Our Homeschool Year in Review 2015 – 2016

2016 Review

 

The 2015-2016 school year has certainly been one of transitions and accomplishments from start to finish.  We have seen firsts and lasts.  We have cheered and cried.  And yes, we have learned some things along the way.

Our school year actually kicked off with moving Rucia into her new life at college.

Once we got Rucia all settled in, our school year got underway at home.  It soon became apparent that time management and doing what it took to adjust were going to be key elements to our new year.  I made the transition to being employed once again.  It was wonderful that my new job allowed me to work from home, but it did mean that I was not always accessible.  The boys especially felt this change as they learned to work more independently and to schedule their school day to some degree around my meeting schedule and work commitments.  Mom was not always available to do Math when they got around to it.  They learned some critical time management skills in planning their day just as I did in juggling home, work, and school.

During our studies, Josh and I traveled to ancient civilizations using great literary works as well as a combination of textbook and unit studies for history.  We also spent time getting acquainted with the principles and foundations in Chemistry and Physics.  Meanwhile, Zechariah and I walked step by step through the events leading up to and through World War II.  He too combined his literature studies with history to really get differing perspectives during this critical period in World History.  A highlight of our year was an opportunity to tour a U.S. Landing Ship that was docked for a short time in Cincinnati on the Ohio River.

Life on a LST

Michaela’s studies were focussed on finishing up some high school requirements as well as preparing her for what would come after high school.  She focussed on personal finance, which is an all too important subject to leave out before preparing for life on one’s own.  Anatomy and Physiology were also a heavy focus in preparing for her college studies in nursing.  Time management was a critical skill used time and time again during the year as Michaela found herself too juggling responsibilities in completing her studies, playing her final year of competitive volleyball, and working part-time at a local restaurant.

Outside the Classroom

Outside the classroom, we also some firsts and lasts.  The boys started shooting archery this year with our local homeschool group.  They are fortunate to be developing their skills while also competing in the National Archery in Schools Program.  They both enjoy it incredibly.  It has also shown us just how competitive they are, especially between one another.

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As the boys began their training in archery, Michaela was bringing to a close her 8 year journey in playing competitive volleyball.  She was team captain this year, which helped her to really develop some additional leadership skills.  With lots of hard work, discipline, and dedication, the BCA Lions found themselves moving up to the most competitive bracket in their league and earning a 4th place ranking in the entire state.  Definitely a wonderful way to end a high school career!

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The Culmination of Our Year

In some ways the time has sped by and in other ways it is hard to believe that it has only been a year.  Just last year at this time, we were in the midst of Rucia’s high school graduation and then adjusting to her living away from home while attending Northern Kentucky University.  We find ourselves with yet another wonderful graduation celebration and the upcoming transition of helping Michaela get settled into her new life as a college freshman.  I think I could truly have 15 children and never get used to this growing up and transitioning into adulthood.  I guess we all get growing pains of one sort or another.  We are incredibly proud of both of our girls, but also grateful to have our boys home for a bit longer.

Congratulations, Michaela, on a job well done!

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Saturday Happenings on the Farm

So many times friends are intrigued about life on the farm.  Today’s happenings include trimming and weeding our little blackberry and raspberry orchard.  Phase 2 of this project is bringing in materials to start building raised beds around them.  This will eventually be filled with wonderful organic black platinum mulch supplied by the wonderful ladies that also supply our milk.

Berry Orchards

It is exciting to see the growth in these plants that were transplanted here from another farm last summer.  We look forward to taking clippings to expand our operation over time.

Spring Brings New Life on the Farm

The signs of Spring on the farm just have a way of reminding me of new life.  New life can mean so many things.  Hope.  A Promise of the Future. Growth.  And Life Itself.

It is a reminder that there are cycles to life.  A season for all things.  I am not sure what season of life this post will find you, but stay encouraged.  Just as Spring bursts through with new life after the dormancy and darkness of Winter; so too, much of our personal growth and newness of life come after our greatest challenges, hurdles, and tough times.  For it is in the struggle that we realize our source of strength and will to overcome.

So wherever you are at today, be encouraged.  Spring and the new life that it represents are right around the corner.

Here are a few reminders from the farm!  Hope you enjoy.

10 Years of Provision

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of when our life entered the surreal.  On March 6, 2006, Gary was the target of a sting operation by Federal and State governmental agencies.  There was no basis for these attacks except for the utterly evil intentions and personal agenda of a few.  There was no criminal activity, no harm to the innocent, and no violations of any codes or laws.  After hundreds of hours of discovery, investigation, and trials, the truth surfaced.  Personal ambitions and desires of a few individuals were able to manipulate and use governmental agencies to bring our family under attack and persecution.  I know that this may sound harsh, but it is the very harshness of what we faced that threw us into the surreal.  Our trials became the basis for books to be written and the founding of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.  But at the end of the day when the agencies figured out that there were no basis for the charges being slated against us, we were the ones left with the fallout and ripple effects that we can still see the effects of 10 years later.

Intended For Good

I share this because there is a truly a greater story to tell.  You see – God never left us! Not for a moment.

We faced great adversity in those first days and months.  It would eventually bring about the loss of our home, the need to leave our community and church, lifelong health struggles for my husband, and scars and wounds that at times still feel as raw as when they were first inflicted.  However, we have never been homeless, we have never gone without food, we have NEVER, EVER been abandoned by our God.  Over the last 10 years, we have seen Him use circumstances, believers, and non-believers to provide for our every need.  At times of emotional struggles and fear, He brought peace through His Word and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, there were times when we doubted that our needs would be met.  There were days when the effects of illness and fears almost left us defeated.  There are scars that do honestly shape our decisions and affect the decisions of our children as they grow into adulthood.  There are days as a mom when the game of “What if?” could become all consuming. But beyond the legacy of still standing and surviving 10 years after such horrific times, I have the legacy of a godly and faithful mother.

For 8 years or more, my mother waged a physical battle against cancer.  I can not believe that she did not hate that disease and can only guess that at times it became an emotional and even spiritual battle as well.  However, I can not remember a time that she ever in the midst of that battle ever cursed her God.  This very thing is what has many times propelled me to chase after God more than anything else.

We have seen miracles at the hand of God that will not allow us to ever believe that He has abandoned us.  He has not always granted every wish or desire, but our needs have always been met.  His hand in taking what others intended for our harm has been used by Him to bring about good.  If nothing else ever comes of our trials, the reality that He has never abandoned us is sufficient.  It is a reassurance that carries us into the future.

I can not honestly say that I can openly praise Him and rejoice over the horrific events of March 6, 2006, and the months after.  My heart really wishes that those days were never written into the record of our lives.  But in looking back over the last 10 years, I can see His provisions.  The evidence of how He is using those events to shape our faith and develop areas in each of our lives through the refining fire is there.  For without the heat of the fire, it is impossible to remove the impurities.

Life is not easy, but we do not have to face it alone.  We have a great and mighty God that will take what others intend for harm and take it to accomplish His great plan in each of our lives.  May my children some day be able to propel themselves into the future in not remembering a day that I cursed my God.  For the evil that we may endure is never brought by the power of His hand.  It is, however, His hand that faithfully delivers us.

Fitting the Use of Apps into our Homeschool

I have to admit that I am one of those parents that has been slow to incorporate the latest technologies into our homeschool experience.  My love and passion are in great literature and hands on experiences for learning.  There is so much isolation among our children today, because of technology.  Rather than playing in an imaginary world filled with wonderment, so many children sit side by side playing video games without uttering a word to one another.  This very image has led me kicking and screaming into the world of devices and apps in our education.

App Schooling

There are some things however that I have learned after the kicking and screaming.

The Use of Educational Apps offer:

A Great Reward

Because we do try to limit electronic devices during our day, being able to earn time on a kindle device or iPad is a wonderful reward.  Generally, this is time that our children are able to cash in at the end of the day after all their schoolwork and chores are done.  Our youngest got a tablet for Christmas.  He felt that it was one of those “wow” gifts, but there was a definite method to the madness in our choice.  The Samsung that we purchased as a built in kids mode that allows us to set a timer on how long he can use his device.  This is great for a way of issuing out those reward minutes.

Supplemental Resources to Reinforce Learning

We have found some great supplemental resources in apps.  Many of the things that are so much fun and entertaining can also help to reinforce academic concepts and critical thinking skills.  These are just some of the ones that our family has enjoyed over the last few years.

IXL Math and English for Apple

IXL Math and English for Android

Stack the States for Apple

Stack the States for Android

Roman Town from Dig-It Games for Apple

Apologia Biology Flashcards for Apple

When talking about supplemental resources for homeschooling, I love to just jump into either the Google Play store or the itunes store and search by the topic we are studying for science and history.  It is truly amazing what you will find.  Our oldest son is currently studying World War II.  I am not sure my iPad has the storage capacity for all the resources I found through the App Store.

Along these lines, I have also found App of the Day in the Google Play Store and Apps Gone Free on my iPad’s App Store.  These apps highlight other apps that are marked down to free for the day.  We have found lots of great things for school just by browsing these each day.  I think my best find was a 3D World Atlas app that shows a 3D representation of the earth from the time of the ancient empires through today with a redrawing of country/dynasty/empire boundaries.  You can scroll a timeline at the bottom to see how these boundary lines have changed over time.

A link to Online Curriculum

In addition to pure entertainment and also as a great supplements to other curriculum, there are complete curriculum that are available through apps as well.  These are usually paid apps, but well worth it for families that are on the move or for kids that use their iPads or Android devices to help with school

Some of the full curriculum we have used are:

Duolingo for iPad and iPhone

Duolingo for Android

Spelling and Vocabulary City for Apple

Spelling and Vocabulary City for Android

Apps for core curriculum subjects are a bit harder to find, but can be a wonderful resource for any research project, unit study, or study helps.  When we start a new online course, I do always search to see if an app is available just for the sake of ease so the kids don’t always have to type in the web address in the browser.

Great Resources for the Homeschool Parent

There are lots of great resources for the homeschool parent as well.  These are a couple of our favorites when we need a little encouragement and inspiration.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for Apple

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for Android

Molly Green Magazine for Apple

Molly Green Magazine for Android

Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk for Apple

Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk for Android

I am sure that there are many other ways that families use apps in their homes and in educating their children.  Please be sure to click through the image below to read how other members of the Crew use apps in their homes.

 

Our favourite Apps for Homeschooling iOS and Android
 

Lovin’ Great Body Care Products from Koru Naturals

A lot of the products that our family reviews fit nicely into the homeschool curriculum category, but this review is a bit different.  We recently received some great body care products from Koru Naturals.  Among the products that we received and used were their Skin Clear Creme, their Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, and their Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream. Koru Naturals is a company based in New Zealand, famous for both manuka honey and emu oil.They first brought their products to the U.S. beginning in 2002.

We were especially excited to be trying out these products as we had an opportunity to do a review previously on their Emu Oil Shampoo and Conditioner as well as their Pure Emu Oil.  A copy of that review can be found here.

I have to be honest that when I first received our package from Koru Naturals, I wasn’t thinking that my children would be very enthusiastic about giving this a try.  So I simply opened the package and placed it in the shower.  This soap is truly a blend of manuka honey and the propolis. I did not share with my family what this soap was known for or how it was different from other soaps we had in the house.  As I asked everyone their thoughts, I got a consistent response, “It leaves my skin soft like I have used a moisturizer, but it does not feel heavy or clogged like some soaps and lotions do.”  There observations were very similar to the benefits that Koru Naturals promotes on their website. The only problem we experienced with this soap in a household of 5 people and only 1 bathroom is that it disappears entirely too quickly.  I found that I was selfishly really hoping others wouldn’t like it so it would last longer.  Well, that plan backfired as I watched it get smaller and smaller by the day!

After the wonderful experience with the soap, our teens were anxious to give the Skin Clear Creme a chance to show its stuff.  This skin creme has manuka honey and manuka oil as its base with a wonderful combination of other natural ingredients that make it ideal for acne prone skin. It is free of parabens, artificial colorants, and artificial fragrances.  Our son loved this product and was especially excited that it did not make him smell like a girl.  There is a rich blend of essential oils that help to promote skin health.  Because of the presence of these oils, it is not recommended that this creme be used by women who are pregnant.  Like the Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, the Skin Clear Creme was effective in bringing about healthier feeling skin that was moisturized by not weighed done by the heaviness of artificial ingredients.

 

I have intentionally left my favorite of these products for the end.  The Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream is simply amazing.  These two oils are combined with the power of aloe vera and MSM along with an assortment of essential oils that make it truly remarkable.  This a non-greasy topical cream that brings almost immediate relief of minor aches and pains.  Our daughter who plays competitive volleyball found it to help with muscle strains and bruising after playing a hard game.  My husband was shocked at the relief it provided to pain associated with arthritis in his knees. I was not surprised that they found results in applying this cream to their hurting joints, bruises, and muscles.  What did surprise me was the relief that I experienced when massaging this cream into inflammatory hot spot pain.  Many topical pain relief creams do not even touch inflammatory pain.  However, the combination of ingredients in this particular blend were remarkable for this use as well. As with the Skin Clear Creme, this product is not recommended for women who are pregnant because of the specific combination of essential oils it contains.

Our family has now had the opportunity to review a total of six products from Koru Naturals and have not found one we do not like.  Koru Naturals not only makes body care products that are all natural, but have amazing formulations to do what they are designed to do very effectively.  What’s even better is that if you place an order of $35 or more, you get free shipping too!

As always, I encourage you to check out the other reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  There were members of our team that are providing reviews on a couple of additional products that our family has not had a chance to try yet.

Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer
 

Farmers are a season ahead, but God is in Today

These days seem to be marked with struggles to live in the present.  As our oldest recently left for college, there were so many moments when I found my mind drifting back to the past.  Moments of her learning to walk, teaching her to read just before bed as we poured over Charlotte’s Web, and watching her grow into the young adult that she is today.

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As farmers, we find ourselves spending a whole lot of time in the future.  Our lives seem to always revolve around preparing for the next season.  As summer is drawing to a close, we are hauling and chopping wood for the wood stove.  The finishing touches are being placed on canning vegetables from the garden.  Animals are being butchered to fill the freezer and today we are rendering lard that will be frozen and used throughout the winter.  I see Gary with that faraway look as he calculates the amount of hay we will need, checks the weather forecast, and ponders how much is already stored up.  Fuel cans are being filled to be sure that the generator can keep the milking equipment running through any power outages.

The challenge is however that God asks us simply to live in the moment and to trust Him.  How easy it is to find ourselves filled with regrets over how things might have been done differently in the past.  How tempting to worry over what is to come.  God’s grace is new each day, but like the manna provided to the Israelites in the desert it is only fitting for the day that it is given.  His mercies will be new tomorrow to meet the needs of that day.

So as we prepare for what is to come- both the expected and unexpected – let us remember that God is in today and simply asks us to worship and serve Him in this moment.

A Spring Day on the Farm

When you live on a farm, the things before you each day are just part of your normal.  I was reminded today by a friend that others really have no idea what it may be like to live on a farm.  So here is a glimpse into our day, at least what today had in store for us.

The Day Begins with Morning Chores

Baby Chicks

This morning meant getting up and hitting chores hard and fast.  While Gary milks, the kids water and feed all the animals.  We currently have about 250 newly hatched chicks.  It is always wonderful to go out to the barn and hear all of their little chirping.  After chores this morning, we piled in the car for our final day of our homeschool group for the year.Field Day FunEveryone was excited for Field Day and our family picnic. It was a great time of competition, fellowship, food, and fun.  There were field day events, water balloon fights, grilling, and just a lot of laughter.  As the day wound down and families began leaving, someone asked if we were going home to rest.  I kind of chuckled.  As long as there is daylight there is something to do on the farm.

When we returned home at about 4:30, it was the perfect time to get out in the garden.  Our cabbage plants are off to a good start.  Gary and Zech spent time doing a final turning of the soil in our family gardens.  We were able to get our tomato, zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash, different varieties of pepper, onions, cantelope, and watermelon plants all in the ground.  The raspberry plants got a pruning and the guys headed out to the further pastures to turn that soil for a 2 acre plot of beans, corn, and peas to be planted and another 5 acres that will be resown in hay seed after the flooding last month took our seed downstream.

Spring Planting

As I finish up this post, we will grab a quick bite to eat.  Gary will begin milking after Zech gets the cows rounded up.  While the cows are milked, the kids and I will work on bottling the milk that will be delivered tomorrow.  Although the days seem long, there is satisfaction in being productive, growing food to feed your own family, and providing wholesome nourishment for others.

 

Welcoming Spring on the Farm

Spring is Coming

Clothes hanging on the line

Carhardt overalls getting a final wash

Cows happily grazing and napping on the hillside

Laundry on the Line

Cows Grazing

Flowers rising through the soil

New strawberry shoots erupting

Gardens plowed

And fat worms found under rocks

Strawberries Picking Through

Garden Plowed

Worms in Spring

Empty woodpiles

Schoolwork on the front porch

Shooting basketball when the work is done

Woodpile

School on the porch

Basketball

So glad that Spring is in the air!

Finding Blessings in Extreme Weather

The last 48 hours have been quite the rollercoaster on the farm with regard to the weather.  On Tuesday afternoon, we had temperatures up near 60 degrees.  It felt like Spring!  All of the ice and snow were melting and we actually saw the grass that was just waiting to start turning green and lush again.  The weather reports forecasted that it was not quite time yet.  What we did experience in the coming hours between then and now has been really amazing!

Blessings Extreme Weather

After the high temperatures on Tuesday afternoon, a front moved in bringing torrential rains.  There seemed to be water everywhere between the run off from everything melting combined with the rains that came.  Roads were flooding as culverts could not move the water quick enough and the creeks were swelling beyond their normal banks.  The animals were soaking wet.  They all have shelter, but when they are used to grazing we find that they many times just prefer to stay in their pastures.

As we continued to watch the creek rise, reports of dropping temperatures and incoming snow were on every radio station and weather report.  Our concerns began mounting.  If the temperatures dropped too quickly, all the standing water would freeze across roadways and even in areas where the animals normally pass in coming in and out of the barn.  The animals were soaked from the torrential rains and we struggled to get them all in the barn and as dry as possible before they could freeze.

The pictures above were taken at about 2:00 yesterday afternoon.  Snow began to fall by 4:00.  As it began covering the ground we could see pools of standing water and knew that ice would be forming under the snow.  But we really had no idea what to expect.  Forecasts of how much snow was predicted varied and then our internet service went down in the evening hours cutting us off from further updates.

Beginnings of Snow

When we awoke this morning, we felt like we had been transported to Narnia from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Approximately two feet of snow covered the ground and constant smaller flakes were continuing to fall.  We called the children downstairs to start going over all that needed to be done to take care of the animals, insure we had heat, and everyone was taken care of.  In the midst of our discussion the neighbor across the street called to say that her furnace had stopped working.  The vent on her roof was completely blocked and needed to be cleared.

This was just the beginning of some of the special jobs we would face today.  After all, when your chickens are pastured, their water sources are outside.  This not only meant breaking ice, but shoveling a path for them.  Our poor little chickens just can’t seem to navigate two feet of snow.  Maybe there is something to those genetically modified giant birds after all.  Nope, we will just stick with our heritage breeds and shovel paths for them.

Narnia

“So where are the blessings?,” you might be asking.  Well…

  • We are blessed by a woodstove that can not only guarantee us heat if the power goes out, but is a great place to allow cinnnamon rolls to rise for hungry workers.
  • We are blessed to live on acreage where our next piece of free fuel is just a hike and a chainsaw away.
  • We are blessed to have the health needed to tend to our animals and help out a neighbor in need.
  • We are blessed that our children are ahead of the curve in learning what it means to work and meet real needs without having to do a formal class in “Life Skills”.  We just live life.
  • We are blessed to have a working tractor with a front end bucket to help with plowing and taking hay to the animals.
  • We are thankful for all the ground water soaking into the soil for Spring planting.
  • We are just plain thankful to be alive, to have a family to love, and faith that this too shall pass with the changing of seasons.

And in the end, just grab a cup of hot chocolate with us and admire the beauty of God’s Creation in all its many faces.