What Our Homeschool Looks Like

Let me start by saying that my homeschool is not perfect and I’m not telling you to copy me or that this is what it has to look. The beauty of homeschooling is individuality. God made us all different and He gave me my kids and He gave you yours for a reason. This is simply an example for those who are new or who are looking for ideas.

This is our calendar for the 2020 school year:

  • Aug 5th: First Day of School
  • Sep 2nd: Labor Day (No school)
  • Nov 28th: Thanksgiving (No school)
  • Nov 29th (No school)
  • Dec 16th: Daddy’s birthday (No School)
  • Dec 23rd – Jan 3rd: Christmas break (No school) Some people take all of December off and that’s fine, but I prefer to get finish the year earlier.
  • Apr 10th: Good Friday (No School)
  • Apr 13th: Easter Break (Yes, one day)
  • Apr 21st: Mommy’s birthday (No School)
  • Apr 28th: Last Day of School!

I prefer fewer breaks so that we can get done sooner. They still do some school stuff during the summer, but it’s not required. Also, if anything happens we have plenty of room to extend the year if we have to.

We used to do all of our work at the dining room table, but this year I want to keep the kids outdoors more, especially since our daughter is still technically Year 0. We have a beautiful old tree in our front yard that provides plenty of shade.

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Since we primarily use Charlotte Mason’s methods, our daughter won’t officially start school until she’s six. We’ll begin “officially” teaching her next August and this year will be spent letting her play in a workbook geared towards four-year-olds. It’s not Charlotte Mason, but she really wants to get started and I don’t want to hold her back. We’re going to have lots of fun, though, so that she doesn’t regret begging.

Our youngest is two so we listen to worship music and I read my Bible aloud in the mornings so he knows what Mommy is doing. I love hearing him and his sister walking around singing songs that they’ve learned at home and at church. My oldest gets up later so he misses this, but he gets to hear the little ones the rest of the day.

If you are interested in Charlotte Mason, check out Ambleside Online. There are schedules, book lists, etc there to get you started. It’s free, you just have to buy the books. Many are free for Kindle which I like because our house is small and can’t hold the private library I would create with all of our books.

 

Back to (Home)School

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In about a month all of the local kids will be heading back to school. For my kids that means back to the kitchen table. Yes, we homeschool. This will be our first year with two kids doing schoolwork together since our oldest is twelve and our youngest is going to be five in October. I could wait another year with her, but she’s been wanting to start school for a year already (she definitely was not ready at three!).

We started homeschooling when our oldest was five because we strongly felt that was what God wanted. We don’t feel that calling has changed. If anything it is stronger now.

If you are interested in homeschooling I recommend reading as many books, blogs, articles, etc. as you can. That’s how I discovered Unschooling and Charlotte Mason. We use Charlotte Mason’s lessons a lot because we feel that it’s a great balance of reading, practical lessons where applicable, and outdoor time. It also focuses on the Bible heavily, which is the important part for us. Also, even if you don’t join Homeschool Legal Defense (HSLDA), bookmark it so you can easily look up your state’s homeschool laws. In Alabama, we are required to join a cover school and report to them.

Our daughter isn’t old enough to start Charlotte Mason’s lessons so we bought a workbook for preschoolers. I’ll work with her while my oldest completes his own lessons. He’s twelve so he doesn’t require much supervision or assistance anymore.

I keep our homeschool organized on my iPhone using the Calendar and Numbers. I use the Calendar for important dates (re-enroll in cover school, our start date, end date, breaks, etc). I use Numbers for lesson planning, attendance, and grades. It’s great because I can access everything on my phone or on my PC.

This year we’re going to start on August 4th at Dollywood. What? How do you start teaching at Dollywood? It’s easy! Dollywood has museums, shows, and other learning opportunities. For instance, our oldest can find out how fast each rollercoaster is and from there determine which one is the fastest. The museums also require some reading so he can work on that while we’re there. We’re planning to visit Smoky Mountain National Park, too, so the kids can observe nature. All of us are super excited!

We Have to Be Foolish

We Have to Be Foolish

You may be wondering what I’m going to talk about today. Well, I was reading my Bible this morning and when I came to 1 Chronicles 15:29, I remembered a praise and worship song I dearly loved when I was a teenager. It says, “And as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating and she despised him in her heart.” The song is called “Undignified (I Will Sing)” and it’s performed by many different Christian artists, but I love Matt Redman’s rendition. This is it with lyrics.

When we read God’s Word and obey it, we appear foolish to the world. 1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Verse 27 goes on to say, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;”.

If we truly want to be Christ-like then we must be willing to be to look foolish to nonChristians. They thought Jesus was crazy! Why should they think different of us if our goal is to be like Him? Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I encourage you to study the life of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to see how we are supposed to be. We are to love others, even those who hate us. We are to worship Him with our brothers and sisters, without fear of what others will think of us. We are called to fellowship together (attend church), but we are to worship Him without ceasing. My favorite place is when I’m in the car or my home with my three children. I want to raise them to be foolish to the world, too.

How to Set Goals (And Accomplish Them)

How to Set Goals

Setting goals is super easy, but keeping them can be challenging. I know this from personal experience! So, today I thought I would talk about how to make it easy to actually accomplish your goals.

First, you need to name your goal, be specific, and make it measurable. For instance, if you just say you want to read your Bible more, exercise more, etc. you’re probably not going to stick with it. Not because it’s not a good goal, but because you can’t track it. A few examples of measurable goals are:

  • I will read my Bible every morning
  • I will exercise five minutes a day/3x a week
  • I will save $20/week for 52 weeks (That’s $1,040 not including interest in case you were wondering)

Create a graph on paper or on your phone/tablet/computer so that you can see if you are making progress. Keep it somewhere that you will actually look at it. By the way, I don’t believe the Bible should be a checklist item, but it’s better than not reading the Bible. If that’s a goal of yours then check out How to Read the Bible (it will open in a new window).

My exercise goal is a little different. Since we will be living in town soon, my plan is to ride my bike for quick trips to the store instead of driving (unless it’s raining). This will save me some gas money and I will hopefully lose a few pounds. I’ll let you know once I’ve been at it for a few months.

What are some of your goals and how are you keeping track? You can let me know in comments or on our Facebook page!

Decorating on a Budget

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Today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite things, decorating! Yes, decorating can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Today I’m going to talk about doing so with a modest budget. It helps to be creative and crafty, but it’s not required.

The top picture that you see is one that I took at Dismals Canyon in Phil Campbell, Alabama. I chose it because I am planning to have it printed at Walmart so that I can hang it on my wall at Berry Cottage. I can print it as a 16×20 poster and buy a frame for less than $20 and it has meaning to me and my family. If you enjoy taking pictures and want to show off your artwork, there are many options for printing. I chose Walmart because I can upload my pictures and drive there to pick them up. No waiting.

I buy all of my furniture from second-hand stores and on Facebook marketplace. I buy my mattresses at Wal-Mart because I’m terrified of getting bed bugs. There are ways to check for them, but I personally would rather avoid them.

A simple way to dress up a room is with new curtains and throw pillows. If you have a sewing machine you can use sheets from a thrift store if you can’t find inexpensive material that you like. Just cut out your pattern or the measurements you need for what you’re making. Remember to leave room to hem it. You can also use old clothes and sheets to make a throw or a quilt.

If you like figurines or you’re looking for holiday decor, Dollar Tree is awesome! My mom has an adorable Christmas village that she bought piece by piece there and you can’t tell. They add new ones every year so you can add to your collection.

You can also repurpose furniture. For instance, there were two dressers in the Berry Cottage when we bought it. One is tall, but the other is perfect for our TV. I use the drawers to store DVDs, games, and CDs (I still have CDs and cassette tapes, but the cassettes stay in my 1999 Toyota). You can paint furniture to fit your decor and even change the knobs to give it a new look. I’m considering it with our new TV stand, but I kind of like the retro wood and brass look.

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This picture was taken when we first bought the house so this room looks very different and all of the trash has been thrown away.

What are some of your favorite ways to decorate on a budget?

Try Something New!

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About eight months ago my mom and I started going to a monthly painting class. We go out to eat and then spend two hours working on our masterpieces. She and I had never done anything like this before, but we wanted to get a break for a couple of hours. Our teacher is amazing and she not only teaches us how to paint but also how to fix any mistakes.

Eight months later and our paintings are not only improving, but now we’re talking about doing this on our own because we love it and two hours a month aren’t enough. You can see in my painting at the top that it’s not perfect, but it’s fun and relaxing.

If you have ever wanted to try something then go for it! Don’t be afraid that it won’t be perfect, that comes with time and practice. There are YouTube videos for everything these days! You can learn to crochet, knit, cook, or even do home repairs! Just relax and give it a chance. A hobby isn’t about perfection, it’s about relaxation and having a great time!

My next project is going to be painting the Berry Cottage on my own because I have always wanted a painting of my old house hanging in the living room. Even before I actually had an old house. I envisioned one day having a two-story farmhouse, but with my husband’s disabilities, a one-story is better for our family. It will also be easier for me to paint.

Here are a few ideas in case you need inspiration for a hobby:

  • Blogging (you can start for free on WordPress or Blogger)
  • Drawing
  • Journaling
  • Dollhouses/Miniatures (This is a goal of mine)
  • Quilting/Sewing
  • Pottery
  • Gardening

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some suggestions to get you started. Don’t worry about perfection, just have fun. I also highly recommend trying a painting class. You may be surprised at what you can do!

How to Create a Budget

Budget

I haven’t really discussed finances much on this blog, but today I want to because it’s something I enjoy. I use Google Sheets, but there are apps you can use and other spreadsheets. I just like that I can open it anywhere and see what bills I have to pay. I create my budgets months in advance and I tweak them when I get to that month. I already have February 2020 on my Budgets spreadsheet.

The first thing I did was list my bills down the left hand side, leaving the top rectangle blank (I’ll explain why in a moment). Each item gets it’s own rectangle. You can change the font and size, which I did to make it easier for me to read. A few examples of what to include are:

  • Tithes and offerings
  • Savings (Pay yourself)
  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Electricity
  • Water/Sewer
  • Trash
  • Propane/Natural Gas
  • Food
  • Internet
  • Cellphone
  • Car loan
  • Car insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Gas
  • Credit Cards

Your list may be longer or shorter depending on what bills you have to pay. The beauty of a spreadsheet is you can move things around easily as your needs change.

To the right of the blank square I type in the month. Then, beside each bill I type in how much I owe for that month (rent) or an estimate (electricity). Make sure all of your amounts are in dollar formats, you can do this by highlighting all of the boxes with numbers and hitting the $. Now I highlight them again, if needed, and click the funny looking “E” for Functions. I use this to add everything together and that amount appears below the last amount in my budget.

To keep track, as I pay bills I mark them green for paid, yellow for pending, and red for not paid. It makes it super easy for me to see what I need to pay still at the end of the month. Also, if a bill ends up costing more or less when I go to pay it, I change it in the Budget so I know for next month.

If you use an app or a different spreadsheet, tell me in comments. I may try them out and I write another blog post highlighting your suggestions. I will not use your name without permission.

 

Progress at Berry Cottage

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We got the floor installed in the kid’s bedroom and I was so excited that I couldn’t wait for the tools to be put away before taking pictures. Look closely at the flooring. It looks like hardwood, even in person, but it’s not. It’s sheet vinyl that I bought from Lowe’s for $.37 a square foot. It’s grooved and has knotholes just like real hardwood, but for a fraction of the price.

We also put in the window unit. The house has never had central heat and air and we chose not to put it in to save money. We’re planning to buy a natural gas heater before it gets cold. We were told that the gentleman who owned the house before us kept the house warm with one brick on a natural gas heater. He only had one air conditioner so we’re assuming he liked the house very warm, which we don’t, so one brick may force us outside until nightfall.

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We also had a new wall put in. The old wall had been eaten by termites. Fortunately, there wasn’t any new damage or evidence of living termites. We are going to have the house treated as a precaution since most of our walls are going to be the original shiplap that hasn’t been destroyed. This wall will be getting trim put on it to hide the seams and add interest since it’s vinyl and can’t be painted easily. The black on the left is the five panel door we had installed months ago.

Our next project is putting in new flooring and paneling in the hallway. I will share that with you once it’s done. We are doing this remodel on a super tight budget, but we’re so excited with how it’s turning out. I can’t wait until it’s finished, it’s going to be my happy place.

Why I Use the English Standard Version Bible

ESV

There are a lot of Bible versions out there including the King James Verson (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the New Internation Version (NIV), the English Standard Version (ESV), and lots more. If you have followed my blog you have likely noticed that I only use the ESV. Or seem to.

I used to be a KJV-only type because that’s what I grew up with and what we use at church. The problem was that I struggled to understand it and I was missing the meaning because of that. For my birthday this year, I was given an ESV Bible so I started reading it.

The first thing I noticed was that it was saying the same thing as my KJV, but in modern English. This makes it super simple to follow along in church. I also don’t get distracted by the lingo so I retain more of what I’m reading. This makes me want to read more and I can spend more time doing so.

It does have the same issue as most modern translations, verses are missing. I did my own research and agree that they were likely added after the original manuscripts. I do have a journaling Bible so it’s simple enough for me to write them in. I did that when I realized my Bible was missing four verses in 1 Thessalonians.

I’m definitely not saying that you should choose a translation and just use it, I certainly do not. I use the NIV, NLT, KJV, and ESV personally. Occasionally I’ll use the CSB (Christian Standard Bible) on my Kindle. To make things simpler on this blog I stick to ESV unless I make a note otherwise.