Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries: Flourish {A Review}

Apologia Educational Ministries sent me Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms ($15.00) to review. It is for anyone (even if you are not homeschooing) that is balancing the responsibilities of a home (with or without a home business). 

Flourish offers practical advice for how to juggle the workings of your home. There are strategies for changing your thinking, focusing, reflecting, educating (yourself), eliminating time wasters, disciplining (yourself), organizing, multitasking, setting goals, management of your home and day, training (your children), homeschooling, keeping a home business, homeschooling as a single parent, and evaluating the entire process.

Tate shares many stories from her own experiences with her own family. In particular, I love the story of when their family cat caught on fire. I read it out loud to Poppa who also got a laugh out of it. She also shares lots of quotes throughout the book. I made a list of some of them to share on my Bits of Wisdom page and others to share with a friend who is constantly overwhelmed with everything she has to do.

As a bonus...There are worksheets to help and downloadable customizable versions of the items found in Appendix B included with the purchase:
  •  Pre-Book Self-Evaluation
  • Time Log, Sunday to Wednesday
  • Time Log, Thursday to Saturday
  • Big Dream
  • Yearly Review
  • Yearly Goals
  • Monthly Calendar
  • Weekly Plan
  • Post-Book Progress Check
As a confession, I am the one that everyone says, "I don't know how she does it all!" about. Birthday parties, get togethers, homeschooling, teaching classes, house cleaning, you name it. I've heard it over and over. Sooo....

Many of the suggestions provided I can attest to working to keep me organized. I do all of these things and they keep the household running smoothly. I color code my calendar, keep daily lists, have a separate blogging calendar, make running-to-do lists, multitask (crochet, quilt, or sew while taking car trips), set times for working on the computer and times I do not answer the phone, delegate work to the children, hire people to do some of the work around the house (when I can't with the new baby and Poppa's promotion), and make frozen meals for times when I am not able to cook (I actually froze 4 months of lunches and dinners for our family while I was pregnant with Wheel, so we could eat stress free). 

I usually shrug when someone says,"How?" I wasn't even sure how I did it. But Tate has explained just how to do it. I have several friends that I can recommend this book to that may find lots of ideas on the "How?" that they ask about.

While I found myself nodding in agreement with how to be organized and together, I also found other ideas that spoke to me in this season I am in. Right now, I can't do all of the things that I want to do. And that has been so very frustrating to me. I can't nurse Wheel and get supper ready and review my students' submissions at the same time. I can't clean the dust bunnies and snuggle and write blog posts. I can't go out swimming with Ceesa and Jo-Jo and get supper ready and respond to e-mails.

And that is frustrating to me. 

Flourish has offered suggestions for this time, too. I made a list of the hours I have available, not in a schedule (because Wheel is the schedule), but just listed out. There are 12 hours in a day from when I rise with the babe and then go to bed with him at night. So I looked at what I do in those 12 hours that just can't change right now: 3 hours I spend nursing, 3 hours meal prep for the rest of the family, 1 hour caring for the babies needs (baths, diaper changes, etc.), 3 hours of Wheel's naps, and 1 hour study with God. And so you see I have 1 hour. In that hour, I have to cram anything extra to do with the kids, showering, going to the bathroom, blog posts...You get the idea. No wonder why I've been frustrated. I've been planning so much to do when there is no time to do it in. So it is obvious that some of the things I would normally like to do, must go on a stop doing list.

I don't have to stop the items on my list forever, but just until I have more time to devote to them. I've never written out a stop doing list before, but how freeing for me to put those things down. Then if I find myself stressing over them, I can just say, "No. That is on my stop doing list!"

I am a recovering perfectionist. And I have to keep reminding myself that relationships are really what matter most to me. I am most content sharing my life with my children and Poppa. If I am not careful, I can end up scheduling God and the people He has put right in front of me out of my life. And I'm not willing to borrow time from them to do some of the things that I would normally put on a to-do list. And the interruptions in this season are moments God has put here now, not to be missed. 

One last thing that I am walking away with is coming up with a list of Big Dreams. Really a list of big dreams has been far from my mind. I had a list when I was in my freshman year of college. I have done them. It is time for a new list of dreams and goals to work toward (if not right at this moment) in the future. This is just the season to start thinking about what comes next.

Wishing you homeschool blessings,

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano: Complete Set {A Review}

HomeSchoolPiano sent us a lifetime subscription to HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books (for all ages) to review. There are two options for purchasing this set: the Success Package (One payment of $299) or the Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months). Both options provide unlimited, life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 

About the Program
All lessons are provided online from video on the website. Each lesson is taught by Willie. There are online quizzes and audio available for the student to try work on as well. 

Each book is available as a download. We would recommend printing them off ahead of each lesson, so that you have them ready for during the video lesson. Printing is easy. Once you choose the book you want to work in there is a green download button to click on for printing.

The videos are available to view on any mobile phone, tablet or computer. This is very helpful because we could play them on our mini iPad while sitting it on our piano.

To get started, we added the kids with my account login (manage students~add students) and made them a student name and password. To check on their progress, I can look under their name and records. 

Format of the Lessons
The lesson incorporate a 6 part focus. Each lesson works with technique to develop speed and dexterity. Rhythm is encouraged through vocalization (Willie encourages a soft vocalization for those that may be self-conscious about it). Ear Training exercises are utilized so that students can learn to hear rhythm, melody and harmony. Sight reading is encouraged using a step-by-step approach and bars are broken down to be studied making for small chunks to be learned at a time. The technique, rhythm, ear training, and sight reading all lead up to the song for the lesson. At the end of the lesson, students are shown how to improvise.

Each component is about 10 minutes, making for a lesson of about 1 hour. We chose to do one of the 6 components a day with extra practice after the video was over.

Our Experience
Students can work on any lesson in any order. We chose to start by watching the core videos. The girls have had almost 2 years of piano practice, but I felt that they should watch the CorePiano videos so that they didn't miss anything that they would need to get started.

We found it worked well for them to sit at the piano watching the videos together and then they would tell me what they learned that was new and do any practicing that accompanied the lessons.

Once we got through many of the CorePiano lessons, we went onto Book 1. At that point, I had them work in their own account, at their own speed, on their own lessons.

Final Thoughts
This program has worked great for our style of learning. It is easy for us to schedule the short lessons into our day. The kids like the practice and Willie's style of teaching. I liked how the kids were able to play along with him during the lessons.

This is our new piano program. After the kids complete Book 1, we will be having a recital. They will invite a few friends over and dress up. We'll plan dinner as well. Then we'll repeat it with Book 2 and Book 3.

Wishing you homeschool blessings,

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Our Zoo Trip

We went to the zoo this week
and I must say I learned a few things.
Not new facts about the animals, 
but about this life we are living. 

Watching my Ceesa with her explorer hat, camera, and notebook, taking pictures and videos and stopping to write poems, made me realize something. She is free. Free from rules about how to dress, what people think, how she is supposed to behave. She is just herself. What a gift she is!

Hanging back from the crowd provides an abundance of peace. We usually go to the zoo in the spring or autumn because of the heat. But I realized, we also go then because there are less people. The zoo was packed and I could feel myself getting stressed by the shear number in the crowd. After about 20 minutes, I realized I needed to hang back, not go with the flow of the crowd, just be. I needed a chance to breathe deep.

Visiting the zoo, like this life, is not to be rushed. It is to be savored, enjoyed. If we don't see everything while we are there, it is okay. We're there to see what we can see and be together. If that means sitting with the gorillas for a while, or hanging back so Li can watch the elephants, that's okay. Slowing the pace is worth it.

Sometimes the best views and experiences with the animals come after a wait and some patience. Some animals I've waited almost 4 decades to see, finally to see them up close, in this time.

You can find beauty where no one else is looking. Just open your eyes to the things around you. There's no reason to be so busy, running here and there in a frantic search to see everything. When you are trying to see everything, you often see nothing.

I watched a lot of people with screaming children or a lot of adults screaming at the children. As I watched, I thought. I spent a lot of time thinking. Then it came to this...There is nothing to see or do with my family that requires them to make perfect choices, to be perfect. There will be times we need to regroup and it is important to do just that. And not wait until we are at our boiling points. Our days are fuller, we are blessed.

I'm not sure that I had planned on learning so many life lessons while walking about at the zoo, but I am certainly thankful that the good Lord saw fit to share them with me.

Wishing you homeschool blessings,

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