Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Hours in the Day

I often hear people wishing for more hours in the day. I have been guilty of that myself, many times. As I was cooking dinner tonight, I was pondering that. Evaluating my schedule in my head and thinking about all the things I need to get done, the thought did cross my mind. Then, I thought about my workout this morning.

I have upped my workouts a bit, because I've been invited to train for the team CrossFit competition. One of the common skills that they require is double unders (jump rope). That is not a skill I have ever really attempted until a couple weeks ago. I can do one no problem. The problem is when I try to put two in a row. I haven't quite got the rhythm down yet. The workout was double unders and sit ups. If one can master the technique of double unders, the workout should probably take about 10 minutes for a fit person. It took me 40 minutes.

What does my 40 minute workout have to do with having more hours in the day to get more done? Ten minutes of working out can be tough depending on the kind of exercises you are performing, but the same exercises taking 40 minutes is far tougher. After ten minutes, I feel like I've worked hard but have plenty of energy left to go about my daily business. After 40 minutes, I feel completely exhausted and like I can't do one more sit up. When a day has a full schedule and it feels like there needs to be more hours, what would happen if there really were. Doing all the things that need to get done is tiring. Doing all the things that need to get done but taking extra hours to do it would be just pure exhausting. By dinner time, I am ready to sit down for a couple hours of relaxation. By 10 pm, I am ready for bed. I can't imagine having to push through another two or three hours.

What's the key? Efficiency. Instead of wishing for more hours, I am wishing for more efficiency. How can I perform my daily tasks (and double unders) most efficiently? That is what my month of organization is all about.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Minimalism is a topic that's been on my heart for a while. I think that's probably what inspired my 31 days of organization. I look at all the clutter scattered around my house and wonder what it would be like if we could just get rid of all the junk. I read pages online and look at pictures of tiny houses. I imagine what it would be like to have a much smaller house, and a much smaller mortgage. How many more things could we do, and people could we help? Could we go a month without wondering if we'll have enough money to last the whole month? With a much smaller house, there would be many other expenses that would be much lower too. Insurance and electricity are the two big ones I can think of.

The real question is could I do it? Could I really live like that? As I think about my house, and how we use the space, it's a definite possibility. We have a whole room that we rarely go into. It's just there to hold junk. It's set up as an office. We have two huge desks, a gigantic file cabinet, a book shelf, and a 16-cube cubby system for all our homeschool books. We have a desktop computer that's so old that we can't really use it, but it's always on so that we can print from the laptop wirelessly. The boys each have their own room. The only thing they do in there is change their clothes and sleep. Otherwise, they are oversized Lego storage areas.

The other question I have is, how do I get my family on board with the idea? I guess for now, I will continue with my purging as much as I can.

Another topic that's been on my mind lately is homesteading. While I want a tiny house, I'd like it on a big open space to be able to provide as much of my own food as possible. That dream is a little more difficult. I am not very good at growing things. They tend to die, or just not produce anything edible. I guess practice makes perfect, right? I'll just keep working on it.

Another reason we need a lot of land space is for my husband's dream of building an American Ninja Warrior style obstacle course in the backyard complete with warped wall. I'm not sure that really fits with a minimalist lifestyle, but it certainly sounds fun.

The only thing that makes me pause about a tiny house is the kitchen. Cooking everything from scratch with whole foods and making bread requires kitchen space and lots of it. I guess a tiny house that is 75% kitchen and a place to sleep is really all we need. Oh, and a place to store all the books of course. I mean, really, we are homeschoolers. Plans. That's what I need. I need to draw up some plans.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


We all want to be successful in life. Even more than that, we want our kids to be successful. What is success? I don't think success has anything to do with how much money you make. Success is doing whatever it is with all your heart for the glory of God.

 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

That is a difficult task to accomplish. It's even harder to teach our kids. However, the task becomes much easier when we find our passion. What is your passion? What drives you to get out of bed every day? What makes you want to push yourself harder?

For me, there's a few. First and foremost is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Next, it's my family. I will work far harder to give them opportunities to find their passion than I will in pursuing my own. 

It's frustrating to teach your kids day after day and see them hate learning, struggle with everything, have complete apathy toward hard work. Then, one day you see a spark. My 15yo has become very passionate about drawing. He will spend every spare moment he has doing that. He will draw for hours if that means he can avoid his other schoolwork. At first, I was a bit skeptical. Everyone he drew had square bodies and no necks. However, he kept working at it. He got library books, looked online, and just kept drawing. Now, he is becoming quite the artist. Then, he discovered theater. I have never seen him work so hard on anything before.

My next passion is fitness. I first discovered the joy of this when I was in college. Growing up, I was told not to run and not do a lot of things due to breathing problems. In college, I found a few things that I could do. I changed my major midway through to Health/Fitness because I enjoyed it so much. However, I let excuses get in my way and never finished. Then, I got married, had babies, and let that go by the wayside for well over 10 years. I'm still not sure exactly where this is going. I need to figure out a way to combine this passion and use it to benefit the first two. I just know that I really enjoy getting stronger, faster, and healthier every day. It is priceless to feel better at almost 40 than I did in my 20's. This is definitely a passion I want to pass on to my kids. If I can get them to embrace a healthy lifestyle now, that will benefit them their whole lives.

Another passion I have is math and science. At the moment, my attention is about equally divided between this and fitness. Upper level math and sciences are some of the most difficult to teach for homeschooling parents. I love being able to use my passion for this to help others. Another dream I have is to turn my love of science into a ministry. The impact of science on the church today is huge. The beauty is that science is the foundation for fitness and nutrition as well.

This passion for math and science is part of what is driving my desire to be more organized. I have a lot of kids that I'm working with. I have my own kids with their schoolwork and activities. I have to make dinners and do laundry. As I get busier, organization is more and more important. Today is day 5. Sunday was Day 3. Because of church and my son's final performance in Aladdin, not much organization got done. I also tend to not do much on Sundays. I prefer to keep that day for worship and family time. Monday was another story. Next week my first chemistry co-op starts. My project for the day was getting the first week planned and lab supplies figured out. I think I got it figured out, for the most part. Today shall be more meal planning and starting to tackle the front office.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meal Planning

Benjamin Franklin once said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Proverbs 21:5 says, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."

Failure to have a meal plan is the number one reason for straying from healthy eating. It is also a huge budget sucker. What happens when you don't have a plan? My kids have to be at theater for two hours over dinner. OK, we'll just drive through this fast food place. The healthy dinner you could've made at home for $3/serving, becomes empty calories for $8/serving. Oh, we have a softball game tonight. We'll just eat at the ball park.

On the other hand, when you have a plan, you can eat clean every day. You can cut up things in advance. You can make meals and put them in the freezer to cook quickly. The crock pot is a huge time saver, but you have to plan in advance. There are many websites to help with meal planning.

Day 2 of organizing was devoted to meal planning. It's going to take a couple more days to get the whole month completed. After several hours, I only ended up with a week's plan. Then, we had to shop. By getting the month planned out, I can also plan ahead and order veggies from the organic co-op. That also saves money and time at the store. The other advantage is that once I have a month's plan, I can recycle it every month. We tend to eat the same things a lot anyway. That will save more time. I did manage to fill up another trash bag and get it out of the house too. Making progress little by little.

Friday, August 1, 2014

31 Days of Organizing

It seems as my kids get older, my life gets busier and busier. Some of it is their activities, some of it is mine. I'm not going to list all our activities. I'll let you fill in your own list. We all have full schedules. The problem is, that I feel like I'm living in chaos.
This is just a small sample of what's going on at my house. Lots of school books and science equipment. I am tired of the chaos and need to get organized. Today is August 1. We are starting a new school year in a little over a week. I will be teaching two high school Chemistry co-ops, as well as several math classes. I need to get organized. Step one to getting organized is getting rid of the clutter. My first goal is to get one large trash bag out of my house every day. It could be trash or donations. Either way, it is leaving my house. Here is a picture of today's trash.
Yes, I just posted a picture of my trash online. I also passed along that large plastic bin of science equipment, because it is not what I need for chemistry. I would call day one a success.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Math Mammoth - Revisited

A few years ago, I was able to review a math program called Math Mammoth. At the time, I chose the full 3rd grade curriculum from their Light Blue Series. In a nutshell, my son did not like the way it was laid out. He is my little math kid, and was fighting me to do math.  So, when I was asked to review Math Mammoth again, I was not thrilled at the prospect. This time, though, I reviewed the Blue Series. The Blue Series is topic specific rather than a full grade curriculum. I am surprised to say that I love it.

My youngest son is now in 5th grade. We have found a math curriculum that we adore, but doesn't give a ton of practice problems. I chose the topics of division, fractions, and decimals for him. Those are really the last topics that he needs to master before we move into pre-algebra. We started with division. The e-book is about 80 pages long. The book is broken up really well. There are not a ton of problems in each lesson, which is fantastic. Yes, they do need practice, but too much practice just drives them to hate it, in my experience. I feel this is the happy medium. It is great the way it takes each step and builds on it. I also like the e-book format. I could choose to start in the middle and print off just the pages that I needed. I guess you could start in the middle of a regular workbook too, but you couldn't reprint pages that got messed up or need extra practice. They actually call their book a "worktext." It is like a workbook where you can write on the pages, but it is also like a textbook because it contains the explanations.

I'm really not sure what else I can say about it. The program is very self-explanatory. The topic specific books are a very affordable addition to any program. The prices range between $2.20 and $7.50 per book. If you want, you can order the whole set for $105. If you have a child just starting in math, I would maybe consider that. Otherwise, I would just order as needed. I may order another one for the more difficult multiplication, just to make sure he's got that down. If you're not sure where to start, they have placement tests on their website. I kind of wish they had these topic specific books for the upper levels, like algebra or geometry. My older one could definitely use some more practice in factoring.

I received these e-books in exchange for my honest review. I received no other compensation. You can read more reviews here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Education in Technology

When I was nine years old, my dad brought home a Commodore 64. We were one of the few to actually have a computer in our house. This helped me to be at the forefront of technology all through school. I took any and all classes I could that had to do with keyboarding and computer skills, including programming. I loved technology and anything to do with it. Then, I got married. At that point, though I still used a computer for work and other basic things. I let my husband handle all the technical stuff. Fast forward 16 years, and I am way behind in this full speed ahead field.

I was excited to get a chance to review the TeenCoder program from Homeschool Programming. It would be a great elective credit for my new high schooler, and maybe I could learn something at the same time.

A short time ago, we invested in a new computer, because all our computers were the age of Methuselah in computer years. We were having a difficult running any programs, and I knew to get my son through high school we would need to upgrade. Our new computer came with Windows 8. That alone was a bit of an adjustment for me.

There is a point to that interjection. I tried to load the TeenCoder program onto the new computer and I lost it. I am not sure what happened. At this point, my husband had to step in and save the day. He was able to find the files, but couldn't figure out how to get them to run. His suggestion was to try it on the old computer. I am very thankful for his assistance on this project. He was able to get everything loaded and working on our old Windows XP laptop.

That is when the teen got involved. He opened Chapter 1 of the Windows Programming to learn C# programming skills. He started to read, and then his brain shut off. He was completely overwhelmed and confused. I need to say that he loves the computer, and probably has more technical skills than I do at this point. He does struggle a bit with reading and following directions, though. I thought, now how am I going to review this program? Insert helpful husband back into the picture. His job is in a technical field, therefore I figured he would be very useful in trying to figure out the directions.

He opened Chapter 1 of the Windows programming and attempted to follow the directions. He could not figure it out either. He said it seemed like there was some information missing. He even cheated and went to the solution manual and still couldn't figure it out. He thought maybe the Game Programming went first. I told him no, that is listed for the second semester. He tried it anyway. Still no success. I tried to look at the chapter, and really it could have been written in Greek and made as much sense to me.

Usually, I can come up with something positive to say about most everything I review. Unfortunately, this one stumped three of us. So unless you have a kid that is really into programming, I'm not sure I would spend $130 on the complete package. However, please don't take my word for it. Go read some more reviews here. I'm sure there are other Mosaic Reviewers who had a better experience and were able to get it to work. You will also find some reviews of the KidCoder version for upper elementary/middle school.

I received this program for free in exchange for my honest review.