Friday, June 24, 2016

A Lesson from the Dishwasher

Most of the dishes had already been loaded into the dishwasher, but on a last moment whim I decided to put the salad into a plastic container in the hopes it would get eaten quicker that way.  I took the empty salad bowl and attempted to find a place for it in the dishwasher.  There was a spot next to a pan and a larger bowl where I knew it would fit, but after 5 tries I couldn't make it work. If I had just taken the pan and large bowl out and placed the salad bowl in first, everything would fit beautifully.  But I just didn't want to have to do that.  As I was struggling with it all and finally just took everything out, it occurred to me how this happens with the important stuff in our life.

The important stuff can fit in our lives with ease IF we put the important things in first.  I can't tell you how many times I go to bed so frustrated with myself because I still didn't get that exercise in or that regular Bible time with the kids re-instituted.  I have a whole day to do this 30 minute activity and yet here I am again going to bed with it undone.  Granted, I juggle a lot of things and my body can only take so much before it crashes.  It is understandable - as I'm sure is the case with you - that every day there are things that I just can't get to.  But today is always the best day to sit down and decide the most important things.  Once you decide what is most important, then put it in first.  That may look like as soon as you get up in the morning you do it first.  That's the way exercise works best for me.  Still, putting important things in first may look like building your day around 30 minutes after lunch.  It requires a mental commitment to doing what is needed to ensure this important thing happens.

We primarily cook/eat at home because it something Mr. Butler and I have deemed as important - for finances, health reasons, and pace of life.  In order for that to happen, we have to have groceries available which requires me to go to the store.  I can be committed to cooking all day long but if I don't plan and execute trips to the store and money to pay for the food, it won't happen.  I can want something, but if I don't execute certain things in the right order, it will become unimportant and unfeasible really fast.  This little scenario applies to every direction we look.  Relationships, organizations, health, finances, education, any project we'll ever be involved in.  The Bible, yet again, says it best. When we build our days on the rocks of our most important things, our success and satisfaction is much more sure.

Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016 A Homeschool Record Keeping Review Review
Besides time management skills, one of the areas I need the most work in as a homeschooling parent is organization.  That's why I was excited and hesitant all at the same time to try My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) from Even though I need help being better organized, I find it really hard to fully embrace one system either from being overwhelmed by one or needing more than another offers.  The hard truth for this free-spirited mama is that records - like attendance and transcripts - have to be kept to do right by my job as an educator.  So, my lifelong dance with organization and record keeping continues!  
For this review, I received an annual membership valued at $40 (vs. the $5 monthly membership) which gave me full access to all the organizational tools, tracking, reviewing, and reporting tools, and full support and security features. From the initial browse through the website, it is clear there are a lot of things this program can do.
It can track:
  • Attendance (including 1/2 days, holidays, and any non-term days)
  • Awards (includes date and sponsor options)
  • Events (conference, contest, field trip, performance, etc.)
  • Reading Log/List
  • Standardized Tests
  • Extra Curricular Activities (Volunteer, Sports, Organization, Internship, etc.)
It allows you to control:
  • Schools
  • Terms (School Years)
  • Students
  • Subjects
It is equipped to:

  • Produce Transcripts & Report Cards
  • Produce Reports of all kinds
  • Create and equally divide over time lesson plans
  • Copy/Repeat Lessons
  • Guide you through each step with Teachers Aide
  • Send email updates

The interface of the My School Year is relatively simple, clean and almost everything you need is just a click or two away.  Something I love about this program is all the varied activities it can keep track of - like field trips and performances.  Life gets so busy that it is easy to forget about different things - whether just for your own memories or for transcript purposes.  If you used this throughout a child's education, you would have all kinds of information in one place.

Due to the nature of my schedule - very fluid some weeks - and the young ages of my children, I cringe at scheduling lessons down to the hour.  One week somebody adores one subject with all the compliance in the world and then the next week it appears to be their own form of torture suddenly.  A handy tool My School Year offers is the reschedule lesson option.  When things don't go according to plan, you just rearrange things.

As they always do, the details tend to overwhelm me and this program is FULL of detail oriented options.  However, this program doesn't appear to leave anything out and for a scatter-brained girl like me, that is very useful in keeping me on track.  It was hard for me to get everything set up complete with classes and lesson plans because it took a lot of initial work in entering all the data, but I expect once the first year was under your belt, maintaining would be a lot simpler.  I would highly recommend this program for parents of middle school or high school students for the purposes of transcript needs.  

If you are in the market for a tool like this, but still aren't sure this is for you, offers a 1 month free trial so you can know what you are purchasing.

Keep up with on Social Media:

Twitter:  https:///  @MySchoolYearWeb

Homeschool Record Keeping { Review}
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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Excuses We Tell Ourselves

If you've ever met Mr. Butler, you know that he has logic and mechanics of brain in abundance, empathy and compassion usually only come after the previous has been exhausted.   Of course, I'm the opposite.  Regardless of reality or logic, I feel the plight of man with every word presented to me. Problem solving around our house can be challenging to say the least.  It is common to hear him reject someone's statement as an excuse, while I am usually proposing the statement is an explanation tool.  Potato, potahto, right?  Either way, he has said something lately that resonated with me.  

"I wish people would just be honest and say they aren't going to or don't want to do something, rather than a huge drawn out excuse built to hide the fact that they just don't want to do something."

In context, it sounds harsh at first, but the more I've thought about it, the more I agree with it.  It happens all the time when someone complains or explains why they aren't/can't do this thing.  I can't lose weight, I have to spend this money, I just can't believe that's what God wants me to do, it would never work, etc.  Mostly, we're saying we don't want to do what it takes to avoid this circumstance and truth be told the majority of us don't like being told what to do - even if it's by science, economics or our moms.

It's a good habit for me, but it's more importantly a habit I'm hoping to teach my children.  When making a decision or statement, break it down to it's most simplest terms.  When we say, I can't get healthy or I don't have time to go to the gym, in most cases, we're really just saying that I don't want to eat differently or drive an extra 15 minutes and spend 45 minutes in the gym.  Once you say it out loud like that, if you can accept that statement as it is, then okay.  If we refuse to accept it's simplest form than we are deceiving ourselves somewhere along the way and it needs a closer look.

I think about my children choosing friends, jobs, colleges, mates, etc., and how blessed they might be if they are able to simplify why they choose one over another.  Sometimes we really do like people for their money or how important we feel at a job, but if we never consider what's really behind our motives, there is real danger lurking.

"The more successful you become, the more complicated life gets.  
Not being successful is easy.  Choose wisely."
-Mark Cenicola

Friday, June 10, 2016

Herbs, Allergies and Oils: Oh My!

After a great camping trip to Arkansas, I was reminded how good being outside and interacting with God's creation is good for your health and soul.  If you've never considered that fact or at least given yourself enough time in nature to notice a difference, you absolutely should.  I am convicted that the more we live in this world as God designed, the better everything is.  That includes the things we put in our bodies and why I love having access to so many herbs, oils and supplements.  Would you like to learn more about all of that?   I'm happy to chat about it anytime.  If you'd like more education, here are a couple of events coming up that I'm a part of:

Does your family struggle with seasonal - or even chronic - allergies? Did you know that some allergies come from a toxic system?  The Herb Garden is hosting a free online class, All About Allergies about reasons why allergies are a problem at all and some great herbal and essential oil remedies we use to manage and often eliminate allergy problems.  

Are you near the OKC metro?  In a couple of weeks, The Herb Garden is hosting Herbs and Oils: A Perfect Blend at my home and you are welcome to join us!  We've heard a lot about essential oils in the media lately and this class intends to discuss how complimentary and important to each other they are.  You'll also get to try out Nature's Sunshine's new line of Authentic Essential Oils!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

MaxScholar: A Reading Intervention Program Review

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

There can be all kinds of levels and grade expectations in our society, but sometimes we are just going to struggle.  Things like Dyslexia, ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, Autism and just any learning difficulty are factors in many children's learning.  MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs were designed with those children in mind.   MaxScholar is a comprehensive, multi-sensory, reading and language-based program that is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, the Lindamood-Bell Process and other research-based methods.  For this review, we received a one-year license for two students to the K-2 programs, MaxPhonics and MaxReading.

What is Included:

MaxPhonics includes multi-sensory activities like videos with songs and correct pronunciation, handwriting practice and drills for individual letters, blends and digraphs.  MaxReading includes 13 levels of reading passages, comprehension questions, vocabulary in context and introducing highlighting, summarizing and outlining the texts.

What Worked and What Didn't:

At first glance I intended for Miss Z (almost 3) to start playing around with MaxPhonics because she begs to learn about letters all the time.  Unfortunately, it did not hold her attention very long, but instead became frustrated because she wanted to 'do' something else.  She is a hands-on gal and the only hands-on element that was relevant to her age was handwriting, but still a bit beyond her.  Ultimately, I made a wrong judgement call in her readiness for this program.  It is designed for older kids and would be best suited to address a specific need or skill.  If J had struggles with phonics or certain blends, this program would be ideal for that.  He enjoyed going through some of the activities mostly because he knew it already.  As it turns out phonics are one of his natural strengths.

J instead spent most of his time on MaxReading. He has just started reading books on his own which put him at level K.  In addition to reading practice, what this program helped him with was attention to details.  He is an active, action loving kid that will overlook the (subjective) unnecessary information.  The reading prep would begin with a picture that you would later be asked questions about, requiring you to have paid attention to details in the picture.  He was frustrated at first, but took to it better once he understood what it was looking for.  One thing that we didn't love was that since he didn't make it past the K level yet, the program wouldn't allow him access to the games yet.  I'm sure they were just beyond his level, but his personality likes the variety of games mixed in.

Who Should Buy This:  If your child or student is struggling with phonics or reading, this is a great option!  If your child needs a more guided approach to comprehension, the highlighting and outlining portion of MaxReading is a great tool.  The slower pace and repetitions of both programs provide the best opportunity to fill in the specific gaps in someone's struggling education.

Keep up with MaxScholar on Social Media: 

    Twitter: @MaxScholarLLC,
    Pintrest: MaxScholar LLC,
    Google+: MaxScholar,
    LinkedIn: MaxScholar,
    YouTube: MaxScholar LLC,

Check out what other Crew Members thought about MaxScholar:

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Adventures In Arkansas, Part 2

On Friday morning, we hiked the Devil's Den Trail and racked up some steps for sure!  It was cool and beautiful - perfect day for a hike.

By the end, both of the kids had acquired walking sticks and felt to be quite the hiking experts.  From there we drove over to Petit Jean State Park where we stayed at their lodge for the night.  The view out the back of the lodge was gorgeous (as you can see in the first picture below).

We ate at the lodge's restaurant, which was good and had a fabulous view too, and then stopped by Cedar Falls Overlook before we headed to watch the sunset and visit with a park ranger.

Saturday morning we packed up and hiked the Cedar Falls Trail, which turned out to be more challenging for the kids than we expected, but they did awesome!  And the views were worth it.


Saturday afternoon we headed over to some old friends house where they blessed us so much by our visit.  Sunday morning the kids helped with breakfast before we joined them for worship in Little Rock.  

After lunch, we headed home and this pretty much sums up everything else. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

For many of you, school has just let out and Summer Break has begun.  That means Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse is just in time for a new academic year!  Although a school year looks different for every homeschooling family, we all need some kind of planning method to fight the madness.  Even before I was in charge of anyone else's education, I always struggled to find a planner that met my needs and made me smile.  When I was given the chance to review a planner specifically designed for the homeschooling mama, I knew it was worth a try!

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

What I noticed first about the planner was its size.  It is a spiral bound notebook less than a 1/2 inch thick - thin enough to fit in most bags or medium to large sized purses, but big enough to write out ideas with comfort.  Especially for multi-student planning, those pocket-size planners just don't do the trick.  As you can see in the picture, Hey Mama! is just enough in all manners of size. 

This planner runs from July 2016 to June 2017 and perfect for those looking ahead to another school year starting in the fall.  Since we school year round, the dates of a planner aren't all that important as long as you have unmarked weekly planning pages and have the option to photocopy extras when needed:

There are 12 monthly calendars that begin with a "Hey Mama," devotional and monthly notes.  After that begin the 36 weekly planning pages with more "Hey Mama," devotionals throughout. The last section of the planner includes a host of planning resources and options including monthly, semester and yearly goals, attendance charts, reading logs, curriculum planning pages and reference pages for writing, historical dates, presidents, capitals, and a resource on creating academic transcripts.  It's a great collection of things that are useful for a variety of ages and purposes.

Honestly, there are a zillion different planners or apps to keep up with your stuff.  I've attempted to use many along the way and now that this homeschooling thing is really moving along, I'm learning (out of necessity) what is really useful and important to me and what is not.  Writing things out - from plans to just ideas - is ten times more effective than typing them into a device.  It may not be hip to say so, but there is something about pen to paper that helps my brain process better.  Keeping our goals, collectively and individually, in mind improves my attitude and thus the school days.  This Hey Mama! planner encourages me to be a better, more well thought out planner myself.  I need more things like that in my life.  If you decide to order one of these planners before July 15th, you can get $10 off a with the code: CREWCODE

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

Keep up with all the great things The Old Schoolhouse is doing through social media:

Twitter:  @TOSMag

Check out what other members of the Crew had to say about this planner:

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

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