This Month's Featured Resources...

Ten Days of RoadschoolingWWII Activity PackLego Easter Mardi Gras

Friday, January 30

It's Magic (Doris Day)


UPDATE :  The regular Magic Tree House series will continue with Shadow of the Shark, due to release in July 2015, and Balto of the Blue Dawn, due to release in January 2016.

If you're a fan of the Magic Tree House series, you're going to want to check into Mary Pope Osborne's newest series!  These books are a little bit longer, and include more facts and photographs at the end of the story.  The first book in the new series is Danger in the Darkest Hour.

The magic tree house has taken Jack and Annie back in time to England in 1944. England is fighting for its life in World War II. Before long, Jack and Annie find themselves parachuting into Normandy, France, behind enemy lines. The date is June 5. Will the brave brother and sister team be able to make a difference during one of the darkest times in history? They don’t know, but they have to try!

The kids were bummed when they realized that the original Magic Tree House series was ending after Soccer on Sunday, but we ALL were excited to see that there will be more, older-kid adventures in the Magic Tree House!

The Little Passports World Edition has several different World War II activities built into its European countries.  We pulled back out the ones on France, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Great Britain while we were reading this book.

We will study World War II more than once, but with this particular unit we focused on D-Day in Normandy and the aircraft of the period.  The unit below is specifically for those topics.

Airplane-Specific World War II Resources :

Tuesday, January 27

I'm Pulling Through (Diana Krall)


Tiny Steps Tuesday : Stretch It Out



When you think of fitness training, I doubt that stretching comes to mind.  Aerobics and strength training, which we will touch on another day, are important pieces of physical fitness, but stretching will reduce risk of injury and allow you to safely lead that active lifestyle.

How long have you been sitting down where you are right now?  I'm guessing the answer is "a while."  Take a moment to do the desk stretches shown above.  No matter where you work, taking a minute (a few times each day) to stretch will improve your outlook.
Stretching improves circulation and increases blood flow to the muscles.  You can stretch anywhere, but always remember to hold your stretch.  No bouncing!!  Use a simple stretching DVD or just follow the above exercises for whole-body stretching...

Take it to the Next Level

When you're traveling, take three minutes to stretch at each pit-stop.  It might add some time to the drive, but your kids, your body, AND your spirits will love you for it!!

Monday, January 26

Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi)

Deadwood, South Dakota

Living in the southeastern corner of a state where everything that is educational or fun is about four hours away, coupled with trying to decide where to go and face the frigid weather and seasonal closings, can be a little discouraging. After some internet research, I found that our family would be traveling near Deadwood, South Dakota – where Wild Bill Hickok was killed!

Deadwood, like many tourist towns throughout the area, closes up for the winter. However, there are some things that a family can enjoy even in the off-season.   Deadwood is known for its bars and casinos, but a history loving family can spend the day there and experience what life would have been like in the 1870/1880’s. HERE is a link to the attractions that are offered in Deadwood.

Deadwood, South Dakota is nestled in the Black Hills. The area is beautiful! Oh, the snow on the hillside makes the scenery just mind blowing.  It was a mining town during the 1870’s Black Hills gold rush. At the time, it was a wild area, and the first pioneer preacher to the area, Henry Weston Smith, was murdered  on the hill right outside of Deadwood.
The most memorable act that happened in Deadwood was the murder of Wild Bill Hickok. History tells that anytime Hickok entered the saloon, he sat at a poker table beside a huge fireplace with his back against the wall. On August 2, 1876, when he sat down at the table, he sat with his back towards the door; leaving him in a vulnerable position.
This is the chair Wild Bill was sitting in when he was shot, and these are some original photos and drawings of Wild Bill.
The original site does not house the items any longer. They have moved them across the street to a larger building, which is an active bar and casino. During the day, the gaming establishments are open to families since so many of them are full of museum artifacts, like this one.
Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried beside each other in Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Jane’s grave is the one with yellow and red flowers.  If you know anything about Wild Bill and Calamity Jane, then you know “wild” is perfect for Bill.  As for Jane, well, she was no Dale Evans. 
The cemetery is beautiful; it’s located on a hillside looking down on the city, and is definitely rough terrain.  Something that really stood out to me about this resting place was the walk ways. Each one that we saw was named after people or places from the Bible.

If you are a history loving family, you really don’t want to miss Deadwood, South Dakota!

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Lori is a Georgia Peach transplanted to the Southeastern corner of Montana. She shares about faith, family and homemaking at Frog's Lilypad.

Friday, January 23

House That Built Me (Miranda Lambert)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum

We live and homeschool near Branson, Missouri. One of our favorite family sayings is, “We're not on vacation; we LIVE here!” It's a lot of fun to live in a tourist location, because there is always something to do. Many of the attractions are just entertainment, but some are educational, too. One of our favorite field trips was to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, MO, which is just 45 minutes or so from Branson.

Most people are familiar with the “Little House” books in which Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her childhood during pioneer days. Her family migrated west from the big woods of Wisconsin to the plains of South Dakota, stopping for awhile in Minnesota along the way. The books are fascinating accounts of what it took to survive in those days, from rendering a hog, to dealing with locusts or severe weather – and everything in between.

What many people might not know is that after her marriage and the birth of her daughter, Rose, Laura and her husband Almanzo moved away from her family to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri. There they again lived off the land, this time growing an apple orchard. It was here that Laura wrote all of her books. (Their trip from South Dakota to Missouri is chronicled in the book On the Way Home, which is Laura's diary of their travels, published after her death.)

We went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum on a sunny spring day. The drive there was lovely; the redbuds were in full force and the dogwoods were just starting to bloom. The Ozarks section of Missouri has rolling hills which have a rugged, unkempt beauty that is breathtaking.
There are actually two houses at Rocky Ridge Farm, which is the name that Laura and Almanzo called their land. The white one, which you tour first, is the one Almanzo built. It is very interesting to go through it, because everything is set up for early-mid 20th century living. The kitchen is a fascinating testimony to how things were done during that time period.

Also intriguing about this house are its interior dimensions. Both Laura and Almanzo were very short by today's standards -- Laura was 4'11' and Almanzo was 5'4” – and their house was built with this in mind. The ceilings and kitchen counters are very low, rooms are small, and even the beds are short!

The second house is the house that Rose had built for her parents after she had achieved some success for herself. It is called the Rock House, and it is a “short” walk away from the farmhouse. In the early spring when we were there, it was a beautiful walk and a great way for the littler ones to blow off some energy. This house was built with more modern conveniences, and it was here that Laura first began writing down her memoirs. She was 65 years old.
Later, Laura and Almanzo moved back into their farmhouse, because they missed it. I can understand why. There is something about the place you make for yourself, whether literal or figurative, that holds your heart.

A few days before we went to the Wilder farm, we had received in the mail a small cardstock person named Flat Ainsley. Flat Ainsley was made to be a look-alike to a real Ainsley, an elementary girl from upstate New York.  We took Flat Ainsley with us when we went to the farm; you can see her in some of the pictures. While she was there she met a friend – apparently George Washington was on a similar journey!
Seeing where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her books really made them come alive for us. You can even see the very desk she wrote them on, and an example of her handwriting on one of the paper pads she used – and Pa's fiddle is on display, as well.  I'm thinking it's time for another trip up there, for I have another girl who has now finished reading the Little House books. I'm sure she would like to step into the past, just as we did on that beautiful spring day!


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Today's guest poster, Ann, blogs about any and everything :-) including homeschooling (especially high school--the kids in these pictures are much older, now!) and simplifying our lives as busy women.  She can be found at Annie & Everything and on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Thursday, January 22

Lifetime (Emeli Sande)


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Life Skills as a Curriculum Subject

Picking and choosing curriculum for your homeschool can be an overwhelming task for parents of typical children.  For parents of children with special needs, it can seem impossible.

I am required to teach the minimum : Reading, Grammar, Math, Social Studies and Science.  Like most homeschooling parents, I strive each year to do more than the minimum. For my twins with special needs, they do additional theme units and Life Skills – for them, life skills as a curriculum subject. 
  

Why include life skills?
Kids need to be able to independently do for themselves as much as they can. Just as a regular school IEP is the plan by which a child can achieve his highest level of success with the least amount of assistance, so too does a curriculum and life skills plan for a child with special needs being schooled in the home become a framework for reaching improved independence and success.   Homeschooling allows me to teach them the basics, in their best learning method (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and focus on the skills they need to become their best selves. We include life skills as a part of their curriculum to help the boys reach their highest level of success. It does not take the place of any academics, but is given a place of priority equal to academics.

How do you go about teaching life skills and how do you document it?
When embarking on teaching life skills as part of your curriculum, it is important to follow a plan. Life skills need to be taught as building blocks, so that the skills needed build upon each other until the end result is achieved.  While you may decide to use a curriculum that you compose yourself, there are also many good ones available through various therapy companies. 


The one I chose for our homeschool is the “Building Life Skills Portfolios,” available through AttainmentCompany.  There are other good programs, too, including the series by Darlene Mannix, Skills Activities for secondary schoolers, and Life Skills for elementary aged students.

To see the life skills portfolio book we used, and view a pdf file of 12 pages, including samples and the entire table of contents
click here
It is important that special needs homeschoolers receive a balanced education. Not all academics and not all life skills, but all parts working together to help your student become his/her best self.  Our twin boys’ program consists of the state mandated subjects, plus this program, religion, and extracurriculars.

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Katie is a Jane Austen fan who has been married to her own Mr. Darcy for almost 15 years. She is Catholic, a Waldorf inspired homeschooler, a pediatric speech-language pathologist, and a mom to 5 children, including twins with special needs due to birth trauma.  You can follow her homeschooling adventures at My Sweet Homeschool where she offers encouragement, practical information, and the weekly Sunday Stitch Along. Currently, she and her husband are turning their home with good bones on a one acre propery into their own French Pemberley. You can follow their  house and property renovations at the French Pemberley Blog.  You can also follow her on PinterestTwitter,Instagram, and Facebook.

Tuesday, January 20

Mind Games (John Lennon)

Tiny Steps Tuesday : Pay Attention to Your Food

Have you ever stopped to consider why you were eating?  Are you eating for hunger?  Because it is the socially-appropriate thing to do?  Because you are bored?  According to the author of Mindless Eating : Why We Eat More Than We Think, the mind makes food-related decisions, more than 200 a day, and many of them without pause for actual thought!

Most people do not consider food with attention and intention - that is, most people do not eat slowly, without distraction.  

This week, your challenge is to be mindful of your patterns.  I want you to answer each of these questions at least once each day...


  • Why am I eating?  (Emotions, or hunger?)
  • When do I feel like eating?  (Natural rhythms)
  • What do I want to eat - given all possible options?
  • Where do I eat?  Also, where does the fuel go?  (Exercise?)
  • How do I eat?  (Do you drink your calories?)
  • How much do I eat?  


Take it to the Next Level

Keep a food diary for a week, and notice the patterns that emerge.  Jot down the following for each entry :
  • What you ate
  • How you were feeling just prior to eating
  • What time you ate
  • What else you did while eating
  • How hungry were you just prior to eating
You just might be surprised at what you discover!!

Friday, January 16

Melt With You (Modern English)

Homemade Chocolate Candies

These are super simple to make, and can be customized to your favorite flavor!  With Valentine's Day around the corner, this is an easy project to do with the kids.

Supplies :
Directions :
  • Put water in your main pot and turn on high.  Allow to boil.
  • Place the double boiler inside the pot, and put the chocolate square in there.
  • Give it a few minutes to begin melting.  Stir occasionally.
  • Allow to melt completely, then put in drops of your essential oil, to flavor the chocolate.  Stir well.
  • Carefully spoon the chocolate into the molds.  (This is a mom job.)
  • Place onto a cookie sheet and put in the freezer to harden.
  • After chocolate has cooled, pop out the candies!
  • We store the chocolate in the fridge for a longer life.

Wednesday, January 14

Friends in Low Places (Garth Brooks)



A few days ago, I posted this on our group board...

I have a confession to make, and I'm hoping y'all will understand. I love travelling around and living in such close quarters with my family. But sometimes, I just want a few days, or even 24 hours, to myself. No kids. No hubby. No one else around. There's simply too much going on right now, and I'm feeling very drained and burnt out....and not sure how to get the energy back. Please tell me that someone else has been here before. Because I am feeling really awful for disliking everyone right now. And probably a little hormonal, too. I just want to...............leave. And not tell anyone where I'm going for a little while. ...like a day or two.
***Don't call CPS...I'm not actually going to abandon anyone!***
 
The response was overwhelming.  These people are strangers, but their outpouring of love and support was the booster I needed to get through these hectic times.  Here are just a few of the virtual hugs...
  •  Oh Hun, I'm in those shoes right now. Normally I find something to do for a few hours like a painting class or shopping by myself. I let the hubby take the kiddos. Right now its not doable and I could run off for a few days myself. Try to get yourself a break, even if its a short one.
  • I hear ya! There's definitely those moments. Put your hubby on watch and go get a pedicure and some chocolate!!
  • Everyone needs a break. The best thing to do is to call a friend and just laugh for a little while.
  • We alllllll have these moments, I'm sure! You're not a bad momma, you just need to recharge your batteries. Ask for help if you need it, but take care of you.
  • I go and hide in the woods in the hammock somewhere at the campground! Lol Now if I can just figure out a cup holder for my wine??!! Hey we moms need breaks too! Don't feel bad, we all feel this way at times!
  • We had early bedtime at our house tonight because I couldn't take anymore. LOL I have also been known to pop in Frozen make them popcorn and take a long shower.
  • Join the club I'm a single mom full timing and home schooling I feel like I'm going nuts sometimes.
  • I think every mom feels like that sometimes no matter what their living arrangement is. I know I certainly do!
  • Trust me the tin walls can close in . It's normal I find a good nature walk makes me feel better. Also I go to friends and relatives to get a break nothing like going to grandma's to give you and the kids breathing room.
  • Mine is working nights too and the combination of all the regular stress in addition to trying to stay quiet is sometimes too much! Tonight I sat by the fire with a drink and the kids were in the camper watching a movie. Get outside and breathe. Have a cup of coffee before they wake up, have a drink after they go to bed. Whatever will relax you. I find it's best enjoyed when there's the least chance for being interrupted. If you know they could come out at any moment, it's not really peaceful. Take the time when you can and when they are busy. hugs mama! We've all been there and some of us are there with you right now.
     
  • We all drink something.  It doesn't have to be alcoholic. Some people relax with a cup of tea.*
  • I personally love my made from scratch frozen strawberry margaritas, but coffee or hot cocoa is just as relaxing to me. I just like the taste of a well made drink occasionally.
  • Get a galvanized bucket from tractor supply, fill with water and place over firepit... haha or just imagine you're sitting in a tub, sit by the fire and read your book during the sunrise.
  • Right there with you. Had a particularly bad week last week, and our internet was out. I tend to use the internet as an outlet for adult socialization, so when my grandmother offered to take the kids for a few hours, you bet I let her!

A little kindness goes a LONG WAY to helping others pull themselves back together.  If you don't believe me, just check out these forty-five examples of everyday love....

Tuesday, January 13

Sleep Through the Static (Jack Johnson)


Tiny Steps Tuesday : (Don't) Sleep Like a Baby

Do you ever lay down to sleep at night, only your head feels like this?  Try putting a small notebook and pen on the bedside table to jot down notes - thus emptying that board and freeing your mind for sleep.

Everyone's sleep needs vary, but most healthy adults need an average of eight hours sleep per night.  This isn't really news to you, I'm sure.  But did you know that (according to the DOT) 5% of highway crashes are due to sleepiness, especially in rural areas?  
Leading sleep researchers recommend these techniques to combat sleep issues:
  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Don’t drink or eat caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use
  • Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the night
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep
  • Get regular exercise
  • Minimize noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep
  • Develop a regular bed time and go to bed at the same time each night
  • Try to wake up without an alarm clock
  • Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for certain period; this will ensure that you’re getting enough sleep





Some people can sleep anywhere!  It's true - when we're having travel long days, all of us have been known to take turns curling up on the floorboard of the car.  We each sleep by our own rhythms...the night owls sleep in the mornings, and the early birds take afternoon naps.

On the road, we've found that leaving the bathroom light on, with the door cracked, creates a nightlight that gives the kids more security.  It's too much light for my taste, but a simple mask fixes that.  Even if you're not Holly Golightly , you'll still probably sleep better with a basic sleep kit , quirky sleep mask, or cute kitty mask.
Also, outside noises, from the streets and the hotel hallway alike, seemed to be a big trigger.  So we started using a Homedic sound machine.  I remember my parents travelling with one of these when we were younger.  It helps to muffle sound with white noise.  As an added bonus, if Dad gets up early for work, his 'morning noises' don't wake the kids!

Take it to the Next Level

Create a bedtime ritual by taking a bath with lavender oil, drinking herbal tea, and using a light dimmer.  Avoid using digital devices for at least an hour before bed.  If you must use them, install a program to automatically change the light wavelengths so that they do not interfere with your body's natural rhythms.

Related article :  Sleeping Well While Away from Home