Back To School

*Sponsored Post*

It’s back to school time, and I’m loving these fun products that help make learning fun! With homeschooling multiple grades it’s super busy at times, but also so much fun to see my kids learning!

I am loving this rug from KC Cubs! I set it out in our school area for my 4yr old and eventually gave up on taking a picture of it with no toys on it. It’s his favorite place to play!

I love how he’ll play with toys and then we’ll discuss a few letters and then he’ll go back to playing. The seasons have been a favorite topic of conversation with his older siblings. They know the seasons, but seeing them laid out by month has been super interesting to them.

This rug is comfortable and doesn’t slide around on my floor. Basically, everyone loves it! It’s the preferred toy and game area in my house suddenly. And I’m loving that we can naturally have conversations about letters, seasons, and days of the week while the kids play.

And, what’s a school day without good snacks? I’m loving these fun cookies from Dick & Jane!

Not only are they tasty, they’re terrific conversation starters! We even had to look a couple presidents up because none of us remembered what they did.

I think we spend more time playing with these than eating them. Which really isn’t all that bad. It’s definitely a fun way to start or finish our school day!

And, last but not least, this super easy cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Because a school day isn’t successful without a tasty dinner! And I don’t always have time to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Each of these recipes really is only 5 ingredients, which makes them all super easy to make. I’m loving the addition of all these tasty and easy recipes to the end of our school day.

With only 5 ingredients, even my older kids can make us dinner! It’s a win win. Good food, and they’re learning how to cook!

3rd Grade

Everyone says that 3rd grade is a leap. And I would definitely agree.

I would add though, that even though it’s a leap. Pushing my 3rd grader to achieve has not been extremely hard. She was definitely ready for 3rd grade.

Heading into 3rd grade? Here’s a few differences I’ve noticed between the first couple years of school and 3rd.

  1. You must be reading – everything for a 3rd grader assumes that the child is reading on or above grade level. A lot of books are for 3rd to 5th graders. It’s really important that your child be reading on at least grade level or you can have them there before the end of the year. Even her Sunday School teachers assume that all the 3rd graders are reading, capable of finding a specific page in their Bible, and can follow along while other kids in the group read.Just a quick plug for reading comprehension worksheets. If you want to know how your 3rd grader is doing reading, these are awesome! The ones I have give her 4.5 minutes to read a one page story and answer 5 questions on the back of the page. She’s usually done with about a minute to spare. It’s been great for increasing her reading confidence. And for increasing my confidence in her reading. We done one a week and it’s like a quick little test just to check that she’s where she should be at with her reading.
  2. More Independent learning – it’s assumed that a 3rd grader is capable of achieving some things on their own with minimal assistance. I can help her understand instructions as needed but unlike K-2nd her school work is not designed for me to be standing next to her assisting every second.I’m not saying I just hand stuff to her and tell her to figure it out. We definitely walk through new concepts and challenging concepts together. For example, multiplication with more than one digit in the multiplicand. Sometimes she gets it, sometimes she doesn’t. So, I walk her through problems as needed. But sections with concepts that she already knows well, I tell her to do them and grade them when she’s done.There’s even a couple of subjects, handwriting, spelling, Bible, and sometimes English, that she’ll tell me she wants to do on her own without any assistance. She does them well on her own and lets me know if she doesn’t understand something. So I’m happy to let her do it.
  3. More Independence – This kind of goes hand in hand with point #2. It’s perfectly acceptable for me to drop her off at dance lessons and return 2 hours later to pick her up when her class is over. She can handle her class change, shoe change, and between class water and snack on her own.  And I’m not alone in this. None of the moms of 3rd graders are sitting in the lobby for their child’s entire dance class.
  4. Critical Thinking Skills – You can teach a kindergartner critical thinking skills every day and most of them just don’t fully get it. In 3rd grade, you actually have a chance. A 3rd grader can handle thinking through things.In math, this would be your story problems. In science and history it’s your open-ended questions like what happens if we do something different? Or why do you think this person did this? No more blank looks of “what are you talking about mom?”. My 3rd grader has lots of opinions about how science experiments should turn out before I even finish telling her what we’re going to do.
  5. More Steps per problem – She’s expected to remember all 11 capitalization rules and find all the missing capitals in a sentence. In math she is doing more complex problems like long division. We still practice our addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables because she needs to get faster, but it’s assumed that she at least knows how to do this.
  6. Independent Thinking – 3rd grade is where I’m seeing a lot more independent thinking. More questions like why is this actually a rule? And why do we do this this way?I just love the questions! I want my children to ask questions. If I don’t know the answer, we look it up. Sometimes the answer isn’t what she’s expecting. (sometimes we just do something a certain way because that’s how I like it, there’s no other reason). Sometimes it’s fun (like is the cheetah or the ostrich faster?). But, overall, it’s an increased awareness and curiosity about the world around her. A greater awareness of how others around her are feeling and what they might think about something. Or the realization that just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it.

I really just love this age! We can finally have more interesting conversations and she likes to sit and talk with me about what’s going on in her life. It’s such a fun age of discovery, asking questions, and engaging more.


L is for Learning

There are 3 categories of learning. And while each of my children has a preferred learning style. There is variation by subject. Still, it’s always interesting to me to consider these 3 different learning styles.

Often, when I’m teaching something and it’s just not working, if I step back and try a different style, I suddenly start seeing results. Whether it’s just that I switched up what I was doing so my child was no longer bored, or that I switched to a style that was a much easier way for her to learn this particular concept.

Though, after identifying a preferred style, I tend to try that one first because it’s the style that is most often met with success.

Auditory Learners
It’s what you think. They need to hear things. They do well in lectures, and other verbal forms of teaching. In the early grades, they learn very easily through song or rhyme. If they need to read something, an auditory learner wants to read it out loud because she wants to hear it.

Visual Learners
A visual learner wants to see things. Charts, diagrams, to-do lists, anything they can see. Often, they would rather read a book or instructions in their head instead of reading it out loud. They can be quiet in class because they don’t feel the need to verbally express what they know, but they’re always excited when there’s a list or chart involved.

Kinesthetic Learners
These people want to touch, feel, and experience. Think hands on. Manipulatives and props are especially helpful at the elementary age and they learn best in settings like drama, field trips, and science lab.

How does this help me while teaching? Well, if my child just isn’t getting something, I start by switching learning styles. For example. While teaching my oldest to add. We pulled out the manipulatives. The linking blocks. We’re adding to 5. In the first stack I have 5 pink, the second stack has 1 green and 4 pink, the third stack has 2 green and 3 pink, and so on until the last stack has 5 green. So I explain how adding the 1 green to the 4 pink gives us the same amount of items as the 5 pink. She was so upset that every single block in my towers was not pink. And she started undoing my stacks and replacing all the greens with pink.

Addition fail, color identification success.

Obviously, the Kinesthetic method was not working well. So we went to pen and paper. I would write the equation and draw pictures next to it. So, 1 star plus 4 stars equals 5 stars. Pretty sure I showed her this twice and she could add anything I handed her (kindergarten level, of course). She would even take the time to draw pictures next to the equations if they didn’t have them. A Visual technique was the best method for this concept. It also worked well for subtraction – and we’re now in 2nd grade and have yet to get those linking blocks out again.

Once she got the concept we would do math with things like smarties, skittles, and other little candies. So I was gradually able to reintroduce some kinesthetic learning. Because you do have to be able to count, add, subtract, etc. items in everyday life. Btw, the 2nd grade version of this is helping in the kitchen. We’re currently working on a better understanding of measurements like cup, pint, gallon, and 1/2, 1/4, and 1/3. She thinks it’s super cool when she gets to use all this math that she already knows.

What I’ve learned about my daughter is that she’s primarily a visual learner. But it’s also important to strengthen the other areas of learning. Like reciting math facts, saying our spelling word out loud, and other vocal learning to help her better learn by auditory means. The same with Kinesthetic, science is way more fun when it’s hands on, so we do lots of hands on for science and I slip hands on math in there when I can.

The point is, if you know how your child learns best, you can capitalize on that and then use what they’ve learned to help them see the same concept different ways. There’s no need to keep pounding away on a method that just isn’t working.

H is for Why Homeschool?

For me, the decision to homeschool was easy. I and my husband were both homeschooled and both greatly benefited from being educated this way. So the decision to homeschool our children was easy, or, assumed. There was no discussion, I just had to figure out which umbrella school, what curriculums, state requirements, etc.

A couple years in and I love homeschooling my children. So, why homeschool? Or, why continue homeschooling? Here’s some benefits I’m already seeing.

  1. Child lead learning – I love my curriculum and it’s important for my children to be at least at grade level, but, their learning is tailored to their needs. My 2nd grader loves science, so she does lots of science. Extra science classes at the local museum, etc. She also loves to grow things, so this spring I told her she can have her own garden, choose what goes in it, and be responsible (with some help from me) for taking care of it. And for reading this month, my 2nd grader has selected a Nancy Drew. As the kids get older, they’ll have more say about what curriculum we’re using and what subjects or direction we want to go with which subjects (like do they want to learn algebra or geometry first).
  2. I can “sneak” in extra learning – My 2nd grader just realized the other day that when she helps me in the kitchen I’m making her do math. She’s struggling with understanding fractions so I was walking her through combining 2 1/2 cups to equal 1 cup. She loves to cook and really wants to read and follow her own recipe without assistance, but getting all her measurements right is still a bit tricky. When she realized she was doing math she wasn’t all upset about it, it was more the realization that some math is super useful and that she needs it to be able to accomplish something fun (like making her own batch of banana muffins). Guess who’s suddenly more interested in fractions!
  3. I know what needs more work – With reading, she’s a good reader, but often drops connecting words or skips lines. And when reading out loud she tends to be very quiet and hard to hear. I’ve been teaching her to read recipes to me in the kitchen and she’s realizing the importance of every line on the page. She doesn’t realize it, but it’s definitely helping with focusing on every word. (I know, back to cooking, but she loves cooking, and there’s so many other skills I can slip in while we’re at it) Also, she’s able to read devotions to us in the evenings instead of me doing all the reading. She thinks it’s awesome and I think it’s great to hear her read aloud. She wanted me to record her reading the other day so I told her that she had to talk really loud so the camera could pick up her voice. I’ve been wanting to work on presentation when reading but finding a way to emphasize it has been a challenge. Telling her to “read louder” just doesn’t work. It was her best reading yet, because who doesn’t love to be on camera!
  4. More Free time – We have time to spend all day browsing a museum, do a crafting day, or not start school until 10. When we’re done for the day, we’re done. No homework in the evening. The weather has been beautiful this week (finally warming up a bit) so lots of time has been spent outside. Our neighbor friend doesn’t get home from school until 3 or so and my kids are usually well into their outside play by that time.
  5. More Flexible Schedule – We vacation in the off season, meaning we get the beach to ourselves! We do school through snow days and get out early in the spring when the weather is just gorgeous! Some holidays we take and some we don’t, but we’ll throw in a bonus free day whenever we want to do something fun. It lets us have our schedule the way that works best for our family.
  6. More Sleep – My kids usually get up around 8. On those rare mornings when we have to be somewhere before then, I see all the kids waiting on the corner for the school bus to pick them up. I really can’t imagine waking my kids up before the sun every morning to get them to school. You shouldn’t have to do that until you get your first job. As a result, my kids get up fully rested and we have the flexibility to stay up late a night or two a week and do something fun as a family. Very rarely are my kids short on sleep and I think that their attitudes and mental ability is better because they’re getting enough rest.

For my family, homeschooling is just awesome, and we love it. If you homeschool I’d love to hear about some things that benefit your family.

3 Thing Im Glad My Mother Taught Me

My mom taught me so much! And there’s lots I continue to learn. Thinking back through this year, there’s 3 things I’m so glad she taught me!

IMG_20150124_1949362231. Cooking – I cannot tell you how often I’m so glad I can cook! And I can do more than follow recipes, if I don’t have the right ingredients I improvise, I add spices as needed, and I’ll just wing it when I feel like it. Having confidence in the kitchen is such a blessing. I remember being at the counter helping bake, cook, and making a mess right along with my mom. Now, I let my kids do the same!

I’ll never forget the time I mixed up this beautiful tri-colored pound cake (in a bundt pan). I was in my early teens so fully capable of following a recipe. That cake was lots of work, and having three colors just made it more complicated. I successfully mixed it, baked it as instructed, and then set it on the rack to cool for 5 minutes. Next, continuing to follow the directions, I tipped it over and dumped it out onto the rack.

Only problem was, it wasn’t done. There were 3 colors of poundcake batter dripping down the counter and making a puddle on the floor. I cried, and I know my mom felt exactly as I did (even though she wasn’t crying). She had to clean up the mess. And then, we had a lesson on how to check a cake for doneness BEFORE tipping it over.

2. Sometimes Life is Hard – But you don’t give up. Life is constantly frustrating, irritating and just downright hard. But that’s all part of life, and definitely part of mothering.

Thankfully, that usually balances out with fun, love, and successes! You just don’t give up when things get hard, just keep going and things will come out ok in the end.

20141211_1316183. My Emotions are My Choice – I don’t mean I don’t have them. I can’t always choose when they’ll strike. But, I can be responsible for them. There are days I count to 10 before answering any questions. And there’s times I’m just tired, hungry, and crabby – and everyone knows it. That’s what coffee and chocolate are for!

Some days it’s really hard, but I can’t blame anyone for how I respond to things – like right now I would really like to tell the girls exactly what I think about them interrupting my writing for the 20th time instead of playing quietly in their room! Instead I calmly gave two choices. They can play quietly in their room until I come get them or they can take a nap like their Brother. We’ll see how long it lasts, but hopefully at least until I’m done writing!

With 2 girls I’ve started teaching emotional responsibility already. It’s ok to be mad – but we do not throw things or slam doors when we’re mad. It’s ok to be upset and it’s ok to cry – but we don’t yell at siblings or say unkind things because we’re upset. It’s not about not experiencing the emotion but it’s about remembering that no matter how I feel I still have a responsibility to be kind and considerate towards others.


The other day I pulled an old Kindergarten book of mine out of the drawer and added it to my Kindergartner’s stack of schoolwork for the day. Now, we have about 4 lessons left in her Kindergarten Hooked on Phonics so I’m about to order the First Grade set even though we’re only halfway through her first school year. So, I know she can read my old Kindergarten book, it’s 3 and 4 letter words, two to three sentences per page, and a picture to help. She’s read just about every one of these words in her Hooked on Phonics book, and the words she hasn’t read she knows how to sound out.

I hand the book to her and she takes one look at it and announces that she can’t read it. She’s convinced that because it’s a different book than what she’s used to it’s simply not readable (I am aware that this is a problem, she thinks she can only read her hooked on phonics stuff so my goal with this book is to prove to her that she CAN read other books and I waited until I was sure she could read this book pretty easily before handing it to her, I need this to be an easy success so I can get her reading other books). I informed her that she only needed to read the first page, it’s two sentences and about 8 words total. Pretty easy. It takes FOREVER to read that page because she’s convinced she doesn’t know the words, yet she is able to sound each of them out and read the sentences. The next day I have her read the second page, which is again two sentences and about 8 words total, this goes much better since she’s beginning to realize that she can read the book. The third day she reads the third page with practically no help, and then the fourth day she decides that she’s just going to read the last 3 stories in the book in one day because they’re so easy! After we finish the book I point out to her that this is book 1 (it has a big 1 on the front) and that I have book 2 for us to read the next day. She’s so excited because she loves stories and she’s realized that she can read these books that I’m handing her, chances are she’ll try to read all of book 2 in one day.

I knew she could read the books and I know what words she can sound out and which ones she needs help with (we’ve covered long and short vowels but haven’t learned things like “oo” and “st” yet) so I’m not expecting something she can’t do. She just thinks I’m asking her to do something that is impossible.

My oldest child reminds me of myself so much. I was reminded of how I reacted when I found out I was pregnant with her.

My husband and I had been married for almost two years, I had three months left of college and I wasn’t working at the time so really we were in a pretty good situation to have a baby. Only, I wasn’t ready for a baby. My brother-in-law was living with us at the time (was supposed to be 3 months with us in our 2 bedroom apartment and had been almost a year), I was heading into my Law School finals with terrible morning/all day sickness, I was really looking forward to getting a job when I finished school, and I didn’t want kids yet.

I’m the oldest of 8 kids and I had told my husband before we got married that I would probably want a child or two eventually but I did not want kids for quite a while. He would have liked a baby sooner but he was willing to wait for me to be ready. When I got married my youngest sister was 5 – she was my flower girl, so you get the idea. I know babies and young children, I grew up with them. I really wanted a few baby free years.

I was not happy to be pregnant, I was pretty certain the timing was all wrong, and I told God that I really did not think this was funny at all, seriously, I’m enjoying my “Hooked on Phonics” books, let’s just stay here for a while. I’m sure he does things like this to me because it’s funny – not a mean, malicious funny, but like how I felt trying to convince my 5 yr old that she can read a book that’s almost too easy for her. It is funny, why is she resisting so much, if she would just do it she would realize how easy it is…

I finally got over it when my baby girl arrived (by this time we had bought a 3 bedroom house and kicked my brother-in-law out, and I had successfully finished school), and I really felt like my 5 year old did when she realized that the book I handed her was something she could read, I wasn’t lying when I told her she could read it.

I’m the oldest of 8 kids, I grew up with babies. My Pediatrician probably thought I was the craziest first time mom ever. I never had questions, never freaked out over anything, and was very laid back about this whole parenting thing. But, really, what do you expect, the only thing I had to learn how to do was nurse, other than that, I’d done this baby care thing many times. I remember being actually bored with my first because I had so much free time after she arrived – she slept so much and I had no school, no work, and a clean house. I can just see God laughing at me and saying “I told you, you know how to do this”. (really, I think that if our society liked kids more, large families would be more normal, and there would be a lot less of this “freaking out over the first baby because I don’t know what to do with a baby” syndrome, but that’s a different topic for a different day)

Now, I have 3 kids and plan to have a 4th eventually (it’s like the stack of books hidden away in the drawer, once she found out she could read the first one she’s ready for the whole stack). I will admit, the third child threw me for a loop (plus my oldest started kindergarten and we’re homeschooling so imagine an infant and homeschooling for the first time! Scheduling Crisis!!!), I remembered the craziness that comes with multiple young children (I grew up with this, remember) and I’ve accepted it. Seven months in, we’re finally settled in, and my house is never clean. But, I honestly feel like I’ve just graduated from the “easy readers” or “I Can Read” as her books are titled to something a little bit more robust like a good mystery and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.