growing up good

mothering, homeschooling, and me

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Children’s Author Study 2014!

We are 3 weeks into our homsechooling adventure for this year! We’re off to a good start, I’m still trying to work out how we’re actually going to get everything thing I want to do done, but more on that later.

Today, I want to share our author study with you. A good friend of mine did a author study with her children a few years back, she got a unit off Teachers Pay Teachers and went from there. I’m inspired by her list, but added a few others as well.  I have meant to do 2 authors a week, but that’s a lot of books to read in a week if you’ve got a really prolific author. We’re in week 3, and we’re just wrapping up our 3rd author. Basically, what we do is real simple: we check out as many books from that author that we can find, read their bios, and read their books as many times as we like in that time frame. When applicable, we discuss the illustrations (especially when the author IS the illustrator).

As a mom and a homeschooler, I am really enjoying this study (we’ve been doing it for awhile…with a long break after the baby arrive).  It gives me direction at the library, that I’m not just grabbing random books and throwing them into our always-loaded library bag. It helps to break up the rut we get in- always checking out the same books or same kinds of books over and over. AND, best of all, it has led me to discover new authors. And some of these “new” authors aren’t new at all, they’ve been around for awhile but may not be the most popular on Amazon at Barnes and Noble, so I haven’t seen them much.

Our authors this time:

Marla Frazee

She’s more known as an illustrator, but I think her own books are great, too. We discovered her a couple year back when we read “A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever” when it was a Monarch Award Nominee. She’s also the illustrator for one of my most favorite children’s books, “All the World” by Liz Garton Scanlon.

Our favorites: 

Edison: Walk On!

Mary: Santa Claus The World’s Number One Toy Expert

Elliot: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

Me: A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever (the boys- and Grandpa- are just adorable)

Laura Numeroff

Known for her, “If you give…” books, but my kids surprisingly chose other titles, except Edison, who fell for the one with “cupcake” in the title.

Our Favorites:

Elliot: Chicken Sisters

Mary: Chimps Don’t Wear Glasses

Edison: If you Give a Cat a Cupcake

Me: Chicken Sisters

Chris Van Dusen

Over the last few years, we’ve read a LOT of Chris Van Dusen.  He won our hearts w/ If I Built a Car and it’s rhythmic, energetic phrasing that makes it a great read aloud.  We check out his books from the library over and over, and I was glad to put him on the list of authors to study this year. I went to his website and dropped him a line via the “Contact Me” tab, letting him know just how much we have enjoyed his books.

HE WROTE ME BACK! I GOT AN EMAIL FROM CHRIS VAN DUSEN!!!  Needless to say, I did a little happy dance! I’m pretty certain I was more excited with the kids.

Our Favorites:

Elliot: If I Built A House (but he always wants me to read King Hugo’s Huge Ego)

Mary: Circus Ship

Edison: If I Built a Car

Me: If I Built a Car, it was the first one we read so it was our gateway books to Van Dusen’s world!

Here’s a pic w/ E and his his votes for favorites from these authors:



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So, I’ve been quiet on here for awhile now. I actually just logged into my dashboard for the first time in ages. My last post was August of last year! Crikey!

Well, a couple weeks after my last post, we found out about this:



And that was followed by this, several months later:


In between my last post and today, I’ve gestated a child, given birth, survived the longest, coldest winter Chicagoland has seen in decades, watched my husband graduate with his master’s, homeschooled a first grader, a preschooler and just chased my 2 year old around.  I’ve taught at my co-op, became a Scout mom, traveled to Ohio, Minnesota and Michigan, and prepped 55 meals for my freezer.  Some moms can do all that AND keep a clean, spotless home AND keep up a blog, documenting all that glory. I am not one of those moms.

I am, however, excited to be the mom of 4.

My youngest is now 8 weeks old, and I’m starting to feel like I’m getting my “normal” back. Which means hopefully, I’ll keep this updated more. Hopefully!

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Art Day on the Driveway!

I’ve had this idea in my head of an outside art day rotation, where I’ve got different stations set up and the kids rotate through them, adding on to the project that is already started (or starting a new one, if no one has been at that station yet).

Today, I decided just to do it.  We had a break in the humidity, and it wasn’t too hot, and we had no plans until the afternoon, so I knew if we didn’t do it today it could be awhile.

It took me about 45 minutes to set up, which included taping down paper to the driveway, getting all the supplies needed to each station, and retrieving Edison from the street a few times.

Here are the stations I set up:

Oil Pastels on paper

Painting w/ branches from a shrub

Painting Spider Webs w/ q tips on black paper

Plain old painting w/ the easel

Drawing w/ Markers

Bingo Dotters on paper

And using matchbox cars to paint

I walked them through the stations and gave them the following guidelines: One one child per piece of paper at a time (there were 2 papers per station w/ the exception of the spider webs, there I had 3 because I had an extra sheet).  No whining about “That’s mine.” and explained the collaborative approach to creating- to add on to what’s already there and make it work.

I think I took too long to set up, because by the time I was done Mary was crabby and Edison had no attention span, but other than that it went pretty well. The most popular station was the oil pastels, each child visited that station more than once, with Elliot spending the most time there.

Here are some pics from the hour we spent on the driveway (yes, that’s 45 minutes of set up for only an hour of actual work on art, I had hoped for more but they were starting to get hungry and crabby!):


The Set Up

Spider Webs

Edison's Turn at Oil Pastels

Edison’s Turn at Oil Pastels

Edison letting me know he's all done w/ oil pastels by dumping them out.

Edison letting me know he’s all done w/ oil pastels by dumping them out.

Elliot driving through paint.

Elliot driving through paint.

Mary painting, mostly with purple.

Mary painting, mostly with purple.

Edison is outta here.

Edison is outta here.

I dubbed this area "the Student Lounge", I wanted a place where they could go take a break away from where the others were working.

I dubbed this area “the Student Lounge”, I wanted a place where they could go take a break away from where the others were working.

This is the piece that Elliot worked on the longest. After this shot he added grass in the foreground w/ flowers, more dark blue in the water, a median in the street and a ship in the water. It's one of the best art projects he's ever done.

This is the piece that Elliot worked on the longest. After this shot he added grass in the foreground w/ flowers, more dark blue in the water, a median in the street and a ship in the water. It’s one of the best art projects he’s ever done.



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Gearing up for a new school year!

It is that time of year again. 

I’m up to my knees in our school room clutter, and I’ve put off organizing this room long enough! Just a few more boxes to unpack, but I ran out of bookshelf space 2 boxes ago! I LOVE our new school space- it came with bookshelves, there’s a nice big window, it’s on the main floor, but I’m struggling with how to organize it. I know I can do it, I just need to prioritize our needs and make it work.  

In addition to the physical organization of the space- which is overwhelming and exciting at the same time- I’m also mid-brainstorm as to what our school year will look like on the curriculum front.  


The good news is that there are SO many good option out there.  

The bad news is that there are SO many good options out there.  I can’t possibly do them all (nor can I afford to). 

But…I think I’ve got the major subject areas figured out (so I guess I’m not really mid-brainstorm, more like post-brainstorm).  Thankfully, Elliot is naturally curious, so teaching him isn’t too difficult, I am pretty certain he’ll excel no matter what route I choose.  Mary, on the other hand, is not as straightforward of a learner.  She’s a little more reluctant to try new skills and gets frustrated easily, so she requires me to a be a little more purposeful in instructional strategies.  But, I’m excited to see her confidence in herself build as she learns new things, tries new things, and makes her own adventure in learning. 

My biggest fear of this year: my youngest.  How to give the other 2 the educational attention they need and deserve while also meeting the needs of a very active, very mischievous toddler.  I will be gray by 40, that’s for sure. 



This is the current state of our school room. I’ve got a month to whip this place into shape! 


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The post-move Post.

Wow! My last post was way back on March 3rd! Egad! That was 6 weeks ago (plus a couple days)!

This move definitely took a lot out of me- physically, emotionally, mentally, you name it, it was was pushed to the limit. There were times I was ready to wave the white flag, but I made it through.

It’s not our first time buying a home, but the loss we took on our last house and not knowing the area when we first moved here kept us renting for the last three years. We were going to buy the house we were renting, but I’ll be completely honest here: we didn’t get approved for the amount we had agreed on w/ the owners of our rental. In 3 years, there have been a few changes in the mortgage industry and what we thought was something we could afford 2 years ago when we agreed on a price, turned out to be a bit beyond our reach.  So, after swallowing our pride, we had to back out of that contract. Thankfully, there are plenty of great houses on the market, many at great, great prices! Here’s the highlights of our home-buying journey.

1) 24. That’s how many houses we looked at before I stopped counting. I’m pretty sure there were a few after that, too. And yes, all three kids were with us when we looked at them.

2) I fell in love with a short sale, but realized that I didn’t have enough emotional or mental stamina for all of the unknowns- the time it takes for the bank to accept or reject an offer, the possibility of a rejection after that time, etc.

3) I fell in love with a lot (think woodsy and park-like), but couldn’t make myself love the house, or the steep driveway.

4) We actually got into a bidding “war” with the house we decided was a great fit for us. Thankfully our offer was accepted.

5) Our mortgage guy didn’t handle an error very well. We almost walked out on his company, but felt stuck. Closing cost us a LOT more than initially discussed.

6) My mom helped one weekend, and the days leading up to the move, and my husband took care of his Star Wars collection, but everything else was packed by…me. I’m exhausted, and really, really tired of the moving process. However, I am so incredibly thankful of my mom’s help- she was an absolute lifesaver.  And in my husband’s defense- he is normally really helpful, this move just happened to coincide with a really, really busy time for him at work. I took it upon myself to get as much of the packing done during the day so we could all just relax a little in the evening and have *some* family time.

7) The week before (mostly the 36 hours before) closing, my entire family + my mom got an awful, awful stomach flu. The evening before our early-morning close, my husband, mom and I were sprawled on the couches, too miserable to move. The kids were eating their dinners off paper plates on the floor of the living room, kids shows on constant stream on the TV.  Their dinner? Crackers and fruit- the only things I could pull together before another wave of nausea pulled me back to the couch. And I was the one on the mend at the time- at that moment my mom and husband were in the worst of it.

8) Because of the plague, I refused to let any friends help us move the next day. My husband and I were feeling better, but knew we couldn’t do it all ourselves. We were able to find some movers online, and it turned out to be to be money well spent. Those guys worked their butts off for 6 hours, and got our rental truck loaded way beyond what we’d have been able to do ourselves.  Those guys can really pack a truck!

9) Closing went without a single issue. The way things had been going, I was really, really nervous about it! Despite all previous issues, we were in and out of the title office in less than an hour! We are home owners again!!!!

10) I think that all the hurdles and bumpy roads along the has helped me to appreciate this home so much more. I look around (like I just did) and smile. This is our home. There are still boxes everywhere, but I don’t have a timeline for unpacking. I’ve lived with too many deadlines this spring, I’m going to relax a little bit and take a little time to myself here and there. Hug my kids a little more, read some stories, spend more time in jammies (which, considering our dreadful spring, I don’t feel guilty about at all).

I haven’t take a ton of pictures yet- I’m not quite ready for a “here’s my new house!” type of post. But here’s a few:

My munchkins on Easter. Our new front steps.

My munchkins on Easter. Our new front steps.

The 3 amigos, looking down into our entryway. We've never had a house w/ a "balcony" before, and it's proving to be a challenge. They like to drop things over the rail. Daily. Evidently the scoldings are worth it? Sigh.

The 3 amigos, looking down into our entryway. We’ve never had a house w/ a “balcony” before, and it’s proving to be a challenge. They like to drop things over the rail. Daily. Evidently the scoldings are worth it? Sigh.



Which explains my absence on here for a bit.

I am in the process of packing up our entire house, with three young kids attempting to help me out (one of which thinks I am leaving everytime he sees me grab a box, and therefore tries to get between me and the box, insisting that I pick him up).

It’s been a bit stressful and has really taken a big bite out of my computer time.

Hopefully, when all my family and their belongings are safely in our new home, I’ll be back with more posts. We’ll have a new neighborhood to explore, with new park district opportunities, new forest preserves to explore, and all sorts organizational challenges to tackle!

After 3 years of renting, we will finally be homeowners again! We can not wait!

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Tape City Take-Down

A little over 10 days ago, I taped out a little city on my kitchen floor. You can read about that here. I had meant for the tape to stay down for just a couple day, but a couple turned into 10. Honestly, I was not looking forward to crawling around on my hands and knees and discovering just how much my floor needs a good scrubbing.

Evidently, the tape was getting to my husband! After dinner, he instigated a “Hey, Elliot, how big of a piece of tape do you think you can pull up?” challenge. It was ON! Both Elliot and Mary were on floor, trying to carefully pull up the tape. They were doing a mighty fine job, too! Mary managed to snag a 2-ft piece! Of course, I didn’t have my camera out at that point, but their dedication to getting the tape up inspired me to go grab it!


DSC_0146Even Edison helped!



From an educational perspective, this activity worked on hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and household responsibility.

But more importantly, I had help cleaning up!