Thursday, March 31, 2016

We Bought a Farm: How do I say good bye?

I have no idea how to say good bye to my Scrubby. I'm trying. I'm trying so hard. But I am at a loss. How do you say good bye to 9 loyal years of companionship?

I wish he spoke. I wish he could tell me it is okay. I wish he could tell me that he is ready to go with words.

JB and I promised each other than the moment we saw him suffering, we would let him go. We saw that today and knew instantly that it was time. We wanted his life to end on a good note.

I wish we had more time with him. I wish it wasn't now. I wish he could enjoy the farm for a few more years. We all waited so long to get here.

I am absolutely dumb-founded that an animal can do this to me. I never understood it. I never experienced a pet before Scrubs. I had no idea what they do to your heart. I have no idea how I can come home everyday and not have him here. I have no idea how I can wake up in the morning and not scratch his head.

I will write more later. I will process this more fully. For now, I go to bed. Tomorrow at 2pm the vet will come to help us say good bye to our sweet boy.

I love you Scrubs. I love you so very, very, very much. You have changed my life. You saved my life. You were there for me when no one else could be. Thank you for your heart nose and your sock eating and your counter surfing and your flashlight chasing and your ear nibbling and your cheese and peanut butter loving ways.

I love you sweet boy.

Good boy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Today it became official. All family members on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey must leave the Base immediately.

We knew was a possibility. We had heard the rumors. But now it is true.

Our friends Josh and Rebekah who lived in Turkey were visiting the USA when they got word of this. Josh must return to Turkey without his wife and children. They can NEVER go back to their home in Turkey. And there is a possibility that Josh will have to remain to finish out the last 16 months of his assignment without them.

It is hard to fathom that. Can you imagine being told you can't go back to your home, your friends, your Hatice, ever again? She is in the USA and must create a new home without her husband.


In addition, my heart just hurts so much for this wonderful home and Base and country I love so much. My friends who were with me in Turkey have been messaging me, and we've been grieving together.

We are sad because other people will not get to experience this wonderful life we had.

We are sad because so many wonderful people who rely on the Base for their livelihood will be out of work.

Hatice will never see Rebekah again. Just like that. She's gone. And she can't come back. She can't hug those four darling boys again.

I hate war.

That picture above, of my boys running with their first friend William literally causes my heart to ache. Ache from happiness of that life I had there. And ache from sadness that it is being ripped apart at the seams because of terrorists who have brought their hell into Turkey.

Please pray for this country. Please specifically pray for Hatice and Ilhan and Fa-ree and Gokay. Good friends who will be so impacted by this decision.

I will always love this country and always hold such incredible memories of our two years there.

Review: Memoria Press

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review
Have I mentioned how much I love the review opportunities I am getting from my "job" with the Schoolhouse Review Crew! Such fantastic products to review, and this one is no different. This time I had the opportunity to review StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key for grades 1 and above. This is a product produced by Memoria Press which provides classical Christian education for all ages. 

StoryTime Treasures by Memoria Press is written by Highlands Latin School teachers Mary Lynn Ross and Tessa Tiemann. The idea behind this product is that first graders are ready to read real books -- not just controlled vocabulary readers. They believe that these books more fully capture the imagination of children and motivate them in their reading lessons. 

I truly had never given this concept a lot of thought. While I do really like the Charlotte Mason philosophy of reading that more is not better (and instead, quality is better than quantity), if I am being honest, I think my general idea every day is to just get my kids reading. It doesn't really matter what they are reading. 

However, I am really seeing that this is not the correct response toward reading. Just like adults, kids want to read things that interest them. They want to read good pieces of literature. Classics. And StoryTime Treasures by Memoria Press is exactly that. An opportunity to read and study high quality pieces of literature and expand upon them.

In my case, I was able to obtain all five of the books that correlate with StoryTime Treasures from my library as I was only given a copy of the Student Guide and Answer Key.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

However, your purchase of this product includes a copy of each of the books. Just having these books in your library is worth the $40 cost of this product! 

Spending $40 on this product means you are obtaining four classic pieces of children's literature for about $8 a book. That isn't even taking into account the awesome Student Study Guide and Answer Key that is the main part of your purchase. Each classic book has from 8-16 pages of workbook questions that go along with each story. The books that go with StoryTime Treasures are pictured above and are as follows:
  • Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
  • Little Bear's Visit by Else Holmelund Minarik
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Each story features age-appropriate lessons on vocabulary, spelling, composition, capitalization, and punctuation. There are even some lessons on quotation marks, putting items in order, or an opportunity to color. What I really like about the units is that they are set up in such a way that skipping a page is no big deal.  For example, I haven't taught quotation marks to my first grade boys yet. So I simply told them to skip that page and not do that particular assignment. You could, of course, use that as an introduction into a lesson on quotation marks if you wanted as well.

Because this is a consumable resource (a workbook that once written in, cannot be reused), I decided to have my boys do different stories so I could get twice as much review done. Both boys were able to do this very easily. In the end, they each did read and answered the accompanying workbook questions for two books each. Most of the questions were ones they were able to answer without help from me, but I especially loved that they were challenging enough that they sometimes had to return to their book to look for the answer.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this product. The price is very reasonable. The idea is very simply. And the instructions are very clear. If your child is able to read, then I think this product would work for them. (I do think some Kindergarten students could easily do this and that it would also be appropriate for children in 2nd or 3rd grade as well.)

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We Bought a Farm: Pics from Daniel

I'm enjoying having Daniel here. He's a great guy! It is so neat to get to meet new people -- especially one who wants to squeeze every single minute out of his time here that he can. Here are some pictures he took of his first two days. He spent the days mostly at the top of the ridge, working to take down some trees that had conquered our fencing.

This is the type of thing Daniel has been working on during his first few days -- helping to remove trees that have fallen on our fence. This is at the top of our ridge and takes a good 30 minutes to hike up to.

JB is pretty sure this is a fox skull.

We Bought a Farm: Projects

With our new volunteers coming in for the next few months, we needed to work on their small room. It is a small room, but it has a beautiful view. We wanted, however, to raise the bed up to create storage underneath. JB and Daniel worked on this for just a few hours and here was the finished project. Not totally complete. (We want to put a bar to hang clothes on underneath it) but looking a lot better!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Homeschooling Facts

Last week I was at our local public school. Two of my children take speech there. As I spoke with a woman who worked there, we began talking about my job history. I told her I was a former teacher.

"Oh well now the homeschooling thing makes sense. If you are a former teacher than I am sure they are getting a good education."

This bothered me. Yes, I am a former teacher, but the truth is, many homeschooling kids aren't being taught by former teachers and are still thriving.

Are there exceptions? I am sure. But statistics still indicate that homeschooling children do as well or better than their schooled counterparts.

I wanted to provide some facts surrounding homeschool children. Please note that by doing this I am NOT saying homeschooled students are superior to those in school. I am instead saying that we are at least equal. And if we are at least equal, than judgement as to the quality of the education should be dropped. Homeschool parents are doing something that is legally acceptable so to have to hear comments about their ability to educate their own child seems unnecessary. 

Number of Homeschoolers Growing Nationwide

  • Since 1999, the number of children who are being homeschooled has increased by 75%. (7 times faster than the numbers of kids enrolling in K-12 school every year.)
  • Homeschooling students score between the 65th-89th percentile on standardized assessment exams (in comparison to the average score of 50th percentile by schooled counterparts.)
  • There are no achievement gaps (difference between sexes, income levels, or race/ethnicity) in homeschooling children as there are in non-homeschooled students.
  • It costs $500-600 per year to educate a child each year at home (compared to $10,000 in school.)
  • Homeschooled students matriculate and attain a four-year degree as much higher rates than their schooled counterparts. 
  • There are about 2.3 million home-educated children in the USA. 
  • Percentage of homeschooled children is growing 2-8% per year.
  • Homeschooling is growing rapidly among minorities. 15% of homeschooling families are not white.
  • Homeschooling children are demographically widely varied. There are athetists, Christians, Mormons, convervatives, liberals, and members of all financial groups. 
  • Homeschool students score 15-30% higher on standardized academic achievement tests. 
  • Black students score 23-42% higher.
  • Homeschooled students are typically above average on measures of social, emotional and psychological development.
  • Homeschooled students are regularly engaged in social and education activities outside their homes with people other than their nuclear-families.
  • Participate more frequently in local community service, vote and attend public meetings more frequently, 
Again, please note that I am not writing this article to in anyway say that homeschooling students are superior. I really do not think this is the case. The smartest child in America may be from a public school or a private school or a homeschool. The least smartest child could come from any of these environments as well. What I am instead sharing is that we are doing an acceptable job and judgment should lesson!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sisterly ballet

The pictures aren't very good, but Abigail has switched to a smaller ballet class on Tuesday nights instead of Thursdays. The Thursday class was getting too large so we decided to join a few others in switching to a smaller class. Because it is so small, when Hannah has to come with me, the teacher lets her participate too. She really tries and actually does it. It's quite sweet. (She's wearing pajamas because we were going to a pajamas story time after it was over.)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

We Bought a Farm: Meet the Chess Teacher, Daniel

We are starting a run of monthly volunteers here at Bauernhof Kitsteiner. First up is a great guy, Daniel. He's only been here two days, but so far he has really impressed all of us. What's even better is that his "side job" is a chess teacher. He told me he could teach Abigail. I did not believe him. But in fact, he did! 

Here's Daniel teaching the four older cousins how to play.

And here he is after teaching Abigail, playing all three of the kiddos at the same time.

How do these volunteers work? Simply put, these are individuals that I have met through one of three places: -- -- or JB's blog. They either have an interest in permaculture, organic farming, or simply want to experience America by staying with families along the way. They get room and board (food and housing) in exchange for helping us a few hours each day.

We have decided to have volunteers come in for one month at a time. We have Daniel here for the month of April, another French guy coming in for May, another gal coming in June, and a friend of the family in July. In August we have another guy from Mexico coming and I'm still looking to feel September. In October, we have a couple we knew from the Azores coming. 

While having people in your home might make some people uncomfortable, we are excited about it. It is an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. (Daniel speaks Spanish and teaches Chess.) In addition, we are able to provide other people the opportunity to experience an American family and an organic farm.

I'll make sure to keep introducing our volunteers to you!

We Bought a Farm: A Hike with Sidge and Scrubs

I decided to go for a big hike today. This was actually the very first time I have ever hiked the entirety of our property perimeter. This includes our 100 acres and 20 additional acres that we "lease" from our neighbors. 

Here's a video of us as we prepared to head out:

I did not think that Scrubs would go with us -- or if he did, that he would only last a short time. But that dog hiked the entire trail with us. He may be "dying" but he sure doesn't have a clue. Oh how blessed I feel by this extra time with my best dog.

First I took a picture of Sidge with Scrubs with some "red bud" trees. They are more purple but so beautiful. 

Sidge decided to try and take a picture of Scrubs and me. Here were his attempts:

And then we decided to take a "selfie" with the three of us once we had reached the top of the ridge. (It is quite a steep climb and not for the faint of heart.) I truly believe that these pictures may end up being some of my favorite memories of my dog ever. Oh how much I love him. 

Scrubs has always loved to nibble on ears. Here he is getting a good ol' nibble on Sidge.

This made us laugh so hard.

Easter Activities

We have a beautiful college 30 minutes from us: Tusculum college -- the oldest college in TN. We decided to join them for an Easter story time. They read a book, had an Easter egg hunt, decorated eggs, and had snacks. We had such fun!