November brought fun traditions, activities, and events my kids look forward to every year. December brings more of the same.

I think last December was one of the firsts I can really remember since starting to have kids. Life was so hectic for years-- pretty much survival mode. But last year? I finally felt things start to slow down 
just enough to enjoy the ride a little more.

This year we continued some of the traditions of the past, were unable to do some, and added a few to the traditions list. Some are silly and some are heartfelt.

My family sees the entire month of December as Christmas preparation. The birth of our Savior gets a month of celebration, not a day! I absolutely loved to hear my 8 year old say the other day "I love Christmas!" We are making memories centered around Christ and His birth. 

The beginning of December brings the decorating of the tree...

New Christmas PJ's (bought from Target Black Friday of course!) 

Last year we compiled a Christmas "Bucket List." The kids begged to do this again! 

Baking, Christmas stories, Christmas movies, hot chocolate, apple cider, crafts, Christmas lights, and more! A great collection of activities to make great families memories!

Last year, one of the bucket list items was to make Christmas ornaments, and another was to make Christmas cards for the nursing homes. This year we combined those two and brought both the ornaments and the cards with some friends to do some Christmas caroling at the nursing home. 
 Service is such a gift to the servers! 

Another new tradition we added was the Advent Event. I absolutely love this! It is a short lesson each day leading from Creation to Revelation complete with hand motions and sounds telling the story of redemption. It has been a wonderful addition to our Christmas month long celebration. 

It is our goal to do a family mission trip each Christmas, but it did not happen this year. We are hoping to be able to take a family trip this summer Lord willing.

Celebrating Christ the King all month long. We love December!!!

December Traditions

by on 9:35 PM
November brought fun traditions, activities, and events my kids look forward to every year. December brings more of the same. ...
There is a saying that states are when your children are young, the days are long and the years short. Oh how this is true!

I spent most of the last decade pregnant, nursing, or with a toddler--sometimes more than one. That makes for long days. But no matter the chaos and mayhem of the day, we look back at old photos and are amazed at how quickly the time has flown.

2013 is wrapping up.

Thanksgiving has passed. The Christmas tree is up. Presents are piled waiting to be wrapped. And we are racing through our schoolwork to finish enough to call the semester to a close.

One of the greatest take aways from 2013 is that hard work pays off.

Our usual review of a year focuses on curriculum. In our fourth year of homeschooling, curriculum is taking more of a back seat, and how we use it is taking more precedence. We are learning to focus more on the learning process than academic goals.

A Shift in Focus in 2013:

Focus on Foundation

The great foundation that we paved in kindergarten through second grade was a wonderful platform for E to build upon in third grade. She is becoming more independent, and all of the effort we have placed on the 4 R's are bearing fruit. I am very grateful for the foundation that has been laid, and it encourages me to trudge onward with my younger ones.

Focus on Relationships

While we emphasize academics and strive for academic rigor, relationship is so much more important.
Relationship with God is first and foremost, and second with family and others. Being a task oriented person makes it not so easy to focus primarily on the relationship. 2013 has seen great strides in this area, and I am grateful.

Focus on Diligence

From piano practice to phonics lessons, and basketball to gymnastics, my children are learning the importance of diligence. Especially with perfectionist children (I may have one or two of those!), the expectation to get something right away can be strong. However, each member of our family is learning the importance of hard work, and how it does pay off. I am also learning to celebrate small successes, and be patient and not push so hard for bigger ones. A hard lesson to learn.

The year has flown by... and most days certainly are long ... but these faces are worth any long day! I am so grateful for another year, the highs and the lows, the opportunities taken, and the opportunities lost...because each is for God's Glory above all else. So grateful for a blessed 2013, and looking eagerly to an even greater 2014!

Check out the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers'
2013 School Year in Review!

Read alouds are the highlight of our homeschool. My favorite part of the day...It's the idealistic vision of homeschooling that may or may not (mostly not) be reality depending on the day. It's the cuddle up on the couch and enjoy your kids part of the day that I absolutely love and don't spend enough time doing.

I asked my eight year old to give me her 6 favorite read alouds from the last few years and here is her list. I have to say, she did pretty well! I would love to add more, but if we are sticking to six, this is a great list!

1. Pippi Longstocking

2. Frindle

3. Little House on the Prairie/Little House in the Big Woods

4. Tale of Despereaux

5. Mr. Popper's Penguins

6. Because of Winn Dixie

There have been so many other great books-- Understood Betsy, My Father's Dragon, Sarah Plain and Tall, 100 Dresses...

Read alouds are definitely the heart of our homeschool. Creating precious memories with my kids while exploring the wonderful world between the pages. I look forward to the many more ahead.

Check out the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers' 
favorite read alouds!

Our Top 6 Read Alouds

by on 6:00 AM
Read alouds are the highlight of our homeschool. My favorite part of the day...It's the idealistic vision of homeschooling that may or m...
I admit it. Sheepishly. I am a Black Friday shopper. I wait in crazy lines for $5 pajamas. Sad I know.

But as I warm up under a blanket today and browse online sales, I thought I would share with you all about an exciting adventure I started recently. 

I became an Usborne Books consultant. It makes sense. I love love love books. And I love love love Usborne books...seriously... The shelves don't lie. It is slightly embarrassing. 

So if you are at home looking for some great deals, head on over to my Usborne website and take a look. There are some great deals to be had! 

My Usborne Books website. Check it out! 

I am so excited about this week's Homeschool Help series topic...because, well, it's about books! And well, I LOVE books! And it is my hearts desire to convince my children that they love books as well!

I am a super sucker for good picture books as well. I love beautiful books. My kids have favorites, I have favorites...but to pick our top 6 read aloud picture books is nearly impossible...I mean, almost as impossible as picking a favorite child! But, I shall do my best...or maybe I can cheat a little and add categories???

Top 10 Picture books for our family: (because I simply could not narrow it down to 6! These 10 have been read over and over and over again in our home!)

1. Head to Toe

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

3. Goodnight Moon

4. Brown Bear

5. On the Night You Were Born

6. The Tale of Peter Rabbit

7. My First Little House Collection

8. Trusty (series)

9. Teddy's Button

10. How do I Love You
Picture books aren't just for babies. Some of our best history learning comes from great picture books. Here are a few we have enjoyed in our history journey over the last few years. 

Picture books for the study of History:

Top 6 Picture books for Ancients
1. Seeker of Knowledge
2. You Wouldn't Want to be...(series)
3. Gilgamesh Trilogy
4. Tutankhamen's Gift
5. King Midas and the Golden Touch
6. Cleopatra 

Top 6 Picture books for Middle Ages
1. D'Aulaire biographies
2. The Clown of God
3. St. George and the Dragon
4. You Wouldn't Want to be (series)
5. Good Queen Bess
6. Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci

Top 6 Picture books for US history to 1850
1. If You Lived...(series) (Hopi, Iroquois, Souix, Cherokee, Colonial Times, Boston Tea Party, etc.)
2. The American Story (series) by Betsy Maestro
3. D'Aulaire biographies
4. You Wouldn't Want to be (series)
5. If you Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620
6. Winter at Valley Forge

Check out the other Homeschool Help bloggers favorite picture books!

We have all been there...well, I think we all have. OK. Maybe it's just me. I've been there. Lots of times actually. We are on our fourth year of homeschooling, and well, some days are tough. And then there are tough weeks. And then there are tough months. What do you do when you are a homeschool mom and the last thing you want to do is school your kids???

This is very timely, because well, I was at this point recently. (ok, I may still be there).
We had a great August and a fantastic September. I even commented to my husband how we were having the greatest homeschool year yet! (I should have knocked on wood!) And then came October... When November wasn't getting any better I knew it was time to take a step back and regroup. I almost waited too long. You see the title of this post is "avoiding homeschool burnout." It is way easier to avoid homeschool burnout than recover from it!

After six rough weeks of schooling, I was d.o.n.e. Like really done. Like call my husband every day crying. Locked in the bathroom, sending S.O.S. texts DONE. And for the first time in four years I said to my wonderfully patient great listener counselor husband, "Either you help me figure out what is going on or they have to go to school!"

I was tired. The kids were acting out. The 8 year old forgot how to subtract (she is doing division), the 6 year old forgot about short vowels, and the 3 year old well... she was a whiny argumentative sassy (cute) mess on two little legs.

Yeah, burnout ahead!

It was time to step back and figure out WHY I was yelling everyday, and why my 6 year old would bring me a napkin when I told him to "turn off the light." Yeah, it was a mess and we needed to regroup!

A few things we did that helped:

Assess the situation

What is causing the burnout? Is it the curriculum? Unrealistic expectations? Kids behavior? Lack of sleep? Diet? Outside stressors? Will the stressor fix itself? (new baby, illness) or is it something you need to be proactive about fixing?

Address the Root issues

One of the main issues I had to deal with was the attitudes of my kids and me. We needed more sleep, more routine, less eating out and processed foods, less sleeping away from home, more family time, and more consistency. Sometimes mom just needs a break-- some "me" time. A chance to step away from my kids so I can miss them long enough to remember why I adore them.
What about extracurricular activities? Yours and theirs? Too many? Not enough? Make sure you have time for family.

A Fresh Perspective

Sometimes we just need a different set of eyes. I asked my husband to stay home one morning and just observe. Honestly, after he did, I realized I didn't need him to, just having him there opened my eyes to what he was seeing and ultimately what was happening. Talk to a homeschool mom friend or your spouse. Don't suffer alone.
Keep the Relationship First

No curriculum or academic pursuit is worth sacrificing your relationship with your child. Find a way to make it work where you are both happy, or find something else to do. The parent/child relationship usurps the homeschool mom/student relationship every time. Spend some time just being mom. Hug them, cuddle them, let them know you approve of them just because of who they are, not because of what they do academically.
Change of Routine

Sometimes a slight change in routine will do it-- dropping a stressful unit or reordering the subjects...Or sometimes dropping school altogether is needed. For a day, a few days, a week. Whatever is needed.
Find the joy of learning again. Pick a project, do art or music, or that science experiment you haven't gotten to. Some of our best days like this have been when the stress level is high and we take several entire days to build a Viking ship, or create a model of the Santa Maria. It's those projects we "just don't have time for" that usually spark the love of learning back into our kids...and it it lets us take some time to put our eyes back on our kids and off of the calendar. Some of the best days come from scrapping everything on the plan, staying in your pajamas and doing a day of read alouds on the couch. Is math the cause of the stress? Put the math book away. Maybe they need a break entirely from math, or maybe they will be thrilled playing math games with you and won't even realize they did math. Change your approach.
Change of Scenery

Sometimes we don't need major changes to avoid burnout. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed. Last week we schooled at the park, and at a local restaurant (wifi and free refills oh the possibilities!) I leave the little one with Grandma and it is amazing what we can accomplish! And the kids love doing the "same" schoolwork somewhere "different." It's amazing how simply cleaning my school room can change the scenery and decrease the stress levels!

Heed the Warning Signs

Don't wait until you are officially burned out. It's harder to recover from that. If you wait, it may take months or a year to bounce back, but keep your eyes open. When you see the signs in you and your kids, head it off! Take a few days. Or a few weeks. Read some great books. Do a project. Go to the park. Watch a movie during school hours. Change it up.

Homeschooling is a wonderful privilege. Yet, it is hard! Take some time for you, enjoy the kids, take a break! Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. If we despise teaching our children what good is it that they can translate Latin, do long division, and write a novel? We don't continue to do things that we hate, so if homeschooling is your calling...take time to remember why you do it, and take time to enjoy it.

Focus on relationship, being realistic about expectations, and being honest about reality avoid burnout.

Check out what the other Homeschool Help bloggers have to say about "Overload-- What to do when you run out of fuel?"

Avoiding Homeschool Burnout

by on 6:00 AM
We have all been there...well, I think we all have. OK. Maybe it's just me. I've been there. Lots of times actually. We are on our f...
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