Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In Review

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This weekend we were discussing all the things we did in 2012, only there was a lot of silence. As in, no one could think of anything that we did. It's been an emotionally draining & challenging year, but when we stopped to reflect back on all that had happened or been done there was laughter & smiles as we discussed our year:

January: 

We made our annual trip to Baker's Beach with cousins, Aunties & Uncles. We live for this trip & look forward to it every year. There's laughter, friendly competitions, & a lot of insanity. We had a wallaby fight outside our tent at 2am which I had to break up by whacking wallabies, something I don't generally recommend. I scared an elderly man when I chased a naughty possum off our tent & halfway across the camping area. We woke up to find out hot cocoa pot, which we thought had been put up, licked clean by wildlife. Nearly came home with a mouse in our tent. Rushed home with Mr S so we could take him straight to the ER. He had a badly sprained ankle after falling off a dune & a nifty caterpillar sting to match.

Our annual Australia Day Party. Nothing fancy, a game of croquete in the back yard. Family. Flag. Sparklers. An occasional trip to the beach. Morgan made a giant cookie ice cream cake which was the hit of the party, & have been requested frequently ever since.

February:

Morgan turned 11 & Mr S & I stood there wondering where on earth the time had gone. Only two more years until he's officially a teenager, & Morgan can't wait. He's still thin & gangly like he's always been. Short for his age. Full of curiosity & a deep desire to know & understand everything. He's full of compassion & can't understand how anyone can be mean to another person, unless maybe it's him trying to deal with a pesky little brother.

We had an early morning delivery on the 10th as well. A trash can. The final {maybe} saying in a long running family joke where my children once offered our eldest niece's friends all their trash. Out of context it seems incredibly insane, but the teens had all offered our children chocolates, & our children unsure what to do with the trash offered it right back. The sign that came with the trash can still makes us laugh, daily, because it's hanging on Morgan's bedroom door!

March:

A Leprechaun ran wild in our home. We don't normally do much of anything for St Patrick's Day, but I decided to shock my children by tearing up the house before I went to bed. Grafitting some family photos with a dry erase marker, & tinting lots of food green. They woke up in complete shock, one they broke through the rainbow I hung on their door. They demanded to know why Daddy & Mommy had such a messy party.

Mr S bought me an iPhone. My old mobile phone was causing him much grief in the fact that I never had a signal & we had to call & ask for it to be reset a few times too many. I received a phone call on the way home from an outing telling me to run by the Mac Shop & pick one up. My children were in total awe.

April:

Mr S turned 4-0. We had a fantastic Murder Mystery party where my sister-in-law made a stunning performance at dying. Our neighbors trekked four houses up dressed so funnily all the children playing in the street ran home. For the first, & most likely last time in my life, I wore a mini skirt & black eye shadow. The clown did it, & fooled us all. We had such an amazingly wonderful time the boys want to have Mystery birthday parties.

I was diagnosed with a plethora of food & environmental allergies/intolerance's. Some of which we knew & some of which came as a real shocker. My children cried, but brightened when I told them if I couldn't have milk I guess someone could eat my portion of the ice cream hence forth. We've learned to navigate the road reasonably well, all though I still miss pizza. It's a small sacrifice to give up for feeling good & being migraine free the majority of the time.

May:

We started our new school Curriculum & fell madly in love with it. My boys enjoyed every minute of it, all though there were a lot of sniffles & quietness at the end of one of our books this year. It was a weird time to start with a new curriculum, but we're so glad we did! Crazily enough my children are now history crazy, & Jayden can tell which world war is which simply by looking at helmets, guns, & planes.

Mr S cashed in his 40th birthday present from Nana & we went on a lovely afternoon cruise up the Tamar River. We saw some amazing things, learned an incredible amount of local history, & got to watch a camera running under the boat where we hoped to spot a seal but only saw fish. We spent the whole weekend in the City & saw a reproduction of the plane from the book The Glorious Flight & screamed our hearts out at the footy match.

June:

Jayden turned 9. It wasn't that long ago that he was all of 2 & just letting people besides me hold him. He was 2.5 before our neighbor saw him without a dummy/pacifier in his mouth. Now he's a rather outgoing little boy who lives for all things manly. He simply can not get enough of all things military.

We said good-bye to Poppy as he went home. We cried, we laughed, & we talked long into the night. In fact we still do all of these things. Our world was turned upside down & not a day goes by that we don't miss him.

July:

Morgan tackled long division, a concept he wavered on for a while. He's incredibly mathy & was determined to figure it out. We celebrated his new accomplishment & he relished every single minute of it.

The boys crawled through intestines as we reconnected with our local home education group. Our trip to the science museum is still chatted about all these months later. Of course they most especially remember Morgan getting to help make poo & the ability to read incredibly funny, but true, facts on the back of toilet seats.

August:

We gave Nana a surprise party when, after falling sick & landing in hospital, she was at our house for her birthday. The boys were insistent that we lay out the party cloth & everything. We love celebrating birthdays & this was no different.

Our old Blue Beast of a car gave up the ghost on us. Not before causing us to call RACT to come help us get home after conking out on a back road. Or missing the book exchange with our local home ed group, or causing us to walk all the way into town & back again. It served us well.

September:

We got the new Purple People Eater of a car which causes lots of laughs & people comment on how it's an old Cadbury car. True, it is. We love it. It serves us well & we are incredibly grateful for the opportunities & doors God opened to provide us with what we needed in such an incredibly short time.

We cried our eyes out over a devastating Footy loss as the Hawkers lost in the Grand Final. There was breath holding, cheering, & screams as we watched an amazing footy match. Maybe next year boys, maybe next year..

October:

We went to America after keeping our arrival secret for 3 months. The hardest secret we've ever had to keep. The boys dreamed of strolling up & pretending to be pizza men. We arrived too late to pick up pizza on the way. We also didn't make a totally surprised entrance thanks to the interior light in the car coming on & staying on long enough for our identity to be revealed before we knocked on the door. We had a wonderful time & can't wait to go back & visit again.. hopefully for a pinch longer next time.

We made our first trip to Hobart as Morgan had his first test for Irlens. The journey there was nothing compared to the journey Morgan's been on to see help. So many emotions wrapped up in that trip, but we'd make it again 1000x over if we had to.

November:

I turned 35, & had to do the math to figure out how old I was. My children laughed, my husband thought I was putting him on. Truthfully since falling pregnant with our first child I've not been able to remember how old I am. When the Dr asked me at my 6 month appointment I told him I had no idea, he & Mr S sat there doing the math to figure it out.

We had our Home Ed review with the home monitor who fell in love with our books, our home, our learning area, & our children's art. While I don't enjoy these home visits because I worry too much, they are always pleasant & rewarding. We passed with flying colours.

December:

The boys went ice skating for the first time & fell in love with it. They beg me to tell them all about how I use to go ice skating in the back yard on our creek in NY state. They can't wait to go back, all though Jayden's really hoping next time he doesn't fall & get freezer burn on his arm.

We officially wrapped up school for the year. We weren't sure we were going to make it at times, but we did. What an amazing accomplishment it was, what a wonderful school year we had. We're looking forward to starting next year.


Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chocolate Knife?!

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We took the boys into the city this past weekend for a bit of Christmas shopping. We had a great time walking around & peeking in ship windows to see all their displays, listening to the buskers playing a variety of songs. We ran into one lady who was so overcome with excitement she couldn't stop telling us how excited she was, it was really quite funny!

While there we popped into the sweet shop, one store we don't usually visit. While gawking at the jars of candy & the other treats on display Mr S walked up to me with a chocolate Swiss Army Knife. I was absolutely blown away by it!  From a bit farther back you didn't even notice the wrinkles on the packaging & when he held it up I thought he was indicating that Morgan's knife had fallen off again. It wasn't until I got closer I realised it was actual chocolate.

The packing was well done! I nearly bought a couple so we could see what the mold they chocolate had been poured in looked like, but we managed to walk out of the shop without a single one in our possession. Which leaves us wondering exactly what the chocolate inside the wrapper looks like!

Of course, after a quick google search, it turns out the insides are just as realistic. Some of them are even sold in fancy boxes like the swiss army knives come in!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Morning Routines

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This picture is a good indication of what our house looks like at about 8:15 on the average morning. Around here, especially in the summer, we're up pretty early. It's hard not to be when the sun is streaming in your windows. The boys have been making their own level/world in a Lego Wii game that they have. Morgan's really into trying to design his own game & Mr S has promised to help him with it, but explained that you need to start with the basics.

The basics didn't exactly move at the speed Morgan was hoping for, but while he's waiting to expand beyond that level of thinking he realised he could make some pretty amazing game play for Mr S in his nifty Lego game. This seems to have appeased all involved & keeps them pretty busy too. It's quite funny to see them thinking up complex situations in which each thing must be solved before you can complete your mission.

Morgan spent all his video game time for three days building this crazy thing & then wanted Mr S to play it through. Unfortunately we were out quite late that evening & by the time we got in everyone was too tired to mess with video games, so Mr S promised to have a go of it in the morning.

I came in from my morning walk & sat down to ice my knee to the three of them discussing what needed doing. It was quite funny to watch & Morgan was really pleased when it was dubbed "Rather tricky". Of course Morgan informed Mr S, ".. you're only testing it remember. I'll be changing some things up so it works better for the next time you play." I seriously snorted when he said that.

The boys have been troopers over the years helping test many of Mr S' games, & it's always frustrated Mr S when they prefer the prototype game. You know, the raw one with a lot of goofs in it, yep, those are their favourites. I think it's because they find all the goofs really funny, that & the funky sound he'd hooked up to them originally. I guess it was only natural that Morgan would give his father the same warning. The only reply I heard over my snorting was, "Just don't get rid of the pumpkin car, I love that!"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Handmade

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I was looking through my art board on Pinterest & showed the boys a few art projects I thought they might enjoy & that were relatively simple. Morgan fell in love with several & wanted to begin right away,  Jayden was suffering from a bad day & opted out.

Morgan worked on one entitled Warm & Cold Colors over on Craft Junkie which was inspired by Kathy Barbos Art Projects For Kids Blog. Kathy has some fantastic ideas, some of which we've had a blast trying before & many of which I have planned to try at some point. Thanks to the quick & simple template available this project is super easy to do.

I showed Morgan the variety of ways others had done the same one & the mediums they'd chosen to get the effects they had. We have each one of those mediums that he could choose to use, but he went with the oil crayons. I'm glad, they have such a beautiful & vivid colour to them. I think we picked them up at Birchalls a few years ago & they are still going strong.

We ended up putting the finished project in a black frame & he's wrapped it up to give to a cousin. He has a few more art projects planned to work on to give to others.  I have to confess I'm kinda jealous others are getting his awesome artwork because he really does an amazing talent for it. I hope they enjoy it as much as we enjoy watching him work on it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sticker Shock

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I don't buy boxed cake mixes or any other boxed mixes. In fact, I generally don't even stop to look at the boxed mixes in the grocery store unless we're down the health food isle, those ones usually avoid egg & dairy.  A couple of weeks ago, though, I was in the grocery store & noticed the familiar red spoon label of a well known US boxed cake/cookie/sweet mix: Betty Crocker.

It's not often we find familiar labels in the store & so it caused me stop & gawk for a minute. The longer I gawked, though, the more shocked I became. Check out the price on those mixes, will you?! You're reading that right: $5.19. Those same mixes use to cost all of .97 cents when we left the US. No idea how much they are now as I didn't even stop to look at them when we were there earlier this year, but I'm pretty sure they aren't anywhere near $5.19.

Mr S asked what on earth I was doing, & I said, "Check out the price on the Betty Crocker stuff!! Who'd pay $5 for this stuff?" "I dunno, do they have lemon?" I made a beeline for the milk that he complained we were out of & suggested he spend his $5 on the milk he wanted instead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ice Skating

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Our second to last event with our home ed group this year was ice skating. I have a general rule about participating in things that cost money, especially higher amounts, it's a weird rule with a lot of reasons, but it doesn't really matter because I completely broke that rule because I was desperate to take the kids ice skating!

I spent the two weeks leading up to it telling them all sorts of stories of the ice skating my siblings & I use to do on the little creek that ran through our backyard in NY state. They were pretty excited until I was reminded of the time our friends were over & we were playing hokey on the ice. One brother fell on top of another brother & it was all fun & games until the younger brother got up & we noticed he'd managed to get his eye lid sliced by a skate. The boys wanted to know if that meant ice skating was dangerous. I assured them no one was playing hockey or dog piling on the ice.

It was a long, mostly for the kids, drive down to the rink. We're talking 3+ hours. Most of which we kept busy with listening to a book, gawking at landmarks, & keeping an eye out for the bus that the rest of the group was riding on. We opted to drive ourselves down, because while the offer of riding on the bus sounded grand I kinda thought the reality might be considerably different.

The boys had a blast on the ice, & Morgan was doing incredibly well by the time we left. Jayden's missing from the picture because he's the one who took it. I don't suggest staring at the photo too long or you might go cross-eyed. Mr S was with us & was brave enough to skate too. He was having nightmares of the last, & only time, he ice skated which ended in disaster.

I have to confess, though, that the ice was in rough shape! Except for the times the ice on the creek melted & then refroze I'm pretty sure our creek was considerably smoother then that ice was! There were even a few potholes which caused quite a few slips, spills, & falls. Everyone had a grand time though, & when I mentioned the condition of the ice Mr S said, "Well of course it's not in good condition, we're Australian, we're not use to ice!"

The only thing funnier was when we were done & handed in our skates I ran to use the toilet & forgot I didn't have skates on anymore. I nearly tripped into the bathroom in my attempt to glide on skates. It was well worth a few laughs, all though the poor Mum I fell into might not have found it quite as funny.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Accidents Happen

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Map making around here is pretty common. Morgan maps with a more realist view point, but Jayden prefers to make war maps. Ones with troops all over where he can put play figures on it & push & sweep them to explain what's happening in the battle. In fact, he wanted to know if we'd get him maps for Christmas just for this purpose.

Last week he made one such map & wanted to know how he could age it. Morgan suggested he crumple it up in a ball to make it wrinkly. I suggested he burry it in the garden to get it dirty. He did both, but wasn't pleased with the results. It needed to look older. I offered to burn the edges for him with a candle. He was really excited.

So after I burned around one edge he wanted me to burn the middle. I told him that it could result in no map. He didn't care. So we had a nice aged look happening when he asked me to try it on another part, which we did. Only, Morgan called out & I looked up until Jayden screamed, "it's on fire!!!" We had a small hole in the map, but in the amount of time it took me to put it out we had a huge hole. I was mortified because I hadn't suggested he run a copy off before we began our experiment.

Jayden, however, didn't care. "Awesome! Now the enemies will never steal our real plans!" Yeah, not exactly sure who the enemy was, but I eventually found the crazy thing wrapped around a water bottle. When i attempted to remove it I was informed that I was messing with official business & the General would not be happy about this.  Pretty sure our history studies went right to his brain this year, I think we call that success.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Night Out

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A couple of weeks ago Mr S got to join a friend to see the new James Bond film, I'm not a huge Bond fan to be honest so it was a real treat for Mr S to join a guy to go see this movie. The boys wanted to know what we'd do instead. Personally, I was all for popping a bowl of popcorn & watching one of the many chic flicks that are sitting on my shelf completely unopened, but the boys weren't about to go for that. I suggested a Christmas movie & popcorn, but then the boys reminded me the popcorn maker was broken. Which reminded me I'd thrown it away ages ago.

Jayden then informed me that Kmart had popcorn poppers in their advert for $12 so I suggested we go get one & then come home & watch a movie. Okay, so I really tried to convince them to watch a Princess movie with me because I had Tangled & Brave on the shelf too. Jayden adamantly disagreed with that idea, his idea was to go to Subway. I guess even the popcorn wasn't going to lure him in on my idea.

We took Jayde's idea & went with it... after we picked up a new popcorn popper. The weather was beautiful so we walked down to the water's edge & watched the ferries do their thing while we ate. We checked the rocks for any of the red alge they were getting in Sydney, but all we found was the green slippery kind.

By the time we got home they decided they didn't want popcorn, or a princess movie. We watched something else, all though it completely slips my mind as to what exactly that was. It wasn't until the following morning that Jayden realised he'd never gotten a single bite of popcorn. He greeted us with, "By the way Mom you never made popcorn! Can we have some for breakfast?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peppermint Bar Cookies

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We don't have desert very often around here, but Morgan was really itching to cook something. I think he felt a little left out of not helping much with our Thanksgiving feast. He'd had every intention of helping to make a few of the treats we had then, but he got very caught up in other festivities of the day.  We had the supplies in the pantry for chocolate chip cookies, so the other day that's what he decided he'd make.

Only, we also had some candy canes in the cupboard another little boy was itching to eat, so I thought the best thing to do was to combine the two. The chef was on board so after they opened up all the candy canes we whizzed them in the food processor until they were small chunks.

Morgan whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. We've always used the Nestle recipe except that we sub coconut sugar for both white & brown sugar called for in the recipe. I also had them sub coconut oil for the butter because they wanted me to eat some & I can't have dairy. Normally we just sub half the butter for coconut oil. I had them sub the eggs too because I can't have those, but you don't have to do any of that.  Mix up according to the normal directions. Then we mixed in the crushed up candy cane.

He used the largest rectangular pan in the cupbard which is smaller then a sheet cake pan, but larger then an 8x11. How's that for exact? Spread the cookies evenly into the pan. We also had some dairy free chocolate in the pantry that we were going to use for Thanksgiving & hadn't. I figured he might as well use that too, so we whizzed that through the food processor as well & then he sprinkled it evenly across the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes,  cool.

Incase you couldn't tell from the picture you'll probably have to move pretty quickly to get one. The guys devoured them & then each lamented the few they got. I ate one & then paid the price for eating wheat. The only thing I forgot to have them sub. It was tasty until the migraine took me out! I think it would have looked prettier if he'd sprinkled candy cane on top of the melted chocolate, but you know they just care how totally awesome they taste. They didn't even care that I pulled out my special snowman plate...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Keeping Track of Audio & Ebooks

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We've been members of Audible.com for years now. I say years, because I can't actually remember how long we've been members there for, I just know it's been a long time. It's a pretty simple, & fun, club. Basically, as a member, you get a specific amount of tokens each month, then you use those tokens to grab a book for "free". We started out as a one token a month family, but eventually upgraded so that we have 2 tokens a month. Seriously, I think we'd love 3 a month now that the boys are old enough to want specific books too, but they also have really awesome sales over there so sometimes I pick up books then too. We listen to audio books for school, in the car, during storms, when camping, while doing chores, & just about any other time you can think of it. Needless to say we have a lot of audio books. The kids will often ask if we can get one book or another & I'll say, "You know we own that right?"

Kindle books are about as bad. I don't make a general habit of buying kindle books & just keep my eyes out for the various places around the internet that share the free listings. My husband & bil were mortified when they were using my kindle for something & discovered I had all most 700 books on the thing. I really freaked them out when I said, "Yeah, & I've only paid for about 6 of them. The rest were freebies at one time or another."

The upside is we have a lot of awesome books at our disposal, for which I'm extremely grateful. Books never go astray in our home. It's fun to listen or read them over & over again. To allow friends & family to borrow them, yes even our audio & ebooks {you know you can loan ebooks out right through your kindle account, right?} so they can share in the fun stories too.

The downside is that we often forget what we have until we go to grab it again & Audible or Amazon notifies us that we all ready own the book. It happens, a bit too often I'm afraid. I usually have a huge stack of books to read through, which is the case now too, but when I grab the kindle to read something I'm often not sure where I want to start. For instance, I know right now I've got several Christmas books on there I'd love to read, but I can't remember the titles.

I decided to get serious about cleaning my mess up & turned to Delicious Library. I'd tried it out a few years ago for free, but didn't purchase it then because I was using Library Thing. Library Thing is a nifty website where you can keep track of all the books, cds, & what not that you own. It's really a great way to keep track of what you have because you can even tag the books & things. For a person with books in two countries this is a great way for me to know what's where.

However, I'd fallen away from using it, to be honest & when I went back there to see if I could print lists of my books out so that we could see what we had, I couldn't seem to find a way to do it. Which reminded me of my trial time with Delicious. You can print your book lists. The whole shebang or you can print them off in categories {known as shelves} so you can see what you have where. This is exactly what I needed!

I entered all our Audio books & all our Kindle books into the crazy thing. While you can scan barcodes with it, there was no way I could do that with e-items, so I had to do it the old fashioned way & enter all 800 plus items in by hand. Time well spent though, really. I then printed it out my various shelves & threw them in a notebook with page protectors in it. I've broken it down, for now as: Kindle Kids Books, Audio Kids Books, Audio Chapter Books, etc. I'll break it down by genres later.


I was also able to create the lists of suggestions I had for my boys with this nifty programme simply by entering in the titles that we didn't own but could grab from the library, audible, or kindle. The rest that we all ready owned I just dragged & dropped right onto their own little shelves, printed them out, & filed them into our notebook. Easy peasy!

Now when the books say, "I don't know what to read!" or "I want to read something different!" or "What's on the kindle? Any new books?" "Do we own..?" All I have to do is remind them there's a e-book catalog on the shelf & they can refer to it. Of course, I'll have to remember to update it when I grab new things. My plan is to enter the new stuff into the programme immediately & then reprint necessary pages monthly depending on how much we obtain in a month.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Lists, kits, & more

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I slapped the kids book bag kits together yesterday afternoon for the reading challenge. As I mentioned before I used the bags that we'd gotten for free at the book shop a few months ago, I also stuck in some pins/buttons they included with the bags. If I was really talented & had the supplies I'd have remade the buttons so that they were made to say something about the little challenge.

I printed out one of the little reading logs I shared yesterday, some bookmarks I made. They use it to keep track of time spent reading. They actually have bookmarks that keep track of that, you can use them as a stopwatch or a timer, but Morgan's batteries are flat. I really don't want them reading for time as much for enjoyment anyway.

I also tucked some books in the bags to help get the ideas flowing of books they could read. These were ones I pulled off the shelves that I knew would interest them. Jayden, for instance, is into all things zoological related & war related. Finding books for those interests was really easy, especially when I realised I'd forgotten one of our WW2 books this year! Morgan is into all kinds of history, anything involving inventions or experimenting, & lots of make believe type stories.

I didn't end up making up anything fancy for the bookworms, because as it turned out the kids ate the worms & left the frogs in the cupboard. I wasn't quick witted enough to come up with something flashy involving books & frogs so I just threw them in snack baggies & chucked them in the bag.

We then read the rules & prizes out to them which caused a lot of cheering & squealing around here. We had to wait a full three minutes for Jayden to quit screaming with joy over the idea of getting a trip to the lollie shop, I had to remind him he still had to shop in the sugar-free section which brought an abrupt halt to his partying.

Then I shared a list of books I'd created for each of them. I put 20 books on each list & we read the synopsis of each book. They have some of the same books on their lists, & then they each have a few their own all based on ability & likes. They both made grand plans in regards to which books they wanted to read first & other such funny things, but then when we ran to town in the evening Morgan brought his pocket money & picked up another Enid Blyton book & spent a half hour reading it.

Just to make sure they don't forget their own objectives in regards to the prizes they are aiming for, I hung a copy of the goals/prizes chart on our tv stand. You know, right next to the Wii, which they never have free reign over, but seem to ask to use an awful lot.

You can snag the Puffle bookmarks here if you're interested. If your kids are hard on bookmarks I'd suggest printing on cardstock. I also made a pdf copy of the rules so that the boys could see those to refer back to in regards to genre of books to pick. I edited them slightly that even after reading all the required books they could still only count 4 comic books & 8 picture books to their lists. I know that picture books have plenty of value, & I also know there are some much longer picture books out there. However, the purpose of this challenge is to encourage them to break out of their comfort zone just a little bit. You can snag the rules here if you want.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2013 Summer Reading Programme

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This summer I decided I wanted the boys to participate in a reading challenge. Our library offers some kind of reading programme, but if often starts at the very beginning of December with little public notice. Considering we are in there weekly & they don't widely advertise it until school is out it always drives me batty.

This year, I thought I'd create my own reading challenge for the guys. Something to keep them reading through the summer, encourage them to expand their tastes with reading, & with a little bit of a reward at the end of each week.

Thus our 2013 Summer Reading Challenge was born. I made notes about it throughout the past few months in my notebook & finally sat down & finalised all our plans. I based this on how many weeks we'll have off over the course of this summer. 3 weeks in December & 5 weeks in January. We start back the first week of February so no real time there. From there I decided what was a reasonable amount of time & book for my kids to read.

However, my boys are really caught in a cycle of reading comic books. Don't get me wrong, they have their place & value if they encourage the kids to read, but I'd like them to expand their horizon now. Morgan really fell on these books & never moved past them before we got a firm diagnoses for him. Understanding that he could only focus on one word at a time explains why comic books were fun & reasonably easy for him to read.

Our basic plan is in the image above, you can click on it for a large picture of a pdf copy of what we're doing if you'd like to challenge yourselves as well. If you're looking for a few more details here's what we've got planned:

1. We officially start on Monday, December 10th. Mr S & I will discuss the rules with the kids Sunday evening before bed & present them with their starter kits.

2. The Starter Kits is a really fancy way for saying I rounded up some items from around the house to encourage them. Each kit will include: 1 book bag {when I purchased some classics earlier this year at my local book shop they gave me two beautiful book bags which I'll share photos of later}, 3 book marks {They'll each have their timer bookmark to help them keep track of time, ones I'll print off where they can keep track of the pages they read, & the third is a duplicate of the first I mentioned for when they use it up.}, 1 certificate to snag a book from Audible.com {we have an account there so I have some credits that I'd like to let them use if they want to snag a book each to help get them going}, & a reading log so they can keep track of what they are doing. I'm also putting a stash of bookworms in their bag.

3. We'll look at their reading logs on Saturday & deal with prizes then, this will be especially helpful for the week 7 price, because this will mean a trip to the honey factory where they can get double dipper cones made without sugar.

4. We're offering a Grand Prize to both of them as well as the Super Grand Prize. This way, even if they don't reach the weekly goals it won't matter, they can still claim the grand prize. All though, the way I devised each weekly plan was that they should be able to accomplish the task by reading for 1 hour 6x a week, except in the final week where they'll need to make up 2 extra hours. I'm not sure that will be a big issue for some of the larger audio books Morgan has planned to listen to. We can purchase actual Amazon gift cards at our local supermarket, so we'll either pick them up there or just allow them to pick out what they want & go from there.

5. Grand Prize & Super Grand Prize, should they obtain them, will be given out at our Finale Party.

6. The Finale Party will happen the final weekend of our Reading Challenge. The boys will have until then to reach their goals. {I have this image of one of them reading like mad in an effort to snag that Super Grand Prize right up until the minute our party starts.} At the party they will also receive certificates for participation as well as for the amount of hours or books read. Each party goer will be asked to dress up as their favourite book character & then share about their favourite book, preferably one they read during the course of the challenge but knowing Morgan he'll dress up like The Ginger Bread Boy which is his all time favourite books most time.

7. There are a few finer details about the book choices they can make.. In an effort to keep them from limiting themselves to picture books & comic books the following guidelines have been put in place: Each participant must read 5 Audio books or 10 hours; 2 chapter books or 300 pages; 4 picture books; 2 comic books; 1 non-fiction book.  To help them even more: Read one book you started but never finished. Choose a book from a new series to try out. Pick a book you've always wanted to read, but never got to, this is especially helpful when picking audio books because they are not limited to ability when one only needs to understand what's being read to them. Ask Mom for a list of books you might enjoy & pick a few from there. {I've actually been jotting down, like crazy, books I think each of them would enjoy.}

8. Once all books in the above categories have been met they are free to choose what they'd like. The idea being this will keep them from choosing all picture or comic books & still help them meet their goal in order to cash in on the Grand Prize.

Resources:

Reading Logs
Bookmarks
Certificates
Book Log For Littles
Rewards With Matching Bookmarks
Audible.com
I'll share the book suggestions for the kids later.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Planner Update

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After sharing that we were working on a new planner for next school year, I had a few requests to share what the inside looks like. The pictures are a little iffy today, but hopefully you can make it all out.

For the cover I rounded up a few favourite photos from the past year & assembled them with a few digital scrapbooking items I had floating around my computer. I seriously have too much stuff floating around on my computer, so much so I've said a few times I need to get it cleaned up this summer while I have time!

The black rectangle on the file tab next to the picture with the boys & the dog is actually covering up our last name. It's not some odd, unknown shape floating around ont he front of our planner.

I was going to use a picture of the four us acting completely insane that we took at the beginning of this year while we were staying out of town, but it was taken with a phone camera & was incredibly poor quality.  From top right: Mr S & the boys solving a code I left on the table for them one Saturday. The boys disembarking from our Sydney flight, the line was long & we had to wait anyway so I snapped a photo. The boys & the dog in a giant crater in a wave wall down at one of our local beaches. We were attempting to distract our dog from another playful pup who was out for a training exercise. The balloon I released at our farewell for Dad. Mr S with a bit of sponge upon his head, he likes to make us laugh, me after I whacked all my hair off for my birthday, Morgan sporting his nifty new green glasses, Jayden wearing a pair of 3D theatre glasses with the "lenses" removed. What you can't see is he's also wearing a t-shirt that makes him look like he's got a tux on.
If you've ever used or looked at The Well Planner Day planner you may recognise some of these pages. Over the years I've obtained a couple of their planners, but they are set up for a US school year & considering we don't school in that time frame or with only 2 terms the layout doesn't work for us. I emailed the company to ask if they would ever consider a differing layout for those of us who live outside of the US & they directed me to their new online planner. I'm not a huge fan of online planners, so I set about making a planner with a few of their ideas that would best suit our needs. The above page is a "time table" for the first term of our school year. Just a basic guideline, which some in the house need to remind them of when they should be doing specific jobs vs enjoying heaps of free time.
We like working towards goals, mostly because when you home educate you often stay on a topic until your children have conquered it. This little page is perfect for that. I also made note of specific holidays that Mr S will not be working for our other things we have planned for the year. I did include a page for grades, but we've never given the kids grades before. We've debated playing with assigning grades as Morgan is a year away from highschool. While his entrance into an Australian university isn't going to call for his highschool grades we'd rather be over prepared then under prepared.
The last page went at the start of our term, along with a few others to help us be organised & discuss what our goals & aims for a given term are. This one goes at the end of that time frame so we can jot down all the things we feel we did accomplish, even if they weren't all what we'd aimed for. All of these pages repeat themselves in the planner for all 4 of our terms. I also included a page for goals for the following school year, because honestly as you near the end of the year your mind starts thinking in that direction, at least mine does, & I like to have a place to jot them down so I don't forget intended ideas. It was weird, though, writing 2014 on something!

Each week ends with the journaling page.. I like being able to jot down those learning moments that happen on the fly. Conversations in the car, games we played, dawning moments a child has, etc. Which reminds me of a funny story, but i'll have to share it later.

Each week starts with this page. I like to write down prayer request from friends, family, & especially my the family in my home. Our school days start with the hymn were learning for the month, followed by prayer. Before we pray I ask the kids if they have any requests & if either of them would like to pray. I share requests that friends have made or that I might have. The interesting thing about this is that I've noticed if a child is having a particularly off week or day or really struggling to beat a bad habit they will often lodge it in the form of a prayer request where, "we do not judge others, but cover them in prayer." It also helps the rest of us be more aware if someone is trying, very hard, to break a bad habit.
This has to be one of my all time favourite ideas, & it did not come from the original planner I first mentioned. In fact I think I might have mentioned this once before. Anyway, the page is quite simple. It has the days of the week listed on the side & the months listed across the top. It's a two page spread. You write in the dates yourself & then can arrange your school schedule from there at a glance. What days will be off, what days are holidays, etc. I made one of these up earlier this year & filled it in for 2013. It was so easy to build our terms for next year based on that, & then we rolled with laughter when we saw we'd picked the same schedule as the local public schools will be using. 


Hmm, not sure why this is blurry looking, but anyway.. Each month is a two page spread, despite the fact that the above image doesn't look like it. Sunday - Wednesday are on one side, Thursday - Saturday are on the other along with a quote & a Bible verse for the month. I typed in all our holidays & birthdays when I made it but will add other things as we go along.

Each week is also a two page spread, again it doesn't look like it but it is. Monday - Wednesday are on one side, Thursday - Friday with a few extra spaces for jotting things down are on the other. One of the features I really loved when looking through planners on my computer was the idea of highlighting the week of the month that you are on. Thus I added that feature to my planner for the year ahead. I also jotted down the topics that we'll be using this year on the left hand side of our paper. The days are written across the top. Morgan & I will most likely be sharing this planner as he learns to guide himself a bit through his school days. The idea is that he'll look at the list of things that apply to him & highlight them when he's done. I'll look them over & either leave a checkmark in the box on the right hand side of each column or I'll leave a grade. We're looking at starting to grade his work in preparation for highschool.

These are pages I tucked in the back. You might have to click on them to be able to see them better. The left one is for books or items I may borrow or loan out. Most times when I see curriculum or resources collecting dust on our shelves I like to be able to gift them to people who may need or want them, but sometimes there are things we're not quite ready to give away but more then happy to share. This will help me keep track of what's where. The page on the right is for those pesky websites & computer programmes. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Mr S call out, "What's the user name & password for.." I started writing some of that stuff down a long time ago. Now that the boys are members of some sites & have programmes that require usernames & passwords I have more people calling out to me. I thought a little page in the back of our planner would be the right place, because now I can say "just check the planner fellows!"

I have a few other pages in there for keeping track of grades if I want to do that this year, it's not a required thing where I am but we'd rather be over prepared in regards to Morgan & highschool then under prepared so we'll just see what happens there. There's also many pages for notes & pages to keep track of books we read each month. I just have to finish binding it up. I was out of binding for the size it is, just over 1.5 inches.  When I went to the office store to get some, the fellows working the front corner decided they didn't have anything that big aside from comb binding. I suspect the fellows working were unaware that they do indeed because I've purchased large coil binding there many times. I might have to make a trip into the city to get what I need though.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Art Curriculum Review

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I mentioned a few months ago that we were blessed with some fantastic art curriculum in exchange for a review. It's normally the kind of thing I accept for a variety of reasons, but on occasion I do. This happened to be one of those occasions, & my family was delighted I did. If you're interested in knowing more about this curriculum, or what we thought of it, you can check out our review over here.

And while I'm speaking of reviews.. To the variety of people who keep begging to do guest posts on my blog, I'm sorry that's not something I do. Our blog is the place I choose to journal the comings & goings of our life. Our home educational triumphs & failures, the outings we take, & the funny moments around our home. Thus it is a personal space that we choose to keep "open" for friends & family around the world. While it is true that many strangers we don't know have found our blog & seem to enjoy reading it, we aren't interested in offering this small space for random people we don't know to leave guest posts on our blog encouraging people to go buy a product that isn't even available in the county we live in.

Please stop sending me review opportunities if you aren't willing to ship to Australia. Don't ask me to review your company or product if you aren't willing to ship to me in Australia or my family, friends, & readers who happen to live abroad as well. If you haven't quite figured it out from the name of our blog, we don't exactly live in America.

I'm sorry, but I simply won't review something I can't see, touch, or use. If you can't ship internationally or only want me to reach a small percentage of people it's just not gonna happen. Be happy. Smile, & all that good fun loving stuff.

Which means, in case I haven't stated it yet, that as a general rule of thumb I don't review products that can't be accessed by the people who live in the same country I do. Yeah, cause there's nothing more annoying then reading about something that sounds like a wonderful fit for your family only to discover it's inaccessible where you live.

As for the curriculum above, they DO ship overseas, & it's worth it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Final, 2012, Week In Review

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I'm combining our last two weeks of school into one nifty post, simply because we don't have many photos of either week, but it's been fun to keep track of our progress throughout the year.

We're officially done with school, all though we have a couple of books we're in the middle of that we'll finish reading &/or listening to this week. We also have two homeschool events to attend, which we're super excited about.

We're hoping to have a little end of year party on Friday evening completely with certificates of completion for the boys & a campout in the backyard. We'll see what happens as our Friday is looking pretty full too!

It's been a wild ride this year, but a really rewarding school year too. Both boys have completed a lot of work, but more importantly grown as individuals which is always so rewarding to see.


The boys finished off the last of their notebooking projects for the year. The ones above are all about World War II, but they each also wrote a small report on the Cold War. Their timeline notebooks are full to bursting, which has them pleased as punch to say the least.


Another WWII project they finished but still needed to paste in their notebook. This project reminded me of all the yellow ribbons that were up during Desert Storm. The boys wanted to know if Gram had a blue star in the window while Uncle D was deployed, we always end up having interesting conversations from small projects.


We finished up our WWII Battle Maps. These were very fiddly, but the boys really enjoyed the finished project. They coloured a base map, coloured another map that was cut out & then glued to a plastic overlay, & then they cut out battle markers {arrows} that they glued down to another overlay. Now when they hear battles mentioned they just run & check their maps.


Majorly exciting day was when Morgan's glasses showed up! There was quite a bit of excitement as we raced off to collect our package. He's still struggling with the concept that he must wear them, & often, for them to be of help. He was complaining that he couldn't read his Bible well, I told him to put the glasses on. He was out when he complained of one of his eyes hurting & he lamented he didn't bring his glasses. One thing we learned was that some children will learn to "turn off" one eye in their effort to over compensate with the sight issue. We're now wondering if the eye that aches when he doesn't wear the glasses, is aching because it's the one he was "turning off". Either way, his confidence was boosted hugely when he wore them to a recent park day & all the adults & children told him they thought his new glasses were super cool.

 
We had company in town too, & we showed them how to play Ticket To Ride, a huge family favourite. This game, in board of electronic form, is played daily in this house. Our company, a completely different Uncle D then the one we normally mention, not only enjoyed the game but the nifty Paleo Brownies we served to eat while we played. Thus the plates in the background of the picture.

That pretty much wraps up our past couple of weeks. We've also got our Jesse Tree up, which the boys squeal with delight about each year. They recently had a fight about, when they are grown up, who will take it with them. The only outcome they came away with was that whomever took the Jesse Tree didn't get the party cloth. I completely ruined their day when I informed them if they wanted to use the Jesse Tree & Party Cloth they had to come back home. I'm cruel, what can I say! 

We're so ready for our summer! Warm day, lots of beach time, & plenty of good books to read. Divine.