March 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday | Photo Flashback

Welcome Wordless Wednesday Blog Hoppers!

This Wordless Wednesday is brought to you by dress up time!




Kylee's First Princess Gown
Baby's First Limited Edition Princess Dress.
Thank you to Focused on the Magic for hosting!

Focused on the Magic

Let It Go | Homeschool Diaries

I loved starting our homeschool last June (especially since I had the benefit of a few mentors and friends who were happy to lend me a little good advice for a brand new homeschooler). By the end of my first week of homeschool, I had figured out a few things on my own. By the end of our first forty days of homeschool, I could've practically written a book with all the things I learned.
In reality, there are only two things you need to know before you jump into homeschooling.


Homeschool Diaries | Homeschool 101
The only two things you need to know before you start homeschooling.

If I started afresh tomorrow, I'd send my self a note that said two things:

1.) Murphy's Law-Things Will Go Wrong
Sometimes your best laid plans will need to slide for a sick day or a mental health break. It's okay to let the little things go.


Snacks and Read Alouds go hand in hand.
Homemade Donuts and Homer Price
Once you've picked a curriculum, stocked up on more pencils and crayons than anyone could possibly need and organized to the best of your ability, it's time to get a good homeschool friend or two. Mine remind me that Project Homeschool is just one day at once. If it is marvelous, we share and celebrate the moment. If my husband is out of town on work and the second beta fish dies in under a week, they commiserate, talk me out of risking a third fish and help me clear my head to start afresh. God offers us this same love and mercy.
Free mercy.
It's up to us to let it go.

2.) Just Keep Teaching
Things will turn out in the end.
All of those wonderful days and mistakes and sunlit afternoons reading on the couch add up. Though you may not notice it in the day to day, one day someone will point out how much they've learned.

Homeschool IRL:
When you don't even care that they're hanging upside down off the sofa so long as they're doing independent reading.
You'll realize she finally learned to read smoothly; your son's starting to write more neatly; they're both little book worms with quirks and passions and it is all worth it.
There are so many blessings hiding beyond the uncertainty (and sometimes outright fear) of starting homeschool.
It is all worth it.

For more tips for your first year of homeschool, visit the March blog party!

To join up next month, check out the link below.

Sonlight Blog Party

March 23, 2015

Fixer Upper: My Homeschool Room Makeover| Homeschool Diaries

After deciding to homeschool last year, we took the time to assemble some desks and bookcases. With a nice little office off of the master bedroom, we pulled together a pretty space for me and the kids to enjoy while we homeschool. What's interesting is although I used it all year, I never really went through and rearranged (and culled) to suit us. We finished up our first year of homeschool (shifted schedule, YAY!) so I took the opportunity to rearrange, cull unused or misplaced items and generally streamline things. Just call it a good thorough spring cleaning, homeschool style.
Without further ado, welcome to my new(ish) homeschool room!



Kid's Eye View of a Homeschool Room Redo
Peeking through the French Doors that separate our bedroom from the office.
It's nice that we have doors and can shut off the classroom when it isn't in use. With the French doors, we get the mixed blessing of lots of natural light from the bedroom windows and being able to see directly into the classroom after hours. Turning off the lights and closing the blinds does the trick pretty well, but it needs to stay pretty organized or all the open surfaces look messy very quickly.




Homeschool Room Reorganization 2015.
This cubby unit holds most of my supplies, the keyboard is slightly out of the way with rarely used supplies in the corner.

I love this cubby for organization, but by the end of last year, everything but the kitchen sink found it's way into one of the cubbies. I stripped things way back and it functions much better.


Homeschool Classroom Reorganization 2015
Everything in it's place. I give it a week.
From upper left: Mickey and my scrapbooking supplies, my instructor guides, calendar and "the sharp scissors", Minnie and crafting supplies.
Middle: Bible study supplies, binders containing all the calendars, copies and worksheets for the year by subject and week, sticky things box (glue stick, Elmer's glue, tapes) and anything that writes.
Bottom: Bag on left contains blog stuff, homeschool books and magazines and kid's craft supplies, paper (everything from printer to t-shirt transfer), stationary box and a time capsule and a pencil sharpener.



Homeschool Classroom Reorganization 2015
Both kids' desks have open cubbies on the end. 
Last year these shelves brimmed with sets of cardboard magazine racks. It worked well, for a time. After a while things got "lost" shoved into the bottom of the various magazine boxes. Stream lined was the name of the game. Each child has a single, sturdier magazine box this year.


Homeschool Classroom Reorganization 2015
Top Shelf Work
Each kid's top shelf contains everything they need for the week. Their weekly planner carries all of their calenders, handwriting pages, math drills and language arts pages. The big binder is for all their completed work for the year. The single magazine holder contains all of the workbooks they will need for the year. Math flashcards and stationary round out the top shelf.


Homeschool Classroom Reorganization 2015
Fun stuff on the bottom shelf.
Between the two kid's desk is a foot or two of no man's land. It gives me space to work with each kid individually. It keeps them from poking at each other quite as much.
Everyone is happier.
The rest of the books that the kids need everyday occupy the bottom shelf. They've got easy access for their independent readers, their Q&A a Day for Kids and Timeline books for school as well as a Bible Doodle Book, coloring books and construction paper for fun. Each kid has all of the supplies they could ever want in their desk drawer.


Homeschool Classroom Reorganization 2015
Back right bookshelf contains all of our group read aloud books, the instructors guides for the year and maps.
We keep one bookshelf easily accessible with all of the science, history and bible study books that we read together.

The last thing added all over our school room is a big dose of pixie dust.


Homeschool Classroom Reorganization 2015
Mickey ears, pictures of the kids last day of private school and my very own droid.
Sprinkled all over the room.


Kid's Eye View of a Homeschool Room Redo
Yes, my whole world is turned upside down, from time to time.

I love my room!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Have you made any changes to your homeschool room over time?


March 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday | Flower and Garden

Welcome Wordless Wednesday Blog Hoppers!

This Wordless Wednesday is brought to you by the best part of the Flower and Garden Festival!


View from the monorail.
Pretty Floral Displays



Goofy, Donald and Daisy Topiaries
Awesome Topiaries
and....


Beijing Style Candied Strawberries
Yummy Snacks!

Thank you to Focused on the Magic for hosting!

Focused on the Magic

March 17, 2015

Cinderella's Character | Quite a Story To Go With It

My Spoiler Free Review in a Nutshell for Disney's Cinderella 2015:
Five Bibbidi Bobbidi Boos out of Five
If you, your small children, your teens, your sons, daughters, husbands, wives, boyfriends or roommates enjoy this movie even a fraction of the amount my family did, it is well worth the price of admission.
Not enough information? Continue below the picture for a more in depth look.

Warning: Some possible slight spoilers below.

Cinderella 2015 review
A Different View of Cinderella?
My kids joined me last Friday as we went to Star Cinema Grill (a local dinner at the movies establishment) for what I *hoped* would be an awesome princess movie. My daughter and I loved the trailers and hoped for a good solid movie if not pure magic. In all honesty, my son only agreed to go because he knew he could eat pizza and ignore the movie if he wanted to do so. I had some trepidations about the movie myself.

My Princess Fan
Ahsoka goes to see Cinderella.
(Christopher declined to create photographic evidence of his going to a princess movie.)

Frozen, although a musical tour de force, resulted in my daughter hero worshipping Elsa. I have no problem with her as a character, but she does rather come across as Simba from the first half of The Lion King. She is unable to accept her responsibility and spends most of the movie depressed, shutting out her loved ones (first in her home and then in her ice palace on the hill), attacking her family, eventually becoming captured and nearly killing her sister.
Cool movie?
Definitely.
Great role model for small girls?
Maybe not.
So, as I said, I went into this movie with reservations. For the first time in forever (to shamelessly borrow a lyric), I did not purchase the Disney Store costume dress for my daughter in advance of the movie premiere. I wanted to know who we would be getting into first.
The movie is superb, with beautiful cinematography that begs for me to rewatch the film. The lush settings are simultaneously fantastically grounded like a historical drama while maintaining a luminescent quality that invites magic into the realm of reality. The costuming? It is glorious. I only wish that this kind of clothing still could be worn in everyday life.
Helena Bonham Carter, one of my longtime favorite actresses, defied expectations and delivered a Fairy Godmother who is warm, loving, by turns reserved and goofy. She is *the* Fairy Godmother. The prince is charming, of course, but Kit is also a prince who is open to others, strong enough to change his mind and not going to be manipulated. Cate Blanchett's stepmother is perfection. From her perfect coiffure to the controlled fear in the face of a ruined life out of her control, she breathes life into one of the most evil and plausible of all the Disney villains. All of the supporting actors lend wit and reality without drawing away from the main plot.

But what of Ella, the girl who would become the little cinder maid?
When Kenneth Branagh started talking about his approach to Cinderella he said he envisioned Cinderella as a movie about someone who's super power is kindness. I'd be proud for my kids (yes Chris too) to be influenced by this kind of character. 

This trailer does the best job encapsulating the character of Ella:



Rather than showing strength as a physical thing (like Divergent and Hunger Games do so frequently at the box office), Ella develops strength of character through mourning and mistreatment. This movie does the service of showing bravery as being true to your convictions amidst a very real possibility of consequence and rejection, of choosing to maintain innocence in the face of evil rather than growing bitter. The prince learns to be more noble from a chance encounter with her before ever meeting Cinderella at the ball. Ella is asked why she doesn't leave by the former domestics and offers a good response. The mice may or may not talk, but her godmother is brought to action by Ella's goodness in the midst of a shadow of her fading golden childhood.
All of Cinderella's motivation turns out to be noble, kind and good.
Remember how I put off ordering my daughter Ella's ball gown?

You *shall* go to the ball!


I would have bought it on the way to the car after the film if my phone wasn't dead. I ended up ordering it as soon as they restocked her size. I wonder if my little princess will like it?

March 15, 2015

The Three Mousekateers | Nobody Likes a Clumsy Jedi

Following the excitement of their first entire day at Magic Kingdom, the kiddos would probably sleep in, right?


Jedi Training Day
Ahsoka is ready to watch the sun rise at the Fantasia pool.
Yeah.
The force was with us. The padawans wanted to attend Jedi Training, but they easily awoke in time for a relaxed breakfast before rope drop. A short bus ride later, and all of Disney's Hollywood Studios lay before us.



Walt Disney World Jedi Training Day
Chris and Kylee survey The Hollywood Tower Hotel
We walked up to the entrance with almost fifty minutes to spare and after using the restrooms and collecting our times guide for the day, we found the shortest line and stayed put. We met a lovely family from Tennessee in line (they also homeschool) and the kids soon made fast friends. We were second in our line, so as soon as the rope dropped just before nine, I walked the kids up Hollywood Boulevard, bearing left at Echo Lake to go straight to the queue at the ABC Sound Studio and Jedi Training Academy sign ups. We walked as quickly as we could safely walk but were nearly run over by grown men who had their ten year olds quite literally thrown over their shoulders to jog and run to either Jedi Training sign-ups or Toy Story Midway Mania.
I'm going to repeat what the cast members in the parks repeatedly called that morning.
Please slow down.
Getting hurt or injuring someone else or their child and ruining your vacation isn't worth it.
Walking got us into line with plenty of room left in the Jedi Trainings at 11 o'clock and later, so we claimed two tickets for 11 am. The younglings were asked to report back to training at 10:30. Off we trotted to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. We rode this once before on the kids one short day at Walt Disney World and Kylee was the rebel spy, so I spent the majority of our walk and pre-ride explaining to Chris and Kylee that it was unlikely that any of us would be the spy this ride.


Jedi Training
"1401 clear for take off. Contact departure on frequency four-two-niner."
There is one rebel spy stowing away on each of the flights of Star Tours 1401 hosting 40 guests.
"1401 clear for take off. Contact departure on frequency four-two-niner. "
The odds are astronomically small that the kids would each be chosen on consecutive rides.
Never tell me the odds.

"We know you have this rebel spy on board."

Yes.
Chris found out that Darth Vader was on to him and that the rest of us would be joining in his rebel alliance. After narrowly avoiding the empire on Hoth, Master Yoda encouraged our rebel spy and continued on to the besieged planet of Coruscant. Narrowly escaping from the buzz droids, thanks in no small part to R2, we finally safely landed on a landing platform.

Both kids squealed over Chris' good fortune and sent daddy a short video to share their amazing morning. It wasn't even 9:30. According to our FastPass+, we should have been heading to Toy Story Midway Mania at 10:25, but I was reluctant to possibly miss our Jedi Training.

The kids voted to go visit Oz (admittedly an odd choice for the morning) so off to The Great Movie Ride we wandered. Even though this movie is on the verge of receiving an overhaul, it still delighted, frightened and amazed by turn. The cast members really make the show on this ride and ours were really putting some heart into their roles. Christopher recently saw Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time and Kylee only recently grasped the concept of hidden Mickeys, so this ride really was like a new experience on this ride through.

What to do at 10:15 with a 10:30 training date?


Tatooine Traders
Introducing my very own droid: MP2016.
Create our own droids at Tatooine Traders, of course! The kids each decided to purchase their souvenirs at this point as well, so a blue training light saber and a Duffy the Bear were added to our family.



Jedi Training Academy Line Up
Waiting for the kids' new master to arrive.

At 10:30, there were two of our training group family's waiting at the ABC Sound Stage. Around 10:40. they began checking us in, verifying our paper tickets and giving each child a name button which they needed to attach to the top center of their shirt.
 
Jedi Training Academy
All suited up and ready for training!
A short while later, they robed up all the children, lined them up and told us parents to walk alongside any younglings who might pose a flight risk.

STUDIO_JTA1_7177292688
A boy and his lightsaber.
If you have a child between the ages of three and twelve who is even slightly interested in Jedi Training Academy, show up well before rope drop and be prepared to be flexible in the rest of your plans for the day.


Jedi Training Academy
Duck!
The Jedi Master who ran their training infused wry humor and a big dose of the force to the training experience. "Their will be no falling off the training platform. Remember, nobody likes a clumsy Jedi." It was one of the most amazingly wonderful and magical experiences either of my children experienced at Walt Disney World.



Jedi Training Academy
Fighting the Dark Side.
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This is Part 7 of an Ongoing Trip Report "The Three Mousekateers."
Additional sections will be found on the
Trip Reports page after they are posted! 
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