Waking Up Full of Awesome!

I’ve had an idea to write this post for several years now, and just never got around to it. But suddenly tonight, I knew it was the right time.

Melissa Atkins wrote a blog in 2011 starting, “There was a time when you were five years old, and you woke up full of awesome” and I knew exactly who she was talking about.

Because I know someone who wakes up full of awesome. Every. Single. Day.

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Our Oldest, December 2010. Full of Awesome-ness

Eight years ago today, I got to meet this amazing gal.

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Little did I know that this sweet angelic baby (who could easily projectile puke 6 feet – what a talent!) was going to grow up into one of the spunkiest, sweetest, most loving and most energetic people I have ever met. Seriously – she has more feisty squeezed into her little body than should be physically possible. And she wakes with an amazing smile on her face every single gosh darn morning. Usually even before the sun has come up.

When she was about 4 1/2, I bought her an alarm clock to keep her IN bed, not to get her out!

Sometimes I feel like I spend my days trying to figure out how to expend all that energy before she spontaneously combusts. Actually, I do spend my days like that. Partly in hopes that she will sleep (so I can), and partly in total amazement. Where in the world does it all come from?

???????????????????????????????This chick is one cool kid. Her exuberance and zest for life draw people to her like moths to a flame. She can walk up to a total stranger and make best friend in SECONDS. Effortlessly. Hubby and I even have look for each other that says, Yup, here she goes again.     ???????????????????????????????229062_10152235213332366_1324306355_n 150925_10152533555587366_401314081_n 10401395_10153089196287366_5140085502788745933_nShe has her own fashion sense. I definitely had nothing to do with that!

ry%3D480Life for her is an adventure just waiting to happen and she dying to dive into the deep end and revel in all of it. I have honestly never met someone so just full of JOY. She speaks in exclamation points and means it.

SONY DSC SONY DSC1170693_10152838236392366_231027279_nHer imagination is a deep ocean of amazing ideas and FUN for all involved. She has this insatiable thirst for knowing – knowing anything and everything. She can ask you more questions than you knew EXISTED.

Really. She can make your ears hurt.

10155775_10152995037022366_5686302409326331016_nShe has this massive heart and capacity for caring. She loves to the point where you just can’t help but smile and love back, warmed just by being in her presence.

10300704_10153089382207366_6327866733618427532_nThis girl is just so full of awesome, it can’t help but fall out on anyone who is around her.

10313531_10153089196537366_9068788465479046416_nI pray she never ever loses it .

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More On Our New Year: Recipe For Success

I’ve been finding a lot of business articles lately (I read them for my career coaching business) to the effect of “What Successful People Do Before Breakfast Every Day” or something similar. I read these articles and think about why we, as homeschool moms, as moms in general, aren’t looking at these articles and applying them to our own lives. Heck, don’t we even make jokes of being “CEO of ___ Home” sometimes?

I WANT to teach my children successful life skills. I WANT them to have the ability to be successful CEO’s, if that is what their future entails. But yet, we all know kids learn by watching US. US. So, why aren’t we implementing these lessons in our own lives? Do you really think the only thing you can pass on to your children is how to clean a bathroom and cook a meal? Why aren’t we homeschool moms truly considering ourselves successful leaders? Aren’t we? Don’t we want our family (i.e. “company” in terms of these articles) to be successful? Aren’t we leaders of our children? How can they learn to lead themselves if we don’t first lead them?

So, those are the thoughts that were rolling through my head when I saw the article, “Here’s the Schedule Very Successful People Follow Every Day” this morning.  Following the points of this article, here are some of the thoughts I had about our new year and new schedule. (The article talks about “systems” and “routines.” I like those words a lot better- they seem a lot less stressful!)

“The Morning Ritual-Laura Vanderkam studied the schedules of high-achievers. What did she find? They rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual.”

Oh my gosh, I HATE this one. I am NOT a morning person. I NEVER WILL BE SO QUIT TRYING TO MAKE ME ONE! I will never be someone who gets up at 4am just to get ahead of everyone else. Seriously, I want my sleep! 7am is the maximum earliest I will get up. Period. Forever. There is not enough money in the world to me to deal with 0′dark-early. But, I will admit to dragging out of bed much later whenever I’m allowed by the shorties in the house. Add laziness in with dealing with chronic health issues and a touch of occasional insomnia – and you’ve got a recipe for a late-starting-mama.

So, yes, I’m going to start setting our new home and new year with “systems and “routines” for mornings. I’ve got the girls pretty well set up for themselves, and now I’ve got to go back to implementing one for me! My unwritten list currently consist of:

  • Praying and Praising God before I even get out of bed. Giving Him my first moments of the day.
  • Showering and getting dressed and ready for the day- basically what I call “looking like a human being” (minus makeup unless I have to).
  • Making my bed and straightening up of my room. (I make the girls do it, I need to model good habits for them. At least that is the mantra I repeat to myself.)
  • Wipedown and straightening up of bathroom. (Again, I make the kids do it.)
  • Starting the chores that can do themselves (laundry and dishes).
  • Overall straightening up to start the day of the top floor of the house before going downstairs. Not the deep cleaning but making sure one floor is more or less presentable. Seeing if certain chores needed to be added to kid list that day, such as dusting, etc. Grabbing whatever doesn’t belong on that floor and moving it to appropriate floor.
  • Throwing food at the children. Someone else might refer to that as loving making breakfast for your darlings, but less face it, coffee has not happened on this list yet!

And yes, I’m going to make it a goal to actually start being consistent with this routine at 7am.

“If you want to achieve work-life balance you need to determine what is important and focus on that. (And research shows goals make you happier.) Having concrete goals was correlated with huge increases in confidence and feelings of control.”

Oh yeah, us homeschool moms love our goals and plans, right? I believe creating your homeschool mission statement (here or here) or a family mission/vision statement is the very first step. And I’m sure that you’ve created your curriculum plan and have that organized, because that’s usually the very first thing us homeschool moms think of!

But, what about the rest? The home, church, outside activities, family life, and yourself? What are those concrete goals?

For the first time in several years, I created a list of goals for this year for myself – ones that had nothing to do with homeschooling! Because, you know what? I am not JUST a homeschool mom. I am a woman, a wife, a mom, and a small business owner. I am also a scrapbooker and lover of music. I am a Child of the Most High God. And I have found that when I shove all that to the side to give it all only to the homeschooler part or only to the work part, that “work/life balance” thing feels very out-of-tune. And I feel miserable because my own personal needs are being shoved aside and not fulfilled. Those things MUST be scheduled in a built into my routine ON PURPOSE! There are things I need to do to survive, and there are things I need to do to thrive. Attending an indepth Bible study, scrapbooking once a month with friends, getting that occasional date night out.

Which leads us to:

“Important Work First Thing — With No Distractions . . . Early morning is also when you’re most disciplined. . . In studies of geniuses, most did their best work early in the day.”

Yeah, running around trying to squeeze everything in because I started my day later than I ought just builds more stress and makes me more cranky. Added in, I start homeschooling with that lengthy ToDo list pounding through my brain and little girls clamoring for my undivided attention. Stress upon stress upon stress does not equal success. Stress makes me tend to withdraw and burrow into my hole – which honestly leads to less satisfaction and less homeschool success as well. I can’t tell you how many times we ended homeschool “early” this past year just because I couldn’t deal. I just desperately needed space!

I just really need ALONE time in the morning. I need to be by myself, alone with my thoughts. I need to be able to focus on ToDo list and create mental order to my day. Being more of a introvert than 2/4 of my family (which is not saying much because that 2/4 of the family is SOOO extroverted they’d talk to a brick wall), I feel like I need to “prepare” to deal with people each day. I do better when I have this “white space” in my life.

If I actually start my date remotely on time, I will have the ability to do this. I plan on blocking out one hour each morning for myself – for devotional and prayer time, for writing time for work (where most of my ToDo list gets bogged down), etc. Sometimes to accomplish this I have been outside while the girls ride their bikes or play outside (burning off some of their Energizer Bunny energy) and that works too. But I just need this time as much as I need air.

Regroup When You Slow Down.”

If I have learned one thing in the past few years, is to listen to my body. I have to respect it when it is telling me that I am getting close to hitting the wall. There is no such “”pushing through” or “pushing past” it for me anymore. I no longer have the Energizer Bunny’s energy and that was a bitter pill for me to swallow. So if my body says take a break, I must take that break. Often it won’t be long, perhaps a 20-30 minute rest will do it.

Also, studies show there is a normal lag around 3pm in your circadian rhythms- make sense why 3pm is normal “coffee break” time right? That’s why I really love the idea of “afternoon tea.” Not that I like tea so much. I do like the idea of just taking a break and recharging and reconnecting with family for a few minutes each day before the craziness of the afternoon and evening starts. If possible (with my work schedule), I am going to try and start an “afternoon break with Mommy” each afternoon when my girls normally have snack-time, where we can sit and have “tea” together. This will just be a slightly fancier version! And to help out, I can give my girls the project of setting the table and getting everything ready (except the actual tea) beforehand.

“A Relaxing Evening. Though successful people do work long hours, the greats almost all take the evening off to recharge.”

When you work out of the home, the idea is that you leave work there and not carry with you through the front door. But when you ARE at home, it’s like you never leave the office! At some point you just need to STOP. Stop cleaning, stop prepping, stop organizing and checking emails and writing articles and whatever. And this is the part I am just not that good at.

Part of that was the stress of trying to keep up with DC-based finances and also build up my business as well. In effect,  I’ve been doing jobs at once – homeschool, mom, my business, and a contract job to fill in the cracks. And well, that often spilled far into the evenings. I am hoping and looking forward to that improving in our new home. At some point you have have to say, “To Heck With It All!” and leave it for another day.

And how in the world do we recharge? I love reading to the girls before bedtime – it gives me an excuse to re-enjoy some of my childhood favorites. (We are in the midst of On the Banks of Plum Creek now, and I’m planning to read Pippi Longstocking next.) Perhaps I’ll play with my scrapbooking stuff, or recharge and reconnect with the hubby. Goodness knows we could use some of that. Perhaps occasionally I’ll be able to squeeze out for a walk/jog in our new neighborhood while hubby is in charge of bath time? Obviously anything with screens is discouraged,  because the false light is actually not going to help you sleep at night.

And one of the main points, and something I’ve been trying to improve on this year, is going to bed at a reasonable hour. If you’re staying up til 2am, then of course it’s going to be hard to make it through the day! Since I’m more of a night person (surrounded by morning people), this is difficult for me to do, but I feel so much better when I make it happen. My current goal is to be in bed by 11 – with the idea that hopefully sleep will not be far behind.

“Knowing the best time to get the right things done is key. What will this schedule do for you? Well, when the day ends you’re still going to find that you didn’t get everything done. But that won’t bother you much because you did the things that mattered, and did them well.”

What I love about this article is that it’s not about being a “drone” tied to the clock, or being a slave to a “schedule.” I like that it focuses more on how working with your body’s natural rhythms can be more successful and more rewarding. And that is what I am personally striving for. Yes, I probably won’t get more done, but I hope to get done what is more important and get it all done well.

If you have “routines” or “systems” that work well for you, I’d really  like to hear about them! I am always looking for new ideas! Let’s all help each other start our “new year” off right!

First Things First: Thinking About the New Year

Well, we have made it back to the same hotel we started our DC lives in. We have survived and perhaps even thrived a little amidst the chaos and stress.  We have packed out of our house and once again living in hotel limbo before moving to our new location.  (To Pennsylvania, for those who are wondering. More on that another time.)

So, since we’ll be “starting over” in a few weeks in a new location, my mind has really been focused on our new year. New school year specifically, but also creating our lives in a new place. New routines. I really hate the word schedule – but yeah, that’s what I mean.

Our girls are older this time. More self sufficient. (And potty trained!!!!) More self entertained. Much more able to participate and help in family life. Really, they are fabulous helpers. But being older also means a bit more involved – schoolwork is a bit more intense and takes longer. Girls are involved in regular activities that require more time and organization. I’m working now too. Which takes more time away than I’d like. And which requires me to live much more tied to the clock than I prefer. But I’m also doing really great work for very good pay, and truly making a difference and helping people.  There are just a lot more balls in the air this time – and it’s important that I plan and prep how to keep them that way.

There are things I hope to do differently in our new home:

First of all, I hope we can make our homeschool time a little less stressful. It’s been quite a busy year and you guys know I’ve already talked about being behind. My first goal is to get all of that DONE. Then, with our new curriculum, I really focused on things that could be enjoyable and done together. I didn’t want to spend time doing work that was a drag for me to go through as well! I’m trying to get away from “busywork” and focus on true learning, though I know sometimes we’re going to NEED to do those worksheets – practicing math facts and writing skills, etc. I’m looking forward to a lot more exploring and field trip time in our new area! Because they are older and can read fairly well now, there is a lot more they can do independently (I am using a computer program for math, for example.) We also applied to join a co-op, which I truly hope will take some burden off, and I found an online scheduler/portfolio log type-program (more on that soon!) that I will use, since tracking is going to be very important in the homeschool laws in our new state.

I’m hoping that we can build in some cleaning help into our budget. Honestly, I really feel this is completely necessary- I just can’t do all that I’m doing and keep that big a house in liveable shape. I’m willing to go without a few things to have someone come in once a month and scrub toilets. I’ll start organizing this once we move in.

I’m also hoping to build in some “white space” in my day. I got very little of this in our time in DC (still don’t have it, since I’m sitting at a hotel, working my brains out while the girls are at camp!) Our financial needs were such that I needed to be that busy in DC, and I’m hoping that will slack off after we move. But also, I am going to need more time with the girls and with the hubby. We need “relaxation” in our home desperately. One thing that really worked here was going to a meal assembly prep place to create all of our meals monthly. (WHICH I LOVED, by the way. LOVED.) I haven’t found much like that locally, so I’m going to attempt to do it for myself. It’s not as easy to do that gluten-free, but I’m going to make a massive effort. I love just pulling a bag out of the freezer to defrost each morning. I LOVE not having to think about meal planning.

I am also hoping to build in an hour of “me time” to work each morning. I’ve learned in the past two years that I really need an hour of “personal thinking time” so that my brain can handle two extremely active, energetic girls in the morning. But also, I’m hoping this will helping me put a dent into my work so that I can feel less stressed by the never-ending todo list pulling at me while I do focus on school work. My ultimate goal is that if I do schedule that hour in daily – this massive pile of writing work that I’m so far behind in will eventually get caught up. Perhaps. One day before I turn 50. :) And I can also use that time to keep myself focused on the Word as well.

A new idea I’ve wanted to implement for a while is starting to have “afternoon tea.” While I personally am not a huge fan of tea, my girls love having tea parties. And I’d really like to institute a 3pm break (when they normally snack anyway) for myself as well. This way I can get away from the computer and work a bit, and truly reconnect with my girls for a short time. I can make it their responsibility to “set up tea” every day (except for the hot tea) and I’ve even got my eye on an adorable tea set! They are growing up so fast, and I feel like I’m missing out. So, perhaps this tea time will turn into a great time to build up for future trust and communication when they get older.

And I really need to add in some form of exercise. I already know that I will be going even more focused into healthy living, etc because I consider myself “half-way to healthy.” I’ve been very focused on this and I am doing SOOOOoooooo much better than I was, but I really feel I have further to go. And now I feel like I am at the point where I need to start focusing on getting that number on the scale to go down once again and getting things firm and tone and reasonably close to where they ought to be! With our insurance, we actually get a deep discount at some gyms in the area, so we will check those out and see if it’s possible for us to join. (We’ve been told the Y is amazing there, as well.) I won’t be able to do high-impact, hard-core anything for a while, but I’d like to start out with some yoga classes. And get our girls into ballet – not only because they love it, but because I know how good it is for posture and poise! I want to model a healthy, active lifestyle for them, so they learn those good habits and see that as “normal” when they become an adult.

And I’ve got a bit of science to back up all those ideas. Here is a study that talks about how frequent breaks help keep kids focused. Really, how can adults be that much different? We need  breaks to rejuvenate and clear our minds. I know I do, at least. So I’m trying to think of our schedule with that in mind.

Day 3 of #HEAVCON 2014 – It was awesome!

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2014speakersKeynotes We made it! We survived #HEAVCON!

I know this post is a little late, but we ended getting in late last night, and I frankly slept most of the day today. Had to catch up on the multiple nights of no sleep – I am getting much too old for that. HA!

So, Saturday ended up being a really good low-key day for us. Most of our “chores” were done, and I could actually GO to a couple sessions. And because some have told me they are actually interested in my shopping and curriculum adventures over the weekend (which cracks me up – I always feel like I’m talking to myself when I write that sort of thing!), I’d thought I’d share what I got on Saturday.

Late Friday night, after polling tons of people all weekend, AND all my friends on Facebook (what homeschool moms did before Facebook I have NO IDEA), I ended up changing my mind completely about my spelling curriculum. Saturday morning I ended up taking back all of the All About Spelling curriculum I had purchased, and we’ve decided to use SpellingCity.com next year. There are a couple reasons I decided on this. First of all, after reading lots of online reviews, I realized I’d have to spend 20 minutes at least separately for each child to do spelling each day. That’s really 40+ minutes out of my limited 3-4 hour time block for homeschool. Second, it looked like a lot of work for the mom (maybe, reports were conflicting). Third, I just couldn’t get excited about it. I think I will like Spelling City and I’m pretty sure both my girls will. They LOVE getting to play on the computer and their tablets (we almost only have educational stuff on their tablets). They can learn the words through playing games, and having fun!

And I think that is what I am looking for in the upcoming year. You know, that journey homeschool moms talk about – when we have to “de-public-school” ourselves in order to homeschool! I keep thinking, why do certain courses have to be unfun? WHY? We want our kids to learn, yes. But it’s even more important that they love learning. As long as a child things learning is fun, teaching them really doesn’t feel like work, right? It’s more facilitating their learning. At least that’s my working theory.

Don’t worry – I haven’t stepped over to the unschooling side. I haven’t gone quite that far, yet! :)

I also ended up buying what I needed for our My Father’s World: Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum next fall.  Oh, and I picked up Handwriting Without Tears’ Cursive program. In the afternoon, I did just a little splurging. I got all of this at Melinda Boring‘s booth. My girls have already dived into much of what I got to add to our “fidget basket.” (Those are toys they can play with quietly that fulfill their need to fidget when I need them to be still. Great for places like church, or during activities where they need to fidget to listen.) Great stuff.

20140607_143524 So, that’s it. I’m done shopping for next year! Which is a good thing, since the movers are arriving in exactly two weeks, we’ll live in a hotel for a month, after which will come the unpacking and setting up the new house, and we’ve got oh, about ten weeks left in the curriculum for this year?? And please someone, don’t let me forget I need to get my oldest’s testing done and sent in before we pack out. Ay yi yi.

So, what are my lessons learned from #HEAVCON 2014? (I’m writing this down, so I can remember for next year!)

#1A. Earplugs. So I can drown out the “talks-in-her-sleeper” and the “snorer” and get some real sleep.
#1B. Bring my own pillow. It’s worth hauling more junk to have this.

#2. Consider bringing one of these. I’m sure we figure out how to attach a rolling cart to the back, right?

20140607_092114#3. Take selfies and family pictures the first day when you’re not completely exhausted and look it. Use bribery to make the children smile if you have to. Consider bringing the really nice camera, because your phone camera really can only do so much.

20140607_091204I love our homeschool TShirts!20140607_124015There is just NOT enough time to do everything. Really. Oh, why can’t we do HEAV twice? Or have four days? There was just so many things to DO, that were all going on at the same time! It just didn’t seem fair. Oh well, at least I have all the recordings sitting on a thumb drive now. I plan to upload them to my iPod and listen to them throughout the year. I am so thankful for the recordings!

Most importantly, the few sessions I did get to sit in on, reminded me just how important it is that we homeschool our children. I know I always feel slightly uncomfortable being really vocal about my support for homeschooling – I hate the idea of offending or hurting someone’s feelings, I know that some have really great public school experiences, I do believe homeschooling is a calling that some haven’t been called to (yet), and some don’t get the opportunity to homeschool due to circumstances.

And yet.

And yet, it was very affirming  — yes, we most definitely made the right decision for our family. Yes, we are most definitely called to do this. The hubby even remarked that last year (his first) that he felt a bit out of place, and this year he didn’t. He joked that it’s probably because “now we have become one of THEM. We are comfortable at HEAV because we are now ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!” And he was right, it felt great being surrounded by folks where we fit right in. He also says “Some of the coolest, smartest people I’ve met, I met at the homeschool conference. Homeschooling is cool.” And we love feeling like we are “cool.” HA.

Oh, speaking of hubby, he was the one wearing this shirt:

20140607_114204He wants me to add that he really learned how truly important homeschool DADS are. Sure, we always knew that, and as the “homeschool mom” I’ve been telling him that, but it was really good for him to hear that from other strong, successful homeschool dads like Voddie Baucham and others.

My last round of pictures:

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And I have to throw in a VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU to the staff in the kids program. Our girls had a BLAST. And we had a blast because they were off having a blast, and we could do things we needed to do. They did not want to leave. Our oldest burst into tears because she had made a bestie and didn’t want to lose touch. (I gave my business card to pass along to the mom.) I know exactly how much work you put into that program and you did a great job!

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So, that’s it. #HEAVCON 2014 is over. For those of you that don’t homeschool and read this, you’re probably very thankful I will start writing about other topics, and I do plan to! And I also plan to continue to share with you information and different vendors and products that we learned about at convention, but I promise to spread that out through the year.

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

Day 2 of #HEAVCON 2014 – Tips for Survival!

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2014speakersKeynotesIt’s the end of day 2 of HEAV’s Convention and I am WIPED OUT.

But before we get into all of that, let’s take a quiet moment to reflect on this. My dinner. Hellooooooo Richmond!

20140606_173833Oh and it was scrumptious, thank you very much!

 

So, I finished my rounds through the Exhibit Hall today and the UCS as well.  Stuck to my plan pretty much and didn’t overbuy the moon. Ordered my recordings, found out one of my girls can’t see the bottom line of the eye exam and should get her eyes checked when we get home, and found my handwriting curriculum. Still not sold on the spelling curriculum that I bought, but haven’t found anything I like better.

I didn’t hit too many sessions today – I got hit by complete overwhelm by about lunchtime. Tried to stick it out, but by 4pm I was D-O-N-E. I rarely get hit hit with too much sensory input, but when I do, WOWZA. So, I’d like to share with you a few new tips I came up with today!

#1 A Good Night of Sleep is REALLY important. – Confession time. I’m not a morning person. I usually have two alarm clocks with feet that wake me up, so the times that I have to wake with a real alarm clock, I tend to sleep worse. (I keep expecting to oversleep, I guess?) And it’s a hotel bed and not MY bed. Something else I didn’t realize, one of my kids talks in her sleeps and flops around like a fish on the beach! I really could have used at least an hour more of sleep. The coffee today did NOT help me at all, which is unusual. I realize all other homeschool moms in the whole world are morning people, but I still vote everything start one hour later next year!

#2. So is a good, solid breakfast. -  I learned my lesson, once again. Don’t depend on other entities to feed me. Especially if you have food issues, like me. Ya’ll that know me know I’m gluten-free, and breakfast this morning at my hotel was okay. It seemed like enough, but I really should have eaten more protein. (Again, I blame the coffee.)  Oh, and I really didn’t pack enough snacks, and my lunch was pretty limited. So, that’s on me. I’ve already packed tons of snacks in my bag for tomorrow.

#3. Have Emergency chocolate on hand. – Really, does this need explanation?? :)

#4. Take breaks when you need them! I really should have just taken a break earlier. Found a quiet secluded, corner and just chilled out for a while. But instead I tried to push through. It wasn’t a good idea.

#5. It’s okay to say you’ve had enough! – Hubby and I have agreed on this several times. Convention is ONLY three days and there is SO much going on, it’s really tempting to try to do and see and get into every single thing possible, because hey, it’s only three days! Seriously, there is just no way we can do it all, so you’ve got to pick what you HAVE to do sometimes. And how much do I love my husband and he totally “got it” when I hit the wall, and made sure we got out quick and easy? (And then took me out for some awesome ribs?) He totally gets two stars for today.

#6- COOL IDEA I “INVENTED” this weekend! - Can’t decide what to buy? Stuck on several things at different booths? Use your smart phone to take a picture of the particular curriculum, then a picture of the booth with the booth number! Then, when you’ve gone back and forth and figured it out, you can look through your pictures to figure out where you want to go back to! I did that several times today! It was great!

Tonight, before bed I’m going to grab one of my new boenjoy the extra deep tub of the hotel room for a bit, then conk out early. My plan for tomorrow is to hit the My Father’s World Booth, and one or two others to check out their spelling curriculum. (I swear I’m going to find the most amazing FUN spelling program if it absolutely KILLS me.) And I’m determined to take some time and enjoy a few of the sessions. And that is it.

I wish I could take a picture for you guys to show you how cute my kids are, completely conked out on the bed – THANK YOU KID PROGRAM FOLKS!!!!!! Will you come to my house and do that every day????????????? (I hear all the moms saying a deep and hearty Amen to that one!)

Pictures around Convention today:

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“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

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Day 1 of #HEAVCON 2014!

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Wow, I hope you guys have had a blast so far! We have, and the Convention has hardly even started!

We started our trip with a stop at Redbox (2+ hours of PURE QUIET in the back seat = HEAVEN!) and a stop for a chocolate milkshake to improve a stressed-out homeschool mama’s mood. They both worked, and the nap I got while hubby drove helped quite a bit too! HA!

Because of the traffic on I95, we missed the Thursday afternoon session I was in, and had to rush to get to our blogger meeting. We got to meet several of the exhibitors before the doors opened this evening, and I have to say, you guys are in for a treat! I don’t know why I’m so surprised at how NICE everyone is at HEAV every year!

20140605_170815And look at some of the awesome products I’ve already snagged!

20140605_16293020140605_162828 20140605_22154320140605_163846So, I told hubby that my goal was to get all of MY shopping done tonight, so I could really focus on the convention the rest of the week.

My Shopping Assistants:

20140605_173618Our First Stop Every Year!

20140605_170245 20140605_170216After a stop at the Shatterpoint booth (an annual tradition now – we love it!), we dropped the kids at the Lego booth to play (don’t worry, we were right there) and they LOVED it. Made new friends, and played with Legos. Hubby was having a blast chatting up the different exhibitors (you guys probably saw him posting for me on my Twitter feed) and I hit a few booths. Just a few! Here is my haul so far!

Sorry the pictures aren’t the best – I took them trying to use the light from the bathroom while the munchkins were sleeping.

Math items – I swear those math facts are not going to beat me this year.

20140605_194225The grammar and spelling curriculum I was interested in isn’t at HEAV! How is that possible??? So, this is my current plan. After doing so much dry nonsense this past year, I’m looking for something FUN. I’m hoping this is it! And seriously, how does anyone really learn the parts of speech, if not for Mad Libs? The girls are going to get a kick out of those at least!

20140605_194400 At the moment, I’ve got “All About Spelling” – everyone I talked to swears by it. AND, it does say they have an “App” now. It still doesn’t look that exciting to me yet. We’ll see. I’m still on the lookout.
20140605_194439 And here are a few “extras” to go with our curriculum next year!
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I was just getting into a groove when the rest of the family started to revolt,  so we had to leave.  I got everything I was planning to get (except for MAYBE doing something different with spelling, I haven’t decided), and a cursive writing curriculum, which I forgot about.

On my To Do List for tomorrow (after copious cups of coffee):

1. Buy the MP3′s! There is no way I can get into all the sessions I want to!

2. Sign up the girls to get their eyes checked at the Sam’s Club booth!

3. Check out the Silent Auction!

4. Meet with some more of the wonderful vendors!

5. Enjoy all those sessions!

6. Visit the Used Curriculum Sale!

 

See you guys tomorrow! Hey, if you guys see me tomorrow – stop me! Let’s see how many selfies I can take in one day!

How to Teach Your Kids to Save the World

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My very, very, first HEAV convention, I was wandering the exhibit hall alone and stopped by a table that was offering free books.

Yeah, what kinda homeschool mom would pass that up, right?

And that was my introduction to Gospel For Asia. At a table at HEAV.

Actually, I had read the book, Revolution in World Missions a few years before and it had a profound effect on how I looked at missions. And of course that was one of the books that was free!

Speaking with one of their volunteers, I felt led to become a monthly sponsor of a missionary. At first it was really more for me, but the girls and I pray for our missionary regularly and read the regular updates from the area.

Then, we started our own efforts to help. Instead of an allowance, our girls “earn money” (more in a post later about that) to put toward helping the poor in India.  So far, my girls have collected changed and earned money to purchase chickens, rabbits, blankets, and gospel tracts.

A few months later, we got ambitious and stepped it up a notch! We created a myGFA campaign and raised money for a water filter, so they could have clean water! My girls love reading about what’s needed, and they love to shop, so we look through the booklets and pick a new project on special occasions! (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.)

In fact, we are currently working on a new campaign! My girls were horrified when we read how many in India didn’t have toilets. So, we’ve been saving up their earnings money and collecting any loose change around the house to save up and buy an outdoor toilet.  I have to admit, the girls have really been doing well! I also just started an online campaign in honor of their birthdays next month so they can “watch” and see how much they’ve raised for outdoor toilets.

This all came from spending five minutes at a booth a few years ago at HEAV, and has been a tremendous blessing and addition to our homeschool experience!

Would you like to join us? You can participate in our own campaign to buy toilets in India, or start your own! I think would be especially interesting next year as we study world geography.

And I’d love to hear how you have incorporated “missions” into your homeschooling experience, or other interesting experiences due to something you learned at HEAV!

Did You See Who’s Coming to HEAV?

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Chosen People Ministries will have a booth in the Exhibit Hall of HEAV!

I have been posting for quite a few years now about our experience with our local Messianic congregation. They have truly been a blessed addition to our lives the past few years, AND to our homeschool experience!

Be sure to check them out at convention! Say hello!

Getting Ready For HEAV???

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2014speakersKeynotes

It’s coming! It’s coming!

HEAV’s convention is very very soon!!!

It’s time to make that last minute to-do list of everything you need to get done before hopping in the car. If you’re curious, mine at the moment includes things like “make ask hubby to get a hair cut” and “find mini cassette recorder to use for interviews.” :)

While you’re making your plan, I wanted to share with you some advice I’ve been gleaning from some of my homeschooling friends with WAY more homeschool convention experience than me!

And here are my tips from previous years!

Advice for Homeschool Conventions

There were a few overwhelmingly common pieces of advice from pretty much everyone I spoke to. I would even say these are non-negotiable:

1) Wear Comfortable Shoes. Absolutely no one cares what your feet look like. You’re going to be walking the equivalent of a marathon around that convention center, so take care of your feet! Your little piggies will thank you by the end of the day.

2) Take a Cart on Wheels! You can get these a number of places, from Amazon, or even some grocery stores. Others have suggested a rolling suitcase, or a stroller even. I learned this lesson the hard way. I’ll actually be using on of my Thirty-One Gifts bags, which is actually an insulated rolling cart-type thingee. Oh well. My purchases will stay “cool” at least, AND it will be easy to spot amongst the crowds!

3) Return Address Labels. Pre-make labels with your address and contact information on them. This is going to save you from massive writer’s cramp all weekend. Really.

4) Prepare for OVERWHELM. Really. It’s not that the crowds are “Black Friday” or “Disney” bad, but they’re there. For me, it wasn’t the people, it was the STUFF. So much information, so many choices, so much to look at. It was just A LOT on input coming at you.

Everyone had several tips to cope.

  • Just order the mp3s right when you get there. That way you’ll be able to rest in the fact that you won’t have to worry about missing anything. Or, if some of the events are full and you can’t get in, it won’t be such a big deal. You can re-listen to the sessions at your leisure all summer long.
  • Don’t buy anything the first time through the exhibit hall! Do a complete walk through the first time, getting an eye for the different vendors, perhaps checking prices on your first choice items. Talk to the different vendors, get advice and information, that sort of thing. Make your list, and THEN go buy.
  • My advice: If there are particular items that you already know you HAVE to get, I’d at least go ahead and get that out of the way first. Then you’re done and can focus your time on the “extras” or items you need to spend more time thinking about. And, you don’t have to worry that the vendor runs out of your “must have.”
  • Many even recommend leaving your wallet at home and not even purchasing anything at your first convention. If you can do that, then you have mountains more willpower than I do. At the very least, come with your budget in mind. Or, failing that, come prepared with a detailed list of what exactly you MUST have, what you need but aren’t sure what to get, and what your wish list would be. That will be very useful in both the Exhibit Hall and the Used Curriculum Sale.
  • Carry as little as possible with you, because, again, it means carrying it with you. And that is going to get old very quick. However, a water bottle, notebook, pens, protein bars, your return address labels, wallet and cellphone are all great things to have. Just be sure to turn off the ringer to your cellphone during sessions! Hubby and I mainly use our cellphones to find each other when we get separated, etc. If you’re in a hotel nearby, you should be able to run back to the hotel and dump things to start fresh during lunch breaks!
  • Just focus on what is best for your family. No need to deal with all the sessions and vendors that don’t pertain to you. (Such as, we don’t have boys – I don’t go to the booths that sell “boy” paraphernalia. Or the sessions on raising boys. While I’d love to, I have to set boundaries and focus on what my family needs right then. Also, I don’t go to “high school” sessions when we’re only teaching second grade. That sort of thing.)
  • If you don’t have to have your kids with you, I wouldn’t. Use the awesome kids programs, get a babysitter, etc. It’s too hard to keep them entertained and also hear what you need to hear. If you do though, be sure to bring items to keep them occupied. Remember, in order to record the sessions and have decent quality, “vocal” children should be taken out of the room.

5) Have fun! Goodness gracious, after all that it might sound like Homeschool Conventions are stressful events. Why would anyone want to go? Well, they can have stressful moments, but last year was also wonderfully inspiring and motivational. I can’t figure out another way to say it, other than I left with my heart completely full.

Talk to people. In this building, for three whole days, you are going to be surrounded by homeschoolers who just want to do their best for their children — JUST LIKE YOU. Make new friends. In this day and age, there is no reason you only have to be friends with the people who live right around you. Bring “business” cards, or those address labels and exchange information. Chat with the folks next to you in line. Be sure to meet the parents of the kids your children make friends with in the kids’ program – you already have a lot in common!

I’m looking at this convention weekend like it’s my mini “homeschool” vacation! Mommy event on steroids!

So, what is my plan?

  • I want to be packed the day before – I know the week leading up to leaving will be insane, so being packed the day before will alleviate a little bit of my stress.
  • We plan to arrive on Thursday – I have a meeting I need to attend, and also I really want to check out the the exhibit hall Thursday night and get some of that stuff done then before all of the speakers the rest of the event. If we get there “too early,” we can use that as an excuse to check out the Richmond Children’s Museum before everything gets started.
  • I buy my “must haves” right away, then spend time going over and over the “I know I need something but I don’t know what to get” list. And then in between, as things might catch my fancy, I might sneak them in. Or, if they are truly a splurge I might wait until the last minute. Just in case I can talk myself out of it. Or not.
  • I’ve got my seminar list ready to go! I’ve highlighted all the ones I want to see
  • I plan to plan our meals ahead of time. Since I went gluten-free, eating is an all new adventure for me, and grabbing a slice of pizza in the exhibit hall isn’t going to cut it. (By the way, food IN the convention center? Expensive.) So, we’ll come with snacks and water for the room, but also, I hope to look around and figure out where we’ll eat each evening in advance. At least that way I know I’ll get one good meal a day. Plus, is breakfast added into the cost of your hotel room? Will you have time to eat real bfast? Then we might want to bring something to the room for bfast each morning.
  • Beyond that? I plan to take lots of deep breaths and just relax. Absorb what I can absorb, meet who I can meet, enjoy everything I can, and just take in all the inspiration I can to get me through the next school year!

HEAV- Home Educators Association of Virginia – website

Are you following HEAV on Facebook? Do you know there are bloggers giving away passes to the convention?

31st-Signature-Final

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”

Making My Convention Plan

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2014speakersKeynotesI thought I better think out write out my convention plan before it gets here!

Of course, when most homeschool moms think of a homeschool plan, they think of the shopping! At least I do! But this year? I’m not sure I’ll be shopping that much. (Don’t pass out in shock!) It’s just that we are a bit behind.

As in a lot.

As in, I’m glad I consider us year-round homeschoolers!

Last year, hubby and I were all about the Exhibit hall. There was just SO much to see and do there, three days was just not enough time! This year? I’m already feeling the homeschool/working/moving burnout coming, so I think I want to focus more on getting my “cup” refilled. I just love that this year’s theme is “A Hope and a Future,” don’t you? (This verse hung on my bedroom wall growing up, and I remember how much it meant to me then.) Have you checked out all the fabulous speakers HEAV has scheduled?

There is no way I can get to all the sessions I want, so buying the recordings will be a must!

And beyond all that – I just want to soak up the lovely atmosphere that is HEAV – hang out with the cool friends I’ve met over the years and meet some new ones, having a bit of fun, and absorbing all the pro-homeschool vibes. Goodness, it’s got to last me all year long!

Still, I do need to think about the shopping  I need to be prepared for this fall.

Using My Father’s World’s “Adventures in US History” this year was great – and part of the reason this year is going so long – we’re really enjoying it! So, I plan to continue and use My Father’s World’s “Exploring Countries and Cultures” next.

We started last year with Saxon Math, but trying to get two girls through their lessons and worksheets proved to be too much for me. (This is nothing against Saxon Math, I actually really like the program. But, since I am also working, trying to squeeze it in the tight window I have for homeschooling each day was just too much.) Instead I moved my older daughter over to Teaching Textbooks 3′s computer based math mid-year, and she is just flying through the program. I plan  to move my younger daughter to it as well next fall.  We also “supplement” with the math facts set to music (***Note to self: must pick up the multiplication and division CDs at HEAV!***). I also found a fabulous, fabulous deal on Life of Fred through Educents, and plan to add that in as a supplement as well in the fall.

We’ve been using “Spelling by Sound and Structure” and “First Language Lessons” for spelling and grammar with my oldest, and it’s fine. It’s been working okay, and my daughter seems to be enjoying it. However, I personally find it boring!  This fall I really want to try Growing with Grammar and Soaring with Spelling. At least, I think I do. Unless I find something better at HEAV!

Our foreign language will continue to be Spanish. We plan to use Homeschool Spanish Academy as our language base.

So, there ya go. As you can see, not too much to actually shop for right now (hubby will be so thrilled). I’m sure that those vendors in the Exhibit Hall will be trying their best to change my mind though!

I haven’t figured out the extracurricular activities yet – some of that won’t be able to happen until after we move, and I see what is available. We did look into a homeschool co-op, and are waiting to hear if there is room available, and we are hoping the girls can do American Heritage Girls, and Upward Sports again. They’ve been also asking for dance and music lessons. Frankly, it’s kinda hard to actually keep them in one place long enough to do school – good thing we homeschoolers don’t have to worry about that pesky thing called socialization!

HEAV- Home Educators Association of Virginia – website

Are you following HEAV on Facebook? Do you know there are bloggers giving away passes to the convention?

31st-Signature-Final

“I am excited to be a blogger for HEAV this year. In exchange for sharing my honest opinion about this convention, I was provided with a family registration at no charge.”
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