Monday, July 14, 2014

K-3 Free (and Inexpensive) Homeschool Resource Round-Up

Are you just starting out with your homeschool planning, but not knowing where to turn? I was like that a couple years ago when we began! I knew we wanted to homeschool, but I didn't have a set "philosophy" to guide me through those uncertain first months. Also? I didn't have the budget to just go out and buy the curriculum that most appealed to me (any of them!)

Here are some of the (free) resources we've relied on for the past couple of years, and one of the relatively inexpensive things we've used too!


Free Resources:

Ambleside Online- This is a website that is based on principles of a Charlotte Mason education. Admittedly, the first few times I explored this site trying to figure out how this might work for my brood, I kinda got a little bit cross-eyed trying to figure out what we were supposed to actually do. Then I started reading about Charlotte Mason and her ideas on education. Ah, it made so much more sense after that! That being said, I don't recommend trying to use this without having read a bit about Charlotte Mason. This is one that you can use for all ages.

Easy Peasy- Easy Peasy has every grade laid out from preschool through high school. It is a site that is put together by a Christian mom of many. She wanted the curriculum to be online to keep track of what her children had done year by year (and also so it could be reused by her younger children), and made it available to other parents and caregivers. I like the concept, and you don't need much more than an good internet connection to use it.

Education.com- This is a great resource for worksheets and projects to do. I believe you are allowed five free downloads per month. I've found it easy to locate a good quality, grade-level worksheet on various topics.

Homeschool Share- Lapbooks and Unit Studies galore! (Also, they have many resources for Five in a Row, if you're using that.)

IXL- IXL is math and language arts for K-12. This is very kid-friendly, and I like that they allow your child to do 20 practice questions per day. You don't have to sign up and pay for their service, though if you want to go beyond the practice questions, you will have to. It is nice to use in addition to another math program just to gauge where your child is at currently.

Khan Academy- Khan Academy is a non-profit that has teaching videos and exercises for math, and many other subjects. For math, it is the most basic arithmetic all the way to stuff I never learned, like calculus and other difficult-sounding mathematic disciplines. (Can you tell I'm not a math buff?) I haven't spent very much time exploring their other resources, but it does look rather extensive.

Lesson Pathways- This is a good one if you want a fully guided custom curriculum (for K-5). I like how you can simply click on certain units to remove them (if say, your child has already mastered that lesson) and you can move the units around to put them in the order you want. You can even combine grade levels in a certain area of study. The only caveat I would offer for this resource is that many of the outside links are no longer good. This makes it a little frustrating, but you can easily find alternate projects or worksheets elsewhere (and you have the option to report any links you find that don't work). It does help when you want grade-level appropriate ideas. We've discovered many favorite books and authors through the ideas on this site. To use it, you only need to register with an email address. (They have never contacted me or sent me emails, in case you're worried about that!)

Simply Charlotte Mason- Can you guess what we're doing this year? Yep, we're inspired by Miss Mason and her excellent ideas concerning education. I actually have found this to be a great deal simpler than using Ambleside- at least for the way my brain works! If you want to incorporate her method into your homeschool, you just need to figure out what works better for you (whether Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason or any other Charlotte Mason website). I like the more modern books recommended here, and I like their free curriculum planner. Yes, it still takes planning, but it is totally guided and they offer sample schedules as well. (Also, both Ambleside and Simply Charlotte Mason have online forums for all of your questions!)

Inexpensive:

Five in a Row- I wanted this list to be full of FREE resources, but I couldn't leave this one out. It is not free, but you can find the volumes of this book at Amazon for relatively cheap and find most of the recommended books at the library. So it's almost free. We love using Five in a Row, because, well...we love reading. It is not intended to be a full curriculum, but it does open the door to many cool educational things to share with your little ones!



(If you like these resources, feel free to follow my Homeschooling Ideas and Resources board on Pinterest!)

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Have you used any of these resources? Which one is your favorite?
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Unburdened: 9 Ways to Create an Uncluttered Atmosphere

Recently, I started writing about my word for 2014, "unburdened." God laid this word on my heart, and it filled me with so much hope, showing me so many possibilities for the new year.

One way that He is unburdening me, is through the physical decluttering of our home. I don't know about anybody else (actually, I do, because I watch Hoarders!) but I have way too much stuff in my life! A few years ago, we moved from a small apartment to a smaller apartment, and I think now, we're rocking about 700 square feet! In the mean time, our family grew larger, and our surroundings...didn't (or haven't yet).

Over the past seven months, I've really begun to question my relationship with things. I know for me, personally, my relationship to my stuff was influenced in part by my upbringing, and the fact that we moved about every year or so when I was growing up. When I turned 18, I realized that I had moved more times than I had had birthdays! So, stuff was the constant in my life. Usually. (Things tend to mysteriously disappear when you move frequently, and you're a child and you don't pack all your own things, but I digress!)

I came to understand that I had a tendency to hang on to things because I didn't have roots anywhere- I think I was just grabbing on to whatever was in my reach! Crazy, right? Plus, I have also confronted the fact that I struggle with attention issues (but that's a whole 'nother blog post!) and don't always have the focus to realize when objects are overrunning my life.

I'm on the path to a decluttered lifestyle. I've made a lot of progress over the course of this year, but I'm not yet where I want to be. I'm encouraged because of how much I've unloaded, and I've learned a lot in the process and had many "a-ha" moments. I'm getting there!

Are you also struggling with the amount of stuff (or the wrong kind of stuff) in your life? Here are some ways to help you get started on the journey of unburdening yourself via your environment.
  1. Confront your junk! Literally and figuratively. Reflect on why you have so much stuff. Have you recently downsized and now your belongings don't fit your new environment? Do you, like me, have any deep-rooted reasons for hanging on to things you don't need any more? Figuring out the why will go a long way in helping you declutter and actually stay that way.
  2. Get inspired: Peruse Pinterest for decluttering tips, join a Facebook group with people who are also on a journey of decluttering, read blogs about minimalism. Minimalism is a good key word- don't be intimidated by that word, either. It's not just about sparse decor and furniture, but more like a way of life!
  3. Set a goal for yourself: Setting a number of items you wish to get rid of helps. FlyLady has some great pointers- like using a timer everyday to keep you on track with daily decluttering. Or set a lofty goal like 2014 in 2014 where you get rid of (you guessed it) 2,014 items in one year (that's what I'm doing, by the way).
  4. Get real: Do you really need a certain item? Does it get a lot of use in your home? Is it something you're hanging onto because it was a gift, and it never really worked for your particular style or needs? What would it take to replace it if you ever needed it again? Just being honest with yourself will really help you in the long run to get your space under control.
  5. A place for everything, and everything in its place! I keep saying this to myself when I'm organizing. If it doesn't have a place, maybe it's time for that item to go! Or maybe you really need it, and something else needs to go to make room for it.
  6. Keep it movin'! Pack up a box or bag, and immediately put it in the car to be donated. Don't let the stuff pile up in boxes or bags, or worse, keep them around so that you can reconsider getting rid of it. Trust me, you will feel awesome once you start doing this.
  7. Stop bringing stuff into your home. This one is so hard to do, but you must learn to become disciplined with yourself and your family. This is one area I'm struggling with too, especially since the children seem to attract stuff from every corner of the Earth (I'm totally being silly, but sometimes it seems every time we leave the house, they come back with more stuff!) Learn to say no to yourself and others sometimes! You have to figure out what this means because everyone is different- but don't shop for unnecessary items, and if you go to places where the children accumulate stuff (like little toys), develop a system for dealing with it right away to keep it under control.
  8. Get your children on board. You don't have to completely clear their room of toys and have them play with sticks (though this might appeal to some, ha ha), but explain to them why they should pare down their possessions. They will have more space to play with the things they love, and more time to play with them since they won't be spending so much time cleaning up their belongings. I had my three children each select 10 things (or sets of toys, like train tracks or blocks, for instance) that were most important to them. We managed to get rid of so much this way. When Christmas or birthdays come around, re-evaluate. If people ask what they want or need for gift-giving occasions, point them in the direction of adding to existing collections- it's much easier to organize toys that are related than to have to find a way to store some completely new kind of toy. Maybe even ask for experience gifts like passes to the zoo or the movies.
  9. Don't get frustrated. Remember that you didn't accumulate so much stuff overnight, so it might stand to reason that it will take time and changing perspective to really declutter your life. Every little bit of progress helps! And if you lose momentum, just get going again.





Are you on a journey of decluttering, too? Share your experience in the comments! 

Linking up with these fine blogs:

A Little R & R



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Monday, June 16, 2014

15 Love-Inspired (Non-Fearful) Reasons to Homeschool

Once while reading a Christian parenting book, I realized how many of my parenting decisions were based on fear. It was kinda crazy to think about, but many choices have been made because I didn't want a certain thing to happen! I was afraid.

The Bible has much to say about fear. One thing I've read said that the Word addresses the issue of fear 365 times! A daily reminder from God to not fear (by the way, I've never counted references to fear in Scripture, so I don't know for sure if that estimate is exact- does anybody want to confirm?)


When we made the decision to homeschool, I'll admit, much of it was due to fear. (Some fears can be healthy, though, so I'm not saying the reasons aren't valid!) Fear about bullies or other negative social influences, fear about (for us) our son getting a hold of some kind of problematic food (he is outgrowing a few minor allergies), fears that his educational needs would not be met and he would grow to dislike school. There are more, I'm sure, if I really think about it.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18

As homeschooling moms, we need to look to love for our motivation in everything! Here are some of my favorite love-inspired reasons to homeschool. Some of them fun, some of them serious. What reasons can you add to my list?

  1. I get to be with my babies all day!
  2. I get to learn alongside my children (yay, me!).
  3. My children have the opportunity to experience the real world as we move through our day together, rather than only interacting with their peers.
  4. No alarm clocks! (Unless we have some place we need to be).
  5. Our mornings are calm, and we all (usually) get as much sleep as we need.
  6. Education is tailored specifically to my child's needs.
  7. If they have mastered certain material, we get to move on- no waiting for others to catch up.
  8. If they need (or want) more time with certain concepts, we can "camp out" there for as long as we need (or want) to.
  9. My children eat home-cooked and lovingly prepared meals all day.
  10. We have a ton of freedom to explore our community resources (parks, museums, libraries, etc.) while they are not busy.
  11. I get to read (and re-read) lots of favorite books with my children!
  12. We can learn in our pajamas!
  13. Nobody has to raise their hand to use the restroom. :-)
  14. More time for (godly) character development!
  15. Time! Time to be together, time to develop our relationship, time to explore their interests and hobbies, time to be creative!

I'm sure there are many more love-inspired reasons to homeschool! What are your favorites? Share in a comment!

Linking up with these fine blogs:

http://http://christianmommyblogger.com/fellowship-fridays-underdog/A Little R & R



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Inviting Cooperation from Young Children

I just celebrated my youngest guy's second birthday this month! Could it already be? I swear I was just telling you all that I was expecting him!
At any rate, he is quickly gaining independence and communication skills and reaching other important milestones so fast. It can be hard to keep up with all the changes, am I right, moms? I feel like I was just getting the hang of mothering this baby, and now he's already into "young child" territory!

Are you in the same season with your little one(s)? Or maybe you work with toddlers or preschoolers on a regular basis. Whatever the case, we could all stand to take a minute and see things from a young child's perspective for a minute to figure out ways to best communicate with them to make our days run a little more smoothly! Today, I'm revisiting some of the ways that have helped me deal gently, but effectively my little guy (and that I still frequently use with my older children now ages 4 ½ and 7).  I'm honored to share these tips as a guest on my friend Jenni Mullinix's blog! Join me over there today and share any additional ways you know of to invite cooperation from toddlers and preschoolers! (Click the link to continue reading!)


http://http://christianmommyblogger.com/fellowship-fridays-underdog/A Little R & R



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Monday, June 9, 2014

Unburdened: An Introduction

I hinted back a few months ago in another post, about having chosen a word (or rather it choosing ME) for 2014. This is my first time just meditating on a single word for the year, rather than setting a bunch of goals of things I wanted to focus on for the year. Both ways are great! Both ways keep you from drifting through the year, and both things can be used as a filter for decisions to pass through so that you don't waste your time and energy.

At the beginning of this year, though, I think I was feeling overwhelmed, and just needed to find that "laser-focus" and clarity to come out ahead when all is said and done (something that seems to have eluded me in some seasons).
The word that settled in my spirit is "unburdened". I know, six months into it, that this is God's path for me this year. He has been faithful to show me so many ways that He is indeed, unburdening me. And it's awesome. 

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Through this process, I'm beginning to see how "heavy laden" I am. Or was. I don't know that it is totally obvious that I have been crouching under the weight of spiritual, physical and soulish burdens- and the fact is, I don't even think I realized it! But God knows. Of course He does. And as He is peeling back those layers, I have been able to breathe easier, stand up a little straighter, and see His vision a little more clearly.

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

Some of the unburdening has been simple, little changes. Others, much bigger and more complicated. Some things, a little silly, and "why didn't I think of that sooner?" But all woven together, and totally evident that God is at work in me!

This unburdening is part of the reason I've been able to get back into blogging! I have renewed purpose for this space, and I hope you'll join me here as I continue to share what God has been doing over the coming weeks! 



Did you choose a word for the year? How's it going? Share in a comment!

Linking up with these fine blogs:


http://http://christianmommyblogger.com/fellowship-fridays-underdog/A Little R & R



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Monday, June 2, 2014

Changing my Filter

I got a "check" in my spirit the other day. You know how that goes.

I was writing a blog post last week about What I'm Into. Typically, in that kind of post, I (and the many others who write these kinds of posts) will list certain categories and then share things that held my interest or occupied my time. It's all for fun, and to show more of the personal side of the blogger on the other side of the screen.

The "television" category came up. I started to recall what I had watched all month. I typed. I stopped. I read what I wrote. Hmm. Really? I quickly realized that I didn't really want to share that with the world! *

Not that I was afraid of being authentic so much as I realized that sharing what I watched wouldn't be helpful to anyone. I certainly didn't want to encourage anybody to then go and actually watch the programs or movies I had watched (or at least to the extent that I had). A thought popped into my mind: if I don't think I it would be beneficial to share this with my readers, maybe I shouldn't be watching it!

As Christians, we're called to wisdom!

The foolish woman is noisy; she is simple and open to all forms of evil, she [willfully and recklessly] knows nothing whatever [of eternal value]. Proverbs 9:13 (Amplified, emphasis added)

This woman has no filter on what comes in or what goes out!

Adhering to this idea of filtering and discerning what we take in or allow into our airspace kinda goes counter-culture. It's pretty much seen as a virtue to be open to all things. But God wants us to be vigilant, and protective of our minds and hearts!

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 (Amplified)

Entertaining though it may be, we need to be mindful of what we watch on television. The content as well as the quantity. I don't say this to be legalistic, of course, but we need to be aware that some things can easily drown out the voice of God. It doesn't happen right away. It's gradual. In hindsight, I saw this happening with me.

I don't know about you, but I need to be aware of His presence and actually hear His voice more than I want to be amused. I don't want anything, whether television, movies, music, or whatever, to dull my appetite for Him!

How about you?



*For anyone who simply must know, I watched a couple seasons of House, M.D. and a romantic comedy or two. I realize there are worse things, but with everything, we need to think, "am I helping my spirit?" If the answer is "no", it's time to adjust accordingly!

Linking up with these fine blogs:
http://http://christianmommyblogger.com/fellowship-fridays-underdog/A Little R & R



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Friday, May 30, 2014

What I'm Into (Mostly)- May 2014

Happy nearly June! I wasn't sure if I was going to create one of these posts this month. I kept trying to make it happen, and then...it didn't. Then, I "made up my mind" (yes, in quotations!) that I would go ahead and just do it, only to stop half way and decide that the world would be okay without knowing what I did in May. (I mean, right?) But then I remembered I had already worked on editing some photos for this post, and thought maybe, just maybe, I'll type up a slightly modified version of What I'm Into. And here we are! 

May was an eventful month. I launched back into blogging after a long, unintentional hiatus. I'm happy to report that I managed to publish something almost every week this month. I've been busy with trying to figure out how it is that we're supposed to promote the blogging these days. So much has changed! I've decided to venture into the land of Twitter! You can follow me there too (no, really! You can!) ;-)

Books- I'm currently very close to finishing Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik. Yes, I'm a crunchy mom. Well, mostly. I think I fall in the mid-range of maternal crunchiness (if you didn't gather that already). This is one of those books that has me nodding in agreement most of the time. Lots of good research about birth and infancy and beyond. It would have been awesome to read when I was expecting for the first time (so, you know...look into it, if you are going to have a baby soon!)

Also read: The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings. I really, really related to this book, a memoir of a woman's first year homeschooling her elementary-age daughter. She humorously looks at many different approaches to homeschooling, sharing her different experiences trying to find her "tribe". She sometimes goes to great lengths to immerse herself in the lifestyles of certain kinds of homeschoolers with hilarious results. One thing I did not appreciate about this book, however is the author's criticism of certain sects of Christianity. If you're also sensitive to that kind of thing, there are a couple chapters in which you will want to "chew the hay and spit out the sticks". If you are just starting out on your homeschool journey, or even if you've been at it a while, I think you will enjoy this book. I was utterly surprised at how quickly I got through this one! (Being that I've been reading most books at a snail's pace lately!)

Want to Read- A big ol' pile of books! Including Hands Free Mama (I impulsively grabbed this one from the library, because...well, it was there!) I think I may need to return it and come back to it later since it seems so involved and meant to be read slowly to take everything in. I also found an old copy (like from the 1930's old) of How to Win Friends and Influence People at a library sale a while back that I really want to read. I read the paperback version while I still worked at the church, but it's definitely a good book to re-read from time to time. This printing of it includes a chapter on marriage, which I'm looking forward to reading.

Television- Umm...let's just say in an earlier draft of this post, I realized that I probably need to re-evaluate my viewing habits! It's not that I've been watching total trash or anything, just nothing particularly edifying! 

In other media-related news, we observed a Screen-Free Week for probably the third time. It was so awesome. The children actually loved it, and we were inspired to get outside and savor the last of the lovely (Sonoran Desert) weather until probably October or later. The children enjoyed a nature scavenger hunt in the park (found items pictured), and also found a new passion for card games- more specifically the game "war". 

Learning with the Family (AKA homeschooling)- This month, we've revisited the beauty of lapbooks. We've done Five in a Row (as I mentioned in another post) and some of them go along with that, but I found a wealth of free resources for other titles (lapbooks as well as unit studies) in Homeschool Share. I love that it's all laid out for me. No real planning required (yippee!) We love exploring all the little avenues of learning opportunities that present themselves in children's literature. So much fun.


One of the books we read was Make Way for Ducklings. We later had an awesome visit to a riparian preserve in our area- I knew there were ducks there, so I hoped we'd get a chance to sit and observe them for a bit. They were so cool! We brought along some bread crumbs and we made instant friends (pictured). Apparently the sound of a Ziploc bag opening is to ducks what the sound of the can opener is to cats! My children named them Mr. and Mrs. Mallard after the ducks in Make Way for Ducklings. We later walked along one of the lakes and found even more ducky friends. 

Other News- We celebrated a birthday- my oldest is now seven! (Note to self: find some way to slow this down a bit!)

Next Month- More birthdays! This guy is turning TWO! Hardly believable! I blinked and he sprouted up into a toddler. 

Well, those are the highlights! What have you been up to? Share in a comment!

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What I'm Into