Our new “school”

A lot of people have been asking us how our new school situation is going this year. We are six weeks into the year, and we are finally getting into a routine and figuring out how to get everything done.

I definitely created some confusion back in August when I wrote that six-part series on what we were doing for school this fall. BlogHer even featured one of my posts on its web site with an introductory paragraph, explaining that “EverydayMOM has decided to send her kids back to school.” I was too exhausted at the time to try to even explain they should have continued reading. Another friend e-mailed me a few weeks ago asking how we were doing at public school.

So, here’s the scoop on what we are REALLY doing!

The best way to describe our schooling situation is that it’s a mix of private school and home school.

On Mondays, the kids go to an academic program at a co-op. They take classes in all of their subjects: science, math, literature, grammar and writing, history and art. Their teachers give them instruction in what they will learn for the week. They also do activities, like science experiments, peer review of writing assignments, hands-on activities and games. In addition, the teachers give them tests, grades and report cards.

I drop off the kids at 8 a.m. and they are there until 2 p.m. The kids have between 10 and 16 students in most of their classes, so the classes are a perfect size, in my opinion.

On Monday afternoons, the teachers use an electronic system to post all of our assignments for the week. I print everything out and organize it on a spreadsheet for each of my three big kids.

Tuesdays through Thursdays are intense school days at home. We definitely need to do school from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. each day to complete all of the assignments, and sometimes they have homework.

On Fridays, we go back to co-op for enrichment classes. They take fun classes like team building gym, cooking and book club. Because the co-op has more than 200 kids enrolled on Fridays, moms with kids younger than 8 need to stay in the building. At first, I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t have free time on Fridays. However, I have lots of friends whose kids are in the program so it’s become a highlight of my week to hang out and chat with friends all morning.

I’m really glad we decided to do this this year. It puts a healthy pressure on us to complete all of our assignments each day. It also takes the pressure off of me to figure out what we are going to do each week. The kids also see their assignments differently since they are coming from their teachers, not their mom.

I’m glad the kids have the “peer pressure” you get from presenting their projects to classmates. Last week, my 5th grader had to do his first “project” for a class. His history class read a book called, “A Gathering of Days,” which is a diary of a girl growing up in New England in the 1800s. My son decided to make a movie with some of his friends and act out a few key scenes from the book.

This was a fun project and one we never would have done if we were home schooling on our own! He got to present the movie to his class on Friday. Here’s a link to his movie on YouTube:

Hopefully, he won’t be graded down for his mother’s horrible acting!!


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I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now

If I had known then what I know now, I don’t know if I would have done what I did.

It started with an idea. I knew the idea was ambitious. But I had no clue that it was over-the-top ridiculous ambitious. I just didn’t know.

Back in January, we started making plans for the 10th anniversary of our church. As a former newspaper reporter, my mind started cranking out ideas of how cool it would be to tell the stories of the people in our church. We would select maybe a dozen people. We would choose some who had been around since the very beginning. We would pick some who had come in the middle and others who had only been coming to the church for a year or two.

We would tell their stories through video, our web site and in a print piece we would hand out the night of the celebration. We have so many people in our church body with amazing stories. They have been through health issues, lost jobs, and even death, but through it all, God has been with them.

I approached it from the standpoint of a writer. I would interview the people. And then someone else would swoop in, take the video and voila! It would be magically transformed into a beautiful video. Boom! Just like that.

Looking back, I think the two guys who helped me with this project might have been trying to tell me that it was going to be a lot harder than I thought. I must have had my fingers in my ears, though, because all I can remember is seeing them smile and laugh as we ate at Chili’s, discussing the project.

We spent several days interviewing all of the people. Their stories were amazing. We laughed. We cried. We were in awe of the testimonies of what God had done in their lives. Through amazing hardships and circumstances, they were able to praise His name.

Then it was time to take all of that raw footage and magically transform it into something spectacular. Seven hours of raw footage.

And that was when a tragedy happened in the life of one of the guys helping me. He had to completely step out of the project. Life was busy and crazy for my other magical video editor. So, I started trying to figure out what to do.

I imported video. It took my computer 13 hours just to import 30 minutes of HD video. I got into the habit of starting an import every night before I went to bed. I edited the stories. And cut. And edited. And cut. But still I had more than an hour’s worth of video, and I was told that 3-minute clips would be ideal.

My video editing friend would give me tips. “Put it all in a timeline.” I would try to do what he said. I simply wasn’t used to telling a story this way. It was such a different way of thinking for me.

I was used to writing where you have the luxury of writing down the background of a story and then interjecting quotes to bring it to life. I was learning that with video, you have to sort through every word that someone says and try to piece together enough sentences to tell the story through the person speaking.

I put together a rough draft. “Too confusing!” “Too long!”

I was really starting to panic. I began devoting my life to video editing. I spent every minute of my free time sitting in the same spot in front of my computer. I stopped doing laundry. My husband would walk by my zombie-like form glued to iMovie. He would buy groceries, make dinner and take the kids to the park. My kids would hang their backpacks on my arm, forgetting I was a real person.

It was crazy. But one thing kept me going. Every time I watched those videos, I was in awe. I was amazed by the stories. I was deeply touched by the way these people who had gone through some of the most difficult situations I could imagine were able to glorify God and praise His name. Their stories had to be told.

No matter how many times I watched the videos, I would cry. I had spent so much time editing the video that I had their words memorized. And I would still cry. I came to the realization that even if I was the only person who ever watched those videos, it was still worth it because my life was different from hearing their stories. I felt incredibly blessed that I was the one who got to hear every word before it was edited.

I resigned myself to the fact it might not be the most beautiful or the most high-tech production. But their stories had to be told. I wanted other people to experience just a little of what I was experiencing.

My friend would bring his computer over, and we would sit side by side editing video. Our worship leader gave me tons of ideas for background tracks. I didn’t even THINK of adding background tracks! I learned about wording transitions and ducking the volume and openings and closings.

As the day grew closer, I started getting very nervous about other people seeing these videos. What if I didn’t tell the stories well enough? What if I hurt someone by leaving something out? Or putting something in? What if I made someone mad? Or hurt their feelings?

In the last few weeks, the video seemed to start transforming itself. It was coming together in a way I never would have imagined. Ten different people were telling their stories. And yet, they all seemed to be telling one continuous story. One person would end and someone else would pick up on the very same thought.

I realized that in my weakness, God had taken control. Where I had no ability or knowledge, He knew what to do. It was His story to tell, not mine.

In the end, I’m just thankful I got to play a part in it. I’m glad I didn’t know how hard it would be because I might not have had enough guts to even start on such a time-consuming project. I’m thankful for all that I learned and hopeful that it made a difference in someone else’s life.

If you want to see where I’ve been and what I’ve been working on the past 11 weeks, here it is:






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September recipes

I think it’s funny that a lot of my friends think I’m super organized when it comes to meal planning. The truth is that for about nine months of the year, I am scrambling around at 5 p.m. trying to scrape together various cans of this and whatever meat I can find in the fridge to come up with something edible before my kids start eating “chip sandwiches” because they are so hungry. (Yes, they do think that putting potato chips between two slices of bread counts as a meal.)

Many days, my husband will save the day by picking up some meat for the grill. At least once a week, I justify calling Papa John’s since it’s right around the corner, and they can cook dinner in less time than I can.

Finally, I hit rock bottom. I get mad at myself for not planning. I kick myself for not going to the grocery store. I scream at myself for my empty pantry. And when I get mad, I go overboard. I overcompensate by creating huge meal plans, cooking in bulk, freezing up a month’s worth of meals. And THAT is the part that you usually see here on the blog.

I’ve noticed from reading my own blog, that I tend to do this right around the time school starts. I also seem to get organized around Jan. 1 and then again right before summer starts. For those three months of the year, I am totally organized and my family loves me.

Well, I went on a meal-planning rampage this weekend. We were in the car for 12 hours, driving to and from a funeral. During the drive, I went through two of my favorite cookbooks and marked all of the recipes I want to try. Being the complete geek I am, I then tracked down those exact recipes on the web sites of the companies that published the cookbooks, and I e-mailed them to myself.

When I got home, I entered them into my profile on allrecipes.com. That’s when I discovered allrecipes.com has a ton of new features which I have never used! I signed up to become a “supporting member.” This means I can organize my recipes into meal plans by dragging them onto a calendar. I can also assign them to shopping lists, and print out exactly what I need to buy for that meal plan. I can save my menus, making it easy to repeat them later. I haven’t had this much geeky, obsessive excitement since I bought the game “Myst” for my first Macintosh computer back in 1992.

I found enough new recipes to complete my meal plan for both September and October. This means I could have TWO full months of organization before my life falls back into disarray.

In the past, I think I have overwhelmed myself with my meal planning by assigning myself a new recipe every day of the month. This time, I decided that every other day I would throw in a no-brainer. These are the foods I cook all of the time anyway. I usually have the ingredients. They require no thought and very little effort. But I still have to put them in my meal plan to remind myself what I’m supposed to cook that night.

A few people on Facebook asked me to share this list, so here goes. I am majorly motivated by words of affirmation, so let me know if you would like to see my October list, as well.

All of the recipes (other than the sloppy Joe and chili) are from one of two cookbooks: “Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes” or Pillsbury’s “Fast & Healthy Cookbook.” In other words, you can either make them in the crock pot or they are quick recipes.

They also are all “family friendly” to some extent. With the exception of two of the recipes, which are risky, I’m fairly certain my family will eat them.

Finally, this menu does not purport to be healthy, low-cal or fat free. The recipes include tons of sour cream, cream cheese and red meat. Side dishes around here are usually green beans, carrots, corn or fruit cut up into slices. It’s not fancy, but hopefully better than we would get from KFC or Papa John’s if I didn’t cook.

Well, I’m off to the grocery store to use the shopping list generated from my meal plan! In the meantime, let me know your meal-planning secrets. How do you decide what’s for dinner every night?

My September Menu

Hamburgers on the grill
Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli
Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup (with salad for those who won’t try it!)
BBQ pulled pork sandwiches
Pizza (frozen, home made or delivery)
Italian Beef
Rotisserie Chicken (from the grocery store deli)
Chicken Club Wraps
Sloppy Joe sandwiches
My Favorite Chili
Hot Dogs/ Chili dogs
Company Pork Chops
Honey Mustard Chicken Wings
Pancakes with chocolate chips
Chicken and rice in crock pot
Hamburgers on the grill
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Round Steak
Tacos and/or bean burritos
Beef with Apples and Sweet Potatoes (I’m not sure about this one, but I want to try it!)
Caribbean Chicken and Pineapple Salsa
Rotisserie Chicken (from the grocery store deli)
Chicken and Apple Clams
Sloppy Joe sandwiches
Turkey and Twists in Tomato Cream Sauce


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