Is it possible to be a dedicated homeschooling mom while still making time for myself as an individual (a girlie girl who likes cute shoes)? I like to think so. Follow along, and I'll let you know for sure.

Trust me . . . it's not ALL about the shoes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Another (Finally!) Eager Learner

Ever get struck in the middle of a crazy, hectic day by overwhelming wave of gratitude for being able to share a special moment with your kids? Well, that’s what Thankful Thursday is all about. Each week, I’ll aim to share a special moment that I would have missed had my kids been away at school . . . and I’m counting on all of you to share yours, too. It will give us something to reflect on during those other six crazy, hectic days!
 
I love that my past few Thankful Thursday posts have been about my little girl. It's easy to get caught up in all the amazing learning the oldest is doing, but somehow, the second time around, even the greatest of feats seem a little less novel. Add to that the fact that she's not as enthusiastic of a learner and can't be pushed, and sometimes I really do spend more time focusing on Noah.
 
But something has happened with Ava recently. Maybe it's her age, or perhaps it's the consistency of being back in the classroom for a few weeks now.  Whatever the cause, I'm seeing an openness to learning that has never been there before. She's always eager for school, and I'm seeing a more positive attitude emerge. I think a lot of her previous negativity was based in self-doubt (and the frustration that her brother was always 2 1/2 years "ahead" of her), and I'm hoping that was mainly a phase that is on its way out. 
 
I've spent the past year alternating between worrying that she wasn't doing what Noah was doing at her age (reading, writing, etc.) and reminding myself that all kids are different. In hindsight, I think my real worry was that she didn't seem to want to learn. Maybe this was a way of differentiating herself from him, but in any case, I'm thankful that it seems to have passed - and that homeschooling afforded us the flexibility to let her progress at her own pace. 
 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wild Idea Wednesday - Asking for Help

Need some new ideas for keeping learning fun? I’ll be sharing our favorites each week on Wednesday. To be honest, the thought of committing myself to having one great idea every week is stress-inducing, so I’m going to put it out there in advance that I will probably borrow heavily from all my wise mama friends.

When my kids come up with questions I can't answer, I'm never shy about asking for help. And whether that means visiting the bank so Noah can ask his questions about money or traipsing up the steps to Capital Hill at midnight so Ava could ask the guard with the really huge gun how she could go inside to "see the bills", I'm always the first to tell them I don't know everything and help them find someone who can.

Our current unit on cars is no different. It's almost laughable actually that I'm even teaching a unit on cars, considering how little I know about them. But when it came time to work on our graph of car prices, going straight to the source seemed much more fun than finding the info online. And that's how today's field trip ended up being at Carmax. I figured that would be easier than driving around to different dealerships so Noah could compare prices on different makes and models.

Fortunately, the folks at Carmax were happy to oblige and turned us loose on the lot, offering to answer any questions as needed. During our visit, Noah learned how to look for the year, make and model and practiced rounding the prices up to the nearest thousand. Later this week, we'll chart them on the bar graph in the lapbook. He's also doing an alphabet photo book featuring different makes of cars, so he was able to get at least half the letters covered in just one stop.

I just pulled his photos off the camera to snag one for this post, but over the next week or so, I'm going to show him how to edit them in Photoshop. In glancing at them briefly, my favorite part is how you can see his reflection in every one!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching Tool Tuesday - First Pictures of our Crazy About Cars Lapbook

Don't forget that the Crazy About Cars Lapbook is available for download from the "Curriculum to Share" sidebar. I'm so thrilled with how ours in turning out! Noah can't wait to finish it because once it's done, we get to move on to building his model fuel cell car. The "stop light" circles on the front aren't part of the template. They were Noah's idea, and we cut them out of the extra file folder parts left over from making the lapbook body.

Here are some pictures of our lapbook. If you decide to make this one, I hope you'll leave me a comment on how it turns out or share some pictures over at the Homeschooling in Heels Facebook page.

 
 
 

Teaching Tool Tuesday - Mad About Money Week 1 Curriculum / Lapbook Now Available!

Don’t tell, but my wish lists at Lakeshore Learning and Amazon are much longer than the one I have at Endless.com. Honestly, I’m a complete sucker for books and educational games, software and toys. But this past year I’ve honed my ability to discern which tools will be fun once or twice and which ones we'll use over and over . . . and I’ll be sharing our favorites with you every Tuesday.  


I've definitely never blogged about my own curriculum on Teaching Tool Tuesday, but I'm so excited about how our money unit is turning out that I'm making an exception. Last week, I taught week one of the money unit to our homeschool co-op, and we started the related components of our money lapbook. I've also never done a lapbook in small stages like this, but so far, I'm liking it a lot.

The early parts of the money curriculum are based heavily on The Everything Kids' Money Book and cover the history of money, types of money and some very basic personal finance. We'll dive deeper into personal finance in the later part of the unit (which I'm planning will take all year), using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, Jr.

The Week 1 curriculum and lapbook components are now available to download. You'll find them in the right sidebar under "Curriculum to Share". I'd love to hear from anyone planning to do this unit along with us, and as always, I always love to hear comments or suggestions on my lapbook templates! 
 

It's Tuesday - Time for the Hip Homeschool Hop!


Time to check out some other great homeschooling blogs this morning as part of the Hip Homeschool Hop! Be sure to stop by and visit Hip Homeschool Moms to get some great ideas from other homeschooling mamas.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Me Time" Monday - Still No Excuses

It's true that Monday isn’t the first day that comes to mind when I think of having some time for myself. I’m more likely to spend this particular day tackling mountains of laundry, piles of dishes and otherwise catching up from a busy weekend. So each week, I’ll be making a point to try out a new idea for “me time” and reporting back every Monday, when we all need inspiration the most.

I'm happy to report that week 2 of "No Excuses Exercise" was also a success, despite my hubby being gone on business the entire week. The night he left, my workout came at 10PM after getting the kids in bed and a little work done, and I whined and complained the entire time. On Wednesday, my mom took the kids so I could go to dance class, so I managed to sneak in a workout before I left. Other days, I used the kids' quiet time or just bribed them with a movie. No excuses, right???

Already, I'm noticing a huge difference in how I feel, and I'm hoping that's enough motivation to keep the excuses at bay!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time-Saving Sunday - Advance Preparation

We love our weekend family time, but Sunday often becomes my day to prepare for the upcoming week. This will be the day I’ll call upon some fabulous mama friends to share their expertise on how to keep our homes running smoothly and our families well fed while still leaving plenty of time for school. 

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm in the midst of a new organizational kick with routines, schedules and the whole nine yards. It's an evolution to get there, but already I can tell that I like where I'm headed - I just wish I could hurry up and get to the end already!

One of my new ideas is to make prepping for the next school day part of my evening routine. I've always thought that planning for the next day - laying out clothes, packing lunches, etc. - made a lot of sense, but until recently, my "evening routine" consisted of finishing work at 2AM and collapsing. My solution has been do complete my evening routine before starting work for the night, and although it's far from perfect, it's definitely been an improvement. 

In the classroom especially, having all our resources for the next day out on the table makes it so much easier to get going, even if I'm still a little foggy from lack of sleep. When the kids are a little older, and I'm a little more experienced at being organized, I plan to have them help with preparing for the next school day. 


How do you prepare for your upcoming school days? Daily? Weekly? By the seat of your pants? I'd love to hear some new ideas!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shoe Sale Saturday - Great Shoe Giveaway

I know that I keep saying “it’s not all about the shoes”, but sometimes it is . . . just a little. And Saturday seemed like a good day to reward myself for a hard week’s work by browsing the best shoe deals online . . . who knows, maybe you’ll reward yourself too!

On Monday, September 27th, The Healthy Voyager is giving away a pair of Neuaura shoes - the super-cute Heron pumps in teal. I hadn't heard of Neuaura before, so after entering the giveaway, I headed over to their website to check out the shoes.  

Turns out that not only does Neuaura make great-looking shoes, but all their footwear is animal-free and the company is committed to protecting the environment. Their factory. located in Brazil, is powered by hydroelectricity and sponsors a habitat for endangered animals native to their area. Even it I'm not lucky enough to win the giveaway, there may be a new pair of Neuaura in my closet soon!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Field Trip Friday - Smithsonian Museum Day

No plans for tomorrow? Why not head into town and check out a museum - for free? On Saturday, September 25th, museums across the country will open their doors and offer free admission to those holding a Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day ticket. The ticket is valid for the passholder and one guest, with a limit of one ticket per household.

Tickets can be downloaded from their website, and while you're there, see what museums near you are participating. Here's a rundown of participating museums in Central Florida.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Me and My Girl

Ever get struck in the middle of a crazy, hectic day by overwhelming wave of gratitude for being able to share a special moment with your kids? Well, that’s what Thankful Thursday is all about. Each week, I’ll aim to share a special moment that I would have missed had my kids been away at school . . . and I’m counting on all of you to share yours, too. It will give us something to reflect on during those other six crazy, hectic days!
 
Seems like it's usually my boy that I'm blogging about, which of course makes me feel guilty as only a mother can feel. He'll always be two years older and two years "ahead", and I think she gets frustrated knowing that. 
 
In addition to the age difference, my two have wildly different personalities. Noah is very confident; it's never occurred to him that he might not be the very best at everything in the world. Ava, on the other hand, is very hard on herself and full of self-doubt. It's hard to watch, and even harder wondering if those are habits she picked up from me (more mama guilt there).
 
As a result, she tends to hold back in the classroom, not trying things for fear that she won't do it right. It's hard not to push, but I really try to let her move forward at her own pace - and every once in a while we have a breakthrough. Lately I've noticed her being discouraged with drawing, which to her is pretty much still scribbling at this point. When she wants to draw something specific, she'll tell me she doesn't know how and ask me to draw it for her.
 
The other day we were playing in her room with a magnadoodle book that showed in 3-4 steps how to draw a variety of things. I picked it up, started talking about how I had no idea how to draw an umbrella (cupcake, bird, etc.) and how I was so glad to have a book to show me how to do it. She was excited to watch me draw and turned the pages for me . . . and when we were done, she eagerly grabbed the book away and declared it her turn. 
 
Not only did she enjoy recreating each picture step by step, but it's the first time I've seen her draw something with any intent behind it - and something I could recognize! I think seeing me work through the process made her realize that it's okay to try things even when you don't know where to start - and let her know that I'm always with her every step of the way!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wild Idea Wednesday - (Vita)Mixing Up Some Art

Need some new ideas for keeping learning fun? I’ll be sharing our favorites each week on Wednesday. To be honest, the thought of committing myself to having one great idea every week is stress-inducing, so I’m going to put it out there in advance that I will probably borrow heavily from all my wise mama friends.

Somehow, the start of the school year has me ready for new routines and that includes new recipes. I've been in a cooking rut for a while, so I've been re-reading favorite cookbooks for inspiration. Who knew I would find a fun school idea that involved my Vitamix???

While looking for recipes, I discovered two recipes in the kids section - one for play dough and one for finger paint. It was a tough choice, but the kids voted to try finger paint first. I was hoping to get to it today, but the cars lapbook - hot off the press - won out. Hopefully we'll get to try it later this week. 

Finger Paint 

½ cup (120 ml) cornstarch
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups (480 ml) cold water
Food coloring

Place the first three ingredients into the container. Secure lid. Select VARIABLE speed #1. Turn on machine and quickly increase speed to #10; then to HIGH. Run machine for 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Divide into 4 equal portions and mix in food coloring by hand. Store in 4 small jars.

Play Dough 

2 cups (480 ml) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
½ cup (120ml) salt
2 tbs. oil
2 cups (480 ml) water
Food coloring

Place all ingredients in the container. Secure lid. Select VARIABLE speed #1. Turn on the machine and quickly increase speed to #10; then to HIGH. Run machine for 4 or 5 minutes or until the blades spin free. Remove dough quickly as it thickens fast.

My plan is to let them each do some of the measuring then experiment with mixing different colors to make the paint. When it's all ready, I'll tape up some paper in the shower and turn them loose to create their masterpieces!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teaching Tool Tuesday - Balance Benders

Don’t tell, but my wish lists at Lakeshore Learning and Amazon are much longer than the one I have at Endless.com. Honestly, I’m a complete sucker for books and educational games, software and toys. But this past year I’ve honed my ability to discern which tools will be fun once or twice and which ones we'll use over and over . . . and I’ll be sharing our favorites with you every Tuesday.  

This is what my little guy can't get enough of these days - Balance Benders from The Critical Thinking Company. In case you haven't heard me rave about their curriculum before, we love them! Yes, love.

This book is his his favorite of the three we purchased for this year. Here's the description from the company website:

Move over Sudoku, here come Balance Benders™! You can use these books as quick, fun logic problems or as stepping stones to success in algebra. Children develop deductive thinking and pre-algebra skills as they solve balance puzzles that are more fun and addictive than Sudoku puzzles! Children must analyze each balance to identify the clues, and then synthesize the information to solve the puzzle. Try one—and then try to stop!

They're not joking about the "try to stop" part. Noah attempted to complete the entire book in one sitting last week. In fact, every book we've purchased from them, I've actually had to ration so he didn't sit down and complete it in one sitting - although these days I either just let him go to town with it or I use it as an incentive to get other work completed.  

Still not sure whether to call this math or critical thinking in our activity log, but as long as Noah keeps calling it his favorite, I don't really care!

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Me Time" Monday - No Excuses Exercise

It's true that Monday isn’t the first day that comes to mind when I think of having some time for myself. I’m more likely to spend this particular day tackling mountains of laundry, piles of dishes and otherwise catching up from a busy weekend. So each week, I’ll be making a point to try out a new idea for “me time” and reporting back every Monday, when we all need inspiration the most.

At times, I exercise a lot and with a good amount of consistency. And then there are the other times. You know what I'm talking about, right? The times when life always seems to get in the way. The days are too long, too full and too many other people need to be taken care of . . . and pretty soon, my daily routine slips away and it's all I can do to drag myself to dance class once or twice a week.

Let me tell you up front that I'm great at the excuses. And some of them are actually legitimate. After all, in addition to caring for and teaching my kids during the day, I work as a technical writer at night. Working until 2 or 3AM make it hard enough to drag myself out of bed at 8AM to start our day - much less get up at the crack of dawn to get a workout in first. Evenings prove equally challenging. When school is done for the day, there's still a household to run, dinner to cook, children to care for and - once my husband is home and has taken over - my paying job to do.

I know you get it. You're busy too. So what's a time-starved homeschooling mama to do? This past week, I made my second attempts at "No Excuses Exercise" - 5-6 workouts a week no matter what. My first attempt several weeks ago failed pretty miserably. But this time turned out to be quite a success.

Here's what I think helped this time:
  • I put each workout for the week on my schedule, finding the right time for it based on the day's activities. I like structure, so I used to give up completely if I couldn't work out at the same time every day. Unfortunately, my late nights and Jim's occasional early mornings don't always allow for this. But being flexible - yet still having a plan - seems to be the key.
  • I was more realistic with my goals. About a year ago, I purchased the P90X DVDs. I loved them, but I couldn't figure out how to do 60-90 minutes of P90X a day in addition to my existing commitments to dance and running. This time, I'm aiming for three P90X workouts a week and am substituting the cardio I'm already doing (running, swimming and biking) for his two weekly cardio workouts. Plus, I'm not a fan of his yoga, so I'm subbing a yoga DVD I love so that I'll look forward to it each week.
  • This time, I decided that this commitment to myself is just as important than any I typically make (and follow through on) for family or friends. I wouldn't back out and let them down, and I'm not going to let myself down either.

Over the years, I'd fooled myself into believing that it was okay to let exercise slip down to the bottom of the priority list - that my other responsibilities were more important. But deep down I knew that wasn't true, and I'm ready to make excuses a thing of the past.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time-Saving Sunday - Finding a Routine

We love our weekend family time, but Sunday often becomes my day to prepare for the upcoming week. This will be the day I’ll call upon some fabulous mama friends to share their expertise on how to keep our homes running smoothly and our families well fed while still leaving plenty of time for school. 

We've started something new in our house recently - and it works so well I can't believe we didn't do it sooner. The idea came from my friend Regina (wish she had her blog up so I could link to her - hint, hint!) She is full of great ideas and teaches classes on couponing, home management and much more.

As part of our homework from our first home management class, we had to establish morning and evening routines for our house. Now of course I have an idea of the things that need to be done to start and end our day, but having them in my head means there's only one person who knows how/when to do them - ME!

Getting them down on paper (with pictures so Ava can follow along) has been fantastic. The kids run through the list, checking back when the finish one item to see what is next. It's amazing to see them dressed, teeth brushed, animals fed, etc. without me having to remind them 10 times!

The morning routine is so helpful in getting us into the classroom on time, prepared and with housework (dishes and a load of laundry) underway. I made sure the end the list with something fun (reading time with Mommy) to keep them moving through it, and it also serves as a nice transition into school time.
 
Now if I could just get things running that smoothly in the classroom . . . maybe I need a written routine for that, too!

Mad About Money Lapbook is Underway!

Here's the first sneak preview from the Mad About Money lapbook that is finally underway.

This unit will cover both the history of money and the basics of personal finance. My two main resources are The Everything Kids Money Book, a wonderful resource I stumbled upon at Barnes and Noble, and Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, Jr. curriculum.

I'm going to be releasing this one in phases as I complete our bi-weekly lesson plan for co-op, so each section of the lapbook will include a complete lesson plan to go with it. I just finished Week 1: The Story of Money, but my co-op kids get to see it first. I'll be sure to post it after class on Thursday!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shoe Sale Saturday - Salsa!

I know that I keep saying “it’s not all about the shoes”, but sometimes it is . . . just a little. And Saturday seemed like a good day to reward myself for a hard week’s work by browsing the best shoe deals online . . . who knows, maybe you’ll reward yourself too!

So here's what I'm buying this weekend . . . my very first pair of salsa shoes. I know nothing about salsa, mind you, but I will be performing it on stage in a mere two months. In fact, at my next major bellydance show, only one of my performances will actually be bellydance (the others will be salsa and Romani).

The salsa routine is intimidating for about a dozen reasons, and I've thought many times about retreating to my comfort zone. But, each escape attempt is foiled by a seemingly random coincidence, so I taking that as a sign that it's where I'm meant to be. It feels like a major life accomplishment that I'm even open to this, as in my younger days I'd launch an unwavering fight to make things go my way.

So as you can imagine, these shoes are a big deal - way more than just a pair of shoes. I wonder where they'll take me . . .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Field Trip Friday - Salute to Homeschool at Kennedy Space Center

Your future astronaut is cordially invited to spend a day exploring Kennedy Space Center, with special activities designed to inspire the next generation of space explorers. Kennedy Space Center will be hosting their annual Salute to Homeschool on Saturday, October 2nd from 9:30AM to 4:30PM.

During this unique homeschool field trip, you'll take a bus tour of KSC, participate in special hands-on activities, learn about the latest NASA accomplishments, strap in to the Shuttle Launch Experience and even come face-to-face with an actual astronaut. The cost of $31.50 includes full-day admission to KSC, as well as a 3-D IMAX space film, a tour of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and a private, interactive briefing about NASA's latest mission.

Registration forms are available online, or you can call 866-737-5235 for additional information.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Please (Please!!!) Share

Ever get struck in the middle of a crazy, hectic day by overwhelming wave of gratitude for being able to share a special moment with your kids? Well, that’s what Thankful Thursday is all about. Each week, I’ll aim to share a special moment that I would have missed had my kids been away at school . . . and I’m counting on all of you to share yours, too. It will give us something to reflect on during those other six crazy, hectic days!
 
I'm coming up dry today, so somebody please inspire me. Our first week has been rocky, and I'm not feeling terribly thankful today (cranky and irritable - yes; thankful - not so much). I'm hoping hearing some of your highlights will help pull me out of my funk. Anyone???

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wild Idea Wednesday - Ditching the Schedule (and Watching YouTube Instead)

Need some new ideas for keeping learning fun? I’ll be sharing our favorites each week on Wednesday. To be honest, the thought of committing myself to having one great idea every week is stress-inducing, so I’m going to put it out there in advance that I will probably borrow heavily from all my wise mama friends.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm a planner. I love having a schedule, even if we rarely stick to it . . . although too often I find myself adapting our day to the schedule rather than the other way around.

Today though, my wild idea was to throw the schedule out the window. Our first activity in the classroom this morning (and I used the term "morning" very loosely since I worked until 4AM) was a brand new workbook from the Critical Thinking Company called Balance Benders. As explained to me at the FPEA convention by the woman in their booth, it's the beginnings of very basic algebra. To me, it just looked like something Noah would totally love - and he did. So much so, in fact, that he asked if he could complete the entire book today.

My first reaction of course, was to tell him that I'd planned to do only 10 pages of Balance Benders, then move on to handwriting and Singapore Math. Fortunately, I saw the lunacy in the plan and decided to follow him down his chosen path rather than dragging him down mine.

Seeing him all lit up by math inspired me to look up info on "The Human Calculator", a man named Scott Flansburg who my friend Regina had just told me about yesterday. So after Noah had his fill of Balance Benders (no, he didn't finish the whole book), we sat and watched YouTube videos of this man solving complex math problems in his head in less time than it took the host to punch the numbers into a calculator.

I'm so glad I followed his path, because I like where it led. And to remind myself of this important lesson, I posted a note in classroom . . . Lead less, follow more.

Cute Classroom Desk at Amazon

Saw this on Amazon and thought it was adorable. I've been considering getting separate desks for the kids since we seem to have outgrown our toddler-sized table. The chalkboard top is super cute, and I love the storage space in the desk. Hmm . . . this is what Amazon wish lists are for. I may be saving my Swagbucks for a pair of these!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teaching Tool Tuesday - Netflix


Don’t tell, but my wish lists at Lakeshore Learning and Amazon are much longer than the one I have at Endless.com. Honestly, I’m a complete sucker for books and educational games, software and toys. But this past year I’ve honed my ability to discern which tools will be fun once or twice and which ones we'll use over and over . . . and I’ll be sharing our favorites with you every Tuesday.  

Oh, I am so lucky my blog is on West Coast time. Because right now it's about 2AM on Wednesday and I still haven't written my Teaching Tool Tuesday piece. Rough day + work deadline = not enough time to blog. Of course, rough day + work deadline + staying up to write a blog post = way too little sleep. But that's okay. I blew my shot at a decent night's sleep hours ago.

Anyway, I'm sure my Netflix membership seems like an odd choice for a teaching tool, but let me explain. My kids love movies (okay, we all love movies), and they learn so much from the educational DVDs we have. But of course, you can only buy so many educational DVDs.

So after a friend told me about all the great movies they check out at the library, I dashed into our local library branch asking where I could find the movies. And they told me "Blockbuster". Turns out that the Seminole Country library system doesn't have movies, although most of our neighboring counties do. Strike two.

When I decided to do an ocean unit for fall, I remembered seeing an IMAX movie advertised at the science center a while back. I looked it up on Amazon to see if it's something I might want to buy, but on a whim, decided to check Netflix as well. Sure enough, they had it!

Deep Sea: IMAX will be arriving this week, just in time for the start of school - and I found a number of other "ocean" movies there, too. Can't wait to spend some time checking out the other documentaries to see what else might work for our homeschool classroom!

Don't Miss This Great Shoe Groupon - Today Only!!!

Wow, I sure wish I'd had time to blog about this earlier in the day when my friend Crystal over at Solidity of Rainbows messaged me about it. Fortunately, there's still enough time to buy it!

Today's Groupon in Lincoln (but can be used anywhere since it's for web purchases) is for $40 worth of shoes and apparel from ShoeBuy.com for only $20. I've never been to the Shoe Buy site before today, but I was really impressed by their selection. I found plenty of cute shoes to enjoy during my window shopping. They also offer free shipping, free return shipping (if they don't fit), no sales tax and a 100% best price guarantee.

If you haven't signed up for Groupon yet, please consider doing so with my referral link. It's free to join, and you'll receive an e-mail each day with a special offer for your city. As of right now, this deal is available for three more hours. Check it out, and happy shopping!

Back to (Home)School - First Day Jitters

In these past few weeks, I've actually had some jitters about starting back to school. Mostly, I felt as though I'd underplanned - not that I wasn't ready for the first day (I was) but that I didn't have everything done for the entire year. Silly, I know, and probably not the smartest, considering the one thing I've learned about homeschool planning is that the only sure thing about my plan is that it will change.

Regardless, the first day came and went - and actually went quite well. Logging our activities in Homeschool Tracker last night, it seemed like we'd done an incredible amount (and I only log Noah's info for now). Today, on the other hand, has not been so hot. I feel like I've accomplished nothing and have been terribly cranky in the process. Sigh. Tomorrow will be better . . . right???

On the bright side, I did get that Roasted Red Pepper Cannellini Bean Dip made yesterday, and Ava loves it so much that she ate three helpings of raw carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and celery at lunch. Yay for the little victories!

Here's Noah's first drawing from his Draw Cars book.

 And here's Miss Ava working through the Handwriting Without Tears kit I was thrilled to find during our move.

Hip Homeschool Moms

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Welcoming some great homeschool mama's from the Hip Homeschool Hop today. If you haven't checked out Hip Homeschool Moms yet, visit their Facebook page to connect with and be inspired by other amazing homeschool moms!

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Me Time" Monday - Still Reading

It's true that Monday isn’t the first day that comes to mind when I think of having some time for myself. I’m more likely to spend this particular day tackling mountains of laundry, piles of dishes and otherwise catching up from a busy weekend. So each week, I’ll be making a point to try out a new idea for “me time” and reporting back every Monday, when we all need inspiration the most.

So my second attempt at a week-long "Me Time" Monday experiment was a success, but it wasn't without its minor kinks. After rediscovering reading on vacation, I decided that this once-favorite pastime should no longer be relegated to long car trips. Surely, I could make a little time in my day to read on a regular basis.

The first glitch, of course, was finding something to read . . . after all, I'm not talking Dr. Seuss here. Books about nutrition, homeschooling and most other non-fiction was off-limits, too. I've crammed enough information into my brain in the past few years that I'm due a little mindless fiction or, even better, the wonderful travel essay collections I've discovered. A few trips to the bookstore and one to the library had me covered, so one afternoon I opened a book and jumped right in . . . to the second glitch.

I'm big on completion and can't stand leaving things unfinished. Apparently, this applies to books, too. Remember that this is my first time attempting regular reading since way back when my time was my own (pre-kids, of course). Back in those days, I could blow off my whole day to read if I felt like it . . . and that's kind of what I did. Jim was home, so under the premise of "needing a rest", I retreated to the bedroom until I'd finished the book, even pushing the kids' bedtime back a little to get through the final chapter. Ugh! Creating one more thing I "had to finish" was not exactly what I had in mind.

The next day (and next book), I tried something new - moderation (insert gasp here) . . . thirty minutes of reading as soon as the kids headed to their rooms for afternoon quiet time. After being overwhelmed by all that I need to do for them all morning, it was actually nice not to immediately jump on the computer (my usual routine) during my one hour break and get overwhelmed by all that's required of me there.

Putting the book down after 30 minutes is hard and usually makes me a little sad, but minutes later it's already forgotten and I've had a full half hour of nobody needing anything from me - priceless!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time-Saving Sunday - Short Cuts in the Kitchen

We love our weekend family time, but Sunday often becomes my day to prepare for the upcoming week. This will be the day I’ll call upon some fabulous mama friends to share their expertise on how to keep our homes running smoothly and our families well fed while still leaving plenty of time for school.

So ready or not, we're finally starting school tomorrow. I feel like I'm leaving a lazy (ha!) summer behind and scrambling to remember how to be organized. For example, getting my kitchen prepared for the week always helps take the stress out of cooking, especially when I'm doing it in bits and pieces around schoolwork.

One of my favorite tips is the Sunday night veggie tray. And one of the reasons it's my favorite is that it's made by my husband, Jim! Seriously though, having an array of veggies washed and prepped is not only great for snacking but also helps tremendously with meal preparation. I'm much more inclined to make salad when all I have to do is chop up the veggies and put them on top of lettuce.

Other kitchen chores I try to get done on Sunday are soaking beans, baking bread and making hummus or whatever spread or dip we'll have for our veggies during the week. This week it's a roasted red pepper cannellini bean dip - and sadly, it's not made quite yet. After all, I still have two more hours until I officially call an end to summer vacation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Walking Art - Punk High Heels

I've been having fun browsing over at Chiq lately and couldn't resist sharing this photos of shoes that truly are pieces of walking art.

Not much I can say about them other than "WOW!!!"

Shoe Sale Saturday - Great Savings at Famous Footwear

If you're shoe shopping today, be sure to check out Famous Footwear for some great deals. Most shoes are buy one, get one half off, and there's an additional coupon for 20% off your entire purchase (just enter the code LABOR20 at checkout).

I have to admit that I couldn't find any women's shoes that I liked on the website. Their selection really pales in comparison to other shoe sites, which is why you're looking at these Hello Kitty rain boots. If I were shopping this sale today, it would definitely be for kids shoes instead of for me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Field Trip Friday - Homeschool Day at St. Augustine's Old Florida Museum

On Monday, September 27th, the Old Florida Museum in St. Augustine will host the 5th Annual Florida Timeline Home School Experience, a hands-on program designed to expose students to daily living activities of the Timucua Indians, early Spanish settlers and Florida Pioneer children, as well as to the field of archaeology. Old Florida Museum’s newest addition, Fort Menendez, will also be open to guests and will include demonstrations from Spanish era craftspeople.

Tickets cost $13.00 per person ages four and up, and you must book in advance for one of the four scheduled start times: 9AM, 11AM, 1PM and 3PM. You may begin your tour at any time once your session has started and can plan on spending at least two hours to visit the entire museum. Guided presentations are scheduled in each of the museum's four main areas, and students will also make a take-home project in each area.

Additional details and registration information are available on the website.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Learning All the Time

Ever get struck in the middle of a crazy, hectic day by overwhelming wave of gratitude for being able to share a special moment with your kids? Well, that’s what Thankful Thursday is all about. Each week, I’ll aim to share a special moment that I would have missed had my kids been away at school . . . and I’m counting on all of you to share yours, too. It will give us something to reflect on during those other six crazy, hectic days!
 
Seems like forever since we've spent time in the classroom, and extending our vacation has delayed our official start to school until next week. But today I am thankful that with homeschooling - whether we are in the classroom or not - my kids are always learning.

This summer, the kids participated in a 4th of July play and learned an amazing amount about US history. They know the words to many patriotic songs, the history leading up to our fight for independence and even what the colors of the American flag symbolize. From our recent trip to DC, Noah can tell you the height of the Washington Monument and why there's a slight color variation in the stone, and Ava knows (and plans to take advantage of) the process for requesting an American flag that's been flown over the Capital.

Even outside of organized activities, our choice to homeschool puts us in the mindset of always looking for opportunities to learn. One evening this summer, while driving in the car, Noah asked about negative numbers - something we hadn't touched on yet in math. I gave him a quick explanation, and a few nights later at dinner, he randomly came out with "1 - 2 = -1" then "2 - 7 = -5" and finally "100 - 300 = -200". Guess we didn't need a classroom for that!

When we finished our official school year in May, Ava had been struggling a bit with number recognition. This summer, she easily learned to count to 100 during her martial arts classes. I'm not sure if it was the repetition, the group setting or the physical activity that made it stick for her, but I plan to experiment with all three during our classroom time this fall. I've also been doing some basic math with her while driving around in the car such as 1 + 1 = 2 (which Noah then informed me could also be said as 1 + 2 - 1 = 2) and 5 + 5 = 10 (to which Noah proposed (5 + 15 - 10 = 10).

Over the past year, I've seen the kids take giant leaps forward in comprehension when we take breaks in the classroom, and that's why we're sticking with our December and summer breaks for now. But of course, a "break" for us is never a break from learning! I'm so thankful that homeschooling has conditioned me to recognize and act on how - and when - my kids learn best.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wild Idea Wednesday - Classroom Organization

Need some new ideas for keeping learning fun? I’ll be sharing our favorites each week on Wednesday. To be honest, the thought of committing myself to having one great idea every week is stress-inducing, so I’m going to put it out there in advance that I will probably borrow heavily from all my wise mama friends.

During our recent move, we cleaned out a lot of the kids' old toys (shhhh . . . don't tell!), which left us with a surprising excess of storage space. This unit from IKEA was going unused in the playroom, so I commandeered it for the classroom instead.

We are fortunate to have a very well-stocked library - so well-stocked that I feel that books often get a bit lost. In our new classroom, it's been reorganized (Noah's reading books, Ava's reading books, learning books, curriculum, etc.) to make it easier to find what I'm looking for . . . but I still wanted a way to make it easy for the kids to go grab and book and start reading (and get it back in the proper spot when they're done).

This unit worked perfectly to house books and other learning tools for the four main topics we're studying this fall. From top to bottom, they are cars, oceans, money and the USA. Larger books fit nicely in the big green bins, and smaller books, flashcards, software and CD's work well in the small white ones.

I'm really happy with how it worked out, and I like having what we're most likely to use separated from the rest of the library and easily accessible. My last step will be to label each bin with the name and picture of the topic so that both kids can find the proper spot to return each item!

Hot Shoe Deal - Up to 75% Off Top Brands at 6PM

If you're shoe shopping at all today, be sure to check out today's great deals on top brands from 6PM (the sale includes clothes and handbags, too). Standard, flat-rate shipping is only $6.95.



Today's top deals include:
  • Up to 75% off Sesto Meucci
  • Up to 70% off BCBC Maxazria
  • Up to 70% off Tsubo
  • Up to 70% off Rockport
  • Up to 70% off Red Wing Shoes
  • Up to 65% off Nine West
  • Up to 65% off Fall Fashion Boots
  • Up to 60% off Adidas
  • Up to 60% off Trina Turk

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Buy 2, Get 1 Free on Dr. Seuss Learning Library at Borders

To celebrate the launch of the new PBS series, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Borders is extending a special "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" offer on select books in the Dr. Seuss Learning Library. Through October 25th, enter the code CATLEARN at checkout to receive the discount when shopping online. The offer is available in stores as well.

These books have always been among my favorites, and we have a number of them in our library already. I'm planning to add a few new ones during the sale, including Wish for a Fish and A Whale of a Tale to tie in with our ocean unit.

Teaching Tool Tuesday - Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, Jr.

Don’t tell, but my wish lists at Lakeshore Learning and Amazon are much longer than the one I have at Endless.com. Honestly, I’m a complete sucker for books and educational games, software and toys. But this past year I’ve honed my ability to discern which tools will be fun once or twice and which ones we'll use over and over . . . and I’ll be sharing our favorites with you every Tuesday. 

We just rolled in from vacation at three o'clock this morning . . . ut;s always hard to see such a wonderful adventure end, but I'm eager to get things rolling for our now-delayed start to school. One of the nice surprises awaiting us when we returned home was our Financial Peace, Jr. kit from Dave Ramsey.

I was clearly not meant to work on the money lapbook on vacation as I'd planned (think forgotten power cords, malfunctioning software, etc.), but we're still going to be diving into our study of money very soon. So I was excited to open up the kit and see exactly what I had to work with.

The core of this package - or at least the part I was most excited about - was the Junior's Adventures boxed set. Each book focuses on a different money-related theme, including spending, saving, giving, work, debt and integrity. To put the information practice, the Teaching Kids About Money kit includes a Commission (his term for Allowance) worksheet, an audio CD, calculator and coin case, a worksheet for saving up to buy a specific item and an envelope system for dividing money for different causes (saving, spending and sharing).

Our money unit will start with the history of money, so it will be a few months before we're ready to break out the Dave Ramsey in the classroom. But from what I can tell, I already like what I see!

25% Off All Orders Over $100 at Endless

Now through September 9th, take 25% off your entire order at Endless.com with a purchase of $100 or more by entering the code FRIENDS25 at checkout.

The following brands are excluded from the offer: ASICS, Brooks, Callaway, Dansko, ECCO, FitFlop, Fossil, FRYE, Giuseppe Zanotti, Hunter, Marc By Marc Jacobs, Michael By Michael Kors, Mizuno Running, New Balance, Patagonia, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prince, Reebok, Skechers, Stuart Weitzman, The North Face, To Boot New York, Wilson, Bulova, ESQ by Movado, Citizen, Seiko, Bulova, Caravelle by Bulova and Pulsar.

Also remember that you can use Amazon gift cards earned on Swagbucks to pay for purchases at Endless, too. In the three months I've been using Swagbucks as my search engine, I've earned about a dozen $5 gift cards to Amazon - that's nice shoe money!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Special BOGO Class Offer at Spark for Homeschooling in Heels Readers!!!

Just a reminder, through the end of September, the wonderful folks at Spark Enrichment Center are extending a very special offer to Homeschooling in Heels readers - purchase any one class and get another one free. Here's what you do:

1. Sign up to follow Homeschooling in Heels blog.

2. Like the Homeschooling in Heels page on Facebook.

3. Call over to Spark to sign up for your classes, and be sure to tell them that Homeschooling in Heels sent you!

Check out Spark's fall schedule here or on their website. If you take advantage of this offer, we'd love to hear about your Spark experience! Please comment back on this post or on the Facebook page to let us know which classes you enjoyed.

"Me Time" Monday - Rediscovering Reading

It's true that Monday isn’t the first day that comes to mind when I think of having some time for myself. I’m more likely to spend this particular day tackling mountains of laundry, piles of dishes and otherwise catching up from a busy weekend. So each week, I’ll be making a point to try out a new idea for “me time” and reporting back every Monday, when we all need inspiration the most.

So here's something that may surprise you . . . I can't remember the last time I read a book. I'm not talking about any books; I've read plenty of homeschooling, nutrition and parenting books in recent years. But as far as reading for pleasure, that pretty much ended when my son was born.

It's not something I've missed terribly, at least not at a conscious level. But due to a series of misadventures that left me unable to work (on curriculum) on this car trip, I've made several visits to the bookstore instead. Although I had to refrain myself from buying research-oriented books, I decided to stick with "just for fun" books - one novel and two collections of travel essays.

I've been enjoying it so much that I've decided to make reading this week's "me time" experiment. Even after we return to the busy schedule of normal life, I'll be attempting to carve out a consistent quiet reading time for myself each day. After all, I have a book to finish!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oops - Corrected Info for 2010 Young People's Concert


Oops! Major goof on the info I posted for the Orlando Phil's Young People's Concert on Field Trip Friday. My info was 100% accurate . . . for 2009. Thanks to my friend Wendy for catching my mistake. Info on the 2010 event is above and online. As of Friday, tickets to both October dates are still available.

Time-Saving Sunday - Blender Breakfasts

We love our weekend family time, but Sunday often becomes my day to prepare for the upcoming week. This will be the day I’ll call upon some fabulous mama friends to share their expertise on how to keep our homes running smoothly and our families well fed while still leaving plenty of time for school. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post over at Vegan in the Kitchen sharing one of my favorite green smoothie recipes. Since I'm in the midst of vacation-induced laziness (and end-of-vacation-packing craziness), I'm cheating Time-Saving Sunday this week by repeating that post.

With that confession out of the way, let me add that we are huge green smoothie fans - and this is definitely one of our faves! I am decidedly not a morning person, but I have a knack for planning morning activities, which often makes breakfast a hurried affair in our house.

Green smoothies are our go-to breakfast for days when I don’t have much time to make anything (or we don’t have time to sit and eat). They are packed with nutrition, bursting with great flavor and easy to drink on the go. For my kids, anything chocolate is always a hit, and these are great made with strawberries or raspberries instead.

If you use fresh fruit instead of frozen, be sure to add a few ice cubes to cool it off.

Ingredients:
1 cup almond (or other non-dairy) milk
1 large banana
1 cup frozen cherries
1-2 cups packed greens (I used beet greens this time, but spinach, kale and chard all work great)
½ cup roughly chopped zucchini
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground flax

Combine all ingredients in blender, and process until creamy and smooth. This makes enough for one adult as a full breakfast or for the three of us (one adult two kids) if I’m serving it with other things. When my husband is home, I’ll double it to make enough for all four of us.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shoe Sale Saturday - 25% Off Sandals at Endless

Although I have boots on the brain, I'm a sandal girl at heart - and it makes me happy that sandal season in Florida is virtually year-round. So when Endless was kind enough (ha!) to e-mail me a reminder that all sandals are 25% off this weekend, I couldn't help taking a peek. Shoe Sale Saturday is definitely going to cause me trouble - these totally adorable, completely impractical sandals are only $25 (including FREE two-day shipping).

Shoe Sale Saturday - 15% at PiperLime through Ebates

I know that I keep saying “it’s not all about the shoes”, but sometimes it is . . . just a little. And Saturday seemed like a good day to reward myself for a hard week’s work by browsing the best shoe deals online . . . who knows, maybe you’ll reward yourself too!

As an avid shoe lover and newly-reformed couponer, it's hard to believe that I've never shopped on PiperLime and still haven't checked out Ebates. So when my friend Missy e-mailed me about the great shoe deal the two are teaming up for this holiday weekend, I knew it was the perfect deal to share for Shoe Sale Saturday.

Shop on PiperLime through Ebates this weekend, and get 15% cash back on your purchase. Since a lovely little cool snap has hit Virginia (where we're vacationing) today, I'm in the mood for boots! I'm window shopping only today, but aren't these great??? Love them!