The little things we miss, and the new traditions we love…..

The last few weeks all talk on the tv, at family get together’s, and on Facebook has turned to back to school excitement. All the traditional markers are hit! There are perfectly pressed uniforms being bought. The school supplies on the lists are being snapped up at all the local stores. Backpacks with the latest, and coolest, characters lay empty but standing tall waiting for all the clean sheets of paper and notebooks and folders. It really is an exciting time! I remember it well from when I was a child, but I remember it even better from the first 6 years my girls were in public school!

There was nothing like the excitement of the night before school starting. They picked their favorite pairings of the uniforms along with hair bands and belts and laid them all out so they would be easy to grab the ext day. I would stay up late labeling all the clean and brightly colored binder, spirals, and crayon boxes. Of course there was also the first day of school lunch to pack, which is always fabulous and healthy. I also remember swearing I would keep that going all year, every year…..I usually made it about two weeks! First day mornings those kids would spring out of bed like a jack in the box! Some years dressed and ready to go before I was out of the bed good.A special breakfast was cooked and the first day pictures were taken….


Didnt they look precious? Then off they went to new adventures….



Then the wait. I was so excited to hear all about their day. Now, the second day they didn’t jump out of bed quite so quickly 😉

Everything from the TV shows kids watch to books they read to the commercials running during those favorite shows tell the kids that the ways we had always known are the way it works…

back2sch back2school2 back-to-school-ad-by-walmart


There is much (normal?) to miss and I am a traditions kinda girl. I have traditions  for everything, and I get very upset if something spoils one! While the decision to home school is something I would not change traditions hold a strong and special place for me and are tough to let go!

The girls for their part know what they have given up and choose it with a knowing heart. They love it and wouldn’t change it, I know because they are asked often. But Justin. No TRADITIONAL first day fun? That made me a little sad. So what’s a mama to do?

Make NEW traditions! Of course we have our first day of school  traditions where we roll out curriculum and get our nose to the grindstone, but there is an excitement in the air all over the place for the first day of public school! The need for tradition is strong, so here’s what we came up with…….

Well the pictures are still a must, and while we might not have well pressed uniforms we DO have very comfy ones!



Then we head out for a fun day! Last year and this year this is a HUGE skating party full of friends. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?!


Oh wait…it CAN get better! Just add water. Last year it was nana’s pool with a close circle of friends, this year the circle of friends is too big! We are heading to Preseys Lake to be able to have fun with ALL the friends! Oh….and cookies…because everything is better with cookies.




And even though they are right with me all day there is much I miss (since I spend most of the day visiting with friends myself! LOL) so I still spend the late afternoon of the “First Day of School” hearing all about their day.

This is our new normal and we really enjoy it, but I think there will always be a small twinge for that first day fun and anticipation.  So just a heads up, I fully intend to live vicariously through my friends and family as they post finding out who the teachers are going to be, school eve clothes and supplies laid out, and those first day of school pictures…….and I will enjoy it all the more with my toes in the sand….. 😉




No buses or backpacks…..just first day fun with a little summertime silly to overcome!



Weather Bear was making sure we didn’t forget that it’s still summertime outside, but school must go on……

As with all things homeschool “back to school” comes with a little twist to the traditional. There are no back packs or buses, no must have supply lists or alarm clocks waking you up before the sun! The downside of this is that when little homeschoolers are looking to books, tv, and media for first day of school similarities they tend to get left out in the cold. I am SO glad that last year we discovered a precious book by Ree Drummond called “Charlie Goes to School”. From the moment we flipped to the page that showed schooling like he does it my son lit up! I was taken aback at how much it impacted him! 












It’s such a small and silly thing, but big to a 5-year-old who was being hit from all sides with what back to school was SUPPOSED to look like! The last page of the book is a recipe for Strawberry Oatmeal Bars that are truly wonderful….when you manage to not mangle them as badly as I did this year! Nevertheless Justin has decided making them, and this book,  are to be our yearly traditions for back to school! 


Some of our old school traditions did hold over though. Such as first day of school special breakfasts. Homemade strawberry muffins made with fresh strawberries! They were oh so good. The best way to start off a day full of learning…….and  don’t they look so HAPPY too!?


The next 8 weeks are mapped out and the lessons are planned, so it’s just a matter of getting down to work! Trying to nail a six-year-old down after so many weeks of freedom is a little like nailing jello to a wall. Where my girls went to public school, and know what they don’t want to go back to, Justin doesn’t know how lucky he is  to be home all day and not getting up at 7 am to rush out the door wearing clothes he doesn’t get pick to go to a place with a lot less freedom of movement . He only knows last week he could be lazy and this week he cannot. So in hopes of getting him to realize it was time to start school,  and get his mind working in that direction, I made up this morning calendar. It’s also pulling double duty in helping him remember coins and cost, and  placing days and dates. I am thankful for the dollar tree for the calendar, coins, and borders, and for the charts!


He woke up to it this morning and was ready to start even before he gobbled up strawberry muffins….WIN!

Now it was time for the nitty-gritty….




I have no idea where the need for the  koozie came from. I am also not entirely sure why he needed the jacket in our house with a broken a/c? But then again….why not? 

The girls were amazing. They jumped right in and got to work. Here’s saying a little prayer that this momentum holds! 




Highschool came in with much less of a roar than I was expecting. They didn’t balk at the added load and they really latched on to the binder organization to keep all of us on track. After 11am (or later) wake ups and many lazy days this summer I was pleasantly surprised when they roused at 8am and were ready to go at 9am! But then….first days are always a LITTLE exciting so that helps. 

We did squeeze in some first day silliness for the big first grader! Besides his book and oatmeal bars there was an “All About Me” page to fill out in which I learned my boy wants to be an EXPLORER when he grows up! How exciting is that? We also added some paint and turned tiny fingers into a crayon box, or we tried. I love the keepsake! 




So for all that homeschooling is different I guess some things are very much the same. They were excited to crack open brand new binders and spirals. They were excited to get started, but not it was still (eww gross) school work! We are still waiting on all the crayons and glues and things to go on super sale to stock up our stash, and it was VERY important to have just the right outfit for the day. Be that Pj’s or Power Rangers they all had their preference! 

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What’s really fun….we actually get TWO “first days”. The day we start (today), and the day public schools start. To keep our yearly getting started pictures on a regular schedule we take the cute morning “what  grade are you in” pictures that day. So you will see the kids in their PJ’s holding signs denoting their grades in your news feed alongside all the shiny new uniform pictures come August. Our little twist on that day is we will then go skating with a throng of homeschoolers and then hit the beach! Hope these sunny skies hold. Again…it’s the small, silly stuff that makes it all that much better. 😉


Jumping into the third year with lots of NEW going on!!

Holy crap I can NOT believe we are starting our THIRD year of homeschooling!! It just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long! I went back to look at my posts from when we were just getting started and those first few months,  it seems like just yesterday. I am still just as excited, a little less nervous, and feel like I have caught my feet for the most part. We DID end up having days where I threatened to march certain children straight to the uniform store and then to the nearest public school! We gave it the year. After the year I knew we were where I wanted us to be! The girls have no want to go back, and will tell that to anyone who asks. They did think that they could slack off at times and there have been lazy “learning by Netflix” days….and that was better than ok, it was GREAT! The last two years have been fun and unbelievably FULL!


There are some changes we are making to the year coming up….First up, its HIGH SCHOOL!


From the get go I put the girls in the same grade curriculum wise. Just a year apart in age, they would have been doing the same level work had they attended public school.  Anna was heading to a regular public school’s 7th grade, and Liz heading to a magnet school’s 6th! This would have had them both working 7th grade level school work!  So. On July 7, 2014 they will both start the amazing, fun, scary high school years! In all honesty I am equally nervous about teaching Justin all the basics as I am about them heading through high school with. What an exciting milestone! Their classes are American history, Lang Arts, an Engineering science, Algebra 1, and Home ec. One is taking German and one is taking Spanish. Extra curriculuars are going to include volunteering, Home ec, and a few other fun things I am working on! Record keeping is going to be HUGE this year, so I searched until I found exactly what I wanted,  and am getting them filled up and ready for things to be checked off! In the last two years  I have learned that Anna is self motivated and will usually get her stuff done and get it done quickly, but still needs to be watched to make sure she stays on task. Liz is very easily distracted and is painstaking in her work, which means she needs to be prodded along. Justin does best before lunch and with wiggle breaks! 

ImageImageImage (Two Page Monthly Calendar)

New for Justin this year will be his own weekly co op classes! He will take a biology, a logic, a PE, and a geography class with his friends! There will also be fun, free play time….dare I say recess 😉 Last year we found he was getting lost in the shuffle of the girl’s very active, crazy busy, social calender! So this year the Mobile Minis was formed just to keep sweet little brothers from being put on the back burner!  We are going to have bunches of little kid fun with our activities there!

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Next new development? Money was spent on the afore-mentioned curriculum! Up to now we have done this on a shoe string and a prayer with almost everything being FREE or almost! One of THE best getting started tips I got was to not spend a lot of money up front on curriculum. The smart money is on waiting and trying a few things out and seeing how best your kids learn, after all that’s why we do this right? Curriculum is the scariest and most stressful part of this and when you throw money into the mix it gets even more stressful! Some of what I FINALLY settled on for the coming year….

~Girls high school~

Notgrass Exploring America

history historybooks

“Ray Notgrass’s history courses might better be labeled unit study than history since each course actually covers history, English (literature and composition), and Bible/Religion equivalent to a full credit for each subject area. These are challenging high school courses, written for homeschooling families. They will likely appeal to those who prefer to integrate subjects and wish to teach a biblical Christian (Protestant) worldview and a conservative, limited-government philosophy.”

Hake Grammar       gram                                 Teaching Textbooks Algebra1algebr


~And for Justin~

explode Explode the code and phon phonics pathways for Lang Arts

mqb9nKH1CMactrcTuILUMYwHorizons Math and EarthSpace_Cover_PVr.e.a.l. science odyssey

Wow. Ok. That looks like a LOT! LOL It really isn’t, and I am excited to give it all  a try! The curriculum options are endless. I get a curriculum catalog from that is the size of about three phone books! Narrowing it down was almost impossible and I leaned heavily on friends who know waaay more than me! Right now almost every home school mama I know is putting the finishing touches on the coming school year, it’s very cool to have others to commiserate with that are going through the same thing! Wish us luck that all of these work out and we have a great school year!

Last biggest change…..THE NEPHEW BABY!!


That’s right, we are throwing a baby into the mix! To make this a little easier we will be shuffling some furniture, working harder to stay organized, and being a little more flexible. Since he is just the very best baby out there I am sure he will do his level best to help us with all of that! Many of my home schooling mama friends are having friends for him this summer so he will have lots of playmates in the coming months! 


We are ready to go.

I think.

Well as much as we will be 😉 We start back July 7th and catch our first break 8 weeks later, the week of labor day. We will take the whole week off! Maybe hit the beach while it’s still warm but with no crowds? We have a couple of things to get done before we get there though…..alright…..bring on the school year!!


Summer reading and the library adventures!

A few summers back we were looking for some FREE summer fun! I found the beginnings of an idea at our local library. They have a summer reading program where you earn baseball tickets and a free bag just for READING!  It doesn’t get much better than that! This year’s theme is Fizz, BOOM, Read!



Summer reading programs really are the best! It’s the opportunity for kids to throw off the restriction sometimes set on them in school and pick any book, in any section, about ANYTHING!



The sky is the limit!

My kids have always loved the library. The excitement always starts at home as they round-up their library bags, books, and ensure I have their cards (at least 8 times for good measure!). Then we head out to OUR library. You know, that library that is closest to you. The library you have been to a hundred times! Well that summer I got thinking, if they are this excited to go to the library we always visit, how excited would they be to go on a library adventure  to ALL the libraries.

 We have NINE in our county! My idea was simple, we would visit them all! When I told my children you would have thought I said amusement parks instead of libraries!


These are just a couple of our local branches. The kids hit the doors of each one at a run! They were ready to see what was behind the doors of each new branch. The best part became how it motivated them to want to read more! They would get through their chosen books even faster as they were anxious to check out the next branch….


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library moorer springhill

library main library


Another perk of this FREE adventure is that it is something all ages can enjoy! My son was only a year old at this point, but each of our libraries had something hands on for his age to enjoy. They have separate, easy to access, cubby holes of board books for him to flip through all by himself, and man had puzzles and other hands on toys! So while he wasn’t understanding why his sisters were coming out of their skins with enthusiasm as we loaded up the car, he was easily amused once we got there!

library semmes

Then there was the FAVORITE branch of the library. The branch that they thought I was kidding about. Were there really books…..on that bus? This is the branch that they still ask to go back to today!



It was terribly tiny, and the selection was less than anything we had seen. and it didn’t matter.


It was a BUS with BOOKS! We tracked that bus down three more times that summer!

That year my girls doubled the number of books they normally read in a given summer and were always begging for more! It may seem a little nerdy. It may seem silly, but as in most things dealing with children the simple is usually just as thrilling as the big-ticket stuff! The librarians were loving our adventure and gave the kids extra attention, listening to them go on and on about the other locations they had visited! They always left feeling like mini celebrities! I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome to a silly idea!

And at the end of the day we all know…

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So go on an adventure!! 🙂








Unfamiliar, yet familiar bears and pretty eggs and nesting dolls……..Добро пожаловать в Россию (welcome to Russia)

Добро пожаловать в Россию

(welcome to Russia)


These lapbooks are a great way to kick off any country! A quick glance over the culture and statistics of the country before we jump in! Justin has already started putting together population comparisons between countries we have done……but time zones and flags are now the favorite!

Something I had a hard time finding with Russia were basic country coloring pages! I really like having these and Justin really likes doing them! A few weeks back I ordered a country coloring book from Instead of letting him color in it I have been making copies of the pages.


These pages have a ton of info squeezed into one page AND gives us some good jumping off places……Did you know: The world’s longest railway journey is 5,800 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, on the Trans-Siberian Railroad! I think it’s safe to say there will be a train project in our future!

One of the highlight of each country is when he gets to watch cartoons, I mean that’s always fun for a 5-year-old right?! So we decided to check out the Russian Winnie the Pooh! Justin really enjoyed this and has watched it every day!

We support our local library….sometimes a little more than we would like 😉


Rechenka’s Eggs is a great story about a Russian woman who paints magnificent eggs. She rescues an injured goose that turns out to have a special talent. Even learning of that talent this woman keeps her promise of setting the bird free…..and learns a valuable lesson.

And of course this meant we needed to decorate some eggs ourselves! Justin did amazingly well with real eggshells that I had removed the yolks from. He used markers and sparkly confetti and big fake jewels and bunches of glue!

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Big messes mean big fun right? If so he had a blast! What a great Nana he has to allow such shenanigans in her dining room!

We took Nana’s Ipad for a spin too! Way back she tumbled across an app that lets you go AROUND the world! Barefoot World Atlas lets you spin the globe and check out landmarks and geographical features al over the world!


~Pynsanka Museum~


~Cossack Dancer~


~Saint Basil’s Cathedral~

The images on the globe start as cartoons but most have a place where you can pull up the real thing! THAT was his favorite! He went to every spot in Russia, listened to the caption, and pulled up the picture! His least favorite were the ballerinas, his most favorite were the Cossack Dancers!


~Nana’s nesting dolls~

My mama has always had nesting dolls in her house. When Justin is very good he gets to go in his Nana’s pretty curio cabinet and carefully reach in among all her pretty breakables and pick one of the nesting dolls in her collection to play with. It made his WEEK when he found out that he would get to paint his VERY own set! He had to get to Wednesday to do it and then made it through his school work… was SO TOUGH! LOL


I found these on amazon too and they couldn’t have been more perfect! Other than a little help on keeping the colors matching Justin did these all on his own! I think they turned out PERFECT!

We have only been spending about two weeks per country but with Russia being so vast I see it stretching into three! We still have several lapbooks left on books we checked from the library and one on tigers in Russia and projects on the amazing architecture! Also, there are  few more Russian cartoons we need to check out…..cartoons are a need…..right? 😉

A very happy year of the horse! China we had fun!! China part 2




We made a DAY of it! Even his math and Language arts were centered around celebrating the Chinese New year!

I found this NEAT little printable book that has a very similar format to the Eric Carle Brown Bear Brown Bear books! It goes through all 12 of the Chinese zodiac in order! this was probably a little below his level and could be used for younger kids, but he enjoyed it and we read it over and over!


Red dragon, Red Dragon,

What do you see?

I see a green snake looking at me!

Green snake, green snake,

what do you see?

I see a brown horse looking at me……

It wasn’t the easiest of downloads. I couldn’t figure out right away how to get to it from the pinterest pin, but it was totally worth the search! Go to the link below and click on the picture of the dragon with the words written across it! It will take you right where you need to be!

We moved on to math which included counting to ten in Chinese characters, which he did pretty well at replicating, and measuring.

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I used packets for this from Teachers Pay Teachers (free)

& Royal Baloo (also FREE)

His nifty Dragon came from Oriental trading company! I also have him a sweet “year of the horse” frame to put together once I get a picture printed out for him to put in it! Oriental trading has been a great resource, but even better when you have a group to go in with you o stuff! This particular craft was great! All bright colors and bells!

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We finished out this day with lunch from a favorite local Chinese place.


Yum!! We enjoyed this part of the day entirely too much 😉

The next week was focused on the finer details of China! has again come through with a fantastic lapbook!


The great thing about these lapbooks is they really help Justin relate to something very far away.  From the graph that compares huge populations of people side by side, to reinforcing the concept of time zones, and the maps of where the country is, all these things bring a foreign world closer. In this one he also was able to write his numbers and name in a foreign language. THAT was his favorite part of this particular lapbook!

Like most kids Justin’s biggest obsession is with animals. So for every country we bring in the animals. As I said in the last post our focus here was Pandas. We watched some more live feed of the Pandas in China, and then spent a day (or two) putting together a lapbook  on them!


I know we do a lot of these lapbooks. Justin doesn’t love writing and these get him to practice writing, research, and learn specifics of a broad topic, and  they come in little portions to make them easier to put together in his head. The fact they are FREE is a HUGE bonus!


You may remember while were doing Brazil I was using a program called Little Passports. I have since canceled that membership  because I just didn’t feel it was worth it. What they provided for a country wasn’t enough to even get started with and I knew I could do it better on my own! These CUTE little rubber ducks came from Oriental Trading company as well. Of course after I gave them I realized that these were more Japan than China…..but still too cute! We got a cute passport for Justin to add country stickers too from Little Passports, Oriental Trading has cute ones too. I went ahead and ordered some passport stickers from Oriental Trading too.

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So he still gets to keep a record of all the places we have been! DSC_8707 DSC_8800 DSC_8805

We finished out China with Chinese yo-yos and fireworks!! A fabulous way to leave a country!

Next destination….Russia! We kicked off the winter Olympics in Russia with a Russian meal, I have some fun projects coming up for this country and some great children’s books!

привет (hello) Russia!!

Destination China ~ Part 1 Pandas, Sugar cubes, and a trip in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back machine!

Our trip to China began with exploring a love of Pandas! While getting last-minute China stuff together Sunday night I decided to check out panda cams and stumbled onto a pandacam in Chengdu, China! You could check out adult pandas, young pandas, panda cubs, and a mama panda with her cubs! Justin was SO excited and we went through all the cameras several times! It was almost like being there…..almost!
At 8:30 pm our time (central standard) it was 10:30 am in China! We were able to catch the cubs getting fed! Justin was also fascinated by the fact that you could see people walking behind the enclosure. It made it more real and he asked all kinds of questions about if they were really people FROM China and what language they spoke!
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The next morning bright and early school got started! Before we could dive in to the new country we had Lang. Arts and Math to do…..but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy the pandas!
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The only problem was that when I suggested this I didn’t take into account the time difference! OOPS! LOL So I hooked it up  so that we could stream the San Diego zoo live cam during regular school stuffs! THIS was a huge hit! Although I  had to redirect the girls back to their school work a time or two….
Time for ART!
It was Panda-monium! His sweet stuffed animal was a recent addition to his corral of stuffed animals! Perfect timing! This project  turned out to be a fantastic incentive to get his morning work done with a quickness! His newest stuffed pal turned into his muse and he concentrated closely on getting all the paint just so.  Love the way it turned out!
DSC_8649 has a fantastic FREE lapbook on Pandas! It’s a 30 page lapbook and included this mini-book! The mini book was great at putting the size and habits of these amazing creatures into perspective for him! The rest of the lapbook will be spread out over the rest of his study! They also have a China lapbook that we will get started on too!
Omgoodness the resources are endless!
While stuck inside during some COLD weather and in need of distraction, I decided tackling the Great Wall of China would be fun….but FIRST he needed to learn a little more about it! We were in need of a Way Back machine and Mr Peabody!
The complete historical accuracy is a little….off. But Justin is only 5 years old so I am thinking we can focus on that later 😉 He LOVED this episode and wanted to keep watching more! But the sugar cubes and glue would not wait….
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Sooooo just an FYI sugar cubes are not square. This becomes a bit of a problem when you start to add the second level. LOL This added another level of concentration, where he had to make sure they were all level and not sideways,  but he did great! This one was off the cuff so no links to follow. He only did this wall  one row wide but it held up without a problem. Downside? He doesn’t want to throw it out! This could be a problem……we will tackle when we leave China 😉
Finally for some silly with some real life language connection! This website has some wonderful resources..
But the most fun for Justin was the cartoon! Which he watched over and over…
I have a feeling I will be hearing this many more times before we leave China. He was fascinated!
The next up for the last half of the week is gearing up for, and celebrating, the Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the horse!!

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