Home School Organization

November 2, 2017

Home School Organization

So I’m one of these crazy people who can’t stand anything to be out of order.  I use to freak out trying to keep the house looking like a picture in a magazine…

This was until God smashed me with the realization that while life is in my house, it will never be perfectly clean.  (Note to self: NEVER be PERFECT!)

We also homeschool.  This means in addition to the normal kid toys, clothes, and assorted paraphernalia, we also have a stupendous collection of schoolwork items.  This all has to stay organized.  (Organization has paid off repeatedly as the girls move into high school level courses and dual enrollment.)  So I looked for an easy way to keep organized.

My first step at this organization was the purchase of three letter envelope sized Boxes upon which I wrote “Christina’s Schoolbooks,” “Rebeccah’s Schoolbooks,” and “Kimberly’s Schoolbooks.”

These boxes hold all current textbooks, notebooks, and school “tools” (pencils, pens, crayons, etc.) for that student.  I only had one “student” at the time, but the littler girls felt big to have their crayons, art supplies, and activity books in a “school box” too.  They also aren’t too heavy for a 5-year-old to tote around.

The students are responsible for their box and keeping their books and supplies in good order.  (Mom “issues” normal supplies like notebooks, primary crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, mathematical instruments, and books.  Usually, they like to buy their own “extras” like markers, colored pencils, or work pens inscribed with their name.)  This helps with responsibility.

Bingo!  I scored a short, sturdy wooden bookshelf that held my boxes perfectly!  **One (Jaquline’s) is missing in the picture, but that’s because she was using it!**

This allowed me to add the next 2 boxes (they were only 1 and 3, but Jaquline kept asking about her school box) and a third set for notebooks, charts & flashcards, and shared coloring & art books.  (Granted, we have a full-size bookshelf with art supplies and games and three full-size bookshelves with the supplemental school books – mostly history, science, technology, readers, and encyclopedias.)

Later, Rebeccah decided we needed a “non-reader” system on our boxes so we added “pictures” to the labels.  She likes everything organized too.

I created a book I call the School Planner.  (Rebeccah calls it “The One Book” as in “The book to rule all school!”) **Deceptively plain, isn’t it?**

It has everything school related in a very easy, homeschool-mom-friendly format.  (This means I can quickly enter information and file papers within my 10 or 15 minute time crunch.  I love organization, but hate spending time on it.)  One file drawer turned into the workbook paper file with one file for each student’s work by school year.  They look like steps and Kimberly has called them “the steps to college.”

Our School Shelf still holds everything current for 6 students (okay, Lucas isn’t a student yet, but he does have a backpack, crayons, and two coloring books in his school box).  Our School Planner sits on top of the School Shelf, and two sturdy boxes (perfect size to keep the workbooks snug and dust-free) sit on the other side against the wall holding all of the “next-ups.” (Core curriculum workbooks to be used by the next student.)

Our School Planner is organized by student in 4-week snapshots on each page.

On these pages, I keep a running list of reading books completed, courses completed and their GPA & weight (for high school-level), extra-curricular projects completed, and educational extras like field trips, community service, or practical learning.  The first page in my planner is my “base grade level guide” (texts I expect each student to pass at said grade level).

At the end of each school year (for us, the last Friday before our annual evaluation), I spend about an hour or two and compile all this raw data into a concise one or two page “report” I call a school year summary.

I attach a reading book list (gathered from the same data!) and if any high school level courses were completed, I add them into the student’s high school transcript.

For portfolio evaluations, I just grab the School Planner (reports go in the front in age order) and the file folder for each student for that year.  It’s easy and keeps me mostly stress free.  After evaluations, I rubber-band the School Planner pages together and set them in the file drawer with the previous years, print out the new pages with the changed dates and continue… the story of each school year in less than 1.5 inches of paper. The copy of their evaluation report (the copy of the official report on file with St Johns’ County) goes in a file folder with their name on it.  This has all evaluations and communications from the school district.  (This was a life-saver when the county changed computer systems!) **Lucas’ folder doesn’t have his name on it yet because they get to pick their colors**

Everything important with our school is in one long file drawer and one shelf.  This makes school time fun and easy – and organized!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

“I am Lucas!”

October 9, 2017

“I Am Lucas!”

It had been a very hectic day!  As Christina and I sorted the folded clothes, I imagined how much money we would make if we designed a Roomba-type total-clothes robot.  You know, you would dump dirty clothes in a bin and this robot would suck them in, wash them, dry them, fold them, and put them away in the correct drawer.  (I was imagining coding for the brain and a lego technic body rolling around the house in an endless cycle – it would have to be powered by a rechargeable battery that plugged itself in at night so I wouldn’t forget to charge it.)

(With Christina’s cap!)

Lucas ran down the hall with lightning speed.  (On second thought, maybe I should just discover a way to harness 2-year-old energy to offset electric costs!)

He tapped Rebeccah’s knee.  “You are Becky!”  He screamed.  (He and his best buddy at church had amused themselves by yelling “I AM…” *insert toy, like BIG TRUCK, BLUE CAR, LITTLE PUPPY, etc.* This was the first “You are…” I had heard.)

Rebeccah, Kimberly, and Christina applauded.  Lucas loves attention even though he plays shy.  He ran into Kimberly doing dishes.  “You are Kay!”  (This is the sometimes-nickname the girls use for Kimberly.)

“He knows my name!” Kimberly laughed.

Jaquline stopped with an armful of clothes to be put away, “who am I, Lukie?”

Lucas got that crooked boyish grin. (She had said Lukie instead of Lucas!)  “You are BECKY!”

Jillian stopped gathering Lucas’ army of trucks that lined the hallway and laughed, “am I Becky too?”

“You are Prim!”  (This is Christina’s dog!)

Christina and Rebeccah laughed.

Jillian thought this was hilarious.  She started nudging trucks with her nose and yipped as Lucas raced past.  Lucas ignored the newly-discovered doggie and ran full steam back through the house.

He called out names as he touched or ran into people, “You are Ki-tina!”  (Best version of Christina so far.)   “You are Mommy!”  (Can’t really get that wrong; he’s been saying it correctly for a year and a half.)  “You are Becky!  You are Kay!  You are Jaqu-line!  You are Jillian!” This continued until the clothes were put away.  (The energizer bunny would run out of power before Lucas slowed down!)

Christina laughed, “who are you?”

Lucas giggled and yelled, “I AM LUCAS!”  This sound echoed off the hallway walls as he raced back into the playroom.

There is one little guy who knows who he is!  (Some of his energy does actually leak out to us; he can race through and brighten the mood of a whole room!)

 

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

 

Level Up!

October 2, 2017

Leveling Up

On this nice warm day Jillian, Lucas, and I sat playing a video game on the couch.

We like to play this game together because Lucas can push the buttons (he thinks this is super) and Jillian narrates (this is Mommy getting creative about reading practice).   Some monkey bandits approach and Lucas tosses the controller to my lap. (I get to fight the battles.)

Afterward, Jillian reads “Alena has increased!”  She adds, “I like it when they level up.”

“Why?” I ask.  Lucas is walking the character around again.

“Because they learn new stuff.”

“I’m about to level up,” laughs Christina from the kitchen table.  (How is she following our conversation when she’s nose deep in chemistry?)

“In your game?” Jillian asks.  (Everyone has a saved game for this game; it’s a family competition.)

“No,” Christina laughs, “in real life.  I’m about to enter level 14.”

“Oh,” Jillian says thoughtfully.  She grins like Davy Crockett and starts bouncing (she does this when she figures something out), “you mean your birthday!  I love birthdays!  So I really love leveling up in real life.”

This made me smile.

It also made me think:

Our lives are quite like a game.  We go through “stages” in life that change as we grow.  Sometimes entering a new “level” is challenging, and we need help to get through this trying time (aka handing the controller off to mom).  Sometimes we are perfectly happy with the level we are at and don’t want it to change (Why can’t we stay in this land?).  Just like our goal in games is to “level up” by moving into new territory with new challenges, our goal in life is to “level up” by continuously learning, growing, and moving beyond complacency.

This also means we enjoy the journey as we go.  (Who would play a video game they didn’t enjoy?)  We find something fun in any situation and depend on God for direction, strength, and the wisdom to meet all challenges.  There’s even a guidebook!

The goal of our game is to make good choices and collect enough skills to win at the end.  In life, since being with Jesus in heaven forever is our end (we already know we will win!), our life choices should be made with this goal in mind.   (Being careful that what we do and say reflects Jesus is a good start!)

I never thought video games could be such good parodies of real life!  Oops, I’ve got to go get a “level up” cake ready for tomorrow!

 

Thanks for reading!

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~Nancy Tart

Eclipse Adventure

August 25, 2017

Eclipse Adventure

This story all started about six months ago.

We discovered that there was to be a full solar eclipse!  Since the viewing area where we could see the totality of the eclipse was only a four hour drive away, we decided to take a road trip.

At just after midnight, in the wee hours of August 21, 2017, we loaded the last of the snacks, water, and spare clothes into the van and began our journey.

About 5:30am we pulled into a truck stop next to a Shoneys and woke everyone up in turns.  Lucas was already up, racing around the van expelling some magical two-year-old energy.  Mommy took Lucas and Jillian to the potty where, on the way out, Lucas spotted a policecar and shrieked “Wow!  Police car!  Cool car!”

Owner of said car (a tall, probable ex-football linebacker) growled playfully, “you noticing my car, buddy?”

Lucas played shy for a few seconds, then said, “Policecar, where green men?”  (This almost stumped me… until I realized this officer had a black uniform and our St Johns County officers wear green!) So I told Lucas this policeman wore black clothes instead of green, and yes, it was his car.  Lucas grinned at the officer, “police car!”

“High five for my cool car?” The officer grinned.  Lucas screamed “High five!  CAR!”  This made everyone laugh.

Since we were less than 5 miles from Santee State Park, our original destination, we found star constellations, played guessing games, and chatted about the science behind eclipses.

Finally, tummies growling like we had swallowed starving lions, we joined the small mob that entered the Shoneys as the sweet hostess unlocked the doors.  Even Lucas’ policeman friend had mentioned that it was a great spot for breakfast.

Breakfast was yummy!  Lucas’ new food word is “disgusting!” (Lucas was eating an apple and someone said “don’t eat the seeds, they are disgusting” so Lucas has this new word on continual repeat.)  Lucas would taste something, say “dis-gust-ing!” and chow down on said food item.  Lucas seems to think “disgusting” means “yummy.”  (Our waitress caught this two or three times and tried not to let everyone see she was giggling.)

Sip of chocolate milk.  “DISGUSTING!” Big grin and he drained the cup.  A mouthful of bacon.  “DISGUSTING!” and the rest of the bacon vanished from his plate, Christina’s plate, and Mommy’s plate. (We were his left and right neighbors.)  The girls would say “Mmmm!  Yummy!” in an attempt to make Lucas follow their example.  But Lucas is at the stuck-on-one-word-for-weeks stage.  Finally he heard the vroom of a big truck.  “BIG TRUCK” and that was the end of “disgusting” for a while.

We ended up in a huge parking lot next to a giant waterslide and pool complex about a mile from the Dollar General and Food Lion down a lovely sidewalk bordered with assorted wildflowers, quaint houses and yards, and huge pine trees.  There were a few scattered vehicles with others camping out in the wide open space.  The city hall had a much larger audience (an entire field of cars!) as they were doing music and entertainment leading up to the eclipse.

Including finding this almost 4 inch insect!

After a full morning of games, exploring, and resting, the moon began to slowly cover the sun!  Lucas napped up to the last ten minutes before totality.  It was amazing!  At first, we could barely tell through our dark glasses that anything was different, but within the next few glances, the girls cried out things like “it looks like a pac-man!” and “it’s an eye from the science book!”  We had read legends from various places and their favorite was one where the sky dragon swallows the sun but it burns the dragon up and reappears.

Through the glasses, half of the sun was gone.  Everyone jumped up to look again.  Between peeks, we hid from the ninety-seven-degree heat by ducking into the van with all the windows open, explaining and discussing the phenomena as it was happening.  Then it happened.  The air began to cool.  The colors of the cars and grass lost their vibrancy.  We grabbed our glasses. This glance was a few minutes before the total eclipse.  All of the sun was shadowed except for a sliver of a crescent.  The dark came.  Lucas had finally woken up and was playing with rocks.  All the girls and Mommy and Daddy got him to look at the sun – he was hooked!  He pointed out the stars (two visible planets in the sky) and the fireworks (lightning in the distance) and “Puppies!” (three or more dogs howling and whining)  For what seemed like an eternity, we listened to birds and insects who perceived it was night time.  Everyone was excited but quiet.  Then the shadow started to ease off.  The entire parking lot exploded in applause, whistles, and exclamations – praise, thanking God for letting the light come back.  Children danced!

We loaded up our van and headed out.  We excitedly replayed our video recordings, discovered stars in our photos of the total eclipse, sang fun songs, and chatted on and on about the fun experiences of the day.  Everyone agreed seeing the total eclipse was well worth the half-day drive.  We even started making plans to road trip to the next one!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

The Board

August 13, 2017

The Board

The fun of off days is being able to spend time with family!  After I got done working Saturday, we planned on meeting up with Aunt Becca and Anastasia. (Jillian calls her “my almost-my-age sister cousin” because Anastasia is 4 and Jillian is 5.)  Our start time got delayed, as usual, but that happened on both ends. (Secretly, I love it when that happens! It’s like it was orchestrated!) We were “sardined” into the van with sand toys, boogie boards (which originally belonged to my sisters and brothers), towels to line seats, the canopy tent (usually used for craft and book shows), and two camp chairs.  Oh yes, and add the apples and cherries from our 3-minutes stop by the Produce Market.  (Our part of the snacks – we remembered Lucas’ water cup but forgot the gallon of water.)

And we had the surfboard.  THE.  As in, there is no other like it.  It was my Dad’s ages ago.  He rode it up and down A1A before the overgrown beach houses obscured the ocean view.  It is bright yellow with a blue “arrow” on the front. (The girls claim this gives it extra speed.) It has a few bumps and dings – yes, see that?  That one was from my only-ever attempt to stand at North Vilano Beach where the wave dropped me on the shells.  I like to call it “mine” but invariably it is referred to as “Granddaddy’s surfboard,” because everyone knows where it came from.  Christina tries to call it “mine” and Kimberly is starting to call it “mine” so maybe that is the official name, “Mine,” since I’m not done with it yet!  Honestly, we compromise; it is “ours,” and we all love to share it.

When our sardine can turned into the beach park north of the pier, the girls spotted Aunt Becca’s car behind us and started screaming, “Yeah! Aunt Becca!” and “I see Grandma’s hair!”  Lucas napped through all of this commotion.  We played musical parking spots until we found two side-by-side and the troupe tumbled out of the vehicles, hugged and squished each other in greeting, grabbed their assigned items, and paraded up the walkover to the beach.  Lucas and I took up the rear, but Grandma stopped to help another little one.

Lucas spied Grandma.  “Mommy!  MY GRANDMA is HERE!!”  That woke him up!  Anastasia ran past and he squealed “my ‘STASIA!”  Now squirming with excitement, he heard my sister.  “Mommy!  Grandma!  My Aunt Becca HERE!”  He didn’t get down, but twisted around to see her.  “Mommy, THE BEACH!” He yelled as we started going down the walkover steps.  He then announced to everyone else who chose to hear that he was at the beach and named everyone he came with in a very quickly smashed up string of excited words.

Set up was fast and the children launched into the ocean in twos and threes while the adults paused to relax and say hello in the shade.  Lucas discovered Anastasia’s sand toys.

Jillian and Anastasia hit the surf on boogie boards.

One visible head is part of the three heads in the distance belonging to Jaquline, Kimberly, and Rebeccah.

Christina took the surfboard out and after a couple of rides to discover the safety of the sand bar and how shallow the water actually was.  She started giving tandem rides to the older girls and “baby wave rides” to the littler ones.  Mom got to tow the middle ones out one at a time to catch waves.

When everyone paused to refuel, the surfboard doubled as a comfy sand-free bench.

We enjoyed rain in the water and played shipwreck.  The two littlest were in a boat, the others on boards, and Rebeccah, Christina, Aunt Becca, and Mommy guiding and swimming out “in the deep” just before the sandbar.  We pretended we were shipwreck survivors trying to navigate the waves (as if there wasn’t a beach 20 feet away) and keep each other afloat while Grandma watched for approaching ships and held down the fort. (Quite literally, as the wind was picking up the canopy!)  Christina, Jaquline, Anastasia, and Lucas built a big hole in a tide pool and played like the Funny Sisters in Sisters at the Seashore. (Lucas kept jumping in it!)

Join us next time, another adventure awaits!  (And everyone slept all through the night!)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Imagination Playtime

August 8, 2017

Imagination Playtime

This morning was a surprise of miniature proportion.

First off, when I stumbled into the kitchen to start my coffee at 5:20am, my preteen was awake!

Secondly, the playroom was spotless (toyacts was creating a few new videos in the playroom the previous night).

This sparked an idea.

“Let’s play legos, want to build something together?”  My suggestion was met with rocketing jumps where my five foot tall eleven-year-old banged her head on our roof.   “Yippee!  Ouch.”

We discussed all things building; like which pieces came from which sets, which sets were missing pieces (thanks to the vacuum, Sheba’s mouth, or teething younger siblings; Rebeccah is the lego master and knows where everything went – much like me with my childhood bricks), and whose head and hair I had mismatched on my mini-figs.  (Once, I had Elron’s hair with Commissioner Gordon’s head, the result looked like a sweet old lady to me.)

Our building progressed to a tree fort with crazy entrances and exits, three towers, complete with the tallest one having a princess locked inside where her puppy is trying to save her while the Barbarian ax man is considering Chinese food. (See picture, if you can find it!)

The blue magician conjures up a storm and an adventurer seeking the everlasting flame (in the bowl, middle, second tower) will accidentally be shot by a kid bowman’s awry trick shot from the top of the bridge.  We goofed off until it was almost lunchtime.  The girl elf hair ended up paired with a repaired face that looks like it has feathery bangs to make a crossbowman.  (She was going to be an archer – my favorite – but the hair wouldn’t fit with the quiver and I couldn’t have her without ammo!)

I love delving into imagination (last night it was duplos to build tunnels for Lucas’ train and car tracks) and discovering how my kids’ brains see problems.  Building blocks bring that out.  They help teach children to think around their problems (yes, that they created, like “Mommy, I want two cars to go under it!” Jillian, last night.  Or “How are we going to camouflage this huge tree fort effectively?” Rebeccah, today.)

Oh, and don’t forget the sharks patrolling the island fort (notice the blue water on the plates?) as Rebeccah claims the most important part of any lego set are the critters included.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

DVD Books

July 23, 2017

DVD Books

I’m one of these people who loves real books.  The smell, the weight, the way my finger anxiously waits behind one edge of a page while my eyes finish it quickly – I’m immersed in the writer’s world and feel like the book surrounds me.  To me, nothing will ever replace the printed book.

I’m also a computer programmer; I understand that as the paradigm shifts with new technology some things go extinct.  We shifted from room computer brains to a tiny chip stuck in a device that fits in our palm – and this tiny smart phone is smarter than the room-sized computers!

Thus, I am a paradox.  I collect and buy print books but publish ebooks.  I love writing using colored pens in notebooks but I can format .docs and .pdfs for ebook and print submissions (everything is submitted electronically now).  Remember typewriters?  I skipped those completely.  So I’ll explore any method of presenting my books to my audience.

I have audio-books (The Home Edge Readers) as the short lecture format was easy to read.  The purpose of this custom series is to teach students new terms – so audio was a good idea as they can hear the terms pronounced.  My father is a wizard of production; he produced these.

He had another wizard idea and asked for all my rough pictures and illustrations for Long Tail.  I emailed them to him and he produced a DVD Book.  Basically, this is a DVD (plays in any normal DVD player) with the story coming up as one page on a screen with illustrations, printed words, background sounds, and audio text.  (“Grandma Pearson” reads the story as the words are on the screen.)  My girls loved this!  (It is now what Lucas calls “grandma chicken movie.”)

Vivid colors grab the audience’s attention.  There are rooster crows, farm sounds, running feet, and other background noises as the narrator reads the text that is printed on-screen.  Older children read along (like a sing-along-song video) while the activities and changing screen images keep the younger ones’ attention.

Further projects are on the way, but for now “Long Tail and Red Hawk” is our pilot DVD Book.

It’s another way to read a children’s book.  I like to compare it to a graphic novel with narration.

It’s entertaining, short, and fun.  I even catch my teenager sitting on the edge of the couch or leaning behind it, pretending she wasn’t watching the “kiddie movie” when she sees us notice her.  For about fifteen minutes, they enter Long Tail’s chicken world and they are hooked!

Learn more about it (and try it!) here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/187678255/

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

She’s On a Mission

July 21, 2017

She’s On a Mission

Sometimes God leads people into your life to bless you and everyone around you.  Sometimes you don’t get to see them all the time (Actually, you see them very rarely!), but you feel such a strong connection.  Sometimes those people are in your life to encourage you and to be positive influences in your children’s lives.

One such blessing in our lives is an awesome friend, Stacy.  (My girls all call her “Aunt Stacy.”)  She has been a friend of our family for over eight years.  She was at our house (and the only one with a camera) when Jillian was born, so she is the reason we have birth pictures of Jillian!  (She’s a photographer so not only did we have pictures, but they were awesome pictures.) Stacy is a missionary.  She has a blog where she writes a lot of interesting single-woman-missionary-related thoughts.  These are so insightful and spot on.  Christina started following her Aunt Stacy’s blog when she was about 10.  Every day Stacy was in Zambia in 2014, Christina would ask, “Has Aunt Stacy written some more?”  She updated everyone on her mission travels daily. (Or as she got internet connectivity) We’d read and Christina would journal about the verses Stacy referenced.

Stacy is a beautiful young woman.  I’ve watched her confidence and strength grow as now she’s inspiring and mentoring my teen and preteens.  Stacy has mentored other girls in person; she’s open, fun, and connects with them in a special way.  (Rebeccah says “it’s because she’s real, her love shines.”) Recently, Christina said “look!  Her quote is one of my favorites!”  In the last blog, “Jesus is not my Boyfriend,” Stacy quoted C.S. Lewis saying “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her.”  (This is one I’ve repeated many times in raising my young women – it’s also a favorite of mine.)

Even though we don’t get to visit in person as often as we’d like to, this wonderful young woman, a strong warrior of God, a vibrant passionate lover of Jesus, my sister-in-Christ, is such a blessing to our family.  She is leading, encouraging, and sharing from her heart.

That is how we teach people.  They say the best sermons you ever preach are the ones that are seen.  We show people who we are, what we are passionate about, and who we love, by the actions they see.  Online, you can’t really “see” people, but you can see the actions of what they are doing through the pictures and stories they show.  (It helps if they are “real” to you; someone you’ve actually met, but that’s not necessary.)  My children watch what I do.  I can talk patience all day, but if I get irritated because the line at the grocery store is too long, all that talk just disappeared because obviously, I don’t “walk the talk.”  When they see someone who has a huge heart for helping others and spreading God’s word and get to “follow” what she’s actually doing and read what she’s saying, it shows them that this person does “walk her talk” too.

I pray constantly to be the kind of person who “walks” my “talk.”  I want to be someone others can look up to and be inspired by.  This is why I write: writing is my passion, my love, my art.  God gives us talents and gifts.  He wants us to use them to encourage, inspire, teach, and love others.  This is my goal.

I am so grateful for those in my family’s life who provide positive inspiration for us – some may not even know how deep of an impact they have on our lives – but if I can, I want to tell them!  Stacy is such a blessing for us – it’s an honor to say she’s my friend.

Stacy writes about singleness, being “on a mission,” loving God, and everyday-Christian-woman challenges in her blog: www.thelivingone.blog.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart