Thursday, March 22, 2018


Have you ever had one of "those" moments? The moment when you realize your kids are already halfway grown up? When you realize that your son is closer to being a young man than he is to being a small boy? When it dawns on you that you better start doing all that stuff you have been wanting to do with your kids because pretty soon they won't want to do it anymore?

That happened to me this past week. There we were, just trekking along in our nice little life, and out of no where I realized that my son isn't little anymore! After this mama spent some quiet moments missing her baby, I got busy writing out a list of all the things that I "eventually" want to do with my kids. You know, the ideas you save for a rainy day or for when you have extra time. Well, I have decided that the time is NOW.

I want to spend the next several months making memories, teaching skills, exploring, laughing, learning together....

I want to be able to relax and enjoy these days with my kiddos, instead of waiting for that "extra time" to come along.

Here is a list of FREE activities and events that I am planning to do with my son and daughter over the next 6 months. I would love to hear what you and your kids enjoy doing together!

So, at the end of last summer we found kites on sale for $1 at Rural King. (My kids insist that they have never flown a kite. I DO think we did it... once... when they were quite small) Unfortunately those kites are still wrapped up in their packaging, stuffed in the back of my closet.  Kite flying is on the list!

We have an entire shelf full of crafting supplies that rarely see the light of day, even though I have been pinning craft ideas since they were babies. We are going to cut, glue, draw, fold, and paint our little hearts out one afternoon. 

Do you know how many science experiment ideas  I have filed away for "someday"?!? Hello, Someday!

There is a thing here, near where we live, called Rails to Trails. Apparently an organization has taken unused railroad tracks and converted them to trail ways. I have often thought how fun it would be to pack a picnic lunch and hike one (or more) of these trails together with our family. We've lived here for two years now; it's time to start hiking! 

Even though we live in a small country town, I have been told that there are several very nice libraries in nearby areas. We are going to go library exploring.

My parents have quite a collection of yard games left over from my childhood days AND a large yard to play them in (something we do not have). Games like badminton, tetherball, croquet, bocce ball and even volleyball. I think we are going to invite the cousins up for a bonfire and some yard game fun!

Have you ever noticed a national historical marker when you are driving by an area and wondered what happened there? My husband was a history teacher for many years, so history is one of our family's favorite topics. Couple that with the fact that we live in a state that was key to early American development and we notice those signs all the time. However, like most busy families, we are usually on the way to somewhere and do not have time to stop and read the signs. We are going to spend a day visiting the historical signs and see where history actually happened. Check out this list of the historical markers in your state! It is even broken down by county for ease of use. (There are 52 signs in our county alone!)  

More Ideas:
  • Star gazing
  • Wild berry picking
  • Visiting an animal shelter 
  • Enjoying a sunrise breakfast
  • Going on a night time walk
  • Puddle jumping
  • Watching home video clips and looking at old pictures
  • Bike riding
  • Cloud gazing
  • Indoor camping
  • Teaching woodsman skills
  • Visiting the state parks near us
  • Visiting some elderly friends, making baked goods for an  uncle who is sick, helping clean church, and participating in other service projects
  • Competing in a Wii family challenge

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Never Stop Learning!

As we conclude our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter L. 

What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing:
Never Stop Learning- No Ruts Allowed! 

I just told my husband yesterday that I think I know my math facts better now than ever before. Why is that, you may ask? Because I am reviewing flashcards every day, doing facts practice pages, working through multi-step math problems… all with my children!  It never ceases to amaze me how much I am learning while we homeschool. Things I never knew (or understood?) when I was in school are so interesting to me now. I love being in on this learning process with my kiddos!

Just as we are constantly learning new things in math, science, and grammar, we need to be willing to keep learning in other areas too. I tend to be a “rut” kind of person. If it works, why bother changing it? However, this isn’t always the best approach to life or schooling. Sometimes we should improve in an area, learn a new skill, or change our approach.

Some questions we need to be asking are ourselves are these:
  • Is there are better way to do this? 
  • Is this approach working for this specific child?
  • Is there a different resource or technology that could help us improve in this area?
Can I encourage you to never stop learning and growing? Ruts are safe and easy, but sometimes they are also dry and lead to nowhere.

Be a mom and a teacher who is open to learning new things, one who will research different techniques, and someone who will honestly evaluate her current methods and processes. 

We don’t have to change everything or always feel pressure to try the latest and greatest educational fad, but we also should be careful not to ride in our ruts just because they are comfortable.

MY Own Style of Organization Makes ME Happy

As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter O. 

What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing:
MY Own Style of Organization Makes ME Happy

I realize this may be a (type A, oldest child) personality thing, BUT I love an organized space. I get all giddy in Ikea. (My hubby won’t even let me near The Container Store…LOL) New bins and boxes make me sigh with contentment. 

Not only am I more at peace when my space is organized, I am also more efficient and productive.

I have been homeschooling for six years now. (How is that possible?!?) Some organizational attempts have worked and are still being used, while others have been discarded along the way.

What I have learned over the years, however, is the organization system that works for me is NOT the same system that will work for someone else. My organization style will look different, function differently and be prioritized differently than others will be.

This is where Pinterest becomes my nemesis. So many good ideas. So much pressure to duplicate those good ideas. Can I free your guilty heart, dear homeschool mama? You DO NOT have to do them all! 

I have tried bullet journals, yearly school files, freezer lists, student binders…the list goes on and on. Those things did not work for my personality and our family. However, there have been many other ideas I have discovered which have worked great for us and I am so thankful for them. 

The key is to do what works FOR YOU!

So here is my challenge for you today. Think of the space in your home that you use the most. (Mine is the dining/school/office/music/…well you get the idea—room) What is one way you could organize that space to make it more efficient and useable?

  • Think about how the space is used each day and what needs that creates. 
  • Ask a friend for ideas.
  • Visit Pinterest.

 But more than anything else—do what works best for you and your family!

Some "just for fun ideas"—from one homeschool mama to another…
The school organization idea that has worked the best for us is our school workboxes

My favorite organizational piece of furniture is Little Lady’s storage cubby with fabric bins

Some creative (and cheap!) organizational ideas from our Pinterest board

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seeing Outside Our Own Windows

As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter O. 
What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: 

Seeing Outside Our Own Windows
Swimming lessons, basketball practice, family holiday plans…Which science curriculum should I use? Did Scott finish his math homework? Did I pay the water bill?...

Sometimes it is very easy for us to get so busy in our own little world that we lose sight of the big world around us. This is especially easy when we are homeschooling, because so much time and energy must be centered on our children and our home.

I urge you, however, to recognize the importance of seeing outside your own windows and investing in the lives of others—not only for yourself, but also because of the awareness it creates in your children!

It is more comfortable and less messy to hunker down at home and only focus on our own family’s needs, but life is not all about us! This is a very important life lesson our children not only need to hear, but also need to experience.

See the value of others.

I know this may seem hard to comprehend, but everyone does not do things the same way your family does! 

Although I am being a little bit facetious, our homeschooled kiddos do need to realize that this is actually a fact of life. The world is full of unique people, from many walks of life, who have different abilities, backgrounds, and interests.

They need to be taught that all people have value—no matter what their ethnic background, financial standing or physical abilities may be.

We can “talk teach” these lessons, but experience is a much better tutor! 

My cousin’s family spends a week each summer volunteering at a homeless shelter in the city so that her teenage girls can get a hands-on view of life and understand how blessed they truly are. Last summer, the girls actually asked to spend an extra week at the shelter, instead of going on vacation, because they wanted to help the people they had gotten to KNOW over the years!

See the needs of others.

How can your family reach out and help those in your neighborhood? In your community? Around the world? How can you actively meet the needs of other people? 

Here are a few ways our family has found to reach outside our four walls:
  • donating non-perishables to the local food bank
  • saving up coins to fill baby bottles for the local pregnancy center
  • collecting supplies for our town’s homeless shelter
  • packing Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes
  • shoveling snow for an elderly woman in our neighborhood
  • cutting a shut-in neighbor’s grass
  • making meals for sick family members and friends

What are some ways that your family has found to meet the needs of people around you? 

The richness that comes as we reach outside of ourselves cannot be produced through a book or a movie. It must be personally experienced. In order to raise compassionate adults, our families must be others-centered, not just home-centered. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

When Your Child Doesn't Know How to Write

Little Lady also has a hard time putting her thoughts into written words. Whenever she is asked to write a thank you note or a paragraph it is as though her mind, eyes, and hands do not work together smoothly. She can tell me everything she wants to say, but when it comes to actually writing it out, it becomes quite overwhelming to her.

This hit home recently when I sat and observed my girl writing with a young friend (who is also in third grade). They were writing stories together, and her friend quickly filled the page with words. In that same amount of time, my daughter wrote three sentences, and ended up drawing a picture. I could sense her frustration and asked about her story. The words poured out of her (and a good story it would have been!), but the process of writing completely stifled her ability to share it.

A reading teacher recommended that I approach creative writing in two stages, instead of just one like most of us do.

See, I can think and write simultaneously. I do not have to think about how the letters are constructed, which direction they should face, which side of the paper I should start the next line on, what size the letters should be... 

Things that I take for granted become a huge barrier for many children when they are trying to write. Often, they will lose their ideas or train of thought, become frustrated with the process and just quit. 

It can be very helpful to some students to communicate their ideas FIRST, and then work through the process of writing them. 

This can be done through the use of graphic organizers, dictation, and voice to text apps. You could encourage your child to develop story boards for their ideas, drawing pictures for each scene that they will be able to refer back to later. Using outlines, key words, and bullet points can also be helpful ways for your student to work out the thought side of writing before they put pen (or pencil) to paper. 

Typing can be an excellent tool for your struggling writer because it can help them combine the creativity of writing without the stress of writing mechanics. I would highly recommend that you teach your child to type fluently at an early age. I am a huge proponent of handwriting instruction and feel that it should have a key place in the student's learning. However, for some children, they need the freedom to communicate their thoughts and ideas without the hindrance of thinking about how to write. Typing provides this freedom. (Besides, in this technical world we live in, it will not be a skill that is wasted!) (I really like this idea to teach hand placement to beginning typists.)

We each use tools that help us in our daily life—glasses, alarm clocks, mnemonics, hearing aids, calendar reminders, bookmarks…. My desire is to help my daughter fill her “life toolbox” with as many tools as possible so she can become the learner and communicator that God has created her to be!

Friday, September 8, 2017

When Your Child Doesn't Want to Write

As mentioned in previous posts, my daughter loves to read and is a story girl. One area of struggle for her, however, is in the area of writing and thought organization. 

Ever since she was little and first learning to write, she has reversed her letters and numbers. There was a time when my husband called her his "little Leonardo da Vinci" because she would write everything in perfect reverse order. You could hold her papers up to the mirror and read them like a secret code. 

Although she has improved greatly in this area over the past few years, she still has to work very hard to communicate in writing. I have been concerned about this as she is now entering third grade and will be required to write more and more in her upper elementary years.       

The Lord recently connected us with a woman who has been a teacher for many years, and who frequently works with children that struggle with reading and writing.  After many conversations with her concerning my girl, I am filled with hope and have a plan to help her not only improve in her writing, but also equip her with tools that will help her become a more confident communicator. 

I have been working to implement many of Mrs. Harris's suggestions, as well as reading and researching more ideas on my own. 

My daughter will completely shut down if she is faced with a page that has a lot of required writing on it. She instantly begins to whine about how "she can't do it, it's too hard, she can't write that much..."  Since she has to think about which direction the letters face and how to write them, writing is harder for her than for some children—as though she has to add an extra step in to the process. However, writing is also a life skill and will be something she has to do for the rest of her life. As her mama, I want to enable her to approach writing positively and confidently. 

If you have a child who struggles with visual perception, easily becomes overwhelmed when much writing/reading is required, or has a hard time putting his thoughts into clear sentences, perhaps some of these ideas will be an encouragement to your student as well. 

Here are three tools that we will be using throughout the year to help in this area:

1.   I love this idea from If you scroll down the page, you will see a section entitled "Bite Size Pieces" that suggests cutting a file folder into sections that will allow your student to only concentrate on a small section of the work at a time. So often half the battle is in the mind, and this tool immediately helps a child only focus on a small part of the task at a time. 

2.   Little Lady also struggles with spelling words correctly and she will frequently ask me how to spell the words she needs. Although I do not mind being her walking dictionary, I will not always be with her and I want her to become a more independent writer. Mrs. Harris suggested that she start her own personal spelling dictionary where she can put the words that she often uses, but cannot remember how to spell. I found this printable student dictionary that I really like (especially because it has several versions from which to choose). 

3.   As simple as this sounds, another suggestion for struggling writers is to use pencil grippers. Sometimes children who do not write easily become tense and grip their pencil too tightly, which can cause cramping and sore fingers. This makes the writing process all the more miserable for them. There are many different styles of grippers on the market. This may be a small thing, but if it can help even a little bit, I will be thankful!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Teaching Their Heads AND Their Hearts

As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter H.
What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing:
Teaching Their Heads AND Their Hearts
The basic types of clouds
The dates and leaders of WWII
Nouns, verbs and adjectives
The fine arts… 

The list of what we can teach our children seems limitless. Combining the “required” subjects, our children’s insatiable curiosity, and all of the things we want them to learn and explore to be well rounded individuals…there are simply not enough hours in childhood to cover that much information.

So, does that mean we have failed? Since we cannot teach it all, will we let our children down?

I answer with a resounding NO!  It is not about how much we teach our children, but rather the way we teach them that will bring success. 

Focus on deep learning  Our minds absorb information in many different ways. We have short term memory and long-term memory—skills and knowledge we work with on a regular basis and information that we may never think about again. It is crucial that we provide a balance for our students as they learn and study.

Although facts and figures will fly through their minds all throughout their schooling years, sometimes we must also provide opportunities for them to slow down, dive in, and immerse themselves in a topic. Sometimes our children need time to learn a new skill or truly appreciate an aspect of creation.

Do not be afraid to dwell on a specific area for a while. Allow your children the opportunity to learn in a deep and satisfying way.

Encourage independent learning  When our children are small, we are fully responsible for feeding them. Not only do we have to prepare their food, but often we have to spoon feed them and make sure they get enough food to be satisfied. As they grow and become more capable of feeding themselves, we encourage them to eat independently. 

Learning skills must be taught in much the same way. We should not always ‘spoon feed’ our children information or sit by them offering bite after bite of knowledge. As they mature, they need to begin to approach learning on their own.  We need to create opportunities for them to learn and grow- both in their structured school lessons and in everyday life.

I am not saying that there should be no boundaries or guidance! Just as we would not set a full course meal in front of a ten-month old and let her have at it, we need to set up safe learning experiences and train our children how to have discernment. We must teach our children how to learn for themselves! 

Equip them for lifelong learning Just as we want to train up independent learners, we should also want to encourage our children to be interested in learning throughout their entire lives. Three ways we can do this is through—

READING: Encouraging a love of reading is a great way to prepare our children to be life-long learners. If they are willing to read, they can learn about anything they want to know.  As Theodor Geisel once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (You may better recognize Geisel by his pen name: Dr. Seuss.)

ENCOURAGING THEIR CURIOUSITY: We are all born with a natural sense of curiosity. (Just spend a few minutes watching a baby crawl around a room and you will know what I mean!) Too often, our curiosity becomes stifled by the busyness and pressures of “grown- up” life. True learners ask questions. They want to know how things work or what is happening around them. Although this sense of curiosity can seem overwhelming to us at times (all those questions), we should encourage our children to search out answers to their questions and to learn as much as they can. This may take extra effort (and patience!) on our part, but it is an effective way to encourage a desire to learn within our children.

USING A HOOK: When you are fishing, what do you use to catch a fish? A hook with bait, of course! The same concept works with teaching. Learning occurs when there is disequilibrium between what someone knows and what they do not know. Exposing students to new concepts and information can cause them to want to know more, thereby restoring their sense of mental equilibrium.   When we introduce something new to our child, we are baiting a hook. Whether it  is a brief overview of material they will study in more depth later, or a way to grab their attention concerning information being taught now, teaching our children to work through the frustration they feel (the disequilibrium) when faced with new information and the pleasure of mastering that new concept (restored equilibrium) will help them not shy away from learning in the future.

Make heart learning a priority As parents and teachers, we must also reach the hearts of our children—not just their heads! It is not enough to fill their minds with mental information, life skills, and experiences. We must also encourage them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

The most important things we can teach our children are to “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [their] God.” (Micah 6:8) A person who is full of knowledge, but possesses poor inner character, is a poor person indeed.

Our intellectual knowledge should enhance the relationships and service opportunities with people around us, not isolate us from them. It is crucial that we spend the same quantity of energy and quality of resources on training the hearts of our children, just as we do their minds and bodies.