Search & Win


I hadn't always intended to home school.  Big Dad and I attended a church in San Diego before having kids.  The church pastor and his wife have 8 children whom they home school.  Many of the families there also had many children and home schooled.  Before the Jor Man was even conceived we got to know many wonderful families with children of all ages.  And I saw two things:

1) The kids impressed me.  They were fun, intelligent and polite.  They had great relationships with their families.

2)  The moms were not brain surgeons or rocket scientists.  They were moms who loved their kids, and wanted to spend time with them.

I began to see that home schooling my children was something that I wanted to do, and could do - even before there were any students in our family!

Once Jor Man was born, I began learning everything I could from these ladies.  I asked questions.  We visited and watched.  They were so generous.  They gave me books, curriculum and materials long before I could use them.

I also went to curriculum resale events put on by the local home school groups.  This, when the Jor Man was 3 and Campster was a baby, yielded me many more books and much advice.  People who have homeschooled little ones and lived to tell about it, are thrilled to share their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their hand-me-down materials.

The best gift they gave me was the confidence that I could help my children to learn and that I wouldn't "Ruin Them".   And all the free stuff was great, too.

Just last week, a friend with older kids asked me to come by and get boxes of games and books her kids had grown out of.  What a blessing!!  The pictures are of just some of the loot.

Wish you were here!

Cheap Date

Last year at MASS HOPE, Phil Downey gave a talk on "Solving Conflicts in Homeschooling through Truth in Love" which I found to be very helpful.  He talked about taking each of his children on a date.  They didn't have to be expensive, just had to be one-on-one time with the child.  And while he was on these dates, he would ask his kids "Is there anything you are angry about with me or want to talk to me about?  How are we doing?"  He didn't jump in and tell the kids that they were wrong.  He listened.  He found something in what they said that he could agree with and communicated that he heard them.  It made a huge difference in his relationships with his kids.

Big Dad and I try to go on dates with each of our kids at least once a month.  It's not easy.  We have to make it a priority.  Usually they want to go to the coffee shop and get a juice and a muffin.  We abstain so that we can listen and focus all our attention on the kids.  It also keeps the date cheap.  Sometimes Sher Bear just wants to go to the park and be pushed on the swings.  It's their choice what we do.  We just give them a time limit.  An hour is about right.  

This is a picture of Campster enjoying her apple juice on our date last week.  (We only drink water or raw milk at home, so juice is a huge treat!)  We brought the game "SomeBody" and played.  I was impressed by how many body parts she knows.  

After I took the picture of her, she wanted to take some of me.  I also took the opportunity to talk with her about what she wants to learn next year.  She is really interested in learning about birds and continuing her study of butterflies.  She says she'd like to be a veterinarian.  I can totally see that.  

 Wish you were here!

National Day of Prayer

"The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. The Task Force is a privately funded organization whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible."

Thursday, May 6th is the National Day of Prayer.  Big Dad and I have been asked to coordinate the first ever National Day of Prayer event in our small town.  We are very excited, and have been prayerfully planning the event since the fall.  The kids actively pray for our town, and they were so inspired after our last county task force meeting.  

We are met with some resistance in our town.  I am surprised only in that I can't imagine someone saying "Nope, please don't pray for me.  I don't want prayer!"  But that is, essentially what they are saying.   That doesn't discourage us though.

If you haven't done so already, please check the website and find the closest event to your home.  Perhaps there will be an event in your town.  If so, hurray!!  Attending it with your kids would be a blessing not only to your nation and town but to your children as well.  

If you find that there is not an event in your town, go to the event closest to you.  And after you see what an event can be like, sign up on the website to coordinate for your town's event next year.  It's a great thing to do as a family.

Please pray for the National Day of Prayer as it has come under some attack recently.  People seem to think that this is a case of the government telling people what to believe.  It is not.  That WOULD be WRONG, and I would be the first to protest it!

However, the National Day of Prayer is not creating a national church or religion, telling people what to do or whom to worship.  It is simply an event to honor the historical truth of our nation's beginnings in Judeo-Christian prayer and religious freedom.  It also honors the wishes of our forefathers that our nation should be prayed for.

"The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations."

We pray for seven areas of our community:  Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.  I see this as a wonderful opportunity to interest my kids in the workings of government.  They understand that this is something important and they have a vital role.  There is more information on the website if you would like to begin praying with your family for our nation.

Wish you were here!

Physical Education

I have found that by not offering television and computer access, my kids are naturally active.  Really, the thought that I would need to do something to inspire them to get up and move is laughable!  I am usually saying things like "Stop climbing on the furniture/walls/sister" or "Don't run in the house" or "Please don't throw the ball/block/doll in here".

That said, we have given some thought to their physical education.  We have paid for gymnastics, dance,  swimming, horse-back riding, Tae-Kwon-Do and Karate classes.  Fun, yes.  Expensive, double yes.  We may do more of that in the future.  But for now I am looking at ways to get exercise with the kids that doesn't cost us very much.

Hiking is a family favorite.  There are flat, paved trails for longer walks with smallish ones in strollers.  And there are more strenuous hikes with smallish ones in baby backpacks.  The Appalachian Trail runs right through our town.  Big Dad takes Jor Man on what they call Adventure Hikes.  They start in our yard and go into the "forest".  There are beavers there that have made dams and created waterfalls.  Jor Man is excited to take us all this summer.  I gather the idea of an Adventure Hike is to be adventurous - crossing streams and going off the beaten path.  Think Indiana Jones.

Of course you know we swim at the hotel when we go to Boston, but we also swim in the lake in the summer.  This year we plan to take the kids canoeing on the lake.

Dancing expends a lot of energy and is fun.  Whenever the kids are grumpy, I put on some upbeat music (80's music is so fun) and start dancing myself.  That usually makes them laugh and join in, changing the whole mood of the day.  There are some funny (and challenging) aerobic workouts on Netflix that we try and do, and we all end up gasping for air and laughing.

Yoga Kids is fun, and not too weird spiritually.  These are good for calming and center kids.  Really.

I personally love to belly dance.  If you don't belly dance, hula hoops are fun!  Big Dad got a couple for me last year that are weighted and easier to do.

Yard work is great exercise!!  I weeded in the yard yesterday, and my glutes keep reminding me of the work I accomplished!

Our neighbors are retired circus performers (yes, really!) and they have a huge trampoline in their yard.  We are welcome to use it - and most any day that is warm enough, we do.  The kids are getting really good at jumping - it's great for core muscles.

Biking is a family favorite.  This year Sher Bear is finally able to get the hang of peddling, so this is more for older kids.  Although you can attach a baby seat to your bike.

Obstacle courses are fun and easy to set up.  Kids love to climb over, under and through things.  I will make a course involving climbing over the ottoman, crawling under the table, doing a somersault though the kitchen, walking like on a tightrope on a line I've made with masking tape on the floor,  jumping from one line to another. . . you get the idea.

Go to the park and do somersaults or log rolls down the hill.  Play a game of freeze tag.  Get out some balls and cones to practice soccer skills.  Grab some tennis balls and teach them how to bounce and catch.  Run relay races with pine cones.  Climb trees.

This year for Christmas we got a Wii.  That's pretty fun for the winter months when it is too cold to go out.  But there is also iceskating, sledding and snowball fights in the winter.

Okay, I'm tired now just from writing this!

Wish you were here!

Home Science Library

This morning during our family prayer time, Campster was distracted by a bird outside the window.  It was gone by the time we were done praying.  But she described it to me, and we got a bird book our of our family library and looked it up.  It was a male Cardinal.  Campster has decided that she would like to identify birds and track which birds she has seen.

You can't have every book known to man in your personal library.  Space and money will limit your choices.  And if you move often, you will need to own even fewer books, as they are often the heaviest and most expensive things to move.

What books should you make certain to have on your bookshelves?  Having resource books is so helpful.  It allows you to take advantage of teachable moments when your child is the most inspired to learn.  Search for books that your library is getting rid of.  Unfortunately, libraries often purge their older books.  Yes, there are new things learned all the time, and they want to stay up to date.  But books about birds, human anatomy, trees, stars, flowers, animals, rocks, shells, etc. will be most inspirational when they have the beautiful old drawings that the older books do.  Many of the older books are not available on Amazon.  But if you are wanting to buy some, here are some of the books I would suggest:

I would also recommend that once your kids are of "school age" you invest in a microscope.  There are so many things to look at with a microscope.  Tap water, saliva, dragonfly wings, leaves, and pond water all reveal God's glory and design.

 Of course the internet is also a great resource.  Last fall, we saw a snake in our yard.  I brought my laptop out, and we were able to identify it.  It wasn't poisonous, but it would eat our chicken eggs, so Big Dad killed it.  Then Jor Man suggested that we skin it.  Yep, I found that on the internet, too.  He still has the skin.  I also looked up recipes for snake meat.  But, no, we didn't do that.  Of course, with Big Dad not working, we may need to look into that. . . Just kidding!

Wish you were here!

Calm in the Storm

I didn't blog at all last week.  We had a very exciting week with lots of changes for our family.  I want to tell you about what is going on; both so that you can be in prayer for us, and so that your faith may be strengthened by God's goodness in time.

Big Dad is no longer employed.  It was a situation that had changed, and he was no longer able to work there in good conscience.  So he quit!  It reminds me so much of the story for the letter "N" in "My ABC Bible Verses" by Susan Hunt.  That's such a great devotional for preschoolers - my favorite.  We go through it at least once a  year.  And all three kids have memorized much scripture from reading that book together (parents, too!).

Thankfully, God is good and He has prepared us for this time.  Thanks to "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey, we have no debt, except for the house.  And we have some money in the bank.  So we can go for a while without Big Dad working and be fine.  Not that we want to blow through all of that hard earned and saved money - but we do want to take some time now to pray and to discern God's plans for us going forward.

Also, (thanks, God!!) we pre-paid for all our trips.  We are still going to Worchester for MASS HOPE, to Boston a couple more times, and to Guatemala.

The kids are really happy to have Big Dad home.  This morning, the big kids were out in the front yard with him playing baseball.  They pick up on our sense of excitement and trust, and are not worried about anything.  It reminds me that I can look to my heavenly father, see how calm and happy He is, and not be worried either.

So, please do keep us in prayer as we enjoy having Big Dad around all the time.  We look forward to MASS HOPE and discerning God's plan for our learning next year.  We anticipate the adventure God has planned for us in Guatemala.  We are thankful for God's provision for us, and want to walk in faith into this next season of our lives together.

Wish you were here!

Poetry Tea

Our wonderful Children's Library at Scoville Memorial Library recently asked me what kind of programs the library could be putting on for the home schoolers.  One of the things that was suggested was to do a poetry tea.  Our home school co-op used to put on a poetry tea once a year.  The kids (and sometimes the grown-ups) would each memorize something to recite.  It could be a poem, a short story, scripture or a favorite passage from a book.  But most recited poetry.  We always would start with the youngest and work up to the oldest.  Great fun.

So this week, in honor of Poetry Month, our library hosted a poetry tea.  The girls were very excited to dress up.  Jor Man wasn't, so he didn't.  There were six children there, and all but the youngest shared something.  There were cookies, hot cocoa, and tea.  It was such a lovely day, that we decided to do the recitations outdoors.  Sher Bear recited her favorite bit from Winnie The Pooh:

"Isn't if funny
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz, buzz, buzz!
I wonder why he does?"

Campster shared her memorization of John 3:16.  And Jor Man delighted us with Shel Silverstein's "For Sale", a poem about a boy who wants to sell his sister.  It was heartfelt.

Another little girl sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star". And yet another recited "Jack Sprat".   Miss Erin read some of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere".  And I even jumped in there and did my old stand-by, "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll.

It's a great opportunity for everyone to share a favorite, and to practice speaking in front of others.

Wish you were here!


The other day, I saw this on my fridge.  Campster was sad.  Apparently because I insisted that she finish the laundry before she went out to play. (Mean Mommy!!)  The laundry is next to the refrigerator.   So she made use of our lower-case magnetic letters to spell out her feelings.

She's okay.  But I wanted to take this opportunity to show off my fridge magnets.  I really like them.  Most letter magnets are capital letters.  And that is so confusing, as most of the letters that children read are lower case.  We very rarely line up capital letters in a row to spell a word.  RIGHT?

So if you get magnetic letters for your kids, be sure and get lower case ones.  I also got two sets because you run out of vowels too quickly otherwise.  They are too small to be safe for the under-three crowd.  If you have littles, you may want to keep your letters in a ziploc or a bin which you bring down and collect up all the letters afterwards.  Cookie sheets can make good magnet boards also.

Kids will often learn to read before their small motor skills are strong enough to make writing an enjoyable exercise.  Don't push the writing.  Kids will write when they want to write.  Giving them other ways to interact with letters and words can make reading a kinesthetic experience. Stamps with letters can be a fun way to write without writing.

We can't find the "v".  I'll bet it is under the washer.  Campster is resourceful!

Wish you were here!

Priming the Pump

Jor Man has shown an interest in playing the drums.  He drums on everything; the table, the wall, the sofa, his sisters.  We met a man who gives drum lessons, and I thought that Jor Man would love it.

"Nope," he said when I asked him if he wanted lessons.  (Note to self: Do not ask questions that you do not want to hear the answer to.)  I did the obvious response, trying to talk him into it,  "You'll love it.  I will be fun.  Give it a try."

"No."  Hmmm.    Sometimes kids are afraid to try new things.  If you have kids like mine, you may have to "Prime the Pump".

What we did in the case of the drums is this:  I talked with Jon (the drum teacher) and set up a time for him to come over.  Jon suggested that I not call it a lesson, but just a jam session.  When it got to be about a week away, I mentioned to Jor Man that Jon would be coming over to jam with him.  "It's not a lesson," I said.  "If you don't want to jam with him, you don't have to.  I will.  Maybe the girls and Big Dad will, too."

"Okay," he said, looking disinterested.  But I have to say that I noticed that Jor Man drummed more and more as the week went on.  He would remind me that Jon was coming by.

And when Jon arrived today, Jor Man was genuinely excited.  You might not have known it to look at him.  He was doing an uncharacteristically shy routine.  Jon pulled a drum and bell out of his car, and I got our drums out.  The girls came running over.  And Jon just starting drumming.  Jor Man came over and picked up the bell and joined in.

Pretty soon, Jon was giving Jor Man some tips and having him try out some rhythms.  When his interest waned a little, Jon brought a drum set out of his car and set it up on our driveway.  Time to let the neighbors know we're here!

Everyone wanted a turn at the drum set.  There was some "free drumming" as Campster dubbed it.  And Jon showed everyone a simple rhythm to try.  Well, at least it looked simple.  We all burst into giggles as we found that we couldn't get our hands and feet to cooperate - at least not on the first couple of tries.

It was a beautiful afternoon.  The neighbor's horse, and our chickens wondered about the noise.   Kids tried the drums and then ran the tricycle down the hill as fast as they could.  More drums.  Another run down the hill.  Jon was super patient with the kids (and the grown ups).  He's coming back next week.

Wish you were here!

Killing Time

On our recent trip to Chicago, our plane was delayed.  And we spent five long hours waiting in the Laguardia terminal with three very excited children.  Thankfully, everyone was well behaved - so much so that the very nice woman at the gate gave our children snack boxes meant for the international travelers as we were going onboard.  And she commented that they deserved something for being so good.  (Smile.)

Unfortunately, travel is often a hurry up and wait game.  You rush to the airport only to find that you will be waiting longer than anticipated.  Or the wait to get into the museum, hotel, or "fill in the blank" is almost not worth it.  So how does one "Kill Time" with small kids?  Here's some of my best ideas:

Get the wiggles out.  You really can't expect kids to stay still forever.  Even grown-ups need to stretch their legs.  But kids, with all their energy, need an outlet.  Knowing that I will need them to sit still on the plane, I will often "run them" in the airport.  Several conditions apply:  I will not run them when it is crowded.  It's too easy for someone to get lost or hurt if there are lots of people around.  But right after a flight departs, there is usually a lull in people traffic for a few minutes.  Take advantage of that.  Set up boundaries.  "See that red trash can?  When I say go, I want you to run as fast as you can to the finish line, and then turn around and run back.  Ready?  Go!"  It is never a race.  No one wins or loses. In most families, the oldest will be the fastest - so there's really no contest there.  I do not allow Jor Man to rub it in the girls' faces that he is faster.  "Of course you are faster," I tell him.  "But can you be nicer?"  If running gets boring, change it up and try skipping, hopping, jumping or going backwards.  Get them nice and tired.

When the people start coming back, it's time to break out the snacks.  I pack snacks from home rather than buying airplane food, which we all know is too expensive.  Of course you can't take liquids through security, so I do buy waters, and we put some Emergen-C in it, both for health sake and to entice the kids to drink more.  Being dehydrated is one of the reasons people pick up colds on airplanes.  Vitamin C and lots of water helps to combat travel illness.  So does Juice Plus+ which we have taken daily for 11 years.  Try snacks like trail mix, bars, cheese and crackers and fruit for travel.

Often when we are sitting down for snacks we will notice other children waiting with their families.  My kids have been coached to go over and introduced themselves.  "Hi, my name is __________.  What's your name?  I'm seven.  How old are you?  Do you go to school?  I'm home schooled."  They are all quite friendly and able to start up a conversation with just about anyone.  If there are no kids around, perhaps look for someone who seems interested and friendly (using your best judgement of course).  Encouraging your kids social skills is a great way to kill the time, and build them up in the process.

Post snacks is time for a bathroom break.  We usually take turns:  First the girls will go, and then the boys, while the other watches the luggage.  That kills some time.  Don't miss the opportunity to teach good hygiene and hand washing in the bathroom.  We put the soap on and count to 15 while scrubbing our hands.  I love watching the faces of the other travelers when we do this.  They are so amused.

Which brings me to the next thing:  Entertainment!  No, not videos, although I do bring them and a lap top.  But the kids entertaining us.  Beauty Mom and Big Dad sit with our feet up on the luggage (oh, the luxury) while the kids sing, dance and put on plays.  They can tell jokes, make up stories - whatever.  Kids love a captive audience.  They want to have your full attention - and when you are just killing time, why not.  Most (if not all) of the other travelers will enjoy the diversion, too.  They are desperate for something to do also.

We like to play the "That Person" game.  It goes something like this.  When you see people getting off the plane, you pick one and make up a story about them.  We have rules that it can't be anything rude or mean.  But it can be something crazy or surprising.  For instance, "That person with the red sweater, just returned from a trip to Africa where they hunted rhinos."  "That person in the blue dress is the mother of twelve children and she just came back from Russia where she is adopting 5 more!"  "That person in the green pants prays everyday for the city of Chicago."  You get the idea.  Usually my kids end up in a fit of giggles.

Last, but not least, read a book.  Bring a few new books from the library (don't lose them!) and read aloud while the kids sit and take a well deserved rest.  Following the story, perhaps the next flight has left, and, well, "Lather, rinse, repeat".  It might be time to run them again.

This is how we get through long waits.  What are some of your tried and true tricks?  I'd love to hear them.

Wish you were here!

Playing Math Games

Today was a PJ day.  It was only going to reach a high of 50 degrees, and Big Dad had the car for a conference.  So we weren't going out today.  It was a great day to stay inside and make brownies.  My camera needs new batteries.  I promise to post pics once I've been to the store to buy batteries.

Jor Man asked me to play Monopoly, which we hadn't done recently.  He received Monopoly Here and Now for a gift a few years ago.  It's especially fun because there are famous US sights as the different properties, and the money is $10,000 to $5,000,000 instead of the classic $1 to $500.  Jor Man is able to handle these larger denominations.  I think it is great fun to work with these kind of big numbers.

Well, I beat him.  It was close.  I had to mortgage some properties at one point (which uses percentages, and teaches about interest).  But in the end, I got lucky and I won.

Other "math" games that are good for 10-year-olds include:

Yahtzee (great for multiplication)
Milles Bornes  (addition)
Cash Flow (teaches about passive income, lots of addition and subtraction on paper)
Set (higher level logic and grouping)
'Smath (all forms of computation)
Clue (Deduction)
Chocolate Fix (logic)
Battleship (graphing and deduction)
Mastermind (deduction)

Then Campster wanted a turn.  For her, I broke out our classic version of Monopoly.  Well, it's not entirely classic as it is in Spanish.  My mom thought it would be fun to play Monopoly in Spanish.  Yeah, not so much.  :)

But the Spanish isn't an issue for Campster since she is not reading yet at a level that would enable her to read the cards herself.  I chose the game with the smaller denominations of money, because Campster would not be able to handle the larger amounts.  That said, I was amazed by how much math she was able to do, in her head.

She has never been "taught" math.  We have counted, looked at calendars, sung songs and played games.  She has some Kumon workbooks about the numbers 1-120.  She has done dot-to-dots.  But we have never given her a math curriculum or intentionally covered addition or subtraction.  Yet, she was able to count out the money.  She was able to successfully count change.  She didn't always get it right - but her process of figuring it out was correct.

Playing Monopoly also is great practice for adding numbers up to 6 + 6.  Every roll of the dice is added up and counted out.  She desperately wanted me to land on certain spaces, and would count out how many I needed to roll to land there.  Say she wanted me to roll a 7.  She would say "God, please let Mom roll a 6 and a 1.  Or a 5 and a 2.  Or a 3 and a 4."  Awesome.

Oh, and I beat Campster too.  Ruthless!

Other games that are great for playing math with 7-year-olds include:

Phase Ten (sets and sequential numbers)
Guess Who (Introduces logical deduction)
War (greater than, less than)
Trouble (counting)

I didn't play Monopoly with Sher Bear.  She is too young for that.  We actually took a bath for our time together.  She was my home water birth and it shows.  But when I want to play games with her,  here are some math games to play with 4-year-olds:

Numbers Bingo (numeral recognition)
Chutes and Ladders (counting)

Here is a great website with more ideas for using games for homeschooling.  When I am introducing a new game to a child, I like to play one-on-one until they are confident about the game.  Trying to learn a new game while your older brother is trying to beat you is too distracting.  I grew up in Chicago, and we played games all winter long (when we weren't at school - LOL!).  I really enjoy playing games with my kids.

 Wish you were here!

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