Sunday, July 27, 2014

If you give a homeschool mom... Homeschool Room Redo

The schoolroom gets a lot of use during the year. We like having a space where a majority of our books and supplies stay corralled and a space where I can shut the door and not have to look at it all the time. I think if we were to homeschool in the dining room and had to clean up books and papers everyday to use the table, I would go nuts. We're not chained to the room but it's definitely our best place to work and spread out. (Here's what it looked like before the current redo.)
However with all that use, it was seriously grungy. I try to do a thorough cleaning at the end of each school year (cobwebs, scrubbing desks, dusting each shelf of books) but it really needed some help. I started the process and realized that the walls needed some touching up. Perhaps, just maybe, because some of the people who use the room (*cough, cough* the younglings) like to put their dirty feet on the wall when they read. Can you see the grunge?
We also had a crack where the paneling had been pushed on. Bass tackled that with some spackle. (This is not a "finished" space. It's in our basement... so concrete floors, open ceilings, cinder block exterior walls. On the other side of this wall, the former owners had built in a big brick wall with closets on one side and a brick, working fireplace on the other end. We use that as our family room. This room was a 'bedroom' or den of sorts with old 70s era paneling on all the walls. We're just working with the existing elements until someday we can afford to reframe the whole space. Which is probably never. You can see before pics here.)
The floor was pretty grungy too. We used concrete paint when we set the room up at the beginning of our homeschool journey but it seemed like it never cured properly. It was weird and kind of spongy and impossible to clean.
So my plan was to give everything a thorough cleaning and touch-up. Well, it needed a lot of touching up and I didn't have enough paint on-hand. So the annual summer cleaning snowballed into a whole project.

Here's our whole "If you give a mouse a cookie..." saga:

If you give a mom a homeschool room that needs to be spruced up, she'll want to repaint.
(The daughter might suggest blue instead of brown.)
I went with a semi-gloss finish this time to hopefully help with next year's cleaning.
If you give a homeschool mom new paint for her room, she'll probably want new flooring.
It's in a basement so we went with a vapor barrier and a foam underlayment. It wasn't terribly expensive so if we do end up with serious water issues, it won't be the worst thing ever. We're hoping that it will last though.
If you give a homeschool mom new flooring, she'll probably want baseboards to hide the gap between the flooring and the wall.
Bass dug through his wood pile and then hit the Re-store to find most of the needed pieces for super cheap.
If you give a homeschool mom new baseboard, she'll probably also want trim to finish off the door that didn't have any.
and if you have the saw and nail gun out, she'll probably want that goofy spot without paneling to get filled in
We had a few pieces of paneling in the woodpile so Bass planned and calculated carefully to be able to fill in a weird hole that was by Soprano's desk and fill in above the main entry door.
If you give a homeschool mom freshly painted walls, new flooring, new trim, and fixed paneling, she'll probably want to replace all of the ugly, 70s dark brown outlets and covers
Bass had most of what we needed in his electrical stash.
If you give a homeschool mom new outlets and covers, she'll be happy for awhile but then she'll want to put the furniture back in.
When she goes to put the furniture back in, she'll probably want more cube shelves.
I was thinking of getting the Ikea Kallax shelves (Kallax just replaced the Expedit) but for less money, I could get 3 sets of their Bitrade 2x4 cube shelves instead. I'd link to Ikea's site but I don't see them listed online anywhere.)
If you give a homeschool mom new cube shelves, she'll probably quickly stuff them with books and curriculum
If you give a homeschool mom a fancy new space with lots of books, she'll probably want to set-up spaces for her kids to learn and work
Tenor's desk. Same set-up as previous years.
Soprano's desk. Same set-up as previous years.
If you give a homeschool mom spaces where her kids can work, she'll probably want to hang things to help her visual learners retain info.
This is new!! And I'm excited about it!! Can ya' tell? I hung their on-the-go storage clipboards and our yard and meter sticks. Then on the door I took some clothespins and used Command strips cut in half to hang them on the door. Each set of clips hold an education placemat that I got at a local Education store. The top shows the systems of the human body, U.S. presidents are in the middle, and the solar system on the bottom. We studied anatomy and astronomy last year so these are up for reference/review until we get to this coming year's topics.
The white board was on the other door. I moved it so the placemats would be more visible (plus that door is always closed.) This is our main entry door to the family room space so the white board could be facing into the family room. We'll use this for IEW brainstorming this year.

 If you give a homeschool mom space to hang things, she'll probably want to add a little music.
Getting our music list to work easily has been a frustrating issue in the schoolroom. Bass finally talked me into this little hamburger speaker that we can use with the iPod. The speaker was fine last year but the cord kept slipping down behind the desk. This year I have the speaker on my teacher desk sorter and the wire secured with a binder clip. It will slide in and out easily so I can plug, play, then put away. Stress-free, right?
 If you give a homeschool mom a fun speaker to pop in the iPod so they can all listen to music together, she'll probably want her own desk space on which to set it.
The desktop computer we had in here went out to the family room. Tenor has been using it more so we wanted it in a more visible location. Now that I have a laptop and am not really using the desk in the family room, the space is free for the desktop machine. Bonus, this table where we do joint work, read together, and I correct their work has a lot more open space.
And if you give a homeschool mom her own work space and a "brand-new" room and new cube shelves and places for her kids to learn and work, she'll probably want a cozy reading nook chair to collapse in.
This is pretty much the same, although a little cozier than before since the new bookshelves take up more wall space. I framed our two posters to make it look a little classier. :)
Soprano has come dancing in several times saying how much she loves the blue paint and the new space. Tenor sans dancing has been in a lot just working on little projects at his desk and rediscovering books on the shelves.
I'm just thrilled that the floor will be easier to clean! :)

How about you? Do you have a dedicated room, or do you spread out on the kitchen table? Do you have any organization tips to share? Or organizing trouble-spots?

Linking up here:
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

iHomeschool Network Not Back to School Blog Hop 

Monday, July 21, 2014

2014-2015 Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Year 4 here we come. They say the first three years are the hardest so this coming year should be awesome. Right? We've definitely found our groove and a lot of things that work for us. Here's what we're planning to use for the 2014-2015 school year:

Tenor is going into 7th grade. He'll be working through
Saxon 8/7 and then Algebra for math
Rod and Staff  English 7 for grammar
Rod and Staff Spelling 7 (Although I'm debating on whether or not we'll use it.)
Progeny Press for literature (We've had great success with Across the Centuries but I found three volumes at Salvation Army for $0.99 each and Tenor was interested in trying them.)
For his electives, he'll continue with Level 2 of Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! We're also looking into some computer and technology courses through Alpha Omega (Switched on Schoolhouse) or
He's also interested in geocaching, robotics, computer animation, and will be taking guitar lessons.

Soprano is going into 5th grade so she'll be doing
Saxon 6/5 and Life of Fred Butterflies and Cats for math
Rod and Staff  English for grammar
Rod and Staff Spelling 5 for spelling
Across the Centuries for reading comprehension. She will work through 3 books.

For her electives, she'll be doing Lessons in Responsibilities for Girls, Volume 2.
She's also interested photography, sign language, and jewelry making.

Together they'll do My Father's World Exploration to 1850.
My Father's World incorporates Bible, history, geography, science, vocabulary, music, and art altogether for multiple grade levels. This is the 3rd year of the 4-year history cycle and the one I've most been looking forward to. This year covers the age of Exploration, the Colonial Era, the Revolutionary War and up to the Westward Expansion plus world history of the same time period. Our science this year is life science: animals and botany.
Our main texts for the year.
PA History will totally be covered with our regular history studies this year so I'm not adding anything additional for that. Since we'll also be doing lots of map work (I'm incorporating activities from the Story of the World Activity Book and MapTrek) and studying the early government of the U.S., I'm not adding any civics or geography either.

They'll also both be doing Institute For Excellence in Writing - U.S. History Based Writing Lessons for writing (which will correlate with our history). Having them both do the same book will lighten my load because we'll work through the lessons together.

The only other things we have to cover are fire safety and phys. ed.  Phys. Ed. will be covered by doing Tae Kwan Do. I'm also looking into swimming, tennis, and horseback riding lessons. We'll see how far the budget can take us.

Our field trip ideas this year include a trip to Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown (during homeschool days this September), the William Penn House, Philadelphia (historical sites as well as the zoo), hopefully Boston, Longwood Gardens, the PA Railroad Museum, the Lancaster Symphony (free open rehearsals), PA State Museum, and the Daniel Boone Homestead. Our local library has free passes to some of the museums, there's Smithsonian Museum Day in September, and Charter Day for PA in March so a lot of those will be at no cost. I'm sure we'll find some library or local conservation center programs to go to as well as concerts. We are blessed to live in an area where the arts abound, and there are lots of free or low cost opportunities.

Sounds fun, right? We'll start in early August so I need to finish all my prepping and planning! It's coming up quick!

Linking up here:
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

iHomeschool Network

Friday, July 18, 2014

Twinkly Summer Decor

Summer heat makes me want to lighten up the layers in the house. I try to keep the summer mantel and decor simple and airy looking.
 My favorite part... the twinkly lights.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Make a Card Monday - Electric Guitar Thank You

So I posted a pic of Tenor's guitar birthday card last week. The thing with the acoustic guitar that we gave him is that it was a yard sale find. I got a great deal on it years and years ago. It had just been sitting in a closet gathering dust. I knew it needed to be tuned up and cleaned but not being a guitar person was a little out of my element. A guitar-playing friend (who is an awesome guitarist--classical, acoustic, rock, and worship leader) answered my plea for help and offered to restring the guitar for me. We had dinner with his family and he got the guitar all set for Tenor. I wanted to send a guitar themed card to say thank you.
I wanted to use the sunburst background and had enough to make two cards so I varied the style.

After creating the sunburst base, I used an embellishment piece from the paper pad to stamp the sentiment on. I cut the guitar shadow (Cricut Quarternote) from the gray cardstock and then cut the top layer from a gold patterned paper. I used gold Stickles to add the little knobs on the guitar body (yeah, no idea what they're called) and highlight the tuning pegs.

cardstock: gray cardstock base (Recollections), white cardstock sunburst base and interior (Georgia Pacific)
patterned paper: all sunburst pieces and guitar top (Recollections "Route 66")

embellishments: Stickles (gold)
color: Charcoal ink (Palette)
tools: Quarternote (Cricut)
stamps: Rock On (PTI)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Swimsuit Surgery

Swimsuit shopping has to be one of the most annoying things ever for women! It takes a wonderful thing, shopping, and totally ruins it! It's so hard to find something in store, that you can actually try on, that actually fits properly. Add in wanting to be modest and an almost 40-year old body and the chances of finding something are practically zero. (My troubles seem to be compounded by wearing a smaller size but not wanting a bikini.)
I was tempted to order something online but decided not to having just had some frustrating experiences with clothes shopping via the internet (great companies with great customer service just not able to find something that fit).

I really needed a second swimsuit top though. I ended up finding a tankini top on sale for $20 at a local department store which is mostly okay. Then I had the thought that I could do some "surgery" on my current top to make it more of what I want, giving me two suits to alternate wearing.

After searching for hours online and not finding many tutorials or help, I decided to put one together myself, just in case you're in the same boat!

So here's the before:
This is my "I can't believe I'm putting this pic on the world wide web". Perhaps it gives you an idea of how frustrated I was trying to figure out how to fix this swimsuit and not wanting anyone else to be as frustrated. 
So you can see, it's not terrible but it's sagging low in the front and has no support whatsoever. It's really a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.
Here's the back... you can see how high the back strap support sits.
 And the non-supportive side view.
 My plan was to take an existing, kind of yucky, old bra that still had decent elastic and sew it into the thin lining of the tankini top. First step was to pin the bra into the top, being sure to only pin it onto the lining and not all the way through the front layer too. Then I carefully (very carefully) tried it on.
After I tried it on and made sure that the cups were sitting in the right place and not peeking out anywhere, I cut off the straps.
I flipped it right-side out and checked again to make sure the bra was not showing anywhere and to be sure it was centered and looked okay.
Pre-sewn version; looks okay.
I flipped it wrong-side out and used my sewing machine to sew the bra onto the lining (regular thread, straight stitch). I just sewed around the edge on the inside of the bra seaming. It was a little thick in places but I didn't have any trouble getting the needle through. As I sewed, I tried to keep the cups formed in a rounded shape because the lining is so stretchy.
The next step was to fix the bra's band size. It was a 36... currently, I wear a 30 (Europe) or a 32 (US) so it didn't really offer much support. I did a really ugly fix and just folded the band over itself and sewed a new seam. I had to do both sides to get the size I needed.
I didn't sew the back band into the suit because I figured it would be easier to fasten that way. (I was right.)
Because I'm short, I figured shortening the back strap of the suit would offer more support. It was pretty easy to use the seam ripper on it, then reattach it lower.
Here's the final result:
It has a slightly higher neckline now and plenty of support. Which means no inadvertent flashing.
The actual pinning and sewing took maybe 20 minutes. The most difficult part was trying it on about 10 times! I hope this helps you make swimsuit wearing a little bit easier. Because it's way more fun to be in the pool or on the beach than worrying about your swimsuit!

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