Friday, July 17, 2015

Dusting off the blog: For a Review!

It's true! I haven't posted in eons - but here's a review for you!

I’ve been wanting to sell some things on eBay, but really didn’t feel like dealing with the fees and the hassle. Tonight, as I was listing some books on Homeschool Classifieds ( I remembered that they have a sister site, called “AllSorta” ( Why AllSorta? It’s like homeschool classifieds, except for things other than curriculum!

It has some great features: listing is FREE! (Did I mention FREE? As in, NO FEES!) It works on mobile devices and on desktop platforms. Items are displayed in list format, so it’s easy to search for exactly what you need. Unlike eBay and Etsy, there are no high fees (wait, did I say that before???) AllSorta also bills itself as family-friendly, and there are certain items they just won’t allow to be listed.

So what did I list? A new shirt with tags, some games that we are not playing any more, notebooks, hobby electronic parts. We’ll see how the selling goes! I’m cautiously optimistic, that when I have random items for sale I won’t have to deal with the fees of eBay, but can head to AllSorta for All Sorta things! (See what I did there?) Plus - check our their promotions if you are a Homeschool Classifieds member ;) See you on AllSorta!

Friday, December 20, 2013

In Which Christmas Comes to My Heart

It happened tonight, in the most unexpected of places.

Under an awning, out in the country, Christmas caroling with a huge crowd of mostly young folk. A voice came from behind, quiet and sure. . . .

Silent night, Holy Night,
Son of God, Love's pure light. . . . . 

Time stopped, just for a moment.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of Redeeming Grace. . . . 

I looked around me. Surrounded by a crowd of joyful, eager voices, singing praises to a King born in a manger.

Singing to a neighboring widow, her face beaming with joy of a Savior known.

Singing under the leadership of precious friends, whose impact in the life of my family cannot be measured.

I'll admit it - I stopped singing. I couldn't. Just couldn't. My heart was too full, it rose in my throat and the tears trickled down my cheeks.

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth -
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

I've been very list-focused these past two weeks.
"Get it all done" has been my mantra, whispered seductively in my ear by that part of me that thinks Christmas is within my grasp, within my power, within my will and my might to make it happen. And by golly, I have gotten it all done.


How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

But I couldn't make Christmas happen where it mattered.
Until tonight, when God Himself reached down and touched this cold, weary heart and used a widow,  an old, tattered awning, a Christmas carol, and a beautiful Alabama night to whisper "Grace" to my soul.

We returned for bluegrass and goodies, but I hardly noticed the food or the music. Except for this one carol:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Merry Christmas to one and all.



Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's On. . . . . ME!

I should have seen this one coming.

After a difficult decision made and accepted*, and a relaxing, wonderful beach trip with dear family, I was ready. "April," thought I, "do your worst."

Pride goeth before a fool. An April fool.

Last night, upon arriving home, I opened my email. Email #1: "Heather, where is the worksheet you usually post for science on Tuesday? It's not online!" Urgh. Forgot.

Then I open the next email, "Heather, what time is the field trip in the morning?" Field trip. Field trip? FIELD TRIP?!!!??? Oh, yeah. The field trip at 9 in the morning, with 50 homeschoolers, that I'm in charge of AND COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT. Nice.

Emails sent, Apologies offered, Arrangements made. I'm golden.

April 1st dawns bright and cheery. Except for my girls, who would rather stay in bed than go on a field trip. Oh, well. We scrounge breakfast and head out. The docent at the Botanical Gardens is lovely, but a sub. She makes do quite nicely, and after the tour/trip I head to the library there to check out some books and teaching props for my plant lessons.

"Your library card has expired." Of COURSE it has. Paperwork, process, $50 lighter (we pay an out-of-county fee for using our WONDERFUL library), we're now 30 minutes late. Hannah has a piano lesson at 12:45. . . .squeal through the drive-thru, grab a bite, run home. She practices for 9 minutes, we zoom out for the lesson, arriving only 3 minutes late. "Not bad," I think, and start claiming victory over April. . . . .

No piano teacher. 15 minutes later? No piano teacher. Phone rings. She took an unexpected trip to Florida and forgot to tell me. Of COURSE she did. Alrighty then. Back home it is. (Hannah celebrating all the way ;) )

Home with 45 minutes to spare before the real estate appraiser shows up. Clean, tidy, scurry, hurry. . . . we finish as he pulls up to the front door. (Because, doncha know, a clean house adds at least $10K to the value. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.) Let him in, answer a few questions. Check.

Time to call the mechanic. No, the car won't be ready on time. Of COURSE it won't. But I'm welcome to come and sit. Use Kathryn's car, run Hannah up to ballet. Back and forth on the phone, arranging costume fittings and discussing rides home with the neighbor.

Home for 15 minutes. On her way to teach ballet, Kat drops me at the shop. (Local peeps: Christian Brothers Automotive in Hoover. Love. Love.) Find out they received the wrong brake pads. Of COURSE they did. Hang out for a little over an hour. (Side benefit; had a great visit with the shop owner, who is a friend. Awesome.) Get car, head to Wal-Mart for a few emergency groceries and sodas for tonight's Scout Event.

Home for 10 minutes. Nathaniel in the car, take him to Scouts. Return home, throw the younger 2 girls in the car. Take them to meet Yurii at Scouts. Realize . . . . I forgot the sodas. Of COURSE I did.

At this point, I'm pretty thankful that tonight's event is only 3 miles from home. Return home, grab the soda. Head to church, grab Emily from ballet, return to Scout Event. With the infamous 2-liters in hand.

I'm home. About to type up my science worksheets. And you know what?

I may just let them spend 45 minutes launching balloons tomorrow.

Because if this is what the rest of April looks like?

I'm in for a doozy. Of COURSE I am ;)

*more on this one, later!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Experiencing Lent: Amon's Adventure

Do you celebrate Lent? Do anything special to mark the days leading up to Easter, or Resurrection Sunday?

I confess - that is one of the things that I miss about the Episcopal church I attended in college. The ritual, the liturgy, and the church calendar. Each year, I try - with varying degrees of success - to prepare my heart, and help my children prepare their hearts - for the glorious celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

We have had far more success celebrating Advent, the days leading up to Christmas. Part of that celebration has been the series of books written by Arnold Ytreeide: Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, and Bartholomew's Passage. We've read each one at least twice. . . . they are captivating stories set in the time of the birth of Christ, weaving tales of three young children who are caught up in adventures and end up at the manger.

This year, by the request - no, the pleading of my children - I purchased Amon's Adventure. Amon is the son of some main characters from the Jotham series, and we follow his life and intrigue around the temple in Jerusalem during - you guessed it - the time when Jesus was approaching His passion.

We've only ready about 5 days so far - there are 28 chapters all told. Mr. Ytreeide gives several ways to schedule the reading; once every few days, start the 28 days before Easter, or read a whole bunch during Holy Week. Each lesson ends with a scripture to consider and a short thought related to the day's reading, making it perfect for family devotions.

You're not too late! If your family has read the Jotham's Journey stories, your kids will laugh and nod their heads as they recognize familiar characters. But even if you are newcomers to Arnold Ytreeide's work, you and your kids will be drawn into the heart of the adventure, and turn your hearts and minds towards the marvelous sacrifice of Jesus.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Sentiments: On Friendship

This will not be a picture-heavy post. It won't show up on Pinterest, or Facebook, or Twitter.

But it's written - better, engraved - upon my heart.

We have spent today in the company of some dear friends. Twice in about 6 weeks, if truth be told. Laughing, breaking bread, talking of things random and then important.

And today, I'm struck by how important relationships are. True, deep, meaningful relationships where you can know and be known. Where you can talk about issues close to your heart without fear of judgment or condemnation, but with encouragement that points you to God's Word and your relationship with Christ.

May you all have friendships such as we have been blessed with. And may you all take whatever steps are necessary in your life to nuture and deepen those friendships.

A restful Sunday evening to you all.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Online Resources: Scholaric

One of the most popular posts on my blog is an old one. . . a review I wrote of an online homeschool grade book and lesson planning program called Homeschool SkedTrack. You may be surprised to know that I no longer use that website, although I still think it is quite good. I took a year off to go back to good old pencil-and-paper, but have since hunted around for other online resources to make my planning more routine and easier to manage.

My late-night internet wanderings paid off with the discovery of Scholaric - the website that promises "Homeschool Planning Made Easy".

Due to an insanely busy summer, I didn't start my research until the week I was beginning school with the kids. (I know, I know. Not. Smart. Once again bursting the "she's-a-perfect-homeschooler" illusion.) I quickly found that I was stuck! Several of the websites I looked at required a ton of up front work; one was still in development, and basically useless. But Scholaric's promise of "easy"? Now THAT I could work with!

And you know what? "Easy" was absolutely accurate. I was up and running on Scholaric in - no joke - 15 minutes. Here's what I mean:

1. Add a student: See the button at the bottom of the screen? Click it. You get the new student field. Type the name, you're done. 60 seconds, tops.

2. Add a course:

Seriously, that's it. Type in "Math" and then "2nd Grade Math". Done. Another 60 seconds. Tops.

3. Plan a lesson: Here's a screen shot of the planning lesson for Amy's subject, "Grammar 2"

Under "Description", I just typed in what I wanted Amy to see; "Lesson 62". (There are ways to type in the lessons so that they will sequence automatically - honestly, I just don't fool with it. Probably next year!) Next I had to decide if the lesson repeats.

Again, easy! Just select the repetition tab, check the dates you want the lesson to occur, and for how long. Done.

Last step: is this lesson shared with anyone?

This feature is especially helpful for our history and science lessons, when I've got girls working together. And my new secret weapon? I created my own set of lessons! That way, when one of my kids needs me to work a lesson with them, I "share" it with myself. Then Scholaric prints up a daily list for me, and I know who needs what kind of help that day. Sweet!

 That. Is. It.

Simple. Easy. To the point. Repeat for as many subjects as you have, and then print lessons by the day or by the week.

Now Scholaric can do a whole bunch of other things, but no so many that it becomes unwieldy or difficult to use. You can print report cards, track hours or other goals instead of grades, and print your gradebook. Mark a whole day's work as complete, or allow your children to log in and check off assignments as they are completed. Move lessons ahead or back with a simple click. Easy, easy, easy!

If you're thinking about using Scholaric, here are a few more considerations:

• Scholaric does indeed have weighted grading! You can read about it at Scholaric's blog. . .which is exactly what I'll be doing this afternoon.
• Help using Scholaric is accessed on the main page, usually reading through a set of blog posts by the developer. For those of you who like a video tutorial, at this point you won't find one. But really? Y'all. Did I mention it was easy??!!!

And the last consideration:

I was given a free, 6-month trial in exchange for my review. It ended 2 weeks ago. And I happily - happily I tell you - paid the paltry $5 per month (through Amazon payments) to keep using Scholaric for my homeschool planning.

And that, dear readers, it what we call. . . .  a keeper.

If you try Scholaric, let me know what you think!