Wednesday, June 29, 2005


We found out we were PREGNANT on Wednesday July 29th, so I'm inserting this post here. Daniel and I have been trying for about a year now. We got pregnant and almost immediately miscarried two months ago, so we asked for help from our obstetrician who is also a friend of ours from our church. On June 15th she did an interior ultrasound to see if and when I was ovulating so that we could plan accordingly instead of the hit and miss fashion we'd been trying. She not only saw that I was about to release one egg...but two!! One from each ovary was about to be ready to go in two days time. Since we knew exactly when, she said that our odds of conceiving were excellent and we have a pretty good chance of having fraternal twins! Well, sure enough, it worked.

We've taken two pregnancy tests a couple of days apart just to be sure. I've also been taking it easy and trying not to overdo things, because even though the doctor said I didn't cause the miscarriage, I still feel like it was a mistake doing such an incredible amount of physical activity the week that I found out I was pregnant last time. So this time Daniel telling me to avoid picking up the kids. Do you know how impossible that is when you have a 3 and 5 year old? The kids seem worried, too. They understand that we had a baby in my tummy a couple of months ago, and then it went away. Gloria has been asking me every morning now if I still have a baby in there. We are praying for their health and protection constantly. I'm hoping that at my first appointment at the end of this month (July), the doctor will be able to either see how many I have with an ultrasound or hear how many heart beats there are. I really want twins, always have, but I will still be thanking God like crazy no matter what! Now I'm even MORE glad that we decided to get an early start on homeschooling. If I have twins next March I sure would like to be done with the required number of school days by then.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Poison Ivy

This week has been full of ups and downs! Daniel's parents took the girls for Sunday and Monday nights. While they were gone Daniel and I went for a bike ride, played tennis, rented video games (Shrek 2 and Demolition Derby), watched movies, looked at homeschool materials at a book store in Tulsa, and went out to eat a few times. I can't even describe how great it was to just have some quiet time to focus on each other. We also got caught up on a few things. Daniel mowed, I wrote out a lesson plan for this week, and we did the grocery shopping.

When we picked the girls up on Tuesday afternoon we found out that their Grandma had been doing quite a bit of homeschooling while she had them. She played math board games with them, read them stories, taught them to play dominoes with their great-grandparents, and took them swimming. They even stopped on the Keystone Dam and watched the water being let out! I was happy as a clam to realize that I could count those days towards my homeschooling total! They certainly showed me that grandparents can take an active hand in their grandkids education.

Wednesday night Daniel and I taught Danya's 4 yr old class at church. They are having a summer of missions. This week we taught them about missionaries our church supports in Hawaii, Bobby and June Duffer. Near the end of class, while waiting for parents to pick up their kids, I played London Bridge with them. It got a little wild and I managed to strain the muscles in my back. I also realized the next day that I had picked up poison ivy on my foot at Daniel's parents house. So I've been laid up, hardly able to move for two days. Daniel really amazed me. He jumped right in and took care of everything. He even followed my lesson plan and taught the kids before and after his sleep time. I can't thank God enough for giving me Daniel!

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Today is all about Daniel! When he came home from work at around 8am the girls jumped out and yelled, "Surprise! I mean Happy Father's Day!" Then they gave him big hugs and showed him how they cleaned the house nice and pretty for him. We gave him some new clothes and a DVD of the first season of The Dukes of Hazzard. Here he is getting some love from his girls!
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Then we went out to Braum's for breakfast! After church, Daniel's mom and dad met us and we went to McAlister's for lunch. Tonight the guys will get to play video games at Daniel's friend, Mike's, house. The women will take the kids outside to play. Daniel is so excited about tonight! THEN, his parents have offered the best Father's Day gift ever! Daniel's mom and dad are taking our girls to stay at their house tonight through Tuesday! I think I officially have the best in-laws in the world! This has been a great Father's Day and it's not even over yet!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gloria's First Bike!

Today we bought Gloria a bike! We got her a 16 inch bike. It's just the right size, she can reach the pedals, but there is room to grow. We set the seat and handle bars at their lowest settings. She is very excited that her bike is bigger than her big sister's bike. Danya has a 12 inch bike that she got for her 3rd birthday from Aunt Toni (my lil sis). We will have to upgrade hers by next year. Danya's bike is about 2 years old, but this is the first year that she has really had the confidence to ride it very far. Daniel and I wanted to be able to take a family bike ride now that both girls know how to ride. Here is a picture of the girls with their bikes:
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Danya and I assembled the new bike while Gloria was sleeping at naptime. When she woke up she immediately rushed outside with it. Gloria was racing up and down the street! She and Danya took a ride around the block with me walking beside them to help if needed. But about 2 feet after we took this picture, the pedals fell off of Gloria's bike. I hadn't tightened them enough. Also, the training wheels were loose. So after a pit stop back at our house to tighten the bolts we were off racing around the neighborhood! I can't wait for our first family bike ride when Daniel can go with us!!

Homeschool Pool Party!

We were invited to a homeschool pool party this week! They held it at the Baptist Children's Home. We got to meet several homeschooling families. The swimming was great, but it was funny that the adults with older kids didn't swim. We enjoyed swimming with our new friends, the Millers. Our girls and their oldest daughter played "train" trailing behind Daniel around the pool. Here's a pic of the three of them:
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I really appreciated the opportunity to ask the mom's who've been homeschooling for a long time all my "newbie" questions. One woman there had a 20 year old daughter that she had homeschooled all the way through highschool graduation! Her daughter will graduate college with a bachelor's degree next year! Another woman was pregnant with her 7th child and was homeschooling them all! They told me about the homeschooling group in our area that 15 families in our church are a part of. I think I bombarded them with questions. I'm really glad we went!

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Today was day 3 of our homeschooling adventure. We read about Christopher Columbus getting attacked by pirates off the coast of Portugal when he was younger on his way to England. The girls had a BLAST on the bed pretending that they were being attacked by pirates! I got to be the pirate! Danya was Columbus. Gloria started out as a sailor on his ship, then she went overboard and became a pirate. Then, when Columbus (Danya's) ship had been "destroyed" and she was the only survivor, floating in the ocean (blue carpet) clinging to an oar (long pillow), Gloria and I became the Portugese people helping pull Columbus onto land. Now they are watching Peter Pan since it has pirates in it!

We also read about our community and community helpers. They each got to draw a picture of their favorite community helper. Gloria drew Aunt Jennie and Danya drew Tanti Glenda (both nurses). Then we learned about graphs. We made a graph of 3 different kinds of canned food in our cupboard. Then we made a "Good Job" graph that they can mark each time they help around the house. Finally we practiced identifying the numbers 1-5 in English and Spanish.

There were a few other little things, but those were the highlights. It's still hard to believe how much we get accomplished in just 2 hours. We're going swimming this afternoon for Danya's friend, Lillian's birthday party. It's great how much time we get to spend as a family and STILL get our school time done. And the girls keep showing me how much they are really remembering! They remembered learning two days ago that sailors in Columbus' time called the unknown part of the ocean the "sea of darkness". Gloria remembered that they thought it was full of sea monsters and Danya remembered they thought it had "boiling spots". So far, I am loving the homeschool experience!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Homeschooling Day 2

Day 2 of homeschooling. We took a family walk, had bible study, read alot and worked on more/less & greater/fewer in math today. For science the girls made a "plant" out of yarn and construction paper today, then labeled the parts (roots, stem, leaves, petals..etc). They also pulled weeds outside with Daniel and looked at the parts with a magnifying glass. We had a great time playing with blocks for math. I gave Danya 4 blocks and Gloria 6 blocks and had them figure out who had more and how to fix it so they had an equal amount. I also gave them 9 blocks and had Gloria divide them equally among herself, Danya, and Daniel. We did lots more block problems like those. They both did great with all the different challenges we gave them! It's amazing how well young kids understand math if you present it in a way that makes sense instead of just throwing numbers out there. When Danya did a math worksheet it had two columns of double digit numbers (she knows her numbers up to 100). She had to circle the number that was less. I had her read the numbers (for example 46 and 82), then I would ask her "Would you rather have 46 bonks on the head or 82?" She had no problem circling the smaller number!! Then I let her think of her own. She said, "Would I rather have to sleep with out my doll 25 times or 54 times?" She completely understood the game! She is so much fun to work with! Also, on our walk today, we went to the convenience store and let them figure out how much of the little candy they could get for a quarter. Danya got 5 pieces of gum. Gloria got one giant piece of taffy candy, but then she sweet talked Danya into sharing a piece of her gum. So I'm not sure who got the better deal!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Berry Pickin!

We went berry picking this morning and had a great time! The girls loved finding the "good ones" that were nice and black so we knew they were ripe. Danya filled her bucket first, but Gloria wasn't far behind.
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Then our friends, the Millers, arrived and our girls helped their girls find the best bushes that were heavy with dark blackberries. They ate quite a few until they decided that they didn't like the seeds. It was so sweet watching Gloria help little Meagan! Gloria is only a year older, but she looked like a GIANT towering over petite little 2 year old Meagan. Danya was constantly tripping over the long limbs that had extended over the pathway here and there. She was afraid of the tiny little thorns that scratched her at first, but she quickly got more courageous. A nice stranger offered to take our picture as we were heading out, so here is all of us:
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By a little after 10am it was just too hot, so we went home, made Blackberry Zingers in our ancient blender, and then got started with our homeschool lessons. But first we washed off all the red juice on our girls' hands and faces!

Our First Day of Homeschooling!

We began our homeschooling year today! We learned about North America, Christopher Columbus when he was a boy, read chapter 1 of a Magic Treehouse book, practiced letter sounds, and played games and did workbook sheets about "more and less" for math. Then Danya read outloud to us from a children's book. Here is a pick of Gloria and Daddy doing math pages together. He is soo patient with her and she picked it right up!
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The girls really enjoyed sitting in a circle, hiding our hands behind our back, then yelling GO! and showing everyone how many fingers we were holding up. Then we counted to see who had more and who had less and who had the same. We substituted berry picking for our morning walk. We learned how blackberries grow and then did a little "Home Ec." by making a recipe from the list we got at the farm. Before heading out this morning, Daniel led us in a bible study time. We talked about how everyone has someone in authority over them. Then we read 1 Timothy 2:1 to learn how we should treat those in authority. "Pray for all people!", and even kings, it says. On the way to the berry farm we made up songs about berry picking! This was a great first day! I did learn that I need to make the history & geography lessons a bit more exciting, but otherwise it went really well.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Games We Play

We are constantly playing games with our kids. I think it's possible that my dh and I may reach a point where my kids are embarrassed by all the silliness, but I'm gonna live it up while they're little!! We make little "footballs" out of our straw wrappers at restaurants and use our hands to make "goals". Then we take turns flipping the paper into the other team's goal. This is great for keeping them entertained while we wait for the food to arrive! We also play "Who Can Find?" This is simple. I say "Who can find.." and then look around the room and name something. Ex: Who can find something that is square? made of wood? pink? etc. Then the kids race to be the first one to find something that fits the description. I usually find something that each kid is wearing also. In the car my dh and I play word games to keep alert on long car rides. My kids have started joining in too. We play "Find the ABC's" on signs and license plates. We assign each person a color and count the passing cars. We play who can think of the most cliches and proverbs. Or finish the cliche. Ex: I'll say "no use crying over..." and he'll have to answer "spilt milk." Then it's his turn. We also play hide and seek, playground tag, and Betcha - which is a game based on the old Shari Lewis song, where we say "I betcha you can't do this!" and then we do silly things like crossing our eyes or hopping on one foot with a beanbag balanced on it. We play ring around the rosies and london bridge. I think getting to play kid games is part of the fun of having kids in the first place! I taught my 3 yr old to wink today as a Betcha. She was so excited!

Summer Madness

Today is our last day of summer vacation. We start homeschooling tomorrow. Tonight we have a couple coming over to eat with us that we met a few weeks ago in Sunday school. They are going to start homeschooling their Kindergarten age daughter this fall. Right now Danya is at her best friend Emma's house. Emma lives right next door to a neighborhood pool! So the girls are going swimming, Danya in her new tweety bird swimsuit. Here is a recent pic of Danya in our front yard.
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She wants to get her hair cut short like her sister's, but we just can't let her. Her long blonde hair is just too cute! We are cleaning house and getting last minute things ready for company tonight and starting homeschooling tomorrow. I woke up this morning feeling like a walking zombie. I'm wondering how well we'll do at trying to get ready and take an early morning walk tomorrow. Our new friends who are coming to dinner mentioned that they are going blackberry picking tomorrow morning. I've always wanted to try that, so maybe we'll go after our walk.
Now to figure out how I can claim blackberry picking as a homeschool field trip on our first day! Daniel says that if we cook with them it's "Home Ec." and science because we'll be learning "Botany". Sounds good to me!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Danya's Pre-K Graduation

Danya graduated from the Owasso 4 year old Program in May. At first they said she couldn't attend the graduation because we hadn't bought the $10 hat. The day before the event I had a talk with her teacher and she said that Danya could borrow a cap so that she could participate. Danya did great! She sang "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" with her friends. She wasn't a bit shy this time! She sang loud and did all the motions. We were so proud of her!! Here are two shots of her merged together that were taken during the performance.
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It was so dark in the Owasso high school auditorium that most of our pictures came out blurry. These were two of the not so bad ones. She has been very excitedly telling her friends and classmates that she gets to start Kindergarten in June. They don't really believe her because they don't understand that homeschool Kindergarten is still Kindergarten. I just found out today that one of the little girls in her Sunday school class, Lillian, is also a homeschooler!! I got her mom's phone number so hopefully we will be able to schedule fun stuff to do together. Danya is happy and I am relieved that she will have a friend that is also available for activities and trips during "school hours" when all the rest of her friends will be in public school. This makes two little girls her age that we know now who homeschool!
Congratulations Danya on graduating Pre-K and starting homeschool Kindergarten!

Best Wife and Mother

Image hosted by From: Daniel (age 28)

Jessica is the best wife I could hope for and a great mom to our Girls. Jessica is very capable at managing just about anything. I have crazy hours and work most weekends. She helps manage our time and activities. Jessica is an amazing Woman. She takes care of all of us. She helps to make sure we see family and friends. I would be lost with out her. She has done a great job on the scrapbooks for our family and won some prizes on some of the layouts. I do not seem to tell her enough how much she means to me. I have great confidence that she can do any thing she sets her mind to. She has taught her self a few hobbies and is great with languages. Jessica loves to read and always seems to be learning, even when it is just reading a book for fun. I wish I could read as well as she can.

Image hosted by From: Danya (5 years old)

She is the best mom ever. She likes to help us tie are shoes and play with us while getting us ready. We love our mom and love to play with her. She loves doing our hair. She loves how we play together. She likes to sing our lullabies. She likes to see us when she has not seen us in a long time. She likes to help us with making stuff and with writing and stuff. Whenever we need help she will help us. Whenever I am sick she takes care of me and does not leave me alone and she helps me. She loves to play... she loves our dances. She loves the color purple. She love the way we are good to each other and can be nice to her, and love each other. We are just so happy when she is with us. She helps us learn.

Image hosted by From: Gloria (3.5 years old)

She is the best mom ever, and we love her so much and she likes to play with us. We like to love her. We like to play games with Her. We love you Mom. She loves us and likes to sing songs with us. She loves are shoes. She likes our songs; we like to sing with her. She likes the cards we make. We like to bonk heads together. We like to play games on the computer. She likes to hug us.

My Hero, My Husband

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Daniel is the ideal husband in some respects. He completely supports my desire to homeschool. He has been right there with me throughout the exploration and preparation process. He snuggles with me on the couch and listens while I read out loud from the various homeschooling how-to books we borrowed from the library. He took me to our first used book fair for homeschoolers about a week ago. He has gotten me motivated to hunt garage sales for educational books and items, and then gone along and searched through boxes of books with me. He even takes the kids out of the house and does the cooking while I am in the back room surrounded by books and trying to figure out what to teach first, in what order, and on what days. Most importantly, he has encouraged me repeatedly when I worry that I will mess up our children for life, lol.
He informed me this week that I didn't need to worry about science. He is going to take charge of this subject! Also, he announced that we are going to start every morning with a family walk to the park and a short bible study. He works nights, so we will head out when he gets home right after breakfast. Can you believe it? This incredible man works a 10 hour shift and then wants to come straight home for a 20 minute walk with two small children and lead his family in a bible study!
All I can say is, thank God. Thank you, Lord, for this amazing gift I get to call my husband!

A letter to my daughters

I wrote this for a scrapbook page last year. Now that we've decided to homeschool, I think it is even more relavent. This is excerpted from a mini album I am making for my daughters called "Advice from Mom". It has important messages to my daughters in case I'm not around to deliver them in person some day.

SCHOOL- Never settle for less than your best. But also avoid the pride and, frankly, delusion that you are the best. I went between two extremes in school. I started out believing that I was super smart and always at the head of my class. That’s okay as long as it doesn’t lead to the idea that you are somehow better than others. Remember that intelligence is like a beautiful plant given to you by God. You didn’t make it. It is a gift. Yours is not necessarily better than someone else’s, just different. And if you do not nourish it, be certain that it will wither. As I grew up, through a series of uncaring people in my life, I began to believe that I was not as smart as I thought I was and that no one really cared if I had excellent grades. I felt like I only needed to be mediocre to pass and no one would notice. This was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. Do not let people or the enemy or your own negative thoughts and feelings cause you to falter. Good grades and good learning/study habits will help you in every area of your life. Set a goal for yourself as young as you can. You don’t absolutely have to be certain of what you want do for a living, but it helps. If nothing else, decide where your interests lay, then study hard and take extra classes that will give you a strong foundation toward that future. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not “college material” and don’t wait for someone else to hand you applications for grants, special classes, or colleges. Never let someone else do your work for you. I don’t mean not to ask for help. I mean don’t cheat. Don’t expect someone else to take the lion’s share of a joint project. Don’t wait for the school councilor to hold your hand and show you what you should do with your life. Don’t say I can’t do something because no one will teach me how. Teach yourself. Or go find a teacher and convince them to teach you. Your future will not be handed to you. You will either go out and boldly reach for the one you want, or live with whatever you stumble into later. Finally, remember that you are not alone. Your Dad and I and many other family and friends are all here for you. We want to help you in any way possible. So if you have questions, come to us. No matter what you are or do, you will always have the love and support of your family. But if you feel lost and directionless your best source for guidance is always your heavenly Father. God has the absolute best plan for you. Feel free to ask Him and expect an answer. Trust me, He’s just waiting for you to ask. But don’t be surprised by the answer you get. You may find that it’s not
what you expected. But you can be certain that His plan is the one that will make you the happiest and the most fulfilled. -March 24, 2004

The Digital World of Scrapping

So I'm very new to digital scrapbooking. I like it, but there is something to be said for having something you can hold in your hand as tangible proof of the work you did. So I will probably always also be a "paper scrapper". That being said, I really enjoy the freedom of making pages digitally. I can play with several sizes of photos and accents and find the perfect fit without having to constantly remake an item. It's also alot cheaper. I take pictures of everyday things like crayons, fences, walls, carpet, tile, grass, rocks, and use them as backgrounds for my pages. This saves alot of expense on paper and the like. Here's a page I did fairly recently on my PC:
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I like being able to use multiple fonts without having to print them out on my computer. Most of the elements on this page were purchased or freebies from various digital scrapbooking sites like . What I would really like to learn is how to make those elements look that real and that good. I think that this is something that I would do well once I understand how. In the meantime, I will continue to practice and fiddle with my software. I'm really enjoying being able to make pages easily and then instantly submit them via email to my friends and family. The photo editing/digital scrapbooking software I use is from and I really like it. It cost only $50, and I got my rebate check two days ago for $20. Most other good software I've found like Adobe cost around $100. I'd eventually like to try one of those, but we can't afford it right now.

Scrapbooking Current Event

Currently I'm waiting anxiously to find out whether or not I will make it onto the design team at . The news will be announced on Wednesday, June 15th. They are looking for 4 new team members. I think the wait may possibly kill me, lol!

So the pages I submitted are some of my personal best, in my opinion. It's funny, a few years ago I submitted to the Creating Keepsakes hall of fame and had a very difficult time with one of their requirements. They wanted my pages to be unified by having a common style. I had to figure out what my personal scrapbooking style is. This may sound simple, but to me that's like asking me to define my reading style. Yes, I have a preference of science fiction and fantasy, but I also enjoy a very wide range of other reading material. How can I possibly narrow it down?? But when I submitted for this contest last week, I looked at my pages and realized that, yes, I do finally see clearly what my scrapbooking style is. Clean, symetrical, elegant pages.

This made me think. Is this the only subject I've become more focused in? Now I'm looking over the last few years of my life and seeing it in a whole new light. I think that maybe I've finally figured out a few more things; my parenting style, my "style" if you will, of Christianity, my style of dress, and even my style of friends. I'll be 28 this year. I guess I'm finally hitting that point of no return on maturity and have become comfortable with who I am.

What do you know? Scrapbooking as a guide to understanding life!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Curriculum Choices

Through reading so many different books on homeschooling, I was able to get a good idea of what was out there, curriculum-wise. I decided that most curriculum's that you could buy were just way too expensive and too much of a risk. The risk factor is that you could buy it, find out within a few weeks that it totally doesn't fit your family lifestyle or your kids' learning styles, and then only have the option of hopefully reselling it for part of your money back. To me that is like buying a vehicle sight-unseen.

So we decided to shop around and pick and choose whatever looked good. So I went to my State Department of Education web site and found out what exactly they expect a child to learn in Kindergarten. Then I went shopping! I found some good workbooks appropriate for each of my girls' ages at my local grocery store! The workbooks are the "Ultimate Skill Builder" books from Learning Horizons and they are very easy to use. Then I hunted garage sales. We found beginning reader books, a world book encyclopedia, and an entire "Growing Up with Science" encyclopedia set for about $3 each! We also got some amazing kids' books on all kinds of other topics and some neat National Geographic videos. Then we looked online and found out about a used book fair for homeschoolers in our area. We attended that and found some second hand history and geography books published by "A Beka" which is a Christian curriculum publisher. We also found a store for teachers in the city near us. They were happy to see homeschoolers! They gave us free stuff and discount coupons! We purchased a book about the human body for young kids. I'd say all told we probably spent $100 to $150 on all of this school stuff. But you have to consider that some of those items will be for more than just this year.

That's it except for some paper and pens!

Why we chose to homeschool

We decided to start homeschooling this year for a few reasons. The first is that we let Danya try out public pre-K last year and were less than thrilled. She had fun, granted, but she didn't really learn anything except how to spell colors. Also, she is very smart and sensitive. She can already read beginning reader books and do simple math. This week she wanted to study Benjamin Franklin! She actually begs to do workbook pages! A little girl like her would be bored in regular school because she'd spend all her time waiting for the other kids to catch up! I decided that I could do a much better job of challenging her at home. Another factor was that she is so very sensitive. She will tell you when you've hurt her feelings and she gets upset if anyone else's feelings are hurt. I think that she wouldn't handle being teased because of her giftedness and sensitivity very well.

Then there is Gloria. Our 3 and a half year old tornado. She will listen to a story only if she can bounce on your lap at the same time. She learned her phone number last week by yelling it out as she stomped her feet down one beat at a time onto the sidewalk. She likes to take things apart and figure out how to put them back together again. We call her our "little engineer". I've read that she is what is called a "kinesthetic" learner. This means that she is very hands on and, as we've seen for ourselves, she dislikes sitting down and doing book work. A kid like her would be labeled ADD or ADHD and permanently tracked in the slower group in public school. That would be an awful mistake since she is so obviously intelligent and quick to grasp ideas. Public school is designed to promote only one type of learner, and the rest get labeled and shuffled aside.

We definitely think that homeschooling is the only way to provide the best education possible for each of our girls. So, we're starting our first day of homeschool next Tuesday. Wish us luck!

Why I'm blogging

Welcome to my blog! I've been reading about these things forever, and I finally got up the nerve to try it! Here is where I found out how to make one:

So I plan to talk about my daily and/or weekly foray into the world of homeschooling and maybe a little bit about my scrapbooking addiction as well in this blog. I've been researching homeschooling by reading everything my public library has on the subject, which is actually quite alot. One of the best books I read was by Mary Pride. Here's a link to it on her website:
After reading her book I felt like an expert on the subject! What I really wanted though, was to read someone's personal story of how homeschooling went in the beginning for them. For example: their first decisions on curriculum, how they made a lesson plan, where they found materials, what the costs and difficulties were, and more along those lines. So since I didn't find anything like that, I might as well create one for other folks considering the idea!

Feel free to follow along with me as I plunge into this new chapter of our family's life!