New Year…

So, here I stand, on the precipice of a new year.  I’ve thought (and probably said) before how hard it is for me to write “Christmas” letters and address a new year.  I always seem to say something along the lines of “We have no idea what the new year will bring…” and well, we don’t!
I feel like all to often we rush ahead, we charge forward, bulldoze our way into what we set our plans as.  Either that or we are a leaf on the river of life blithely going wherever we go, with no real dreams or goals of our own.  There is a problem with both scenarios.

If we push our way into whatever we want, just push on no matter what, odds are high that we are missing what God truly has planned for us – and usually there are consciences to this.  If we shove and bully our way toward our goals without stopping to look around, to make sure that our goals line up with God’s goals, sooner or latter He is going to catch us and say – “I wanted you to go that way, and I wanted you to do it a while ago, so now that you’ve built this highway in the wrong direction I’m going to bring you back”.  This results in our lives “crumbling around us” because we built those lives, and did it with little regard to the life God was trying to build.

On the other hand, if we simply float along with life, how do you accomplish anything?  My friends are all doing X, so I will too… My family expects Y, so I guess that sounds good.  My job wants to promote/move/”redistribute”/fire/give me a raise OK that works.  I’m sorry but that seems a listless way to go through life.  God has great plans for you, but odds are He isn’t going to just gently lead you around to accomplish His goals.  Nope, He’s going to wait for you to show up and say “OK God, what’s next?”

So, I’ll set some goals for myself, Chris and I will set some for our lives, for our family, for our jobs.  We will look at 2015 with guarded optimism, and then we will start to walk slowly in the direction of our dreams.  We will pray, we will listen, and when we get those feelings of “maybe we should think about this instead” we will stop and pray harder.  Trust me when I say we have BIG plans for 2015, and those plans are going to mean a LOT of change in our family.  Also believe me when I say those plans look NOTHING like what they looked like a year ago – or even six months ago.  So honestly, if I stand at the edge of 2016 and life looks totally different from what I have in my head right now, I will not be at all surprised.  I can tell you what we hope and want it to look like, I can even tell you our plans to make it look the way we want it to.  What I can’t tell you is what God has in mind for the coming year, how that will be different from my plans, from our goals.  So I haven’t a clue what may actually happen.

I’ve gotten to a point where it’s even kind of hard to share openly what OUR plans are, because well, inevitably that’s not what happens, because our view is short and limited, and Gods view is vast and eternal.  It’s hard to look at the goals we had a year ago, to finish the house and make it salable, to move and realize the dream of a mini-farm for our family.  Now that dream is back to being a dream, a want for me to leave this house and settle somewhere else.  God knows my heart, He knows what I want, but He also knows more than that.  So, we aren’t moving to the country, we may not be moving at all, but that’s because God is shifting us to another path, honestly it’s a road I thought was closed – but maybe not.

So, I’m off to make the most of what is left of 2014, as I wonder what in the world it is that God has in store for the coming year.


Homeschool Room Tour 2014-2015

It’s the day before school starts!

Not going to lie, I’m a little excited LOL.

I’m still working today on our school room and getting everything ready, but since this is probably as clean as it’s going to look for a while I wanted to share our homeschool room with you even though it’s not finished.


We live in a three bedroom house – we only need to sleep in two of those rooms.  So, a few years back Chris and I moved out of the master bedroom and into the “guest room” on the other side of the house – the main reason, the back bedroom is at least 10 degrees cooler on any given day than the master suite is.  That left us this HUGE space (not even kidding, the room measures approximately 17ft by 11ft and is nearly 1/3 the floor space of our entire house when you include the bathroom and closet parts of the suite).  Until about a month ago, this room was the “multi-purpose room”, it held my office space, our homeschool space, an exercise machine (collecting dust) or two at any given time, and all my craft and sewing stuff.  It was often messy and cluttered.

Our homeschool space at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

Our homeschool space at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

I worked out a corner of the room to hold our supplies and do school in last year.
Fast forward to May and the decision to work hard toward selling the house.  I/we did A LOT of purging in this space (still ongoing but mostly done).  Countless trash bags full tossed away, boxes and boxes of fabric and craft supplies donated and thats just some of what we got rid of.

Then the real work started.  We spent well over two weeks scraping popcorn off the ceiling, painting, cleaning, rearranging furniture, and organizing.

Technically the room isn’t done.  The ceiling needs a second coat of paint, we will be ripping out the carpet and replacing it with flooring, and we also need to replace the baseboards and curtains, but school is about to start and I needed a functioning space, so those projects will all have to wait.

In the mean time, I want to show you the amazing transformation of this room.

First let me give you an overview of our main school space.

Like I said, it’s not 100% ready yet, but it’s pretty close.
Inara and I have separate desks this year, which are in an L Shape.  Her’s is my grandmother’s wooden desk and I have a five foot folding table.  You can also see our we chose virtues posters hanging on the wall (I used tape so as not to put holes in the walls) still trying to figure out what to do with the cork board since again I don’t want to put huge screws int he walls to hold it.  The 7ft tall bookshelf holds what feels like the whole world.  It’s got all our curriculum, manipulatives, some chapter books to use for read aloud time, and still has extra space.  Next to it I have a rolling file cart that holds extra file folders and paper, the top drawer holds extra supplies and the middle extra manipulatives.  On top of that is a paper sorter for our colored paper (I’m super excited by that little gem).  You can also see Inara’s new neon pink wiggle seat, I’m excited to add this tool to our classroom this year.  For those unfamiliar it’s a 14 inch round disk inflated to about 3 inches high, but not firm.  It’s got two different textures on the top and bottom.  It allows for sensory input/simulation, noise free wiggling, core strengthening as they attempt to balance on it, and extra bonus it’s fun to sit on (yes I’ve tried it) or play with.

This is a more detailed view of our bookshelf and supply area.  I’m going to try something different this year with our AAR and AAS (all about reading and all about spelling) letter tiles and store them on a magnetic board separately and use a small white board rather than the big wall mounted board.  In part because, again, I don’t want to put holes in the walls to hang the big board, and also because I found the large board more awkward to use last year.  It’s not far away so we can still use it, maybe sitting on the floor, for other things or at certain times, but not daily. (and yes, I love my label maker and my boxes from Container Store)

On the back wall of our space I have an awesome school mailbox that a friend gave me, it will function as our workboxes this year.  On top I have a small display of flags (purchased from which will be used to say the school pledges, which are printed and laminated next to them.  I also have our US map hanging (I did use push pins for this – sorry Chris) since we will be studying US geography this year.

On the wall opposite our school area is the new family computer area.  Chris and I both have our computers set up sharing an 8ft folding table.  Chris is working to implement networked logons, so any of the three of us can log on to either computer and find all our appropriate files and settings.  Chris just finished setting all this up on Monday afternoon while I was at co-teacher training.

Next to the computer area is our new reading area.  I’m more than a little excited about this cozy spot, even if it does still have computer cables and parts stacked on it from Chris’ work in the space on Monday.  I love that Inara and I will have somewhere else to sit during school to read together, and somewhere for me to retreat to at other parts of the day where I can curl up with a book or do my quiet times.

Not pictured is the fourth wall of the room, which will be our movement area.  We have an exercise bike, and will also be putting Inara’s trampoline in that area.  It’ll be a place for her to get some energy out during school.  We often do memory work (poetry recitation, bible verses etc) while she jumps on the trampoline, or I’ll have her bounce and count to 20 or 100 for math practice.  She also enjoys using the bike to get some energy out and some movement going in her legs.

Well, there you have it, (most) of our school area.  

I’ll be sharing this post here: nbts-blog-hop-2014

Custom School and Life Planner

Well, it seems like just yesterday I was posting the last installment of my Life Management Binder, when in reality it was over eight months ago.


And here I find myself at a juxtaposition.  I still really like the binder I made, the system worked great for me, and I LOVED the size – especially when it came to stashing it in my purse.


Here’s the problem I faced, as a homeschool mom, I had no where to plan lessons, keep track of school related to-dos, projects shopping lists, or anything like that.  I ended up creating a separate three-ring binder for my lesson plans, and by the end of the school year last year found myself totally disorganized regarding school related items.


So, I wanted to combine the two… I started shopping.

I’ve said before I love the look of Erin Condren Life Planners – but man, the price tag – and it still wasn’t customized really.  Personalized yes, but customized no.

Somewhere in there I also realized that what I needed was a school planner, not a life planner.  I needed a place for school stuff!  I did more research and actually bought a copy of The Well Planned Day, a homeschool specific planner. 

When it arrived, I opened it up, and it dawned on me – it didn’t have a “normal” calendar area.  DUH!  This was a teachers planner, not a life planner that included teacher stuff.

I shipped it back.

I did more research.

I forced to conclude that what I wanted doesn’t actually seem to exist anywhere.  I wanted a full and total life planner.  I wanted something that would combine my daily calendar and my lesson plans.  Extra awesome bonus if it looked pretty, and free cookies to all if it also included areas for my cleaning lists, notes, birthday lists and other stuff.

Yeah, no such thing exists.

So then I came to the conclusion, if thats what I wanted, I’d have to make it… 



Then began the hunt.  I started going back through my Pinterest boards, looking for stuff I’d pinned when planning my Life Management Binder, also looking for homeschool planner stuff.

In the end I found two things that really helped – extra bonus they had free downloads too.

First I found Mama Jenn and her Homeschool Planning Pages.

I love that her pages have a system that easily translates into planning out Inara’s workboxes, as well as divisions in the actual subject areas for two part lessons.

Next I needed a day planner.  Something with a full week, space broken down for scheduling during the day, a to-do list area, and a place for small notes (like what Inara’s AWANA verse that week is or something similar)

Enter Miss Allison’s Art, and her homemade planner. Extra bonus here, the download documents are totally customizable, and she shows you how she put hers together.


Downloads in hand (or on disk) I spent some time customizing the planner sheets to include what I wanted.

Then, I printed.  I printed one set of each download and did some tallying.  I figured out how many weeks of active school we have, and thusly how many homeschool planning weeks I needed.  Then I subtracted that figure from the number of weeks in a year.

I figured out I’d need 33 sets of school planning pages and 19 sets with no school planning pages.

Off I went to Office Max.  The nice guy there helped me figure out the self-serve copy machine and I made back to back copies of what I needed.  As I flip through my book first I see the weeks day planner (our normal family planer), then when you turn the page it’s the weekly homeschool planner.




Next I needed to figure out what the rest of my planner needed.

In the end I had six sections that would need to be divided out.

Off I went to the craft store next, on the hunt for “pretties”.  I hoped to find a nice card stock scrapbook page for the cover, but nothing caught my eye.  Instead I found a “normal” type scrapbook paper with fun rainbow style diagonal lines.  I took the theme and ran with it.

I bought the scrapbook page, and also sheets of solid colored 8.5×11 card stock following the ROYGBV color pattern.  I also grabbed some extra purple (my favorite) for some decorating.

I trimmed the rainbow sheet and glued it to the red card stock.  Found a template for a marquee shape and using MS Word, that template, and my extra purple sheet I created a design for the front cover.


On the inside of the cover, I printed out and glued on a basic at a glance style school year calendar and also used the same (although much smaller) marquee for a name plate.

IMG_8746I like a bold outline, so using a sharpie I outlined the marquees and the calendar, I added it to the pile to be laminated (more on that in a second)

Right after the cover is my cleaning list areas.

I used my trusty FlyLady plans and printed out my daily routine, weekly plan, and detailed zone lists, all of which would get laminated.

The next section went behind the orange sheet and has about a dozen pages copied back to front for notes.


Next up, behind the Yellow divider is my first school specific section.  Here I included the curriculum shopping list for the year, our school supply list, and a school years worth of monthly reading logs.

IMG_8751 IMG_8752 IMG_8753


Behind the Green divider is a copy of our school’s academic calendar.


In the Blue section is my family birthday and anniversary list


And then lastly behind the purple section is where my actual calendar and planer pages are.


After I had everything copied, printed, organized, and planned, I went to our local teacher store and laminated what I needed laminated.  I laminated the cover to try and keep the pages glued together longer, the cleaning pages so they could be used as checklists with dry erase makers, the school academic calendar for longevity, and the same with the birthday list.

After everything was laminated, I went back to office max (or maybe it was Office depot the next time) and had them bind it for me.  I chose a black plastic spiral binding, and also paid the extra couple bucks to add a nice sturdy clear plastic cover over the front of the whole thing, and a black plastic cover on the back to add stability.


All in all, I spent several hours of my time, and somewhere between $40-$50 for supplies, laminating, and binding.

In the end though, I have a 100% customized whole life planner for the school year that I LOVE.  In the month since I finished it I’ve used it lots, and can’t wait to see how it holds up over the course of an entire school year.  The only thing in hindsight I didn’t include and wish I had was an area for menu planning and shopping lists.  But now I know that for next year. 🙂

Homeschool Curriculum: 1st Grade

It’s time for back to school and, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m EXCITED!

Our curriculum is all here (well, I’m still waiting on a couple of readers to arrive from Amazon, but the main parts are here) and I’ve begun preping it.


Being part of a University Model School, a lot of the curriculum choices were out of our hands, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own choices too.

We were very happy at Summit Christian Academy last year overall, but there were some areas that we just didn’t feel meet Inara’s needs academically, so this year, we’ve made some changes to what we will be including on our home study days.




Saxon Math 1


Reading and Literature


All About Reading Level 2

We Loved AAR last year, and it’s what I would have chosen even if we were’t at Summit

We will also have and use various read-aloud books throughout the year for Inara to read, as well has have daily reading time for her to listen either to me or Chris read to her, or have her listen to audio books.



All About Spelling Level 1




A Reason For Handwriting Level A

We will also incorporate Copy Work throughout the school year.


This is where we take the biggest Detour from Summit

Summit uses the Christian Liberty Press curriculum God’s Creation Series


Our Father’s World

Inara has a very STEM mindset, she loves to explore and find out how things work, her spatial cognition is amazing, and this science just did nothing to encourage her in this area last year.  She and I both found it drab, and fairly dumbed down even for a kindergarten level (Last year’s curriculum was from the same series, but it was The World God Made).

So, this year Chris and I decided to find a different science program to use at home.  One with more hands on items, that explored the scientific process better, and encouraged Inara’s STEM interests, extra bonus if it also had a Christian, or at least not overly secular, point of view,  Enter A Reason For Science. It’s the same company that makes our handwriting curriculum, and it’s full of great illustrations, and very age appropriate (but still challenging) material – bonus it comes as a complete kit so I don’t have to track down 101 things every time we do an experiment!

So, on our home study days we will also be doing science

A Reason For Science Level A



In class at school, they use Betty Lukens – Through The Bible in Felt.


During chapel this year at school they will be utilizing God’s Names by Sally Michael which we will also use at home.


Also at home we will be continuing with We Chose Virtues, and Inara will be participating in AWANA at our church.



At school Inara will most likely participate in PE and possibly Drama in after school electives.

At home for electives we will be alternating through Art, Spanish, and Critical Thinking/Logic using the following things.


Languagenut spanish

We will mainly be using for spanish, but reinforcing that with the Teach Them Spanish Grade 1 workbook.



This summer we started using a Draw Write Now book and Inara has enjoyed it, so we will continue that this year.

Logic & Critical Thinking

logic MB

We will be using Logic Links, and Mind Benders Warm-Up Grades K-2 and Beginning Books 1 and 2


I’ll be sharing this post here: nbts-blog-hop-2014

Gearing Up

I know most of you don’t want to read this, but I can’t help myself LOL.

I’m gearing up for back to school. 🙂

We’ve been out for four weeks and five days, and have 8 weeks and 1 day to go till our first day of school.


This is not the “praise Jesus school is coming again, get this kid outta my hair” kinda gearing up (a la Jen Hatmaker) no, that will come later.  No, this is much more the “yay back to school shopping, new crayons and bouquets of sharpened pencils” type gearing up.  I was the weird (maybe not so weird, someone back me up here) kid that loved to go back to school shopping.  I have brand loyalty to office products and school supplies.  I was the one who emptied and reorganized my backpack three times a day every day the two weeks before school started.  I was the one who couldn’t wait to wear the new school clothes we’d picked out and purchased.  Didn’t matter if it was going to be 85* the first day of school (and we didn’t have AC in the sticks) and all the clothes we bought were for winter – I was wearing those new outfits.

So, I guess it should be considered normal for me (especially as a homeschool mom now) that I’m selecting and buying curriculum (and wishing I’d started at least a month ago).  I’m organizing supplies (and said curriculum) and our school room.  I’m lovingly washing uniforms and hanging them up – heck I may even iron them.  More importantly (at least for us) I’m starting to make minor changes to our day to already start easing us into the schedule we will have to assume when school starts.  I’ve started using my alarm clock again (even if it’s set to 7 or 7:30 rather than 5:45).  I’ve started showing Inara what our schedule for the day will include (without associated times).  I’ve started encouraging her to do some “school” type work (sumer bridge activities as well as reading and handwriting practice) on her own.  In another week or two I will make this time mandatory as opposed to optional, as well as slowly moving wake up times up so that over the next two months we ease into the 6:30 and 6:am wake-up times.

I’ve also started mentally comparing our schedule from last year and thinking about what changes or adjustments will need to be made.  Is there anything specifically for our home study times that needs to be added or removed?  Are there things for our class study days that will need adjusting since I won’t be baby sitting on those days this year?  Over the next few weeks I’ll observe and mentally register, then a couple weeks before school I’ll actually plan out how our day will work, and type up a schedule.

This is our schedule for the end of the year two years ago (made April 2013) and is the most recent picture/screen caption of one.

This is our schedule for the end of the year two years ago (made April 2013) from public school.

This was our routine by the end of last school year (March 2014) at our University Model School.

This was our routine by the end of last school year (March 2014) at our University Model School.


I use an excel spreadsheet that was a blog download back around 2009 from a blog I can’t remember and don’t even know if it is still active.  It’s customizable and includes worksheets for families up to three kids, and I love how simple it is to map out our normal routine with it.  Sometimes it makes me feel exhausted looking at it though.

I realize that not everyone is going to put rigid structure in their day (and honestly we don’t follow these to a T but they do provide a reference and I find when I do follow a printed out plan for the day, no matter how loosely, our day goes more smoothly and is more productive.


Kids in particular thrive on boundaries, structure, routine, and predictability for the most part.  SO, I would strongly recommend figuring out a routine to aim for if you have kids of school age.  Odds are a natural routine already exists within your day, you just need to take the time to observe it and firm it up.

I was talking to a friend earlier (well, it was really a one sided conversation and I might have gotten a bit preachy – sorry friend :-D) about this very topic and with the same/similar advise, and realized it’s something that would benefit a lot of families, especially new school aged families and ESPECIALLY new homeschool families.  So I decided to share with everyone. 🙂


Trust me when I say, this type of planning, a firm routine, scheduled days, all of it REALLY isn’t my strong suit in fact for the first SEVERAL years of Inara’s life I actively rebelled against it (and I’m still never going to see eye to eye with the firm boundaries of baby wise and the like, I’m way to attachment based for that, which is cool, everyone has their thing) refusing to schedule naps or feeding times or anything.  The results were both chaotic, but revealing.  A natural flow showed up in our days when time was left to it’s own devices.  So, buy about age 3 I started setting it up on paper.  I didn’t really change anything in Inaras routine, I just wrote it down.  And if you’re a family without that structure at this point, I’d recommend doing the same.  Just observe your days for a week or two, then write down what you observe as a loose schedule.  From there you can think about (and talk with your spouse or kids) about what changes you think may need to be made to make for a better flow, or to set you up for a smother transition into a school year.

So, anyone have any other tips or suggestions related to this?  Any more seasoned homeschool veterans or those with bigger families have other suggestions that have worked well for you and your families?


We will talk more in a couple weeks about setting up your actual *school* time and options for organizing the teaching and learning of stuff, but in my mind your general daily schedule, and your school time schedule are actually different – again, maybe I’m just weird that way. :-p

We have a BATHROOM!

A little history.

We bought our house in July of 2006, with the plan that it would be a starter home 5-10 years max.  In the eight years since, we have simply outgrown subdivision living, and our interests have outgrown our land.

I was five months pregnant with Toby, and we felt like we needed to be in a house, and after having several sold before we could make a move on them, we finally found this house and bought it.

We settled, and we didn’t have a great real estate agent.

But, we had a house.  It had a nice pool, it was on a big lot for a subdivision, and we moved in.

From the get there were lots of things that needed attention.

Nearly every room in the house needed at least a paint job, many needed more than that, but I wouldn’t call it a fixer-upper, just in need of some TLC, and our personal touches.

So we thought.

When we came to look at the house the 2nd bathroom looked like this:









Yellow 4″ square porcelain tile in the shower, yellow walls on three sides with a fourth wall white, a sponged on fish border, dark pecan wood cabinets and medicine cabinet that had been stained over with blue.

It was… not our taste.

We painted it all white with yellow and blue spots lightly added in, painted the woodwork a bright medium blue, and replaced a fish theme with a rubber ducky theme.

Somehow this is the only picture I have of that:



Not even 6 months after this picture was taken, we discovered there was a problem.

Water had been leaking behind the wall of the shower for some period of time, and the drywall was rotting.  Tiles were starting to fall off the shower surround.

With the help of a couple guys from our couples bible study, Chris tore the shower and tub, and really half the bathroom, down to the studs, and then he chiseled out (by hand!) the saltio tile from the floor!
And there it sat, for nearly 5 years.

Until last month, when a tub went in!



We hired a friend of ours who is a contractor to do the tub, cement board, and tile work – and the stuff that goes with all that.

He did an AWESOME job.  Seriously, if you’re in the area and you need work done, contact Jacob Clyde – the guy can get stuff done, and it’s GREAT quality work!

After Jacob did his part, the rest was up to us.

But, I’m SO SO happy to say – it’s done now.

We put the finishing touches on it TONIGHT!


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