Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day

I'm glad I have the opportunity to teach my children about the sacrifices made by our service men and women around the world. It all started a few years ago when an older cousin they knew enlisted in the Army and ended up in Iraq. We made him a care package and in return he sent some pictures of their camp. When Sarah and Rebecca saw the pictures, they couldn't believe what they saw. Everyone looked hot, sweaty and dirty. Everything was "army" green. They didn't have real beds, they slept on cots. Sarah especially made it a point to write to this cousin as much as she could.

The same year, another cousin (from a different side of the family) delivered homemade cookies that she had her children had made to Fred's dad on Veterans Day in honor of his service in Vietnam. He was extremely touched. What a great mom you are Katrine! I figured if she could do it, so could I. We don't have any local family, so we decided to find out which of our neighbors were vets and deliver to them the next year. Needless to say, our efforts were graciously recieved.

In years past, we have gone up to the VA Hospital in Asheville with some other homeschoolers and the children have lead the pledge to the American Flag before the start of that ceremony. After that gathering they would roam the crowd asking men and women if they were veterans and presenting a card of thanks if the answer was "yes."

This year, our 4-H group wanted to do something locally, so we visited 4 different nursing/assited living facilities and delivered cards and flowers.

One my favorite parts of Veterans Day this year was when we delivered cookies to a gentleman in our neighborhood that we had never actually met. Shamefully, this man lives directly across the street from us. We both have very long driveways and I have actually only seen him a half dozen times in 5 years. Each time he has been driving to the mailbox, turns around and drives home - never smiling waving or cracking the window for a quick hello. We found out this year he was in the Army for 30 years before retiring, so naturally, we wanted him to get some cookies.

We arrived at his house and rang the doorbell. He peeked out of the window, but was reluctant to open the door. "Hi! We're your neighbors," I called out. At that he cracked the door and then the girls took over..."We heard you were an Army veteran, so we just wanted to wish you a Happy Veterans Day and give you these cookies we baked to say thanks for your service." What an instant change. A smile took over his face and he came out to chat with us about his time in the service and his job as a college professor after leaving the Army. Then he invited us over to go swimming in the summer when he and his wife got the pool ready. (I didn't even know they HAD a pool!)

The girls couldn't believe the complete turn in personality once he discovered we had done something nice for him. The girls remarked about it later that he had done something nice for them (by serving) before they were even born. I think they get it, and that makes me a happy mom!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Best In Show!

Rebecca is definately at home in the kitchen and has been working on bread making all year.

She had pretty much perfected an Artisian bread recipe. It's super crunchy on the outside and super moist on the inside, the kind that's awesome with olive oil and spices. Saturday, she entered it in the County 4H Bake Off.

Much to her surprise, she not only won the junior division, but also won Best of Show! In fact, when they were announcing the winners for the junior division, her face showed her disappointment when she wasn't announced as the 3rd or 2nd place winner. She said she was just hoping to get a ribbon, she didn't think there was a chance of her winning. Then to top it off, her bread was chosen over ALL the yummy cookies, cakes and breads that were entered.

Bread making definately takes practice. The first time she did it, it left much to be desired, but she was persistent and each time she made it, it got better. Now, after at least two dozen loaves, it is scrumptious every time, and the judges agreed. Yay for Becca!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Free Videos

Free videos for your middle/high schooler available from John Stossel.

Here's the link:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


We love this tree! We thought we lost it to a late hard freeze a few years ago. It has struggled, but has finally made a comeback. There are just a few straggling bare branches that we need to clip off if we can ever find a pole trimmer long enough to do the job.

In Laws Visit

Fred's mom and grandfather came up for 5 days in early October. We picked apples at Skytop Orchard, made applesauce, visited waterfalls, the trout farm, Biltmore, Carl Sandburg, watched a Gator game on TV and nearly completed a 1000 piece puzzle. The puzzle if Fred's grandpa's signature item. Wherever he visits, he starts a 1000 piece puzzle to leave behind for the hosts to finish after he leaves. I'm guessing we still have about 100 pieces to go. Hopefully, he didn't slide a piece in his pocket before he left, which he's been known to do! It's a real blessing that the girls can spend some quality time with a great grandparent who acts surprisingly young for his age. :-)

Flu :-(

A friend called yesterday and said she was missing my blogs.

Half of our family has been down with the flu over the past few weeks and with all the extra stair running and laundry and hand washing added to my normal mom/wife duties, I haven't had a minute to spare.

This week school is out (except for math) for a "teacher needs a break" week. Sarah has two days of make up work to do this week due to being sick last week and still isn't feeling great although today she is FINALLY fever free. I didn't want to pile her up too much - what's the point? We'll get the rest done eventually. It's really nice to be able to work around life's setbacks. Rebecca is doing a happy dance because she feels great and only has to finish math every day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Farm City Day

Whoa! I haven't been around in awhile. I need to catch up. Let's see. October 3 we spent a lovely day at the local Farm City Day Festival. It's like a small town fall festival. They have vendors, a scarecrow contest, music, hayrides, ect. The 4H clubs have a big tent and each club provides an educational display and a craft.

Our group has been searching for something interesting that we could do year after year to minimize the planning and prep for this event. This year I think we've found it! One of our families has started "raising" bees. What would a farm be without a bee? Bare. That's what. No fruits or veggies without those little pollinators. So, they did a display about bees and their grandfather built us a small glass hive which was a huge hit with everyone. Who doesn't like looking at bees up close without the fear of getting stung?

Our craft was an easy pipe cleaner bee pencil topper.

Looks like next year the Hawks will be teaching about bees again. :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our First Egg!

Our chickens will be 5 months old tomorrow. We hoped they would start laying eggs soon. This morning we found a prize!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Little Boy Grows Up

My cousin leaves for Iraq today.

I'll admit, I haven't seen him in person for at least 10 years. Then, he was a typical teen boy closed up in his room with a set of headphones totally avoiding the crazy cousin who just wanted to hug on him. Plus, there's no doubt the infant and toddler I had with me caused him to turn up the volume and crawl farther into the teen boy cave.

But despite that, this kid has a special place in my heart. I'm sure I'm turning into a sappy old woman, and if he ever sees this he'll probably be mad, but this is how I remember him...

See, he really did love me!

Funny thing is, even though I have hundreds of memories of him, mostly little everyday things, he probably doesn't remember much about me since most of the time we spent together he was between 2 and 6 years old.

While I was in college in Florida, I spent my summers living in Wisconsin with his family, working at his dad's business, and playing nanny for him and his younger sister alot. I spent most holidays with his family too, so it was almost like me coming home when we were together.

I was proud of the fact that even though I was "not a real mom" I could dress and feed two kids, pack a diaper bag, strap them in the car seats, and take the mini-van down to the grocery store or even to the mall for a whole day without blinking an eye; not to mention caring for them for up to a week at a time if my aunt and uncle needed to travel. Granted they were good kids and I was the cool cousin (not the mom) which made it fun. If they had been alot of trouble, I probably would have been scarred for life and never had kids of my own.

I feel like I really watched him grow up, even though I've mostly missed the last 17 years of his life. So, please keep him and all our troops in your prayers today and every day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I've GOT to make some changes! Our current homeschool schedule is killing me. We are finishing our 3rd week of school tomorrow and the girls have already read over 600 pages of history, done a major project on the Pacific Islands and another on Australia, learned all about the digetive system and cells, moved ahead every day in math, plus continued all the other "smaller" subjects like spelling, language, Spanish, logic, and Latin/Greek. Throw in piano practice, 4H, AWANA, art lessons and babysitting for Sarah and I'm one overwhelmed mama.
For the most part, nothing take a great deal of time except history. So, I think we are going to have to cut back on that even though that's the girls' favorite subject. It's just taking TOO much time! Is there anyone out there who has used Sonlight Core 5 that can give suggestions on what is critical for this year?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The sun

Sunrise out our window...
I haven't seen the sun since last week. It's been raining here for days. The next forcasted sunny day is NEXT Tuesday, 8 days away!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Constitution Day

Today is the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Here are some good links for activities:

Read the whole thing here:

Here is an outline of the Articles:
Article I - Legislative Department - how senators and representatives are chosen, rules of procedure, compensation, privileges and restrictions, mode of passing laws, powers granted to Congress, powers denied to the Federal Governmnent, powers denied to the states.

Article II - Executive Department - President and Vice President, powers and duties of the President, Impeachment

Article III - Judicial Department - The Federal Courts, jurisdiction of the Federal Courts, Treason

Article IV - The States and the Federal Government - state records, privileges and immunities of citizens, new states and territories, guarantees to the states

Article V - Method of amendment

Article VI - Public Debt, Supremacy of the Constitutuion, Oath of Office

Article VII - Ratification

God Bless America!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Fair

The fair opened here on Friday. I've never been a real fan of fairs. They are dusty, the rides are unsafe, the food is junk and everything is expensive. But, the girls enjoy entering projects and then going to see if they won any prizes.

In the years past, they have always placed very high with everything they entered. This year was a little different. The competition is getting tougher and to be honest, they didn't put alot of thought and prep into the items they entered this year.

Nevertheless, we had fun.

Rebecca won 3rd place for a beaded necklace she made and 2nd for a colored pencil drawing. I personally think her drawing should have won first. The first place picture looked like it had been traced from a coloring book! Here's Bec's:

Sarah only entered two items, neither of which won anything.:-( But she did help with the county 4H booth that won first place. :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Washing Dishes

Our dishwasher is broken. :-( I think since we are on a well the sediment has built up on the water valve. Until the man can pull it apart and see, we're doing it the old fashioned hand. Luckily, I have two good dishwashers. They've been in the kitchen having a big time!

Look! They are even smiling!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Apple Festival

This is an example of what to not bring home for a date...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Day of School

Sarah 7th Grade Rebecca 5th Grade

First day of school pictures are pretty popular right now, and our house is no exception. Can you believe they have sweatshirts on? It was chilly - 51 degrees - this morning. I must say, our classroom probably has one of the best views in the state.

By lunchtime, we had finished most of our "together work" and the girls were working on some independent assignments. They are both really excited about a year long project on countries the Eastern Hemisphere. They aren't excited about spelling and math.

Veteran homeschoolers say it gets easier as they get older because the kids start to take on more responsibility, and thankfully, I'm starting to see that in both of them - at least for today.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Homeschoolers in the News

If you know me, you know I'm a big Florida fan. Having Tim Tebow lead the football team as the quarterback is especially fun since he was homeschooled K-12. Now, he uses his platform as a famous college football player to promote causes with an eternal impact rather than focusing on building his prospects for future personal fame and fortune. So, from time to time, I will post articles about him on the blog.
Enjoy this one. :-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Little Entrepreneur

~The first 8 bars of a 40 bar order~

Rebecca wanted to learn to make soap a few years ago, so I signed her up for a one day class thinking she'd make a few bars and be finished. Nope. She decided to start a little business.

For awhile she set up a little stand at the end of our street and sold to the neighbors. (We live on a dead end street in a very rural area, so that was the only traffic.)

One lady who loved the bar she bought, placed an order for 40 small bars to give away to her home health care business customers. Now she has ordered 40 large bars to resell at the local craft fair. My baby has become a wholesaler at 10!

Friday, August 21, 2009


I finally got my scheduling for the year finished. I knew WHAT I was going to use for school this year, but I hadn't figured out the details of how or when.

People have all kinds of ways to "schedule" their year/week/day, but this is how I do it.

First, I make a list of all the "subjects" I want to teach. I make a separate list for each child, because then I write next to each subject, the way I plan to teach it.

Like this...

It looks like alot, but some of the "subjects" only take 5-10 minutes, and some aren't done everyday. Then I make another list of how many times per week each subject needs to be assigned in order to achieve my objectives for them. For example, math is assigned 5 days per week, but logic only 3 days per week.
Next, I look at our calendar and assign the subjects a "day". Notice in the picture below Tuesdays seem to be lighter while Wednesdays are heavier. That's because we have two "extras" (piano lessons and art) on Tuesday afternoons, but Wednesdays we're home all day. Each child gets her own because their schedules are a little different and they are in different grades, so the amount of work required is a little different. This schedule is flexible depending on our actual week, but I try to follow this guideline as best I can.

Next, I move to planning a specifc week. I only do one week at a time -usually on Sunday afternoon - so that I can make adjustments as needed depending on our schedule. Below is a picture of the sheet I use. I just made it on Exel. Each child gets her own up on the fridge Sunday night. I make a copy of each one and put it in a binder for my own reference, because they mark theirs up pretty heavily. If you're wondering what "couch" is, that's our reading time that we do together in the morning. "Extras" are any appointments/lessons we have.

When it's filled out it looks like this...

The "x's" in a box means that subject is not assigned on that day.

We've used this little "grid" assignment sheet for years. When they were very young, I didn't post it on the fridge. They didn't really know I had a plan. We just moved from one fun learning activity to another. When they got a little older they got one of their own every day, but with far fewer subjects than I've listed here. About 2 years ago, they got one for the whole week. Each year it changes a little, but the overall concept stays the same. I tried to change the layout of this little assignment sheet this year, but it made me confused, so I went back to the old standby.

Do you have any scheduling tips?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When do you start?

This is why I don't start a full school schedule in August. I have to turn this...

Into this...

Not to mention all the berries that are made into jam, corn and peas that are shucked and frozen, beans that are snapped and canned. It is ALOT of work, but so nice to have in February.

This year the girls have been a super help - peeling, cutting, chopping, measuring, filling jars. I'm very thankful they enjoy doing it.

So, we'll be starting "official" school in September when the kitchen isn't so hot. When do you start?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chicken crisis

Yep. We have chickens. I don't know why. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be living on a "mini-farm" at nearly 40 years old.

Anyway, the girls have named our 6 chickens and love to go hang out with them. Why? I don't know. (Seems like I don't know much, huh?)

Yesterday, they saw a big cat hanging around near the coop and were a little worried that the cat would bother the hens. "No worries," I said. "Those chickens are as big as any cat." At that, we left for piano with the chickens scrapping around in their large fenced in area.

When we returned from their lessons, Sarah made a bee line for the chicken yard and all I could hear was hysterical screeching from her. Apparently 4 of the chickens had been carried off by some hungry wild critter. The two remaining chickens were busily going about their business as if nothing had happened.

We checked the yard and could find no signs of a struggle just a few feathers near the garden.

That's not enough feathers for 4 chickens. I could not understand how a cat (or anything for that matter) could carry off 4 chickens and leave only a handful of feathers on the ground. Maybe one got "got" and the rest escaped to the trees. Maybe they'd come home in the evening when it was time to roost. None of these were viable options in my kids' minds.

Sarah was hysterical, Becca was reservedly gloomy, and I was bummed because we'd been feeding these chickens for nearly 5 months and now that they should start laying eggs any day, 4 are GONE.

The story does have a happy ending. About an hour later, Rebecca was on our playset and heard something in the bushes...all 4 chickens. I guess they literally "flew the coop". We had clipped their wings, but I guess it's time to do it again. Not to get cliche happy, but they probably realized that the "grass was greener of the other side of the fence" since they have totally destroyed every bit of grass they had in their yard. We let them out in pairs in a small chicken tractor, but I guess that's just not enough for them. They had tasted the good life and wanted more. I just glad for the girls that they are all accounted for. :-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Where do I go from here?

I feel like I'm in the twilight zone. Isn't that another world for middle school? The place between having fun without a care in the world elementary school and the get down to business, college entrance, and your future is at stake, high school.

Part of me wants to continue the unstructured learning that we have done the past five years, and the other part of me worries that if I don't get a little more "rigid" we'll miss alot of the credits needed for college entrance. Part of me thinks, but they are still babies, and part of me is reminded (daily) that they are becoming individuals and will (sooner than I'd like) be leaving my nest.

So what's a mom to do? Their personalities are shining through and they are testing the waters of independence. I want to push them academically, but at the same time I don't want them to lose the love of learning they have. I feel like I should be pointing them in some direction to help their future. But what direction?

Several wise homeschool veterans have told me "Don't let the good get in the way of the best, especially as your children get older." They are completely different in almost every way, so this year is going to be a fun journey discovering what is "the best" for each.

Welcome to my new blog!

Many of you have been reading my blog posts on my website, Homeschool By Design, but I have found that posting there has become tedious and time consuming.

We'll see if this makes it easier for the blogging part anyway.