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Totally Together

I’m a Closet Homeschooler (teaching kids at home even if they go to school)

July 9, 2015 by · 31 Comments 

 

 

games and activities to do with your kids over the summer to keep their little brains active and juicy!

What is “Closet HomeSchooling”?

When I was pregnant with my first (10 years ago), I informed my husband, Adam, that I “reserved the right to homeschool.” He was (skeptically) agreeable, so I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could about homeschooling in case the day ever came when I felt that I could do a better job teaching the kids than our local school.

We now have three little girls: 9 1/2, 6 1/2 and age sixteen months. We’ve moved a few times since I “staked my claim” to homeschool ten years ago, and now live in a very good school district.

so my kids go to public school (the baby is home, of course).

The children are happy, and are thriving. They continue to excel in class and are all naturally inquisitive and have a thirst for learning. I’m happy with a lot that the school provides, but continue to supplement at home as much as I can. I try to be “around” the school a lot, which allows me  opportunity to see firsthand behavior issues, and the time wasted moving from activities or lessons. I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing–it’s just something I’m very aware of. Adam says I’m keeping score. Maybe I am!

I’m greatly looking forward to having the kids home with me when school lets out (8 days!). No matter how involved I am in the school, during the school year, Adam and I are not in charge. The teacher is. I wish I could say this doesn’t bother me, but I’d be lying. The school calendar dominates our day to day life, and I’m looking forward to getting a more natural flow to our days.

It’s Pretty Much “After-School” Homeschooling

I have gotten a few emails in the past week or so asking what activities I do with my children during the summer. My oldest is going to attend a 2-week enrichment program (3 hours a day), [updated, 6/1: just got an email that the program has been canceled due to lack of funds/enrollment. NOT HAPPY. ] and my 6 year old will attend a gymnastics class twice a week. I’ll probably throw in a week of swim lessons, and we’re hoping to get a sponsor for a late-summer book tour to Albuquerque, and will visit the Grand Canyon.

Otherwise, our days will be pretty loose— park trips, library visits, and playdates. The television will be turned off for the day by 10am, and the kids will have free range of the art supplies, books, games, and the back yard.

will they fight?

A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y.

will I lose my temper (more than I should)?

Y.O.U. B.E.T.C.H.A.

will they complain that they’re bored?

W.I.T.H.O.U.T. A. D.O.U.B.T.

I can not wait.

Beat Summer Brain-Drain with these "totally not boring" activities and workbooks.

Beat Summer Brain-Drain with these “totally not boring” activities and workbooks.

Resources shown above, and what I use in our (closet) homeschooling curriculum:

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons — I taught my big kids to read with this book. It’s actually not shown in the above picture because I lent it to our neighbor to use with her 3-year-old. I do not use the writing exercises at all. At the end of the 100 lessons, your child will be reading on a 2nd grade level. I started just for fun at around age 3 1/2 with my girls. I followed the lessons in order, but didn’t have a set time frame. If the kids wanted to sit with me and practice, we did. We would go months without even opening the book, but sometimes we’d do 4 lessons in a day. They each finished the book in it’s entirety before entering first grade.

BOB Books. — I’ve put these books away until the baby is ready. Warning: they tear easily! These are fun, whimsical books that teach reading both through phonics and memorization. I actually think it’s mostly from memorization, but many disagree. Empowers young children that they can read an “entire book.”

Brain Quest decks — we have at least a dozen of these decks. I love giving them as gifts, and love receiving them! I toss a deck into the diaper bag to pull out at restaurants when we anticipate a long wait, I use them in waiting rooms, in the car when waiting for music lessons to dismiss, etc. I keep a basket on the shelf on the end table and the kids pull them out when they’ve got some time to kill.

Brain Quest Workbooks — we were given a few of these, and the kids use them, but there’s definitely a workbook feel. I keep them “out” and sometimes they’ll do a page or two on their own, but mostly they are used for playing school with playdates.

Summer Bridge — I bought a set of these a few summers ago mostly to pacify myself that the kids were on the right track and their brains weren’t turning to mush. I’ve since relaxed a bit on worksheets, but if you are a person who likes order and want the confidence of knowing the kids are *actually* learning or your kids like completing worksheets this is a good summer project.

Never Bored books — Mazes, word searches, brain teasers, coloring pages, etc. My kids like these better than traditional workbooks. I would recommend buying up an age group for a bit of a challenge. Some of the activities require scissors and glue.

The Story of the World series, by Susan Wise Bauer — This series of books is written by the same author of The Well-Trained Mind. We only have the first book and are only a third of the way through. It starts with Ancient Times: Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor. The book is written in story form, and is written from a secular perspective.

The Daring Book for Girls and The Dangerous Book for Boys — We have both of these books. Practical guide to pretty much anything: letter writing, fire building, camping, tying a variety of knots, how to be a good friend, proper restaurant manners. These aren’t books to be read cover to cover, but used as a reference guide. I like to give these as gifts.

The Little House on the Prairie books — I have girls, so I’m not sure how well this series would fare in a house full of boys. I read this series outloud to my big girls, starting when my oldest was 6 (I skipped over some of the Laura and Alfonso stuff). Reading this series outloud was hands-down the best history lesson my kids have ever had (thus far. they are still quite young!). We refer to “Laura and Mary” quite often in our house, and apply the knowledge of this time period to other history lessons to provide perspective. I plan on rereading the series in a year or so to refresh all of our memories.

I Can Draw books and Pocket Doodle books — My first grader loves to draw and doodle, and will happily work for hours creating and recreating animal or people pictures. These are the easiest-to-understand for little kids drawing guides I’ve found.

Soduku Unifex game — If you’ve never played soduku, or are intimidated by it, this is a FANTASTIC way to learn the game– for little kids and for grown ups! This is a one-player game, and once the fundamentals are learned, soduku is a solitary game enjoyed throughout your whole life. Math, reasoning, strategy, and spacial awareness are all key aspects of this game. The box says ages 7 and up. My kids enjoyed playing (with help) at age five.

We play a lot of board games! These are our family-favorite board games. 

How to Combine Gratitude with Goal Setting

January 1, 2014 by · 4 Comments 

How to you maintain an attitude of gratitude but still continue to strive towards achieving new goals?

 

It’s a brand new year! Congratulations, you made it!

 

I have a rather radical suggestion for you this new year. I know I’ve shared my love for lists and charts and goal setting in the past, but I wanted to share a new idea.

Gratitude Goal Setting.

I’m sure you’ve heard of keeping a Gratitude Journal ~~~~ Oprah talked about them a lot on her show and she (I believe) talks about them in her magazine (I don’t subscribe to magazines, but read them on planes. and while getting my hair cut! And that’s only because I don’t like spending money and I don’t like clutter and big magazines feel wrong to throw out so then I hoard them on a shelf and then I worry I might turn into one of those hoarder people on TLC.)

(but you should totally subscribe to Simply Gluten Free Magazine because I’m a contributing writer and Carol, the founder, is absolutely wonderful).

Anyway.

So how to you combine an Attitude of Gratitude with Goal Setting? How can you be simultaneously happy, thankful, and thrilled with your current life situation but still sort of want something different/better/more prosperous?

Don’t the two cancel each other out?

No. I promise.

It feels wrong at first to want more when you have a non-leaking roof over your head, your children are healthy, your marriage is (above) average, and you aren’t scrounging to put food on the table. I struggle with this, and do make a conscious effort to give more than receive.

And if you are reading this article, then you ARE VERY BLESSED. You have internet, and you probably have accumulated an awful lot of “wants” to go along with your “needs.”

Take the time to be thankful. Take inventory of all that is right in your world. If writing it down helps, do so. Life is so very very very good, and we are the only species that is able to pontificate our lives, and to self-reflect.

We are also the only species that can decide what is working and what needs tweaking. As Dr. Phil says (I met a camera guy who worked on his show, and heard some interesting stories.  Ahem.),    “how’s that working for you?”

If you have a New Year’s Resolution to work out more and eat healthier, try writing down this year’s goals in the positive — and in a thankful way.

For instance, instead of:

I need to lose my muffin top and start running.    Try:  Thank you for my strong, healthy body that allows me to plank for 90 seconds and run a 10-minute mile.

I need to drink 8 glasses of water a day and cut out alcohol.  Try:  Thank you for fresh, clean water that tastes even better than margaritas.

I need to not yell at the kids.   Try:  Thank you for the patience I have with my children.

I need to put away the phone/tablet and hang out with my spouse.  Try:  Thank you for my awesome spouse who I like spending quality time with.

(I ended that sentence with a preposition. Thank you for not being  OCD.  :-) )

If you are looking for a BIG change, try being thankful for it before it even occurs. Before there is even a glimmer of hope that it can occur.

Here’s a few examples:

Thank you for this home that we all love that we can easily afford.

Thank you for this new job where I am respected and properly compensated.

Thank you for the opportunity to take this dream vacation that has been fully paid for upfront.

It is hokey. It feels childish, and it doesn’t seem like a simple change such as this could possibly work, yet there are TONS of anecdotal and scientific studies that show that your sub-conscious doesn’t know if something has actually occurred or not when you focus on it. This is why dreams feel/seem so real. Yes, you can rationalize them to death and assure yourself that a monster isn’t under your bed, but your harddrive doesn’t know the difference.   (need research? google “do positive affirmations work?”)

So try it.

There’s really nothing to lose.

Give yourself 10 days of writing 10 positive affirmation/goal setting phrases down in a notebook. Don’t refer back to the previous day — your ideas, needs, and goals change sometimes on a whim. What was important three days ago might not be important today. But if you track your thoughts and wishes for 10 days you’ll find a pattern.

This pattern is what is the most important to you. And you only. Your goals are not your neighbor’s, not your mom’s, and not the current Pinterest trend. Your goals are your own and are private.

We are all a work in progress, and it’s okay to acknowledge where you could use some tweaking.

lots of love and a very VERY happy 2014.

related:

How to Have Balance when Looking for Balance

How to Create a (non-cheesy) Vision Board of Your Very Own

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

This is Real Life, Not a Magazine

How to Bust Through a Weight Loss Plateau

March 5, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

Six 10-Minute-or-Less Exercise Moves/Videos for busy Moms

 

I have been trying to lose the same 8 to 10 pounds for 2 years. I’ve had plateaus before, but nothing like this — and I was truly getting frustrated. I tried blaming it on my thyroid (it’s fine), my potassium (it’s fine), lack of Vitamin D (it’s okay, too), and getting old (that’s true, I’m older than I used to be!).

But these last few weeks I’ve gotten through this tough spot, and actually feel better and more motivated about working out and eating properly than I have in a good 6 years.

I am certainly not an expert, and am only going to share what has begun to work (FINALLY!) for me. I got motivated after reading through Sandy’s Fitness Friday posts last month, and decided that once and for all March was going to be the month to finally lose the 8 pound blanket so I can be more comfortable and confident this summer.

There are many different reasons to lose weight, and I know that my 8 to 10 pounds is nothing for those who need to lose more. I find weight loss and working out to be somewhat personal, but really had an AHA! moment when I read what Sandy wrote about needing to be held accountable for my diet and exercise. I have pretty good habits already, but found that I was mindlessly eating throughout the day when I wasn’t even hungry. I’d finish the end of a kid sandwich, or pop a few too many tatertots in my mouth while I was preparing lunch.

Since I write cookbooks, I’d justify my large portions and crazy taste-testing — it’s for work! I’ve got to keep making sure it’s perfect! 😉

But I do believe the largest culprit these last two years has been alcohol. I began having a glass of wine or beer every night. I’d again justify that “I worked hard! I deserve this!” and mindlessly fill my glass or say yes to another drink. And that’s not good for me. It might be okay for you, but for me it means that I am no longer in total control of my snacking and am more likely to down a bag of tortilla chips or talk Adam into a late-night icecream run. And each beer is about 250 calories, each glass of wine is about 125 calories, and each shot of whatever is about 100 calories (and when it’s  mixed with margarita mix? a LOT more!)

gah.

The stuff that was okay for me at age 22 isn’t okay at 36. I remember fondly eating and eating and eating. And then washing it down. And washing it down again. But if I’m going to have MORE “good ol’ days” in the years to come, I needed to stop and take charge of my health.

And I need to be a proper role model to these three girls I’m raising.

 

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked. I do that a lot.

So! My non-stop reading of personal development books has led me to read a lot of diet and fitness books. I usually take bits and pieces of what makes sense to me and leave the rest. These are the favorites that I keep returning to:

8 Minutes a Day by Jorge Cruise

Body For Life by Bill Phillips

The Dukan Diet by Pierre Dukan

 

I do the best when I eat whole foods that are low in sugar and high in protein. I feel the best when my carbs come from vegetables and fruit. I bet you probably do, too.

 

I wish there was more of a revolutionary secret. There really isn’t. I am intrigued by Dr. Dukan’s protein-only days — they seem to really do a good job of getting you back on track when you have a free-for-all day. I think the Body for Life workout is a very good one, and I feel the strongest and most healthy when I workout that way. I like the food and flax recommendation from 8 Minutes a Day and like the basic exercises and photo descriptions.

I have been tracking (loosely) my eating and working out since January– it’s taken 3 months of me writing it out to realize that if I just stopped eating crap the plateau would finally break. It’s annoying to me that even though I KNOW what to do, I just don’t sometimes.

I’ve been eating a lot of 1 minute muffins, have been drinking tons of water, choosing to fill my plate with lean protein and leafy greens, and have limited my eating between 7 am and 7 pm. That’s about it.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that the successful people do the things the unsuccessful do not. — Brian Tracy

I’ve found a few quick workout videos on You Tube. I’ve been trying to pick 2 or 3 a day to do, and really like the following:

3 Minute Mini Walk

5 Minute Ab and Obliques

10 Minute Muffin Top and Quick Cardio

10 Minute Tank Top Arms and Shoulders

10 Minute Bikini Abs (planks, no crunches)

10 Minute Tank Top Arms (different than other video; I like to switch them up)

 

What about you? Have you found that you have needed to increase your protein, or your workouts after a certain age, or after having children? Have you needed to change your mindset about food and exercise?

Why is it that we *know* what the answer is, but continuously talk ourselves out of it?

Use an Ironing Board to Create a Homemade Standing Desk

February 13, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

DIY standing des out of a ironing board

How to Make a Standing Desk out an Ironing Board

For the last week or so, I’ve been using an ironing board as a desk. I wish I was smart enough to have thought of this as a DIY alternative to a standing desk — but I’m not. It just sort of happened.

I’ve wanted a standing desk for a while —  I’ve scoured pinterest and DIY sites for ideas, have looked at websites advertising these type of desks (WAY expensive), and even have sent Adam links to how to make them at home using cheap wood and laminate.

So I put this idea on hold.

But then last week happened, and we each had different work trips to go on, and we had unexpected company, and the ironing board that I set up in the corner of the master bedroom got left up. And the computer armoire where I plug everything in at night (my current work desk is the kitchen table, but we have a computer cabinet where we hide everything at night so the “work day” is over by dinner time) got a bit cluttered so I needed another flat surface for charging the laptop.

And I used the ironing board.

And then left it on the ironing board while I was answering email in the morning, and even used it as a table for the last slow cooker recipe I photographed —- and although it’s not the prettiest thing in the world to keep up in the master bedroom, it might very well might be the most practical thing I’ve ever come up with. :-)

What I like about standing versus sitting:

* I’m burning calories — there are studies that prove that standing exerts more energy than sitting
* I’m naturally stepping or swaying while I work — my pedometer (this is the one that I LOVE, and it’s cheap!) is showing that I’ve added a good 2000-3000 steps to my day with very little effort on my part
* I am now finally ergonomic. Since I’ve never owned a desk chair, my table to chair to floor ratio (don’t even know if that’s the actual terminology, but I’m going to assume you know what I’m talking about…) hasn’t ever been proper. I’m exactly 5 feet, so there are very few chairs that allow my feet to sit flat on the floor the way they are supposed to. And our dining chairs are a bit large in the seat, so my knees are at a funny angle if I lean all the way back, which causes me to perch on the edge of the chair while I write, causing my shoulders to slump. With the ironing  board, it’s adjustable, so I can raise the keyboard to the actual right spot for my eyeline and shoulders/wrists.
* BUT. My wrists aren’t supported, I know. Honestly, I’ve never had supported wrists or elbows, so that’s not an issue for me,  but I can see how it would be for others.
* The other really big benefit is that I’m not spending as much time on the computer. It’s just not as comfortable to stand at an ironing board and read gossip sites, or twitter, or online news as it is to curl up with the laptop on the bed or couch. But that is something I need to work on, personally, anyway. I waste a lot of time on frivolous Internet surfing, and my time could honestly be better spent sticking to my to-do list and goals.

                  (this might actually be the biggest benefit)

So there you go! Super simple (and actually kind of stupid) brilliant idea!

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