What the kids & I are into these days No. 2

After my previous post What the kids & I are into these days, I really enjoyed the feedback from you all about the products, shows, etc that your family is into.  So I thought I’d write another post and keep the conversation going!  So here are a few more things rocking our world right now.

Sling TV

slingWe have been cable-free for most of our 15 years of marriage, mostly because we are ridiculously cheap frugal.  So we normally have an exterior HD antenna (like this one) for our local channels and Netflix.  This works GREAT, especially since it costs a whopping total of $8/month.  The only drawback is that we can’t watch many sports.. and we love us some football around here.  So last fall we decided to cancel Netflix and give Sling TV a try.  We loved it!  I’ll do my best to explain it.  Sling TV is an a la carte live cable service with no contract.  Their basic package is $20 a month and includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel and lots more (see pic).  Not only can you watch shows live, but there are also many previous episodes available to watch.  You need a device to stream Sling and we purchased a Roku to do this.  If you prepay your first 3 months of Sling TV, you can get a Roku from them for 50% off (info here).

What we loved:

  • Watching live sports
  • Disney movies
  • Live news
  • Movies on AMC
  • House Hunters, Duck Dynasty and of course Fixer Upper!

What we didn’t like:

  • Commercials.  We’re SO not used to commercials since we’ve had Netflix for so long.  I am amazed at how evil some of them can be!  So I had to stay close if my kids were watching.
  • There wasn’t as much for kids as there is on Netflix.

So we kept Sling TV through the football season, then cancelled it and resumed Netflix for the kids and to save money.  We’re planning to switch back when football season is here (go Noles!)

The Book of Virtues

book of virtuesI love to read aloud to my kids.  And I love classic literature.  The Book of Virtues combines both, so it makes the perfect addition to your home library.  Right now we are reading one or two short passages each morning.  The book is a collection of “moral stories” and is categorized by character quality, such as self-discipline, compassion, etc. You will find classic poems, Bible stories, writings by America’s founding fathers and much more.  Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite poems called Boy Wanted…

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I do not know”; and when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry”; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, “I’ll try.”

How great is that?!

Trikke Carving Scooter

trikkeMy kids don’t play with toys.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve given up.  The truth is that they want to be outside playing with their friends, climbing trees, building fires, chopping down trees, fishing and piling way too many people into a paddleboat.  So when it’s time to make Christmas lists for the grandparents, I’m always on the hunt for anything that they can use outside.  Two years ago I hit the jackpot with these Trikke Carving Scooters.  Granted, these things are expensive, but hear me out.  They are equally fun for my 4 year old and my 13 year old, meaning this toy has lasting power!  It can either be powered by one leg like a traditional scooter, or by standing on it with both feet and twisting your body back and forth.  And they go really fast if you want them to.  I can’t say enough about how much we love these!


Now it’s your turn!  What is your famiy into these days?



How 6 hours at Starbucks has revolutionized my homeschool planning

I want to do homeschooling well.  Really well.  So when that is not my reality, I can get really down on myself.  Because… you know… my children’s entire education is resting on my shoulders.  No pressure.

But reality is this… I have 5 young children and hopefully more to come.  There is a ton of cleaning, laundry and cooking to be done.  There are babies who need snuggled or nursed.  There are toddlers who need to be potty-trained.  There are husbands who need to talk after a tough night at work.  There are meals to be made for a sick friend.  There are all-day headaches.  Did I mention the laundry?

So is it possible to homeschool with excellence amongst the chaos?  After 6 years I’ve discovered that yes… yes it is.  And here’s the key… planning ahead.  And Starbucks.

homeschool planning

Leaving your house is key to planning. And going somewhere fun like Starbucks makes it something to look forward to!

I’ll tell you how that works for me.  Over the summer I do a TON of planning.  Then throughout the year I take several days here and there to plan.   I put these times on the calendar and get a sitter if needed (usually it works out for my husband to watch the kids).  I go to Starbucks with my laptop and all my curriculum and I plan like a crazy woman.   If it’s the summer, I plan out everything for the fall semester, such as:

  • Make a curriculum list.  Order what I need new, bid on used ones on Ebay, make a list for curriculum fairs (yes, right there at Starbucks)
  • Plan which days we’ll do school and when we’ll take off.  Put it on my Google calendar (I need that accountability and it helps the hubs plan vacations and such)
  • Plan each week’s activities for each subject (see example below)
  • Find projects, crafts, worksheets, printables, lapbooks, videos, whatever I need.  Go crazy on Pinterest and annoy all my followers with a gazillion history/science/geography pins.
  • Download what needs to be printed and save in a separate file on my computer to print at home.
  • Plan our read-alouds and buy those books.
  • Plan field trips and put them on the calendar
  • Make a supply list of every teeny tiny thing I’ll need for each project.  Leave Starbucks and go buy those things!
homeschool planning

In the summer I tear out all the kids worksheets and put them in binders, separated by weeks. Each kid grabs their binder in the morning and starts working. No stacks of books everywhere, no wondering which page we’re on, etc.

This past summer I needed two 3-hour sessions at Starbucks, plus about four 3-hour sessions at home to make this all happen.  (The time at home was mostly hole-punching, printing and making binders.)  But the entire semester is planned.  I can roll out of bed on a random Tuesday morning, pour myself some coffee, sit down at the school table and be totally prepared for the day’s work.  The worksheets are printed, the links to the videos are ready to go, I have the supplies that I need for our science project.

That, my friends, is an amazing feeling.  Because when you are prepared, you can better handle the interruptions of daily life.

You may be reading this and thinking… why don’t you just prepare the night before?  God bless you.  If you are a prepare-the-night-before kind of person, will you please rub off on me?  That just isn’t me.  Once I put those precious cherubs to bed, I collapse like a cheap tent and my brain completely disengages.  And that’s okay.  I’ve found what works for me and you need to find your own style.

But be encouraged… you can homeschool with excellence amid the chaos of life.  If I can do it, anyone can!



homeschool planning

Here’s a screen grab of my planning worksheet, showing just history for our first week of school. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s all in one place. I especially love having the links to the videos ready to go. And when I go to the store I can just pull this up on my phone and there is my supply list.