I have a great appreciation for the generosity of other authors and equally want to share with you. However, I ask that you respect that all all images, text, and any other content posted on this blog belongs to Christina Hirst, unless otherwise stated. You are welcome to link back to this blog or use a single image and description, so long as you link back to its original source. You may NOT republish posts without my permission. Also, please do not link directly to a pdf, but to the original post. I, in turn, agree to do the same. :)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Recap

How did we reach the end of June so quickly?

Here's a recap of what we've accomplished in the past 30 days!

  1. We had a successful showcase with family and friends gathering from as far as 1,600 miles away!
  2. Picked up this loot at 1/2 Priced Bookstore in Arlington for about $80!
  3. Miss Rosalinda got to attend her very first Texas Ranger's baseball game with her dad!
  4. She also entered and is currently winning a competition to run her own business for a day at our local mall!
  5. We helped setup and are helping to run a firework stand for our church!  The money is going to be used for a number of things, including an upcoming trip to Africa to establish a ministry and pay for a down payment on a duplex for the church to bless someone with a home when they need it most.
How was your June?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Start of It All!

I have been a single parent from day one of my child's life, which for me started at 17 years of age.  I finished high school with honors, received a scholarship to a private university, and followed the expected pathway.  I moved out right after graduation, worked, and went to school full time, while caring for an infant.  My foolish pride and bulldozing-stubbornness didn't allow anyone to help me unless absolutely necessary.  I utilized programs in my community to make childcare more affordable and part of my scholarships and grants to pay for some extras.

My child started daycare at 6 weeks old.  Her daycare put her through a preschool program and when she was of the eligible age, she started kindergarten at a public elementary.  She learned and excelled at this particular school from kindergarten through second grade.  Receiving special awards of achievement each year, either as the top girl of her class or top student of her grade.

During her second grade year, I was the Director of Marketing and Merchandising for a chain of convenience stores, truck stops, and Subway locations.  It was bought out by our competitor and many of us, me included, were released with severance.  I found myself with nothing to do and no realistic job offers where we lived.

The wonderful school that she attended was made available through a transfer because of the location of her daycare and my job.  However, there was another elementary school much closer to our house.

Due to all the changes of her second grade year, I made the decision to put her at the school closer to our home.  It was the same district, and I didn't think there would be much of an adjustment.  Boy was I wrong!

Today I came across the original notes I had from meeting with her teacher about the situation that catalyzed our wondrous entry into home education.  

Issues my 8 year old daughter was dealing with...

  • Poor grades
    • She went from an exemplary student with few low grades, to multiple assignments being below par.
  • Crying 2-3 days a week
    • She would come home and recount her day, often ending in tears.  There were two particular girls in her class that were physically rough with her.  They tried to trip her in class and would shove her.
    • It should be noted that I don't have an "overly-sensitive" child.  I honestly would've expected to address retaliation before I would defeat.
  • Victimized
    • When I emailed her teacher about the incidents that Rosalinda would report, the teacher would just chalk it up to everyone trying to adjust from summer.
  • Teacher's lack of understanding
  • Teacher ignoring/embarrassing her
    • I can't remember the specifics of this
  • Peer Issues
When I met with the teacher, she told me that the two specific girls involved told her that all of these actions were Rosalinda's and not theirs.  I was really discouraged that six weeks into the year she had NO idea of my child's personality.  And she dismissed my early emails describing these altercations.

I later found out that she contacted my child's second grade teacher to confirm my daughter's personality.  :/

I left that meeting unsatisfied and met with the principal.  I began suggesting a transfer back to her original elementary, which wasn't a welcome suggestion at all.  So the principal decided to swap my child's classes.  I was shocked by the situation as a whole.

Since public schools have been cutting back on their special education programs, they compensate by trying to stack the classes with like-students.  Rosalinda was in a class with other gifted learners.  But because of issues with bullying, it was decided that she would be put in the inclusion class because of the student chemistry.

An inclusion class has two teachers and is meant for students that require additional assistance for whatever reason.  There were students with medical conditions that missed several days because of their condition and students with learning disabilities.  The class pace was drastically different from her first classroom.

A few weeks in that class and I was dealing with behavioral issues.  Rosalinda was getting in trouble for not paying attention, reading when she should've been doing math with the class and the such.

I finally had enough!  I had always liked the idea of homeschooling, but as a single-mom had never thought it was more than a pipe dream.  But God...lol.

I met with her second teacher on a Monday and wasn't satisfied with where things were left.  Talked to a seasoned homeschool mom and got pointed to Cathy Duffy's "100 Top Picks Homeschool Curriculum. "  I pulled out some old research and got answers to my big questions.  The next day (Tuesday) I read "100 Top Picks Homeschool Curriculum," emailed Rosalinda's dad (who I thought would be my biggest obstacle), but he shocked me with immediate approval and support and even agreed to pay half of the curriculum cost!  So, Wednesday I purchased the curriculum I had picked out and ran past my seasoned homeschool mom and notified the school.  Thursday, I sent Tiff to school with the information that it would be her last day to allow her to say her goodbyes and get friend's info that she wanted to keep in contact with.  I asked her not to tell anyone and to make sure that she still did her best on everything that was assigned to her that day.  At the end of the day I went to her classroom, collected her supplies, and never looked back!

It happened quickly, but it was organized and a peaceful transition.  Both my child and I have enjoyed it more than we thought we would.  She is blossoming into a beautiful young lady and I couldn't imagine going back to work and missing it again!

Friday, June 28, 2013

"So I'm Thinking About Homeschooling..."

When someone asks me questions because they are thinking of making the wondrous dive into the infinite possibilities of homeschooling, I generally always have the same advice:

-If you're saved, pray!  Pray that God will direct you to the write method of teaching the precious responsibilities that He has entrusted to you.  Pray that your transition will be smooth.  Pray that your transition will be smooth and that you will make decisions founded in His infinite wisdom and not your own. For His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

-Know your reasons! (In times of discouragement and those moments of understanding of why some wild animals eat their young, you'll need to return to your "why"

-Buy and read "100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum" by Cathy Duffy*. Even if you don't purchase curriculum, it helps you evaluate the type of teacher you are and the type of student each of your children are. You can look at the recommended curriculum's setup and design your own. OR if you do purchase, it recommends curriculum based on learning style, shows you how to blend for multiple children, fortells how much prep is required, whether or not it is writing intensive and more. Then it gives you an overview of the recommended curriculum.

Product Details
There is a newer version with 101 picks, but this is the one I'm familiar with.

-Decide & Budget. Get a list of what you want and research what all you need. I always look at the publisher's sight, decide what pieces I'm going to need, and take note of  full retail price. That way I know if I'm getting a good deal or not when I buy it used or on sale.

I purchase the bulk of my curriculum off of amazon.com, but there are soooo many resale sites available that allow homeschoolers to support homeschoolers!  Also, if I have to buy something new, I will default to christianbook.com.  They run a lot of promotions and send me periodic deals, like free shipping.

How about you?  What advice do you always give?

What do you wish someone would have suggested to you?

*I have not been asked to review the above materials and did not receive any compensation for my recommendation/review.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sun Burn Miracle?

My daughter spoke in crayon when she was younger and described people as peach, brown, and black.  So as a fair skinned, peach-American, I usually take a burn or two at the beginning of the summer and then begin to brown nicely.

Here I am a little sun-kissed, with my first burn of the summer! :)

This was a few weeks ago, so I haven't actually gotten to try this new "remedy," but wondered if anyone else has ever used black tea leaves to help heal a burn?

I think good 'ol pinterest brought me the idea.  You can link to the instructable here or my pin here.

Best I can tell, you brew three large tea bags (they used earl gray, but in the comment section, people reported using Lipton and got positive results) in warm water in a pitcher until it's black.

Then, once the water has cooled to a warm/lukewarm temp, you douse a towel that you don't mind staining and dab your burn.  They suggest doing it as soon as possible for maximum affect.  You don't rub off the tea, but leave it on.  When it dries, put on more and more coats as long as I can be patient for as needed.

If I get a chance to try it, I will definitely report back!  If you have or do try this, let me know how it goes! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Fun...with Modesty

Anyone else have tween or teen daughters that cringe as swimsuit season has arrived?  I have a curvy daughter, that as a tween, is now in adult sizes.  Eeek! 

Our summer tradition usually kicks off with a hunt for the perfect bathing suit.

My rules:

  • no midriff showing
  • no v cuts or extra padding up top (she's 10 ya'll!)
  • needs to cover majority of her back
Rosalinda's rules:
  • must be a two piece 
    • She doesn't want to have to fight her swimsuit should nature calls.  I can totally understand!
  • must be cute
  • no bikini bottoms
    • I'm so down with this rule!  She has said herself, that she might at well be swimming in panties...so she prefers the boy short cut.

As a child, these are easy to do!  Grab a tankini and boy short bottoms from Target and we're on our way!  However, this is Summer 1 of being out of kid sizes. :(  My baby is growing up!

Her dad got the privilege of having to buy her first suit this summer when he came to visit in May and she needed one to enjoy the hotel pool.  According to Rosalinda, it was a comical, yet frustrating shopping trip.  He didn't understand why she couldn't/shouldn't wear a bikini...um...yeah, we haven't had that talk.  Not only is it a Hirst Household Foul, it also isn't want my daughter likes.  So she pressed and pressed to get something other than a bikini and ended up victorious. She got a rasorback top with pink boy short bottoms from the adult section.  However, there seemed to be some confusion about my "no padding" rule and her dad ended up taking out the liner using hair clippers.  God bless his soul; trying to please Miss Rosalinda and my rules!

The only rule this suit didn't satisfy was my child's definition of cute...so we're on the look out for a replacement.  However, she's not missing any water play with this one on hand.

What are your rules?  
When did you start desiring to wear bikinis?  
How do you handle it with your tween and teen daughters?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fifth Grade Curriculum Picks

Yea!  We survived fourth grade and are gearing up for fifth!

I have picked out our theme!  We're doing Riveting Robots from Creative Teaching Press.  Well, hopefully, as it is on backorder.

 Product Details Product Details

I want to make my own version of this pinata I found at party-wagon.com to hang up as a decoration and then let Rosalinda celebrate the end of the year by breaking it open!  (I'll add candy at the end of the year.)

Ok...now on to the actual curriculum...

We're sticking with Saxon for math...which I got at a steal at a 1/2 Price Book Store in Arlington.  They had the student hardback text book for $7.99, the test booklet for $3.99, and I can download the answer key free as an e-book!  It retails at $89.50, but I can find it for a little over $60.  However, I couldn't pass up a $12 deal!
Saxon Math 65 Home Study Kit Third Edition
We are also sticking with Learning Language Arts Through Literature, but moving from the Orange book to the Purple
Learning Language Arts Through Literature Student Activity Book: The Purple Book (Grade 5)Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie Series #3 (Softcover)The Trumpet of the Swan
Meet Addy, PaperbackCaddie Woodlawn, Softcover

We didn't finish two of our virtues and there are more stories in the other virtues that we haven't explored, so we're going to move forward with Book of Virtue studies that I borrowed from Shiver Academy.
The Book of Virtues

We're sticking to Mystery of History, but moving forward from volume 1 to volume 2!
I randomly received the timeline extra pack from someone clearing out their homeschool stuff, so I'm excited to try it as well.
The Mystery Of History, Volume 2: The Early Church and  the Middle Ages

Last year we had multiple science curricula, but I ended up liking this one the best...
It had a good integration of different skills outside of science and had plenty of experiments that were easy and affordable.

I'm not going to do any additional bible curriculum at the moment.  I'm just going to keep Rosalinda encouraged in her daily Jesus Calling For Kids devotional
.Product Details

Some maybes that I'm looking at adding to our studies
creative writing  book reports essays a
Product ImageProduct Image 

Can't wait for our orders to start arriving!

Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY Yearbook!

We had an amazing year this year and I wanted my little Rosalinda to have something to remind her of all the wonderful things we did and people we spent time with this year.

This project had a lot of headaches, but I'm hoping it is because I was newbie and not because it is the nature of the product.

When I decided to do a showcase, I figured it would help to have a theme to help inspire the invite and yearbook.  I played with the idea of peacocks, owls, monsters, stars, dots, and a lot more.  I found an invite using monster graphics on walgreens.com or walmart.com, which was my original plan.  I wanted to be able to order nice quality, but economical invites that I could hand and mail out.  Yeah, didn't happen.  I couldn't change the "birthday" wording and couldn't find any other pre-made invites that would work.

So I ended up making my own and ordering them as photos from Walgreens.com.  It took two orders due to their network resizing it and cutting off part of the invite, but we finally got it done.

I made this invite in Microsoft Publisher, saved it as a jpg, and loaded it into my walgreens.com account.
Sticking with this theme I went to work on her yearbook, about six weeks before the showcase.  I made it all in publisher.  Originally I looked at picture books, like Walgreens and Shutterfly, but for the number of pages that I wanted, I couldn't find anything in my budget.  

I finally printed it out on my Epson printer (which did take A LOT of ink because I wanted it to be high quality) front and back on cardstock.  I decided to take it to our local education store to be laminated and bound, but that was a fiasco.  Their laminater completely ruined my pages and the laminate didn't stick to the page, creating huge bubbles.  The bubbles made the images and words almost impossible to make out.  It wasn't good. :(  However, the owner of the educational supply store is amazing!  She had me send her the files and she printed them herself, so that I didn't have to pay another $20 in ink, took it to an office supply store and had it laminated in really think laminate and bound.  I didn't pay a cent!  She took great care of us!

Here are my pages, so you can see how I organized it all.

Table of Contents
All the places we did school this year: library, in a tent, on the porch swing, in a hospital waiting room,
and other fun places!
My family was listed as the faculty...I could've added other people as well that had contributed, but I thought it would mean more to my daughter if it was her family only.
I've decided that even though we home educate, I'm still going to try and do a September school photo.  I know you could get packages as low as $6 at Walmart's Studio...so even if I had to go somewhere else and had to track down some coupons, I think I could budget for a single pose on a traditional blue background.  The picture I used for Fourth Grade is Rosalinda's first day of school photo.  One of our traditions is to buy a new pair of pjs for the first day of school, rather than an outfit. :)
Had to get some favorites so she can see how cool/dorky she was when she was 10, lol.  :)
These were some of Rosalinda's best buds.  One of them doesn't live in the same state, but I had the others sign their pages.
Our sweet pup Jules, kitty Twinkles, and a special project of mine.
Last December I did our own version of Elf on the Shelf with a polar bear named Snowflake.
Rosalinda got a package in the mail with Snowflake and a request from the Inuit Teacher's Association.  They had been overrun with cubs and didn't have enough teachers to instruct them all.  So Rosalinda was asked to teach mischievous Snowflake about the true meaning of Christmas.  We had a lot of fun with it. ;)

We do a lot at our public library!  We have three branches that take turns hosting, tween, teen, and family events.

This is the awesome educational supply store that ultimately helped me get the yearbook made!

These pages were set aside for people to sign.  This same "paper" was on the back of the cover and the very back of the book to provide extra space for signing.  I asked for people to sign anywhere they wanted EXCEPT for the front cover.

Total Cost: $28

I did have to buy extra ink because I wanted a colorful yearbook, used cardstock I had on hand (printing front and back) and I didn't have to pay for the lamination and binding.  

My original idea would have cost me less than $7 to laminate and bind.

What I Would Or Would Not Do Next Time
  • Do a border and not a full color background on each page
  • More signature pages (some people had trouble finding enough space to say all that they wanted to say)
  • Possibly look at formatting it to fit a photo book and keep my eyes open for coupons...that way it gets a hard cover and everything prints directly on glossy paper and I don't have to worry about laminating
  • Because of the order of events leading to the final publishing of this book, the signature pages were laminated before being signed.  From my research everything I found said that sharpies is the best to use, but I'm finding that they still will rub off weeks after, so I'm trying to figure out what to do to preserve the wishes for years to come.
    • If I laminate, I may leave those pages unlaminated and add them later.  That way I can still have it bound and available to view at the showcase.  
    • Or leave it all unlaminated...undecided at this point.  
    • This is what makes the photo books seem like a good idea.
Overall, I was pleased with it and am planning on doing one each year moving forward! :)

Another Successful Year

We have ended a successful year and I am already organizing our next year!

I started homeschooling midway through Rosalinda's third grade year.  I pulled her from the public system in November and started the week before Thanksgiving.

In a single week, I read "Top 100 Curriculum Picks for Homeschool Curriculum," created the list of curriculum I wanted to try out, touched base with Rosalinda's dad, who was amazingly in agreement, and even had the money on hand to make the $300 purchase in curriculum at our local Mardel's.  

Our first year wasn't a "trophy case" year, but I learned a lot about what NOT to do again, lol.  My poor child dealt with some craziness, but we survived and she still had a desire to homeschool fourth grade.

For fourth grade, I changed our science and language arts curriculum and made her own space in our living room to 'get her learn on.'  I affectionately labeled it her "genius corner."

I was more educated with my purchases and grabbed used pieces everywhere I could!  So my $300 purchase of last year was NOT repeated and I got even more materials for around $150!

We had an overwhelming busy year and learned so much!

I actually had an end!  Last year, I'm sad to admit, kind of faded out opposed to officially ending.

We ended our year with a showcase that allowed Rosalinda to show our family and friends all her hard work.

I designed the invitation myself after searching and searching in vain for an invite that didn't use the word birthday or have monster's with party hats.  I had them printed as photos at Walgreens.  

The only problem I ran into was finding envelopes that fit!  They do have photo sized envelopes, but
that were ridiculously priced because they are a specialty item.  So....
I took regular business length envelopes, sliced two inches off each side, and used craft tape to close it up!  They worked perfectly!

I sent them out about a month in advance due to all of the graduation schedules that would have to be coordinated.

Our showcase was a hit!  We had table displays for each subject.  (As the host, I wasn't able to really take pictures myself, so I had to rely on the collection of photos from our friends and family, so you might notice some style differences, lol.)  We greeted people as they entered and started with our presentations.  I gave an overview of our year and Tiff's accomplishments.  I said personal thank yous to everyone there, as we only invited friends and family that had impacted our homeschool experience.

Rosalinda did two presentations.  She recited a poem that she had to memorize as part of our poetry unit.  She also did a puppet show of Aesop's Fables.  She wrote the scripts and created the puppets herself and had some cute elements.  This picture is of her doing The Fox and the Crab.  She also did The Crow and the Pitcher, which brought lots of giggles. My favorite part being the light bulb she had that lit up above the crow's head when he got the idea to put pebbles in the pitcher.  This puppet show was a result of Aesop being one of her favorite history lessons we did when studying Greek Culture.  She gave a small summary of Aesop and his life before starting the show.

After the presentations, we gave my parents a certificate of appreciation, as this year they have become the biggest supports of their granddaughter's education!  I also gave Rosalinda a formal certificate of achievement.

After 20 minutes of presentations, I asked everyone to browse her trifolds and notebooks and to feel free to ask her questions.  We also had thank you favors for everyone and I made a yearbook.  All of our loved ones signed their summer wishes and now my daughter has a great keepsake from this year! :)

Her Art Display (She made all the trifolds herself, by the way)

We used our timeline trifolds from the year as our backdrop for our history display. 

Her Math Display

For her science display, we had a sound wave experiment available using combs and wax paper (the materials aren't pictured, but they are there!).
Here is a broader view of her history, math, science, and art displays!

Her Language Arts and Bible/Virtue were combined on this table

I also put up a small photo booth with monster props.  I posted the instructions and had props in a vase.  This is Rosalinda's uncle, Rosalinda with one of her brothers (from her dad), and Rosalinda with her great-grandparents that traveled 1,600 miles to support her!  We're sooooo loved!  (And probably a little spoiled.)

We had so much fun and it was so great to be able to show our gratitude and share our year with our community!  I can't wait to do it again next year!