Thursday, June 22, 2017

I Might be Addicted to *Theme Units*


Because I'm totally a nerd mom I had to take a picture of some of the packets, aka theme units I developed for K to work thru this last year-2nd grade (as I'm clearing out the clutter). I am such a sucker for theme units so I'd scour the internet for crafts, projects and printables and put it all together.

It never seems like much is accomplished in the moment and I always feel like we could or should be doing more, more, more.  Now that I look at these! Pretty cool. Some are missing for who knows what reason...lost, crumpled, left in the car and inevitably, tossed. Gasp! Which is where these are headed. In the recycling bin of course! 

Here are few of the themes we covered and shown in this pic: 
  • My Five Sense
  • Your Body
  • Diary of an Elf
  • My Reindeer Report
  • Winter/Christmas Around the World
  • Rain
  • Spring
  • Valentine's Day
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Tropical Rain Forest
  • The Arctic
  • Oceans
Of course I found a couple that were left more unfinished than finished to include in this picture. Haha! We'll finish them up this summer. Think I wouldn't!?!

I choose a theme, which usually matches the current weather, season, or holiday of the month. It's super easy to find printables (mostly free) for every subject on every topic. Hello Pinterest!?! I personally have a few fav sites that I use regularly (some printables are free but I have full access with a subscription from our charter school) and (for language arts passages). Those two links usually make up my base. From there I search for themed math worksheets. He has a math book so those would be supplementary and colorful! I use multi-media like youtube to find interesting videos to match the theme.

I can incorporate language arts, math, science, social studies and/or history and even fine art. Science is often my starting point or subject because language arts can be incorporated with anything. Occasionally I will create a packet that focuses solely on language arts skills using reading passages, graphic organizers, writing prompts and reading comprehension such as a Fairy Tale packet I created. Or one that had beautiful, full-color graphic organizers that was all about writing good sentences and solid paragraphs with a main idea and supporting sentences.  

I use science topics the most though because helllooo...experiments! When I shared in class that I prefer to use theme units, my professor responded that it is hard and takes years of experience to create theme units. I don't know if that is true or not since I DO have years (19 so far!) of experience. I certainly don't think it is hard though. If I may be honest, I love theme units because it feels so easy. Like the lazy mom's way to home-educate! Why not use one topic and hit all the subjects instead of having 6 separate subjects AND topics?

Over all, I can say, now that it's summer, that we had a great year. I was doubtful at times. Scared often. Home-educating is a huge responsibility. My darlings aren't always as excited about it as I am! I don't know why. ;-) We also did a lot of organic learning...while hiking, visiting nature centers and various outdoor environments in different seasons and all kinds of weather.

Theme units aren't just for lower and elementary grades either. I created my high schoolers fine arts syllabus month-to-month following the same idea: theme, youtube, printable, art project. Voila! (I can share more about that later...on my homeschool blog --I promise to catch up soon. I have lots of drafts to update from this past school year.)

There you have it folks...the lazy mom's guide too homeschool. Maybe that should have been the title? 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

I Watched 13 Reasons Why with My teens and I think You Should Too

I know, I know, some of you may be cringing or judging me as a mother right now. First, yes, the series contains mature content and subject matter. It also contains foul language, acts of bullying, graphic depictions of violence, assault, and rape, sexual situations and partial nudity. This may be upsetting or trigger inducing to some viewers.

It also contains a VERY realistic story-line about a highschool student who commits suicide. Via cassette tape, she outlines a series of events that led her to that point in her life.

So why would I recommend this? Because these horrific situations happen everyday and they are not isolated events. It's very eye-opening, especially in a digital age, how a seemingly minor incident can be twisted, blown out of proportion and shared, in a matter of seconds. This is serious and life altering for a teenager.

I especially implore you to watch the interview at the end, even skip the series and go straight to the interview if you want. We need to talk about these topics with each other, with our children. Sure, maybe you think you can talk about it without watching it (we fast-fwd through objectionable scenes, truth be told). However, even the parents depicted in this series are clueless. Not by choice. Everyone is trying but at the same time, they are trapped within the same 'system'. Looking out for themselves, hoping they don't become targets.

It clearly and accurately depicts the depth of pain that can occur over something that appears so trivial on the surface. The nature of relationships, hierarchy of survival and dynamics within teen (and even young adult) culture.

What is the redeeming factor of watching a series like this? Awareness. Having the hard conversations with your kids. Changing our own patterns of behavior toward each other. Pursuing real relationship with others and potentially the teens within our community or sphere of influence.
I think I have a good relationship with my kids but there are still things I don't know. I don't spend the 4 hours at the skate park with my son. I don't sit in their writing class with them. I am not at the dance studio. And I am considered a very involved parent. There is autonomy so it is impossible to know everything in one's heart, even those closest to us. But we can try.

I pursue relationship with my kids. But we have to be honest. We have to be safe and approachable. We HAVE to look beyond the surface of our children's lives and watch for the nuances of communication and BE there. We have to listen, even if we're tired. There aren't always signs of trauma but we need to pay attention when our children are trying.

We need to teach them that we can be trusted. Even with the hard stuff. Even with their dumb, or worse, choices.

Yes, we need Jesus. Guess what? Depression, despair, bullying, assault, violence and rape...all exists even with Jesus. They exist within our churches. In our youth groups. In our sanctuaries.
Lets start talking about it!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
24 Hour – Local Referrals
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
1-888-628-9454 (En Espanol)
1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
Teen Line
800-TLC-TEEN (852-8336)
California Youth Crisis Line
24 Hours Bilingual

Friday, February 24, 2017

Parenting WITH Fear Today

I have intentionally worked on parenting *without* fear. Not making decisions influenced by fear-based-outcomes but focusing on the positive. For the first time ever, I had a discussion with my ktbunch, giving advice, based strictly on *fear*.

Because yesterday, a grown man grabbed a 13yo against his will, refused to let him go and eventually pulled out a gun that fired. I watched a few of the original eye-witness videos last night before they were grabbed by local news media, edited, altered and chopped to pieces. I watched with fear in my own heart thinking I was about to witness a 13yo get killed. I watched as a human but probably more, without trying to, as a mother.

 I've heard and read the commentary on the incident. About how horrible the 13yo was for "being disrespectful" & that he "deserved" it. Somehow justifying the use of physical force and an armed weapon to accomplish what? Control? Prove a point?
We teach our children stranger danger, if there was ever an attempt by someone to grab them they must fight, kick and scream, do whatever needs to be done to get away...yet this 13yo, being grabbed & dragged by a stranger, who is bigger and stronger, is being called disrespectful? His entire generation is being called disrespectful. His mother is being accused of being a horrible parent.

So I tell my kids, from now on...yes, be respectful BUT...But what? Be *perfect*? You have no rights? You won't be protected? You can't make a mistake? You can't trust adults? What!?! What DO I tell them? That there are CRAZY people out there who obviously have NO problem with the idea of pulling out an armed weapon if you walk on their lawn or speak back at them when they curse you, or are surrounded by other teens walking home from school, or you're wearing a hoodie at night...

Do I tell them they can expect to be viewed as guilty until proven innocent? So walk with your eyes down and your nose clean. Mind your business son...just keep on walking. Do I tell them they are not allowed to make mistakes? That the strongest guy will win. The lightest color guy will win? YES, I know other mothers have lived with this fear for decades. I know. I'm sorry.

Of course, being disrespectful is never appropriate. But is the correct response to a mouthy teen to pull out a gun!?! Since when it is ok to put your hands on and grab a 13 year old, you don't even know!?! If a parent reacted the way the man in this incident did, they'd be charged with child abuse! So how is it ok for this guy? Why did the teen get immediately cuffed, arrested and charged and the man got a calm, 'talking to' and then given 72 hour 'administrative leave'. No charges have been filed against him. Apparently he is entitled to an investigation. What was the teen entitled to?

It's true we do not know what happened before the video. We have only heard the teen's side of the story so far. From what I saw, the teen was acting like a punk, sure. However, I don't see where that justifies the grown adult, reacting physically, trying to force his will upon the teen and then pulling out a weapon. That is an abuse of authority, intimidation, bullying, etc.

I have questions. I don't have answers. My heart is heavy.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What Our Advent *might* Look Like This Year.

Things have been challenging the past year and even more so the past few months. I really looked forward to Advent as a time of focused devotion to the scriptures of Christmas, the intentional time to gather with my ktbunch and breathe. It's not all faith and Bible verses but it mostly is. I added a new Advent book/devotional/calendar on a whim last month and could barely wait to bring it out. We are not organized, we are not uptight and we may go strong for a few days a week, for a few weeks. It's something though. A time set apart for meditation, prayer, and being together. It's effort and right now, that's about all I've got to give: good intentions.

All the Colors of Christmas
First, here are the books we pull from: 

I bought this Advent activity Calendar new this year. It has a daily devotional, an advent calendar tree to assemble, and activities to go along with each devo. The main part of this book though, is the brilliant illustrations to color. The pages are large and I expect it could take us years of advent celebrations, to finish each page.

The ktbunch is free to color while they listen if they wish. There is no pressure to participate but the option is there.

Christ in Christmas

I also have a few favorites I have collected through the years and continue to use to enrich our time together. My first book was this classic pictured on the left.

This book contains guided scripture readings, devotional content, classic faith based Christmas carols to sing, an activity and prayer for each Sunday of advent.

We sing the Christmas carol together and it offers another option to enrich our time together.

The next little book is not an Advent book at all. It's a book of prayers I found at the grocery store a few years ago but the prayers are Christmas themed and each one includes a Bible verse.

Each passage is short enough that my seven year old can read it with ease, without becoming over whelmed.

Touching Wonder

This next book I own digitally on Kindle. This one is also an absolute favorite of mine! It is such an honest, raw account of Christmas, as told through each of the characters and players of the scriptural story we know so well. It's not a dreamy version or account but an awe inspiring, gritty and fresh perspective that moved my heart and soul.

The book also includes pencil drawings/illustrations and a hand written letter commentary image for each chapter from the author.

We are reading our scriptures from this Bible I purchased a few months ago. The bible itself is beautiful. It features illustrations to color and wide, lined margins for your own personal journaling and creative expression.

And one more book...that I can only HOPE to use this year...not an Advent or devotional at all but still Christmas's a COOK BOOK!

A gorgeous book filled with spiritual comfort and recipes to meet your physical and emotional needs. Haha. I also found this one at the grocery store, last year I think.

It features gorgeous full color pictures and scriptures.

Now along with these primarily faith based books and reading selections, I also pull from a variety of Christmas themed books on my Kindle. Most were freebies; novels, a few classics and a couple collections that feature passages from various Christmas books, poems and traditional readings.

Here is a list of some of the books i have acquired for FREE via Kindle.

The Gift  of the Magi
A Christmas Carol
Christmas Stories and Legends
A Little Book of Christmas
The Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories for Children
The Children's Book of Christmas Stories

Here's what our modern-use-what-you-have-and-do-what-you-can-Advent looks like:

I don't aim to do *everything* on my Advent wish-it-looked-like-list, but whatever. We gather on my bed, the only common meeting place we have right now. And we take turns reading scriptures, passages, prayers and stories from the variety of resources we have. We may snuggle afterward and watch a Christmas movie if there is one. We will color if anyone wants to in the new advent coloring book. We'll sing a Christmas carol. Maybe we'll do the recommended activity for the evening and maybe we won't. It strictly depends on what we have available, to be honest.

If I'm feeling ambitious, maybe I will have something fresh baked...ok, let's be real! A cup of hot chocolate or tea seems more realistic. We'll see how it goes. Haha. My whole life is in storage and that means all my Christmas decorations. I am trying to keep Christmas in my heart, and maybe that is the point over all. Maybe the forced simplicity can produce peace in the midst of the unrest that is our current lives. Attitude of gratitude, right!?! Got it! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Hike Day: El Dorado Nature Center, Long Beach

This local nature center is a real gem, located  in suburbia. It's more of a walk then a hike and is great for younger kids especially. There are restrooms and water fountains located at the nature center and another about half way along the trail. The trail features a 1 or 2 mile option. Also, there is a 1/4 mile paved trail that makes this stroller and wheel chair friendly.

There is a parking fee as follows:
$5 Monday-Thursday
$6 Friday
$7 Saturday & Sunday
$8 on Holidays

We met some very friendly bird-watching photographers along our walk today. They let us use their binoculars to observe an osprey enjoying a fresh fish lunch over the lake. 

You will most likely see turtles along the bridge from the nature center and ducks, lizards, squirrels and possibly rabbits or even a snake along the way. Though this trail is nestled away in suburbia, there are beautiful views to be had, if you are looking for them. 

This is a fairly easy hike for us. Pretty flat, partial shade and sun. There are viewing and sitting areas along the path. This is a popular trail for bird watchers.

I usually head for the mountains but some just gotta stay local and still get your outdoor fix.

Start the day outside! 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Switzer Falls, Angeles National Forest

We've visited this trail before and it's still a fav. There is a parking lot along the side of the mountain road and there is a restroom located there. However, the trail starts at the bottom of that pull out road, if you follow it down. You will find 2 more parking locations and more restrooms. The trail features picnic areas and barBqs near the parking lot. Adventure Parking Pass required.

I can't get enough of the brilliant yellow and orange leaves of fall.
The trail offers shade with tree cover and full sun in spots. While we were hiking we saw two wood peckers going at it along the top of two trees. Depending on the season, your hike may be accompanied by a flowing or shallow creek. 

I've seen this falls flowing more at different seasons but it was still flowing a bit today. What many don't know however, is that there is another, even taller falls behind this one. It's beautiful when it is flowing and the hike to get there is only about 10 minutes beyond and behind Switzer. 

You must cross over this charming bridge to begin the hike. It's a great photo opp when the timer is on correctly. haha. We usually always stop and take a pic here.

Today we encountered this animal bone. Possibly a hip bone, maybe from a coyote? It was fun to examine and imagine what animal it may have originated from.

I recommend this hike as family friendly though there are a few narrow pathways at times. Definitely not stroller friendly beyond the first creek corssing. On a hot day, the full sun may get to you too. Always plan ahead and bring plenty of water and wear sun protective gear and clothing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After...

No, I'm not referring to some zombie apocalypse movie. I'm referring to what some believe is Trumpocalypse!  The dude isn't officially in office yet but he will be, as elected. Social media hasn't calmed down one bit. It's just as volatile today as it has been the last six months of campaigning. Apparently people are in shock, over come with grief, much that university classes were being cancelled, students felt they couldn't attend...I heard from one elementary student, she was so distraught she couldn't stop crying and called her mother to take her home from school. Elementary school! Acts and threats of gun violence have been all over. Strangers threatening others about 'that wall.'

It's sorrowful. My heart is overwhelmed and now it's the end of the day, literally, call me selfish, but I'm not crying over the presidency or the future of America.

Today, I'm crying over the same sorrows I had yesterday. And last week. My family is still hurting, not more or less then yesterday. I still have to figure out how to live MY life, right now. Not three months from now. Not next year but now.

I have to figure out how to cope with the challenges I am facing every day. Every freaking day. Tonight, while praying with my seven year old, I finally broke down, right in front him. HE was wiping tears from my eyes and I felt like even more of a failure.

I'm crying because I feel like I will never be free. I will never get ahead, much less catch up. I'm crying because I've had to start my life over except with less energy, resources, tight skin and youth than the first time and way more responsibility. I'm crying because I'm worn out, tired of fighting not even for dreams anymore, but a basic human standard of decent living. I'm crying cause I feel like all the energy, love and hope of my youth was stolen from me.

Mr. T, Mrs. C, third parties, celebrities, global leaders, mega church pastors, all of you, I don't care! I don't care who won. I don't think God cares. I don't think He's up there pointing fingers at everyone who voted different from you or I. I'm praying tonight...that He cares about ME. That He moves in MY life.

I already said, sure, call me selfish. I am not going to suddenly give advice or condemn or act like we can all be peace and love and do hippie macrame together. No. Never. I don't want to jump on that bandwagon. I don't have great words of wisdom, a pithy piece of scripture or other condescending phrases.

I know people legitimately feel hurt and scared. I feel it too. Probably for different reasons but it doesn't matter. Fear is fear.

I'd like to be able to write some profound, 'let's all get along' statement that would go viral. But alas...I don't have that either. Mr. T isn't going to fix even one of my problems! The Hill wasn't going to either.

I do know, that people will feel what they are going to feel. Let them. Let them vent. Let them disagree with you, so what. Let them rejoice. Let them cry. It could has nothing to do with you or me or the president. I'm exhausted, same as yesterday.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Hike Day; Haunted Hike: Deforest Park, Long Beach

Welp, I was searching for a "Haunted Hike" and this park kept showing up. Reviews were mixed so I decided to check it out. It was a bit rainy but what I didn't expect was...the nature trail to be CLOSED for construction! Boo!

There is a free parking since it's a park, there is a paved side walk along the perimeter and there are restrooms.

We followed along the sidewalk up to the nature trail gate only to be greeted by the chain link fence. Such a disappointment. We walked past the nature trail entrance toward the river bed trail. We stayed on the low side, not up to the paved river bed trail and walked along the fence. It looks like it may be horse friendly. 

We did not have any supernatural experiences but the police were a strong presence in the area. 
There was this bloody, paint mess on the bathroom wall. By the way, these park restrooms are the type with out any doors and short brick wall dividers. 

I can't recommend this park as a nature walk or trail since it was closed. I am not familiar enough with the area to recommend it at all. It had a bit of a shady vibe to it and it wasn't in the supernatural sense. There were people hanging out in the parking lot, appearing to get high in their cars. Police showed up and arrested someone while we were at the playground with our kids.

If the nature trail is ever open again, I might revisit it then. 

It's Halloween season. What!?!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Abalone Cove, Rancho Palo Verdes

Before we started our hike this week, we took a brief tour of this gorgeous glass chapel. You can read about the Wayfarers Chapel here.  Visitors are welcome. There is a small visitor center that is more of a gift shop, with restrooms. You can walk around the gardens of the chapel and into the glass chapel itself and also admire the coastal views.

The cliff side we took down to the beach.
Abalone Cove Park is the trail head for this hike. It is very close to the Terranea Discovery trail we have taken before. It's an easy to moderate short trail but not stroller friendly. Full sun-no shade, wear sun protective clothing and bring water, like any day at the beach. The park only has free parking the first 30 minutes. It's $6 for 2 hours then $12 beyond that. There is no way to get down to the beach, explore and return within 30 minutes. 

We drove down to the lot for the Terranea Discovery Trail. It is free parking and there are also clean restrooms. We took the trail along Palos Verde Dr. from the parking lot to Abalone Cove Park. It's about a 30 minute walk.

We discovered this lovely little waterfall flowing to the sea shore.

From Abalone Cove Park, walk down to the beach. There are a few trails to follow. We cut one trail short but heading down the cliff side. It wasn't very treacherous or challenging but definitely requires caution. The trails have gravel and the beach is rocky, so I do not recommend the use of a stroller but a child carrier is fine.

We headed left, toward tide search of sea stars. Recent pix found online via social media showed others finding the treasures of the sea. Last year, we learned about the coastal disease and warmers waters caused by El Nino like weather conditions, that had killed off much of the tide pool sea life along the west coast. Sea Stars seemed to be the primary victims.

We arrived in time for low tide but there is a crossing where the rocks are low and the water is high. I suppose we could have risked it but with an unpredictable 7 year old in tow...wisdom screamed caution! We stayed to our side. The water was low but we would have had to still get our shoes and feet wet to venture further out and away from shore to explore deeper.

We stayed close to shore where there was still plenty of life to see. We viewed many sea anemones, sea slugs, various crabs, tiny fish and colorful sea plants. It was beautiful and colorful. Of course the repetition of crashing waves is always relaxing too.

We didn't see any of the usual chubby, orange sea stars we are used to, but as we were leaving, I caught sight of this teeny tiny one in the sand, along the shore! I don't know how I even recognized what it was...maybe I didn't even know but I bent down to see what it was and thought it was dead. It was still alive and moving. It had a very short spindle of an arm that was growing back. The boys were up ahead of us so Bird and I were the only ones who got to get a close-up and personal look at this tiny wonder. 

The day was gorgeous and slightly breezy. You never know what you will find or see at the beach or the woods. Getting outside though, is always nice. I would recommend this hike for a casual, fairly easy day. It wasn't very challenging for us but on a hot day, the sun could be an issue as there is no shade.

See you next week!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When We're All Acting Like the Desperate-Jesus-Needing Humans We Are!

It's been some kind of week. The type that leaves my heart and mind all over the place and I'm not exactly sure where to land. Feeling as if the only two options are to eat all the pie or nothing at all. Sure, the worship music is on but I don't feel like singing along. The 'all-I've-got-to-give' looks a lot like 'just sitting there.' For my weary soul, that's everything. There's no cure and I don't need fixing-because being the one that stays, counts. It's enough.

I asked...told? my kiddos NOT to give me their assignments to grade the night before or morning of their learning record meeting, warned them to get their work samples together early...The night before and morning of--here I was. Feeling discouraged and like a failure because my kids had pretty much done everything I warned them not to do.

My frailty was evident as I felt like losing it and going off on everyone. Isn't everyone aware of how stressful my life is already? Dishes that only take minutes to do, left undone. Items and objects that could easily be put away, left out. Shelves carelessly over stuffed with random papers and ish everywhere.

Enough to drive a mom mad, of course.

In the heat of my exasperation...the epiphany.

Everyone was simply acting like they need Jesus. I was upset because no one was doing what *I* wanted--even if what *I* wanted was good, useful and wise. And I was taking it personal because...?


My kids don't need me, they NEED JESUS! Just like I do. And I was getting upset because they were actually acting like it!?! Duh. 
Big. Fat. Duh.How else should they behave? Like they *need* ME? Like they have it all together and don't need anyone? Certainly not Jesus?

Why wouldn't I expect them to need Jesus and to actually act like it. Isn't this what every scripture and historical record in the Bible is about? One account after the next, of human beings prone to failure, trying to do this life on their own?

They need Jesus just as much as I do.
I need Jesus just as much as them.
The need is not dependent on chronological age.

Recognizing their need, my need, our need--enabled grace. Grace I need, is the grace I can give.

I want my children to need Jesus, not me. Even more, I want them to recognize it.
Maybe it requires me recognizing and remembering first.