Sunday, January 31, 2010

SNOW! A Rare treat!

Living in central North Carolina, snow is a rare treat. It took a few years for this Northern-bred girl to get over my astonishment at the fact that things here completely SHUT DOWN whenever a couple of inches fall. In fact, just the prediction of snow is enough to cause event cancellations and a run on the milk and bread aisles at the grocery store! A winter storm dropped 5 inches on Friday night and Saturday, and not only was everything cancelled yesterday, but church services were cancelled today and most schools are closed tomorrow. Our street has not seen a plow, and most likely won't. And the secondary street that we are off of saw its first snowplow late this afternoon. Temperatures this afternoon got slightly above freezing but are dropping into the 20's again tonight, so all the slush will refreeze into ice. According to the TV news, state budget cuts have resulted in even fewer workers and trucks out plowing and treating NC roads, so .... the official advice is STAY HOME. Fortunately Mark can work from home, and we still have milk and cereal and bread and peanut butter. Sadly we are out of hot chocolate mix though.

Wait! What did I just see on WRAL? More snow possible for next weekend?????

deer tracks in our backyard

sledding down our street

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Frugal Homeschooling

The topic of our most recent homeschool support group [Lighthouse] meeting was "Frugal Homeschooling". Most homeschoolers live on one income, although many homeschool moms do part-time work to supplement that. Other families find that cutting coupons, shopping in consignment stores, and bartering helps provide the extra resources needed for homeschooling.
Nowadays, with so many family breadwinners out of work completely, it is even more important to find ways to cut costs. But the good news is, there are many inexpensive and even free resources available, thanks to the internet and community networks, which allow you to provide a rich and individualized education for your children without losing your shirt in the process!
Here are some of those resources that one mom shared at our meeting:

Online resources – complete curriculum– a Charlotte Mason method using many free online resources– free online curriculum organized by grade level or subject– Christine Miller’s website

Used or discounted curriculum Curriculum Exchange of Wake County, NC

Curriculum Reviews

Freebies– has a free item each week; also click the Free Stuff icon– a new free item daily
Many homeschool curriculum suppliers have freebies on their websites, such as a free lapbook or notebooking pages. Some of them offer a free resource if you sign up for their newsletter. You can unsubscribe later if you find your email getting out of control.

Downloadable books and audio resources– when you do a search, click on full view only on the left side; most items that allow full view are out-of-copyright and can be downloaded in .pdf format; you can download numerous old textbooks such as McGuffeys or Elson Readers, Harvey’s Grammar, Rays Arithmetic, history books by such authors as Helene Guerber and James Baldwin, nature books by Jean-Henri Fabre, and MUCH MORE!– free audio books
iTunes University – Download iTunes, then click on the link for the itunes store to find free podcasts including resources for preschoolers to adult.

Other links to some of the best online educational resources; sign up for a daily email

Many museums and government websites have kids sites that are excellent.
There are yahoo groups for many curricula where users can share ideas and additional resources.

Swapping and Bartering
Look for opportunities to exchange tutoring, lessons, or non-homeschooling services in exchange for services. For example, two of my friends traded lit/writing lessons in exchange for math lessons by having their kids spend the day with the other family once a week, giving each mom a “free day” to run errands, etc.

If you don’t live in Wake County, it is well worth the $25 annual fee for a nonresident card. You can use the online catalog and have your items shipped to the branch nearest to you so that you can just run in to drop off and pick up books. Interlibrary Loan is now available online so that you don’t have to go to the library to complete the form. The book I currently have checked out via ILL sells for $150 on Amazon. Check out the online database – you can access Consumer Reports, and all sorts of academic and professional resources.

Homemade Math manipulatives
Numeracy – Egg carton and beans or buttons – use a sharpie to write a number in each hole, then have the child count out the correct number of beans or buttons to put in each hole.
Base ten set – popsicle sticks – rubber band 10 together, then 10 sets of 10 to make 100, then 10 sets of 100 to make 1000
Print from internet or make in excel – 100 board, multiplication tables, number lines
Triangle flash cards – print from onto cardstock paper and cut apart
See for ideas for manipulatives for all subjects, not just math

Counting My Blessings

The images coming out of Haiti are just heart-breaking and mind-numbing. How can a tiny nation, already desperately poor and politically unstable, survive a calamity of this magnitude? In the midst of the destruction and despair, it is encouraging to see the response of those rushing to provide aid and to see people pulling together to help one another. I am proud that so many Americans are reacting with typical generosity and compassion - and am somewhat dumbfounded by criticism accusing our nation of using this situation to "occupy" our island neighbor. If our government sat back and did nothing but send money, we'd be accused of indifference and isolationism, but sending resources is "occupation". interesting.

I've been following the blog of a missionary family in Haiti that gives an up-close view of what they are dealing with there...

Needless to say, I once again look around at my own little corner of the world and am profoundly grateful for the many blessings we are showered with on a daily basis. Some of the things currently topping that list:
  • Alex should be boarding a flight OUT of Iraq and BACK to the US in a matter of days. His year over there is finished and he returns with his entire Brigade back to his home base in TX. Oh thank you, dear Father, for watching over him and keeping him safe these 12 months, and please give them safe travel next week.
  • My husband has a job. Enough said.
  • We have amazing friends who love us and are generous with us and help us in many ways.
  • Mark and I are sooooo blessed to come from intact families - neither of our parents are divorced, and that makes us pretty unique! Also, none of our siblings have divorced, and even extended family has been relatively untouched by divorce. How did that happen? I am very grateful that my children have this wonderful legacy and model of dedication, commitment, and faithfulness to look up to.
  • We are all healthy
  • despite all the craziness going on in government and politics in this country, we are still a FREE people living in a nation founded on the principles of liberty, equality, and justice. We can protest against things we believe are wrong with our government and not get thrown in jail or shot because of it. We can gather with like-minded people and start grassroots movements and effect change, and not have soldiers break down our doors in the middle of the night and terrorize our families. We can worship God in the way that seems best to us, and we can teach our children what we believe is right, even disregarding the established state-run institutions - something that even people in civilized places like Germany and Sweden do not have the ability to do!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Endeavors for the New Year

With the start of the new year, I've added a couple of new endeavors to my weekly schedule.

First, Grandma's Christmas gift went to good use as we joined the YMCA right after Christmas. This has been something we've wanted to do for a long time, but never had the extra cash for. My older boys who worked there as lifeguards got automatic memberships as employees, and the rest of us were jealous. But with my 50th birthday looming this year, I am feeling the urgency of getting back in shape more than ever. So I am carving out time in the mornings to go to the gym for an hour and walk on the treadmill or work on the weight machines. Amanda has been going to practice basketball and workout in the gym as well, and we'll probably try to swim on the weekends. Jason goes this morning for his "middle school orientation" so he'll be able to use the equipment and play in the gym without me. We opted to join as one adult and dependents ( me and the kids ) instead of the Family membership which would have included Mark, because the cost was a lot more for the second. But Mark has access to a full health club at work that he doesn't use, but could if he wanted to.

Second, I am teaching 2 art classes here at my house starting this week. I was an art major in college once upon a time, but my kids rarely get art unless I put a formal class together. So I have a couple of 10-13 yr old boys coming on Mondays after lunch, and a few high school girls on Wednesday afternoons. I've got most of the planning done for those classes, but have to go out and buy some materials this weekend, and order some paper from Miller Pads & Paper or Dick Blick. Our first projects will be Papier Mache Monsters with the boys, and Introduction to Pastels with the girls. I'll post pictures later in the week.

Third, I decided to start a Geography Club for elementary & middle schoolers in my homeschool support group. The response was so great that we are creating two clubs, one to meet at my house and one at the home of another family, two afternoons a month. The plan is to highlight one continent each month, looking at pictures in books, coloring maps, and sampling traditional food. The kids can bring something for "show & tell" or can do a presentation on some aspect of a country from that continent. This month it is North America. Then we'll break up into small groups and play geography board games and card games and quiz games and puzzles....

This will force me to keep my house clean, as well....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Chocolate Bran Muffins

Ohhh.... these are good! And high in fiber, low in fat! Only 2 Weight Watchers points, if you care.

3 cups All Bran Cereal ( the original stick kind, NOT the Buds - trust me )
2 1/2 cups water
1 pkg Low Fat Brownie Mix
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Measure the All Bran Cereal into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the water and let sit for 30 minutes. Mix in vanilla, baking powder, and baking soda. Then stir in the Brownie Mix and chocolate chips. Spoon into muffin tins. filling 3/4 full.

Bake at 350 for 23-25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan.

This made 18 muffins.