Feb 14, 2014

Going Small

My husband and I have gone through quite the journey together in our marriage.  Our first apartment was a small attic with two bedrooms with slanted slopes.  It was a smart choice for us as it was only $350 a month and it was close to the university where I had one more year of school.  The only problem was that for the first time in our lives, we came face to face with the need to deal with all of our stuff.  In addition to the generous wedding gifts we received necessary to starting a new home, we each had our own stash of collectables from our childhood.  By the end of that first year, neither of our parents had any of our possessions left in their homes.  Furthermore, we knew we would up-size soon so we started buying furniture when we found stuff we liked on thrift. It was starting to get very cramped.

So, we did what most Americans do, and looked into buying a home.  We found one we liked, and moved into a 2200 sq ft, 6 bedroom home.  We both liked it, but for different reasons.  In his mind, it was an investment that we could cash out on.  In my mind, I want a big family and we would never outgrow it.  We both spoke of our reasons, but didn't internalize them.  While living there, we accumulated more stuff and saw our dreams of home ownership fade to the realities of grown-up life.  The housing market crashed, and our house had a mold problem.  During that time, my husband and I were chosen to represent our congregation in a financial planning pilot course which helped us take a step back and look at the big picture.  We realized that we couldn't afford that home and we needed to downsize.  We paid a pretty penny to fix it up and were blessed to find a buyer.

Our next home was a two-bedroom townhome of about 1200 ft.  We downsized and fit quite nicely.  The best part was that our housing expenses, including utilities, were about $300 less a month.  After about a year we paid off the debts we had taken to get out of the house.  We did some math.  What if we had lived in that townhome the whole time instead of purchasing a house?  The combined savings of the home improvements like a new roof we made, with the mold repair, as well as adding the extra we had paid in housing costs by living in a home larger than we needed, would all add up to more than $40,000.  In 3 years.  What would you do with that much money?  Coulda Woulda Shoulda.  While it was gratifying to see that we somehow had that much money to loose, seeing as we stood with a clean slate with good credit and a healthy family with our needs met, by golly, we wanted to do better.  We really loved living in the Yorkshire villiage, not just because it was a beautiful place with good neighbors, but because it was a place where we were living below our means.

From that time I started researching economic living.  Overall I was attracted to the idea of living small.  I found sites like tinyhousetalk.com, and thetinylife.com.  I watched dozens of YouTube videos featuring small housing solutions and I fell in love.  The only problem was that all of these individuals were either single, a couple, and occasionally a family of three or four.  We were a family of 5 and growing.  Were there no families living small?  Ultimately I did find a couple of bigger families in smaller homes, like Life in a Shoe and Large Families on Purpose.

Then I discovered http://fulltimefamilies.com/.  Indeed, there are many, many families living full-time in small quarters.  These families weren't the architectures of the stylish tiny houses I had seen, but rather were families who had found a new sense of freedom, not only from mortgage debt, but also the freedom to travel.  Their children were gaining an education not available any other way.  Golly, I want to live in an RV!  These families have made their RVs their home, and some of them have had very cute makeovers.  Take for example this, this, or this one.  I was also happy to find bigger families like the Ticknors and the Kelloggs.  This isn't crazy!  People are doing this, and they are thriving.  I started dreaming, and I am convinced we'll be a part of this movement someday.  It's perfectly compatible with Michael's dream of being an internet marketer.

But not today.  End backstory.

Today, we find ourselves recently transported into sunny California.  Michael has a new job, and we have been house hunting.  California housing laws are not exactly large family friendly.  Well, technically, it's the housing code that suggests 2 tenants per room that so many have taken to heart that isn't family friendly.  Apartment complex personnel assured us it was against the law for our family of 6 to be in a 2-bedroom apartment, but what the law really says is that it is reasonable to set a limit of 2 per room, with one room allowing an additional person.  So up to 3 can be in a 1 bedroom, 5 in a two bedroom, and so forth.  So here I am wanting to live smaller, and we initially landed in a month-to-month 3 bedroom apartment with way more space than we need.  My kids are little.  They wouldn't be comfortable in a room by themselves.  We've got a triple bunk bed that they love.  We put our bed in one room, the kids in the other, and let the master bedroom be a playroom.  There is no furniture in the living/dining area aside from a couple of folding tables.  We knew we didn't want to be here long term, so this last month we've lived with the basics.  The place feels huge, and it's so expensive compared to Logan.  Ahh!

As we see this move as a 1.5-2 year change, at first we thought we would live in a nice RV and save money as even a campground fee and RV payment would be considerably less than what we were paying for housing.  We even found a great deal with the perfect layout for our family.  We would love an Eagle 5th wheel 31.5FBHS.  The quad bunkhouse in the front is so charming.  We almost bought it, except, where were we going to park it?  We ran into the same problem as before- the local campgrounds have a strict occupancy limit of 6- all ages counted, no exceptions.  In a month we'll be a family of 7.  Further out the options open up and the campground prices go down, but I don't want my husband to have to commute that far.  While I was very disappointed that the RV dream was put on hold, the process of shopping for one, of touring them in person, confirmed to both of us that this is something in our future.

Meanwhile, the apartment we are in now wants to raise our rates considerably.  It's run by a crazy computer system that the nice staff are helpless to work with.  Long story short, the year-lease we could have paid $1550 for last month would be $1875 this month.  We're moving.  Even with a baby due so soon, we're moving.

Annndddd, we're probably going to move into a 640 square foot home next week, assuming the walk-through after the tenant moves out goes well.  That will have to be a post of it's own, but I wanted to give a little backstory, with my dreams of small living, before I shock everyone with this radical downsizing we are about to undertake.  In truth, I'm excited to make it work, and excited to save money in the process.  Michael has a good job, we are not being forced into this life.  This is something we are choosing to do.

Feb 4, 2014

We moved to California!

Part of why I haven't been blogging as much lately is because our family has been caught up in a whirlwind of moving.  I haven't done regular homeschooling for a few months.  My husband has new employment in the sales department for Solar City.  In December he came out early while we stayed to finish up choir concerts the kids were in and continue packing/thinning our things.  Then Michael came home for Christmas, we packed up, and on January 2nd we left.

View of our townhome complex and the winter wonderland we left behind.

We fit all of our belongings in a 6x12 storage unit in Logan and this 16' truck.  We also gave away or sold much of our furniture.  It just barely fit.  Phew!

We spent our first night at Knights Inn of St George.  They have a beautiful suite that our family fit in nicely.  I would definitely stay there again next time we pass through.  Moving on, we lowered our eating standards in exchange for a soft play with good reviews in Las Vegas.  We stayed at the McDonalds on 2020 N Rainbow for a couple of hours.  It was a great place!  Alas my toddler gave a few other kids and parents a brief strip tease, but it was soon taken care of.  Vegas baby!

We stayed in Best Western in Moreno Valley our first week in California and they treated us really well.  Thanks to the dual screen DVD player my parents gave us for Christmas, as well as lots of snacks, our long drive was overall smooth.  The day after our arrival we emptied our stuff into a storage unit, promising the again well-behaved children (I'm so grateful, they really were amazingly well behaved) that we would go to a nice restaurant when we were done.  We fulfilled that promise a little after nine that night.  Ruth, who had a nice nap, was the only one with enough energy to enjoy it, aside from a bread roll.  Yay for the fast bread rolls at the Olive Garden.  But we made it to California and their little tummies were filled soon enough the next day.

Now that you know we're here, my next course of action is to tell you about some of the field trips we've done.  My plan is to go on a new one every week.  There are a lot of things to see and do in Sunny California.

Dec 16, 2013

How do you do it all?

People often look at my with my little brood of children and ask me how I do it all.
Simple. I don't. Ha!

My friend told me something interesting when I was telling her about how my kids don't have clothing in dressers anymore, just totes that I can quickly sort their laundry in by child. No folding, and it's easier than digging through laundry baskets of EVERYONE'S clothes because I used to put off sorting laundry. Now I get it done in a snap!

Anyway, she said that generally speaking, with the first child you read all the parenting magazines and get this image in your head of what your ideal parenting will be, and you actually get pretty close. You still can maintain it to some degree with 2. Moms with 3 kids tend to be the most stressed out because they are often still holding on to that supermom dream. But with 4+ children, you just can't do it all and that's when many moms not only start letting go of the supermom dream, but also come to terms with what is realistic for them. I never tried to be a supermom, but I did let go of a lot of my personal expectations after Ruth was born. I stopped making homemade bread. I switched to disposable diapers, although I still want to do cloth for newborns until they start on solids. For that matter, we also often use disposable dishes, which works out to be about $0.25 cents a meal. Much cheaper than a maid! In the homeschool arena, I admitted to myself that high quality screen time is doing a pretty good job teaching my kids some subjects and stopped feeling guilty for delegating parts of our education plan to the screen while I do something else. Ultimately this gave me more energy and passion for the subjects that I do sit down and do with them, and has led to a better balance for all of my children overall.

At first I thought I had never fully recovered from having a new baby, but some time after her first birthday I realized that this was my new reality. It wasn't a moment of depression as much as a moment of release. I embraced that new reality and was able to improve upon it in small ways. I have learned SO MUCH from having four children, lessons I never would have had with less. It has taught me to focus on what is most important to me and freely let the other stuff go. My house is messy because we live here. And I am very happy with my life.

Dec 3, 2013

How we do Christmas

The Christmas season is here again!  It's my favorite time of the year.  Many families have their own little holiday traditions that make the season special, and my family is no exception.  Starting a new family with my husband has brought a new perspective on the holiday season, and it was important to celebrate in a way that fits our personal family culture, and we have come up with a method that is a little different.  As always, take what you want and leave the rest.  Here is how we do Christmas in our home.

It starts with St. Nicholas Day on December 6th.  We think that St. Nicholas was a great man, and the true (as far as we know) story of the real man has greater meaning to us than the man who lives in the North Pole and flies in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.  Although we aren't Catholic, we see value in celebrating this holiday.  It gives meaning to the man our children constantly see in a red suit this time of year, without detracting from celebrating the birth of our Savior.  On St. Nicholas day, our children receive their stockings.  Here is what we have in the stockings:
  • A candy cane, representing the crozier St. Nicholas would have carried, but more importantly, the Shepherd's staff.
  • Gold-leafed candy, representing the money St. Nicholas gave to free the three sisters from slavery.
  • An orange, and some other treat, to remind us of how St. Nicholas freely fed the poor.
  • Some other stocking stuffer from the dollar store, just to make it fun.

We debated a lot about what to do with Santa. Eventually we decided to do the stocking thing on December 6th, with just stocking stuffers. We also celebrate 3 kings day, which Michael learned about on his mission to Mexico. That's when all of the big stuff comes. We did it on the traditional January 6th a couple of years ago, but I felt like that dragged the holiday season on way too long, so we're going to do it the first Saturday after New Years from now on. On Christmas day, we had yummy food and made it a special family day, but there is no gift exchange.  We focus on celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, and preserve it a special religious day. It's a little different, but it has been a nice tradition for us so far.

To be clear, I have absolutely no objection to telling children that Santa is real.  I believed in Santa when I was young. My dad said that he really struggled with whether or not to do Santa too, and he decided that it would be fine because our church believes in proxy work. Santa is about anonymous giving, and by giving to your children as Santa, they don't know that it's you. I like that way of thinking up to a point. Santa is real as far as he is an idea.  I also like the approach of not directly lying to kids about Santa but not directly telling them either.  When kids ask about Santa, some parents turn around and ask their kids right back.  "Well, what do you think?"

Yes, hopefully my kids won't spoil the secret for other kids, we have told them not too. We have tried to not make a big deal out of it, because if they know "a big secret", they will be more apt to want to share it. Instead, we hype it up as a big, fun game that people like to play, kind of like Star Wars. Peter never tells his friends that Yoda isn't real, or that light-sabers are only an illusion made with digital technology, he just plays along. Our kids know all about Rudolf and elves at the North Pole, and they love the stories, but they are on par with Cars and Tangled. So far this has worked for us. When they get a little older and can keep a secret, we'll make a bigger effort to make sure they know that it's a secret they should keep.

Before I close, here's how I make gift-giving easy for myself: kids only get individual presents from us on their birthdays.  When my kids need clothing items, we just get them, so it isn't a part of our gift-exchange. My oldest is only 6, when they are older and care more about clothing, this may change. For now they are content with thrift store stuff.  We also occasionally offer our children toy prizes for accomplishing academic goals.  For Christmas, all of the gifts on 3 Kings day are gifts for the entire family. I'm unashamed to admit that they are first and foremost educational items.  Last year it included items such as the entire Magic School Bus DVD set.  I'm really glad that we decided to do family gifts- this way the kids aren't jealous of each other, I don't feel like I need to spend $10 more, or whatever, to make the gift distribution more fair (ie, if I buy this thing for kid A, I need to buy something else for kids B, C, and D), and it gives our family more opportunities to share.  This holiday season we are moving to California, so physical gifts will be at a minimum, including external family gift exchanges we are opting out of.  Instead, we are giving our kids a year-membership to Legoland.  (I'm so excited!)

Christmas, Santa, and holiday traditions will vary from family to family, and there's really no right or wrong way to do it.  However you do it, I hope you have a happy and safe holiday season!

Oct 15, 2013


This week I am attending an online seminar called "Reboot Your Brain", which you can learn more about if you scroll down past my review of the Photoreading session I listened to by Paul Scheele, PhD, which was the session I was most interested in.

Scheele's company put together a deal for listeners of this seminar where you can buy their photo-reading course for $100 (4 payments of $25), instead of the $245 that it normally is. When he talked about computer programmers being able to find bugs and fix them, I was able to sell my husband on it, because that's what he does. He told me that it makes a lot of sense to him because it seems to him like the best programmers spend a lot of time away from the computer, letting their mind absorb what they are working on. Programming is a creative art. This photoreading course is designed for adults so there's hope for me, but yipee, it's also something I can teach my kids. I feel like I've been sort of in a rut as far as figuring out how to give my older kids an accelerated education. This kind of stuff is where it's at, I think.

I first time I heard about photo reading was when I stumbled across this YouTube video a few years ago.

12pm Pacific/3pm Eastern 10/15/2013
12pm Pacific/3pm Eastern 10/15/2013

Paul Scheele has been in the business of helping people with accelerated learning for 31 years.  What makes photo reading so different from speed reading is that speed reading is a process where you are still reading words one at a time, only faster.  Photo reading is a completely different approach.  With photo reading, you START at the rate of 1 page per second, then give your brain time to process what you have read.  It would be hard to photo read several books a day, but you can read one or two books a day with 20 minutes devoted to each.  Photo reading does not require photographic memory. Without further ado, these are my notes from listening to the seminar.  I apologize if the flow is poor, this is just what I typed out for myself then decided afterward to clean up a bit and share.

First, there's an element of self-hypnosis that we have to overcome.  When we tell ourselves that we are slow readers, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We need to believe that we can photo read before we will have the ability to do it.

Set goals before reading- how much do I need to comprehend- how fast do I need to read this?  Don't passively read the book without knowing what you wish to accomplish by reading it.
Photo reading = Speed reading+ accelerated learning.
Accelerated learning has three steps, 
  1. Decoding- getting a big picture of what you’ll be learning quickly.
  2. What Paul calls the “concert”.  The concert is where you download a lot of information- get the full spectrum of what is taught.
  3. Activate.  If you try to retain and remember everything in a new topic all at once and great speed, the conscious mind will shut down the learning process.
Reference to“Drawing on the right side of the brain”, where they draw the negative area around the picture.  (I have this book, I should read it!  I am always hearing great things about it.)

So many of us, reading a text, will get to the end of a page and will wonder what we read- we didn’t process it.  But our eyes saw it.  Our processor is slow.  We have to bypass that processor.  With photo-reading, look at the picture.  When we look at a large painting, we’re going to see the whole thing.  We don’t analyze the brush strokes first, nor do we look at a painting in small chunks from left to right.  The brain perceives thing holistically- starting with the whole and then looking to the parts.  Photo reading looks at the whole book.  Then the brain says, “Hey, the thing you’re looking for is on page 131, that’s what you need to look at- then the brain processes what it saw there.

Traditional speed reading- still stuck in the paradigm of looking at one word at a time.  Reference to “Reading dynamic”. 
The fastest readers are photo readers, not “speed readers”.  Photo reading is a different paradigm.  You don’t start slow, you START at one page a second.  The ability is already there, they just give you a protocol, or a strategy for making it work for you.

Overview of 5 steps- prepare, preview, photo read, post view, activate.

  Preparing.  Get the materials in front of you.  Relaxed alertness.  Establish your purpose- how much will I read?  How much time will I take?  You’re not passively reading.  Most of us read slowy trying to comprehend and retain as we go- which slows us down.  Traditional study makes us read even slower.  Mention of “tangerine technique”.  Imagine putting a tangerine floating behind the back of your head.  This will help you focus by activating that part of your brain.  Scholars of the past often had funny hats that helped people focus by having the hats touch a little spot in back of the head to help you.

 Preview the material.    What is the book going to be about?  What is the author trying to tell me?  Why do I want to read this book?  Glance through table of contents and back cover.  Take about one minute.

 Photo read- look at center crease, look at the white space on the page.  Flip the page, every two seconds.  As you flip, chant to yourself, “re-lax, re-lax”.  Get the conscious mind out of there so the non-concious mind can do it’s work.  Pre-concious processor is the thing that sees 10-million bits of information every second.  When you are done, give yourself affirmations that the material is all in your head and that you will be able to draw out what you need to see.  If you are on a computer, click page down, don't scroll.

 Post-view- this is where you start examining the book.  Formulate questions- what am I most interested in?  Don’t read it again yet, just formulate the question.  Ask 5 or 6 key questions.  Then step away from the book.  MOVE AWAY FROM THE BOOK.  Professional writers often sleep on what they read- you need to give your brain a chance to catch up.  20 minutes- next day- just give it some time.

  Activate- Hmm, I think Chapter 3 looked great, let’s go back to it.  “Dipping”- your chance to dip into what you wanted to know.  Answer those 5-6 quesitons.  Now you’ve gotten 4-11 percent of the book.  If you crossed out the words in an article or book that didn’t have the key meaning in it, you would be left with 4-11 percent of the words.  Dance with the words instead of plodding through it.  Newspaper writers know that 90 percent of content should be in title, subtitle, and 1st paragraph.  Mind mapping helps you find find what you need.  20 minutes per book.  If you needed to write a college paper, you may want to spend 45-90 minutes.

Computer programmers can photo-read to find bugs!!!!!!!
Photo readers can (have) pick up novels in languages they do not know and explain the story.  (Tamsyn's side note- this sounds a lot like Hado reading!!!!)

Closing statements, ask ourselves what can the brain do?
When he got his PHd he focused on what happens- on understanding what happens- when people have a transformative change in their life.
We construct our reality in a very literal way.  We can change our reality.  Don’t discount yourself.  Don’t give yourself limitations.  People who tear up their textbooks after school never learned to learn, they had poor learning strategies.  

My favorite quote, "The purpose of education is the liberation of human genius.  It’s not about instruction anymore."  That’s what his life’s work is all about.

END NOTES ON PHOTOREADING.  Here's their little blurb for the Reboot your Brain event:

Erin Matlock, and the team at Brain Pages, have created a unique, life-changing online event called REBOOT YOUR BRAIN. Over 20 premier researchers, physicians, psychologists, authors and experts will show you cutting edge ways to UPGRADE YOUR BRAIN.
And the best part is -- the event is completely FREE to everyone who registers.
You can reserve your spot here:
The team of elite experts will show you how to:
  • Eat a prescription of brain foods to increase concentration and focus and reduce your risk for depression
  • Boost your brainpower with specific habits that can help stave off Alzheimer's
  • Turn your memory into a super computer and photo read at up to 25,000 words per minute
  • Get into a high performance state of flow just like top athletes and CEOs
  • Use meditation and hypnosis to naturally reduce stress, fear and anxiety
  • Hardwire your brain to achieve contentment, happiness and confidence
  • Activate your hidden creative genius and use the latest neuroscience to finally get a peaceful night's sleep
In addition you'll discover the latest TOOLS and TECHNIQUES to help with Depression, PTSD, Stroke, Autism, ADHD, Addiction and Seizures.
AND if you're a parent, take note. The event also includes training to help children struggling with mood, behavioral and educational challenges.
Here's What You Need To Know:
Date: October 14-24, 2013
Where: This event takes place online. Sign up here: http://BrainPages.co/t?orid=30424&opid=2
Fee: This is a complimentary event. No charge to attend.
I hope you'll join me in attending this one of a kind event. You will leave with a deeper understanding of how your brain works and how you can change your brain for a happier, healthier life.
P.S. Reboot Your Brain is free for a limited time only. Click here to register: http://BrainPages.co/t?orid=30424&opid=2 and secure your spot!
P.P.S I suggest grabbing your seat even if you're not sure you can make all of the live broadcasts. Each training will be replayed for 24 hours to accommodate your time zone.

Oct 4, 2013

Plans for the school year

A month into the new school year, it's time to finish this draft as I do want to share what we are doing this year.  I was going to do school year-round but opted for a break in August and it has been a good time for me to do some curriculum research and get excited about what is possible.  So much is possible!  So many goals tend to fade over time as real life hits, but if you never set goals, if you never raise the bar, you will never improve.  It is better to aim for the stars and hit the tree tops than to aim for the tree tops and land in the mud, so to speak.  So when I set goals, I also give myself permission to adapt and change them.

You know my "read 2013 books in 2013" goal?  I did so well the first few months, but then my 2-year-old stopped requesting that I read to him because he likes to do it himself, and we stopped recording what I was reading.  We still read a lot, but I bagged the goal.  Honestly, I didn't read much to them at all over the summer.  Oops.

Nevertheless, I am setting goals again.  I have been very blessed to have been able to purchase some choice curriculum recently, and I have the responsibility to follow through and use it.  So here's what I hope to accomplish this year.


Ruth is my only child who isn't reading, so we will continue to use Little Reader, MonkiSee, and Your Baby Can Read to get her reading.  This is an exciting year for her!
My 3 older children need lots of new materials to wet their appetite, which we will accomplish by going to the library weekly for story time and filling our book bags up.  Patrick is still working on his fluency, so I need to practice with him more.  My older two need to be read to and encouraged to read chapter books.  I also want to dig more into speed reading, which we will do in part with the Wink program- more on that later.


I am working on counting and one-on-one correspondence with Ruth.  We do "Little Math" from BrillKids, count little bears, and play with the abacus.  Mostly we simply try to talk about numbers a lot in our conversations.

Patrick loves Mathtacular and I am using it as my "spine" to work with him.  When I want to formally do math with him, we watch a clip together and then practice what we saw, with a goal to get completely through the first DVD this year.  Mostly I just try to get the math manipulatives out and play with him.  He also plays Timez Attack, but I tell him the answers, it's a number recognition game for him.  However, next time around, (they LOVE this game), I'm going to do flashcards with him and do coloring/storytime activities from Multiplication.com.  There are other 3-year-olds who have memorized their multiplication this way, and even 2-year-olds, so we'll get to it this year.

Helen knows her multiplication tables from Timez Attack.  Wahoo!  She often substitutes for me when Patrick plays by telling him the answers.  She isn't quite finished with the abacus workbook from HEV academy, so we're going to finish that and then start on Anzan training.  More on that...

Peter has finished the HEV academy abacus book, now I want to help him memorize his multiplication tables.  He is working through Timez Attack.  I made flashcards of everything he has been exposed to in the game and we run through them as a "pre-math" lesson.  Before he plays the game, I have him read the silly story for the new fact from multiplication.com (we bought their book/e-book combo, I more especially recommend the e-book for the coloring page.  The book was mostly intuitive, although there are flashcards in it I could copy and make, but I haven't used it much.)  His assignment is to work through a new level every day, or work his way back to the big boss of the "zone" if he didn't make it before.

I really want to do Anzan training for my kids, but I have also recognized my own limitations in that regard.  There are no abacus schools in my area, nor could I likely afford them if there were.  I don't know how to do it myself.  Still, the appeal of mental abacus training is great and I am going to do a sort-of compromise.  I printed and laminated the anzan cards from www.sorobancymru.co.uk.  My personal plan as a non-mathematician doing my best to plan out a course of action, is to work through Ray's Arithmetic with no paper writing, only mental work with the imaginary soroban to help them.  It starts out simple enough, I think it will work.  We'll see, I'm not even there yet.  The older kids also like to play on Hoodamath, and we have the Hands on Equations app that I would like to get to.  Ultimately I would like to get both of them into Saxon 5/4 within a year as they will be amply prepared for it after Ray's Arithmetic.  All you need to know to do well in that book is to know how to borrow and carry and do your basic multiplication, and both kids are well on their way.  I feel that devoting some time to mental training will be beneficial to them, so we're slowing down for that.  I plan on checking out Benjamin Arther's mental mathemagic when the kids are a little better prepared for it.  I want to do it for me too!


Peter, Helen, and Patrick are in the Cache Children's Choir.  We are working through the Piano Wizard curriculum, which is great.  I want to slow down a little and really dig into the theory this year.  We are cycling through semester 1 in Little Musician again- I think it's great review for my older children and is the heart of Ruth's education.  I haven't taken the time to edit semester 2 for movable Do, and I don't think I will at this point, so we're doing semester 1 again.  Ruth loves it and has really taken off with it.  For a non speaker, her solfege singing is thrilling to me.  She loves it.  Anyway, I've got a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to music.  I'm hoping to make a music theory DVD course this year, which my children will naturally be guinea pigs for.  Of course.  Stay tuned- I'm excited about my little project.  :)


I love how our local public schools are doing an immersion program.  Half of the school day is in Spanish.  This alone was almost enough to make me want to send Peter to public school.  Almost.  In the end, it was just good motivation to get going on this.  I can't compete with a half-day, but we can still get our feet wet and that will be good enough.  We have Your Child Can Speak and Kids Start Spanish that we are working through.  I am teaching the children the songs from these cute DVDs, Michael is working with the kids once or twice a week (he learned Spanish when he served a mission in Mexico), and we check out Spanish children's books from the library.  The kids watch their favorite shows in Spanish sometimes, and they enjoy watching Salsa.  Every little bit helps!  Their vocabulary is increasing.


We purchased the Kimochis curriculum and toys for our children and are working through the activities.  It was a bit of an investment to be sure, but one that Michael and I feel was very good for our children.  Emotional intelligence is very important to us, and was an area that we were struggling with.  This has really helped!  Peter's favorite is Cloud, Helen's favorite was Cat but is now Lovey Dove, and Patrick loves Bug all the way.  Ruth has been unofficially assigned to Huggtapus but prefers to play with the feelings.  This is a such a cute program and I am amazed at at the difference the little activities are making for my children.  It was worth the investment to us as our children are small.


I plan on doing a full review of Home Art Studio soon, as I LOVE this program.  In short, we are doing one project a week and I am very pleased with the results.

Photographic Memory and Speed Reading

Another subject that deserves it's own post.  We are working through the Wink Program, which is fantastic, and are doing other memory activities.  We are memorizing scriptures and poetry, utilizing YouTube videos to this end, remembering resources like Memory Magic, and using our MonkiSee flashcards for Schichida-ish training, to the best of my untrained abilities.  This is a regular subject for us.


We are going through "All About Spelling", which I purchased from Rainbow Resources.  Writing is something we are tackling for the first time this year.  Oops.  They are formally learning their letters from the TV Teacher (also from Rainbow Resources- my new favorite go-to place as they have great prices and free shipping for orders over $50, as well as a HUGE selection.)  I've made a few writing assignments online, but have decided to hold off until they are more comfortable with the correct way to make their letters, as well as dictating words with our spelling program.

 Science, Geography, History, etc

There is only so much time in the day and I feel like I have my plate full with everything else, so I am formally putting these subjects in the "unschooling" category.  We have a science kit we haven't exhausted, so we do experiments now and again.  We subscribe to Netflix and watch a documentary with popcorn once a week as part of family night.  We check out a lot of non-fiction books from the library that give the kids exposure.  We hove the TweedleWink videos and try to branch off of the whatever lesson we are on that week.  The children have access to "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego", "Liberty's Kids", "Magic School Bus", Peter Weatherall's DVDs, and other educational videos that we cycle through.  The first two are more especially "edutainment", but they are a great springboard for discussion, and that's what I wanted them for.

Well, that's it in a nutshell.  We start out the day with a religious devotional which goes straight into our "together school", ie, the things we do together, such as Kimochi lessons.  Then the kids get to play while I take the kids one by one for their personal work.  By the time they are eight, I want them to be doing their personal school on their own and come to me for help, but we are not there yet.  I should note that I do not do all of these subjects every day.  The subjects I push hard to do daily are reading, math, piano, and spelling.  Most of the time we do and fit in a few others or attend classes such as choir, story time at the library, or gymnastics (we are so lucky- they have a discounted homeschool class with punch cards).  On a day where spelling doesn't get done, I don't fret about being behind.  I do my best and know it, and I can't be weighed down by guilt or nothing ends up getting done.  Instead, I simply start with spelling the next day, and again try to do everything.  In this manner, the most important subjects are still being done consistently, if not daily.  Likewise we try to do everything else every other day but if it doesn't happen we don't sweat it.  It sounds like a lot, but my kids actually have a lot of free time throughout the day.  Peter loves to play with legos, Helen loves to do crafts, Patrick would play starfall.com all day if I let him (I don't).  Ruth finds a friend to play with or entertains herself with toys or books, or takes a nap.

Well, that's about all I've planned for this school year.  That and welcoming a new baby next Spring.  Babies are lots of fun and provide an educational experience all of their own.

Aug 14, 2013

Piano Wizard P.S.

I have had a lot of questions and feedback from my local homeschooling community and I hope this post may clarify some things or you too.

First of all, Piano Wizard launched it's Kickstarter campaign yesterday, and I am excited to have an i-pad app to go with the game.  Check it out.  They have some amazing stretch goals- ideas for other apps they would like to develop, and they have some awesome deals available.  There are smaller versions of the software that are usually not a purchase option too.

In relation to that, those who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter may not know how it works.  Kickstarter is NOT a donation program, as business builders are not asking for you directly to donate to their new project.  They put together a series of rewards they will offer individuals depending on how much money they back up the project with.  Kickstarter is a way for them to bring their project idea to consumers to see if there is enough interest before they make the actual investment of creating a product.  If there are enough backers, the project gets funded, the product is made, and the backers get the reward they signed up for, delivered according to the individual terms and conditions.  If there are not enough backers, nobody gets charged any money and the business owner knows there wasn't enough interest.  Overall it is a win-win situation.

Second, yes, I am an affiliate for Piano Wizard.  I love their product and they have an affiliate program.  Naturally I signed up.  That's what bloggers do.  :)  But I am first and foremost a fan.  During this kickstarter campaign, I would rather see the sales go through this endeavor.  I'm eager for them to be able to fund their app creations.

I have also had some feedback on the very long sales page that my affiliate link goes to, also as seen when you click on the Piano Wizard banner add on the side.

Yes.  The link I shared is a big long sales page.  But as an affiliate, the best price I can offer you is through that sales page letter.  I could have shared a link to their main website, but while there is a lot of helpful information there, the overall price is more.  I like to get a good deal as much as anyone else.  I actually purchased through someone else's sales letter page.  Piano Wizard is a big investment, and I actually found the sales page information to be very helpful, especially the videos.  It clarified a lot of my questions and helped me know what to expect.  But my bottom line reasoning for using it was the price on that page.  I also know that if anyone does a little shopping online, they will find the Sonlight price, and I want to be able to match it.  Sonlight is a great company and all, but I would rather keep the sales I genuinely refer, and I can only do it if I can match their price.  This sales letter is my only way of doing that.  Also, right now they are not shipping from their main website because of the Kickstarter campaign, which, again, I fully support and encourage you to purchase through.  However, I was wrong to say on facebook that they wouldn't ship at all.  If you buy through affiliate sales pages, they will still ship them.  I thought it was great that a Piano Wizard respresentative read through my comments and clarified this point to me, even though they especially want to see the Kickstarter campaign be successful.  I have been very impressed with my correspondence with the representatives of this company.  They are simply good, honest people and their customer service has been great.  Yes, I had to use it a few times while I was setting everything up.  haha.

I will also throw in a free copy of "The Solfege Train" to anyone who purchases Piano Wizard through my link, which is the same offer I have made for "Little Musician".  I am also in the works of putting together some printable games and activities with the Piano Wizard colors, but I am still working out the logistics with their company.  These would be drawn from "The Solfege Train", but with their patented color system.  Right now they are swamped with the kickstarter campaign, so let's just say this little bonus won't be available next week.  Even so, I am excited that they have expressed a willingness to work with me in that respect.

To my local friends I offer to show the Piano Wizard Academy materials in person and I will do my best to answer any more questions to anyone, either on or offline.  :)
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