Tuesday, August 25, 2015

15-year Wedding Anniversary

Almost two weeks ago, on August 13th, my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. We were happy and excited newlyweds, but it truly does get better and better! If you have never read the story of how we met and married, my husband did a series on that on his blog. To keep reading the next chapter, just keep clicking "next post."

Since we had no babysitter for our anniversary this year, we knew that whatever we did would have to involve the kids, too. With just having spent a lot of money on our house (termites, a/c), and the medical expenses from Stephen's recent hospital stay (it takes a couple of months for the money to come back from Samaritan Ministries members), funds were a bit tight. At the same time, 15 years of marriage is a big deal, and we knew that if we stayed home, the day would be like any other, because just to keep the kids dressed, fed, and alive requires a full day's work at this season of life.

We decided to take a short anniversary trip to Southern California. It's not too far, nice hotels are inexpensive, the weather at the West Coast is always perfect, and we had a gift card for a whale watching tour for all of us in Newport Beach that my husband got for his birthday from a family at church. 

We left after breakfast on Thursday morning, the day of our anniversary, and drove four hours to Palm Springs, where we had lunch at Round Table Pizza - a California must! As I was biting into a fresh, hot, cheesy slice (something I rarely do these days since being on THM most of the time), I remarked that in spite of virtually never having had a Coke in close to a decade, I still crave it every single time I eat pizza. My husband, being the great and wise man that he is, promptly bought me one to make the dining experience perfect. The kids looked at me with a mixture of surprise, jealously, and horror as I actually drank it. I did end up watering it down a bit with plain soda water just because I am not used to the sticky sweetness any more, but it was just perfect! ;)

After lunch, we continued on to Cabazon and toured the (creation-based) Dinosaur Museum. It was a very hot day, but we still had a great time.

This was taken from inside the head of the dinosaur in the first photo above.

After the museum, we headed back to Palm Springs and checked into our hotel. By staying in Palm Springs, we were able to break up the drive, and saved even more on hotels. These days, our family of ten requires two rooms with two queen beds each to comfortably fit, and thanks to the Express Deals on Priceline, getting a nice hotel in a great location for a low price was a snap.

Anniversary selfie

In the evening, my husband and the kids spent time playing in the hotel pool while I was able to relax in our rooms. They were adjoining rooms, so we were able to leave the door between them open during our stay, which really made for spacious accommodations. I then went and bought dinner for the kids (thank you to everyone who sent Chipotle gift cards for my husband's birthday - they are always much appreciated, and helped make this trip affordable), which they ate by the pool side. No mess in the room, nice! :) I also picked up pastries, milk, and OJ at Whole Foods so we could do breakfast quickly in the morning. My husband and I were holding out for our special anniversary dinner: The Cheesecake Factory was right by the hotel, so my husband bought us a nice dinner there, which we enjoyed by ourselves in peace and quiet after the kids were asleep.

Friday morning, we got up early-ish, and after breakfast, drove two hours to Long Beach where we had booked a homeschool field trip for the Aquarium of the Pacific. Tip: If you are a homeschool family and traveling, you can call ahead to the places you plan to visit, and inquire if they offer school rates for homeschoooled students. Few will give you the school group rate at the door, but virtually all will honor it if booked in advance. We were able to get into the aquarium for $6 per person, which is a huge discount compared to regular admission. 

 The kids wore their matching "field trip day" shirts again, which makes it easy to spot them in a crowd.

 A rare picture of yours truly

 Big helpers and little charges

 People watching from the parking garage

The Aquarium is super cool, and even though we were only there for less than 3 hours, we got to see every exhibit because it is laid out so well.

 The kids loved touching the sharks.

Big love and littlest love

From the aquarium, we headed down Highway 1 to Newport Beach, where we were going to go whale watching. Highway 1 is another California must, of course, and we enjoyed the drive.

Flowers from my sweetie. At his age, they are usually accompanied by a marriage proposal, much to the horror of the older kids. 

 Anna followed Boaz around like this the whole time,very protective of him.

The whale watching cruise was a lot of fun. At first, I was a bit unnerved by how much the boat was rolling and going up and down in the water, which was not exactly calm that day. None of the kids were in life jackets, and I was mildly alarmed about them going overboard. We did get to see three whales, which was great, as none of the tours before us that day had spotted any. And nobody went overboard, so it really was a great outing!

We arrived back at our hotel late on Friday night, and crashed after such a long, full day.

On Saturday, we slept in for as long as the kids let us. Then we played a DVD for them on the laptop, and got another hour of quiet that way. My husband went and picked up breakfast for us at Panera, which is a rare treat for us because they used to only be in California and none in Arizona (there are a few branches now, but I still only go there on vacation). After a leisurely breakfast, he took the kids to the pool to play while I was able to pack up and straighten the rooms without any little ones underfoot.

Originally, my husband had wanted to stop at the Salton Sea on the way home, but I was able to dissuade him from that idea when I started looking into why I had never heard of this place if it was supposedly the "Riviera of the Desert". Oh yeah, in my support, we also could smell the stench from it from the hotel parking lot, even though it was about 20 miles or more away. Ha! So instead, we headed home after lunch on Saturday. Thankfully the little kids slept through most of the 4-hour drive. 

Just a short trip, but we had a wonderful time. This was our only "vacation" this summer, but we enjoyed it. Traveling with as many kids as we have is not exactly a break, but it is a nice change of pace from our usual routine, and we got to see a bunch of new places. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Watch "Wait Till It's Free" for free until August 19th

Our family is a member of Samaritan Ministries. I've never blogged about them specifically before, but mentioned it here. We absolutely LOVE this alternative to health insurance, and cannot recommend them enough.

This week, I received an email from Samaritan Ministries, informing me that a new documentary by Colin Gunn ("IndoctriNation"), Wait Till It's Free, is currently available online to view for free, until August 19th.

Please click here to see it in full, through August 19th.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The myth of the perfect homeschool curriculum, and what we use

I don't like to think of myself as "veteran" anything, but now in my 12th year of homeschooling, I guess that's what I am, or at least am thought of as being. Our kids this year are in grades 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and K5. Like you haven't already heard a million times before, enjoy your kids while they are little, because times goes by sooo fast! I remember teaching the oldest boys their letters, and it doesn't seem right that it happened as long ago as it did. 

Many times I am asked about my favorite curriculum, what I use, or what I would recommend. Of course I like to help other moms starting out on the homeschool journey, but I also want to caution them against the idea that there is such a thing as a perfect curriculum that works for all kids, all grades, from K through 12th grade. That's like asking me what I think a perfect spouse is like - my ideas and preferences are not those of someone else.

There are three main reasons why I believe there is no such thing as one curriculum that a homeschool parent can settle on once and for all:

- Learning style: Everyone is different, and what works for one child, may not at all work for another. To illustrate this, think about this: when getting directions, do you prefer a drawn map with the route, or do you prefer written/verbal directions? I am lost with the latter, I have to "see" where I am going. My husband is exactly the opposite. Kids are the same way - what clicks with one does not click with another.

- Aptitude: One child may be a math whiz, another may struggle with it, but excel at a different subject. The 8th grade level book that works for one child, may totally go over another child's head, who will need a less demanding curriculum in that particular subject.

- Interest: Not only do kids get bored using the same curriculum year after year, but so do we as homeschool moms! It's nice to change things up and switch curriculum around a bit to keep everyone engaged and interested in learning. 

Of course, switching around too much is not only costly, it also takes up much space to store your materials, and makes it difficult for the parent to become an expert at teaching any one subject with ease because he/she is not familiar with the curriculum.

All that being said, here is a little chart of what I have nailed down as our favorite curricula for the core subjects after over a decade of homeschooling. This chart includes the various options in each subject to allow for the three factors mentioned above.  

This is just what we do, what works for us, and may look totally different for someone else.

 And here is Week 1 of this year's lesson plans (if you click on the picture, it should come up bigger):

The colors are for the different children, and correspond to "their" identifying color in our family. Orange: Solomon, 10th grade; Green: Isaac, 8th grade; Blue: John, 6th grade; Turquoise: Miriam, 4th grade; Purple: Rebecca, 2nd grade; Pink: Anna, K5

For the first year ever, I was able to write all 36 weeks of lesson plans, complete with activities and field trips, for the entire year! Which is exciting, because it really helps the kids be able to work more independently, and us all to stay motivated and on track. 

This was our first week of school, and it went very well. We typically do field trips on Friday morning, and then finish up loose ends and go to the library on Saturday. 

I hope this helps someone else out there! :)