Our kids.  BoyD is exceptional.  He just turned 6 and would be in kindergarten if we were in the states.  Yet he reads at a 2nd grade level (at least) and is finishing up a 1st grade math curriculum.  He is a SUPER fast learner and does not need much instruction.  Remember that I was concerned how I was gonna teach him to read?  Well...I didn't teach him.  He sort of just figured it out.  At one point I tried to teach him his consonant blends (bl, br, etc) and he already knew them.  He doesn't need reading instruction and very little math instruction.  He just gets it.  If he were in school, he would have to endure a lot of time spent teaching subjects that he doesn't need instruction for.  Talk about boring!  
And GirlM just turned 4 and is reading short vowel words already!  Again, I haven't really "taught" her how to read, just worked with her on her letters and sounds and she gets it.  

3.     The schools here:  I do not want to bad mouth the schools in Guatemala.  There are some very good ones that offer a wonderful education.  Here is the issue with them in regards to my family.  There are 2 types of schools here.  There are colegios (private schools) and escuelas (public schools)  The public schools are free and normally have very large class size.  If you can find a public school that has relatively small class size, the teachers still have to direct the teaching to the average student, too fast for someone who needs extra help in an area, and too slow for the student that has already mastered the subject.  There is also the issue of stability because there are teacher strikes, there is not always a substitute system if the teacher is sick, and it is secular in its teaching.  (no biblical perspective on history or science, etc)  The private schools have smaller classes, usually bilingual, and may or may not have a Christian perspective. They also cost anywhere from $40-130/month, depending on the school.  Plus there are material fees, you have to buy the books, inscription fees, so that can get a little expensive, especially if you have more than one kid in the school.  I really don't want my kids to learn English from a Spanish speaker.  Call me crazy.  Also, even though BoyD is ready, he isn't old enough by Guatemalan educational standards to enter the 1st grade, so he would have entered Kindergarten in Jan.  (Their school year is Jan.-Oct.)  So that would have put him even further behind.  There is also the issue of norms in the school setting and teaching methods that I personally don't agree with, especially for little boys.
There are two "American" schools here that use American curriculum, American schedule, and the teachers are all American, but the kindergarteners and 1st graders can't speak English very well yet, so the teaching in those grades is SUPER slow.  Won't work.  

4.     Our parenting philosophy:  God gave us these children.  I love them and enjoy them.  I like being around them.  I only get a few short years with them so little and so moldable. They are in the process of forming beliefs and habits and a world view.  I want to be the one that forms that world view.  We also believe that the person/people that spend the most time with the child will have an enormous influence on them.  Be it friends, teachers, grandparents, etc. Brandon and I believe that God designed it so that we would be that primary influencer.  That in order for us to raise them up in the way they should go, we need to be around them a lot...being consistently available to direct, correct, rebuke, encourage, praise.  If they were in school all day, I would miss many of those moments.  Even if their teacher in a school is godly, gifted, precious, caring...that teacher is not their mother or father.  

5.     Our philosophy on education: The Bible tells us to teach God's commandments: "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." 
We want every subject that we teach to reveal God's love for us, His divine nature, and His purpose for our lives and for humanity.  I want my kids to know the Bible as well as math.  I want them to be rooted in truth.  The school system is by its very nature it has to be to meet the needs of the secular community.  For our children, we believe education should be done with the world view that God is the creator of it all, and that all life (science, literature, math, etc) can, and in fact does, point to Him.  In order to live out that philosophy, we much teach our children at home.  Our family just can't logistically re-teach everything that the kid learns in school to give it a biblical twist.  

6.     Control: Because I homeschool, I get to control what my kids learn, how much time is spent on each subject, and how I teach each subject.  I decide if my kid needs to be outside on a beautiful day, or if we need some extra character training instead of more history.  I can let my kids sit on the couch to read, or listen to classical music while they do math.  I know my kids better than anyone, and I know what they need (most of the time, haha!).  I don't want to delegate all that authority and control over to someone I hardly know.  I can seek expertise when needed, realizing that I know squat about educational methods.  But, I am blessed to have a mom who taught for over 30 years an now owns a publishing company that produces educational materials.  She’s my “in house” expert! 

7.  Efficiency: It takes me an average of 2-3 hours a day for me to teach BoyD everything.  He has another 1-2 hours of independent work apart from that, depending on how fast he wants to work.  We never have homework.  He never has to do work on the weekends or in the evenings.  We can spend a lot of time on something that interests him and blast through something that doesn't.  Very little time is wasted, so he gets more play time, more time for extracurricular activities, and his entire evenings and weekends with daddy.  

So there you have it.  The reasons we homeschool in the Scott house.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  Do you agree/disagree with anything thing I wrote? I welcome the discussion.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I'm gonna do a homeschool product review!

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for a month in exchange for a candid review. Their online program can be used for homeschool, as an after school tutorial and for summer learning. My opinion will be my own, so come back and read about my experience. You can write your own curriculum review, too!

This is gonna be a first for me and I am really looking forward to it.  I think it is really to get me to sign up for the program, but I'm gonna try it anyway.  Maybe we will love it!