Monday, January 16, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean- Rinse and Repeat: Week 2- The Pantry

Welcome back to 34 Weeks of Clean!


Oh my word!  You all are amazing- your excitement has absolutely thrilled me and your comments have blessed me.  I love to see you all cheering each other on and your sharing of our posts has helped spread the word across the United States!

If you are just joining us, we are so glad you are here.  You can find week one, Holiday Decorations here if you want to start from the top!  If this is your second week back, YAY you!   Know that we are cheering you on as well. We really are so excited to hear about all the people across the country who are determined to take back their houses with us - one week at a time!  And the pictures- wow,  did I mention you all are amazing?

So how'd you do with week 1?  Hopefully your trees are at the curb and your lights are taken down. Trust me, your neighbors will appreciate your effort! And as someone said this week, it is freeing.  As much as I love the pretty decorations, there is just something about starting the new year with a clean slate.

Want to share the button on your blog? Grab the HTML code below!

Up this week, The Pantry!

Why start with the pantry?  I can only speak for myself here, but the holidays seem to be a season of food, more food, and even more food.  And a lot more junk food than normal.  I found myself opening the pantry, throwing something in, and shutting the door as quickly as possible to avoid the mess.  Yep, I am THAT kind of gal during the holidays.  But guess what ya'll?  Eventually, that mess starts trying to come out on its own.  So even if your pantry does not look as bad as mine, (and please do not tell me) yours surely could use some sprucing up as well.  Plus, we are in a new house this year, and let me tell you- not all pantries are created equal.  We went from a BIG, double door pantry to this little thing with a few pull out shelves.  Needless to say, some adjustments have had to be made and we did have to snag a little extra space in the cabinets.  Sometimes it pays to be creative.

Remember- our goal is to deep clean, de-clutter, and reorganize.

Here we go!

This week we are concentrating mostly on the food.  If you have food in other areas of your kitchen as well, don't leave it out!  Spices and such will be covered next week, as they reside elsewhere in my kitchen.
  • Pull everything out!  Yes, just do it.  I will wait.  And get used to it, because you will see that instruction at the beginning of every week.  We will pull EVERYTHING, yes EVERYTHING, out of a space to start with.  I promise, it works, just trust me!

  • Check expiration dates and throw things out.  One of our goals should be to NOT poison our families this year with bad food. Hey, did you know that even clear gelatin has an expiration date? Whoops. Who knew?!

  • Wipe down all of the shelves, wood or otherwise.  Between sticky honey drops (anyone else?) and dirty handprints, those things need to be cleaned!  If you are an all natural kind of gal, you can use my favorite natural cleaner recipe.  If you use store bought stuff, no worries - I won't tell anyone!

  • Wipe down the floors (or in my case drawers) of the pantry and the doors (or drawers) as well. You know women did not design all those fancy doors with little rims and grooves!  Sometimes it takes nothing short of a Q-tip to get those clean.  Yes, go ahead and get out your Q-tips!

  • Decide a plan of attack BEFORE you put things back.  I try to keep like things in one area, so in our case cans are on one shelf and boxed foods on another. You get the idea.
  • Put things back with purpose- do you use something only occasionally?  Put it higher up. All of our snacks are together, with smaller items in a basket, and then breakfast foods are at the bottom for easy access. 
  • Use glass jars when you can!  I admit, I love glass jars.  Here's why - I love the uniform look, I love that you can see exactly how much of something you have left, and I get so tired of looking at half opened boxes and bags.  This is especially true of things like flour and sugar.  I seriously would put our potato chips in a glass jar if I thought I could get by with it.  I also use Tupperware for staple item that need to be airtight.  After living in Florida for several years, I gave in and invested in containers that would keep the humidity and bugs out.  18 years later they are still reliable.  
  •  A quick word about food storage.  Yes, we do store extra food in case emergencies come up. (think power outages, blizzards, hurricanes, etc. But not in the same state, I know!)  We keep those foods in a large plastic tub that is inventoried and kept in the basement storage area where 1. it is cooler, and 2. little hands do not reach in and help themselves.
Finished results-

This project is a little quicker than last week's!  Regardless, don't forget, if you cannot do it all at once, no worries!  Set a timer for 15 minutes each day if you have to and work until it goes off.  Slow and steady wins the race.  You have a whole week so don't fret!  When you are done, reward yourself with a cup of tea and some chocolate.

And because a few of you have asked - nope, I am not going to give you a list of all the weeks in advance, though if you really want it, it is not hard to find! ;)  I remain convinced, and I saw from our first run of 34 Weeks, that it is best to only share each assignment as we go.  I think our tendency is to go in strong to a project like this, push too hard, and then fall off the wagon from exhaustion.  It's kind of like that rush at the gym every January. This way you can truly concentrate on the task at hand and not be weighed down by what is to come. 

So, I think that is about it!  This should not take you all week, but go on and get started.  There is never a better time than the present! And don't forget to post pictures of your progress- everyone who posts a picture for ALL 34 Weeks will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 prize package from our friends at 621 Gifts!  Wanna know one of our favorite products they have?

Sugar and Spice Pretzels and the Dipping Caramel.  Simply divine!  It would be the first thing I would put in the shopping cart!

Until next week - Happy cleaning and many blessings,

Sunday, January 15, 2017

When Math is NOT Your Thing

Welcome back to week 3 of the Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted by Susan at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds.

Last week we talked about Language Arts, so this week: Math - Discovering Patterns, Math, and the Mathematical Sciences!

If you are anything like me, just the mention of Math makes your heart beat a little faster.  No, not in excitement, but in pure terror.  I can still remember trying to learn my multiplication tables for TWO years.  Seriously, I just stunk at them.  I had a sweet teacher in 4th grade that would not give up on me- she knew I needed to know them and pushed me to succeed.  Of course, I know that now, but then, I thought she just did not like me and wanted to make me miserable.  Sad, but true.

So yes, math is the one subject I was really afraid I would not be able to teach my kids.  Sure, doing math with elementary aged kids was pretty easy.  It is fun to add and subtract with teddy bear counters, tell time with fun little yellow clocks, and learn patterns with M&Ms!

But, higher math?  UGH!

Good news, friends!  Well actually, four points of good news!

  • When you teach your child math, you learn as you go.  Just like them, you learn, and therefore you WILL be able to teach them!
  • Many math programs today have DVDs to follow that include full step answer guides.
  • There are many online Math tutors out there to help you!
  • Your older children can take online math classes from many colleges, and often receive college credit at the same time!
So what do we use?  Here we go-

For elementary through about 3rd or 4th grade, we still believe in Saxon Math.  I know that some complain about the monotony of this program, but I believe that 1. monotony is good at this age, and 2. it makes learning fun when you can use manipulatives.  As for the two sided worksheets, we required only one side be done unless the child needed extra practice.

Somewhere around 4th or 5th grade, we switch over to Teaching Textbooks.  Why?  For several reasons actually.  By the time my kids get to this age, I am training them to be more independent in their schoolwork.  Being on the computer independently works better for us.  In addition, I LOVE that the lessons are automatically graded!!  As a busy mom, this is just one area that saves me a lot of time.  I can easily check grades each week and see what problems they are struggling with.  Video based lessons reach auditory and visual learners- both of which I have.

For now we are continuing Teaching Textbooks for high school math.  There have been a few times when I thought my children might be behind in math, but when their math scores come back from standardized testing, they always do fine, so I have let that fear go.  If this is a fear of yours, ABeka Math may be a better fit for you.

A few bonus things I want to mention-
Remember those multiplication facts I struggled with?  The two best programs I have found to combat that are Times Tales and Math U See's Gamma level.  We actually took time off from our Teaching Textbooks last year for a few weeks to work through those two programs simultaneously.  Our youngest learned his facts faster than any of our older kids and I HIGHLY recommend both programs.  Learning Wrap Ups are also great for hands-on kids!  You can get them for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Click on the highlighted names above to read our formal reviews.

Times Tales practice dice

What about you?  If there are math programs you have used and love, we would love to have you join us by linking up below!  Share what you use and why you love it!

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:

Finding Our Math Equilibrium: Our Plan for 11th, 7th, 5th, and 2nd Grades + Free Printables! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Math Resources and Programs for All Ages by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Math (doesn't) Stink! by Jennifer King @A Peace of Mind
When Math is NOT Your Thing by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Math U See and All the Supplements by Laura H @ Four Little Penguins
Discovering Patterns in Our World: STEM Studies by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Junior High Math by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Science & Math for Struggling Learners by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
Maths: a subject in progress by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Taking Mathematics out of the Textbook by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acre
Maths for a Very Maths-y Boy by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Practical Math by Annette @ A Net in Time
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Math, How I Loathe Thee by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Math and Logic in Early Elementary and Preschool {virtual curriculum fair 2017} by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos
Low Stress High School Science and Math by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Are these toys or manipulatives? This is math? by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully
When You Don't Have a Math Plan by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Clear Horizons by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
A Few Thoughts on Teacher Math by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

An InLinkz Link-up


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Top 5 Posts of 2016!

Each new year I try to take some time to evaluate the blog and decide where I want to go with it, and even if I want to continue to write.  What started out as an avenue to simply review homeschool products evolved into a place for me to ramble about life.  Sometimes life in general, but often my family's life.  They graciously allow me to still do that with very little censorship.

This space has turned into a place where I bear my heart, often to a fault, and share my opinion, hopefully in a respectful manner.  It is a place where I have made many online friends, and have met several of those in person.  You have laughed with me, loved with me, and endured the ups and downs of life.  I am blessed by you, friends, and I pray daily that I can bless you in some small way in return.

I know each of you come for different reasons.  Whether you are here for homeschooling advice, curriculum reviews, or just to hear my crazy ramblings, let me take this time to say thank you!  I value the time you spend here on Family, Faith, and Fridays and I appreciate your readership.  More importantly, I appreciate your friendship and support!


You make this blog what it is and you make me smile daily!

So what did you all enjoy the most this year according to numbers?

34 Weeks of Clean Returns
Grief is Great
When A+B Does Not Equal C
6 Tips of Dual Crediting High School 
Blessing in Waiting 

Here's to a GREAT 2017!  Be blessed!


Monday, January 9, 2017

34 Weeks of Clean, Rinse and Repeat: Week 1- Holiday Decorations

Welcome to 34 Weeks of Clean!  If you are new to the blog, let me say a big hello, we are so glad you are here!  From our initial post, (you can find common Q&As there!) we have had people from 31 states plus Germany and Alaska say they are joining us.  People just like you and me who are ready to take their homes back.  We are overwhelmed with your responses and enthusiasm and thrilled you are joining us.  THANK YOU to all who have shared our posts and egged on encouraged their friends to join us!  If you do not know me yet, you can read all about me and my clan on my About Me Page. So let's start with a few housekeeping details- I love details, don't ya know!
  • A new assignment will be given each Monday.
  • You will have one week to work on said assignment.  How that looks is up to you.  You can conquer it all in one day and sit back and enjoy the week, you can make it your weekend project, or you can set a timer each day and work until the buzzer goes off.  Find what works for you and go for it!  Every week will look a bit differently, so be sure to be flexible. 
  • Your goal EACH week will be to deep clean, de-clutter, and then reorganize.
  • Take pictures!  If not for us, then for yourself.  You will be amazed at what you will accomplish in 34 weeks, I assure you!  Share your picture on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page each week, whether of your before, after, or both and you will be entered to win a $50.00 prize package from our friends at 621 Gifts!  You must post each week to be eligible for the drawing.
  • I KNOW it is tempting to work ahead.  I advise you not to.  Trust me, if this is a light week for you, enjoy it! ;)  Not all weeks are created equal and you will get burned out if you press too hard and too fast.  Clean the assigned area and then go live life.  Enjoy your family, love your neighbors, have some fun.  Next Monday will be here before you know it, I promise!
  • If you are a fellow blogger, we would love for you to put the button for the series on your blog and/or post about your progress.  It is always more fun when we can snoop look into others' lives, right?!  Even if you are not a blogger, make sure you leave a comment and let us know how you are doing so we can cheer you on!

  • DO NOT spend lots of money on organizational "stuff."  Some things are great, and if you need something then go get it.  But please do not buy boxes and bins just to fill a space.  Remember, the goal here is to de-clutter as well.  Those cute plastic bins can just add to the clutter.  Look at what you have and re-purpose things - think bags, baskets, and existing furniture.  We will expand on this idea as we go, promise!
  • Have fun!  Or at least as much fun as one can have while cleaning and organizing.   
First things first!  Holiday decorations!  Sorry, no keeping things up for the next month in this house.  Now, I know many of you have put things away.  I am challenging you to pull it back out this week.  I know, I know, but you can do it! 

I love decorating for the holidays but when Christmas is over, well, let's just say I. Am. Done!  Just ask my kids! ;)  It is almost as much fun as spring cleaning, trust me on this one.  Put on your favorite music, roll up your sleeves, and let's get started!

Helpful hints-
  • Clean each piece as you put them away!  (This is the deep clean part.) All those little knick knacks and do-dads have been sitting out for at least a few weeks gathering dust.  Before you put them away, wipe them down!
Yes, I had my mom's help this year!
  • Same goes for artificial trees.  Although I love ours, they are dust magnets.  You can use a small hand-held vacuum to help you out.  At the very least, take them outside and give them a shake.  A few years ago I decided to save myself the trouble of taking ours apart and just put them back in storage in one piece, but I intend to get large plastic bags to put over the top to protect them.  Some years we leave the lights on our trees but if you take yours off, old cereal boxes that have been collapsed are perfect for winding lights onto, as are cardboard wrapping paper rolls cut down to size!
  • This year when you put things away, ask yourself- do I really love this?  Do I really need it? (We are going to ask ourselves these questions a lot over the next 34 weeks, start practicing!) Again, if you have put things away, pull them back out and really think about each piece. Sometimes more isn't better (well, most of the time, but that is for a different post, right?!). Donate what you do not need - local shelters and retirement homes would love your extras!

  •  Put like items together and LABEL them!  Some of mine had beautiful labels on them (I do love my label maker) while for others I used a sharpie marker.  Details don't matter, just make sure it is all labeled. That way, if you decide to decorate in waves like I do, you can pull out just what you need in the moment rather than riffling through every bin looking for your one treasured item.
  • Think outside the box!  Literally!  See that yellow trash can?  It used to hold dog food.  But I found it was perfect for coiling up outside lights and garland into.  Easy to put them in, easy to get them out.  Now, if we could just invent a way to make them easy to put up! My husband would love that!

  • Ornament boxes and wreath boxes are two exceptions to my "don't buy special boxes" rule. There are other ways to store those things but with all of our moving I have found that things are better protected in those specialty containers.  If you have the space to hang up wreaths you can do so, just know they may get pretty dusty in a year.  Ask me how I know this! ;) A trash bag over them may help.

  • Put it all away in ONE spot if possible.  Each time we move that storage looks a little different.  One year it was in the basement, this year it is on shelves in our garage.  The key is to house everything in the same area if at all possible.
  • Keep a list of what you have. There is no need to buy items on sale that you do not need.  If you don't need it, you can consider it saving money - no matter the price.  Know what you have and know what you need.
  • And as long as we are on the subject of HOLIDAY decorations, if you decorate for other holidays the same things apply, and go ahead and go through those decorations this week too, if you can (Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc.).  Label your boxes, sort through what you don't need or use any longer, and keep it all in one place. If you can't tackle them this week, don't worry, you can fit them in during the break week!
OK, don't get lost in the details!  Just get started and see what you can do in a week!  Don't forget to take pictures of your progress to share with us!  And if you have a tried-and-true helpful hint, we want you to share with us!  Many hands make light work, and many ideas - well, they give us inspiration.

So glad you have joined us!  Week by week, we CAN take back our homes and put a little order in our lives!

See ya back next week for our next assignment.  Until then, happy cleaning!

Linking up with Caroline

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Search for Language- VCF:Week 2

Welcome back to the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted by Susan at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds. 

Last week we introduced ourselves and shared a bit about our daily school life, so today we are going to get down to the nitty gritty with Language Arts! 

Diagramming sentences and taking vocabulary tests.  Oh, and reading obscure books that I did not understand only to have a teacher tell me she knew exactly what the author meant when he wrote it.  Yep, that is what I remember most about "Language Arts" classes, especially in high school.  Not very fun and not very inspiring.

But my memories none the less.  I am not all together sure my kids will remember their language arts classes much differently, but I promise it will NOT be from a lack of me trying.

Language Arts is a pretty big spectrum of subjects really. Vocabulary, grammar, reading, reading comprehension, spelling, writing, hand writing... it just seems to go on forever.  And quite frankly, it takes up a big part of our homeschooling day.  But in my opinion, it is SO hard to find suitable material for those subjects and forget trying to find one I like that encompasses them all!  Seriously!  I have changed curriculum so many times with my four kids through the years that it would make your head spin.

I am going to share what I would use RIGHT now for the different age groups, but know that this is my opinion today.  I promise it might change next week.  But so far, after 18 years of homeschooling, these are my favorites!

  • Phonics Museum by Veritas Press- I used a lot of different things for my girls, including Teach Your Child in 100 Easy Lessons which I loved, but Phonics Museum, although pricey, was what saved me when teaching my first son to read.  He loved it, he learned to read, and all was well with the world.  'nuff said!
  • All About Spelling- Just use it!  It is worth it, great for all kinds of learners, and works.
  • Grammar- ABeka- Just back to basics workbooks, learn like you did in public school, but your kids WILL learn.
  • Literature- Honestly, just read.  Everything you can get your hands on.  Ask questions, draw pictures, write summaries, whatever.  If you need a bit more, then the Memoria Press Literature Guides work well for us.
  • Write Shop- If you are looking for a simple and non threatening way to teach young kids to enjoy writing, try this!
Middle School-
  • Spelling Power- Call words, master their spelling, and move on!  Who has time for word searches and puzzles?
  • Wordly Wise- I love these books and start them about 5th grade.  My kids don't love them but they have great vocabularies!  They will thank me later, I am sure.
  • Grammar Ace- A short and easy program, but I have used it for all my kids for 4th grade!  One day a week and done!  It uses the DVD of the old Schoolhouse Rock videos we watched on Saturday mornings and they love it.  "Conjuction, juction, what's your function?"  Go ahead, I will wait while you sing! ;)  We also continue with Abeka.
  • Here to Help Learning- This video writing curriculum has been so much fun for us.  My youngest son went from complaining about writing a few sentences to writing 5 plus page stories!  It's cute, easy to use and works! 

High School-
  • Wordly Wise- Just keep swimming, just keep swimming- I promise, it is worth it.  Another great vocabulary program is Vocabulary From the Classical Roots, so yes, I make them use both at the same time.  I am nice like that!
  • Grammar- Easy Grammar Ultimate Series- OK, I have used A LOT of grammar programs for this level and honestly, some are completely overboard in my opinion.  I loved diagramming as a kid, really, I did, but I have come to strongly believe that enough is enough.  Teach the basics, let them read good literature, teach them to write well, and they they will be just fine.
  • Literature- We have used several but here are my favorites-
          Sonlight- Choose the books your child reads with discernment.  There are some books we do   not read due to personal convictions about language and graphic content. 
          Lightning Literature
  • Writing- We are IEW fans.  Two of my girls have done well with writing at a college level after having used this program.  We also recommend anything from Sharon Watson! 
 Is there more?  Oh yes, a plethora of stuff, I promise.  Once again, find what works best for your child and forge ahead.  One of the glories of homeschooling is that if you find something that doesn't work for you, just put it aside and find something else.  

What about you?  What do you use?

We would love for you to join us!  Link up your favorite posts about Language Arts to share with us!

An InLinkz Link-up

See 'ya back next week as we Discover Patterns with Math and more!


Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

All posts will be live by Monday, January 9th at noon EST.

Delight Directed High School English by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Act Your Part Well- 2017 VCF by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
The Search For Language by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Our Top Picks for Language Arts by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Multiple Approaches to Language Arts in 2017 by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
How We Cover the Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Use Your Words by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
The Art of Perfecting Macarons by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Loving Languages Every Day by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Speech Therapy & Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
The Readin' and Writin' Part of Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Children Who Love Books by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Customizing High School Language Credits by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
A Poetry Feast by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Teaching Language Arts without Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
I know your pain and it is worth it! by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Language Arts: Our Style by Annette @ A Net in Time
Words! Words! Words! by Lisa M @McClanahan 7
10 Wonderful Word Games (+1) by Lori @ At Home: where life happens

Finding the Right Words by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
What About Reading Comprehension? by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
Teaching Grammar and Writing Through Discussion by Chelli @ The Planted Trees