Search & Win

Where has all the Creativity Gone?

According to Newsweek Magazine, creativity in America is declining.  It is a huge problem.  And the reason:  Rote memorization and standardized curriculum.  Children no longer know how to think for themselves.  They are taught that thinking out of the box means you get the answer wrong.

We are finding that to be true with our new student, Huntz.  While he is clearly a very bright boy, he gets bored very easily.  He wants to be told what to do.  And it bothers him to not be "doing school".  It will take a while until he feels comfortable and safe enough for him to figure what he wants to do.  His imagination has been effectively drummed out of him.

Jor Man, on the other hand, asked me this morning to help him with some research.  He has a theory about the Ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses actually being the descendants of Noah and the flood.  This is the heart of creative intelligence - taking two things that had previously not been connected, and finding some way that they go together.  Jor Man theorizes that Cronos, and his three sons, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades were in actuality Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth.

We have been reading Genesis:  Finding Our Roots as a family each morning.  What a wonderful book!  From this we have learned much more about Noah and his family.  In addition, Jor Man has been reading D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths on his own.

Jor Man wanted to know if I would help him with finding maps of Ancient Greece and of the world.  No problem.  This is the sort of thesis that doctoral theses are written about.  And he is (according the world) in fifth grade.

Do you suppose I ought to tell him that he should stop "doing school" because it is Christmas?

Wish you were here!

Playing games beats going to school

I'm just giddy!

New research shows that playing board, card and computer games for an hour and fifteen minutes, twice a week for eight weeks, raised IQ scores by an average of 13 points.

The kicker is, that, on average, a child's IQ is raised 12 points for a year of going to school.

Playing games twice a week is better for your IQ than going to school for a whole year!

The raise in IQ was in direct  correlation to the areas that the games were focused on. That's so cool.

"The games chosen were card games like SET, the traffic-jam puzzle Rush Hour, and Qwirkle, a cross between Dominos and Scrabble. For the Nintendo DS, they chose Picross and Big Brain Academy. There were also two games for the computer one called Azada, another called Chocolate Fix."  

We play SET, Rush Hour, Big Brain Academy and Chocolate Fix at our house.  I will have to check out the others.

Now, get off the computer and go play some games with your kids.  :)

Wish you were here!

Free Homeschooling

Homeschooling doesn't have to cost anything.  Really.

(Although, I do recommend that every homeschool family have an HSLDA membership.  It's important to protect yourself, and your membership helps keep homeschooling legal in all 50 states.)

I absolutely adore curriculum.  It's really fun to look at and play with and plan for.  But in reality,  sometimes the kids like it.  But more often than not, we spend a whole lot of money on something that looks great, only to find that, after a day or two,  the kids are no longer keen on it, and the haranguing begins.

Cause if I've spent a lot of money on some curriculum I thought was going to be wonderful - well, then we must use it, right?

On the other hand, if I get my stuff for free, then I don't much care whether the kids love it or never want to play with it again.  I have the freedom to let them enjoy it or not.

Please be aware:  While I have personally looked at all of these websites - it is not possible for me to have looked at all of the games/links as there are literally thousands.  Please, please, never let your child access the internet without your supervision.  Computers with internet access should be in a common area, where you - the parent - will be aware of what your kids are being exposed to.  I know of several Christian, homeschooling families who trusted their kids to know what not to look at - and their kids were inadvertently exposed to, and subsequently addicted to porn.  Be careful!!

Here are some free curriculum sites (in no particular order):


Starfall:  Early primary phonics, math, silly learning games.  My kids love it.

Learning Games for Kids:  Like the name says, lots of games in all areas.  Let them choose and you sit back and watch them learn.  :)

Gamequarium:  More games for elementary school age.

Game Classroom:  Kindergarten through sixth grade games in all areas.  These games are developed to match state standards.  (Is that a good thing? - LOL!)

Arcademic Skill Builders:  More K-5 games in all areas.

ABCya!:  Lots more great games.  I like playing the one where you fit the United States in the map, one state at a time.  My high score is 320 on hard.

Fun Brain:  Reading and Math games for grade school age.

Sheppard Software:  Hundreds of educational games, activities, quizzes, articles and more!

Funschool:  Worksheets, online games, craft videos - it's got it all.  But I detest the commercials.

PBS Kids:  Games, coloring sheets, and worksheets associated with all the PBS shows.  Mostly fluff and commercialism, but some good stuff.


National Geographic Kids:  Lots of interesting things to do and see.  Plus some learning games.  Warning- definitely a site that believes in evolution and that the world is billions of years old.  If you, like me, believe in young earth and that God created humans - then you will want to be sure your kids understand that this site does not support that.

Answers in Genesis kids' section:  Fun videos, worksheets, coloring pages, crafts, etc.  Love it!

Usborne Quicklinks:  Links to educational websites galore!


A+ Math:  Math games, worksheets, flashcards.

Timez Attack!:  Teaches all the multiplication facts, 2 x 2 through 12 x 12.  Fun!!

Manga High:  Lots of math games for upper elementary and middle school students.

Cool Math:  Higher level math games, primarily for older kids (and adults).  

Sum Dog:  Math games that cover 100 numeracy topics at 10 levels.

The Math Worksheet Site:  Make up worksheets and charts based on what your kids are currently studying.


Learn2Type:  Like it says, free online typing tutor.


Spelling City:  Spelling and vocabulary for all levels.  Use their suggested lists or make your own list and convert it to word searches, games, and tests.  


Book Adventure:  This Sylvan sponsored site offers both reading suggestions for all ages, and quizzes to check for comprehension.  If your child is an independent reader, you can set up rewards for him/her to get when then read a certain number of books and score well on the tests.  Nice!!

Ambleside Online:  Book lists (some are free online and some you get at the library) and guidelines for the popular Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling.  Great place to get inspired.  


Seterra:  Fun online geography practice.  Better than just a quiz - actually helps you learn the major citys,  countries, etc.

Wish you were here!
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, represented as a pyramid, most basic needs at bottom
I've been thinking a lot lately about Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  If you've ever taken any early childhood development or psychology classes, you'll remember this simple concept:  Basic needs must be met before higher needs.

Maslow theorized that physiological needs, like food, warmth, and sleep needed to be met first, and then security, and so on.

I don't know that I agree 100% with this, but it is worth thinking about, nevertheless.

The red section, safety, stands out to me.  I think this is primarily because I was bullied in school as a child.  If school is not a safe place to be, if a child needs to look out for him or herself, and cannot relax and feel safe, how can they learn?  The same can be said of home life.  If a child feels belittled, picked on, unwanted or unloved, how can they learn?

When Big Dad and I discussed becoming parents, one of the things that was most important to us was this:  That the children would know that they are wanted, loved, okay with us, and that we are glad to see them.  Please understand, this does not mean that we do not correct or discipline.  Rather, we do it from a place of love - wanting the best for them.  We are careful to build them up in love at all other times.

One of the ways this happens at our home is around sleep.  When the kids are going to bed, Big Dad spends time with them reading stories, praying and talking with them.  This is also my time to be by myself and relax.

In the mornings, we reverse it.  The kids all join me in bed for snuggles.  Big Dad is up and enjoying a quiet morning downstairs, while the kids and I are snuggling and chatting.  It is a wonderful time to connect.

We make sure to tell the kids individually that we love them, that we are glad for them.  We spend special times with each during the week, doing something they would like to do.  We value their opinions and their ideas.  All these things make for that sense of belonging and love.  And we zealously protect them from harm.  They feel safe and loved.

What do you do in your family to promote safety and love?

Wish you were here!

We Have a New Student!!

Our family met a nine-year-old boy at Vacation Bible School this summer, and we think he's something special.  We've all been praying for him, and befriending him.  And two weeks ago, he was baptized at our church.

Knowing that his family life is challenging, and he has some special needs, we have been praying for things in his life to get better.  Imagine our surprise when we were told that he was being taking out of school (he was being bullied) and will be homeschooled from now on!!  Go God!

We have often wanted to adopt a boy Jor Man's age.  And while this is not adoption, it certainly is wonderful to have another boy around for Jor Man to play with.  I need to think of a "blog name" for him, and get permission to post pictures.

Yesterday was our first day with him homeschooling at our house.  We love having him be a part of our "school". We rearranged some of the chores, and he will be helping with the chickens, and making lunch.  (Campster, who was previously making lunch will now focus on desserts.)  We also did the List with him, and were excited to know that while he does not want to do anything with textbooks anymore, he is very interested in learning at Ulysses S. Grant (an ancestor of his) and the World Wars.  Today we will go to the library and get some books and videos on these subjects for him.

We all recognize that it will take the Love of God to help us through this transition.  And we are excited to see what God will do next.

Please do keep us all in your prayers as we figure this out.

Wish you were here!

Flashlight Egyptian Tomb Tour

Camster (left in coral), Sher Bear (blue floral) and Jor Man (right)
Littles and their mom at the mummy diorama
The Fitchburg Art Museum, in Fitchburg, MA, opened their new Egyptian exhibit last week.  And we were among the lucky home schoolers who got to be the first ones to see it.  This was another of the programs organized by the Family Resource Center.  I am so grateful for them, as I would not have known about this museum otherwise.  We are making friends at these outings, as many of the same kids and parents were also at the Rhode Island School of Design the previous week.

The museum staff did a marvelous job of keeping the kids (and the parents) interested and curious about the exhibits.

Everyone's favorite part was the flashlight tour of the "tomb".  A corridor was painted with the story of what happens after you die (according to the Ancient Egyptians).  We sat in the dark hallway while the docent pointed her flashlight at the walls, pointing out the various gods and goddesses, and telling their stories.  It was a captivating presentation for all but the very youngest of the visitors.  There was a tunnel you could crawl through, which the girls loved.

She did an excellent job of explaining mummification
Following the flashlight tour, the docent took us through the exhibit and showed us the large collection of artifacts, including a real mummy, uncovered.  The kids were all sharing their knowledge of Ancient Egypt - and it was really fun to see how much they have assimilated into their knowledge already.  Sher Bear told everyone about our mummified chicken.  LOL!

Using Hieroglyphics to decorate Obelisks
We took a lunch break before going on to the arts and crafts room to make Obelisks and Egyptian Necklaces.  The girls were so excited just to color and cut out the paper necklace.  It reminded me that they love to do crafts, and I want to incorporate more simple crafts into our days.

Everyone liked using hieroglyphics to write their names and simple phrases.  Sher Bear found a chart of them in one of our Egypt books, and has been writing things in hieroglyphs ever since.

The educator explains how to fold the Obelisks
I was very impressed with this museum and their staff.  Following the official class, we toured the rest of the museum on our own.  I have been to some museums where they have been visibly uncomfortable with the children being there, and I have felt rushed to leave.  This was not the case at Fitchburg.  Everyone was warm and welcoming to the kids.  They talked with us, and gave us suggestions as to what to look for.  Upstairs, they had a monoprint exhibit, with a film explaining monoprints.  We were all so fascinated, that we want to do some monoprints now.

I cannot believe that I forgot my camera that day!  But I did.  And the Director of Docents at the museum was kind enough to send me these pictures to include in my blog.  Thank you, Ann!

Wish you were here!

Jiminy Peak

Sher Bear climbs the rock wall

Jor Man at the top of a double flip

Campster flying

Jor Man, Campster and Big Dad all ready to go up the Mountain Coaster

Sher Bear patiently waits for her turn

Campster and Big Dad come speeding down the mountain

Camster climbs to the top - again!
My Mom came to visit recently, and took us up to Jiminy Peak for a couple of nights.  Jiminy Peak, in Adams, MA, is a ski resort, primarily.  But in the non-snow months, they have what they call Mountain Adventure Park and Aerial Adventure Park.  With all our crazy adventures in Guatemala this summer, the kids felt they had already done the Aerial Adventures, that consisted of zip lines, and a ropes course.  So we opted for the Mountain Adventure.

For one price, we got bracelets which allowed us to go on any of the rides for the whole day.  Actually, the first day the weather was too cold and rainy.  So, after about 20 minutes, we gave up and turned in our bracelets to try again the next day.

And the next day was glorious.  The kids all enjoyed the kid zone, with the usual bounce house, a mini ropes course, a playground, and a spider web climber.  Then they moved on to the rock wall.  Jor Man and Campster mastered the rock wall - making it to the top on all the levels multiple times.

Big Dad and Jor Man went in the big swing.  I didn't get a picture of that - but let's just say you don't want to do that one right after eating.  No one tossed their cookies, although I nearly did just watching them.

We broke for lunch - which consisted of the largest plate of Nachos I have ever seen.  Yum!

The bungy-jump followed, with Jor Man able to do a double flip before he was through.  Campster was flipping singles.  Sher Bear just loved to fly up high.

The mountain coaster and luge (two separate rides) were the hands-down favorites.  I gave up counting how many times they all went up and down.  Big Dad did double duty as only one of the girls could go with him at a time, and they weren't tall enough to go on their own.  (Nope, I didn't do it.)  I stayed with the non-riding child.

At the end of the day, the hotel pool and wonderful hot tubs were happily received by all.  What a great place.  We will be back.  Thanks to my Mom who made it all possible.  :)

Wish you were here!

Sowing Love

Recent events have only served to remind me of some of the reasons why I homeschool.  Children are being bullied to the point of suicide.  There is a lot of hate going around.

How do we, as Christian parents, stand firm on what we believe the Bible says about sexuality, while still teaching that hate is not the response God calls us to?

Last week I got to see an old friend.  He was in NYC to see some shows, and we arranged to meet him at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My children have many people in their lives who are gay.  But because they are children, and are so innocent, they do not yet know.

They know about sex.  We answer all their questions openly and honestly.  They see the chickens mating.  They have a natural curiosity about such things.  And we have always emphasized to them that sex is for marriage only, and between a husband and a wife.  I understand that others see this differently.

As I thought about our upcoming visit with my friend, I knew that he had "married" his partner and would it would probably come up in conversation.  I didn't want him to have to hide it - but I also wanted the opportunity to discuss it with my kids beforehand.  I knew that they would pick up on it.

Jor Man poses with the Medieval weaponry
So we talked with the kids about it.  I explained to them that there are actually many people in their lives who are gay.  This was met with groans and "Yuck" faces.  I continued, "Even though we understand that this is not what God would want for them, we need to remember that we also do things that God says not to do."

"Like what?" Jor Man asked, unbelieving.

"Like being unkind to your sisters."  I answered.  "We all fall short and do things that God tells us not to do.  That is what Jesus died for.  To love us anyway."  I explained that some kids in America had been bullied for being gay.  "Is that how God wants us to treat people?"  I asked.

"We should love them," was Sher Bear's reponse.  Jor Man was least comfortable.  I assured him that we would not ever put him in harm's way.

The whole idea of loving people who were openly doing what God said was wrong was difficult for them to "sit with".  We will need to revisit it again and again, I expect.

But the day came, and we went to the Museum.  I met my friend, and informed him of our little experiment.  I told him that I wanted them to have the opportunity to meet someone, knowing that they are gay, and see that they can still choose to be loving of him.

My friend was glad to go along and be the "guinea pig" in my social experiment.  I told him that if my kids made comments that were rude, I hoped he would forgive it, and point it out to them.  Thankfully, that wasn't necessary.

At first when they met him, they were a bit afraid.  They hung back a bit.  But within five minutes, they were fighting over who got to hold his hand, and Jor Man was regaling him with Greek Mythology.

The kids, my friend and I, in front of a Pollock
Somewhere, amidst all the paintings, and pottery, the statues and the lunch, they forgot that he was gay, and just enjoyed him.  When we left the museum, I asked the kids what their favorite thing in the museum was.  "Bill!!"  They all cried out.  I think it was a success.

Wish you were here!


Fairy princesses making fairy houses at Sher Bear's birthday party
Sher Bear had a birthday this week.  Yup!  She's FIVE.  I wish you could see her do it - her hand so proudly foisted forward, palm out, fingers at attention, face all smile and eyes.

Fairies deliver "dew drops" through the Fairy Obstacle Course, designed by Jor Man

Lately, there has been considerable discussion amongst my friends about gifts and how to handle them.  So here's how we do birthdays and Christmas.  I'm not saying my way is the right way - just sharing how we do things, because I understand it's a little different than the norm.

A pixie and her dew drop in the tunnel
First off, now that the kids are getting a substantial allowance for doing their "helping hands" it is expected that they will buy presents for birthdays and Christmas.  So, for Sher Bear's birthday, both Jor Man and Campster chose and purchased presents for her with their own money.  Creativity is fine.  They can make something instead of buying something.  This helps keep the focus on the giving rather than the getting.  They really love giving their gift, and seeing the joy in response.

Sher Bear and her Fairy cake

On the child's actual birthday, they get to chose what we do that day.  For example, Sher Bear chose to have coffee cake (homemade and gluten free) for breakfast, waffles (ditto) for lunch and (get this!) popcorn with chocolate chips and marshmallows for dinner.  She didn't have to do her chores that day.  And she got to decide what games we played, what movies we watched, etc.  She ate it up!  Jor Man was wonderful about it.  Campster learned a lesson in humility.  It was hard for her to have Sher Bear get her way all day.

For her birthday party, Sher Bear got to invite five friends (and their siblings and parents) because she is five years old.  She picked the menu (Cranberry everything!) and the theme (Fairies).  We went all out, and did it up really nice for her.  And, as usual, that was her present from Mom and Dad.  The party IS the present.

Playing Fairy Freeze Dance
We do a similar thing at Christmas.  We all get little presents for each other, but for the kids, Mom and Dad do the stockings.  Our kids know "the truth about Santa" from the very beginning.  So they know that Mom buys the presents to put in the stockings.  And the stockings are their Christmas presents from Mom and Dad.  They have plenty of other presents to open on Christmas day - and, again, we want the emphasis to be on Jesus and on giving.

To that end, each child chooses the gifts that they bought and wrapped, and hands them to their recipients.  This makes it special between the giver and the giv-ee.

Fairies playing "Hot Potato" with the "Take Home" bags
I was surprised by how many people I shared this with who thought that they had to get their kids presents on their birthdays.  Expensive stuff.  Nope.  Not here.  We simply can't afford it.  And I know that a lot of other families can't right now, either.  And yet we feel that our kids have to have stuff that they don't need and we can't afford in order for us to feel like "good" parents.  Let yourself off the hook.

Wish you were here!

Museum of Art @ Rhode Island School of Design

The kids at Brown University

The girls wanted me to take this picture of the public art at Brown.

The leaves were so lovely against the old buildings at Brown.

Autumn leaves

Campster and Sher Bear admiring the Egyptian sarcophagus

Sher Bear's jaw dropped when she saw a real mummy

Model of an Egyptian Boat

Ancient Buddhadista - wooden statuary

Huge Japanese Buddha Sculpture in Wood

Campster wanted me to take a photo of this Tibetan, gold dagger for Jor Man, who was on the older kids tour.

Sher Bear wanted me to take a picture of this "beautiful jewelry"

This Babylonian wall art depicts the false goddess Ishtar as a lion.

The girls listen intently as our docent explains the battle story told by the intricately carved, marble sarcophagus.

Jor Man took this picture of Athena

A Gryphon carved on a stone casket
This is the marquis for the First Baptist Church in America.  I really liked it!
 Yesterday, the kids and I drove to Rhode Island.  I don't know that I have ever been to RI before.  It's lovely.  I particularly liked Providence with its old, historic buildings on steep hills.  Jor Man thought it would be great for skateboarding (if you want to die young!), and Sher Bear had fun stuffing her pockets full of all the beautiful leaves she found along the way.

Since we got there a little early, we walked over to Brown University and looked around.  It was very nice.  Everyone was quietly studying away.  Jor Man and I talked about the different types of architecture represented in their quadrangle.  Campster insisted that I take pictures of the art.

The First Baptist Church in America
Then we walked back down the hill to the Rhode Island School of Design's Museum of Art for a tour.  This tour was arranged by the Family Resource Center.  They have an amazing collection of art from all eras.  But our tour focused specifically on art from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Although we also saw their collections of modern, Chinese, Japanese, textile and Tibetan art.

It had been a while since we had been on a long drive, and I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed it.  I  had told them I would get them up at 6:45 am, but they were all up and dressed at 6:10 am!  I guess they were excited.  It was nice to realize that we do travel well, and fall into a certain rhythm in the car.  So, were going to do it again, soon!

Wish you were here!

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