Thursday, January 21, 2016

Reading Without Tears

My youngest son is finally starting to read. He is one of my later readers, but with the older students doing well in school, it has been easy to feel relaxed about it. However, it is one of my goals for this season to get him reading fluently. Once a student is reading, they can move much more easily into independent learning, as well as being equipped to absorb tons of information naturally as they read.

It is also one of my goals to keep learning an active process as long as that is needed, and to keep learning tear free. Some of my son's work involves writing in a workbook (Explode the Code, Cursive Copywork), so for other reading activities I try to incorporate games as often as possible.

Some of these games I have referred to in other posts, but I made up a few new ones this week..

Word Pick Up- My son had dumped a huge tub of Duplos on the floor. I told him that for every word that he could read, I would pick up a Duplo, for every word that he could not read, he would have to pick up a block. It not only got the toys picked up without tears, but it also got lots of reading done.

Obstacle Phonics-Another afternoon with a messy floor, but this time the floor was covered with stuffed animals and a bin of toys. My son set up the toys as an obstacle hop, and for every phonogram he answered correctly he could take a hop forward. If he missed one, he would have to go backwards. He loved the extra challenge of jumping over his toys, and was happy to take his time about getting through the obstacles.

Mosaic Spelling- I had a pencil outline of a heart, and for every word my son spelled on his little chalkboard, I would glue a scrap of paper inside the heart. I explained to him that when the heart was filled in, he would be done with spelling. This helped him focus enough to pay attention to improving letter formation, and helped him see that there would be an end to the task.

None of these activities took me much time in preparation or clean up. The mosaic activity was a left over art project from our history day, that I really wanted him to do as a record of our day. The other two activities helped get toys picked up, and in every case, the reading, and the activity, accomplished dual purposes. Cleanup, exercise, and crafting, all got done along with the reading.

I can't always make reading fun, but when possible, I will take the time to make school an opportunity to build connection, and show my son how well loved he is.

This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Comprehensive Goal Setting

Although I have read many books on goal setting, one of my favorite systems was well explained by missionary wife Colleen Adams at a women's meeting I went to. Thankfully my creative friend Rebecca, beautifully explains the whole system here, visit her page and you will find a very clear explanation of each area of goal setting. The short story is that, instead of trying to make A, B and C goals, or just a big list of general goals for the year, Colleen's method has you break down your goal setting into eight different areas. Also, instead of making goals for the whole year, these goals are meant to be for a shorter time period, such as three months.

However, even before you start defining your goals for the year or a season, it is important to have your basics, or essentials clearly defined. Although, we have long had a family vision statement, it is important to revisit it and pray for fresh vision, so that we aren't making goals without the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we long for. If you don't have a family purpose statement, then this free download from Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple, could be super helpful for you.

Some of my essentials are;
God, and an active, listening relationship with Him.
My husband, and building a strong marriage.
My children, and giving them a solid spiritual and educational foundation, with all the love they deserve,
My home, and making it a life giving place.
My community; loving and encouraging my extended family and friends.
My ministry, and encouraging other moms.
My art, and continuing to improve my photography, food raising, and writing.
My businesses, and serving my market well to supplement our family income.
Missions, and being a part of helping families in crisis worldwide.

Last Year's Goals
(with the honest truth about progress)

1. Self Care
Exercise 5 days a week
 (better than the previous year, but overall inconsistent.)
Drink 6 glasses of water per day

2. Spiritual Life
Daily Bible copy-work 
(this became a habit, yay!)
Spend first 30 minutes of the day in prayer and Bible study 
(this went pretty well, but I need to work on getting the children being more productive so I can have this time guilt free, or get up earlier)

3. Intellect/Emotions 
(for me right now, these are some goals with my kids)
Weekly nature walk and journaling
 (we did a lot more illustrating and journaling, but not enough nature journaling/observation)
Teach chore consistency with children 
(still working on this)

4. Relationships
Weekly date with my honey 
(we had some really sweet times together this year, and celebrated 25 years of marriage)
Work on eye contact with my children
 (major relationship breakthroughs with my middle children, the book, Hold On To Your Kids was very influential in this.)

5. Time Management
No phone/computer until priorities 1, 2 and 3 are done (super-fail)
Family Bible time by 8:30 a:m (here too)

6. Nest Management
Monthly deep cleaning 
(my house just got dirtier, as I got busier)
Library redo (tile, flooring, window)
(we did it, all but the window, and I love it)

7. Uniquely You
(This might mean weekly pedicures, or more time spent on self care, 
but those aren't my top priorities right now)

Weekly blog post (nope)
Improve photography 
(yes, and this lens is helping)

8. Financial Stewardship
Make a list of accounts (done)
Make some money (yes!)

Although, I didn't achieve total success in the goals that I set in 2015, having the goals, did help me gain consistency in some important areas.
This year, with the help of books like Essentialism, I am being even more prayerful about what my core values and goals should be. It is easy to get my plate so full that I end up frazzled. This is not what I want for myself or my family. Our dreaming and goal setting, can inspire our children to also have purpose; we don't need perfect execution, forward progress is what we are really looking for.

2016 Goals 

1. Self Care
Walk 2 miles, 5 days a week
Do a 21 day sugar fast

2. Spiritual Life
Memorize one verse each week.
Spend first 30 minutes of the day in prayer and Bible study.

3. Intellect/Emotions 
(for me right now, these are some goals with my kids)
Get my youngest reading fluently
Teach morning routine consistency to children.

4. Relationships
Weekly date with my honey.
Continue forging connection with my middle children.

5. Time Management
Family Bible time by 8:30 a:m.
No phone/computer until morning routine is done.

6. Nest Management
Simplify/organize my closet.
Grow more food.

7. Uniquely You
Write a book with my daughter.
Go to a writer/blogger conference.

8. Financial Stewardship
Increase my income. 
Save for a mission trip.

This post contains affiliate links

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I have three birthdays in December, and keeping up with all those birthdays, definitely took a toll on our excitement about Christmas. We had decided back in October to focus on used or homemade gifts for Christmas, in an effort to create less junk, and save money for things that we value, and although that worked out really well, the entire holiday just seemed a little less exciting to me this year. 

Hopefully, my children did not catch my lack of Christmas spirit. We played lots of Christmas carols, sang at a convalescent home, baked cookies, and walked by Christmas lights in an effort to make the season bright for our children, and keep their eyes bright with the joy of the season. 

 We also had a fabulous three days at the coast just a week and a half before Christmas, which didn't help with our Christmas prep, but certainly contributed some wonderful relationship building time, which is what Christmas is really about anyway.

 I confess, I am happy that it is over. I feel so excited about setting goals for the new year, and getting back into the wonderful routine of homeschooling and gardening, and mothering my children. 

For the last several years I have posted my goals for the new year here. It has been a really good way to keep me accountable. As I set goals, I pray that my vision would also be aligned with what God wants for me in the coming year.

I have been reading, Becoming Myself, by Stasi Eldridge, and one of the exercises that she has you complete in the book, is to write a list of all your biggest dreams. Sometimes, in the busy years of mothering and homeschooling, we fail to look down the road at the bigger picture. 

Even Sarah Mackenzie, in her talk at the Wild and Free conference in Virginia talked about looking forward twenty years, and dreaming about what you want your children to remember about their homeschool years. Dreaming is an important first step in any goal setting process, if we don't know what the long view is, how can we make daily or monthly goals that make sense?

So this week, as I prepare to make three month goals for the year, I am setting aside time to dream and journal about what  the focus of this next season will be. 

What are your big dreams, and the daily steps you will take to accomplish them?

This post has affiliate links.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why I Am Not Out Shopping On Black Friday

I can hear my children playing in the next room, and as I do the head count, I invariably step around toys that someone has left lying around. This has led me to believe that instead of needing lots of new stuff for Christmas, we would be better served by taking time as a family, or by encouraging talents through purchases geared towards creativity.

Sometimes it feels tiring, or stingy, to say no to toy requests from my children, I love them so much and would love to give them the moon. However, more stuff, does not equal more satisfaction. What it does equal is more time spent managing all the stuff.

Some of the things we will be doing this season;

Building a snowman

Drinking cocoa

Watching Elf

Reading "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

Making homemade gifts

Painting Christmas themed art

Caroling at a convalescent home

Putting Thieves on our feet to prevent sickness

Cutting down a Christmas tree

Hanging out on the beach

Going to the Monterey Aquarium for Homeschool Days.

I love that our Christmas plans involve so much togetherness, and hopefully, with a few less presents to buy, I will be able to focus more on relationship and connection, and less on buying, wrapping and  cleaning up stuff.

This post has links to Amazon items that we own and love.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jr. Analytical Grammar

"Like everything metaphysical, the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language."
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein

When I had been homeschooling a couple years, I read Susan Wise Bauer's book, The Well Trained Mind. It was surprisingly simple to understand and gave me a few great ideas for organizing our school. I carefully took note of which curriculum she recommended, and because Rod and Staff Grammar was both on her list and available for free or cheap through used book sales and the publisher, I went with that for our grammar studies. I used R&S Grammar with my four oldest children, and along with all the books they read, it seemed to work well at teaching them the parts of speech.

My twelve year old son, however, was not as keen on continuing with R&S. He had a hard time with the vast cultural divide between himself and the culture of the publishing company, and grew weary of some of the colloquial sayings that are included in their lessons. Although I was a little annoyed with his annoyance, (I owned the curriculum, and was not keen on buying a new one), I was willing to try something different. 

We inserted a year of Easy Grammar, which might be very easy for someone who had more of an education than me, but I felt that the instructions were often a little light, which left some confusion. I did however, love their clear explanation of prepositions, so I am not ruling it out altogether for future years. It could simply have been an operator error.

Meanwhile, I read a few reviews of Analytical Grammar, and grew excited about giving it a try. I find that with my 12 year old, he does much better with more teacher involvement. He is a people person and wants the interaction. Because of this, and the fact that I am full time schooling his two younger siblings as well, I decided to try using Jr. Analytical Grammar with him and his 8 year old sister. 

It has been a wonderful asset to our homeschool this year. The lessons are very simple, but offer exactly the amount of review that these two need. The curriculum is simple enough for the 8 year old, but also gives my older son a good review of the parts of speech and their usage that he had previously learned in his use of R&S and Easy Grammar. I am enjoying teaching both of them the same material and having one set of material to grade. Although Jr Analytical Grammar was designed  for 4th and 5th grade students who are not quite ready for the more in depth coverage of grammar included in the regular Analytical Grammar program, it is working well as a grammar review for my son.

I also appreciate that Analytical Grammar is so clear and concise. The lessons are easy to understand, and build in a very logical way.  First nouns, then proper nouns, then articles and adjectives, and so on. As well, it is laid out differently than Easy Grammar and Rod and Staff, this is wonderful for us, because at the beginning of the year when we have lots of energy, we are now learning a different set of information. Instead of spending the first part of the year on prepositions, ala Easy Grammar, we now have the chance to get really good at identifying nouns, pronouns, articles and adjectives.

Although I truly believe that the most important way to teach your child good grammar is to read to them, and require them to read, great books, their ability to identify parts of speech will be a huge asset in their ability to communicate well. As an aspiring writer, I too am grateful for all the grammar review that I am getting. I need it and am thankful that we can enjoy studying grammar together.

Here is a video from the author, R. Robin Finley, with more information about Jr. Analytical Grammar.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Homeschool Co-op How To

I have had some form of a homeschool co-op for many of the 17 years that I have been homeschooling. I love being around people, and I love the accountability and enrichment that homeschooling with a co-op has provided. 

Although space limitations have kept our co-ops very small, I dream of one day being able to meet in a facility where I could join with more families in my community to learn together.

In past years, we have only met once a month, but this year with no baby nap schedules to worry about and with fewer students to manage, I have two co-ops that meet every other week. This means that I have a co-op meeting each week. My children and I never have to go too long between an inundation of time with friends. Hooray for that!

One co-op is especially geared towards teaching writing and science and I am having a great time teaching the Apologia Flying Creatures class to my students. We scavenge for feathers, build bird feeders, and mostly draw, paint and read books. It is loads of fun. Meanwhile, friends who are better at teaching the upper grades are doing biology and general science with my older kids. It is a wonderful situation where we all get to see our children learn and have fun.

I recently joined Periscope, a very interesting app for live broadcasting, and my son and I have been making videos, with my broadcasts or with iMovie. The video here is a broadcast that I did on Periscope which explains exactly how to start your own co-op.

Some of the specific steps that I talk about in the video are;

Find a group to co-op with

Pick your subjects or classes

Meet together to create a schedule

Designate who teaches what and where you will meet

Then, just do it!

It isn't too late to start a homeschool co-op this year. It could be as simple as a play date with a particular theme, or as complex as hosting multiple classes. Book clubs, sewing bees and adventure clubs are all wonderful ways to get families together for fun and learning.

If you don't have a group of homeschoolers to gather with, check out the Wild and Free groups page here, or look up your state's homeschool association. Somewhere there is a group of families waiting for you to join them and learn together!

If you have questions about how to start a co-op, feel free to post them here, or e-mail me at

This blog post also has some great detailed advice on starting a co-op.

If you want a comprehensive book that explains how to start a co-op, check out this one.

This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Art Appreciation For Children

From the moment I began homeschooling, exposing my children to fine art has been a high priority. One of my fondest homeschooling memories was when we were visiting the Hillstead Museum, and one of my young children was able to point out a painting by Whistler. They could pick out his paintings because they had been exposed to pictures by him in our homeschool.

One of my favorite resources for teaching art to young children is simply using art postcards, to do various picture study activities. In the following video, I demonstrate how my young son and I use postcards from the Child Sized Masterpieces set (with instructions from Mommy It's A Renoir) to learn to identify different painters and to appreciate some of the world's finest art.



Please forgive any mispronunciation of artist's names. This video was very spur of the moment, and I definitely could have butchered some of their names.


Let me know if I can answer any questions about how we do art appreciation.