Spoiled Rotten Mama Party!

spoiled3I am putting together a fun end-of-the-year giveaway at Schoolin’ Swag for our 4,600-ish wonderful, hard working, homeschooling mamas! Wanna take a peek at the lovely items being offered?

These items are being donated by mamas in our group, many of whom also have home businesses to help make ends meet. This is one of the few times each year that we allow personal advertising in the group, and I’m happy to give the opportunity to help a great cause! Homeschooling!

spr1From Charissa Rice (Mary Kay), we will have a bundle including the Satin Lips set and Ultimate Mascara!

From Rebecca Pahnke Thomas, we have Mint Bliss Energizing Lotion from Mary Kay (she is not business building, just being SO sweet in donating!) as well as Citrus Bliss Invigorating Essential Oil Blend from doTERRA!

From Hope Turner (Young Living), we’ll have a cute diffuser necklace and a bottle of “Stress Away” essential oil, as well as a couple of other samples and a Lavender Bath Soak.

srm5From lovely member Lynette Dickson, we have a hand crafted natural bronzer, using  the winner’s choice of combination of cocoa powder, rose powder, and ginger root powder for shimmer. Mmmmmmmmmm…chocolate and shimmer!

From Perfectly Posh member Leah Cherrone, we have the donation of the “Posh to meet you” kit by Perfectly Posh contains a Good Vibes BFYHC (big fat yummy hand cream-smells like mango with a hint of coconut), a Strawberry Fields Forever chunk (bar soap, smells like strawberry and lime–I LOVE THIS…SO yummy!) and a Santa Monica Smooth lip balm (peach, orange and mint, with a hint of caffeine). Also included in this bundle is a “dogbone” pillow made of  dress weight denim. It is medium firm (not softy soft, not hard).  It is designed for neck support and easy to carry or hang to store with the handles.

srm93Next, from Krysten Glor (31 Gifts), we have a $25 gift certificate to use however the winner’s heart desires! So many cute choices!

 

From Karen Daniels (Plexus), we have a 7-day trial pack being offered! I have loved the “Pink Drink”…certainly worth giving it a go if you’ve never tried it!

srm9From Ashley Moore’s Etsy shop, we have a $20 gift certificate to use toward her super cute selection of hair accessories and baby barefoot sandals (which are darling)!

srm91Now, from Dana Malone of One Buffalo (products with integrity), we are offering a bundle of natural, organic body care products, including:

  • Natural deodorant made with only organic coconut oil, arrowroot powder, non-GMO corn starch, organic shea butter, baking soda, beeswax and organic lemongrass essential oil
  • Lotion Stick – Mint, made with only organic shea butter, organic coconut oil, beeswax and essential oil

  • Lip Balm, made with only organic cocoa butter, organic coconut oil and beeswax

srm92From our wonderful crochet guru Denise Hockenberry, we’ll have a cute and practical spa bath set including 3 wash cloths, 6 face scrubbies, and 1 soap saver!

srm95Further, from Jen Figueiras (Jamberry Nails) we have a $20 gift certificate, plus a mini application kit and the 2 sheets of accent nails! Just in time for summer! 🙂

srm98From one of our newest members, Brittany Barber (It Works), we have an Ultimate Body Applicator (value $25), which is a non-woven cloth wrap that has been infused with a powerful, botanically-based formula to deliver maximum tightening, toning, and firming results where applied to the skin.

  • Tightens, tones, & firms
  • Minimizes cellulite appearance
  • Improves skin texture & tightness
  • Mess-free and simple to use
  • Results in as little as 45 minutes
  • Progressive results over 72 hours
  • Made with natural ingredients

srm97Moving on (!), we have a Moonstruck 3D Fiberlashes set from Amy Hardy Moye (Younique)! Increase your lash volume by up to 400%!

srm99From our darlin’ brand new Avon rep Diana Doggett, we have a fun little package including nail polish (Pastel Pink), lipstick (Divine Wine), and Mark lip gloss duo (Glow Baby Glow and Girly Girl)!

pressingpause

Finally, from two wonderful authors, Karen Ehman and Ruth SchweKaren Enk (I LOVE “Hoodwinked” which was also co-authored by them), we have a copy of “Pressing Pause“! I am so tickled to be able to include this in our event!

My Grading Epiphany

 

Perfect Grade and Sticker on HomeworkDear Homeschool Mom,
Please read this post, especially if you have not been a fan of regular grading in your homeschool. Keep an open mind?
If you’ve followed our homeschool path recently, you know we switched to Monarch online by Alpha Omega Publications. We are nearly a month into it now. I think we’ve finally found our homeschooling “sweet spot”! 

What I Didn’t Expect

The Monarch program gives the kids assessments after every lesson Their comprehension is tested every day, to make sure they are engaged. They have regular quizzes and tests as well. You decide what your grading scale will be, as well as whether a particular assignment will be “open page” or “open book” or not. If there is a question in an assessment that you feel is redundant, unclear, or unnecessary, you can alter it in the teacher settings.
 
I honestly didn’t know how the kids would feel about all the grading. For myself, being more regular in “formal” evaluations has not only given me a more accurate, visual idea of how they are doing (and where we need to spend more time), but I really didn’t realize how much it would help them to thrive by actually seeing their grades. It has given them a more positive outlook toward schooling, and it shows:

What I Learned

I wasn’t much of a formal grader up until now. The kids did the papers and lessons, and I checked them. The kids would get a verbal assessment, but not much on paper to actually see for themselves. I would step up their work where I saw they needed more practice, according to what I observed each day. The grades went on our transcripts, but the kids rarely saw anything in the way of a letter grade or percentage on a regular basis. With this program, they have evaluations after every lesson, and they get immediate feedback. They know exactly where they stand. And surprisingly, they love it!
 
This program has also helped my husband to see the progress the kids are making. It is his hard-earned money which purchases our materials, so it is good for him to see he’s getting some bang for his buck. 🙂 Because he’s not involved necessarily in a hands-on way with our schooling (he’s my moral support!), this gives him validation for what is happening educationally in our home. I like that a lot. 
 
I understand those who prefer not to grade, for whatever reason…but this was sort of an epiphany for me and our kids. They don’t have a classroom of kids to “compete” with (you know what I mean, I hope), and I’ve never really done stickers/rewards for school work…so this gives them a way to compete with themselves (which is the best type of competition IMO when it comes to education). 

If You Want to Look Into Monarch

Monarch automatically grades about 85% of student work. The remaining items are in the form of projects and written assignments the teacher needs to grade, and then enter by hand. I’ve found this program to be challenging for our kids, as well as thorough. The program keeps your records for you, and will print reports as well. Our 10th grader, who has some reading disability, can follow along as the text is read to him. You can choose the “voice” you listen to, and text is highlighted a sentence at a time, and within that each word is highlighted as it is read. That has been a very helpful feature for us, and it aids in his comprehension level. It has allowed him to do his work completely independently, which has been a huge boost for his confidence.
So, I guess this is not only a bit of a promo for Monarch (which you can get for 10% off here…and you can try free for 30 days here), but also for tangible grading for your students. I never thought I’d say that. But here I am.
For the Love of Learning,
Diane

Spring Cleaning, Curriculum Style

We have found a new direction for our schooling that provides quality education as well as convenience for us. It packs a punch financially, but getting the membership saves us a considerable amount of money over doing their monthly subscription. So, I have some items to gleefully clear out of my room (which is the storage for much of our school stuff).

I am a purger by nature. I’m also pretty frugal. Put those two together, and…you have this post. 😉 So, here goes!

Prices have a little bit of room for negotiation. 😉 

First, I have this Pre-Algebra set from Teaching Textbooks. We have really liked the approach of this math. Great for visual and auditory learners. Easy to understand instruction. Pages are a wee bit tired. Gently used, with a little bit of highlighting. Disks work fine. Asking: $100 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Christian Light Level 4 books I have available are all new. The two text books are like new, with only light wear. It is not the complete set, but most of it is there. In most subjects only the first couple of workbooks are missing. All answer keys and teacher editions are new. Asking $200 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Algebra 2 and Health high school texts from BJU Press are gently used. Asking $20 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

I have the Life of Fred Language Arts for high school, complete set. Great condition, only a few pencil marks in one book. Books C and D are like brand new. Asking $60 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Easy Spanish and Webster’s Spanish dictionary are also gently used. Asking $20 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Story of the World, Volume 3 set has some light wear. Includes Student Text, Activity Book (all pages intact), and Test and Answer Key (like new). Asking $65 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

I apologize for images which have turned or rotated. I can’t seem to figure out how to edit them in WordPress! If you would like a better image, respond to the email below, and I’ll be happy to send you one.

 

If you are interested in any of these items, please send an email to blest2bwest@wyoming.com . I’ll try and respond promptly with any further details you need.

 

Comparing, Choosing Curricula, and Homeschool Mom Cop-Out

appleorangeHomeschooling is a uniquely different-looking journey for each family. Each child is diverse in strengths, weaknesses, talents, interests, aptitudes and perhaps disabilities. So even within one family, there really is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. Susie may have flourished using Sonlight curriculum while her younger brother withered on the vine with a literature-based approach. Truly, to buy one set of curriculum and expect to use it easily and seamlessly as a hand-me-down with all the siblings isn’t very realistic. It will very possibly require tweakage from child to child at the very least. Learning styles vary, and you may even find that through the years your teaching style will change also.

So, if we have this much variance between siblings in a family, it’s a given that there will be differences from family to family. Each home has its own homeschooling approach (and it may even vary from child to child what that looks like). What works wonderfully for a friend and her kids may not at all work for you.  Then again, it might! How do you know?

Evaluate your style.

This is one of the blessings of experimenting with the high quality, free materials we offer at Schoolin’ Swag. You can dabble in things which are structured for a Charlotte Mason style learner (or Montessori, Classical, Eclectic, Unschooling, or School At Home…) without losing much except a bit of time and perhaps some ink and computer paper. When you find a good fit, then you can move on the invest in some books and resources.  Taking a learning style evaluation can also big a big help. And you should take it along with your children, because your learning style will effect your teaching style…and it may not mesh with how your kids learn. I’ve wasted a lot of time and money this way (sort of “winging it” and finding that my student wasn’t “catching what I was throwing”).

So beware of comparison. Remember each child is unique. Celebrate it by choosing methods and materials that can encourage him or her to blossom!

In our home, I have one student who does best with an eclectic approach and lots of one on one personal interaction, while our oldest seems to thrive with a video approach with my personal input only with language-oriented classwork (mainly because of a reading disability).

Expedite learning.

Here’s the thing. I’ve had to teach myself something important before I could educate our kids well. It’s this: Do what is expedient.

What do I mean? I mean that my concept of what school should be like is not the priority. When we first started, we had a school room with desks, a board, maps, all of that. I soon learned that just because it looked like the school setting I grew up in didn’t mean education was happening.  Through the years things have morphed in all directions. The kids can do their schoolwork anywhere they prefer, as long as it is clear that they are in a setting that makes it possible to concentrate. The only exception is that our youngest needs to have a flat, hard surface (read: desk or table) to do her writing assignments, to make sure she is writing well and neatly.

Educate the most effective way possible.

Now, I’m going to be honest. I “feel” like I’m teaching when I am interacting with my students. Reading together, talking about ideas, surveying the work, monitoring behavior. Our youngest is great with that. It is what she prefers. It nurtures the learning process. Not so much for our oldest, who has grown to be more independent. I plan out his schedule and put it on Homeschool Planet, and he completes things, checks off the boxes (which I can see on the parent page), and submits any work I tell him I need to see.  Because I’m a teacher by nature, and did it for years on the college level, I don’t feel like I’m “teaching” our son. I need to be okay with that. Whatever is expedient for him to learn. That is what matters, especially in these upper level courses.

So, I’m choosing curriculum for next year, and struggling. I’m pretty confirmed that I’ll be using the Genesis Curriculum with our rising 5th grader. And I’m reluctantly biting the bullet and allowing our son (who will be a junior) to use an online program (state standard aligned and self grading, with quizzes and tests built into the program…it also keeps records) for his core subjects–for this coming year, that would be American Lit, Geometry, Biology, Geography, and US History 1 (pre-1850). We’ll supplement when needed, with interactive activities, worksheets and experiments.  I’m reminding myself that I’m not copping out in making this choice.

These are the best, most economical choices for us for the coming year. It is also best for me personally because I’ve seen the need to streamline things for my own health and sanity. I need to be resolved in this.  I’ll tell you why.

Establish your choices for your children.

squirrelAt Schoolin’ Swag, we have over 4,500 homeschooling families represented. Every type of homeschooling (and combinations with charter, private and public schooling as well) exists there, every teaching style, every learning style, every preference, disability, and level of giftedness. I’ve learned through the years that homeschoolers tend to be a very opinionated, dogmatic lot, so if you are easily persuaded you’ll soon find yourself in a Slough of Despond. If I am not praying about our choices and committed to them, as Administrator of the group, I will drive myself mad being exposed to all the possibilities I see every day. This awesome unit study, that really cute lap book, the article I post on successfully unschooling, the blog posts on why Charlotte Mason is best…why your child should read McGuffy…why or why not to teach cursive…and the list goes on. My life would be one constant “Squirrel!” moment! The same thing can happen at homeschool co-ops and conventions. Here is a link to a free 40-week printable curriculum planner (it’s even pretty!) that can help keep you sane and focused!

So, in the past few years since the Facebook group has been in existence, I’ve learned to choose for my family, and then put on a pair of blinders. Instead of comparing with what everyone else is doing in their homeschools, I have been learning to watch my kids. What helps them? What has been a total trainwreck? Do we need to back up again and review instead of pressing on? Should we bypass a section because it’s too simple for them? Is the curriculum causing them to feel defeated, or is it just laziness because they don’t want to do something which may be hard an uninteresting to them? I need to have a finger on their pulses. It’s a very proactive thing, regardless of whether they are being “taught by me” or just guided while using a digital curriculum.

I’ve created a free, 4-page “Monthly Debriefing” form (it’s pretty too!) for you to use for each child. There is a place to enter (edit in Word, or print out and write in by hand) your child’s name, the curricula you are using for each subject, what strengths and weaknesses you are observing that month, progress you’ve seen (boy HOWDY it helps to see THAT in print!), and goals for the coming month.

debriefscreenshot
Go to Schoolin’ Swag to get this form!

Pay attention. Don’t compare. Do what’s best for your kids right now. It might change next semester. You may take a completely different direction next year, as a child matures and grows intellectually. Totally okay. You only need to “measure up” to your state standards and then whatever helps your child succeed. That’s no cop-out.

Being okay with being the “mean mom”

 

mooseow
A moose gets struck by lightening during math. 🙂

In the middle of Katie’s video math lesson…

Katie: I know this. I don’t need to see this.
Me: (pretty sure she doesn’t) Okay, you think you can answer your review questions then, without any help?
Katie: Yes. (if a voice could swagger, hers did)

We open up her quiz. I watch her punch in the first answer, knowing it is wrong. She presses “Enter”.

Big, bad, red “x”.

She loves (I mean LOVES) maintaining a Platinum level (100%…missing no questions), so her disappointment was…profound (if you know Katie, you know what this means).

Me: So…ya think you should go back and finish the lesson now?
Katie: (huge sigh) Yes.

She can’t regain Platinum level for this unit. She will have a tangible reminder of this for the week. Sometimes we need to let ’em crash and burn (when the collateral damage of the lesson won’t be too high). Hard to do, but hopefully memorable.

How many times has God done this with me? Too many to count.

 

Keep pluggin’, homeschool mama! Persevere! And don’t miss the lessons for yourself along the way.

The UPS Elf!

Our “12 Hours of Christmas” and “Homeschool Homestretch” events are done. Many happy prize winners have already received their goodies, or have their noses pressed to their front door windows eagerly awaiting them! Now it’s time to focus on my home, family and our church festivities.

WPDBUT I wanted to share what came in MY mail today! Santa’s brown elf (not to be confused with wood elves, LOTR fans) visited us today. I know we homeschoolers get a special thrill from receiving boxes of books, so I thought I’d post a pic so we can squeal together!

I’ll be reviewing these items here after the New Year. Some of my favorite things, and I get to test drive them for free!

ups

This felt like “Merry Christmas to me” when I opened it!

 

“Silent Night” Challenge!

We speak every year of how crazy the Christmas season is…shopping, cooking, rehearsing, baking, wrapping, decorating, traveling…  So, I’m here to give you a challenge.  I was actually inspired by something I saw posted yesterday.

silentbooknight

Raise your hand if this sounds like a fabulous idea to you! I LOVE it! I’ve seen various posts in our group at Schoolin’ Swag about favorite Christmas read-alouds, or wrapping up 25 holiday books so that one can be opened and read together as a family every night. So nice.

I like the idea of quiet at Christmas. I really don’t think the actual Christmas night those many years ago was literally “silent”. Think about it…a thundering heavenly host, the raucous clamoring of the shepherds as they scrambled to spread the news, the crowds in Bethlehem, a stable full of animals, and a newborn baby. Okay, so really think through this with me…the sweet Christmas song says “But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”… I think this is just a bit romanticized. Who wouldn’t be concerned about a newborn who makes no noise? 😉 Jesus was fully God and fully man. Babies cry to communicate all sorts of things. Let’s reconcile ourselves to that.

The quiet I relish at Christmas is for worship. It’s for thought. It’s for breathing the heavy sigh of contentment in being surrounded by so much beauty this time of year. I love the stillness of an evening with fresh falling snow, away from city lights, far from traffic noise, when you can look up at the crystalline sky and imagine that Star. I like opportunities that take my spirit to that level of peace.

So, here’s the challenge. Find time for a “Silent Night” during your Christmas break. It can be Christmas eve, as suggested above, or another evening that is convenient. OR…even MORE than one! Turn off Netflix. Get away from the *beep* *boop* of phones, PS3’s, and all the rest. Savor quiet.

I remember one of my favorite things to do during Christmas vacation as a kid was to lie down under the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches, and listening to the favorite Christmas LPs we pulled out every year. Calming. Focusing. Restful.

I’d love to hear about your “Silent Night” attempt! Share in the comments below, message me, or come join Schoolin’ Swag and share with all of the wonderful folks there!