100th Day of Homeschooling!

I have been wanting to do a homeschooling post for awhile, as we get asked often how it’s going and today seems perfect since it’s the 100th day!! (okay, I started this post yesterday~Monday so…now it was yesterday!)

We are celebrating because it is a big accomplishment for all of us! We had smoothies and baked oatmeal this morning with “100” in berries on top:) We are doing little fun activities like filling out “100th Day Newspapers” and an estimation/actual sheet on activities done in 100 seconds. The kids are having fun!

Whenever people ask me how it’s going, I have to think about it for a minute because it’s hard to know what to say or what not to say. And I tend to babble a bit, afraid I am boring people! Homeschooling is going well overall. I don’t always feel that way because just like most other people, we have good days and bad days.

It’s been a big learning curve for us, figuring out how to work with each other in a small space five days a week! The kids can get snippy with each other and I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I can get snippy, too. Our days tend to go better when we start with a devotional and a little prayer:) We have to work hard on being respectful and NOT complaining!

How do we keep order?

Our four rules posted on the wall are:
1. NO complaining
2. Do your best work
3. Have a good attitude
4. Be respectful

Short and sweet! If they do not follow the rules, the consequences are:
1. You must leave the school room (it is a privilege to be in here!) and you will lose 5 points (we start with 100 points on Mondays)  and possibly gain an extra chore for the day.
2. Write 30+ times an apology for the offense. Lose 10+ points.
3. Lose extracurricular activity and/or privilege. Lose 30 points.

We haven’t gotten to number 3 yet, thankfully! They rarely have to do number 2 (that’s considered a bad day!) and they really hate to lose points. If they get below 85 by Friday, they are not allowed to have dessert that night or watch a movie/play a game with the family. If they end the week above 100, they get rewards!
What do they study?

Instead of investing in an already made up curriculum (which can cost up to $1,000 per child!), I did a ton of research and picked from several different things. Some are free and some I bought used on ebay. The biggest chunk of money I spent was on a new set of math books. The good part is that they will last for several years!

I am always looking for more things to add to our curriculum to make it more fun or to go more in depth. We get a LOT of books from the library! As in, we always have at least 30 or more checked out at a time. The library is an amazing resource! We even do their languages through a program at the library. Cool!

If you have any interest in knowing specifically what they study, I am more than happy to share. I just figured it would bore you!

Do we like homeschooling?

It was a huge adjustment for us. I knew it would be (because I was told it would be!) but that is different from experiencing it:) Samuel had the hardest time but finally around November, he told me he liked homeschooling. Zakkai has trouble focusing (which wasn’t a surprise!) so we have tried to do a few things to help, such as diffusing some calming oils in the schoolroom and he got a portable CD player and good headphones for Christmas so he plays classical music to block out his siblings, which helps a lot! I also separate them when I can:)

I like homeschooling most days. I love that they don’t have homework and we don’t have to spend our afternoons battling with kids cranky from a whole day at school, hungry, tired, etc. We are done when we are done! I like the extra time with them (mostly) and the extra opportunity to be able to instill the values we want to in them, without constantly having to undo the damage caused at school. And believe me, there was damage! I really like organizing all of our work and doing research for it. I love the people we have been able to connect with this year and all the support from other homeschooling families!

What is tough is constantly trying to guard our schedule and often being made to feel like I am this mean old mom who forces who kids to work instead of having fun. I do take this seriously and I have a responsibility to make sure their work gets done and they are learning a lot! I also get very frustrated when the boys mess around and pick fights and have trouble concentrating. It makes the days soooooo much longer! I also feel frustrated with myself often, wondering if I am doing the best I can and feeling the pressure to juggle all three of them, in three different levels of school. Exhausting!

What about Eliana?

Eliana, I have to admit, has had it easy this year. It has been so challenging to just get the boys going that she has had several days where I don’t make her do anything. I always feel guilty but it is what it is and I am trying to have some grace for myself!

She has workbooks she has been working through, Pre-K and Kindergarten and she loves doing several pages a day in those. She has flashcards with sight words on them that we go through and I try to do a letter of the week with words to practice writing and an art craft! Unfortunately, it’s a little slower than I was aiming for:)

 She also participates in our Road Trip USA history curriculum and loves learning the states/capitals and coloring a sheet for each state. She knows some of her stuff better than the boys! She also listens in on Spanish most of the time and recently I got her a special book to work on her reading and she loves our reading lessons! I will be working hard to develop a curriculum for her kindergarten year next year and really incorporate her into the school day more. I will definitely need some prayers for wisdom for that because it can be overwhelming!!

All in all, things are going well and we are all learning and growing together. Please feel free to ask any questions you have!!


A Month??

 Hard to believe it’s been a month since I last posted! Time is FLYING around here. We are so very busy all the time and it’s hard to find a minute to take a breather! I find myself very tired all the time, probably due to the constant brain power required to teach these rascals of mine!

Here is our past month in pictures!

Here are my cuties on Halloween:) We have some unidentifiable super hero on the left ($1.30 at the thrift store!), Super Man (borrowed costume!), A Princess/Fairy/Ballerina and….a very austere and thoughtful Monk. Quite a crew!

It was very chilly out on Halloween night but we were still able to score quite a bit of candy.

We also took a field trip with our science co-op to Stratton Farms which is a working farm on a forest preserve. It was a really neat place! The kids were broken up in to three different groups and I stayed with Eliana’s bunch.

They got to visit the greenhouse and taste several different plants!

And they got to feed chickens:) Eliana was pretty nervous at first!

But she stuck with it and let the chicken get a few nibbles:)

Their guide also took them into the woods to teach them about plants and to listen for different sounds. Here they are putting on their “deer ears” and listening to bird calls. The kids were like putty in his hands!

And let’s not forget the pigs!

We finished up with some climbing on giant hay rolls. Who’s that silly kid in the background?!

Playing in the leaves before we go!

We visited a park on a nice Sunday afternoon and I got my trio riding dinosaurs:)

We celebrated both of our mom’s birthday! We had a nice dinner here with Ben’s mom and family and unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures! And my mom turned the big 6-0 and together, with my sisters’ help from far away, I threw her a surprise party. It was lots of fun! She is looking beautiful with her “new” teeth! She got her braces off just in time for her birthday!

And I have been working on a very special project for the past month!! Don’t I look very cool in these safety glasses?

I have been sawing, hammering, drilling lots of screws, sanding, staining and painting!!

All in my grandpa’s very nifty workshop with my stepdad. Wanna know what we were up to??

Building a kitchen island!! We have a nice square kitchen with very little counter space. I showed my grandpa a picture of what I wanted on my phone, he drew up some plans and my stepdad and I built it!! Here is is before being sanded and painted and put together.

And here it is all finished! We just brought it home last week:) Isn’t it beautiful?!

We can’t believe what a difference it makes in the look of the kitchen and how much space it gives us!

And this was a peace of amazingly delicious apple pie that my mom and I made at Thanksgiving . time, Mmmm!

And here is a beautiful Plain City sunset! The sunset and sunrises are so beautiful out here! We definitely love our cute little home:)


We just finished Day 6 of the “Thomas Family Homeschool,” as the heading of some of our worksheets say. (thanks to Daddy!) Things are going really well so far. Mostly. It is definitely going to take some time to adjust to the schedule, get the boys back into the routine of working again and figure out how to protect our school time from other intrusions and fit in other responsibilities.

The first day, last Wednesday, the boys and I just went over everything that we are going to do for the year. I showed them their binders that I put together, all the books I got, talked about the different subjects we will cover, let them ask questions, etc. It took longer than I thought it would and I was totally exhausted at the end of it!!:)

Thursday we did a little work in the a.m. and then had to take Eliana to the dr for yet another ridiculous mosquito reaction!

That is just one mosquito bite! It went from the size of a pea right before she went to bed Wed night, a quarter by Thurs morning and an apple by Friday morning! It was really hot to the touch and swollen and she was beyond miserable, crying that it hurt her so bad. We got a cream to help her and it is mostly gone now!

We had our lighter school schedule Friday and started full-time Monday. We have definitely had some meltdowns and attitude issues but we are working on that. I have already had to tweak a couple things with our schedule to make things run more smoothly and I think I will have to do that a few more times these first few weeks, as we figure out what works/what doesn’t work.

I told the boys that I think they’ve learned more in the last 6 days than they did in 6 months last year!! You think I am joking….

We start out our mornings, after breakfast and exercise (MWF) with devotional/prayer time (definitely the best way to start out the day!), followed by calendar time. During that time we fill in daily planners, mark the day, weather, etc. and get ready to start! Monday through Thursday, the boys are doing English, Math, Spelling, Literature/Reading, Writing/Narration, Science, History/Geography and some kind of fine arts. Most subjects are in 20 minute increments. Just enough to get good work done, not enough to overwhelm them! (or me…)

The boys are learning Latin and Spanish. Ben does the former, I am doing the latter with the boys using a really neat language program called Mango that we access for free through the library! I am really amazed at how quickly they pick up on the language. They may complain about having to do two languages sometimes but they actually mostly enjoy it. And if they think two is hard, they have nothin’ on their Daddy! He learned at least 9 over the course of his Ph.D!

(Z working on spelling words. They choose a different way to practice every day!)

Little Sweetie Pie is doing homeschooling, too! We weren’t able to send her to her preschool for financial reason along with the disruption to our schooling schedule it would cause. It was a hard choice for us but she is very happy to be home with us learning! She has worksheets that she does and her own little pink binder:) She loves to pull it out each day and practice writing her name (she is working on lower case letters) and doing her worksheets. I plan to do the Alphabet Weeks with her that I did with the boys when they were younger, just a little more advanced. It should be fun!

It’s definitely a lot of work and I feel very much in need of some quiet time in the afternoons when we are done but it is really rewarding and fun sometimes. They are getting to do things they never did in school and we are so involved now in what they are learning. Yesterday for example, for science/nature study, we took our nature books and went out in the backyard and observed the clouds. We talked about what they looked like, drew pictures and looked in our cloud books to see if we could identify them. We sat on the swings and the different levels of the playgym and it was peaceful, quiet and lovely! Who gets to do that in school?!

I am hoping we settle into our routines quickly because I need to get a move on packing! We move in 4 weeks. I tend to think of all that I need to do right when I am trying to fall asleep at night and work myself into a slight panic:) Moving is never easy and I tend to want to put off packing and all the little details until a little closer to time but I think it would behoove me to do it little by little since my days are so full now! Thankfully, we saved all our boxes from last year so that is one less thing I have to do.

A beautiful sunset we saw in Plain City the other night on our way home!

Life is very full and getting fuller by the day it seems but we are thankful and taking things one day at a time! Happy Wednesday!

Big News!! (and the story behind it!)

No, we are not having number four. How dare you think such a thing?? Moving on!

Whilst (like that word?) we are still in the midst of making some decisions for our family/future, we have decided on one very big thing. As you might recall, I blogged a time or two about the rough year we had in terms of the boys’ education. It was, quite frankly, an extremely discouraging, frustrating year!

It started out okay but quickly deteriorated into almost daily complaints of, “I’m so bored!” or “I don’t like school.” or “I don’t want to go to school anymore.” We worked hard with the boys on their attitudes while simultaneously assuring them that we were in their corner fighting hard! We had teacher conferences, chats with the principal and even a couple fruitless calls to the superintendent’s office before coming to the conclusion this past March that something had to change and quickly!

We began a several month process of checking out other schools, intense prayer, countless conversations discussing our options and also keeping the boys in loop as much as we could. We found one school that excelled impressively in academics and we went so far as to go for a tour and had the boys take placement tests. We even took a whole month to fill out the paperwork! They were immediately accepted and offered spots. We let them keep the spots while we continued to pray and talk to people. People encouraged us and listened and offered advice.

Still, even though they were officially enrolled, I hesitated that last month and a half of school, to say anything to their current school, not feeling fully at peace. The last day of school, I prayed all day about what to say and if this was the right decision to pull them out. We did go through major life changes in this past year, after all! Was it the right decision to toss in another big change so soon??

I went to the boys’ school about a half an hour before it let out and when I walked into the office, was immediately greeted by the school receptionist, who had been so welcoming and kind to me all year! I asked her what the process for withdrawal was and she asked what school we were thinking of sending them to. I told her and immediately her facial expression and tone of voice became cloaked in careful politeness and cautiousness. She agreed that it was an excellent school academically but when I asked if she had known anyone who had gone there, she said her grandchildren! And then she invited me to sit next to her while she described their experience.

Her every word confirmed the fears that we had about the school and it’s atmosphere of pressure and competitiveness. The principal is well known for caring only for test scores and not for the child his/herself. She had twin granddaughters in the school and they began to exhibit aggressive behavior at home, etc. After a heartbreaking scene at the kindergarten graduation, where one twin was brought forward with a small group and applauded over how smart they were and the rest of the class, including the other twin was left at the back of the stage and told they needed to step it up to be more like the “smarter” group, the family knew they had to do something and quick. They contacted the principal, who basically said in response, “If you don’t like it, get out.” So they did.

Mrs Jones (the school receptionist) looked at me very sincerely and said, “I heard you mention that you had been praying about this decision?” and at my nod she added, “If you are looking to raise your children with all of the morals and values that come with Christianity, that is not the school for you.” And then she finished it with a gentle hand on my arm and a whisper, “I’ll be praying for you.”

Um, can we say an answer to prayer?? I picked up the boys, got in the car, called Ben and told him the story and we said, “Okay, that’s not the answer.” We felt immediate peace over the decision and called the school the next Monday to withdraw them.

So what were our next options? Moving to another district? Keeping them at the same school and hoping it turned out better next year? There was one other option. A little seed of though that popped into my mind back in March, that we discussed off and on, not sure whether it was feasible or not. Until now.

We have spent the summer praying, asking, researching, meeting with people and finally in the last two weeks, we have made our decision and it’s a big one! Ready??

We are going to be homeschooling.

 ( I thought it was a funny picture!)

I know, right? You are my first peeps to know, other than our moms, and everyone’s support would mean the world to us! I never ever would’ve considered it, had we stayed in a school like the one the boys were in while we were living in IL. They were thriving and loving school and were happy. And so were we. Great teachers, advanced classes, etc.

And everything took such a turn for the worse this year. Education has become dumbed down, especially where we are, to minister to the large population of English-as-a-second-language kids. And that’s fine…..as long as you don’t throw the other kids under the bus! So the lack of education (kind of important to us!) coupled with the scary changes and shifts in our culture and what children are beginning to be taught were enough for us to take homeschooling seriously. The things Samuel came home telling me this year have been so difficult (and would break your heart!) and he is still struggling a lot with it all.

I really had to examine my reasons for it. Was it to shelter our kids so they would stop being exposed to things at such impressionable ages? Was I being realistic about it or cloaking it in some fairytale story in my mind? After a lot (I mean, a lot!) of prayer, we feel very much at peace for our reasons behind our decision. We feel that it is not only our right, but our responsibility, to give our children a firm foundation (and in our home, that means a Christian foundation centered around Jesus) and a great education. Not a dumbed down one based on test scores. And no more of the school telling our children what is right and wrong and what they are allowed to believe or not to believe. That is our responsibility as parents and we take it very seriously. Not forcing our children to take on our beliefs but encouraging them, teaching them, raising them up in and modeling for them our beliefs, with the hopes and prayers that they will decide to love God for themselves as they go out into the world. (i.e. making their faith their own and not an umbrella faith!)

Last week, I was begging God to guide me through the overwhelming amount of curriculums and be able to choose what is right for us. The curriculums out there on the market go to all extremes. Extremely conservative Christian curriculums where it’s all laid out for you and everything is filtered very carefully to ultra-secular where anything goes. We wanted neither!!

In the middle of last week, I was reading some homeschooling methods and curriculum methods to Ben while we were in the kitchen and all of the sudden, bam, we hit on one where we both said, “Yes!” and Ben really truly jumped on board with me. Another few days and everything just fell into place. We are praying for provision for our year and wisdom as we undertake this monumental task (or mostly me!) and we would so appreciate your prayers with us!

Next time, I’ll blog about the method that we have chosen and the philosophies behind it. So excited! And nervous, and peaceful and everything all mixed up in one! We can’t wait!