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The Week of Winding Down – Homeschool and Life Happenings


We honestly had no idea it was coming, so when we woke up to the ground covered with fluffy whiteness, it was a huge (and beautiful) surprise. This is another one of those times that I love our road because the snow blankets the trees and it’s just lovely. 

This year, one of my closest friends and I haven’t spent as much time together because both of our girls are taking classes at the community college – so our co-op time has been limited. Over the last two years we have always spent at least one, if not two, weekday afternoons in high school co-op (and then inevitably chatting together). With the girls in classes, we see each other every other week very briefly, so we’ve had to be intentional about our time together.

We signed up for a wreath-making class along with another friend who couldn’t attend last minute. During the class we were trying to divide our time between the three wreaths and it was a bit comical – losing wire, clippers, etc. We went ahead and made a wreath for our friend as well (fortunately we waited and did hers last so she had the benefit of our learning curve – ha!). I ended up waiting to decorate mine until we got home, but it was definitely fun and something we’ll have to do next year, but this time after we gather our own greens and such!

Tuesday our group co-op met up for a Christmas party and the kids all had a chance to make blessing bags for a local homeless shelter. There was also much yummy food involved.

We typically keep the bags fairly simple: socks, gloves, chapstick, combs, lotion, soap, some snacks, toothbrushes/toothpaste, gum, and a few additional items all put together in a ziploc bag. The bags are then handed out when our church helps out at a local overnight shelter. 

A few weeks ago my aunt sent a special butterfly puzzle to our family, and we finally pulled it out to start working on. I haven’t worked on a puzzle in quite some time and honestly forgot how much I enjoy them (and how sucked into them I can get!). We set up the puzzle at the beginning of the week and throughout the week, the kids would try to work on a few pieces here and there. 

Let me tell you – I don’t know that I will ever, ever again work on a puzzle that DOES NOT HAVE STRAIGHT EDGES. Ever. The above was one of the edge pieces of the puzzle we are working on together. I had pulled out all the pieces I thought might be edge pieces. Only about half of them really were. I thought I would lose my mind. 

By Wednesday, we had a good chunk of the puzzle worked out and when we got home from a Christmas party that night, we all stayed up and finished it together. It’s amazing how you can look at a piece so many times and not realize where it’s supposed to fit until the last moment. 

And really you all, we had some fun conversations while working on the fitting it all together. Enough so that I have a Christmas puzzle on order for us to work on over the next few weeks. My aunt texted me today and told me she has worked on the same puzzle each year at Christmas since 1977 – think on that for a minute. 40 years!! And she has never lost a piece! (That’s a small miracle in and off itself.)

Laurianna also finished up her semester classes – two college classes down!! She is still waiting on a final grade for one of the classes (English), but she pulled an A in her anatomy class (YAY!!). Her PSAT scores also arrived this week, which was an added bonus and now incentive to start working on her SAT at some point this spring. 

Other than that, the rest of us had typical weeks. School. Life. Repeat. 

How was YOUR week? 

The Week of Reading, Baking, and Games – Homeschool and Life Happenings

We are still decorating around our house. Even though we started the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the process of moving things all around leaves me wanting to clean off my shelves and make space. So it never ends up being a simple process. Right now there are boxes of books we are trying to sell and meanwhile find a spot for the decorations we love. 

I may also have the Hallmark Channel on as often as I can. Typically the tv isn’t on in our house, but since Thanksgiving when the Christmas movies started…well, that’s a little different. Where we live we can’t get cable, so we are trying a month of Sling TV (it’s still a little hard to buffer live). 

For decorations this year we added a creche. Growing up we had one (see it behind our hilarious tree?). This picture is one of my favorites of me and my brothers because it has so much of what I remember from being young. 

Last year I asked my dad to make a creche similar to the one we had and have our boys help. He finished it up this weekend and we set it up in our bookshelf. We found some figures for it and I love it. My dad is going to make some for my brothers as well and then hopefully we can make one for each of our kids too. I’m all about passing along traditions to our kids, and this one definitely is one to keep going.

The boys and I have spent a lot of time reading this week. Years ago our entire family read the Gregor the Overlander series (so good!!), so when the boys asked to read this again, I was happy to oblige. 

You all, I really do enjoy reading out loud. Sadly, I’m easily distractible and will admit that with the boys it’s harder than it was when the girls were involved. The girls could sit for hours and the boys aren’t always as thrilled. I haven’t been as committed this fall with reading out loud, so we are trying to remedy that. 

Now that we’ve finished this book, I have a few on hand for the boys to choose from, so we’ll see what happens after Christmas. 

My bed has been the place where quite a bit of Kaleb’s learning has been happening this week. It’s warm and cozy in my room (and snuggling can happen). Kaleb has wrapped up his handwriting book and will start on typing after Christmas, so in the meantime I’ve had him do a LOT more of his own writing in his workbooks.

Writing is honestly one of Kaleb’s least favorite things. He doesn’t mind handwriting books (go figure), but when it comes to completing other assignments – the eyes roll and the whining begins. It hasn’t gone like sunshine and roses, but he is getting to the point now where he is mostly ok with it (grins). 

On Wednesday, Kaleb was having trouble getting the laptop to work, so we put his math aside for the day and instead pulled out Numbers Sequence and played a few games – thus fulfilling my love for games and a bit of fun for the day too. :) 

After we finished school for the day, Kaleb helped me make a Dutch cookie recipe. I have one cookie I remember having when we were little, but my mom can’t remember what in the world I am talking about. 

I did a little research (it wasn’t a sweet cookie, but more of a savory – if that makes sense) and the closest thing I could come up with was a cream cheese cookie (super simple for the most part).  I want to try them again, but this time minus the jam, since that will be a little closer to what I remember. 

One of the chairs in our living room lost a leg this past week, so we brought up a huge recliner we have in the basement. The kids are rather enjoying it, and have decided that it is a fabulous place to do just about anything. 

Thursday morning, I had a doctor’s appointment and just before I left, looked over to see this happening. McKenna was working on her Geometry, and Kaleb decided to sit and watch with her. She was explaining how to do the problems and it was hilarious because he was figuring out some of the problems in his head. 

Three of the kids headed out on Thursday night to go to a swim meet all day Friday. Laurianna and I get to spend the morning together working on Pre-Calculus together – exciting times, no? :) 

That’s about it for our week – what have you been up to? How was YOUR week? 

A Birthday and Getting Back to School – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Here we go – back to school. Even though we only took a week off (it’s a bit hard to do school when my hubby is home), getting back into the swing of things can be…fun. I went all out and made my self a cup of FULLY caffeinated coffee to start off the week, in a mug with a fun reminder to myself. :) It’s the little things, right? 

Kaleb turned 11 the day after Thanksgiving, and we celebrated with a pumpkin pie ice cream cake. He rather enjoyed it and loved his gifts too – mainly focused on items he needs to join our local Boy Scout troop with his brother. 

After getting the house decorated for Christmas on Saturday, I found a book of Christmas Mad Libs, so the boys and I had a bit of fun working through a few of them. And truthfully, it’s grammar (and hilarious), so a win-win since the boys want to do a bunch of them. 

Along with all the decorations, out came all the Christmas books. While we do have other books to read together, Kaleb and I are having fun reading through the picture books together (Gingerbread Pirates and Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree are two of our favorites). We’ll move back to reading Boxcar Children soon, but this has been a great treat and something he enjoys – and since reading is usually something he isn’t fond of, I’m more than happy to go along with this reading time and build his confidence. 

Mid-week my sister-in-law and I took a break to do a little something together: Paint Night at a local restaurant. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile and finally managed to schedule in. 

We were also back to our group co-op this week as well. Kaleb has been loving his science class. One of the things they made was a version of homemade lemon-lime soda (we’ve heard nothing but praises for how it tasted JUST LIKE SPRITE) and then a wet battery cell made from layering coins and lemon-soaked paper towels (you can find the experiment in this book here). 

And finally – a good week deserves a milkshake, no? The peppermint chip is back at Chick-fil-A – one of our favorite places and our favorite treats around Christmas time. :) 

Otherwise, we are pushing forward since we have about three weeks, maybe less depending on how dedicated the kids are to working hard, until our Christmas break. McKenna has really been digging in the last bit and trying to get ahead on her work. 

That’s about it for our week – what have you been up to? How was YOUR week? 

A Musical and a Birthday – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This week we had a fairly busy week between trying to squeeze in school, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, meeting with an advisor at the community college, and starting McKenna’s musical.

The busiest part of the week by far was having a full week of dress rehearsals and performances of Les Miserables for McKenna. Rick has been running sound for the show as well, so he and McKenna head out out the door almost as soon as he gets home from work and are home around 11pm each night. (It’s been a little harder on Rick than it has been on McKenna – grins). 

She is playing Evelyn, the factory worker who steals the letter from Fantine and ends up getting her fired from the factory. McKenna has LOVED this experience and dipping her toe into acting and I’m not quite sure what she will do when this musical is over! 

We also celebrated McKenna’s 15th birthday! Her birthday was on Sunday, which was her first full dress rehearsal, so we ended up having her party on Monday night – the only night she had free this week. Hilariously, this was also the day that her director put the entire cast on vocal rest, meaning ZERO talking, singing, or noise at all that day. There’s a whole lot I can say about this…but needless to say, it was a rather calm day in our house. :) 

Kaleb really enjoys cooking with me, and one morning we decided to bake a little something as we were working through our schoolwork. Lately, much of our school time has been centered around the kitchen area, and it’s been fun to pull something together while we are there. We decided to make soft pretzels (similar to Auntie Anne’s) and ended up with the best batch yet! And now the kids want to make them every day. :) 

Laurianna and I met with one of the nursing advisors at the community college and at this point, we think she will likely head this route for working on her RN. Comparing the cost of $16000 in tuition alone for one school when she can receive her RN for less than $4000 a year is making the decision a little easier, especially since she can complete her BSN at the same university later (and they will cover the cost if she works at their hospital). 

The week (otherwise than being a lot of back and forth crazy) was fairly normal. :) How’s that for a dichotomy? Rick’s parents arrived in town on Thursday so they can see McKenna’s musical and also watch the boys swim this weekend, so overall full, but fun! We also spent our Thursday morning volunteering with a meal outreach program in our area (something we do once a month). 

That’s the sum up of our week. How was YOUR week? 

First LEGO League and Rest Times – Homeschool and Life Happenings

So the week started off with a whole lot of fun as Kaleb and a few of his friends participated in their First Lego League competition. They have had eight jam-packed weeks working to program their robot to complete missions. Overall they did amazing, especially since it was the first year for two of the boys. They received a 2nd and 1st place trophy in two of the judging areas and while they didn’t place first overall, they were excited to be interviewed for the local paper. :) 

Over the next few months they will spend more time learning about their robot and figuring out different ways to program it. There are so many things that it can do, but they haven’t had a chance to explore it all yet. This fall they had six missions they programmed, but during the competition is was interesting to see how other groups worked the missions and the attachments they created for their robots. 

A friend asked this week if she could come hang out at our house to see how a typical homeschool day runs around these parts. Here’s an honest peek into our year so far: we have been all over the place and going with the flow. One day we might be in the living room, another in the schoolroom, one in someone’s bedroom (or mine) – you name it, we take school wherever and just get it done. 

One of the history lessons the boys and I covered this week had to do with Aesop’s Fables. After we finished the lesson, we headed over to YouTube to see what we could find for fables and found a bunch of old Disney ones that were so much fun to watch (and the fact that we can drop what we’re doing and enjoy adding to our lesson this way makes me happy). 

One of the best parts of the week though? Listening to the kids relaxing in their room (sometimes their version of relaxing is not-so-quiet) and taking 30 minutes to read a book and put my feet up for a bit is such a huge help. 

p.s. If you don’t already, your homeschool needs a rest time – trust me. Try it for a week and let me know how it’s going!

Our swim practice has changed up a bit, but it is WONDERFUL because prior to this week we’ve had to balance two different practice times and locations. Because of a conflict with a high school team practicing, the kids will be practicing in the same place and almost the same time most nights (YAY!!!!). This is going to be a huge sanity saver, mainly for my hubby since he does the bulk of the running, but we also can have a later dinner and slow down the evening a bit. 

That’s the sum up of our week. How was YOUR week? 

A College Visit and Planning a Trip – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This week has been crazy exciting and a wee bit SCARY all rolled into one. Between the boys having their first swim meet and Laurianna and I visiting her a college she is interested in, well, it was something to remember. Add to that – WE BOOKED A TRIP TO THE NETHERLANDS. Yes, all caps, because it was a huge step for us! We will be visiting my family in next May and the kids have been talking about the different places we might be able to visit while we are there. Needless to say – we are rather excited. 

On Monday, Laurianna and I met with the nursing department at the University of Virginia to get more information about their nursing program. Because she is taking classes at our local community college, we wanted to see how many of them would transfer over into the program. 

Before we arrived on the campus, Laurianna worked on a list of questions for us to ask about the program: what community college classes would transfer, tuition rates, what would make her more marketable to their program, etc.. The trip was really eye-opening – tuition-wise (yikes) and also gave us some alternative ideas for her education route the next little bit.

The advisor we spoke to was VERY helpful, especially in showing us a different program that would allow her a little more flexibility (and tuition savings) but result in the same marketable degree. Essentially she is a huge advocate for community college and suggested that we look at Laurianna getting her RN at the community college and then taking advantage of the RN to BSN program that their college offers. Definitely some things for us to look more into and pursue in the upcoming weeks. 

This week we also registered her for three classes next semester at the community college: Human Anatomy & Physiology II, English 112, and a Developmental Psych class. All three will be ones that she can use in her nursing major, so YAY for cheaper tuition rates! 

Pre-Calculus isn’t Laurianna’s favorite class this year, but can I tell you something. I LOVE IT!! Calculus was one of my favorite classes in high school and it is rather fun getting to work through problems with her (and I may be a bit giddy in the process – truly). Yes, it’s probably strange, but sitting down with her to work through problems is oddly relaxing for me. She does the lectures with Teaching Textbooks and will work through the problems she can, but I am rather enjoying this time with her, especially since she is primarily independent in the rest of her studies this year, so I’ll take it while I can! 

McKenna is gearing up for a busy week and a half with her Les Miserable musical coming up in less than two weeks. Trying to get ahead on schoolwork is one of the primary goals for her, but at times that can be a bit of a challenge for me. 

One thing that we decided on this past week though is to switch out McKenna’s biology program. We are working through our class with another friend and both of our girls were struggling to fully understand some of the concepts. At the suggestion of a friend, we looked into another program and showed excerpts to the girls. Both of them really liked the samples they saw because of the analogies that the text offered to better explain concepts.

This new program, The Riot and the Dance, does have a different course outline (although the chapters line up to the point we are currently at), and we decided to keep our labs the same as we planned previously, but overall we are looking forward to using the new program (and reading it ourselves!). 

This past week I did something a little out of my comfort zone too! Carisa (from 1+1+1=1) and I co-hosted an online essential oils class. We’ve both been using them for about five years now and I’m finally at a place where I feel like I have the time to really share more about them with our friends, but have many that don’t live nearby, so Carisa and I set up a Facebook class to share our thoughts – much fun! :) 

One fun thing the boys have been very much into this week – flag football. Every afternoon the boys have been out in the front yard playing together (which is rather hilarious since they don’t really need flags for TWO PEOPLE). You have to love it, but they are definitely getting some exercise and getting along – so I’m all for it. 

And this view. I really never, ever get tired of it. Our leaves aren’t as vibrant as they have been in the past, but there’s something about a dirt road with beautiful leaves that just calms my heart. 

That’s the sum up of our week. How was YOUR week?