Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back-to-School Photos!

It's the third week of the {Not} Back-to-School blog hop at iHomeschool Network: Student Photo Week! Welcome to any visitors! For those of you who don't know our situation, all three of my kids have been homeschooled for part of their eduction, but this year my two girls are attending a classical Christian school three days a week while my son will be homeschooled full time.

Monday was the first day of school for everyone! This was Grace's first day ever at an away-school and she was so excited! I think Anna was just as excited -- she insisted they wear matching uniforms and fixed Grace's hair to match hers.

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I just have to share with you one of those melt-your-heart moments from the morning. When I woke the girls up to get ready for school I sat down on Grace's bed. She pulled the covers down from her face, sat up, gave me a hug, and said, "Thank you, Mom, for doing this." I thought it was a little odd of her to thank me for waking her up, but then she added, "Thank you for homeschooling me all those years so I could be ready for this." Cue the waterworks! Those words of praise rank right up there with the time a very young Ryne riding on my back buried his face in my neck and told me I smelled like a freshly cut watermelon (you might have had to have been there or at least know more of our story to know how much that one meant to me). I am blessed. : )

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So this will be the first year that Ryne is the only kid at home, at least for a few days a week. We're on day three so far and I think it's going pretty well. Today I coaxed him outside for a little photo shoot. He recently got a new desk and chair and now he rolls all over the upstairs in his chair, so why not bring it outside too?

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I told him to also bring a favorite book, so of course he brought Holman's Bible Atlas. I think he has every page memorized.

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Oh, and for those of you wondering what happened to my school room post . . . it's coming. Last week turned out much crazier than I anticipated with two back-to-school orientations (elementary and secondary) and all the other stuff that goes along with back-to-school, that I just haven't had the time to take pictures yet. Plus, there are tools all over the room right now because Marc has been finishing a couple little projects for me. So I apologize, but it's coming. Someday. ; )

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our School Room . . . closet

Do you ever feel like you're taking one step forward and two steps back? That's kind of a recurring theme for me this week. School starts for the girls and Ryne next Monday, so I'm busy trying to get ready. The girls are having great success in their preparations -- they baked about a hundred pumpkin muffins yesterday to freeze for quickie breakfasts or to go in lunch boxes.

Me? One of the things I've been trying to do is finish up the remaining little projects in the school room. It's school room week at iHomeschool Network and I was hoping to participate.

My one step forward was getting Grace's workspace cleaned up. Remember how bad it was? Thank you to those of you who gave me suggestions and sympathy concerning the mess that once lived there! She now has an additional space in her bedroom to be creative, so this area will be mostly just for school work.

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But something is missing. That would be the tall file cabinet that usually stands in the corner. For at least five years I've been wanting to paint it, but just never got around to it. So yesterday I decided it was finally time. Normally when painting furniture I paint with a brush, but I had just read a blog post where someone used spray paint for a piece of furniture and it just sounded easier and I liked the idea of a smooth finish. Fast forward 12 hours and 5 cans of spray paint, I was starting to doubt how great an idea it was. The paint was splotchy no matter how many coats I applied. So this morning I chatted with the paint dude at Lowe's and found out I was going to have to strip all the paint.

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The worst part is that this wasn't a high priority project. It would have been fine if I left it the way it was. I guess I was just in love with the idea of this room being completely done -- nothing left on my wish list. I'm so close and this would be the only room in the entire house I could say is completely done. But now I have a mess to fix and file folders stacked all over the place. Plus, it's taken up the time I would have spent on the other little things that need to get done.

So instead of showing you the school room, I'm going to reveal the next best thing: the hardest working homeschool closet in the midwest. Or at least that's what she thinks, so let's don't burst her bubble. Here she is!

{the view from Grace's desk}
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{the other side}
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In our old school room we had a fairly large closet, but by the end of the school year it was always a disaster and would take two days to reorganize. At the end of this last school year the new homeschool closet was still a disaster, but it only took 20 minutes to reorganize. Now, that's what I call progress!

I decided to make use of the empty wall by hanging all our educational posters. It's super easy to get them on and off and since I see them every time I walk in the closet I'm more likely to use them than when they were hiding under a bed or behind a bookshelf (neither this room nor my previous school room have enough wall space to actually display them on the wall).

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The shoe organizer once lived in my son's closet, but now that he has size 12 feet his shoes don't fit in it anymore. So now it holds flashcards, small games, and other items.

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Our Math U See manipulatives have their own home. We are huge MUS fans here, but I will admit the wooden boxes to hold the blocks were not worth the investment. Within the first year they were falling apart. Lots of people buy organizers like this to store their blocks, so that's another option. I do like, however, that the wood boxes are flat. They fit perfectly here.

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I've had most of the plastic drawers for 15 years and they've held up very well. Several years ago I printed up color-coded labels. Green labels meant the kids were free to use the drawer's contents; red meant they couldn't open the drawer unless I gave the okay. The labels unfortunately started getting all crinkly and it bugs me. Just not enough to actually do something about it.

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I haven't bought crayons for almost a decade yet we still have tons of them. I'm thinking my Sunday School kids will be getting something like this for Christmas.

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I have enough notebook paper to get my future grandkids through school. Raise your hand if you find it impossible to pass up those September and October sales at Target and Walmart when they are practically giving paper away! The stack of paper next to the notebook paper is actually from the recycling bin at my husband's office. It's what the kids use for drawing paper. I do buy a little bit of nice drawing paper, but with as much as my kids draw it's been nice to have a source of free paper. If you can't raid an office recycling bin, try posting on Freecycle -- I've found paper that way too.

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The paper organizer on the top shelf holds all our craft paper. This organizer was actually my first attempt at a workbox system, but ended up being a big fail because it wasn't sturdy enough. So now it serves its intended purpose. Totally not a necessary item, but it fits well up there, so we use it.

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We ended up going with the workbox option a million other homeschoolers also use, the rolling cart of drawers. We've used a modified workbox system for 3 or 4 years and still love it. The cart fits perfectly under the middle shelf and can be rolled out into the room, but we just leave it in the closet most of the time.

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Well, it's certainly not as exciting as a school room, but hopefully you still enjoyed the tour. It seems silly to get excited about a closet, but it makes my job as a homeschool mom easier, which in the long run means my kids are learning more.

If you are visiting from the blog hop and still want to see the rest of the room, I'm planning on posting no later than Saturday whether I'm done or not. See you then!

Update #1: Um, I'm a big fat liar. It's 5:00 p.m. Saturday night and I haven't even taken pictures yet. Someone needs to remind me every year that the week before school starts is nuts! So stay tuned . . . I have a plan of when I'll take the pictures and post, but I think I better refrain from making any more promises.

Update #2: My husband just told me he likes the look of the file cabinet, which has not changed since the above picture. Maybe he's been sniffing the fumes of the paint stripper. Or maybe he's tired of having to walk around the cabinet, which has been sitting by the back door all week.

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, August 9, 2013

South Dakota: Part Two

I apologize in advance for the number of photos in this post. We crammed a lot into three days! After surviving the first night's storm we headed out to the main attraction, Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately, it was still a little cloudy, so visibility was a slight issue as you can see from this phone pic.

So we toured the museum for an hour or so, hoping the clouds would start to move out. Ahhh, progress!

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Then we hiked the Presidential Trail and by the end... spectacular! Of course, by that time the kids were too tired for a third attempt at a group photo, so it was just George, Tom, Teddy, and Abe.

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My photography skills are not advanced enough to capture this view really well, but there is an artist's studio near the base of Mount Rushmore that houses the original model for the monument. It is beautiful how the sculpture and monument visible through the window stand side by side.

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After leaving the park, we caught a profile view of George from the road.

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Next up was some lunch back at the campground and then we spent the afternoon at Custer State Park.

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We drove the Wildlife Loop Road, hoping to see some buffalo. For the first 20 minutes all we saw was beautiful scenery and a prairie dog town. Prairie dogs are fun, but we were starting to lose hope that we'd see something new. And then we drove around one more bend and saw a bunch of cars parked to see a herd of burros. The burros are not native to the area, but are descendants of a herd that once transported tourists, so they are pretty friendly and people were petting them.

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Another mile up the road, we saw a herd of pronghorns.

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Just before we ended our loop we found the buffalo!

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Our last adventure for the day was driving up to the Mount Coolidge Lookout and Fire Tower. You drive up this narrow, winding road, praying you don't meet a car coming down and trying not to look at how steep the slopes are just inches outside your window. Mark joked that there was no need to worry because the trees would break our fall if we drove off the edge. Funny how the kids didn't find that very comforting. Once you get to the top, the view more than makes up the frightening trip up.

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But it's still a little nerve-racking to be up that high.

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Then it's one more night at camp. Marc's roughing it with the iPad. ; )

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The next morning, after surviving storm #2, we packed up camp and made a couple more touristy stops. Grace and I visited a local museum that was having a Carrie Ingalls Day. As an adult Carrie had been a reporter in the town of Keystone. It was a cute museum in a beautiful old school house built during the gold rush days. I accidentally left the camera in the car and Marc had taken the other two kids to wander about town, so no pictures of Carrie Ingalls Day.

Our last stop in the Black Hills was Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. We drove down, down, down a steep, winding road just as terrifying as the road up to the fire tower the day before. The cave was hiding in a lush forest.

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Inside the cave we had to walk down a million stairs, but once we got to the bottom it was amazing.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the cave tour, but I will admit the caves I've seen in Missouri and Arkansas do have more variety in formations making them a little more interesting.

What goes down, unfortunately must go up and up and up...

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One more trip to Badlands National Park.

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I loved the contrast of the prairie against the formations, but what you can't see from here is that there are enormous canyons between the grass and the peaks. It's almost like God just pulled the peaks out of the ground, flipped them over and placed them next to the hole left in the ground.

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Something I have not mentioned yet is that South Dakota is home to the famous annual Sturgis Motorcyle Rally. Our trip happened to be the week before Sturgis, but apparently people start showing up a week early and they stay a week after. I have never seen (or heard) so many motorcycles in my life. They truly own the state this time of year. Here's a large group we saw coming through the badlands. They just kept coming and coming...

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and coming...

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We ended our trip going back to the spot where the kids enjoyed climbing earlier in the week, but this time we hiked a beautiful trail. We were greeted by this little fellow.

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As I went through my photos I learned something about myself. Sometimes I'm a little too caught up in trying to capture the moment with my camera that I don't fully notice what my kids are doing.

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Ummm... where is this child's mother?!

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Moving on...

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So long, South Dakota. We made some wonderful memories with you.