Sunday, August 3, 2014

Homeschool Year Planning!

Well, it's that time fact, I feel behind. But, luckily this year I have a few things I can let go of and not have too much to plan out.

I always get anxious, and it being our 3rd year of homeschooling now, I still feel tad anxious about how we will plan our school year. This means when to start, what date to end the school year, then all the little holidays along the way. Not to mention, extra curricular activities and now ranch work all scheduled in.

So how do I plan it all? I have watched videos, listened to moms with lots of activities and some with none, and some with relaxed activities, ie. as they come around, sports, various one month classes, etc.

Then, I had to relax, take a deep breath and put pen to paper. I am a little old fashioned in some ways I guess. I like my days and times planned out, for each month. This way I know what to expect and so do the boys. This doesn't mean we are rigid, we have to leave room for schedule adjustments for either illness, or just plain weird days! Also, since we have weekdays as our weekend, we also allow for flexibility with Birthday parties, or friend get togethers.

{This is Landen's 12th Birthday, (he's trying to keep the Cheetos from Daisy), and 2 friends over for a Thistle Ranch Sleepover}

This type of planning really helps me see the big picture and therefore, gives me the ability to adjust the schedule easily.

Last year I bought a fairly expensive homeschool planner....I didn't use a lot of what I paid for. Plus I'm thrifty, I like to find something that is just as simple for less.

Here's a thought....a plain ol' planner! This one I picked up has plenty of room for daily classes and extra curricular activities too.



I use a pencil for easy erasures and the highlighters for extra curricular activities or appointments. This way I see clearly something that is out of the ordinary for that day. This may seem very simple, but for me I need it to be easy, simple, and stress free planning. That way if things get crazy and out of whack, it is easy to adjust the schedule.

So what's the formula for planning a school year?

I used a formula that other moms shared with me. I added up holiday/vacation time, days off, and flex days ie. non-essential curriculum days. Then, I added those to my 180 days of "required" school days by public school standards. This gave me the total number of days for our school year. Then, I would decide when I wanted to start and be done by, and therefore, adjust from there.

But, now to make it more simple, like last year, I took the days/weeks it would take to finish the workbooks or curriculum I had picked out. I took the number of lessons, and divided by the number of days per week we would do class, and in our case, that is 4 days a week, (remember our 5th day is our Art, Field Trip, music lessons, golf lessons, etc. otherwise known as "Flex-Day"). Then, I could see how long it would actually take to finish. I could then pencil in holiday and vacation breaks.

Last year, we started early, to accommodate for our 10 day vacation, and only took holiday days that my husband had off, and schooled the rest. Therefore, we finished the school year in the first week of May. This also allowed my children to work ahead on some days and have days for R&R, if needed.

Every year may be different. This year, we started our Science curriculum this last June. We are expected to finish in April, it is a Physical Science Advanced curriculum. They love it, so luckily it wasn't anything they balked at doing over the summer. Also, because of our new life in the country, they may decide to do 4-H instead of golf. I'm going to let them choose. Our new church has a youth program once a month, so, that has changed from last year too, from once a week.

In other words, life changes, so will the school year. I had a hard time the first 2 years reminding myself that we HOMESCHOOL, so "I" make the rules. If we have to miss a day, then, I can have a make-up's no big deal. Now, I'm much more relaxed. I just wish it hadn't taken me 2 years!

I also print out a daily schedule. I think it's important for me and the boys to see a timeline of daily events. It keeps us on track. Then, we can truly enjoy our school days and have some sense of decorum. This does not mean that there aren't days of varying from the "plan", but, at least it gives us a guide. We are still creatures of habit, and this gives us a sense of structure to our day.

This was last years schedule, that I dug up...I apologize for its condition. But at least you can see an example.

I hope this has been some help...just remember you're the teacher, principal, and superintendent of your school, you make the rules. No one is a better teacher for your child than you.

Happy Homeschool Year Planning!

"I can't believe Summer is almost over!"



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Thistle Hill Ranch Selfies

I am still not quite sure what all the hype about "selfies" is, but, I thought I'd better try my hand at it, to catch up with the trend!

So what better subjects than my Animal family?

The day I took these, it was raining like crazy and cold. So I'm warning you ahead of time, that I look atrocious!

But, here they are...

Me and Miss Daisy~

This was actually taken a couple days ago...Baby Duke gave me kisses!

Momma Sandy, wondering why I'm interrupting her meal for a selfie~

Number 35 getting a little cheeky, Ha!

Farm Animal Family Group shot!

My Westies Mr. Darby on the left and Miss Bonnie on the right!

So, even though in most of the pictures I look like a deer in headlights, my furry friends look great!

I don't think "selfies" are for me...but it was kinda fun!

Have a great Weekend!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Inspirational Monday: Guest Post From Nikolas Baron

Break the Rules, Learn a Lesson
I know what you're thinking: Well, the title is a big “of course!” When we break the rules, we learn our lesson. If we steal something, we get caught, and we have to face the consequences. Why should I even pay attention to this guy? Well, random Internet reader, you should pay attention to me because I'm not talking about obvious lessons here. I'm not talking about the consequences for stealing a candy bar or a car. I'm talking about a different lesson, a positive one – one your students will be able to use their entire academic career. Specifically, I'm talking about lessons that teach you to write properly.
Let me drop a hypothetical: One day, I decide to teach sentence fragments to a student. I sit down with a list of sentences, explain how a complete sentence requires both a subject and a verb, and then go over the sentences with the student to find fragments. Oh yeah, and in doing all of this, I also put the student to sleep. Sitting and listening to rules is bad enough, but to then be forced to apply those rules on a series of bland, unrelated sentences? Boring! How, then, should I teach something like sentence fragments without putting my hypothetical student to sleep? I think an easy and fun way to do that is to encourage him or her to break the rules. Encourage writers to write as many fragments as possible and see where it takes their writing.
Now, don't get me wrong. I encourage properly-written English. In my work with Grammarly, I research how people write and what tools they use to become better writers. In fact, over at Grammarly, we created a grammar check that considers over 250 rules for any given piece of text. I love good grammar. Beyond that, I understand its importance outside my job as well. In your student's academic career, she will probably have to write hundreds of things, from resumes to academic papers. Good grammar ensures that what she writes looks competent.
That said, I also understand that it's important to have fun when you write. And what's more fun than breaking the rules? Most first-year college students have a poor opinion of writing, and that's not surprising. All through school, they've been hammered with grammatical rules, such as “a complete sentence needs a subject-verb combo” and “a comma separates a dependent clause from its respective independent clause.” There are so many rules, and they are so complex, students' heads often end up swimming by the time they reach semicolons.
To be fair, you could just send them to Grammarly and let us find the errors for them. We're fine with that. But, wouldn't it be much more fun to teach them these rules from the ground up, so they grow up with a healthy understanding of proper English? That way, they might not feel lost when they get to college and realize that passing English Composition is required, regardless of their program.
How then can we use breaking the rules to our advantage? By not only encouraging them to break the rules but also rewarding them for doing so. Make it a game. In my sentence fragment example above, what if I would have encouraged my hypothetical student to write as many fragments as possible and then evaluated his or her writing based on the number of fragments? From the student's perspective, that would have probably been way more interesting. “You mean, I get to break the rules? And you're not going to fail me for it?” From the teacher's perspective, it gets even better than that. In order to write a fragment, our fictional student would have to know what a fragment sentence is, and if they're engaged in the lesson, they're going to learn. If you had multiple students, you could even turn it into a competition. Have everyone write a story using sentence fragments; the person who uses the most wins!
Now, to be fair, this idea may not work with every grammatical error. That said, if you do some creative adjustment, I think you'll find you can adapt this idea to a lot of different writing lessons. The key is to engage the students in writing and thinking about the rules, so they can learn them... even if in doing so, they break a few rules along the way.
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thistle Hill Ranch

So, why the long wait between posts? Well, we moved to the country!

I can't believe it, but our dream of country living actually came true. We had talked about it off and on for years; but, there was always a road block. Suddenly we were out looking at properties for giggles, and then it happened...the perfect property! It was close enough for my husband to commute to work, in fact, the same distance he was driving before. It had a modest barn, and home that wasn't too fancy, as to drive up the cost. But more importantly, it gave us goosebumps!



The property has trees everywhere, a pond, a spring fed creek winding through, beautiful wildflowers and wildlife. We were sold!

Only one problem, we had to sell our house, pack, and move in less than 2 months. Well, we sold our house in a week, I was packing like a maniac, trying to finish up our homeschooling for the year, all while my husband was being moved to a new community and therefore, couldn't take time off...UGH....double UGH!

But, we made it!

It was bitter sweet leaving our home of over 10 years, but we were ready for our new beginning in the country. I had us moved in on a Saturday, unpacked, pictures hung and settled by that following Tuesday afternoon. But, I couldn't have done it without my sister Heather helping me unpack all day that Sunday, and my boys taking load after load of broken down boxes, and stuff for storage to the barn. We have been here enjoying country life for almost a month.

Yes, Miss Bonnie, (on the left), and Mr. Darby,(on the right), love it as much as we do! Getting used to seeing cows and a donkey...well, that may take time, Ha!

{We have plenty of space in the backyard, but I had to put the chaise and coffee table I built, out front under these two trees. I actually use it a lot. The shade is perfect and being up on the little hill, it gets the most perfect afternoon breezes.}

We bought some Charolais heifers, ie. female cows, and one "Jenny", otherwise known as a female donkey.


I am somewhat new to all these terms. It's funny how quickly it became part of my everyday vernacular.

We named our donkey Daisy, and she watches over the herd and loves my boys...and the treats they give her doesn't hurt the bond between them. We couldn't believe when she got delivered, having been bought sight unseen, that she was white in color like our cows and incidentally our dogs too! Funny how life works out, I have monochromatic animals, with the exception of our cat, Miss Scarlett our tiger cat. My husband jokes that I was trying to decorate the outside too, LOL! We may be crazy, but not nuts, Ha!


Life is more quiet, and moves at a much easier pace. We know it will take lots of work to get this place back up to speed. The property was owned by one family for over 150 years. The family built a "new" house in the 80's. It really is in great shape, and the 90 year old owner had put in granite in the kitchen and master bath to update it. She is just amazing...I'm not convinced it's not something in the water around here...everyone looks and acts MUCH younger than their age. Maybe it's true what they say about country living...or I just need to drink out of the creek... that was my friend Marla's idea!


We are trying to get used to a new way of life, new responsibilities, and the fabulous morning view has been a dream! I will post pictures of our new RANCH soon...I was out voted on using the term "Farm". We drove up to the Ranch after we had purchased it, and the hill was covered in purple thistles, large and small. Glen and I were married at Thistle Hill in Fort Worth...I literally about cried. To me, it was just one more sign that this place was meant to be ours. So we named it Thistle Hill Ranch.


So Welcome to Thistle Hill Ranch! We will be raising Charolais cattle, 2 boys, a donkey, 2 Westies, eventually some horses, and (not necessarily in that order), and hopefully in the next year or so, building our dream farmhouse.

I hope you check back, to see updates on improvements to the ranch, (inside and out), ranch shenanigans, and balancing it all while homeschooling. Our Thistle Hill Ranch website is still in its developmental stage, but there, it will have our cattle information.


Happy 1st Day of Summer and Stop by Thistle Hill Ranch Again Soon!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Farmhouse Love!

I am in love with farmhouses. They come in so many shapes and sizes. To me, they have personalities, that evoke emotion. They can be calming, nostalgic, adventurous, and charming!

When I picture farm living I have a few things that come to mind...


1. John Denver singing, anything from his greatest hit album..."life on the farm is kinda laid back.."

2. The fact that I know people might think we would look a little out of place...


3. But, I know something a lot of people don't know...we will really look like this...



So, if we get our wish to some day live life on the farm, here are some of my favorite farmhouse exterior and interior designs.


It's no secret how much I love older homes, and the character the have. This has the symmetry I love and character. I think it would look great on farm land.

This home has the stone and wood exterior, that gives it the look of character that has evolved over time.

I love this home because, I'm a huge fan of cupolas and lookouts! I love the corbels under the roof line, and the wrap around porch, is just perfection.

This is just simple and charming.

I would love this house if it had a screened in porch on the back...maybe it does! It's just classic, simple, and elegant all at the same time.

This room is a HUGE want, because of the openness and light filled room.
I had to add the "signage"'s just too cute!
Now.............Cue the angel singing...."Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"
This is my FAVORITE!!!
I know it's not what most would consider a traditional farmhouse, but I'm anything but traditional. I found out recently, that I had pinned almost all of the rooms in this home and had no idea it was all from the same house!
The architect is Group 3 from Hilton Head, South Carolina. This home was featured as a Southern Living house plan. They did such a beautiful job with this home. It is a modern home, with character of a historic home. It's ME to a tee!
Huge front porch with great stairs, metal roof, and could it be?....a screen door? Oh yes! It's the house for me!

Front view 1 farmhouse exterior

Screened in back porch with a fireplace. Holy wow!
This is the entrance hall...I actually used this picture, as inspiration many years ago for a kitchen redo.
I found the hutch on Craigslist in the homeowners area, and she already owned the sideboard.
Again, is just so funny how much I loved this home and only new of the neat they are all from the SAME house!
Isn't this kitchen just breathtaking? The two story ceiling, the Bermuda shutters on the windows for shade and yet, so much light!
Seriously? Could this Subzero 700 series refrigerator be any more perfect?


This breakfast room with banquet, is what on the plans is labeled "office". It is behind the sink in the kitchen, which is the window you see. I wouldn't change a thing!



The screened porch looking into what on the plans says breakfast nook, but the designer turned into a sitting's perfect!

So now, I need to find a farm...PLEASE!!

* all of these pictures are from my Pinterest page Farmhouse Love.


Have a great week! And Happy Farm Dreamin' Y'all!!!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Dash of Spring & St. Patrick's Day Decor

Every year, I do just a little bit for St. Patrick's Day, while trying to start bring in some splashes of Spring. This is our breakfast table, with our leprechaun and touches of green.

I switched out the urns full of pinecones and winter sprigs for a white beverage container filled with faux carnations. I'm not sure the exact reason why, but they make me so happy.

Here is a different angle of the dining room.

The table by our staircase, I love using greenery from the yard, or in this case, these were greenery from my valentine rose bouquet. They last and last...I just keep changing the water and trim a little off the stems in between.

The entrance table I keep simple with more greenery, and added for St. Patrick's Day, a little shamrock candy dish for Spring treats.

I'm getting excited about getting all my Easter decorations check back soon, for more Spring decor.
Happy Spring Decorating!