March 31, 2014

March 2014 in Pictures

Be sure to check out our March 2014 Monthly Update
 Made snow cream for the 1st time. 
 She's big into snakes these days. In particular, corn snakes. 
 Cleo (AKA Houdini)
 K-Diddy and Skylar at Aunt Whitney's Wedding
 The BEST flower girl ever!
 You have no idea how many shopping trips it took to put 
these two outfits together. 
 Me and my girl at the homeschool conference. 
 Happy Birthday Honey!

March 2014 Family Update

March was kind of a whirlwind. Even more so than our usual tornado-like life, but it was awesome! Here's why....

Early in March I attended the Empowering Fearless Birth conference in Tennessee. It was so fun to be around so many birthy people at once. I volunteered for the event and had a wonderful experience.
The weekend after that, we hopped down to Birmingham for my little sista's wedding. No, I can't believe she got married. Yes, I'm old. tLG was the flower girl and, yes, she did wear a dress. She also let me fix her hair with a ton of hairspray and didn't pitch a fit. Yes, we bribed her to cooperate. No, I can't stand how grown up she looks. Either one of them.
These BEAUTIFUL photos are courtesy of Greenlaw Photography.
On the homeschool front, I attended the Teach Them Diligently conference here in Nashville and that was amazing! I learned so much and walked away with a ton of resources. More than that, I was encouraged in a way that was worth every penny of my registration fee - which was surprisingly affordable. I can't wait to go back next year.
Me and Grandma at #ttdnashville
We've just come off of 2 weeks of Spring Break. I personally think 2 weeks is waaay too long but when you've got neighborhood kids showing up at your door every morning (because they are on break or intercession or whatever Metro wants to call it) it's kind of hard to stick with the homeschool routine. Oh well. That's the beauty of homeschool. If we suddenly want to take 2 weeks off, we can. However, upon return you may have to deal with an attitude of epic proportions. To follow all of our homeschool adventures, click here.

On the nYn front, I've hired two doulas to join my team and I'm making headway on funding my trip to Uganda. I've also got another nYn project in the works but it may be a while before I can get to it. All I can say is, it's BIG! I know, I know. I hate vague updates just as much as the next guy but this one is going to require some logistical planning, strategy, and financial commitments in order to come to fruition so I don't want to say too much just yet.

The April calendar is shaping up to be just as busy, starting with a trip to Dallas to visit the bestie and my 1st doula Skype baby born March 13th.
See more March 2014 pictures here.

Diagnosed with Epic Awesomeness

Dear Parent 

Doctor's Note

This kid has a bad case of epic awesomeness. 

Kid must do this... 
  • Eat Pizza
  • Play Video Games
  • Eat More Pizza
  • Play With Friends

I swear I cannot make this stuff up. This is just a glimpse into the personality I live with and attempt to teach on a daily basis. 

She keeps me on my toes, that's for sure. 

I must say, if a kid even has the gumption to come up with a letter such as this, I think I must concur with the diagnosis. 

tLG indeed does have a bad case of epic awesomeness. 

And I'm glad she's mine. 

March 25, 2014

Photo Books: An Annual Tradition

I remember when scrapbooking was all the rage. Creative Memories was the thing to do. I'm pretty sure it still is. Maybe. Honestly, I have no idea. I'm not the scrapbooking type. Back then, the problem was, I had a brand new baby and I was way overwhelmed with life in general. While I felt strongly about documenting memories, spending the time and money to make those monstrous books never appealed to me.

Other friends told me about digital scrapbooking. You create the pages on your computer and then print them out and slide them into your book. There were a million and one embellishment packages that you could purchase and that seemed just as unappealing as the other option. For the record, me and Photoshop don't get along. I'm more of a Picasa kind of girl. It's that whole 'Google freak' thing.

Then, I found Shutterfly. Technically, I had been uploading and printing my photos with them for a while but I discovered Photo Books. OMG... so perfect for me!!!

1) Select a theme.
2) Drag photos in.
3) Put captions (or not).
4) Done!

I have made one book per year for 7 years now. Back in the day I saved up my Pampers Points to earn free photo books. Now, I've learned that if you wait until about February or March they will send out a code for a FREE book. My goal is always to have my book completed by the first week in January and then I just leave it sitting in my cart until a code lands in my email box. This week the code finally arrived (STORYTIME - exp 3/25/14).
I've always ordered the 8x8 hardback size and have been really pleased with the quality. I've never had a problem cramming a year into the 20 pages that are included (you can also add more). I can't wait to add my 2013 book to my collection! Here's a sneak peek.

Click here to create your own Shutterfly photo book.

*Shutterfly has not paid me to write this post. It sure would be nice but I love them either way. 

March 23, 2014

Conference Recap Day 3 #hsttd

Need to catch up?

Man! I woke up tired on the last day. My brain was overloaded with awesome information. Taking that all in and trying to process it is hard work.

Interestingly enough, my first session was with Jan Bedell, AKA the Brian Coach, from Little Giant Steps. She helped us to learn how the brain develops from the bottom up and the reason that certain milestones are crossed at different times for children. Her strategies for neurodevelopment can help any child unlock learning potential.

“You MUST build a strong foundation in the brain!” 
– Jan Bedell

She listed several symptoms of auditory processing disorder, which affects short-term memory. I’m wondering if this is an underlying problem for both my daughter and my husband. Hmmm…. Overall I left with 3 keys for learning.

  • High frequency  |  present the concept often
  • Strong intensity  |  teach in a way that makes an impact for your child
  • Short duration  |  only input for a few seconds to a few minutes

Up next was a presentation on raising character-healthy children by Megan Scheibner. I wrote down more quotes in this session than any other I’ve been too.  Her statements reminded me that teaching character starts with the parents. We must model good attitudes, obedience, perseverance, thankfulness, excitement, thankfulness, ect. Character must be lived out. It can’t be taught from a workbook. Ultimately, I was encouraged to teach character first and academics second. 

“Expectations are different than standards. Expectations destroy relationship and peace is directly tied to expectations.” 
– Megan Scheibner

After a lunch break with my girl, I popped into Rhea Perry’s session on projects that can generate income. WOW! She wins the award for most excited speaker. She can talk a mile a minute so I felt like we got 2 hours worth of information crammed into one.  She’s an idea generator and she had many, MANY great suggestions of ways to become a business owner.

If you think you can… YOU CAN! 
– Rhea Perry

In the afternoon, I sat in to hear Crystal Paine (MoneySaving Mom) share the benefits of chores and how to help our kids enjoy them.  Again, this is something that must be modeled first and I was reminded to invest the time to really train my child how to perform certain tasks. Through this process I can basically work myself out of a job. Praise is key! I’m also excited to try out a new app, Chore Monster (it's FREE).

Overall, it’s been a great 3 days! I’ve been motivated in some very good ways. The hard part is taking back what I’ve learned and putting it into practice and not getting discouraged when things don’t work out like I’ve planned in my mind. The good thing is, this conference is coming back to Nashville again next year. Yay! Mark your calendar now. ;)

March 22, 2014

Conference Recap Day 2 #hsttd

Did you miss yesterday? Read about Day 1

The Children’s Program “Mission: Incredible” started on Day 2. I heard they have 700 children enrolled in the program. WOW! Naturally, drop off was a bit chaotic but I was still able to make it to my 1st session with time to spare.

Session #1 was with Sharon Hofer, founder of Creating a Masterpiece. She was such a delightful speaker and shared with us the ways in which art can teach life lessons.
She encouraged parents to give students projects that “seem” to hard but then break it down for them into simple steps. When they finish they have created a masterpiece that they can be proud of.

“Art bolsters a child’s self-confidence!” 
– Sharon Hofer

Session #2 was “Secrets that Teachers Never Tell” with Joyce Herzog. She has over 60 years of experience in education and definitely won my vote for spunkiest speaker. She reminded parents that our culture is rushing children out of infancy faster than any time in history. We are forcing them to accomplish reading, writing, and arithmetic before their brains are truly ready to comprehend the information. She encouraged me to have a more laid back approach to education and focus on the things that are most important in life, which is why I wanted to homeschool in the first place.

“If you aren’t training your kids for life, 
then what are you doing?” 
– Joyce Herzog 

Session #3 was my favorite of the day. Carol Barnier was hilarious! She says she put ‘snark’ into homeschooling and her sense of humor kept me engaged the entire time. She gave so many practical tips for teaching a child who is easily distractible. Her tips included mindless and repetitive tasks to keep your child’s hands and/or body busy so they can learn at the same time. She calls it active learning. One tip that I plan to implement ASAP is to give tLG headphones with instrumental music for doing her individual work, plus many other great ideas that I can’t wait to try.

“You can’t squeeze out of someone 
something that wasn’t in them in the first place.” 
– Carol Barnier

Before the end of the day, I did finally make it into the vendor hall. Wow! It was crazy big and crazy busy and VERY overwhelming.  The only reason I ventured down there was because my 7-year-old put me on a mission: FIND OUT ABOUT SKrafty MINECRAFT!! I went to their booth, chatted with Holly, got the info, and then wandered aimlessly around until heading to session 4. For starters, I honestly didn’t come here to buy curriculum. I still don’t feel educated enough to make a purchasing decision that I won’t regret. Secondly, we have no funds for expensive curriculum right now but the deals were pretty good. I will definitely be more prepared for next year. 
The last session of the day reminded me that I will constantly feel like a failure in this homeschooling journey unless I let go and let God control this adventure. As the primary educator, I've put a lot of pressure on myself to make this child turn out ‘right’ but, realistically, my only job is to let her become the person God intends her to be.

“Children help us grow up.” 
– Pam Forster

At pick up, tLG reported that the TTD Children’s Program was a lot of fun. She was particularly happy that the girls had more points than the boys. ;) Despite the chaos at drop off, I was thankful for somewhere to put my child so that I could attend the sessions alone to soak it all in. At only $35 for both days, it is also extremely affordable!

My hubby attended 2 sessions in the evening. They were sessions that I wouldn’t necessarily have picked but I was thankful that they had topics which interested him since he was the one who talked me off the edge when I started to panic about homeschooling. After just 2 sessions he came home convinced that we are doing the right thing about home education and is not interested in ever sending her back to public school. Score for the homeschool team!

Up next is Day 3.

You can follow along on this journey with me in real time via Twitter and Instagram. Hint: I'm @bishopstaci in both places. ;) 

March 21, 2014

Conference Recap Day 1 #hsttd

I came away from Day 1 of Teach Them Diligently feeling very encouraged. All of the speakers I listened to were fantastic and, as anticipated, all of the attendees are very nice.

I went to the pre-conference session by Sonya Shafer, which gave a practical overview of the different methods of homeschooling and their primary focus.
She also gave us a little survey to help determine which “flavor” is right for you.  It can be found online and only takes a few moments to complete. She also shared this link for FREE resources and suggested the "Getting Started in Homeschooling" ebook. 

“Feed your child’s natural hunger for knowledge.” 
- Sonya Shafer

The most beneficial part of the session was having her go through the extensive list of vendors and classify them into categories. I wasn't brave enough to venture into the exhibit hall just yet but, knowing what I could eliminate helped save me a lot of time. 

I was privileged to have my mother-in-law with me for the day. Before I started this homeschooling journey, I needed to know that I had the support of our family. Otherwise, this would never work. I was thankful that she tagged along to learn more about homeschooling.
Next, we listened to Josh Duggar speak about taking a leap of faith. I was less star-struck this time since I met his entire family last year, but he’s a very good speaker and prayed the sweetest prayer over the convention.

 "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." 
- author unknown

Session #3 was with John Echols who educated us on Grades and Transcripts. This is something that I’ve been really worried about but I was encouraged by him along with other veteran homeschool parents. 

“Grades and grade levels do not equal learning.” 
- John Echols

I was reminded to teach my child to her level to help her become the person God wants her to be rather than forcing her to fit into a box that says you HAVE to learn THESE topics and subjects. Best of all, everyone in the session received a LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to the Teach Them Diligently Planner. Score! It's an awesome program. I have a custom code for a free 90-day trial if anyone wants to check it out. Email me. (I will remove this image once the my code is gone)
The best session of day #1 was my last. Becky Spence (This Reading Mama) gave our class some very practical and hands on tips for teaching spelling to a variety of ages. I learned about word sorts, patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and a whole bunch of other things. She even showed us ways to make spelling fun with things like bottle tops, magnets, legos, post its, paint, highlighters and more. It was my favorite of the night and I have some good notes to look back on.
 "Hands on does not mean workbooks!" 
- Becky Spence

Overall, it was a great first day. Conferences are always a lot of information but I didn’t feel too overwhelmed, just encouraged. It was exciting to have God mentioned in every single session I attended and many of the speakers opened with prayer. Quite refreshing! Looking forward to Day 2

As always, you can follow along on this journey with in real time via Twitter and Instagram. Hint: I'm @bishopstaci in both places. ;) 

March 20, 2014

Preparing for a Homeschool Conference #hsttd

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Today I'm going to my first homeschool conference. I'm excited and nervous all at the same time! So much to learn. So much to do. So many people. At this point, I refuse to even think about all the curriculum choices. I'm going mainly for the sessions.

Speaking of, the Teach Them Diligently Conference has 150 to choose from over the course of two-and-a-half days. Many of them occur at the same time and they all sound amazing. How is a girl to pick? Talk about an impossible task.

I want to sit in on a variety of topics and not duplicate speakers or subjects. So, in typical Type A fashion, I sat down yesterday with the schedule, pens, highlighters, and spreadsheets and narrowed down my selections one block at a time.

This is what I came up with. Granted, I've heard that once onsite you can change your mind, so I've got plan B choices as well. Of course I do. ;)

Intro to Homeschooling: Five Flavors of Homeschooling  | Sonya Shafer

One Small Step, One Giant Leap of Faith  |  Josh Duggar

Grades, Transcripts, and Fears, Oh My!  |  John Echols

Hands-on Ideas for Teaching Spelling  |  Becky Spence

Releasing Your Child from Entertainment: How Art Can Transform Your Child's Future  |  Sharon Hofer

Secrets Teachers Never Tell   |  Joyce Herzog

Help! How Do I Teach This Highly Distractible Child  |  Carol Barnier

What I would Do Differently as  Homeschool Mom  |  Pam Forster

Make Learning Easier for Struggling, Atypical, or Advanced Students  |  Jan Bedell

A-Z Guide to Character Health Homeschooling  |  Negan Sceibner

5 School Projects that Teach FInancial Literacy and Create Income  |  Rhea Perry

Using Common Chores to Raise Uncommon Kids  |  Crystal Paine

Any other tips for a 1st timer? I've been looking forward to this for months! Everyone has been really nice so far and I'm excited to see people in real life that I've only "met" online until now. Plus, as an event planner by profession, I'm eager to see how conferences in other industries execute their events. Lots of research to be done and knowledge to be gained over the next few days.

I'll be posting about my experience so be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram and bookmark

Here we go.... Day 1.

March 17, 2014

Creative Writing: King the Corn Snake

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So, after we had that really bad day that turned out to be a good day, I'm reconsidering the "unschooling" method and at least trying to incorporate it on a mild level. For starters, I asked tLG what she wanted to learn about today. She said, "snakes!" She has a recent fascination of this particular species after her Dad took her to Aquatic Critter last week. *SIGH*

Fine. Snakes it is. We made a list of things she could do for school involving snakes. She did some computer research and then we came up with a word bank that she could use to write a story about a snake. She was able to rely on her first hand experience to come up with a great list of "silver dollar words." Shout out to Ms. Beaty and Power of Pictures!

I was really impressed with the story she came up with. I thought it was pretty good creative writing for 1st grade. Below is a quick video she made of herself reading the story. I LOVE how her little personality shows through, especially at the end! ;)

March 11, 2014

A Bad Day at Homeschool

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On Friday, we were having what I would call a "bad" homeschool day. She was distracted. I was distracted. She was complaining. I was complaining. It was Friday. Neither of us wanted to do any work. So, I called it quits. Like, in the middle of a worksheet. I threw my hands up and said, "We're done. Go play!" Except, I may have said it with a tone that implied "get out of my sight right this instant." Like I said, a bad day.

For the record, a bad day in homeschool is NOTHING compared to a bad day at public school. Getting notes home from the teacher made me depressed and furious. Not at the teacher. At the situation. I usually felt helpless to do anything about the problem and that somehow made me feel like a failure as a parent. How am I supposed to fix something when I'm not even there to witness, redirect, or correct? So, every time, I would rack my brain trying to figure out a way to control something that was impossible to have control over. This usually resulted in me being angry and grumpy and many times being brought to tears out of anguish over the situation. Don't even get me started on the times where I felt what was being asked of my child was unreasonable to start with. Lord help me.

So far, the bad days of homeschool have been few. However, I'm able to easily identify when a day is getting off on the wrong track. So, we take a break. I love the flexibility of homeschool in that way. We break, have a snack, and regroup. It's a beautiful thing. That alone has probably saved us from many bad days.

Our bad day on Friday turned out to be a good day in the end. In fact, I'd say, it was a really good day.

After me calling it quits, tLG went and got the sewing things and worked on that for a nice long while. She kept herself busy cutting out material and doing some hand stitching. Tell me that's not school. Creativity, patterns, measuring, cutting, fine motor skills. Um, totally! Not to mention the fact that she was quiet and I got a much needed break. That's a win for the home team, folks!

Then, she asked to "play" on the computer so I agreed. By now, I was back in a "yes" mood. She pulled up BrainPop Jr. and started constructing roller coasters. You put pieces of track together and then test it to see if it works. Once you have a working track you can tweak and change things to make your track faster and more thrilling! Tell me that's not school. Computer skills, science, physics, creativity. Um, totally!

I was delighted to see that even when left to her own devices, she still wanted to learn and she found ways to educate herself with no input from me. I'm really starting to reconsider the "unschooling" method. It's a bit out there for this type A mom but I'm starting to think that strict academics are overrated anyway. Not that I want to abandon it altogether but it makes me think of this Ted talk. It seems that kids will explore and learn no matter what. They might as well be doing it on subjects that interest them. That's learning that sticks or, as this kid calls it, hackschooling.

March 6, 2014

Curriculum Kits - Nashville Public Library

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Last year, before we were even thinking about homeschooling, the Nashville Library started offering Curriculum Kits. I thought they were a great idea and was excited to finally get to try one.

We picked Asia for our first one. tLG was a part of the Encore program at Stanford and they had been studying Asia. She really enjoyed it each week so I thought this would be fun for her and something familiar.

The kits are packaged in a medium-sized, sturdy clear tub. Our bin was full of books and DVDs about a variety of subjects relating to Asia. We have used this as our history and social studies requirement for the last 2 weeks as we worked our way through the material.
The curriculum kits are geared for either grades K-2 or 3-5 or 6-8. I didn't notice this in the description prior to selecting Asia (3-5) but it worked out fine. We skipped the material that was not age or skill-level appropriate, but there were plenty of items that were perfect for her. Per her usual, she started devouring the kit as soon as we got it home. ;)
You can borrow each from your local Nashville Public Library for 4 weeks. Each kit comes with a trusty little list to make sure that you include everything before returning it to your library branch. As you can see, the Asia kit included 34 items.
I was really impressed with the amount of material included and we are both excited to try out others. In doing a quick search in the catalog, I saw that they have 69 different subjects available! WOW! Here is just a sampling of what's offered.
Not surprisingly, many of the kits already have "holds" since there is only 1 or 2 sets of each kit for the whole district. The library allows each cardholder up to 25 holds so I've requested to be on the wait list for quite a few. What a great resource the library is turning out to be. Best of all, it's FREE! ;)

March 3, 2014

Basket Weaving

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Basket weaving has forever been a joke often used in reference to college electives. Basically, it means you are goofing off but still getting college credit.

In our homeschool we totally have a basket weaving course. Except she really learns basket weaving. ;)
My mother-in-law is actually a pro at making baskets. She has made several for our home that we use on a regular basis. A few weeks ago she asked if tLG could come over for a few hours. She had found a pattern for a pencil holder that she wanted them to work on together. Sounds good to me!

I didn't quite know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised with what she made. Whether she realizes it or not, she was practicing math skills and art skills all at the same time. Hello. Patterns, counting, weaving, and handwriting (she signed the bottom). Plus, she got to spend some good, quality time with Grandma!

Not only was she proud of what she made but it turned out to be rather functional and super cute for our little homeschool room.