Monday, July 28, 2014

Exercise or the Lack There Of

For two years I have taken my exercise time very seriously. Up until a year and a half ago that meant various activities 5-6 times a week. Over the past six months other factors in life have taken over and exercise went down to 4 times a week, then three times a week, and now has virtually become non-existent. The biggest factor is contributed to the King and I play me and Grace are participating in. It has literally taken over our lives. Most nights find us at the theatre for 3-5 hours each night. The next morning we are spent and sleeping in to catch up on rest. Then it is too hot outside to walk, etc. and not enough time in the afternoon to drive to the gym - work out - then drive back home before heading to the theatre yet again.

Well, that is all about to change. In two weeks all the performances and dress rehearsals will be over. We can get back on track with visits to the gym and Zumba classes as well as walking at night after dinner once the temps cool off. Of course I had one other calamity that befall me a couple of weeks ago. I sat a chair on my toe and I think it was cracked or broken. I was unable to wear shoes other than flip flops the entire time and it is still sore in sneakers.

So my promise to myself and everyone else is that in two weeks exercise will once again take a very prominent role in my life. I have to get back in shape. I always feel better and not so exhausted all the time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Advantages to Reviewing Products

In my case this post will revolve around reviewing educational products. I have been blessed for the past two and a half years to be involved with the TOS Review Crew. This partnership has in turn blessed our family with a multitude of educational products. I was given the products for free for my honest opinion after using the product for a certain amount of time in our home. Many of these products I would never have purchased either because we were already using a product that made us happy, maybe the product was out of our price range, or I had not ever heard of the vendor/product.

Working with the Crew is just like having a job. Each product we are picked to review has to be used appropriately, a review written, posted to my blog, and shared in different social medias. Once you are chosen to work with the Crew it is a year long commitment. As with any endeavor there are advantages and disadvantages that go along with the territory. I would like to concentrate on the advantages because quite frankly it is hard to think of hardly any disadvantages other than time out of your life to accomplish the reviews.

  • Free products. Each year is a little different, but so far this year our family has been blessed with over 10 free products and the year isn't even over yet. Last year we reviewed close to 30 products. This year I was a little more cautious in the amount of reviews I took on. So this means over the past two years 40 products have traveled through our home - some only during the review period and others we continue to use to this day. None cost us anything but time. This is a great way to supplement your homeschool curriculum throughout the year. Sometimes you even luck upon products that can be put on the shelf and used again the next year.
  • Meeting wonderful people from all over the country even the world. I have had the chance to meet not only the people I work with through the TOS Crew but also different vendors and companies.
  • More exposure to my blog. All reviews are posted in several different areas which exposes your blog to more readers. It is a great way to grown your followers and again meet many more people.
  • Educate myself. Over the past couple of years there are things I have had to learn to make it all work. Blogger, other social media platforms, writing, marketing, solving computer issues, and so much more.
I say all this because soon you could also have the opportunity to join up with the TOS Review Crew. In a few months an application will be made available for you to fill out if interested in joining. There are a few things you can be doing now to have a better chance of being picked. If you do not have a blog that would be the first order of business. You will also need to grow your number of followers quickly as they do have a minimum numbers of followers required in more than one social media platform. This is a huge commitment so you will need to pray about it. I promise to post the link to the application when it becomes available.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekend Family Projects

Today working on clearing more of the backyard
My parents have a contract on their house and hopefully will close on August 8th. We are moving them into my sister's house. She has lots of space where my parents will have their own living quarters, kind of like a mother-in-law suite only bigger. The downstairs already has two large bedrooms, bathroom, and living space. We are adding a small kitchenette and laundry room. Seriously they will have at least 1200 square feet down there for themselves and two dogs and a cat to live. Many things have had to happen to make this work. Currently we are clearing out all of my sisters things that were downstairs to put in storage to make room for my parents possessions. We also have to clear out a portion of the back yard to make a fenced in area for my mother's dogs. Another big item on the checklist is laying concrete to go down and around the house to offer easy access for my father who is not very mobile. Lots of sweat, tears, time, and money to make it all happen. I will post pics of the project as we go along and once mom and dad are moved in. This was an inevitable situation that we all knew would need to happen. My dad's health has gone down hill over the past year. He doesn't drive anymore or leave the house much. My mom is exhausted from the continuous care of a yard, house, and my dad. Dad also falls sometimes and one of us goes over to help my mom get him back on his feet (currently walks with a walker or in a wheelchair for longer distances). Now at least at night someone will be home to help if the need arises and mom will have just more people in general around for company, etc.

Dining and living space

Friday, July 25, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up - Never Ending Practices, Art Camp and Exhaustion

Most of our week was wrapped into rehearsals every night. Last night was the longest clocking in at 5 hours. The musical is finally all coming together. We are less than one week from performance. Three mornings this week Grace also helped at another art camp. Exhaustion has definitely set in for both of us and we are ready for a little down time.

We were still able to squeeze in some time for a couple of review products that we are working on. Ubersmart Math Facts, Dave Raymond's American History, and now a Raising Bearded Dragons online program. Yes, Grace is very interested in purchasing and raising a baby bearded dragon. From what we can tell so far very expensive and lots of work.

Two home projects going on at the moment - the first is a door we are creating for the school room. Main purpose is to keep all the animals out of this room. Have you every tried to concentrate with two cats and two dogs hankering for as much attention as possible. Hopefully it will be finished by Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Second project is the wooden shelf I showed in a previous post. I painted it with a white primer then two coats of the green I used on the walls of my recent bedroom makeover. It is now hanging in Grace's bathroom.
Today my son is closing on his house and we will be helping him move in sometime this weekend. Tonight is another very long practice for the King and I with cast pictures. Tomorrow morning I go to my sister's house to help as we are moving all her belongings from the downstairs to a storage unit to make room for my mom and dad's things. They close on their house in early August. As you can see this is where all the exhaustion is coming in to play. Grace has literally been sleeping the past two mornings to 11 or 12. Alice in Wonderland auditions are next Sunday afternoon right after our first Sunday morning matinee of the King and I. Not sure at this point if she is going to go through with another musical to prepare for back to back after this one. The only thing that makes it a bit better is the fact that we have already performed Alice In Wonderland Jr. and remember a great deal of it. I did find time to finish the brochure for Grace's new princess party business and gave them to the painting studio we will be working with.
As you can see the week was eaten up by play practice, art camp, a little school work, and lots of afternoon lounging around to catch up on rest. Next on the agenda is to start preparing lesson plans for my students I will be tutoring, Grace, and my Cooperative classes. Looking forward to getting back to a regular school schedule.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

So You Want to Start a Homeschool Cooperative

This time of the year everyone is getting organized and prepared for the new school year, unless like me you homeschool year round. If you homeschool year round you are still probably looking at new materials, etc. to start. With all the new planning going on I am also seeing many posts about families getting together and starting Cooperatives of all types. I thought after my vast experience (two year - so maybe not so vast) I could shed some light on what it takes to have a Cooperative run smoothly and what you are willing to give to make it work.

Most of my readers know the story but if you are new I will do a short recap. Two years ago me and a close friend started a fine arts Cooperative in our community, mostly for homeschoolers but we do also have a few public or private school kids that have attended. We meet August - December and January - May. Mostly we make available fine arts classes but occasionally throw in a light academic class to spice things up. For example this semester we have Keepers and Contenders of the Faith, Drama, Art, Choir, Current Events, Screenwriting, Mapping the World Through Art, Mock Trial, and Sign Language. Over the last two years I have made some mistakes and learned so much. I thought for those of you that are considering putting a Cooperative together I would give you a few pointers for things that might make it whole process easier.
  • Pick a co-director. Don't try to do this all alone. Even with the help of a co-director some times you will feel like your life is being taking over by said Cooperative. I have found that it does tend to creep into all aspects of your life. Share the responsibilities with someone else, preferably a close friend that you can bounce ideas off of and is willing to tell you the truth when you need it.
  • Like-minded families. Search out like-minded families that want to join a Cooperative. This might end up being two or three families or in my case 38! (Of course we didn't start with 38, but gradually reached that number for our upcoming semester)  Everyone should be interested in  working toward the same goal. Families who participate should also be willing to help out periodically when the need arises. This may be to teach a class, help with dismissals, costuming, refreshments, holiday parties, etc.
  • Location. You've decided to start a Cooperative - now where are we all going to meet. If you are starting with just a few families then maybe someone's house will be just fine. If you are looking at larger numbers of children and classes then it is time to secure a good location. This may be a community center, church, or building to rent. In our case we started with renting a huge event room at a local bowling alley, which we quickly outgrew. Now we meet at my church and we our bursting at the seams turning students away.
  • Raising Funds. Okay this one is tricky. In the beginning we didn't have any funds and worked with a very bare bones budget. Mostly we wanted our Cooperative to be a ministry but knew funds would still be needed for things like liability insurance, rent, and supplies. From the get go we decided to charge a small monthly fee that would include all classes that were available. Some Cooperatives may decide not to charge anything but rely on parent participation to pick up the slack. In our case we do have parent participation but funds are still needed for the above mentioned monthly needs.
  • Recruiting teachers. This one is really important. If you don't have teachers, you don't have classes available. Most times these classes will be taught by parents that have children attending classes, but occasionally you will need to go outside the Cooperative to find a teacher. If this occurs usually some type of fee will be charged by that teacher to teach which brings us back up to the previous section of raising funds.

This is just but a few of the items I feel are most important to discuss and consider before starting a Cooperative. It is a process and you must be willing to spend a large part of your life working on it. I do view this as a ministry and I love our kids and families that participate. Definitely you need to go into this with your eyes wide open, but it is so worth it in the end.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TOS Review - Apologia Educational Ministries - Flourish Balance For Homeschool Moms

Flourish Book Review
Recently I was given the opportunity to read and review Flourish: Balance For Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate from Apologia Educational Ministries. This review could not have come at a better time. In less than one month I will be embarking on a new adventure and without time management and the right organizational skills I could fail. The book Flourish was definitely something I needed to read for this next phase of my family's life.
Flourish Book Review
Flourish was written by Mary Jo Tate, a single mom homeschooling her children while also running a business out of their home. She wears many hats on a daily basis just like the rest of us that are in similar situations. No matter what stage of life you are in, Mary Jo has seemed to address it in her book. If you are a sing mom, stay-at-home mom, working mom, homeschooling mom, own your own business mom or all of the above - she covers it.
Flourish Book Review
First here are some of the book details you will want to know:
Retail Price $15.00
Softcover paperback book - 288 pages
Recommended for Moms from all stages of life
The first few pages of Flourish are devoted to glowing reviews from many prominent individuals from the homeschool community as well as other industries. Quotes are placed throughout the chapters from moms that have read the book or taken workshops from Mary Jo. She also shares many personal stories, some of them quite humorous. I read a chapter of Flourish each night before bed and mulled over the corresponding discussion questions.
Very early on the reader is asked to fill out various questionnaires. One was titled "Big Dream" and another "Yearly Goals". I have filled out questions like this in the past and whenever I was asked to write a goal or a mission statement for our family, I would simply freeze up. Not a single thought would be in my brain. Setting a big goal or big dream was just never in my vocabulary. Going through this book has changed that. So what does my "Big Dream" consist of: own a family business, a husband that gets to work from home, travel more, and own a small hobby farm.
Other concepts I learned from Flourish and plan on applying to my life are:
  • Create a separate area for office/business.
  • Dealing with mommy guilt.
  • Prioritizing.
  • Getting rid of time wasters.
  • Remembering to take care of my body through exercise, rest, nutrition, and strengthening my spiritual life.
  • Mental multitasking undermining my focus.
Chapter 15 - Home Business would have to be my favorite, simply because this is the next phase of our life with running a home business. Definitely something I will want to reread as we get further in the process. The back of the book has a wealth of resources and planning forms for the reader to use. Flourish would be a perfect book to read in a book club setting, to give as a gift to a new homeschooling mom, or a homeschool mom's support group. Mary Jo also offers services for one on one coaching and she speaks at  workshops/seminars you can attend.
If you are looking for encouragement or how to have balance in this whole life thing - Flourish Balance For Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries just might be what you are looking for. Also check out TOS Review Crew to see what the other reviewers think of Flourish.
Crew Disclaimer
Review Crew

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another Day In Pictures

The life of Riley, right?! These animals have it so easy. Napping the afternoon away while I work on the computer.

Finished up a review for the book Flourish which will post tomorrow.

Grace worked on one of our review products which will post in about three weeks. This is a map reproduction project.

I received the scripts for my first directorial debut. We will start practicing these when Cooperative starts back on August 12th.

This morning Grace went to help with another art camp and tonight we are back at play practice. No time to be tired. Tired will have to wait until sometime in late August.