Back to School $250 Giveaway!

Back to School $250 Giveaway!

Can you believe that it is time to be thinking about getting back to school?  We actually started back up a couple weeks ago, and are quite happy to be back into more of a normal routine around here!  

I know that back to school means a lot of shopping, for new clothes, new school supplies, homeschool curriculum, or supplies that are needed for our amazing public school teachers to be able to teach our children with the tools they need.

That is why I am excited to be partnering with some wonderful bloggers and authors to once again be offering a Back to School $250 Giveaway!

My hope is that one of my wonderful readers will win this giveaway!  It has happened in the past!  You will find all the details below, and good luck!  Also, please let me know if you do win!

Back to School $250 Giveaway
August 17th to September 7th

Thanks to this fabulous group of bloggers and authors for sponsoring this giveaway! 

Heather @ Townsend House I Am A Reader Geybie's Book Blog S.T. Bende Lori's Reading Corner Laurisa White Reyes Every Free Chance Books The Editing Hall Simple Wyrdings Author Al Stone D.S. Venetta ~ Organic Gardening for Kids! Anna del C. Dye My Life. One Story at a Time. Heather Boyd Regency Romance Author Author Mary Ting Author Inger Iversen Krysten Lindsay Hager author Kindle and Me Erin Richards Glistering: B's Blog Helen Smith Donna K. Weaver Carrie @ Reading Is My SuperPower Bookhounds Alexandrea Weis Caroline Clemmons Author D.E. Haggerty Diana's Book Reviews Bound 4 Escape More Than a Review Spirit Filled eBooks The Serious Reader Author Felicia Starr The Page Unbound CoolCatMysteries Heather Gray, Christian Romance Mary from YourDesignerDog Karmack by JC Whyte Kasey's Book Reviews

Enter for your chance to win $250 in Paypal Cash or a $250 Amazon Gift Card.

Giveaway Details

$250 in Paypal Cash or a $250 eGift Card Ends 9/7/17 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via Paypal or gift codes via Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors, bloggers and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  

 Rafflecopter giveaway

Garden Tour - Week 8

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

I always find it interesting to observe my garden – and others’ as well.  There are weeks where there doesn’t seem to be much growth at all, and then other weeks where it seems like there is a ton of growth.

This past week the weeds seemed to take off – and my cucumbers also doubled in size.

The tomatoes are all going strong, yet I still have not put stakes or cages in to hold them up.  I am a little concerned that I won’t be able to safely get a cage around the plants at this point.  In the past I have just let the tomatoes go wild, and they always seem to continue to produce well…it might be the varieties that I grow.  I do have one tomato cage, but this week I really should get out and get the rest at least staked to something so they aren’t completely falling over.

The newest addition to the garden are these little baby green beans growing.  I think they are just adorable when the fruit first appears.

Apparently the Japanese Beetles are happy that my green beans are starting to grow as well, because they are happily eating the leaves.  Not just eating the leaves, but actually decimating them.  I ought to get one of those Japanese Beetle traps and put that in the yard.  I remember my mom catching hundreds of those little bugs in those traps – so gross.

I am still picking lettuce and radishes pretty much daily.  I will hopefully be adding cherry tomatoes soon!

I have been buying local zucchini and summer squash to make one of my favorite summer meals.

It really is super easy.  Sauté an onion, a zucchini and a summer squash together with some garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper and red pepper flakes, add a bunch of fresh tomatoes, and you have a delicious sauce for pasta.  I made it with some local sausage this past weekend for dinner, and everyone loved it. 

What is a favorite local meal you have enjoyed lately?

How to have Better Cell Phone Etiquette

This post is written in partnership with U.S. Cellular.  All opinions are my own!

Did you know that July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month?  It seems that now everyone has an iPhone that is connected to them at all times.  This isn't a bad thing, but steps need to be taken in order to make sure that you are being courteous to those around you.  I can't be the only one annoyed when I am trying to talk to them, but they are looking at their phone the entire time?!

Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore founded National Cell Phone Courtesy Month in 2002, seeing the need to address proper cell phone use as device use was rising.

I know that there is a huge difference in using a cell phone in 2002 when there was no such thing as a smart phone, and even 10 years ago when the first iPhones came out, to now where everything is done on my iPhone 7 (banking, communicating, social media, pictures).  Instead of being mindful, I think that people often will get absorbed into whatever is on their device, and can easily forget what is going on in the real world, right in front of them.

A recent U.S. Cellular survey* reveals the very people who get upset with others' cell phone etiquette breaches may be just as guilty of the same offenses they are most annoyed by.

When cell phone usage crosses the line and distracts us from what is right in front of us, that is a problem.  It is almost as if we have to learn how to be present again.

What are the worst cell phone behaviors that should be avoided?  U.S. Cellular has compiled the worst cell phone behaviors that people get annoyed with but still do themselves.

How to have Better Cell Phone Etiquette U.S. Cellular

Using the phone while driving - this is number one for me.  Not only is it an annoyance, but for 83% of smartphone users surveyed, it is a safety concern.  44% of smartphone users admit to doing it.  

Honestly, there is nothing worst to me than driving on the highway and seeing the car to the left of me swerve right into my lane because they are looking at their phone instead of the road.  It is a huge safety concern, and as a mama it is doubly concerning.

What is the answer then?  Put the phone down.  There is nothing that important that cannot wait until you get to your destination.  No text, no social media story, really not even a phone call.  If you feel like you do need to talk to someone on the phone, use a bluetooth device, or better yet, pull over and stop.

Looking at a phone during a conversation - this is another pet peeve of mine.  If I am talking to you, but you are looking at your phone, you are telling me that what I say is not important, and whatever is on your phone is more important.

According to the survey, 67% of people are annoyed by this behavior, but 45% also admit to check or use their phone in order to avoid having conversations.

Instead of doing this, just put your phone away.  When you go out to dinner with someone, put your phone away, don't leave it on the table.  Concentrate on the connection in front of you rather than the connection through your screen.

Looking at a device while walking - this can definitely be dangerous, especially if you are unaware of what is going on around you.  I am guilty of doing this when I walk at our local high school track.  I will look down at my phone while I am walking, and then cross several lanes in the process - luckily I am usually there when no one else is around, otherwise I could see potential collisions with other people!

According to the survey 61% of cell phone users are annoyed when someone is staring at their phone while walking.  In fact 36% of respondents said they have been walked into by someone looking at their phone instead of their surroundings.  24% admitted to being the person walking into someone else as well!

The best option if you do need to check your phone while walking is to stop and move to the side, look at what you need to, and then put the phone away and keep going.  

Are you guilty of any of these cell phone etiquette no-no's?

*Between Nov. 10-17, 2016, a total of 701 online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative sample by Consumer Insights, in partnership with Maritz CX.

Garden Tour - Week 7

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

Well look at that, here we are already in week 7…and I haven’t done a garden tour since week 2.  We have been so busy enjoying the summer that I haven’t had as much of a chance to get to writing.  So we will do a mid-July post and see where the rest of the summer takes us!

The garden is doing quite well, being in Maine, and because I tend to plant warmer weather plants, we don’t have a whole lot of picking going on.  There is the lettuce and the radishes, and there is some kale as well.  Whatever kind of bug that had been eating all the leaves of the kale seems to have finally had their fill, and is now letting the new leaves be.  I will be able to have some green smoothies from the garden soon!  Thankfully the kale will continue to produce well into the fall.

My tomatoes are doing really well, and I am happy about that considering tomatoes are my most favorite fruit/vegetable to grow in the garden.  There is nothing like a garden fresh tomato – yum!  There are a lot of little green cherry tomatoes, and some of my Romas are starting to get big as well.

Unfortunately my peppers are doing horrible and will not produce anything this year.  I always plant some in my garden beds, but they never actually grow.  Yet I continue to do it year after year, always hoping something will change!

Typically I have my pots to make up the difference of what is not producing in the garden, unfortunately this year I never got to plant my pots, so no peppers from our garden this year.  Thankfully I can buy them in bulk from a farm close by, and throw themin the freezer for the winter.

My cucumber plants are growing well, despite the little cucumber beetles that inevitably show up every year.  I need to get some diatomaceous earth to spread around the plants to help combat them.  Also, good ol’ bug squishing is in order, and since these are pretty tiny, I no longer am grossed out about it – squash bugs are another thing entirely…too big to even touch, yuck!

My beets also seem to be growing well.  Lettuce is still coming in too – it is nice to be able to get outside and pick my lunch from the garden!  It always amazes me how much we actually do get from this little garden of mine, even after all the bugs and other pests come to take their share first. 

What vegetables are you seeing in your garden or Farmers’ Market these days?

Homeschool Planning - How do you Choose Curriculum

One of the most exciting yet complicated parts of homeschooling is that there are so many wonderful curriculum choices and learning styles available to us.  It is wonderful because we are able to completely tailor a child’s education based on specific homeschooling philosophies and learning styles.  The hard part is that there are seemingly endless ways to teach a child, and finding the right curriculum can be difficult.

If you came here looking for a complete curriculum list that will work perfectly for your child, you will not find that here.  In fact, I am not going to be sharing my homeschool curriculum choices in this post at all!  Instead, I want to talk about my process for deciding on an educational philosophy and learning processes for my kids.

Homeschool Planning - How do you Choose Curriculum

When I decided to start homeschooling, way back when my oldest was the ripe old age of 20 months, I decided on a literature based curriculum.  The reasoning was very simple, I love reading, and my daughter loved listening to stories.  It seemed like a very gentle and easy way to introduce schooling to my child – and at that point I had exhausted myself on fairy tales…

Because we started so early with reading aloud to my children, and reading for very long periods of time, I essentially trained my kids to listen to long stories at a very young age.  Now, that does not mean that everyone will love to sit and read/listen to stories for hours on end – but that is the genius of homeschooling, your family doesn’t have to do that, you can choose something different.

As we have added more kids to the mix, and as they get older, we tend to have to adjust everything every year; three kids at three completely different levels can make a literature based curriculum difficult, however, I know that my kids learn really well when they listen to and read good books, so I want to continue that. 

I cannot give you a rundown on all the different types of homeschool philosophies, but I can direct you to a resource that has helped me immensely as I have grown in our homeschool journey –  There are so many passionate people who blog about homeschooling, and about their way of homeschooling, I could never do all the philosophies justice.

I can let you know that we fall into a very eclectic mix of homeschool philosophies.  I find value in some “school at home,” – math for example – but we tend to lean heavily on literature based and interest led homeschooling philosophies the most. 

When most people hear interest led, I think they actually hear “no oversight,” however that is far from the case.  Figuring out what your child’s interests are, fleshing them out, and then searching out experiences and curriculum to help that interest grow and develop is no easy task.

For quite some time I was incredibly focused on interest led learning, but I was directing most of the interests – which works pretty well when your kids are very little, but not so much when they become their own person.

Learning to choose the right curriculum to foster a love of learning in a specific interest is complicated and takes trial and error.

That was hard for me to swallow.  When I meticulously research curriculum or books or projects for my kids, and then they fall flat, it can feel like failure, but it isn’t.  Instead I have decided to look at it as a learning experience for myself.

Realizing that it is smarter to just drop a certain piece from our homeschool has caused the clouds to be lifted.

If I keep pushing the kids to get through something that they do not like, it pushes them away from the love of learning that I am hoping to foster.

Now, that is not to say that we never have hard days.  There are always hard days.  And just because we have a hard day does not mean that we should completely drop something off the schedule, but if those hard days become weeks and weeks of strife, then it is time to re-evaluate.

Homeschool Planning - How do you Choose Curriculum

My kids love to read, and I find them free reading a lot of the day in their rooms, with books they have pulled off of our shelves.  They like to read on their own schedule, and of their own choosing.  When I assign specific chapters in specific books, I usually find resistance from my oldest – she would rather read a different book.  But, 9 times out of 10, when she finally starts the book, she enjoys it and will often read beyond her allotted chapters.

Choosing the *right* curriculum

As I have said above, there are so many different ways to teach a child the same material.  Once you know what kind of learning style your child has – do they like more projects, hands-on learning, are they content to listen to books and stories on end, do they prefer a more visual approach and can learn a lot from watching a documentary? – you can look at your objectives for the year and start narrowing down curriculum choices.

I tend to start with my oldest when choosing curriculum.  She is 9, she has been homeschooling the longest, and the information that we are studying is new to all of us, not just to her.  Every year of homeschooling my oldest is like my first year of teaching all over again – second guessing everything and wanting to make sure I cover all of my bases.  You would think at this point that I would be a rock star at curriculum choices, since I have been doing it so long, but as I said before, it is all trial and error.  A little less error since I know what really motivates her, and what she struggles with, but still trial and error.

I know that she loves to write long stories, but is not at the stage of easily self-editing while writing made me realize a writing program that allows for longer projects, but is in partnership with me, will be a perfect fit for her this year.

Because we use a literature based approach for a large portion of our subjects, when it comes to curriculum planning for my middle guy it is a little different.  I have to think back to when I used the same books for Emma and remember whether he was interested enough to sit and listen, or if it was a book he didn’t really pay attention to.  There are a few favorites every year that we tend to read over and over, and I know that I do not need to include those in our regular schedule, since we have read them before.  There may be pieces of the books that we will cover again, but I tend to look for more read alouds at the library for Jack, so that we can listen to something a little different.  As a boy, he has completely different expectations about characters in the books we read than Emma who loves a female protagonist.

I have found that looking at other bloggers curriculum choices is incredibly helpful, and have found some wonderful options while reading blog posts.  I would definitely search out bloggers in your particular homeschooling philosophy – just google *philosophy* homeschooling bloggers.  And don’t be afraid to make a mistake!  We are not perfect, and it is OK to drop something and decide on something new at any point during the year. 

Remember your goals for homeschooling to begin with.

What is your favorite subject?  Which learning philosophy do you most connect to?

How to Plan a New Homeschool Year - Creating Objectives

Planning for a new homeschool year is one of my favorite activities.  You would think that all the planning would become monotonous, but it doesn’t.  At least not to me!  There is just something about the newness of the curriculum choices, and having the ability to make changes based on what didn’t work well last year.

In Maine, the school year runs from July 1st through June 30th, so while we do homeschool all year long I tend to look at new routines and big adjustments to curriculum starting in July – at least that is what I work towards.

When I start to think about curriculum choices, planning for the new school year, subjects to expand upon, and everything else homeschool planning related, I start with our objectives.

Objectives in homeschooling can cover a wide range of topics, from what level in Math you want your child to be at, to specific life skills you want your child to learn throughout the new school year, how many books you want them to read, and if you want to focus on one particular part of history.

How to Plan a New Homeschool Year - Creating Objectives

When our kids are very little, it is a little easier to come up with a list on your own.  But, as your kids get a bit older (my oldest is now 9), you will want to involve them in the process.

Where do you Start?

I like to start with the required subjects for my state requirements.  I will write down all of the subjects that we need to cover and then I will make a few notes about what worked from last year, and what I want to change (if anything) for this year.

After I have that list, I will spend some time thinking about what I want to actually cover.

What is the end goal for the year?

I try to decide what I want my children to learn throughout the year in each subject area.  I will list out what areas we want to concentrate on, the types of books we might read (not necessarily titles, but instead topics and number of books for each subject), and if there are any specific needs in that subject area – such as more math facts practice, extra spelling, if we need more creative or research writing practice.

Involving your kids in the planning process.

At this point I sit down with my kids and ask them what they would like to work on for the year.  I am only homeschooling my older two currently, and they are 9 and almost 7.  I have been asking their opinions on what they want to study since they were about 5 years old.  Now, when they are 5 it is generally a basic skill that they want to do, or they want to learn to make one specific thing.  As they have gotten older it has become more detailed.

Last year, they both wanted to do Anatomy and Physiology for Science – so when researching science curriculum, I specifically looked for books that covered Anatomy and Physiology, and they have loved studying that for the past several weeks (we will continue to study it throughout the summer during our Science Summer Intensive).

This year, Jack has asked if he can learn to build a computer.  I’m not entirely sure how to figure that one out for an almost 7 year old, but I am working on it (and thankfully have a brother who works with computers – so I am relying heavily on his expertise while planning this year!).  He has also asked to learn to draw 3-D shapes – so I know that I need to get some specific resources based on these desires.

When you take the time to consider your kids’ desires for learning, I believe that you will have a lot of success in getting them to learn new things (even the things they may not be as excited about).  Involving your kids in the planning process helps give them ownership for their individual learning.

Bringing it all together.

After I have written out what I want to cover, and what the kids would like to cover throughout the year, I am able to have a good working list of what kinds of curriculum I will need for the coming year.  Writing out these objectives gives me a starting point as to where I need to look for curriculum, and what type of curriculum it should be (book, audiobook, textbook, YouTube videos, co-op etc.).

When you have your objectives listed out, it also helps you to plan our what activities and extracurricular activities your child may want/need to be involved in.  Taking into account what your child has also relayed to you about their learning may give you some interesting new ideas about how your year will go.

For example, I asked my kids this question this past week:

If you could only do one activity for the entire year (sports, classes, lessons, etc.) what would it be?

My daughter surprised me and said that she would like to play the saxophone.  Out of all the activities that she has done, she wanted to try this one the most this year.  I’m not sure if we will only put her in classes for saxophone, or if she will continue to play sports like she has been since she was 5, but I did think it was interesting to hear it was not a sport that she has played every year, or a dance class, but instead an instrument.

Objectives in learning are a large part of homeschooling, but I think that this could work in any family.  Sitting down with your kids to figure out what they desire to learn in the new school year can often give you a lot of insight into their interests, and sometimes surprises you (like my daughter did) as to what you may not need to have your child involved in during the new school year.

What is one thing that you are hoping your kids will learn during the next school year?  Do you plan objectives at the beginning of your year to help with the planning process?

Social Media Etiquette - What You Need to Know

This post is brought to you in partnership with U.S. Cellular.

Social media is an amazing way to connect with a variety of people, not just locally but all over the world.  It has given us a sense of community pretty much constantly.  However, social media etiquette often gets swept under the rug – perhaps because people don’t know as much about how to behave on social media, or perhaps because they are essentially behind the curtain and unafraid to share/post whatever they please.

I don’t think a lot of this is done maliciously (although obviously if you watch the news some of it is), but I think do think that it is a lack of information on social media etiquette.

Social media allows us to communicate quickly to a large audience.  This accessibility means we should be careful that what we post is appropriate and conveys the intended message.

I know that I am constantly on my iPhone 7 looking through Instagram pictures, and also posting my own.  I love to scroll through Facebook and see what everyone is up to – it is a great way to find community, and it is also the preferred way people seem to communicate locally as well (kids’ activities I am talking about you!).

Using your phone too much and at inappropriate times can annoy others – in fact 71% of smartphone owners get upset at others for excessive phone use at least some of the time, according to a recent U.S. Cellular survey¹.

Think before sharing – before you post on Facebook or send out a tweet, stop to think about the message that you are trying to convey.  If it is immediately after an emotional event, it might not be the best time to post your feelings on the internet.  A good rule of thumb would be to relax, take a deep breath, and think before you post on any social media platform.

Check the background before posting – we have all seen those funny photo bombs posted on social media.  An easy way to combat this is to take a careful look at your photos before posting them.  Instead of just trying to get the perfect filter, pay attention to what is in the background!

Ask before posting pictures of other people – this is a big one.  There is a difference between posting pictures of yourself and your own kids and posting pictures of other people and their kids.  Whenever my kids are in a big group and I take a cute picture I would like to post to Instagram, I ask everyone involved if it is OK to post the picture.  The answer is not always yes.  I am particular about the pictures I post of my own children, and I know a lot of people prefer to keep their kids completely off of social media.

You should also ask before tagging people in a picture – they may be ok with having the picture, but may not want to be tagged across their own social media with the picture.

Be careful when engaging in online conversation – Facebook statuses and tweets are usually conversational in nature, but it is very easy to get the wrong idea from words typed on a screen.  When you can’t see the person’s face while they are saying something to you, it is easy to take things out of context, or read meaning into the words that isn’t actually there.  Be aware that anything you post online can be read by others, even if they are not actively part of the conversation.

What are some social media etiquette rules you think need more attention?

¹ Between Nov. 10-17, 2016, a total of 701 online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative sample by Consumer Insights, in partnership with Maritz CX.