January 31, 2015

January 2015 in Pictures

 Ringing in 2015 playing Settlers of Catan
 Lady Cougars
Birthday Party Pals
 Skylar & her cousin Aves
Happy Birthday! 
 She looks cute but she will beat you. Guaranteed!
 Helping Ms. Joni at TDF.
 Monopoly Monday
Looming at the library

January 2015 Update

Settling into life after Disney was ROUGH! It honestly took me several weeks to get back into the groove. I usually love the start of the new year but I felt really overwhelmed this time. Anyway, here's the latest...

Upward Basketball.  Skylar absolutely LOVES this! I don't think any of the girls on her team have played before but they are learning more and more every week. They have yet to win a game but it's certainly not for lack of effort. Either way I'm thrilled to see the amount of teamwork and camaraderie that is happening in addition to learning and understanding the rules of the game. She has 2 great coaches who are both very encouraging and I am certain that has made a big difference! The first week I could hardly get her to do any school work. She literally just day dreamed about playing basketball all. day. long. It was so funny! I'm thankful that she has enjoyed it so much.
8th Birthday.  I reaaaally liked age 7 and I still can't believe my baby is now EIGHT! We celebrated Minecraft style at a local archery range. I don't know why but there are NO pre-made Minecraft decorations. No plates, no napkins, nothing. So, I spent several nights consulting Pinterest and coming up with our own party decor. I think everything turned out really cute and I guess it was worth all that work  - haha!

Looming.  tLG got a loom for her birthday and she has been making crafts ever since. In fact, she's got quite the little business going on. It's been great for homeschool. We have researched the different types of loops and how they can be used. We looked at the cost of supplies and determined how much she should charge in order to make a small profit and cover her expenses. We have talked about color combinations and patterns. Right now, she has a waiting list but if you want to order potholders (made from cotton loops) or coasters/scrubbing cloths (made from nylon loops) just let me know. They are $3 each or you can get a set for $5. Thank you to everyone who has already supported her in this venture. She is so tickled about this little "business" of hers.

Conference Planning. As for me, everything is pretty much routine. Although, I've also been helping to coordinate a birth conference that I volunteered at last year. I'm excited to be more involved in a birth-related event and this year, we have secured a venue in Nashville. In fact, it's just a few miles from me here in Donelson. We have some exciting new things planned for 2015 and I'm super pumped about all of the amazing speakers and topics that are being offered. I'm giving away a ticket over at nurturing YOU naturally so go enter to win.
Reading & Journaling - I set a goal to read 30 books this year. You can see my reading wish list here. So far I'm on track much thanks to cold nights that leave me snuggling under the covers drinking Crockpot Peppermint Hot Chocolate. Most recently I finished Every Bitter Thing is Sweet (only $2.80 on Amazon right now), which has inspired me to start journaling every single day. I've been writing about once a week but I have a lot of thoughts to process these days and writing it down has helped me to make sense of them. And now my girl has decided she wants to journal every day too. Monkey see. Monkey do. Gosh, I love her times a million!

That's about it for January. I'm doing well on my New Year's Resolutions. Basically, we are just trotting right along. Happy New Year everyone!

More January pics here.

*Amazon affiliate link included. 

January 29, 2015

Complete Review: Teach Them Diligently Convention (Nashville)

Individual daily recaps can be found here, which detail which sessions I attended and the wealth of information I learned.
I had an amazing time at the Teach Them Diligently Convention here in Nashville. This is a complete overview of my experience at the 3-day event. 

Registration and Costs

I was thankful that this conference was held at Opryland just a few minutes from my home. That helped to keep expenses low for this first timer. I also registered back in December when they were offering the early bird rate and used a discount code. I loved that my $35 fee included registration for the whole family including grandparents. What a deal!

Sessions and Speakers

I had quite a time trying to decide which sessions to go to but every single speaker had great information to share. I wish I could have heard them all. They do have all of the sessions recorded and available for purchase but I'm a visual learner who tunes out with audio only. Here are a few awards for my favorite sessions. 

Sharon Hofer - Most delightful speaker. Then again, every artist I have ever met is always delightful. She was just so passionate about what she helps children acheive. 

Joyce Herzog - Spunkiest speaker. After 60 years in education, I suppose you can afford to be spunky. She certainly has the knowledge to back it up. 

Carol Barnier - Funniest speaker. She says she put 'snark' in homeschooling. I believe it. With a book title like "How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On to Learning" I'm sure you can imagine how entertaining she is. 

Rhea Perry - Most excited speaker. This lady talked a mile a minute, which was awesome because we received 2 hours worth of education into one. After it was all said and done, she may have convinced me to finally write the ebook I've been thinking about. 

New to homeschooling? Definitely check out the Five Flavors of Homeschool by Sonya Shafer. It was a fantastic overview. 

Want some practical tips? You need to sit in on a session with Becky Spence from This Reading Mama. I came away with more ideas from her class than any other. 

Children's Program

For only $40 I was able to include my kid in Mission: Incredible, an onsite children's program, that took place all day Saturday and Sunday. I was extremely thankful that I had somewhere for her to go so that I could attend sessions alone and soak it all in without distraction. They had 700 children in the program so it was a bit chaotic at times but I never felt that my 7-year-old was unsafe and she had a great time. I will definitely utilize this resource again next year. 

Vendor Hall

This was the most intimidating part of the whole conference. First of all, it was huge! There were a TON of exhibitors. It was also very busy! I wandered around aimlessly more than once. I did stop by a few booths and the representatives were extremely nice and never pushy. It was a great way to gain information on individual curriculum choices. At this point in time, I still feel like I need to do more research before I purchase anything. I'm also an Internet research junkie by nature. I don't make on-the-spot purchases. I do the research at home and show up knowing exactly what I want. I will say that they had some great deals at the event and I definitely want to be more prepared next year to take advantage of that. 

Overall Thoughts

The conference was everything I hoped it would be and more. It was refreshing to be around other parents who have chosen home education for their children. I don't have any stereotypical ideas about how homeschool families look and act but I know some people do. Lots of moms looked just like me and in the "distractible child" session I learned that many of them have kids who act just like mine. LOL! 

I came away encouraged to not be so uptight about curriculum and focus more on my child and her needs. It's still hard to get out of the public school mindset and worry about when my kid should be doing multiplication and long division to keep up with her peers. Those type of comparisons are just an extension of the mommy wars in my mind and I'm not gonna do it. I think somewhere along the line I've become afraid that my "advanced" child will fall behind the curve and become an "average" child. I was reminded and encouraged to homeschool for the reasons I started. For me, it has less to do with academics and more to do with life skills. Although, it's very possible that she will turn out just fine in the academics department too but it's not my main goal. 

While this conference is labeled as a 'homeschool' event, I truly believe that any parent could attend and walk away with knowledge that they could put into practice outside of a home education environment. Because I learned so many valuable lessons about development and parenting, be warned, I'm going to try to convince all of my friends to go next year. I PROMISE, you will walk away feeling just as encouraged and empowered as I did! You might as well just go ahead and sign up.

January 5, 2015

Peppermint Crockpot Hot Chocolate

Ok, I've seen these posts all over Pinterest and I finally decided to give it a try on New Year's Eve. Except that I've been spoiled by the peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks so that's the flavor I was going for. I also don't like my hot chocolate runny. I like it kinda thick, so here's what I did.
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 carton (16 oz) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 can (8 oz) sweet & condensed milk
  • 1 bag (10 oz) Andes baking chips
NOTE: If you don't want peppermint flavor just use regular milk chocolate chips or semi-sweet or a combination of both. 

Add all items to Crockpot. Cook on high for 1-1/2 hours stirring frequently. Once all chocolate has dissolved, ladle into mugs and top with a few marshmallows.

The result? Amazing! Oh my goodness. It was so creamy and minty and just plain ole delicious. Plus, it was SUPER easy. Crockpot for the win, again!

With January's bitter temperatures on the brink, I will definitely be making this again. Soon! Like, tonight.

January 1, 2015

My 2015 Resolutions

Here we are again at the start of a new year. I do love a fresh start. I did really well on my 2014 resolutions. This year, I have some new goals to tackle. 

1. Memorize Scripture. It's my heart's desire to parent in a grace-filled and Biblical way. In parenting, you don't always have time to reflect and pray about how to handle any given situation. Most days you need to respond quickly. Therefore, I need to have God's word readily available. I recently purchased Parenting With Scripture, which is a topical guide with verses and resources for a variety of situations. My goal is to memorize some key verses this year along with some longer passages. I'll be using the Bible Memory: Scripture Typer app to help me along the way. 

2. New Life Motto. This is something that has been on my heart for about 2 years but it's taken me this long to really wrap my head around it. My previous motto was "I don't do drama." I still shy away from such nonsense but my new motto is "Make decisions in love, not fear." I vividly remember two situations where I used this tactic in 2014. It had such a profound effect on me that I'm making it my new life motto. It really deserves a post all on it's own but I'm still having trouble getting it into words because it encompasses SO much. For now, I'm just going to try to live this out every day. 

3. The 52 Week Money Challenge. You've seen this on Facebook, I'm sure. The first week you put $1 in a jar. The next week you put in $2. You proceed like this all the way up to the last week of the year and you have saved almost $1400. I read a suggestion to do it in reverse. Start with the highest amount ($52) on the first week and go down. That way you are saving the most when you are really eager to get started and only saving a few dollars during Christmas. This makes MUCH more sense. This is how I plan to approach it. My main goal, however, is basically to just save something each week and to get all of the boxes checked off at the end of the year, even if I do them all out of order. I converted to the envelope system about 3 months ago and I think this goal will pair nicely with my weekly spending system. Here's the Free Printable that I'm using from aHelicopterMom.com (click link for PDF).

That's it! Those are my top 3 goals for 2015. I have some other things that I'm working on but these are my priorities. 

What are your New Year's Resolutions?