Sunday, September 30, 2012

31 Day, 31 Smiles {Day 1}: an Introduction

I am thrilled to be joining The Nester again this year for the 31 Days Challenge

There are numerous sites out there, all better than mine, with fabulous ideas to engage your children and beautiful craft projects to share together, but this series is about simplicity.  This is about having fun with your children without the pressure to be perfect.  It's about having fun without frustration! 

My name is Kristin and I'm a mom of five children under the age of 10.  My husband works long hours (though he is off for ten weeks in the winter) and we homeschool with a mix of Charlotte Mason-style and natural learning. 

During the next 31 Days, I will give ideas for easy ways to have fun together as a family.  I will talk about identifying the things that ruin our fun times.  I will offer advice for finding time for fun in the midst of a busy, hectic, full life, and my ever-popular "How Do You...?" series will continue each Thursday, focusing on our topic. 

My prayer is that you feel welcome here and that we become friends as we walk this journey together. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Round Two of the {Autumn} Dress

The momentum is going now.  Without it, I'm sure I would have declared the dress too small long ago. I mean, come on.  She's worn it every season, starting last summer and continuing into fall.  The we stretched it into a winter dress...and then spring...and summer.  Surely, it's too small now, but really, it's not. 

It is getting a little short, though, even as a tunic so for the autumn version, I wanted to add a bottom ruffle.  Not being an experienced seamstress, I wasn't sure I could do it, but I borrowed my mom's machine, set aside a few hours to work, and was pleasantly pleased with my results. 

Having given the border my all, I decided this season's embellishment needed to be ultra-simple so I stitched a oversized yo-yo from an old T-shirt and tacked down a button, creating an autumn flower.

It was also time to replace the button on the back-- replacing the green button with a clear, glittery flower button. 

While she models it the next couple of months, my mind will be spinning, thinking of the next design.  Gotta keep it going...

Linking to...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Do You...Fit Cleaning Into Your Daily Schedule?

How do you fit cleaning into your day?
  Do you do  it before school?  After lunch? 
submitted by Michelle

My goal is to get one large cleaning job in before we begin school at 9 o'clock.  I consider large jobs things like cleaning a bathroom or vacuuming the living areas.  While the older kids are doing their assigned chores, I tackle something of my own. 

In reality this doesn't always happen.  Sometimes I get moving slower in the morning or the little kids need extra attention and I'm not able to do much more than get dressed and clean up from breakfast. On those days, I will  wait until afternoon nap time to clean which gives me incentive not to dawdle so that I can enjoy the peace and quite without a dust cloth in my hand. 

I have a very loose schedule I go by.  I change sheets about every other week, usually on Mondays.  I try to dust the house once a week and this usually falls on Tuesday or Wednesday, after the dust from the sheets has settled.  I  do a thorough vacuuming once a week, too.  This happens on Wednesday or Thursday, after I've dusted.  (Spot-vacuuming occurs almost daily!  My Dirt Devil is my friend, especially since the kids can easily use it, too.)  I give the bathrooms a deep clean once a week, typically on Friday or Saturday.  

Chores like sweeping the crumbs from the kitchen floor, folding the laundry, and wiping fingerprints off of the glass door are done in spurts throughout the day, whenever I get half a second to do them! 

The cleaning is left to me and the kids with a major exception.  Two days before Christmas (or Christmas Eve Eve,  as we like to call it), my husband has declared Cleaning Day.  We spend the entire day cleaning the house together.  We do everything from wiping the walls to cleaning the crevices of the ceiling fan to scrubbing the stove burners.  We find so much to do that it makes me wonder if my house is even clean the rest of the year. 

How do you fit cleaning into your day?  Do you have a routine? Let us know in the comments. 

Also, if you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail! I'd love to hear from you. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Is Tapping At My Door

Phase 1 of autumn  begins the minute we step in the door from our (almost) yearly September vacation.

I love the word autumn.  It's so much more elegant than fall

The windows are open.

Seasonal wildflowers are growing across the street, simply begging to be picked so I obliged.

New fall linens are on the table and a few autumn serving dishes are dusted off and ready for use.

We ate chili for dinner one night (even though it was still a bit too hot outside). 

Now to enter Phase 2 of autumn...pumpkin shopping! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Human Body (by the books)

My goal for the summer was to fulfill our health requirements for the school year.  For our first few homeschooling years, I'd panic at year-end when it was time to record what we'd done for health (a state-required subject).  Usually, I would remember reading a biography of Helen Keller and learning about being blind and deaf...or I'd jot down a few notes about learning hygiene. 

Now I'm more proactive about it.  We choose a topic to complete in the summer and then we put the whole health thing behind us until the next year.  Last year, we learned basic first aid.  This year, I chose the human body.  We all became so fascinated that we read enough to count for health and a good chunk of science, too! 

Our Book List For Studying

The Human Body


The Way We Work
 (Chapters 2-3) by David Macauley 

We began with this book.  From the beginning, I intended to skip Chapter 1 which had very technical information on cells that I knew would be way, way over my kids' heads.  I also planned to skip the last chapter which had technical information about reproduction.  It was tastefully done, but not appropriate in mixed company. 

As it turned out, there was so much detail in the book that it lost my youngest listeners and even had the older ones struggling to keep up.  It's probably more suitable for readers ages 12 and up. 


Under Your Skin: Your Amazing Body
by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom

After enduring the first book, I let Owen choose our next book and he chose this one.  A quick, fun, visual read, this book had numerous flaps, illustrating the body on the surface and what lies beneath.  From the nasal passages to the skeleton, the kids loved it all. 

Our Bodies (A Child's First Library of Learning) by Time-Life Books

Don't be fooled by the cover.  It may look dull and textbook-y, but the inside is filled with the answers to fun questions kids ask like, "Why are we ticklish?" and "What are hiccups?"


Yikes Your Body Up Close by Mike Janulewicz

This was another fun selection.  Maddie thought it was a little gross, but the boys were thrilled at the super-magnified photos of hair and skin and blood.  

100 Things You Should Know About the Human Body by Steve Parker

This book was meaty, but still on an elementary level.  Divided into sections based on topic, we learned about teeth, medicine, the make-up of blood, muscles, and each of the five senses.  This book included 4-5 easy experiments.  One had us testing the difference in sensitivity between our palms and our calves.  Another had us watching our pupils in changing light. 


Charlie Brown's 'Cyclopedia: Super Questions and Answers and Amazing Facts, Vol. 1: Featuring Your Body

I had this book growing up, but sometime through the years, we lost track of it.  My friend, Mary, talked of having a copy for her son and I asked if we could borrow it.  Then, to my extreme surprise, I found the entire series (minus Volume 12) on the shelf at the Goodwill for less than $5!

By the time we got to this book, we had already learned so much that some of the information was a repeat, we still enjoyed the question and answer format.  My boys couldn't wait to get to "Why do we burp?" but there were also more serious questions like "What is a fever?" and "Why will I only get the chicken pox one time?" 


I have been pleased with how much my kids learned about the human body with so little effort.  When I say, "What's a bruise?"  they can say, "It's blood under the skin that lost its oxygen."

Or if I say, "What makes your stop bleeding?" they say, "Well, I know that plasma makes you get a scab."

Or if I say, "Why doesn't it hurt when you get a haircut?" they say, "Because we don't have nerves in our hair."

They may not be able to name every bone in the body, but the practical knowledge they now have is priceless.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How Do You...Establish Responsibility in Young Children?

How do you get young children to take responsibility for their chores and school work on their own?

A real goal of our household this year is to establish  responsibility in our older children.  I am tired of reminding everyone of everything they need to do...and because I do have to remind them, they don't even try to remember on their own.  It's a vicious cycle! 

At the beginning of August, I made a very simple chart for the boys' room and another for the girls' room that lays out a basic outline of our morning.  I hung the charts on their closet doors where they were sure to be seen every morning.  Each chart makes the expectations clear and we're already reaping the benefits.  Even Benjamin who won't be 4 until next month will look at the chart and do his routine without being told.  

the boys' chart

To make it easy on the non-readers, I included pictures as a visual reminder.  In the above chart, Gavin has the light gray shaded box.  He rotates dog duty with Maddie so one week he does the chores in the left column and the next week, he performs the chores in the right column.  Owen has the dark gray shaded box to himself.  Ben either helps me with my morning chores or entertains Alaine. 

the girls' chart

Establishing responsibility first thing in the morning is helping to carry it into the rest of the day, too. 

(Note: These charts do not include the daily chores that occur after school hours, such as helping with laundry, setting and clearing the table, or straightening the living room.  We tend to those chores as a group, and therefore don't need a separate chart or reminder .)


How do you train your children to be responsible?  Let us know in the comments. 

Also, if you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail! I'd love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A September Vacation in Photos

cash envelopes

lunch at Friendly's

Brian and the boys

eating a LARGE Hershey's Kiss

enjoying the cool, sunny evening
in the backyard of the guest home where we stayed

feeding the chickens

"milking" the cow

view from the guest home window

happy smiles

thrill seekers

a sweet pumpkin

post-vacation laundry pile

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