When We Forget to Breathe

Sometimes, everyone just needs a ‘Catch Your Breath Day’.  You know, a day where the normal routine is thrown out the window, life slows down, and you can…
B R E A T H E.

(Insert a deep inhale… and exhale here.)

Because, sometimes, we forget to breathe.   Today was one of those days.  After a week of travel, returning home and jumping right back into a normal routine of kids, cleaning, cooking, school, laundry, making a grocery list to restock foods, and a late night at church – the heavy sighs and tears were indicators that I was wound tight before I even slid out from under the covers.

I felt as though I just couldn’t ‘do’ this day. 

Have you been there?   Have you ever had a day that starts and you have to force yourself, with every ounce of strength, to just get up and take the next step?  Well, that was me.  This very morning.


And I had a choice to make…

I could either do the same old routine and push through or start fresh.

I decided to try the latter.

So, the first thing I did was… 
cancel school.

And set up a rotation of sibling time.  Five kids, rotating with siblings to do whatever they wanted (including having alone time during one rotation), for 45 minutes each. 

They loved it! 

And it proved to fan in a wind of pure fresh air, lightening everyone’s spirits. 

Oh, the giggles,
the secretiveness,
the creativity,
the joy of freedom
to choose
how to spend their precious time together!

I witnessed singing and dancing, bracelet making, comic book writing and illustrating, baking (with some assistance from me with the oven), engagement in games, doll playing, reading for pleasure, continuation of a school related project, and acting.

IMG_2855 IMG_2854 
IMG_2856 IMG_2859


And me?
Well, I enjoyed the opportunity to savor the sights and sounds of my children being best friends to one another, reminisce and sort through photos from our trip, check five days of the older kids’ school work that had piled up while I was away, clean some bathrooms with the cutest little helper around, and read God’s Word.

In essence, I was… 
fashioning a way to move more slowly,
creating margin when there was none, 
and remembering to take some time to breathe.


psalm 68 35

So thankful to God for giving me strength for each day!


Diving Into…

A New Year of Learninggradeswith PreK, first, third, fifth, and seventh grades at home!   

First Day of School – August 2014First Day Photo 2014 

This teacher mommy likes to make a themed celebration on the first day of school!  We’ve used a patriotic theme, apples and keeping God’s commands, hearts and showing love, and flying things and growing in wisdom

‘Ocean Creatures’ and overflowing with thankfulness
was our theme this year for our fun first day!
What did we do?

We ate Shark Fin Cupcakes (gulp, for breakfast).

Ocean Table Decor shark fin cupcake

We practiced our Verse of the Day (seen above).

Be joyful always. 
Pray continually.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We worked together and built an Underwater Puzzle.
underwater puzzle

We completed our First Day All About Me Sheets.
Thinking about changes and filling in our ‘Growing in Grace’ sheets
Growing in Grace Sheets

We participated in A Sword Drill Focus on Thankfulness.
The kids took turns looking up Scripture verses from our ‘Apples of Gratitude’, but with an engaging twist ~ As one child chose an apple and looked up the verse, the other kids had to suck on a straw to attempt to move as many Skittles as they could from one bowl to another…
Variation of Sword Drills

We wrote Encouraging Notes to Siblings.
Each year, I write a prayer to each child and place it at their table spot for them to read at breakfast on the first day of school.  Another tradition is that each child writes or draws an encouraging note to their siblings.  They then share and read these aloud at lunch time…
Sibling Encouragement Notes

We enjoyed easting a Special Sea Life Themed Lunch…
Croissant Crab (idea altered slightly from Cute Food For Kids)
Quesadilla Jellyfish (idea altered from here)
Clementine Starfish
Hawaiian Punch Berry Blue Typhoon ’Ocean Water’
Ocean Themed Lunch

We were artists and showed our Ocean Themed Creativity.
(Please Note: These were all works in progress when I took the photos.)

Handprint Fish for our PreK child
Handprint Fish

Acrylic Paintings by our 1st and 5th graders…
ocean acrylic painting 2
ocean acrylic painting

Chalk Pastels by our 3rd and 7th graders…
Ocean Chalk Drawing Ocean Chalk Drawing 2   

We devoured a Beach Themed Snack.
(This was a much simpler variation of ‘Sand Pudding’ as seen at Ma Nouvelle Mode, but her recipe looks delicious!  We also added molded chocolate seashells.)
sea pudding snack

We ate Sand Dollar Cookies for an After Dinner Dessert.
(Simple sugar cookies with almond slivers and some cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top!)

sand dollar cookies 1

sand dollar cookies 2      

And yes, even though there are no photos to prove it, the kids made a splash and dove in to do some ‘real’ school too!

We had a great first day!


This post is part of the 6th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop
over at the iHomeschool Network.  This week, is Student Photo Week!

Homeschooling ~ With A ‘School Room’

We have homeschooled in various places over the years – at the kitchen table, on the couch, in a playroom while younger siblings played around us – basically throughout the house as kids and learning seasons changed, and even in an apartment last year.  All were wonderful for fostering togetherness and great learning experiences at the time.  Through the years, I have learned that it isn’t necessary to have a dedicated school room.  However, when we moved to a different home late last year, for the very first time, we decided to see if a room might be beneficial.

Come take a quick peek…

Our shelf of curriculum for this school year (also housing three of our five workboxes)…
Main Curriculum Shelf

A poem to keep our focus…
God's Child Poem

A cozy reading nook (next to a well lit window)…
 Cozy Reading Nook

Our white board (which also holds a very simple calendar for our preschooler this year) and hands on ABC center drawers (also for our preschooler – Yes, they are some of the same ones from my Kindergarten teaching days!)
Dry Erase Board

Desks for the oldest girls (which easily transforms into a space for sewing projects, crafts and creative writing that the kids enjoy initiating on their own, etc.), and our wall strips that my dear husband made years ago on which to to hang the kids’ artwork (as well as our ‘Apples of Gratitude’ tree this year)

Our clippable maps, and leveled book baskets…
Book Baskets

And, what I think I enjoy the most… a closet to house ALL of the other school related materials (used curriculum and manuals that we plan to use again, sewing/knitting supplies – including two bins of scrap material that were given to us for the girls, and paper/craft supplies)!

School Closet 1

All of the items in this room and closet were spread out between various rooms, closets, and even our unfinished storage room at our last house.  By combining our bedrooms to be a girls’ room and a boys’ room (and including all of their toys in their bedrooms for the first time as well), it opened up a room and a closet to house all of these learning materials together. So, we were able to organize this learning environment using only things we had packed and brought with us, repurposing some items to make it work even better in our new home.  =)


Just because we have a ‘school room’ doesn’t mean that we aren’t anywhere else in our home!  We still have couches to snuggle up on for reading, additional tables for kids to spread out and work on that are close in proximity to this room, and, of course, our kitchen table for any painting / messier crafts.  It is working out so well!


I do remember when we first moved into this home almost a year ago though.  Oh, this room was packed with boxes!  As each box was deposited into this room and the stack became larger, I could tell that those who generously offered to help us couldn’t believe it would ever all fit and become a usable room – but, with everything having an organized and dedicated place, it works beautifully and I am so thankful!


Homeschoolers use the spaces they have to make learning happen anywhere and everywhere!  If you desire to glean more ideas, hop on over to the 6th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop.  It is School Room Week!

Our 2014-2015 Curriculum

Planning, Printing, OrganizingPrep…and Preparing to Make Memories During a New School Year!

As unbelievable as it is, another school year is quickly approaching!  This coming year, our homeschool consists of a 7th grader, 5th grader, 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a PreK child.  Ready or not, here is a peek at what we have planned for the new year…

Our “Together” Subjects

- Heart Of Dakota Resurrection to Reformation (3rd, 5th, 7th)

    We are looking forward to progressing in our history study!  The HOD website explains this year’s history portion as providing…

a deeper look at the time period from the Resurrection of Christ to the Reformation. This year of study is meant to provide students with a Christ-centered overview of the growth of the early church, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the exploration of the new world, and the advancement of science. Within the readings, students will learn about each time period through the lives of the people who lived then. This biographical approach to history shows the strengths and gifts that people were given, along with the mistakes and errors that they made. Yet, the resources chosen for this study will show how God in His loving care watched over His people amidst persecution and trials. Church history is woven in and out of the narratives at the proper places in history, leading students to see that all of history belongs to God and is actually “His” story.

Independent History Reading and Read AloudsHistory 1
Extension ReadersHistory 2

- God’s World News current events (3rd, 5th, 7th)
- Mystery of History Vol 2 audio (7th)
Our oldest child LOVED Mystery of History volume 1 and begged us to let her listen to volume 2 as well!

Apologia Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day (1st, 3rd, 5th)
After having the opportunity to visit the beach and ocean this past year, our children are excited to be able to learn more about sea life and ocean creatures!
Swimming Creatures

Ocean Creatures Notebook
Free ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’


Bible and Apologetics –
- Hidden Treasures in Philippians study and Philippians 1 Scripture Memorization (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Philippians 1

Philippians 1 Copywork
Free Philippians Copywork Sheets

- Apologia Who AM I? (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Who Am I

- YWAM Missionary Biographies
Our oldest kids continue to enjoy listening to these true stories!

Intro to Greek
- Greek Alphabet Code Cracker (3rd, 5th, 7th)
- Greek Alphabet Coloring Pages from Classical Academic Press (1st grader)
Intro to Greek
Free Greek Alphabet Coloring Pages



- Art Appreciation Looking at Pictures (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Art Appreciation
- Creating a Masterpiece Level 1
Art2 Art




Grade Specific Reading / Language Arts /Math

our 7th grader…

  • Literature-  Memoria Press (The Wind in the Willows, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table)
  • Reading – HOD extension reading and free choice reading
  • Spelling – Phonetic Zoo
  • Writing and Grammar:  BJU English and Writing 7
  • Horizons Math
  • Xtra Math
  • Handwriting – Philippians 1 Cursive Copywork
  • Science – Apologia General Science
  • AWANA – 1st year Trek, serving as a Leader in Training with a preschool Gopher Buddies class
  • Music – Violin, Pianimals piano practice
  • Devotions with Mom – Beautiful Girlhood, The Virtuous Woman: A Short Study on Proverbs 31 for Mothers and Daughters
  • Extra Bible – middle school Bible study, continuing to memorize Ephesians


our 5th grader…

  • Literature-  Memoria Press (King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, Adam of the Road, Door in the Wall)
  • Reading – related history reading, Abeka readers, free choice reading
  • Spelling – Rod and Staff
  • Writing and Grammar:  BJU English and Writing 5
  • Horizons Math 5
  • Xtra Math
  • Handwriting – Philippians 1 Cursive Copywork
  • AWANA – 3rd year T&T
  • Music – Violin, Pianimals piano practice, Choir
  • Devotions with Mom – Beautiful Girlhood, The Virtuous Woman: A Short Study on Proverbs 31 for Mothers and Daughters

our 3rd grader…

  • Literature -  Memoria Press (Farmer Boy, Charlotte’s Web, The Moffats, Homer Price)
  • Reading – related history reading, Abeka readers, free choice reading
  • Spelling – Joyful Heart Spelling Skills (completing Part 2)
  • Writing and Grammar:  BJU English and Writing 3
  • Horizons Math 3 (continuation from last year) and moving into 4
  • Xtra Math
  • Handwriting – Philippians 1 Manuscript Copywork, A Reason For Handwriting Transition book (cursive)
  • Extra Science – Astronomy focus from HOD
  • AWANA – 1st year T&T
  • Music – Choir
  • Devotions with Dad – Boyhood and Beyond


our 1st grader…

  • Reading – ABeka readers, free choice reading (and starting a Book List)
  • Phonics – Explode the Code 3-4
  • Spelling / Handwriting – Joyful Heart Spelling Skills (starting Part 1)
  • Writing – Write a Super Sentence
  • Horizons Math 1/2
  • Xtra Math
  • Social Studies – History for Little Pilgrims, History Stories for Children, Selections from Draw Write Now (books 2,3,& 5)
    1st Grade History
  • AWANA – 2nd year Sparks
  • Music – Pianimals piano practice (with her big sister overseeing her), Choir

our 4 year old PreK child…


Would you like to see our previous year’s curriculum choices?
2013-2014 (6th, 4th, 2nd, K, preschool)
2012-2013 (5th, 3rd, 1st, PreK, 2 year old)
2011-2012 (4th, 2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler)
2010-2011 (3rd, 1st, PreK, 2 year old, 4 mo old baby)
2009-2010 (2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived end of year)
2008-2009 (1st, PreK, 2 year old, 6 mo old baby)
2007-2008 (K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year)
2006-2007 (PreK, 2 year old, 7 mo old baby) – Joyful Heart Character
2005-2006 (3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year) – Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme
2004-2005 (2 year old, 6 mo old baby) – Joyful Heart Learning


This post is part of the 6th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop over at the iHomeschool Network.  This week, homeschoolers around the nation are sharing their curriculum choices for this coming school year!


My Ocean Creatures Notebook

ocean How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
Psalm 104:24-25

 ocean 2


Our family has had the privilege to visit and explore the coastline during the past two summers. May we never cease to be amazed at the vastness of the ocean and the creative nature of our loving God!  So, it is with great anticipation as we embark on a new school year and begin our study of ocean creatures using Apologia’s Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day!  After studying Apologia’s Zoology 1 for our main science text last year, we knew that once again we would desire to spend time learning about science and nature using this God centered, creationist curriculum with multiple ages.

Swimming Creatures

As I read through the text and looked at the regular and junior notebooking journals, as excellent as they are, I realized that I wanted a slightly different design for our upcoming first grader.  So, of course, I created one – ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’!  This was a fun project to work on, especially since my oldest daughter teamed up to help me for the first time!

The ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’ does contain some writing spaces and true notebooking type sheets. However, there are mostly cutting, gluing, sorting, labeling, and coloring activities designed with lower elementary students in mind (advanced K-2nd grade) allowing them to learn alongside their older siblings. The topics and vocabulary correspond with the same ones as found in the Apologia Swimming Creatures textbook.


In this FREE resource you will find…

Coloring sheets with Scripture
Pages for Labeling anatomy of different ocean creatures
Experiment Sheets
Vocabulary Match Ups
Comparing and Contrasting Activities
Spaces to write facts to remember
Word Searches (with answer key in the back)
My Ocean Creatures Drawing pages
Ocean Creatures Report Sheets
Aquarium Field Trip Scavenger Hunt
Picture Cards (Photos)
Sorting/Matching Cards (ocean creatures and their names)


Ocean Creatures Notebook

Download the ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’ for FREE
at the Joyful Heart Learning Teacher’s Notebook Shop!


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