Tag Archives: homeschool planning

Introducing…Moodle Homeschool!!!

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Update: I just got word that I cannot use the name “Moodle” in my biz name, so I’ve changed “Moodle Homeschool” to “Noodle Homeschool”! I think I actually like it better!  The url is the same, but the name and logo has just changed.

 

Soooooo exciting!!

If you follow me on the Homeschool Realm Facebook page or on the Experience-Based Learning FB group, or listen to the Savvy Homeschool Moms podcast, you’ve seen/heard me talking about Moodle.

I am seriously in love with this program!!

It just occurred to me that I never talked about it here on my blog! Woops! This thing is all-consuming lately,  which is probably why I haven’t found time to blog about it yet!

Ok, so here it is. I’ll start from the beginning.

Moodle is a program for organizing learning online. It organizes teacher’s resources, activities, assignments, quizzes, everything in one place for students and teachers both to be able to access and communicate freely.

Lots of colleges and schools use Moodle all over the world.

Here’s a pretty dull looking Moodle class screenshot I just snagged off the web to give you a taste.  You can see how things are all laid out for students.

Here’s some screenshots of a Japan course I have as part of my Amazing Race 26 series:
(These are only a small sampling of what I’ve put together for this particular course…but it will give you an idea of how *I* do MY Moodle classes!)

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Screenshot_4 Screenshot_5 Screenshot_6 Screenshot_7 Screenshot_8 Screenshot_9

Obviously, these are links to the full activity or assignment…and on the full page there is information, instructions, links to outside resources and embedded videos.

And you can see how I’ve brought my Experience-Based Learning idea into these online lessons! I sort every course by station!

Also, the check boxes to the right are for the children to check what activities they’ve completed, to help them keep track since there’s SO MANY things to do! 🙂

One of my favorite things about Moodle is the ability to embed video right into the lesson page!! No more distractions from YouTube! I’ve even learned how to turn off the suggested videos at the end!! Love it!

And there’s loads of ways for students to submit answers to questions or assignments or upload files (still trying to think of a creative way to use that feature that does not involve requiring students to write a paper. Not really the direction I want to go with this. I’ll think of something! Or just skip it.)

I’m having so much fun coming up with creative and fun ways to use all these features…recently came up with an intro lesson for each country that involves an interactive lesson, leading the kids through learning about the basics of each country: language, currency, where it’s located, that sort of thing…Interactive and fun to help them, hopefully, retain the information.

ANYWAY….Can you tell how much I LOVE MOODLE??

I stumbled upon Moodle because Minecraft Homeschool started using it for their classes, which my kids love! It’s a really neat way to pull all the activities and assignments together in one place for kids to be able to do their work, and in a fun way! Because my kids love technology as much as I do!

So I got to thinking….maybe I should try it out and see if I could pull my kids’ stations together online!

So I installed it on my server. (It’s free, open-source, but you have to have webspace to install it on.) And I started playing with it.

Whew, you guys! It’s COMMMMM.PLEX!! But I am loving it!

So I took 2 of the lessons we were working on in our Traveling Through History with Doctor Who lessons (check them out if you have Whovians too! Great way to learn history!) and I started putting all the info onto Moodle for my kids, and in a format specifically for the kids, so it was directed at the student, not the teacher…and I tweaked the hell out of it.

I am not one to leave things the way they are when I see ways they can be improved….so I added and deleted so much that it really no longer resembles the original. Which is good, because even though I started just doing this for MY kids…I quickly realized that here is something I could open up to others and make some much needed income on! (A good thing it no longer resembles the original, I say, because I would NEVER copy someone else’s work! So I basically am starting from scratch on the Doctor Who History idea…using almost nothing from this woman’s work, other than Doctor Who episodes I would have used anyway and links/resources  that I already knew…and I’m going to be providing mine online in such a way that it’s a completely different resource. Plus I will continue to recommend her lessons, because they are good!)

And THEN, I saw the announcement that Amazing Race 26 was starting in about a week. 

And I realized how PERFECT this would be to start this new business venture!!

You guys remember how we homeschool with The Amazing Race, right? Learning about the countries as the racers race around the world? Hm, I don’t seem to have blogged about that either. Geez, I’m really behind on my blog posts! Well listen to that episode of Savvy Homeschool Moms linked above and you’ll hear all about it.

So….Amazing Race….I would have to get my butt in gear PRONTO…setting a system up for payment and spread the word and get the first country material prepared….luckily their Wikipedia page lets you know a little ahead of time what countries they are heading to, and I already have an audience here on Homeschool Realm, the Homeschool Realm Facebook page, and of course our podcast listeners at Savvy Homeschool Moms, so I knew spreading the word wouldn’t be an issue!

So I got to work!! And that’s how Moodle Homeschool was born!!

And WOW, this is turning out to be a lot of work and a lot of FUN!  I have the first country, Japan, done, and just completed the second destination, Thailand!

I have  22 students currently enrolled and enjoying the activities and resources!! So far so good!

At the writing of this, we are 3 episodes into Amazing Race 26, but it’s not too late to join us!
Since past episodes of Amazing Race are available on CBS’s website, you can catch up any time!

ALSO: This season I am only charging the introductory price of $10/child for the entire season (season 26)…That’s 8 countries for $10! An amazing deal! And I will not be keeping it this low next season! I started low to get my feet wet with as many kids as possible trying out my untested idea. After this season, I’ll better know what I’m doing and I can already tell you that price will most likely double, at least.

I want to keep it as affordable as possible for homeschool families so I won’t raise prices crazy high. But I literally put HOURS and HOURS of work into each course…so $10 won’t do for long.

So get in at this great price while you can!!

Moodle Homeschool

And let me know if you have any questions!

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Experience-based learning

My new “Experience-based Learning” system

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POST NOTE: Since writing this article, and all the interest it has generated, I created a Facebook group for us to discuss and share ideas on this new idea. Come join us!: Homeschooling with Experience-Based Learning!
Also, click here to see all the posts on this website with the EBL category or here to see all the posts with the EBL tag. (Category for a post that is a topic entirely dedicated to EBL, tag for a post that is related to EBL but not the sole topic of the post.)
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Experience-based learning

We’ve made it through the first month of my new homeschool system, and things are still going well!! So I thought it was probably time for me to detail it more, since I’ve had so many people interested in learning more about it.

I go into a lot of the details of where this idea came from in the article linked above, so I won’t go too deeply into that in this post. But the biggest idea that you need to know from that article is that I created a system that is “Experience-based Learning” instead of “Subject-based Learning”.

It’s quite simple really:
IMG_2654.JPGInstead of basing my kids’ education on school subjects (social studies, math, science, language arts) … I base my kids’ learning on the EXPERIENCES I want them to have. To me, their experiences are far more important than the subjects they are studying.

For example, I want them to watch excellent education programming, read good books, create neat projects, etc etc…I want them to have these experiences FAR more than I want them to learn science, history, language arts, etc. Those subjects are WITHIN the experiences, because I still believe they are important, I just don’t base everything around them as they do in traditional education.

So I created a list of “stations” that cover all the high quality experiences I want my children to have:

  • Watch something (these are hand picked, quality learning videos and documentaries on any number of subjects)
  • Listen to something (carefully chosen books I read aloud, audiobooks, and educational podcasts)–I’ve added music from the time periods and parts of the world we are studying to this station now too!
  • Create something (lots of enriching and fun art, science and history projects)
  • Play something (educational and fun board and card games, and occasionally some online games as well)
  • Write something (small writing projects once a week, outside of the daily journaling I have them doing)
  • Read something (hand picked, high quality educational, mostly nonfiction, but some historical fiction as well, books on topics that currently interest them)
  • Math (We use Math Mammoth)*

*Math is the only curriculum we are currently using, and the only subject that is mostly separate. Although there are definitely times when math is involved in some of our activities, such as in the “Play” station, there’s a fair bit of math involved in the games we play.

At the same time, we are also focusing our studies at any given time on a certain time period in history…So, as much as possible, I try to tie our activities into whatever time period we are currently learning about.

Before we started this school year, I showed my kids the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and asked them which time period they would like to start the new school year with. They decided on prehistoric times, so I try to find prehistoric videos, books, podcasts and projects as much as possible. (I’ve even found this stone age board game, and also this one…I just have to find the money.)

In this way, I guess we’re sort of doing a unit study on prehistory. 

Sticking with the time period (as much as possible) helps narrow down the options for the stations, and can be a lot of fun!

I also plan just random projects that are on topics that interest us as well. Mostly what catches my eye or my kids have expressed an interest in.

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The classic baking soda and vinegar volcano…plus pop rocks!

For prehistoric times we are doing “create” projects about volcanoes and plate tectonics and cave paintings. For “read” and “watch” I’m finding books and videos about prehistoric times, volcanoes, plate tectonics, evolution, creation stories from around the world, and prehistoric life. For “listen” I read to them from some of the library books we’ve found at the library and I’ve even found some podcasts about prehistoric topics!

 


Back to the stations…
I let the kids decide when they want to do what stations, and then at the stations they have further choices of what specific activities they can do.

CHOICE has made such a difference to my kids learning experience.

There are a total of 7 possible stations, and I have them rotating through 5 daily. I decided which of the stations I wanted them to do every day (Reading and Math) and which I only needed them doing once, twice, etc, a week. Then I made a chart…one for the weeks we have our homeschool charter enrichment classes (“ERCLC weeks”), and one for the weeks we don’t:

ERCLC-week-Stations nonERCLC-Stations

 (Months Later Note: I’ve since pitched using these charts…I stopped requiring specific stations on specific days…I now let them pick whatever stations they want to do daily now, they just need to pick 5 per day, with only 2 requirements. I have uploaded new charts to the free printables page. I laminated them and they use a dry erase to keep themselves on track. I check them weekly and remind them to try to hit all the stations at some point during the week.)

Now, what do the stations LOOK like??

Nothing too fancy or formal. It’s really just an area in my house that I use to store the supplies, so the kids know where to look for their options:

IMG_2672.JPGThe “Play” station is typically the station we start our school day with. For obvious reasons, it’s the most fun! Great way to get our day started, and we all usually play a game together, forcing me to get myself involved in playing with the kids…which is one of my main reasons for making this a station.

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The Lorax card game!

I think games are a fabulous way to learn, but also a fabulous way to bond and make memories. And since I seem to not be prone to wanting to play games….but yet I WANT to want to play games…I just made it a regular part of our day and it’s finally happening!

I try to have primarily educational games at this station, but there are many just regular card (Uno) and board (Clue) games that are fun and still have their own element of education to them without being overtly teaching games. I provide a variety of options so the kids get to go with what they are drawn to on any given day.

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We LOVE mancala!

This also gives those games that have been sitting in the games closet for years a chance to see the light of day and actually get some use!

We are lucky because we have access to more games in our homeschool charter library…but I’m also thinking of putting out a call for sharing of games, to see what games are on other people’s shelves that they’d be ok with sharing, and we can share with them.

One round of a game fulfills the daily requirement for this station. That can be quick or last upwards of an hour or more! Depends on the game and our mood…we’ll keep going if that’s what they want to do!

 

IMG_2670.JPGThe “Create” station is often the second station that we do each day…if one or both of my kids didn’t start their own creative project already.

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Fingerpainting is not just for little kids!

Post it notes make it easy to swap out the activity options each week. With 2 units/5 drawers in each of varying sizes, I can have a wide variety of options for the kids to choose from and not have to constantly be refilling the drawers.

I try to fit everything needed for each activity within one drawer. Occasionally I have to put big things (like a mixing bowl or a tray) next to the unit. I also print up an instruction sheet or write instructions on an index card, and put that on top so when they open the drawer the instructions are the first thing they see. If there’s something needed next to the unit, I will write on the sheet where to find it.

Melted bead art while listening to a science podcast
Melted bead art while listening to a science podcast

I don’t require them to do all activities within this station. If I’m unsuccessful at getting them to do a particular activity, after about 2 weeks or so I just break it down and save it to try another time. Not everything is successful and there are some projects one kid does and the other has no interest in. Since there’s unlimited opportunities for cool activities out there, I try not to stress over the unpopular projects.

However, if there’s one project that I really wanted to see done, I just do it myself! Usually they end up joining me…but really, if it’s something *I* want to do, why shouldn’t *I* do it? LOL!

The funny thing is that often the kids just come up with their own creative projects…and I’m ok with that too! The point is that they are using the creative parts of their brain daily…if it’s something they pulled together themselves, that works!

But this station allows me to start to finally do some of the way cool Pinterest projects that I’ve found over the years and always meant to do. In fact, I use my Pinterest boards to organize my plans for this station!Screenshot_1

 

 IMG_2664.JPGThe “Watch” station can either be our main tv, or any of our computers. Often times they want to watch together on the big tv, and that’s fine. Sometimes one wants to watch alone on my laptop, and that works too.

Watching an educational program on prehistoric NYC
Watching an educational program on prehistoric NYC

I have bookmarked a bunch of relevant videos for them on my Symbaloo account…here’s the Prehistory Webmix I created. As we move into new topics, I will create new webmixes, to enable me to make it easy for them to find videos on the time period and topics we are currently learning about.

I use Symbaloo because I have videos on various sites (like Amazon and Netflix), so it’s easiest to just put all the bookmarks to everything in one place…But I also use YouTube playlists to group together the shorter YouTube videos, then link that playlist on the Symbaloo webmix, keeping everything all together in one place still.

Typically I tell them that one Symbaloo link is the equivalent of one day’s watching. The exceptions are when I link to a series of an educational program, with multiple episodes. For those, I tell them just to watch one episode. So their viewing would be 30-60 minutes usually. Occasionally there is a longer movie.

 

IMG_2667.JPGThe “Listen” station is a little trickier, because my kids aren’t fond of audiobooks or podcasts, so far. And often the things I have for them as options are on my iPhone. So when we are listening to something on my phone together, I just plug in the little portable speaker that is shown in the basket in the pic above.

I also give them the option to listen with earbuds, but usually neither of them are interested in that. More often than not, they prefer me to just read to them. This works great because they love listening to me and I love reading to them!

In the case of my reading to them, I head over to the “Read” station and pick a book from there! (Or ask them to pick one.) Lately I’ve been reading from the books of short stories, since they almost never read those to themselves.

Eventually I’d like to try to get them to read to each other for this station…at least occasionally. That may take some convincing, though.

 

IMG_2668.JPGThe “Read” station is one of those face-out book shelves you see at preschools (got mine from the preschool I used to work at), with some extra baskets. Face out works GREAT to draw attention to books!!

Reading a book on evolution
Reading a book on evolution

This one is a favorite of mine because I’m a serious bookworm, and trying to encourage bookworminess in my children. 🙂  Usually it’s packed with library books which are a combination of books I chose and books they chose.

Most prevalent are nonfiction picture books, since I am absolutely obsessed with high quality nonfiction picture books right now! We really enjoy reading these because they usually have great artwork and are short and easily read in 1 or 2 sittings.

Reading Magic School Bus book "Inside the Earth"
Reading Magic School Bus book “Inside the Earth”

But I also try to find historical fiction and anthologies of shorter stories on related topics where possible. There’s also often some of those great encyclopedia type books like Usborne and DK are so known for.

In addition to library books, this station allows me to also dig through our own shelves to find relevant reads whenever I can. Dust off those long forgotten titles that I bought at book sales long ago and never got around to reading!

I require my kids to read for at least 20min or one book to fulfill this station. (They usually read much longer than this, as the books draw them in!)

 

 

 

IMG_2665.JPGThe “Write” station is a hanging pocket thing that I’ve had for years and only just finally found a use for! Got it at a teacher supply store.  I find ideas on Pinterest and from writing prompt books and print up/copy pages and insert into the pockets.

They only have a formal writing assignment on Fridays, and the choices are many, as you can see. Each copied page probably has about 4-5 ideas on it. They only need pick one.

 

 

IMG_2666.JPGThe Math station is just their clipboard with their Math Mammoth worktext packet for the week. I keep these in wooden magazine boxes on our art table. The kids know to go and grab their clipboards when they are ready to get math done. I also keep their notebooks that serve as their journals in here, (for journaling about the assignments and activities they did for the day…getting them more used to writing regularly,) as well as their clipboards with their checklists and various other notebooks and folders.

Math is just one page (front and back) per day.

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So that’s the gist of how our new system works! So far the kids and I are really enjoying it! It doesn’t take a lot of work on my part to get things set up every day, just occasional rebooting of activity areas…I do prep work every other weekend or so. I prepare a chunk of stuff at once, so that I don’t have to do a lot of prep work weekly. It works quite well!

I’ll detail my prep work and planning process in more detail in the next post, this one got super long!

For now, here’s some more pics of our new system in action!!

In addition to what we do at home, we also have enrichment classes we take weekly and field trips and play dates too, of course!

There’s a whole lotta fun learnin’ happenin’ over here with the Smith’s!  🙂

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Keep it simple, Stupid!

Keep it simple, Stupid!!

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20140718-184358-67438201.jpgMy motto this year is THINK SIMPLE. If it’s not simple, it won’t work with our family. So I’m going to try try try to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID! LOL!

I’ve already determined that prefab curriculum just does not excite my kids (even the really fabulous ones that exist out there!) They are BOOOOOOOORED when I stick with any sort of a program like that. So we’re going to “wing it with style” this year and create our own as we go! Let’s see how it goes.

My goal is to involve my kids in the planning as much as possible…so far they are not excited by this idea (of them having to help plan…they are suspicious of Mom giving them more work….)  but I REALLY want them to have experience with this sort of thing…not just because I firmly believe kids who have a hand in their education are much more invested in it and get much more out of it….but because planning skills are excellent things to have! I already know my 13.5yr old is prone to some sort of organization because she is forever plotting out things in Minecraft, tracking things in Spore, and cataloging breeding patterns in her iPod games. She should take to this naturally, once I can convince her that it will be fun! THAT’s the trick! Can I make it fun?

No, I don’t believe everything needs to be fun….but I DO believe most of their learning experiences should be enjoyable. Most. The vast majority of them. So we’ll see if I can swing it. I’ve been trying to do this for 8yrs already….so far I’ve not stumbled upon the perfect combination of activities and materials….but I’m NOT GIVING UP!! I am DETERMINED to find it or die trying!!!!!

Because, as I keep reminding myself….the biggest reason that I decided to homeschool my kids is for them to ENJOY learning. I have lost sight of that in all the pretty curricula and programs that I keep seeing and thinking they SHOULD love this! (And they don’t)…so I’m going back to basics….time to follow their lead, but with some guidance built in from me. A perfect blend of the things we all love….I’ll find it, I tell ya!!!

By the way, I’m drawing inspiration from Julie at Homeschooling-Ideas.com. Go check her out! She has a ton of great stuff over there! The website is a bit overwhelming at first, but stick with it and you’ll see…there’s so much great content in there!

 

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Homeschooling for the Routine Challenged

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I woke up this morning, as I do every morning, thinking thinking thinking. One thing led to another…and I started to have a sort of epiphany.idea

Sort of.  I’ve gone around this idea for a little while now, but I’m starting to feel like I’m formulating a sort of plan now. I need to get this down on paper (virtual paper) before I lose it. So I can refer to it later when I’m in the zone again and can use this to help me actually create something that works.

Background, for those that don’t know me. I’m EXTREMELY routine challenged. Seriously. Cannot keep to a schedule to save my life. I usually blame it on A.D.D. (which I am pretty sure I have, though not officially diagnosed), but regardless of why I cannot seem to stick to anything, I need to find a solution to the problem. Because it’s a big deal when it comes to homeschooling.

Homeschool readingNow, I’m not looking to get myself to stick to an hour by hour plan. I think we’d all hate that. But I just want to be able to get some sort of a loose plan even to work. Not that our homeschooling for the past 8 years has been a waste of time. Both my kids read, and read very well and often, they both are really good at math, and they know SO MANY things about all kinds of art, science and history topics!

So there’s not been a crappy education going on over here. I just feel like it could be so much MORE, if I could find a way to work with my weaknesses instead of against them all the time. I am exhausted from the struggle. And I know it’s just a matter of hitting on just the right formula to be able to make something work.

stick-abilitySo, that said…The ebook “Stick-ability“, by Julie Gilbert, has started to change my life.

I’ve now read it completely twice, and I plan to continue to read it over and over again as I find that it really has helped my brain start thinking about all this in a different way.

It talks about accepting who you are, especially your weaknesses, and using them instead of fighting against them.

jilagan_rabbitI am a rabbit. I’m not now and never will be a tortoise. The tortoise can stick to a schedule and day by day keep working at it, bit by bit, until he/she reaches the finish line. I cannot do that. I lose interest far too quickly and need a nap. Distraction happens constantly EVER.SINGLE.DAY. And in this day and age of the internet, I’m engulfed in distractions 24/7.

myiphoneI’m a total tech junkie, though. I LOVE LOVE LOVE technology! I live on my iPhone, I adore my laptop, I love working on websites. So I’m not interesting in ditching the internet or any of my gadgets. They are brilliant tools, and if I can just get things all sorted out, I think they could really help guide me on a new, more appropriate for me, plan. (I do need to force myself to have a timeout from Facebook for a period of time daily, though…that’s such a time sucker! But I’ll sort that out another day…for now, I’m on a roll here…)

SO, what to do? Julie says that rabbits work well with short burst sprints vs long marathon sessions. I am so the sprinter. I get engaged in something and I obsess over it for awhile, but then I inevitably lose interest, and often I’ve not actually completed anything so I get frustrated because I’ve “failed.”  But what if, like Julie suggests, I instead aim for smaller goals? Channel my energy for short term things.  Then I can actually accomplish something and feel good about myself and my accomplishments!

I do this all the time with housework. I teach my children, as I was taught by my dad, that you don’t look at the entire job. You just work at a part of it. Ignore the rest of it and focus on a very doable, smaller, section. It works every time for me.

Flyladyflylady does this as well. And from her, I’ve learned that that clean area can be your fuel to keep going. When you feel like you’re losing steam, you go look at that clean area and draw energy and drive from that accomplishment. It seriously works.

So how does this translate for homeschooling? This year I faced the fact that I just cannot do a full year’s curriculum. Meaning, if it is a curriculum that is designed to be accomplished in a full school year, I most likely will fall off the wagon in a matter of months, maybe even weeks. And then I constantly feel behind. (And an additional problem this year was that my kids just weren’t digging the curriculum we were doing, although they were WONDERFUL curricula! There’s nothing wrong with them….they just don’t fit me and my kids. But that’s a side problem.)

HomeschoolRealm.com presents: The Great Summer Purge and Clean!Now, I AM able to handle many short term goals. My Great Summer Purge and Clean is a great example. Last summer I stayed on track nearly the entire summer, and accomplished nearly all that I set out to accomplish. This was a 3 month plan. And each week and each day was broken into very doable pieces, with lots of flexibility. I felt good each day that I accomplished something. And then I felt awesome each week that I accomplished my week’s goals (or most of them.)

So maybe this is how I should approach my homeschooling. In 3 month increments. But I need to build into the plan the possibility of not accomplishing all I’m setting out to accomplish, and being ok with that. Because that’s what I did with my Summer Purge.

There were days that I didn’t do the entire job I had planned to do, and I was ok with that because everything I got done was an improvement over what I had done before (which was nothing!) Maybe I need to approach homeschooling this same way. Aim high but don’t stress if you don’t get there. And aim for smaller sprints vs long marathons, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually be able to look back at the end of the year and say “Wow! Look at all we accomplished!!”

Hm, much to think about! I’ll blog about what exactly this will look like once I’ve had a chance to mull over it some more. But now it’s past noon and I’m on day 2 of my Purge and Clean and need to get back to my house work! The refrigerator won’t clean itself! (What a cool invention that would be!)

And one last note….stay tuned for me to discuss my other great idea I’ve had recently… “Funschooling.” If I don’t get back to it, post a comment and remind me. Because you know how scattered I am. 🙂

 

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