August 31, 2014

August 2014 in Pictures

 Boarding the Train
 They tasted just like Welch's Grape Juice
Such a fun day at Delmonaco Winery. 
Been married to this guy for 9 years. Photobombed before it was cool! ;)
 1st Day of School Tradition
 Excited for 2nd Grade!
 Hard at work. Love having her right next to me. 
 Flashback to the first day of Pre-School at Stanford. Where did my baby go?
Still Summer!
Girl's Day Field Trip!

 #rolltide #puritylover #drenuf
By the way - This is my new favorite song. Smidge of language.
But, awesome for promoting a positive body image. Also, catchy!
The time is here. See you in October! ;)

August 2014 Family Update

Mike and I started out the month by celebrating our anniversary a little early. We took a train ride to Delmonaco Winery. It was such a neat experience to be able to ride on an old passenger train. The winery was beautiful and it was a perfect little day trip! Special thanks to Grandma and D-Dad for hosting tLG so that we could get away and reminisce on the last nine years. It's hard to believe we've been married that long!
On the homeschool front, we've officially started 2nd grade and it's going great! I'm excited about our curriculum choices for this year and our days have been running pretty smoothly. Granted, I've now entered the insane-crazy-busy period of work so I'm not quite sure how seamless September will go. But, because we started in July, we have 28 days already on the books, which gives me some much-needed wiggle room.
For example, last week, K-Diddy and MiMi offered to take tLG for a few days and tack on the holiday weekend. We did a girl's day field trip on Wednesday and then tLG tagged along to Bama for 5 days. For starters, I love that we can plan a last-minute field trip in the middle of the week. We practically had the place to ourselves (more in-depth post on that later this week) and it was awesome! Next, I'm digging the fact that I can up and send tLG to the grandparents for 5 days in the middle of the school year. This homeschool gig is getting better and better all the time. 
As a mama, sometimes we know when we are at our wits end and we call in reinforcements for help. But, sometimes, we are just trudging through and don't even realize how exhausted we are. While I thought it was awful nice for K-Diddy and Mimi to offer to take tLG for the weekend, I didn't fully appreciate the break until she was gone. It was exhausted and I didn't even realize it. Work has been pretty stressful for the last 2 weeks and I truly just needed a few days to have zero responsibility, even of the personal kind. I meandered through stores and shopped. Like, I took my time. I browsed. I wasn't constantly checking the time. I actually went into a dressing room and tried. things. on. It was nothing short of glorious. Hubby and I went to a restaurant that didn't even have a kids menu. I don't even remember the last time that happened. On the spur of a moment, we stopped by a friend's house and (wait for it) hung out. I slept and then I slept some more. When she was younger, I would fill the time away with a million projects to keep my mind busy so I wouldn't miss her. This time, I forced myself to rest. I watched movies. Movie-S, as in more than one. From start to finish. Mike will tell you that I hardly ever sit still, but I'm starting to appreciate this relaxing thing more and more! ;)

In other news, tLG has started piano lessons with a lady in our neighborhood. It's a perfect set up! She can even ride her bike to her teacher's house. She's only had a few lessons at this point but so far, so good. 

We also took a trip over to Wave Country for a little water action before they closed for the season. Even though we've been pushing temps of 100, I'm still not ready to let go of summer. 
Stay tuned for next month! The fair is coming....

August 21, 2014

How to Use Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool

To view my previous posts on this curriculum go here.
Today I want to talk to you about how to use Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool Curriculum. The site navigation is one of the biggest drawbacks but, once you get the hang of the flow, it's indeed very easy to use. 

Click here to go to the site. The first thing you will want to take notice of is the navigation bar on the right. For the moment, we are going to pretend that you are going to do the full curriculum. Later I will go into detail about how to pick and choose subjects. 
  • Getting Ready 1 would be equivalent to PreK or age 4.
  • Getting Ready 2 would be equivalent to Kindergarten or age 5. 
  • First would be equivalent to 1st Grade and so on.
For this tutorial, let's choose 2nd Grade. I'm kind of partial to it at the moment. ;) 

Click on Second. At the top of this page you will find some general notes and a supply list for this grade followed by Day 1. 
Under Day 1, there are instructions for the main subjects, typically Language Arts, Reading, and Math. Every few days you will also see instructions here for Computer and Thinking. Your child will simply follow the instructions all the way down until the reach the heading for the next day. 

Each day you will come back to the same page (I bookmark it on my toolbar). 

You can scroll down to the next day or use the search feature to find the day you are looking for.

Starting in 1st Grade, at the end of each day, you will see a prompt asking what year you are studying. It looks like this:

The curriculum has a 4-year rotation for Bible, History, Science, Art/Music, and Health. Per the website, the years of study are as follows.
  • Year 1 — Biology, Ancient History, Matthew and historical books of the Bible
  • Year 2 — Animals, Early American History, Mark and New Testament minus the other gospels and Revelation
  • Year 3 — Earth Science, Geography and Cultures, Luke and Psalms and Proverbs
  • Year 4 — Physics and Chemistry, 20th Century History, John and Prophets
  • Music and art will follow along with the history studies as much as possible.
There are also two levels for this rotation (L: Grades 1-4 and M: Grades 4-8). You can do these in any order you like but I'm type A and like for Year 1 to go with 1st Grade, Year 2 to go with 2nd Grade, ect.  Once you have selected your year, the same process applies. Scroll or search for what day you are on and complete the activities under that heading.
That's it! You basically just click on your grade, find which day you are on and follow the prompts. Each grade level has 180 days of instruction, which meets most state requirements. 

Now, that we have the basics down, let's pretend you want to piece together different subjects or different grade levels for subjects. On the navigation bar to the right, you will want to look for individual subjects and choose your year or topic. Once you click on a subject/year you will see a short description at the top of the page which gives an overview of the concepts that will be learned in that subject. You can choose from Art, Bible, Computer, History, Language Arts, Math, Music, PE/Health, Science, and Thinking.

From here, you simply scroll or search for which day you are on and complete the assignments. Again, you can continue to come back to the main page and select your subjects each day or you could bookmark them for easy access. 

That's the basic layout and navigation for Easy Peasy. It really is pretty simple and I have found it to be comprehensive as well.

Still have questions about Easy Peasy? Here are some pages with helpful information.

How To Use
About the Author
Facebook Group

There is also a tutorial video.
If you are just getting started with Easy Peasy and have questions, leave me a comment below and I will do my best to answer it. This is our 2nd year using this curriculum and we love it!

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August 19, 2014

10 Reasons I Chose Easy Peasy Homeschool

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Several of you have asked me some great questions about (AKA Easy Peasy Homeschool). I wanted to try to answer them all in one place and explain why I chose this curriculum.

Background: The Easy Peasy curriculum is put together by a missionary mom living overseas. She is homeschooling 6 children ranging from ages 1-14. She chronicles her children's daily assignments and it's now available to anyone with access to the Internet. As she completes a new grade, it is added to the site.

Here is why I chose Easy Peasy Homeschool for our curriculum for this year.
  1. It's free. Yes, a complete, comprehensive curriculum FREE for PreK through high school. You don't have to piece together subjects or pay for a box curriculum. There is nothing to buy. Everything you need, with the exception of some basic supplies, is right on your computer. 
  2. It's online. Technology is no longer the "wave of the future" it's our current-day reality. Everything is online, including text books. Kindles, iPads, and eReaders are the new books. Having my child learn online and read books online just keeps her on pace with the world around her. Also, this saves us from having to purchase and store books and workbooks. 
  3. It's customizable. Right now, we are using the complete curriculum which includes Language Arts, Reading, History, Science, Math, Art, Music, Bible, Computer, Thinking, and PE. However, if you don't want to do the entire curriculum, you can pick and choose subjects. Or if your child is blurring grade lines, you can choose subjects from different grade levels. 
  4. It's game based. I'm a big fan of learning through play. A good portion of the concepts taught with Easy Peasy are through online games. It's interactive and fun! I only require her to play the game once or until she reaches a certain level. However, often times, she wants to keep going or play the game multiple times. I'm all for that! 
  5. It's Christian oriented. History, Literature, and Science have a Biblical Worldview, which means I don't have to worry about my child reading unBiblical concepts. There is also a daily scripture reading. 
  6. It's self paced. All of the tasks and assignments for each day are clearly laid out and include the hyperlinks. A child can easily follow the curriculum by clicking along through the links. Of course, they may need some help with this in the early grades but once they get the hang of it you can pretty much turn them loose.
  7. It's parent friendly. There really is very little "teaching" involved with Easy Peasy. I'm close at hand if she has a question but, for the most part, I simply follow up with her on what she's learned and help keep her on task. The post-activity questions are even supplied by the curriculum. There is basically zero prep work. You just plop down at the computer with your kiddo and follow along. 
  8. It's college focused. This curriculum is designed with advanced education in mind. Because the curriculum is so new (2012) there isn't a lot of feedback yet as far as college success stories. However, knowing that it's designed with college as the goal is good enough for me considering that we are only in 2nd grade. 
  9. It's enough. It typically only takes us 2-3 hours to get through all of the material for each day and some of you are wondering if that's enough. For me, it's perfect. It's just enough that she enjoys it and doesn't get frustrated. It also allows us more time to work on other life skills. Honestly, I'm more concerned with my kid having common sense and being able to navigate the world around her than I am with her being book smart. However, she is definitely learning and we love seeing her progress. 
  10. It's easy peasy. Seriously. Homeschool doesn't have to be complicated. I never thought I would homeschool and, as a working mom, I struggled to comprehend how that was even possible. This is so much easier than I ever imagined. I truly enjoy homeschooling, which is a miracle in itself. This curriculum has a lot to do with that. It's no muss, no fuss, and perfect in so many ways!
These are the main reasons that I like Easy Peasy. Now, there are a few drawbacks as well. I discussed lesson plans in my last post. Another common concern is navigating and using the curriculum. The website is kind of cumbersome. However, once you spend some time with it and see how she has it set up, it really is easy. In my next post, I will give you step-by-step instructions for using this online curriculum. 

August 15, 2014

Easy Peasy Weekly Planner

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I have to say, our first week of 2nd grade has truly been Easy Peasy. We have eased back into our old rhythm so smoothly. My girl is getting her work done quickly and with little-to-no fussing. I really do love They don't call it Easy Peasy Homeschool for no reason.

One additional perk I like is that they have a Facebook forum where you can ask questions and get answers quickly.  Usually, my question has already been answered and I can find it fast and move on by using the search feature. We also have a local Facebook page for those of us in Middle Tennessee.

Have I mentioned that the curriculum is FREE? Seriously, this program is working out great for us! Now, one downside to this curriculum is there is no way to get a detailed overview of the year. Each subject has a general heading description but there isn't anything as far as monthly or weekly breakdowns. The beauty of EP is that you can go to the website each day and still get your schoolwork accomplished with basically zero prep work since it's all online, so it can work for anyone, even if you aren't a type A planner like me.

Now, me being the type A personality that I am, I decided to do something about that little issue over the summer. I made my own weekly lesson/work plans. For starters, it just helps me to get a better grasp of how the week will flow and what we will be learning each day. Second, I give tLG the freedom to pick which assignments she wants to do first, which usually means doing them in a different order than they are listed online. Having a lesson/work plan allows me to check off each task as they are accomplished so I can make sure nothing was missed. I do love to check off a list. :) The long-term goal is to turn this task over to her.

My plan for this week looked like this...

I also designed a section at the bottom where I can add in home skills or other fun things that we are working on. For example, this week I wrote in Time Capsule, Homeschool Rules, Pen Pal, Piano Lesson, Manners, and Memory Verse.

If you would like your very own copy of my Easy Peasy Weekly Planner, you can download a blank PDF copy here.

If you want the Excel version, you can find it in Google Sheets. It's a file that you can edit (File> Download As> Microsoft Excel) and change out the subjects. If the link doesn't work just email me at bishopstaci (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you a copy of mine. 

For those curious about our daily schedule and how Easy Peasy works, it goes a little something like this. I work from home so I am up, showered, dressed and at my desk by 8 am. I'm an Event Coordinator for a large corporation, which might explain why I like Excel spreadsheets so much. tLG typically wakes up around 8 or so, gets dressed, eats breakfast, feeds the pets and meets me in the office by 9.

We learned early last year that tLG (age 7) struggled with clicking back and forth between the tabs to get her next assignment. So, before she arrives, I prepare her computer by opening all of the different internet tabs she will need that day and she "X's" out each one as she finishes that activity or game. She has to let me know after she completes a tab because I usually want to follow up with questions about what she has learned. Easy Peasy often provides these questions for you. When I did my prep work over the summer, I printed out any worksheets or lapbook activities. Those are attached to my weekly planner, so I simply pull any printed work for the day and put it on her clipboard. Some work she can do on her iPad (right now it's Bible reading and the Christopher Columbus book) so I jot down those assignments for her on a sticky note. She accesses those tabs through shortcut icons I put on her home screen. This also gives her the freedom to move about and not be at the computer desk for the entire time. It typically takes me no more than 5 minutes to get set up and ready for her. 
Our computer desks are side-by-side and there is a large area rug in our office for her to work, but it also means that I'm close at hand if she needs me.
We usually break for lunch around 11:30 or 12:00. Usually, we are wrapped up with "school work" by this time but occasionally she will have something to finish up afterwards. After lunch she usually reads, plays Minecraft, hangs out with her Daddy (if he's off that day / working the late shift) or runs errands with me until the neighborhood kids get off the bus. Then, she's out the door until dinnertime (P.E. requirement, of course!).

That's our schedule, our curriculum, and what's currently working for us right now. I'm so thankful that we've had an easy transition into 2nd grade!

August 12, 2014

First Day of 2nd Grade + Curriculum Choices

It's official! Homeschool is back in session and 2nd grade is under way. This will be our first FULL year of homeschooling and I'm exited to be able to start fresh with curriculum, goals, and a vision for the year.

Last year, as promised, we gimped our way through the Spring Semester of 1st grade. That's what happens when you suddenly decide not to return to public school during Christmas break. Now that I have a little experience under my belt and have attended a fabulous Homeschool Conference, I'm feeling more prepared to face the year ahead. We've worked out most of the kinks and I'm feeling a lot more confident in my ability to actually teach this kid something that will stick.

So, we kicked off 2nd grade much in the same way that we've kicked off a new grade in year's past.
First, pancakes. 
Next, new school supplies.
And can I just say how much fun it was to just buy what we wanted and not have to stick to a boring list. ;) 
Finally, a classroom photo.
We also added a new tradition. We sat down together and came up with a list of "rules" for our classroom. We both contributed to the list and I think these are some good goals to strive for.
If your homeschool needs this list of rules, you can download the PDF here

tLG even dubbed our classroom "The Happy Homeschool" and oh, how I pray that it is indeed a happy year. I fully realize that not every single day will be happy but a girl can dream that at least the year as a whole will be happy, right?!?!
For those who are curious, we have chosen to stick with For starters, it's free. It's also comprehensive, yet customizable. You can pick and choose your subjects and topics. Plus, it includes a Biblical element. My favorite part is that it's technology and game focused, which fits perfectly with my kiddo's personality. It suits my budget and her learning style. BINGO! This year we will be studying...
Of course, I also want to focus on some life skills in addition to manners and character traits. More on those later. 

Our first day went really well and I think tLG would concur. Here's to more good days in 2nd grade. ;) 

August 7, 2014

The Last Milestones

When our kiddos are babies we yearn for them to cross milestone after milestone. We eagerly anticipate them and document them with Facebook posts for all the world to see. We want everyone to know when our sweet babe rolls over, gets their first tooth, has their first bite of (fill in the blank), sleeps through the night, crawls, walks, says their first word, gets their first hair cut, looses a first tooth and the list goes on. All the way up to the first day of Kindergarten. All of the firsts... us mamas eat them up.

The flip side is that there are some lasts as well. We don't often think about those things. Sometimes we never even realize when the last has happened. It just kind of does. And once we've realized they aren't doing that same thing anymore, it's hard to go back and pinpoint the date. These things just happen gradually over time.

I don't remember the last time my child nursed but I know it was somewhere around 20-22 months. It just happened gradually as she became more and more busy. Over time, she awoke and preferred to greet the world with gusto rather than snuggling in bed with me.

I don't remember the last time I picked up my child and put her on my hip. She got so heavy and long & lanky so quick. Maybe it was around age 6 but now I'm scratching my head wondering if I maybe it was only age 5. Again, as she grew, it gradually just became more cumbersome to pick her up. If she needed consoling, I would sit and drag her over to my lap instead. But I can't remember the last time I picked her up and carried her. When she was small it seemed as though I toted her everywhere. I vaguely thought to myself "I wonder when she will be too big to carry" and, just as quickly, it left my mind because I couldn't really fathom such a day. But, O, how quickly that day came and now I can't even remember when it was. Dang it!

I don't remember the last time tLG mispronounced words. My little one had quite the vocabulary from an early start and she hardly ever mispronounced words. In fact, I can only think of a few. I never corrected these words because they were so stinking cute and just so rare for her.
  • Eastus = Easton (our dog)
  • Moont = Moon
  • Peapock = Peacock
  • Four Liter = 4-wheeler
And then one day she just wasn't saying them any more and I was kinda sad about it because I couldn't remember the last time she used each one.

Now that I know such ending milestones can occur, I'm desperately grasping to know what will come next and when our last __(fill in the blank)__ will be.

Lately, I've been mentally documenting every time we hold hands in public. We started this practice of holding hands in the parking lot early on, as a safety precaution, of course. At age 7, she's clearly old enough to behave in the parking lot so I've stopped reaching out for her hand. Surprisingly enough, she still reaches for mine. Not every time but enough that I still notice only because it makes my heart get all full and tingly when that sweet little hand slides into mine. Yet, I wonder "Will today be the last time?"

Earlier this week we went to Target. I was fumbling with keys or who knows what as I was getting out of the car. When I looked up, that little arm was reached out waiting for for me to take hold of her hand. I happily grabbed it and silently wondered again, "Is this the last time?"

The sweet baby things fade away when we least expect it. I don't want to loose any more last milestones. I don't necessarily want to mourn over them. I simply want to document the moments. All too often we look back at raising children and it's just a blur. We don't mean for it to be. In fact, we think that we won't ever forget. As a parent on the other side of so many firsts, I can assure you, it goes by faster and blurrier than you might imagine. The mundane day-to-day activities of feeding, clothing, cleaning, and transporting a kid steal the sweet moments that I want to document. So, I'm putting my foot down. But, I need your help.

Parents of older children, guide me here. What last milestones are ahead of me that I haven't even thought of yet? Help me anticipate them so that I can document and enjoy them now while they are still happening.

August 5, 2014

2014 Summer Camp Review

We are drawing near to the end of summer. Boo! I can hardly believe it. I wanted to do a quick recap of our Summer Camp choices. Here they are ranked in order of preference (by the 7 year old).

1. The Clay Lady's Studio (Art Camp) - This camp was a clear winner that stood out from the crowd for several reasons. 1) It's a half-day camp. We found out early on that tLG is not a fan of all-day camps. She tolerates them but she would rather not be away from home for the entire day. Again, these camps are ranked by her preference. 2) The only medium used is clay (and paint). My girl loves working with high-end materials plus, the last two days of camp they worked solely with the pottery wheel. 3) The teacher is outstanding! tLG learned so much from her. I also talked to a mom who sat in on class one day and she concurred that Danielle is not only an artist but a true teacher. Sometimes it can be hard to find both. 4) They made many projects, 3-4 per day, so it was very affordable considering that I've got 20 masterpieces headed my way. We are picking them up tomorrow! Yay.

*Definitely going back on the list for next year.

2. Mr. Bond Science Guy (Space Camp) - Again, this was a half-day camp. They also made things and launched rockets, a dream come true for my girl. The instructors were very interactive with the kids. tLG really liked Haz-Matt (get it?) and also won a T-shirt for answering a question one day. As you can imagine, it's her new favorite item of clothing.

*Will try this program again next year but will pick a different theme for variety sake.

3. Traveller's Rest Plantation (History's Mysteries) - This one is probably tied with #2. However, in my book, it's top of the list. For starters, it's an all day camp (working moms LOVE these)! Despite the longer hours, tLG really enjoyed this one. It was the same price as all the other camps but they did a field trip 4 out of 5 days to various parks, museums, and historical landmarks. The staff were absolutely wonderful. Basically, they were big history geeks (in a cool way) and my girl fit in swimmingly.

*Already on the list for next year. In fact, tLG has already reviewed the list and selected her theme week, Time Travelers.

4. Nashville Zoo Camp (Operation Survival) - I thought my girl would love this camp because it's all about animals but this one was her least favorite. For starters, my little homebody didn't appreciate that it was an all-day camp. They did get to touch some animals but I could tell that the camp just didn't hold her attention. I was really surprised because most parents rave about this camp. But, every kid is different I suppose.  In her defense, this camp fell the week I returned from a 13-day trip to Africa. It's possible she just was just missing me and could have cared less about any camp. Who knows?

*This one is a little pricey even with a membership so we will probably skip it next year.

5. Engineering for Kids (Survival Cove) & (LEGO Rescue Robots) - I had tLG signed up for both half day camps but ended up canceling once I realized it fell during the week I would be in Africa and we hired a sitter instead for convenience sake and my peace of mind.

*I do want her to try this one next year because she loves building things. We've really enjoyed their weekly classes.

Overall, it was a great year of summer camps. Aside from the Zoo, tLG really liked all of the other camps. Each week just seemed to get better and better, which is always good for a mama's soul to know that I picked some good ones for her.

What camps did your kiddos do this summer? Any others that I should research for next year?