A New Step

January 8, 2018

A New Step

Saturday afternoon we got Christina back from her week-long Civil Air Patrol encampment.

Today, Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Lucas are doing school at a stone table on the beautiful grounds of our state college waiting for Christina and Rebeccah to finish with their first class.

My younglings are growing up too quickly for me!

The sweet lady in the college bookstore was very helpful and encouraging.  She handed the girls a copy of the eleventh edition of their Biology… I have the seventh at home (from when I went here only a few years ago).  Honestly, I’m so excited for the girls in this next step.  (But I won’t say that to them; I try to make this as normal as possible.  We’ve treated every step in their educational journey as simply another textbook to study.)  I’m very thankful for the awesome opportunities available to students in our county.  (This is a big difference from growing up when home schooling was illegal!)

I’m remembering them at the preschool level (Lucas: counting pinecones and creating stickmen from oak leaves and pine sticks), kindergarten level (Jillian: reading and doing her math problems), and working through book steps like Jaquline and Kimberly. (I “stair-step” arithmetic and language arts in a progression they move through and they get to pick one, two, or three “study books” from history, science, and other subjects.) Then they get through independent learning in preparation for college or vocation. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, various social studies, upper level literature studies, etc.)  Now, Christina and Rebeccah are at the next step: dual enrollment (college credit classes!).

The nostalgic part of me wants time to slow down.

The logical part of me is thoroughly enjoying each new step each one of my children take.  I love the baby stage, but I get excited when the baby steps up to dress and feed themselves.  I love the learning-independence toddler stage, but I love it when they discover reading!  I love the everything-is-new discovery stage, (I try to keep that going as long as I can) but that is too quickly followed by the totally-independent-learning stage.  Yes, I get a little sad when they complete their lesson goals without my help, but I am proud and excited as they jump ahead of my goals by making and achieving their own personal goals.

I see the goal of my “teaching” job as helping my students learn how to teach themselves.  This means inspiring a lifelong love of learning, challenging them to reach higher and higher personal goals, and instilling core principles like academic integrity and determination.

I’m sure they will do well.  They love to learn and are thriving in their “adult” environment where their fellow students are all serious about their work.  I have to smile because I feel like I’ve accomplished my teaching goal – at least for these students – they are fully independent learners with their eyes on future careers and their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

Of course, I will never truly stop teaching.  I’ll be asking, “so, how was school?” even when they call me from their university in years to come.  That thought makes me smile again.

“Jaquline,” says Kimberly, “why aren’t you writing?”

Jaquline is sitting at the stone picnic table, her paperwork on a clipboard, smiling and staring at the sky.  She sighs and says dreamily, “I’m doing my school at college!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Trip Planning

December 28, 2017

Trip Planning

We have to be at a distant location at a specific window of time on a specific day.  Easy enough, right?  Wrong!  Everything in our house is a sporadic adventure! 

Mom: It’s only an hour and two minute drive.

Christina: Then we leave at 8am.

(We are not supposed to arrive at said location until after 11am.)

Mom: Oh, no.  If we leave by 10, we go right by Grandma’s, pick her up, get lost, make 5 potty stops, and still have enough time to get you there.

Christina: Ahhhh! *facepalm*

(I think my teenager loves me.)

Seriously, I have learned a few things about planning trips with toddlers, teenagers, and husbands:

  • Plan to leave at least a half hour before you need to go (this allows for shoes tossed into the pond, a preteen sleepwalking back to bed four times, finishing any last-minute chore like making the list, and misplacing your keys which are already in the running vehicle)
  • Always pack like you will be gone for a week (diapers, wipes, four spare shirts, at least as many pants as diapers, spare shirts for anyone who may be carrying said baby, carrots and apples so you don’t get trapped by fast-food hunger, and 2 or 3 cases of bottled water should do it)
  • Whatever you do, plan 10 minutes extra to turn around (you forgot something you can’t leave home without – like baby’s special blanket, your toddler’s choice toy, your preteen’s library card, your sanity, or your husband’s totally non-standard phone charger)
  • Remember your wallet! (and make sure some toddler didn’t remove your license because he loves to play with mommy’s picture – that will be the day you will be pulled over for a faulty brake light or an oddly rocking vehicle)
  • Count heads (the children, toddler in carseat, hubby, take the dogs back inside, catch toddler who turned into carseat Houdini, now missing two! Oh yeah, hubby is unlocking the door for one who forgot to go potty)
  • Enjoy your 5 minute shopping trip! (or your entire day of travel)

Bonus fact: Music calms savage beasts and makes your vehicle a noisy dance-while-in-seatbelts rocking machine. Maybe DC Talk, Skillet, and Capital Kings are a bit rocky, but everyone dances to Deadmau5 and Disney.  As long as you have your license, roll down the windows, crank up the music, put on shades, and enjoy the ride!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Chilly Hill Fun

December 10, 2017

Chilly Hill Fun

We’re usually busy on the weekends.  Because of an unexpected break, we discovered we could go to the bayfront to watch the boats parade by dressed up in Christmas lights.

So, Mom, sisters, cousin, and brother all gathered into the van (we had to go pick one sister up from her event to join us!) and made our way to the free “nights of lights shuttle” parking area.  This was my first time using this service, and it was fantastic!  We arrived at the bus stop (county health department) about 4:30pm.  The girls played “rock, paper, scissors” and softly sang along to the Christmas songs while Lucas announced the passing of every bus, big truck, and string of Christmas lights; usually adding “we on a bus, Mom!”  We were at the parking garage drop off & did the short walk to the fort to arrive just before 5pm.

At that moment, although it was Florida chilly (low 60s) the wind chill wasn’t too bad.  I kept reminding the girls to put on their jackets (which, like most younglings, they had tried to “forget” both at home and in the van).

Four girls and Lucas rolled down the fort hill (Lucas actually rolled in the flat dirt, much to the entertainment of his older sisters), ran about playing some version of “Tag” with any other child who crossed their path, and periodically bounced to the older girls’ perch on the bayfront wall asking, “are the boats coming yet?”

Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Anastasia spied a Fire Department boat with red lights and a Police boat with blue lights that appeared to be racing!  They each cheered for their favorite color – blue won.  But the red one stayed right in front of our spot so Lucas yelled “Hi, red fire boat!” almost every time he glanced that way for the next 20 minutes.

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Finally, the boats started to line up.  It was nearly 6pm and the temperature was reading low 40s with 30s wind chill!  The girls were huddled together like ducklings next to mom while Louis turned into an “emperor penguin” wind barrier.

The boats were beautiful!  (I have to get a camera that takes good night pictures!  Everything after dark was blurry.)   The first was a pirate ship!  The cannon from the fort fired three shots!  The girls claimed the pirate boat fired back… they were too cold to duck and cover.  Then came the gingerbread-cookie boats.  Anastasia and Jillian decided they tasted good and began to make chomping noises and say “yummy boat” in deep voices.  By the time the neon purple one circled to the far side, the girls were frigid and when Anastasia said, “can we please go to the warm bus?” Lucas added, “bye bye boats!” and we started back.

We also had to get Christina back to CAP before 8pm!

After the fastest .7 mile family walk with Louis timing (aided by a sturdy double stroller), we boarded the warm bus and sang songs while Jillian and Anastasia goofed off and Lucas reminded everyone about each boat he had seen.

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We got Christina back in time.  Before we got home, only Mom and Rebeccah were still awake.  So we will leave you as we snuggle with the sleepies on the couch and start watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” to end our perfect day!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Enjoy the Journey

November 25, 2017

Enjoy the Journey

The world through the eyes of a 2 year old is amazing.

He spies Daddy cutting strawberries for a pie!  Lucas yells “yeah!  Yummy strawberries!  Red berries!   I eat?” and half of the strawberries destined for pie filling instead fill Lucas’ tummy.

On the way to Grandma’s house, 2 year old boy yells, “Mom! Look!  Big trucks!  One! Two! Three! Four-Five Big Trucks!”  (Everything from his mouth comes in two volumes: mouse-whisper or top-of-the-lungs yell )

Sometimes he helps me to slow down and enjoy the things I often take for granted… like time.  It’s easy to find fun in the chore when you share the wonder of a 2-year-old.  For instance: An attempt to transfer toddler chickens from one pen to another and they excitedly hop-fly off in all directions yelling “FREEDOM!”  Lucas giggle-screams and chases them around.  This turns the frustration into laughter and a lesson on counting as they scurry over to the day pen and wait for us to lift them in where the food is.  “One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight!” Lucas screams it all together as if it was a single word.

Lucas finds wonder and excitement in everything.  From washing dishes (he always wants to help) to being stopped by a train (one-two-three-four-five-six trains!), everything is fun.  Sometimes he helps remind me to enjoy life as it is presented to me.  Goals (finishing the dishes) and plans (getting to the produce market before it closes) are good, but enjoying the journey is just as important.

Stopped in slow traffic turns into “Dance Party in the Car” and the backseat is bouncing to “Pink Shoelaces” and “Rockin Robin” (two favorite oldies).  Lucas spots birds and shouts to tell everyone.  Rebeccah looks in her book and gives their names.  Taking in this special time is part of me slowing down and enjoying the journey.

I hope you join me in enjoying the journey today.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017

Today is Thanksgiving.  It is also the day after my fifteenth wedding anniversary.  

I feel amazed by the things God has given me.  

I’m thankful, so very thankful, for all these special gifts:

Thankful for my life.  Thank you Jesus for the gift of another sunrise (or rainy Florida twilight-sunrise).

Thank you for my husband.  As a girl, I dreamed of a boy who would love me and cherish me like most little girls do… the man I have is way better! (God’s reality was far better than anything in my dreams.)  

Thank you for our children.  Christina, who made me a mom; Rebeccah who was caught by both grandmothers; Kimberly, our bouncy sunshine; Jaquline, whom Grandma Honey called “Little Louie Jack”; Jillian, our nature loving discoverer; and Lucas, our thoughtful problem solver.

Thank you for our family.  Our parents (who raised us), siblings (who put up with us), new sisters and brothers (who decided to join our crazy fun families), nieces and nephews (the bonuses for allowing our siblings to live). 

Thank you for others who inspired, encouraged, and befriended us in our journey.  

Thank you for the struggles, accomplishments, heartbreaks, and excitements that have shaped our life into the beautiful, wonderful thing it is.  Together.  I thank you, God, that we are together!

Here’s hoping everyone enjoys their family and friends this day and every day.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Silver Springs

November 10, 2017

The Real Florida

What comes to your mind when you think of Florida?  Sunny beaches, theme parks, high priced T-shirts, Publix supermarkets?

How about alligators, turtles, cypress trees with diameters of fifteen feet, shimmering sunlight streaming through dissolved limestone particles in gushing spring water to give a silver blue tint to the crystal clear water?

This is Silver Springs

As the sign says (it’s the Florida State Parks logo) “the Real Florida!”

History is alive with the mementos of past years when numerous television shows and movies were made in the beautiful surroundings.

Tourists were riding on glass bottom boats in the 1870s – and if you want to feel like you are swimming with the critters without braving the cold springs water, you have to take the glass bottom boat ride!  (And you are safe too; the alligators, turtles, and snakes are outside the boat and your windows have bars!)

The Captain will say “this is 81 feet deep,” and you stare down at magical swirling waters pushing fish up in rising natural roller coasters.  (You can hear them squealing “weeeeeee” as they spiral up from the bottom with their tails wagging behind them.)

If you want to get even closer to the water wildlife, rent a canoe or kayak!  In one of these sleek craft, you can paddle down the beautiful river and feel like you are part of the unscathed beauty of nature.

There is a boardwalk through the swamp where you can get close to the huge trees and look down into the water.  Amazing birds are easy to hear but hard to catch on camera when your assistants are pretending the boardwalk is a drum for feet!

On the magnificent nature walks, you will see gigantic ancient trees and could possibly run into the wild monkey troupe!

(Or you may have your own wannabe monkey riding on you.)

Some of these trees have fallen and create amazing obstacle courses for the more adventurous in your group.  (You can play “don’t step on the ground” and jump from fallen log to fallen log – just be very careful not to fall off!)

Or you can sit at the top of a leaning stump where no one can reach you.  (Unless you are surrounded by wannabe monkeys who race to see who can reach you first!)

The cost to get in is only $2 a person!  It is extra to ride the glass bottom boats or rent a canoe.  This wild, historic destination is a perfect setting for a wedding among the wild flowers and rustic wooden arbor.  Research this gem at www.SilverSprings.com and check out the Real Florida any day of the year!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

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

 

New Story Release!

October 30, 2017

New Story Release!

Welcome to the ninth book in the “Five Alive: Stories of the Funny Sisters” series.  The title is “Happy Hurricane Helpers.”

Following Hurricane Irma’s attack on their town in Florida, the sisters join with their neighbors and help clean up.

Hurricane Irma was a powerful storm that did reach category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (over 155 mph).  Hurricanes usually decrease in power as they travel over land.  Hurricane Irma had traveled almost straight up Florida’s peninsula from the Keys.  When this storm hit Saint Augustine, it was a category 1 storm (75 to 95 mph).

In coastal areas like Saint Augustine, most hurricane damage is caused by flooding.  The strong winds can fell huge trees, rip debris off houses, throw limbs through windows, and cause heavy damage as well.  Trees falling on power lines caused the sisters to be out of power.  For more information about hurricanes in general, see “Hurricanes,” one of my Home-Edge Readers!

For now, how about a preview of two scenes from “Happy Hurricane Helpers!

Kim awoke this morning before the sun even started to turn the edge of the sky pink.  Last night, the power had gone off and the sisters had camped out in their sleeping bags under the huge, sturdy wooden table in the safe room where there were no windows.  Last night they had heard the deep rumbling that sounded like standing next to train tracks when the train raced by.  Last night Hurricane Irma had hit Saint Augustine. 

   As soon as the tree on the dirt road was clear, Tina, Becky, Kim, Ellen, and Jill followed Mom and Daddy and started helping with limb cleanup.  Some of the Tree family kids were out cleaning limbs too.  Two other children from a house down the paved road joined in the fun.  The Tree men had left a trail of sawed-off branches scattered where the big trees had fallen.  They had stacked big round stacks of trunk wood by the road because those were too heavy for little kids.  But the branches were perfect for kids! 

   Six-year-old Kim flexed her muscles. 

   “I can drag this BIG one to the road!” She challenged, dragging a limb to the edge of the road. 

   “I got a bigger one!” said Tina. 

   Becky and Ellen laughed.  “We are doing teamwork!”  Ellen announced.  She was four and her blankie was draped over her shoulders like a boa.

   “Me too!” Jill called.  Jill was only two but she loved to help.  She had a two-year-old-sized branch and was making funny faces as she fought it to the edge of the road.

   “Let me help you, Jill,” offered Tina. 

   “No!” Jill yanked the branch and it flew out of her hands and right to the edge!  Jill stood up straight, brushed her hands on her jeans, and said, “I can do it myself!” 

   … (continued reading Happy Hurricane Helpers here!)

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Birthday Day Off

October 26, 2017

Birthday Day Off

We are a homeschool family.   Sometimes this means we goof off and play games on birthdays instead of do bookwork.  But consider how much learning is crammed into everyday life!

Money skills: Today’s practicum included working and saving (racing around to do enough chores to raise the difference from their savings to whatever toy they wanted to buy for birthday sister), budgeting (oops, that pony figure is outside of my budget!),figuring tax, and checking change received.

Math and Science Lab: This included addition (1 cup milk + 1 cup milk = 2 cups milk), subtraction (Lucas dropped an egg!), fractions (1/2 cup sugar, please?), chemistry (solution versus compound, various states of matter, and a lengthy comical discussion of how the ingredients became a cake!), and even biology (answering our first-grader’s question of “does the sun help grow sugar?”).  Finally, our “home economics laboratory” produced a gluten-free chocolate cake with buttercream icing as requested.

They brought home the “best addition” to the cake – a miniature model of the Millennium Falcon, birthday girl’s favorite Star Wars ship.   (It’s her dream to have the Millennium Falcon Lego set – oddly enough, same one Mom wanted as a teen!)  We perched this on a good spot.

Language and Creative Writing: (each student wrote and colored a birthday card for Rebeccah).

Pyrotechnics and Fire Safety followed.  (This is otherwise known as lighting candles and hearing Mom’s 275th lecture on keeping hair away from flame!)

Music: (where everyone tries to get “…and many more” in the lowest baritone possible and the kazoos attempt to play some tune!)

Now for the guinea pigs to taste the experimental laboratory creation!  (A+ everyone lived!)  Creativity flowed during Art – the party hats turned into eye patches, unicorn horns, and noses.

Sometimes life takes over our classwork.  That’s okay.  We get a lot of practical work done on “days off!”

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!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart