"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Flight of the Butterflies

The first week of school I scheduled a field trip on Friday. It was perfect timing. 

We went to see "Flight of the Butterflies" at the iMax movie dome. The plan was to follow that up with a trip to a local botanical garden to see the live butterflies. However, the weather turned out to be stormy so we enjoyed the day at the Science Museum. 

So glad Poppy was able to join us on the first of many field trips for the year. 
We had a great time enjoying the exhibits, petting snakes (yuck!), and watching rat basketball. It ended up being a long day, but a fun way to spend the first Friday of the school year. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Minor League Baseball

This summer we took the boys to their first minor league baseball game. 

The weather was perfect (80's, low humidity, sunny). 
We had seats between home plate and first base. 

 My little sports enthusiast was in heaven. Ali, when you gave us those old YMCA soccer shirts I bet you had no idea how often Aaron would wear them. He loves them! Thank you. ;)

Luke had seen a picture of his cousins enjoying cotton candy, so before the game he said, 
"Daddy, do you think I can taste cotton candy before I turn 20?" Darin made his dream come true at the ripe old age of 9. The boys were happy to share one cotton candy. Too bad Luke thought it was too sweet and sticky. Now he knows. 

I was pleasantly surprised by their patience and focus during the entire game. 

It happened to be a special kids day, so the Luke and Ethan got to run the bases and high five Nutsy the Flying Squirrel mascot. Aaron was too scared to go! What?! Oh well. 
A fun summer family memory!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


We signed up Luke to take two classes at Westminster Academy this year. He was very reluctant when we first discussed it with him, but after orientation this summer he began getting pretty excited. Monday was his first day!

He had a wonderful day. In fact, he asked if he could take all his classes there. :) Darin dropped him off before 9 and I picked him up at noon. It's just once a week. There are 4 kids in his history class and 7 kids in his science class. After school, we met Darin for lunch so he could tell us both about his day. We are so proud of him and thankful for this opportunity. I think it will continue to nurture him spiritually and stretch him academically. It will provide a little relief for me as we add Irina to our school day, knowing Luke is getting his science and history elsewhere.

In addition to being excited, he was also a little tired. He fell asleep during room time and slept for over an hour. I don't think he has taken a nap that long since he was a baby. (And back then, he only napped for long stretches when I was pushing him in the jog stroller!) How is my first born getting so big?!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

3 down, 33 to go!

I had good intentions of updating the blog once a week, if not more, but alas... I haven't found my blogging rhythm yet. (And I'm still so bothered that I haven't caught up on all our June, July and August happenings!!) (Warning: this post is LONG! sorry!)

In our 5th year of homeschooling, each start to our school year is another reminder that I seriously can't do this on my own or in my own strength. Around every turn, I have the opportunity to taste failure. Seriously. I have to choose to get back up, call out to my Lord and try again. Homeschooling is not easy for me. It is hard. Plain and simple. "Why do it?" you ask. I certainly don't do it to be a martyr or because I'm such a good girl. I don't do it out of some sense of superiority. After the end of last school year (particularly the last 5 months), I was daily questioning whether I could continue. We sought out the Lord. We prayed. We asked. We prayed some more and decided that in light of the upcoming adoption, we would continue for one more year and then re-evaluate. Maybe some will go to school and some will stay home next year? Who knows? Ultimately, we are continuing because we sense the Lord leading in that direction. Period. I've talked about my view on homeschooling before HERE, and I don't think anyone has a right to question or judge other people's schooling choices. For now, this is our HARD thing that God is leading us to walk through and lean on Him at each step. Maybe you have a different hard thing?
You have to know that any time I am tempted to be prideful about my clever plans or my organizational system, I get knocked down a couple pegs by a terrible school day (particularly the way I handle them!). If anyone is still reading this blog (ha!), I hope you sense humility and honesty. If it seems like I paint a perfect picture, then please know that I have double the stories that are not so pretty. Who wants to read about that and listen to my whining and complaining? Plus, do I really want to preserve those memories out in the blogosphere that could possibly haunt my children in their adulthood?
typing instructor

SO, that being said, I think it is valuable for me to stop and assess what is working so far and what I need to improve on.

1) Having a mission statement and Bible verse for our year has already been so good for us. When those hard days hit, it is so good to remember WHY we are doing this. Our family verse for the year is this:

Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39

Each week we are discussing a character trait that helps us to love God and love others. We are journalling, memorizing scripture, acting out different scenarios, and drawing pictures. I found these free printables HERE that I hung on the wall in the school room.  So far we've been working on being peacemakers and being obedient. I'm not sure we'll ever need to stop working on that, but hopefully we'll add some more in each week and constantly review.
See them on the wall above Ethan's cart? I have two binder rings attaching them and hung on hooks.
2) We planned to have Luke do his school work in his bedroom like last spring. However, he was feeling lonely, so we have relocated him to the desk in the kitchen. Keeps me on my toes to have that space cleared and ready for him each morning, because it tends to collect piles. Sometimes he sits down and sometimes he just stands. Notice the picture of Irina. He likes to have that on his desk while he is working. super sweet!

3) Workboxes, workboxes, workboxes! I cannot tell you enough how this has made our days better. I formed my plan after searching online and reading a bunch HERE.  Since this is our third year using this organizational plan, the boys know exactly what is expected. Aaron is a champ at this! I load the boxes each day and then they just work through them. I'll have to teach Irina how to use them when she arrives, but I have her boxes all ready. 

In the picture on the right, you see the grid where she'll move the numbers as she completes her workboxes. She will work with mom one-on-one for two boxes and I'll probably assign the boys to work with her too (play a game, do a alphabet puzzle, etc.). Not sure if I have the energy or time to explain how we use it, but if you have questions leave a comment or send me an email.

4) Positive Reinforcement: So, I'm a little slow with technology around here, but I'm beginning to embrace it's usefulness. Since this is new for the boys they are happy and even thrilled with small opportunities to play a game on my iPod touch. (I don't have an iPhone or iPad like most of the world.)

Here is what we're doing. Each day they have an opportunity to earn 15 minutes of iPod time. I created a folder for each of them with educational apps that I bought for either $.99 or found for free. In the chart, each boy has two columns. (I erased their names for this post.) If they earn iPod touch time, I color in a rectangle on the chart. Once they have used their 15 minutes, I put a sticker on the colored rectangle. Last year I was notorious for saying they earned iPod touch time and then never giving them the opportunity to use it. This is working much better. Luke likes to save his up and use 30 minutes in one stretch. They are VERY motivated by this system. You could modify it to suit whatever would motivate your kiddos. 

Okay... maybe next week I'll get around to posting FOUR things that are NOT working and that I need to improve. For now, this is long enough. Here are a few more first three weeks photos.
listening to Big Picture Bible Story book on audio


Obviously shirts are optional. ;) So proud of Aaron's coloring skills in the soccer picture above. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glorious Friday

I'm feeling slightly guilty that we finished school today by 10:30am and enjoyed a bike ride and playtime outside until lunch. Don't worry though. We accomplished math workbooks, speed drills, flash cards, 2 grammar tests, spelling, spelling test, reading assignments, typing lesson, Bible, daily notebook, handwriting and phonics workbooks. (We start science and social studies next week.)

Two older brothers speeding away as fast as they can. I zoomed my camera in.

I'm SO thankful for this rare occurrence of ALL three boys being eager and motivated with their schoolwork!!! When I say rare, I mean rare! This is a gift from God and just what I needed after a very emotionally exhausting day yesterday. Could the weather be any more wonderful? 83, low humidity and sunny with a nice breeze!!
Aaron peddling as hard as he can to catch up to his brothers in the distance.
It's not fair that his bike tires are so much smaller!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ready, Set, GO!

The school room was ready. Luke's desk is in his bedroom, so I parked his back to school goodies on Irina's desk. We're ready for her to fold in to our school routine, but the waiting continues. 
I put together an old table we had in the attic for Ethan to use. He's pretty excited about his new space. He can work standing up easily or perch on the tall stool. Remember, he doesn't like to sit down anyway. He has too much wiggling to do to stay still for long. ;) 

I relocated Aaron to the desk between the windows. He's been SO eager to get started on school. In fact, he cried when we didn't start last week. I'm grateful for his excitement!

Each kiddo got back to school goodies on their desk. It's not all that exciting, but they LOVE it. I put all of Irina's supplies in her desk. The boys picked out some purple, pink and turquoise supplies for her. Super fun! :)  

 The table was set with maps on how to find TRUE treasure. They were thrilled by this!
I got the idea HERE

 "Turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding; look for it as for silver and 
search for it as hidden treasure. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2
 Breakfast: cinnamon rolls, fresh peaches, hard boiled eggs and sausage. They had full bellies!
 Doing our morning jobs after breakfast, someone had a little accident while unloading the dishwasher. 5 bowls smashed to smithereens. Whoops! We like to keep things exciting over here!
 So glad to get back to our morning prayer walk... or shall I say pray while we scooter. Very pleased by sweet time of prayer together. They scooted very slowly. It was part of the deal. ;)

This tired school teacher needs to hit the sack. We had a great first day with a few bumps and wrinkles, but I'm glad to be back in the routine. And to be honest, I was NOT looking forward to it. Thankful that God graciously gave me energy to enjoy these precious gifts. 

Jumping in!

We're finally jumping in to our homeschool year! Ack! We were scheduled to start last week and after much deliberation, I decided to postpone our start for one week. I have to say, I felt so relieved by the decision and feel much better prepared this week.

Monday: School Orientation
Luke set out our "Smith Academy" t-shirts for everyone to wear, which was super sweet. Unfortunately, one of his brothers decided to surprise him during breakfast and tickle him. 
Of course, his bowl of cereal went flying and so did his milk - all over his shirt. Whoops!
That's how we roll over here. 

This was the first year I sat down and created a detailed mission statement, short term goals, long term goals and specific spiritual, developmental and character goals for each kid. I'm so glad I did! It was a great exercise for me. During orientation, we reviewed those goals. They were very receptive!

 I selected a family Bible verse with the help of our "principal." This is our theme for the year. 

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and
greatest commandment. And the second is like it:

‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

I taught them how to use our new Daily Notebook 
(more on that later) and they decorated the front page. 

Then we reviewed our school schedule, expectations and new curriculum. 
And we're off!