Monday, December 17, 2007

Child-like Faith

So often as "moms at home" we think about the great things we are doing for our kids by keeping them at home. Does it ever occur to you the benefit you receive from staying home with your child(ren)? One day I was on my way to choir, which my children attend every Wednesday. It's only about 10 miles away, but there is nothing much but flat, Kansas farmland between here and there. So lots of thoughts can "come through" during this drive! Anyway, it occurred to me that my kids are giving me a HUGE gift by being at home with me. It is something God must know that I need: a child-like faith.
I feel this so strongly, that I believe that the entire reason that we are supposed to keep our children at home is not only to remind us to have faith like a child, but to raise godly children as well. It is a two-way relationship that God intended for us to have as parents. That is why the Bible does not say, "put your children in day care and school all day so that you can get away from them and have some 'me' time."
Parents today are disconnected from their children, which obviously affects their children. But the effect on parents is not so well noted. Every day, I get to see a faith through eyes that are so pure, so innocent, and so believing, that it reminds me, this is the faith that I am supposed to have. They do not question Noah and his ark, they do not wonder if the disciples took Jesus' body away, and they know without a shadow of a doubt that if they pray to ask Jesus into their hearts, He will enter. I cannot imagine not getting this beautiful gift every day. And as natural as their faith comes, it is certainly not natural for me after the world got ahold of me. I'm starting to understand the phrase, "live in the world, but not of the world." It's making a whole lotta sense right now!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Have you been to Webkinz World?

Oh, my, has the Webkinz craze hit our house! My first description of these cute little animals is "Beanie Babies on crack" and I bet the Beanie Baby folks are hating life right now that they didn't think to add the computer component to their little guys. I mean really, are the Webkinz anything new besides the fact that they provide online access to children to play interactively with their Webkinz and even their friends' Webkinz? They are just stuffed animals, just like the Beanie Babies. It is AMAZING what people will think of just to get people to buy more stuff!

If you don't know what Webkinz are, they are stuffed animals that come with a special tag. When you get home, you use the code from your tag to register online, where your Webkinz gets a room, and where you can earn money to buy clothes, furniture, and other goodies. They are virtual goodies, and they are bought with "Kinz Cash." You can invite your friends' Webkinz over to your room, and even meet kids you don't know and play with them online. It is actually a really great learning experience for kids, and while I hate that it initially encourages consumerism, it really teaches them the value of things when they spend or save their Kinz Cash. It is also a way for kids to show their generosity. My son earns money and then sends gifts (virtually) to his friends or sisters. It's so sweet!

Here comes the mom in me.... I didn't just go out and buy my kids stuffed animals. They earned them. We developed a point system, and they got so many points for doing certain things. We were dealing with first time obedience, so every time they did something the first time I asked, they got a point. They also got points for feeding the dog, cleaning up, helping with dinner, and keeping their rooms clean. Once they earned 25 points, they could buy a Webkinz. They each received their first Webkinz "free" as a gift from their dad at the zoo. They also both received one as a gift. The final three were earned. They are not allowed to get more than 5, and they knew this going into it. Which is fine for them, because they got turned on to Build-a-Bear and now they want accessories for their animals! Yikes!

Anyway, if you haven't looked past the craziness of Webkinz, check it out as a learning tool for children. My daughter just turned 5 and is able to work with the website fairly well even though she is just in the beginning stages of reading. The website is and they make GREAT Christmas gifts. You can't buy them at the website, but you can see more about the process. You can buy them locally, on eBay, or Google "Webkinz" and I'm sure you will find some online stores! Here is our Webkinz family:

Friday, December 7, 2007

A New Christmas Tradition

Now that my kids are getting older, I feel like we are able to do more fun projects and really start some family traditions at Christmas time. About a month ago, we ran across a gingerbread house kit where everything is provided and you just build it and decorate it yourself. Last year, we got together with our homeschool group and made little houses out of graham crackers, and that was fun, too. Each child brought a bag of candy, so we had enough variety to decorate the houses. I hope to organize that this year, and if so I will take pictures of those houses to share.

The kids had fun with this one, and it is so cute. With the candies that were provided, it would be difficult to make a bad looking house. It's just so colorful and cheerful. Hopefully it will survive the year and we will be able to use it again, but I've seen the dog eyeing it. We'll see!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Baby Turns 5!

I am still not over the shock that my "baby" turned 5 last month. We celebrated her birthday while we were out of town for Thanksgiving, and my sister gave her a Strawberry Shortcake party. It was a lot of fun! Anna is a bright little girl. We started kindergarten with her a year early, and she started reading when she was 4. She is a wonderful artist and some of her artwork amazes me. I'm so glad I get to stay home with her and enjoy her all day!

Sharing Good News

I've got so many things to share, as I've gotten behind on posting. But this one is very important, and I wanted to share it first.

Friday night my kids and I went to our friends' Christmas program which was in Wichita- an hour away from our home. It was very nice, as it always is, and I remember thinking how exceptionally long the pastor's message was at the end. If you had never heard how to pray and receive Christ, you definitely would remember when he was done! I really wanted to leave, as we still had to drive home. But God said, "Stay."

Tuesday, Thomas read from his phonics Bible the story of Adam and Eve. We discussed the implications of what they had done, what it meant for us today, and I was able to tie it to the things the pastor said Friday night. I did not want to push, so I simply said, "one day when you're ready, you will pray the sinner's prayer and ask Jesus into your heart."

That night, Thomas kept coming out of his bed for one reason or another. Finally, close to midnight, he came to my bedroom in tears. I asked what was wrong, to which he replied, "I'm ready! I'm afraid, Mommy. I want to go to heaven!"

Because Anna was sick and lying next to me asleep in the bed, we went back to his bedroom and sat under his space rocket bunk bed. The string of Christmas tree lights gave the perfect lighting to this very special moment. We talked, and then prayed. Thomas asked Jesus into his heart!

I am so excited about this decision, and want to tell everyone. He has always had such a special little heart, and I know that God is going to use him in a mighty way! If you would like to share your little one's story, please feel free to comment. I love hearing good news!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What are we passing down to our kids?

Because we spend more time with our kids- in many of our cases, FULL time with our children- we must be VERY aware of the negative behaviors we have that they are going to pick up on. We can fool ourselves into believing that we are doing well enough if we don't use curse words, or avoid certain discussions in front of our kids. But that is obvious behavior, and not what I'm talking about. Grab a cup of coffee, and take a seat. It's time to get real.

I know you are perfect. I know you would never do the things I have done. But just for fun, let's propose that we all make mistakes, we all have baggage, and every once and a while, that baggage rears it's ugly head. Have you ever yelled at your kids? Ever thrown anything? Do they see you procrastinating? Do you have a bad habit like smoking? Do you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks? Are you depressed? Do you eat junk food all day? Do you see where I'm going?

Everything we say and do affects our children, and not always for the better. I have been a mom for 6 years and 7 months, and I JUST learned what that really means. It means that I have a lot of changing to do, and that I am extremely fortunate to have the very best tools available to me to help me change my negative behaviors.

Before I introduce the tools, I want to share how all of this came to me. First, I recognized that I have many faults that I'm just not happy with. Second, I wondered how to fix them. On some level, I thought, "I am the way I am because God made me that way." But that was a cop out. Third, I prayed about them. Once God saw that I was ready to hear what I needed to hear, He provided a solution. One day I went to the computer and received an email that changed my life.

This email came at the RIGHT time, after I had already recognized my faults, wanted to fix them, and prayed about them. Had any of these things not happened, I don't think I would have been ready for the information that came my way. Isn't it funny how these things happen?

The email was from Mike Brescia, with Think Right Now! International. I had never heard of Mike, nor had I ever searched out self-help or personal development products. I don't know why I never did, because I certainly needed them! His line of products are designed to help you with anything and everything you could possibly struggle with. To learn more about the products, click on the link above.

The reason I wanted to talk about this in my blog is because we are THE biggest influence on our children. Period. As my children get older I see myself in them, the good and the bad. And it's not too late to work on the bad before it gets out of hand. My main priority as they grow and mature is to keep them close and have a good relationship with them so that they can talk to me about absolutely anything. My personality flaws were not going to work toward that end, so it is MY responsibility to fix that. I am also mentioning it here because so far the products I've used have been HIGHLY effective. As busy moms, these tools are absolutely the BEST on the market. You simply play the CD's in the background and go about your day. They are not lecture or how-to audios, they simply improve your thought patterns as they relate to the issue you want to improve. All you do is listen!

I hope and pray that someone comes across this post who is ready to learn this information. Is it you? No matter where you are in your journey, remember that your kids deserve the very best mom or dad that you can possibly be. And never forget that you are passing down to them everything that they witness. Can you say that it's all good?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Soft Star Shoes

I was just doing some work on my website (I had LOTS of things to update!) and just got a reminder about these amazing shoes and wanted to mention them. They are a little costly, but quality is important to me, so I know there are others out there who feel the same way! I have been extremely happy with the qualiy of Soft Star Shoes, and I am saving up to buy myself some slippers. I'm hoping Santa will bring me some for Christmas.

Before I send you to learn more, I wanted to ask you a question. Have you taught your children about the value of quality, and why it is important that we support US manufacturers as much as possible? My children are 5 (birthday last week!) and 6, and they are already getting that education by being home with me. I'll never forget the conversation we had at Taco Bell when my son said that the next time we went to Taco Bell he was going to get a kid's meal because he liked the toy. (As if we don't have 500 similar toys floating around our house already!) We get kids' meals at McDonalds, because it just makes sense, but I *despise* the toys that come with them!! Anyway, I explained that we would NOT be getting the meal just for the toy because there were poor children in China that were working their fingers to the bones for that little toy that is going to end up in the trash, taking up landfill space! It went something like that, so I'm thinking it was probably "that time of the month!" Anyway, you get the idea. We really need to think about our shopping experiences and what we are teaching our children through them.

Long story short, Soft Star Shoes are made in the US and last forever. That is a good sign. I would rather put my money into products like theirs, and honestly, I realize that if everyone were like me, our economy would plummet. So would China's! :o)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thanksgiving Activities

We just arrived in Atlanta today, about 1,000 miles from home. And I can see the unused Thanksgiving projects that have been waiting for us to use since LAST Thanksgiving tucked away in our craft cabinet back home in Kansas. I am kicking myself. You know how you are driving further away from home, knowing that you forgot to pack something, and wishing you could just figure out what it is so you can move on to thinking about something else? Sigh. At least I didn't forget something that we can't live without!

Anyway, we will still be doing something for Thanksgiving. I brought some reading, handwriting, and math work to complete. And for Thanksgiving we will probably make our "Tree of Thanks" which is a brown tree with trunk and limbs. We make colorful leaves and write something on each leaf that we are thankful for. One thing that I like to remember is to be thankful all year. We do a pretty good job of this. But Thanksgiving is a yearly reminder for me to keep this up. Thankfully (see, I'm good!) my kids are still pretty thankful for the little things. I love how they get so excited! I see other kids who think they are too good for things. They can't enjoy the little things and can't even stop to say "thank you" when they have received a gift. These are the same kids who rip through their toys on Christmas day without even looking at them and get to the end, looking for more. If your child is like this, what can you do to help him appreciate what he has received?

Feel free to share what you will be doing this Thanksgiving. Maybe it will give us an idea for another project to do together.

The week after we returned from our trip, I got out our "Trees of Thanks". Here they are!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

We have a very patriotic town, which maybe is typical for small towns. American flags adorned main street yesterday and today, and many houses displayed their flags as well. As I ran a quick errand and passed by Municipal Hall, I could tell something was happening. After enquiring, I found out that every Veteran's Day, the older school children do a report and display on either a family member who is/was a veteran, or someone else they know. The younger kids sing, and there is a speech. So Thomas, Anna, and I made our way, they on their bikes, me on my shoes, up to Municipal Hall. It was a very emotional tribute to those who have served, as each branch of the military had veterans who stood to receive an American flag from a child. But I came away with one thing I will never forget.
In the speech, Randy, one of our postal workers, provided statistics for how many people served in our military during each war, compared to the population of the time. By far, there are MUCH fewer serving the military today even though our population has exploded. What does that say about us? While many would blame the Iraq war and our poor leadership, it isn't that. Have we lost our patriotism? Are our children growing up to become apathetic? What exactly is it?
More than once I have looked at my son and teared up imagining him serving in the military and putting his life at risk. But today I reminded myself that if that is what God calls him to do when he grows up, there is nothing I can say or do to change his mind. After all, someone has to serve, and I know my son would be a good soldier and an excellent leader.
I remember reading an article recently about the "education" that schooled children receive in public school. It stated that the job most frequently taken by a public high school graduate was...get this...a Wal-mart employee! I don't know how true that is, and I wish I could remember where I found the article, but that would explain where all our would-have-been soldiers are- working at Wal-mart!
To those brave men and women who have served our country, and those currently serving, I offer a very gracious thank you on behalf of my children and me. The fact that we can homeschool without our government knocking down our doors makes me very grateful for the soldiers who have provided this freedom and the many other freedoms we enjoy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

When you live in a small town...

Life in a small town is VERY different from a larger city. If you have never lived in a small town, perhaps this will help you understand some major differences! When I lived in a large city, a visit to the post office would not illicit too much of a response. Since I went there every day, they pretty much recognized me, but probably did not know my name. Today my son and I went to the post office in our small town to take our regular daily shipment, and Val, the postal employee, upon seeing Thomas, said, "I saw you made the paper!" Because I get the paper every blue moon or so (I keep promising myself a subscription!), we did not know what she meant. She went to the back, brought out a copy of the paper which had just come out that day, and there on the front page was Thomas in a strangely wide-eyed photo that was taken right after he won the costume contest Halloween night. It goes without saying that in larger cities, the costume contest would NOT have made the paper, much less the front page! I must point out as well, that if you have visitors come into town, that will probably be in the paper as well!

Needless to say, for the next week or so, Thomas will be a celebrity. This is a unique position for him since he does not attend school, and many of the news articles regarding children have to do with school functions. Which makes me think...perhaps it's time for us homeschoolers to send in news stories about homeschool functions! I will have to think about that. But for now, I will celebrate our small town "hero" making the paper this week...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What was your child for Halloween?

It is still Halloween as I post this, but my kids are out with their dad, so I have time to play with the pictures I took before they went out in the cold (and wind!) Here in Anthony, we have a "parade" downtown where the merchants hand candy out to the kids and it ends up at Municipal Hall where there is a costume contest. It is broken down into age groups, so thankfully my son and daughter were in two different groups.

My daughter's group was before my son's, and I stood on stage with her as the three "judges" discussed their favorite costumes. I saw them whispering about Anna and hoped for the best. I gave her one last whisper of, "remember if you don't win, be happy for the person who does..." just before they awarded the winner- a huge pink purse- which was really cute (of course, not as cute as my Anna!) but you could tell a lot of work went into it. Later, when we got into the van, Anna was just happy that people recognized that she was dressed as Pippi Longstocking! Apparently that was enough for her! (And it helped my ego when people kept asking how we got her hair to stay up. I couldn't believe they couldn't see the wire!)

Thomas went up with the first grade group, and we got into position so that we could see the action. We scoped out the competition. Anna wanted me to hoist her up so she could see, which made me think that the braids weren't such a good idea after all. I must have gotten poked in the eye three times! But when I saw the emcee walk towards Thomas with the "envelope" and announce, "the judges don't want to get arrested after the contest!" I forgot about my eyeball and beamed with pride. (Of course, I immediately worried about Anna feeling jilted, but she had just been handed a half-dollar for her contest so she didn't really notice.) Thomas stepped to the front of the stage where pictures were taken of the winner from each group. Of course, I didn't have my camera for some strange reason, but we took pictures later at home. Isn't he adorable?!
If you would like to share your child's Halloween pictures, please feel free and I'll post them on the blog.
Here are Lisa's children from Busy Buds

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stack and Stick Building Toys

If you haven't seen these building toys before, definitely check them out! We love building toys here and have numerous sets. One thing I never bought for some strange reason was "Lincoln Logs" and I never quite figured out why I didn't make that leap. Now I know! There is a much better product on the market that works in a similar way, but the Stack and Stick pieces actually STAY together.

During the recent controversy of lead in toys made in China, many parents have searched for non-toxic products made right here in the USA. Stack and Stick are made in the USA, and have NO toxic finish. You can learn more about Stack and Stick if you are interested, and learn about the other wooden toys we have at our internet store. Stack and Stick will definitely be under our Christmas tree this year, for both of our children! Hopefully it will be under yours, too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Socializing the Stay At Home Child

I love this topic, so I'm bound to repeat it (again). It has amazed me over the years that people still assume that homeschooled children grow up to be anti-social. As a matter of fact, I have noticed a lot of things that perhaps working parents are too busy to notice.
The first is that most schooled children do not meet my standards for a playmate for either of my children. They don't know how to behave, and they cannot relate to adults. As a matter of fact, we often witness them being rude and disrespectful to their parents. At a party recently, my son came to me in tears, which is somewhat expected considering the child he had been playing with. I took him aside and had a talk, to which he ended with this comment: "I wish (said child) went to OUR school so that she could learn how to behave!"
The second is that schooled students quickly learn their place in the order of things. They are either the bully, the bullied, or somewhere in between, depending on who else is in the room. This is "socialization." When homeschooled children play with schooled children, this is a foreign concept to them, and I've seen the interactions that take place, even on the playground. No matter where they go, schooled children look for their place in the "pecking order" so that they know where to fit in with other kids. How sad!
There have been plenty of articles written that I will post here for parents who might be considering homeschooling and are concerned about socialization. After reading these, I'm sure you will agree that children raised and taught at home have nothing to worry about when it comes to socialization!
Socialization: The "S" Word - A number of articles available here.


At our local zoo, they have recently put in a penguin exhibit. Penguins seem to be VERY popular these days, thanks to movies like March of the Penguins, and Happy Feet. Since we learn about a different animal every couple of weeks for science, I decided we should learn about penguins. It is absolutely my kids' favorite exhibit at the zoo. So I figured that it would be easy to get them into this lesson. And it was!
It's so easy to find information and children's worksheets on-line. It literally took me less than 20 minutes to find enough on penguins that was age appropriate for my kids. Here is a great penguin site. There is a link on that page for penguin activities that you can pick from. Our final "assignment" was to pick one type of penguin and learn more about it. Here are the questions. We took our questions to the zoo, and observed the penguins (again!) and read all the information provided by the zoo about their penguins, which are Humboldt penguins.

Here is some information we found online at the zoo website if you are interested (the picture is mine):

Humboldt penguins are only found along the pacific coast of Chile and Peru in South America. The total world population of Humboldt penguins currently stands at approximately 12,000 breeding pairs, with about 8,000 pairs in Chile and the remaining 4,000 pairs in Peru. The wild population has undergone a decline with the major causes stemming from human interference. These include guano collection (used in fertilizer production) in breeding areas, egg collection, hunting for food as well as competition for available fish.
Humboldt penguins have a black and white underside, with a black band along the chest. Their body is plumper in the middle because of a fat layer that protects them from the cold. These penguins weigh between 9-11 pounds with a body length of 26 inches. Like all birds, penguins have feathers, but their feathers are modified to help them “fly” through the water. These outer feathers also act like a diver’s wetsuit and keep the cold oceanic water away from the soft, fluffy down feathers that keep their body warm. Strong, stiff flippers help them swim up to 7.5 Kph (5 mph).

We had fun learning about penguins. We did not go overboard, and did just enough fact finding, coloring, and creating to keep both kids interested and engaged in learning. Isn't that the key?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fire Prevention in the Home

Fire prevention week was October 7-13, but we did not know this, as most of this stuff is brought up in school. We have, however, been working on our fire safety plan because it is one of the things we have to work on for Cub Scouts. I am very grateful because my eyes have been opened to so many things that we should be concerned about.
First, all of our bedrooms are on the second floor. Our stairway leads to the kitchen, where most fires start. (And even if it started downstairs at all, the smoke would come up the stairs). In any case, the stairs will not likely be an option for escape unless the fire happens to start upstairs. We did not have a smoke alarm upstairs until I realized this and ran out and bought one, along with a carbon monoxide detector. I got a great deal at our local True Value store for both of them.
The next problem is calling 911. Currently we have one phone upstairs, and it requires electricity. It is also a cordless, which sometimes doesn't get put back before we go to bed. So I decided that both of my children's rooms need telephones installed, just in case something should happen to me and they can't get out of their rooms.
The third problem: should we not be able to get down the stairs, how do we get out? First, we need to purchase at least one fire escape ladder. Then, we need to know which windows we can use the ladder on. More importantly, we need to make sure that the windows are operational, AND that my 4 and 6 year old children are able to open them by themselves.
Have you considered all of these things? Until I sat down with my children and considered all the possibilities (where a fire might start, whether I would be able to help, how they would call 911, where to meet outside, etc.) we had NO plan. There is no way to get down without a ladder. There are overhangs we can sit on to wait for the fire department, but they are too high to jump from.
Hopefully something I've said has sparked some thinking about your own fire escape plan. For fire prevention measures and more information to discuss with your children, a great site is .

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Selling on eBay

eBay has opened the doors for many of us stay at home moms, whether we use it exclusively or used it as a starting point for creating our own internet store. Where would we be without eBay?! Here is a great article from guest writer, Suzanne Wells. She has some great ideas about involving our children in the eBay process as well as tips for the new eBay seller. Enjoy!

Selling in eBay – Where do I start?

As an eBay Consultant, one question I get from a lot of people is, "How do I even start on eBay?"
First of all, start small. Set up an eBay account and buy a few things to learn the process and get a feel for how eBay works. eBay and working at home is not for everyone. And it is ok if it isn’t right for you. Sell some of your own things before you invest any money in other products to sell. Understand that eBay is more than taking pictures and working on the computer – you need to be familiar with how to edit photos, shipping, customer service, and Paypal. Take your time and learn about these things before you jump in and go for it full-time.

You can look for items to sell at thrift stores, garage sales, off-price stores like TJ Maxx and Ross, member’s clubs like Sam’s and Costco, salvage stores, flea markets, and consignment stores. To find out what an item sells for on eBay, do an advanced search for completed items matching the key words of your item. You will get a list of all the listings that have ended with those key words in the last 30 days. You can use that information to make educated decisions about pricing or if you even want to pursue selling a particular item.

Once you are comfortable with the whole process, don’t be afraid to take a risk every now and then. I am often asked, “But what if you buy an item and it doesn’t sell?” Well, that’s ok. You can always relist it. You can mark it down and sell it for what you paid for it and move on. You don’t want to buy a truckload of 1,000 items without having tested them out first, but you do want to experiment with different products – you may find something profitable to sell on a regular basis.

Make small investments and try new products to test them out and see what kind of results you’ll get. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new products and try new things. eBay is constantly evolving and no trend will last forever. Experience is the best teacher.

Read blogs, article sites, and eBooks on eBay selling. Be careful not to get duped into buying "Get Rich on eBay" kits. As a power seller with over 4 years experience, and 13,000 sales, I am here to tell you that you aren't going to get rich selling on eBay, very few actually do. I will tell you that eBay selling is fun, profitable, and a convenient way to make money from home. eBay is just like any other entrepreneurial adventure - it takes time, patience, dedication, and hard work.

eBay can be a great family project. I love getting my kids involved. They help sort, package, and weigh the items for shipping. We keep a big world map on the wall in my office so that every time we ship to a new country, we find it on the map and have a little lesson about that country’s culture, history, and of course food! We talk about why people in other countries buy on eBay – many countries just don’t have the resources and abundance we have in the United States.

I involve my kids when I am shipping packages and let them key in the weight, print the label, and stick it on the package. They understand that this is what a post office employee does all day – it is a real job. They also help do some basic data entry using Excel and we study my inventory and profit reports so that they understand that running a business involves expenses as well as profit. We all get excited about a big sale and I usually say, “Well, that one will pay for us to go out to dinner!”

Children can learn a lot about being an entrepreneur by watching their parents work and understanding that having your own business is work, but there are also many rewards. My kids know that I work after they go to bed at night, but they also know that I can take Tuesday morning off without a hassle to come to their schools and watch a performance or a play. If they are home sick, I don’t have to make special arrangements with my boss to miss work. We are an example of a family where eBay works!

Suzanne Wells is an eBay Power Seller, author of "The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide to Successful eBay Selling," eBay Consultant, and mom of 2 in Atlanta, GA. You can visit her website at for free eBay selling resources and tips, such as podcasts and eBooks, and discussion forum.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Teaching Time and Money

Two things that are barely touched on in so many curricula are teaching time and money. I found a WONDERFUL book for teaching both. Before I tell you about this book, I will admit I came across it on accident. I don't even remember where I got it. But when I started looking for another book for my daughter to use this year, I realized how lucky I got and how many horrible (and expensive) workbooks there are out there. So I ended up getting her the same book my son had used.

The book that I am using to teach my son and daughter about time and money is The Complete Book of Time & Money. The book is geared for grades K-3, and you can use it to teach the concepts, enrich school learning, improve concepts often misunderstood, and to "catch up" an older student who may have missed it the first time. I began using this book when my son was 5 for Kindergarten. He is still going through it, and my daughter has started her book at age 4 (almost 5). In addition to other math work, I usually give them one page about time and one page about money. The book starts out very basic, and gets harder gradually. My son has been able to grasp the concepts well, but I can tell that if we don't use the books for a few days or a week, he will start to have trouble with some concepts. For that reason, this book is a great book to do over the summer. It amazes me that parents think nothing about children taking off an entire summer. That is why so many math books start out with review for the first 3 chapters or so- because they know that most students have forgotten the concepts. Teaching time and money reinforces other math concepts, such as adding and subtracting, counting by fives, and fractions.

Another tool we use that has tremendous helpful qualities is the Talking Clever Clock by Learning Resources. My mom got this clock when my son was around 3 at a clearance sale. We don't really use all the doo-dads on it for school (though my son likes to fiddle with it after school) but we do use the hands and the digital timer on it. Here is the most helpful aspect of this clock: when the minute hand moves, the hour hand moves at the appropriate intervals. It works just like a clock, except that it can be manipulated by little hands. So when it says "10:45" the student can see that the hour hand is almost on the 11. This helps with the book mentioned above, because many of the activities require the child to draw the correct time on the clock. Most children will be inclined to draw the hour hand directly over the hour, even if it is half-past or even a quarter til the hour. This clock helps reinforce the correct position of the hour hand. It also helps solve problems such as, "Pick a time between a quarter past 3 and 4:30." Like most learning tools, a child can grow dependent on this clock, so it's important to make sure that doesn't happen.

We also love making up problems with money and selling things back and forth. During the summer, we spent a lot of time at the ball park watching baseball tournaments and softball games. Although I usually don't let my kids have much junk food, I did allow them to frequent the concession stand because it reinforced the concept of money. They had to make sure they had enough, they learned how much things cost, and they counted their change. Not bad lessons for 4 and 6 year-olds! They also grew the confidence required to step up and ask for the item they wanted. This is HUGE if you have experienced an older child (like my stepdaughter) who still is not able to do this. She is 15. While we can get her up to the counter, she mumbles and always has to repeat herself.

We do have a little store for our wooden kitchen that I've thought about using as a pretend store with prices and everything. But I never get around to working up the energy. Maybe when they get a little older they will think of this themselves!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Afternoons at Homeschool

I often wonder what other families do when they have finished "school" for the day. We learn all day long, but only do school "work" for about two hours. On this particular day, I had some errands to run. As a treat to my kids (and the 3 year old that we babysit) the end of our errands included a trip to McDonald's. (Honestly, this was also a way to keep from cleaning up dishes AGAIN!) Our town is less than a mile from one end to the other, so literally our errands only took 15 minutes. Each child got a happy meal, which included a car that you put stickers on. Waiting for my slow poke daughter to finish her meal, my son and Aiden (the three year old) vrrroooomed the cars all over the tables and chairs and that's when I got a good idea. I suggested we could set up a ramp on our front steps and see which car would go the fastest.

After Aiden's nap, I quickly found two boards that I had in my office. I laid them on the stairs and the kids had a blast! I pulled out some other cars and trucks that we had in our toybox and they had fun watching which cars went the farthest. The little girl from next door came over, since she is in half day school. This activity went on for a while. I did not explain gravity, friction, mass or velocity, but simply let them observe. This was not a lesson. It was merely their way of having fun and subconciously learning something that will become important down the road.

With all the bikes, scooters, and skateboards in our yard, I was surprised that no one had tried the ramp yet. So after I suggested it, my son worked up some bravery and tried the skateboard (sitting down). It was so much fun, they spent the rest of the afternoon seeing if they could go further and further down the sidewalk. Yes, it occurred to me that other kids were inside doing their homework. That's just another benefit to homeschooling. NO HOMEWORK!!

What do you do in the afternoons?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What will your child be for Halloween?

October is here and you know what that means? Yep, another "holiday" requiring more money leaving your pocket. I have considered pretending that Halloween doesn't exist. Or that it's against our religious beliefs. As a Christian, I have grappled with this on numerous occasions. But I decided that we could dress up in positive characters and leave the bloody, scary costumes to others.

Last year, my daughter Anna was Dorothy, and my son Thomas was an astronaut. We happened to already have these costumes, so no money came out of our pockets just for the sake of the holiday. They still play in these costumes, so we definitely got our money's worth! Thomas won the costume contest and got $5! That did not go over well with Anna, who wanted to win, too. But she was definitely the most beautiful Dorothy there. She was the "after" Dorothy- remember when they give her and the others a makeover in the movie? The year before that, they were Thing 1 and Thing 2 from the Cat in the Hat. We don't have pictures of that, but they were cute.

This year, my son chose to be a policeman between that, a doctor, and a pilot. We found a great place to shop for Halloween costumes in a new store that literally JUST opened up. I think you will LOVE this place:

When I shop for costumes, I don't like buying the cheap polyester ones that don't make it past the evening. To be honest, I usually shop after Halloween and buy costumes on clearance. And if they wear one for the next Halloween, great! And if not, they still play in them. Once our costume arrives, we will take pictures and share. Or you can click the banner above and see their wonderful selection of costumes. If your son is like mine and wants to be a policeman, definitely check it out! You will be supporting a work at home mom, which I always try to do.

I'm hoping that my daughter will want to be Pippi Longstocking. We need to go to the library and find a book or movie so that she can see who she is. Or maybe she will think about being "Annie." She also has a cute "Heidi" dress that she got for her birthday last year. It's not a real Heidi dress, but a dirndl that my mom got from Germany on eBay. Anna loves it! If I had complete control over my children :o) I would get my son some Lederhosen and dress them as Hansel and Gretel. Yes, I would be the witch! But, they do have their own minds, so I will settle for a police officer...and the five costumes Anna flips back and forth on between now and Halloween!

My son asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. I said, "Your mom." He looked at me funny, as if saying, "really?" He is old enough to wonder why they are dressing up, but Mommy is not. Gosh, I don't know WHAT I would be. All I know is that every year is a mystery as to how the weather will turn out, and it's really a pain trying to figure out costumes that won't kill them in 70 degree weather or freeze them out in 30 degree weather. So if I can get that much figured out, I will be content going as "Mom," carrying the flashlight, and making sure the candy is sorted at the end of the night. Oh, and don't get me started on the candy...YIKES!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fish "On the Fly"

Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, "What are we going to do for school today?"

Perhaps just considering that freaks you out. Maybe you are a planner. I would like to be, but the fact is, I'm just not. So many mornings I wake up with this question. And you know what? It always works out for the best!
I opened up my son's language arts book and remembered that he had just read a story called "Fun with Fish" which had beautiful underwater photographs of all kinds of fish. He also has been asking to get his own fish, so I thought it might be a good idea to use this theme. We found a few resources that we have on fish, and read the information together.

The next day, I took that same information and put it into a chart. This is a great learning tool for visual learners who like to see information they have gathered in an organized manner. I was also able to phrase the terms I used with age appropriate words even though some of the resources were for older learners. We went over the chart. We also included my daughter, who is 4. (My son is 6). That morning I had seen our pattern blocks still sitting out, so I got the idea to create our own fish out of the blocks, and we could make up a story about them. The kids had so much fun!

Here is my six year-old's story and fish:

The Little Fish Gets Eaten

One day there was a HUGE shark. His name was Sharky. He had a little friend named Zoie. He and Zoie went hunting for fish. They didn’t catch any. So Sharky was so hungry that he ate Zoie. Then, he met another friend who was also a shark. Those two were best friends forever.

The End

It is important to note that before writing his story, he asked his sister what her fish's name was. You guessed it: Zoie. This did not go over well with the drama queen, who quickly fell to pieces upon hearing the story. I knew it would be a problem. But I couldn't decide...freedom of expression, or protect your baby's feelings? Hmmmm. Clearly I made the wrong decision. But I explained to my daughter that she could write her story about Zoie going to heaven and seeing our dog Jessie that just passed away. Instead, she decided to make Zoie a bigger shark who eats Sharky. And she changed her name to Melissa. Go figure! Here is a picture of her fish/shark, and her story is still in her head!

Notice the embellishments? Yep, she's all girl.

Anyway, we had a fun time with it. It was a good break from the normal day to day lessons that we do. And none of it was planned, so that makes it even better. I have learned that God plans everything, even the little "coincidences" of stories and lessons that are about the same subject or time period that are easily tied together. Really, you can't plan this stuff!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Teaching Your Child About Death

This is not really a "school" topic, but a life experience. And our stay at home children will experience things like death in a different way when they are at home all day. Yesterday, we lost our fifteen year-old dog, Jessie. While we knew the day would come, we did not expect it to come so suddenly when she was otherwise healthy. One day she was just old; the next day, she was ready.
Jessie is not the first dog our children have lost. Two years ago, our Jack Russell Sandy was hit by a car. This was very devastating for a number of reasons. First, it wasn't Sandy's time to go. Second, we weren't prepared for it. We woke up, found out she had gotten out during the night, and found her on the street behind our house. In a way, I was more angry than sad. I was mad at her for leaving her nice, warm bed just because she could, and following her instinct to chase after cars. She had to travel through thick brush for quite a while to finally reach the lights of the traffic. Didn't she know what she meant to us, and didn't she want to stay with us?
Even though we knew it was Jessie's time, because she had been with us so long it made it especially hard. Ironically, when we moved from Georgia to Kansas, we planned on trying to find her a home to stay in Georgia because we figured she would not live much longer. When Sandy got killed before we moved, the kids would NOT let us leave Jessie behind. Little did we know that she would make the drive across country and live two more years!
We did have a bit of a warm up for Jessie's death, when our last frog from our tadpole project died the week before. My son cried when I told him that the frog was dead, but then quickly said, "Can I get fish now?"
Kids are resilient, and kids view death very differently from adults. I remember when my children's great grandmother died how happy they were for her. This is because I had prepared them ahead of time and we talked about what heaven was like. When I gave them the news, they excitedly said, "Oh good! She is with Jesus now...and Sandy!" She was, after all, 96 I believe, and was ready to see all her friends who had already passed. Of course, adults only think about how they will miss the person who has died, and of all of the memories of that person. We take it more personally, I think.
It is very helpful to talk about death with children during times that they aren't losing someone. My kids know that sometimes babies, children, and even parents die. I do not get emotional when the topic comes up, but I tell them in a matter of fact sort of way that sometimes these things happen, and we don't know why. Since children see heaven as a really cool place, it takes a little of the fear and mystery out of death. Each child has their own picture of what heaven will be like, which is painted by experiences and information shared by loving adults. If I ever start to imagine what I would do if I lost one of my children, I cry when I am not around them. They do not need to fear death, but they need to know that it is part of life.
My son (6) went with Jessie to the vet, but did not view the euthanasia itself. I believe children should get to see this if they want to. When the animal's pain is taken away, a peaceful, loving demeanor is what appears, and this can be very healing for a child, especially if they have watched the animal suffer at all. My daughter (almost 5), upon being told that we had an appointment to have Jessie put to sleep, said, "Mommy, can we go to Wichita today and pick out a new puppy?"
We'll get the fish, and probably a new dog soon. Knowing the risk of having pets (and more specifically losing them) does not make us want to give up on loving critters and making them a part of our family. We all know that the love they give back is far worth the risk that one day we will lose them!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Teaching Your Child to Read

The other day I was reminded about the fear I felt when challenged with the daunting task of teaching my son to read. While I have a teaching degree, it was for grades 4-8, so early education was not really covered. I was terrified. When I was speaking with a new homeschooler who said, "I was so scared of teaching her to read, but I got Hooked on Phonics and it is no big deal," I laughed, because I remember being right there just a year before.
Since then, a lot has changed. At the end of his kindergarten year, my son was reading on at least a first grade level, probably closer to second. Having just turned 6, this was right on track. This year, my four year-old is using the same program as my son- Hooked on Phonics- and is doing beautifully. Since she is already a year ahead, we are taking it slowly and she is so excited to learn reading! And I am excited about teaching her.
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I can't speak of other reading programs, but I can tell you that it's very important to select one that works for you and your child. When I look at other phonics programs, they don't seem very appealing to me, but I know that's only because I have used one method that makes a lot of sense, and anything else seems foreign. Yes, it seems like phonics would be phonics and they all would work the same. But they don't. Phonics programs teach letter sounds in different orders, which makes it hard to leave one program for another once you are into it. But the most important thing is to USE phonics, regardless of the program you select. In the 80's and 90's, many schools ditched their phonics programs in favor of "whole language." This concept didn't last long, as reading abilities in first graders quickly diminished. I believe some schools still use whole language but I'm not sure how many are using phonics in conjunction with it.
Many homeschooling parents have said, "my child will learn to read when she's ready; we're not pushing her." Some parents are perfectly happy when their child learns to read at age 9. I have a problem with that. My son learned to read at age 5. Between ages 5 and 6, he has learned a vast amount of information because of the simple fact that he can read. The ability to read also offers a sense of independence. He can now learn what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants because he has a tool that doesn't require anyone else's help. I am teaching a girl who is seven years old. She entered school a year late, didn't learn to read in the public school kindergarten program, and her ability to learn right now is severely limited. I can't imagine a child not knowing how to read after age seven! Of course this is due to the fact that I refuse to sit and spoon feed information to a child all day. The school system was set up this way; my school is not. Of course, we do activities that don't require reading. But as it stands, I have to read every single piece of instruction to this seven year-old, while my six year-old does it all on his own. Outside of the frustration I feel about this, imagine how she feels!
While I certainly don't think all kids are ready to read at age four or even five, if your child is ready, you need to take this seriously. Missing the window could affect future learning, as the brain needs stimulation when it is ready for it and not when it is convenient for us. Children with September, October, and November birthdays who are put on the school's schedule for learning are being let down when parents don't take the initiative at home to teach what their child is ready for. And even if your child doesn't have to wait an extra year before starting school, do you really think he or she is learning to read effectively in a school setting? I can tell you this. My son ended kindergarten at home with the ability to read as well as most first graders. Our little seven year old friend came out of public school kindergarten and still couldn't read. These are just two kids, but a pretty clear picture of what happens more often than not. (And without going into this little girl's history, it makes a huge difference what parents do with their children when they're home, whether they are home all day or just after school).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Home School is underway...

We started school the day after Labor Day, and I haven't posted because I've been SO busy. I am teaching my two (6 and almost 5) as well as a sibling pair which are 7 and 8. I am also watching a 3 year old and a 9 month old who are brothers. (See why I've been so busy?!) Life would be so much easier if it were just my two, but the two older children really needed a Christian environment in which to learn, and God told me I was the one to fulfill that need. Sometimes God asks us to do things which are not easy, and boy is this one of them!
We have done a couple of activities that I wanted to share because all of the children loved them. The first was last week, when I was out but had a "sub" fill in for me. Each child received a brown sandwich bag with his/her name on it. Inside the bag was a little figure as well as instructions they were to use to build with blocks. Here are the instructions:
Thomas: Build a house for this little man using only blocks that have not been painted. Anna: Build a house for Snoopy using only blocks that have been painted. John: Build a house for your spider using only blocks with curved sides. Vanessa: Build a house for your bear using only blocks without curved sides. I knew this was a hit because they kept wanting to do it over again! Unfortunately, I didn't think to have the sub take pictures so I don't know what the houses look like, but I will have to do that in the future!
The other activity, we did today in honor of 9/11. We talked about the flag, what it meant, and we put our American flag out where our Snoopy flag usually hangs (that reminds me, I need to bring it back in...) Then I gave each child a red, white, and blue piece of paper. They could make anything they wanted, but could only use these three colors, scissors, glue, and paper punches. We later added white and red string as they were "needed." I ended up getting three variations of our flag, and one plane, which pulled an American flag. They were all unique and each child definitely used their own ideas for his/her project. I love open ended crafts like that. They were all given the same tools, and three different projects emerged. In most schools, children are given the same pieces/parts to assemble and they all pretty much have the same outcome. Not my idea of "art!" Anyway, I hope these ideas are useful to some other homeschoolers out there!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why Older Kids Should Still Play with Blocks

After four years of college, and two years of teaching middle school students, it took having my own children to realize that older children should still be playing with blocks! I don't know how many parents actually sit down with their children and build with blocks, but as an adult playing with blocks, I realize the many thinking processes that must occur in order to build anything. Many people recognize that if you stop drawing at a certain age, when you try to draw as an adult, you draw at the level you stopped drawing as a child. Building is the same way! I found it very difficult to build what I wanted to build and realized my brain was using muscles that it remembered using at one time, but hadn't exercised in a while. How enlightening this was!!

So then I began wondering why middle school students- or elementary school students for that matter- aren't given blocks with which to build. Some children are encouraged at home to graduate to more elaborate building materials like erector sets and Girder & Panel. But many children, once entering school, have so much homework and extra-curricular activities to do that they have little time left for simple play. And any time that's left over is often filled with video games and television- hardly the best brain enhancing activities! So if the schools are not incorporating building activities into the very busy day of schooled students, is there a reason? Unfortunately, it is NOT because there isn't enough time. It's because administrators and teachers do not sit down and play blocks with their children, realizing the many benefits of this activity.

The educational system makes changes to standards based on what they think they know. Right now, the trend is to get kids in earlier ("kindergarten"), make them spend more time in school, and cram as much into them as possible in order to pass standardized tests. And unfortunately, because these tests are on paper, most of the training ("learning") is done on paper. Educational researchers who feed their information ("crap") to administrators and teachers are too busy trying to change the wheel rather than stopping for a second and using common sense, or even getting down and playing with blocks now and again.

For similar reasons, art and music programs are disappearing from schools. They "can't afford" them, or so they say, but what they don't realize yet is that we can't NOT afford them. I have a friend who teaches early elementary who has a piano in her classroom. She notices a big difference in math abilities in the students who take piano lessons from her. This is not news, and people have been arguing for years just this point to keep the music and arts programs alive and well in public schools.

I wonder how many future architects did not meet their potential because they were stifled by those who are supposed to know better. How many children grew up without the ability to think in a certain way because their blocks were taken away in pre-school? Whether you use simple wooden blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, or Tinker Toys, at least one of these (and preferably a variety) should be available for both boys and girls. As parents, we should get down on the floor and play with these toys to demonstrate to our children that you are never too old to build! In addition, when children do play on the computer, incorporate some digital building programs that will help them envision three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional screen. This will be a necessity when they grow up and find technology in every field imaginable, including architecture, and perhaps your child with his incredibly astute thinking skills will be the next Frank Lloyd Wright!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Use for Cookie Cutters

Do you have cookie cutters in your kitchen drawers that get used once a year? We don't bake cookies here much, but we do have cookie cutters. One day it occurred to me that they would be useful for keeping food from rolling around on the plate. My daughter likes to help bring plates to the table, and if there are any round foods like peas or grapes, we always lose a few to the floor. Not to mention, if you have just washed grapes and they are wet, keeping them away from the crackers will help you avoid the, "My cracker is soggy!" dilemma. Using cookie cutters to separate foods for picky children is also a good idea. My kids don't care if their foods touch, but I know some do!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reasons for Homeschooling

There are some well-accepted and popular reasons for homeschooling. Some are
  • safety concerns,
  • curriculum preferences (a religious curriculum over a secular one),
  • inferior educators in the public schools,
  • unnatural socialization in schools,
  • concerns of indoctrination of our children in schools, and
  • simply recognizing that a parent is the best teacher for his/her child.

When I went to our "Kindergarten Round-up" last year to learn more about the public school, some really good questions began flooding through my brain. What if Thomas got hungry in the middle of the day? What if he wanted a drink? Would he have to drink nasty water from the water fountain? Would he be given candy every day as a reward? Does the room have carpet? How can a carpeted room with 20 5-6 year olds be healthy? Will they use safe cleaners? Do they spray the school with pesticides?

I recognize that most parents would not even think about these things. But to parents like me, they all matter. Why would I provide the healthiest home possible, and then send my child to school all day? A school where they are sure to use chlorox, toxic floor cleaners, and pesticides in the classroom. Think I'm crazy? I just received a newsletter from Dr. Mercola with a link to an article stating that 80 percent of schools are applying pesticides. I live in a small town, where they spray the ball park for mosquitoes, and when a lice outbreak occurs, they "treat the room" (whatever that means) without so much as a letter to parents. People in our town still smoke like chimneys, so you can see that we wouldn't get much sympathy if we said anything!

So to my list of "reasons for homeschooling" I now add, "providing a healthy learning environment." We will learn in our purified air, drink distilled water, clean with non-toxic cleaners, and eat healthy food when we're hungry!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Algebra for Four Year Olds

A few days ago, I was sitting in McDonald's with my children, waiting for them to finish eating. Out of boredom, I developed a great little game that they have enjoyed playing. I put my hand behind my back and said, "I have 3 fingers up behind my back, and two up here (holding two up). How many do I have up all together?" My four year old looked at both of her hands under the table and set them up and counted. "Five!"
The game continued and I actually saw right there in McDonald's, my four year old "get" counting on. She finally stopped counting ALL of the fingers and started with one number and then counted on the rest. After a while, I asked questions like, "If I have 5 fingers up behind my back, and I need to have 8 fingers up, how many do I need to put up on this hand?" And of course, they both got these every time.
Now, my daughter will be five in three months. Because she has a November birthday, she does not meet the cut off for starting kindergarten this year. She is learning to read, she is figuring out missing addend problems, and her skills test all showed that she is on a 5-6 year old level (that was at age 3). Imagine if I were depending on public schools to educate my child! Not only would I have to make her wait an entire year, I know that kids coming out of our local kindergarten are not even reading. After having taught my son to read last year, I just can't imagine why children are not reading out of kindergarten! Even an average child should be able to read to a degree.
Anyway, we still play the game everyday, and my daughter loves asking ME "finger problems!" She has figured out that she has to check to make sure I'm right! And yes, we will be doing kindergarten this year, because unlike the school system, I have common sense!
P.S. I almost forgot. One of the problems I gave was to see how my son would handle it. I said, "I have 100 fingers up behind my back, and 5 up here. How many do I have up?" He answered 105, but then I asked him, "HOW can I have 100 fingers up behind my back?!" We all got a laugh out of that!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Homeschooling Others' Kids

A few weeks ago, my husband and I separated. My initial thought was, "what can I do to keep my children at home?" While many moms may have decided to head back into the work force, this simply is not an option for me. It didn't take long for me to decide to open a private school in my home. Not only would it bring in some extra income, it would allow me a tax deduction on part of our home, which is now way too big for the three of us.
Luckily, the State of Kansas is pretty easy on homeschoolers, and there are no rules against teaching others' kids in your home. This makes it easy for homeschool co-ops where parents trade off teaching different subjects. We will be starting school the day after Labor Day, and so far I will have my two (4 1/2 and 6), boy/girl siblings which are 8 and 7, and two little day care kids (brothers) who are 3 and 8 months. It is an interesting mix, but I feel it will work out well. The 7 and 8 year olds are being removed from public school, and are a year behind. That puts the 7 year old even with my 6 year old. I'm hoping to also have a 5 year old join us part time that will pair up with my daughter quite well.
God has been good to me in providing the right people to come into our school. I acquired the two little ones from my friend (a teacher) who lost her babysitter a week before she went back to work. The older two came to me through God's divine providence, and I'll share about that one day. I don't know if I will make enough to be able to stay in our house, but I know that God will work it all out by either providing the income or providing a different home at the right time.
School starts in about three weeks, and I'm slowly getting things ready. Luckily, I already have a lot of resources for all ages, including books that I ordered last year that I thought were for kindergarten but were for first, second, or third (did God know?) I will also be adding some Bright Minds books as well. We have turned our living room into our class room, which also spills into our dining room. Our new living room is the old guest room, which is on the same level and right off the dining room. We have two bathrooms downstairs and a huge kitchen for "class." How could I NOT open up our home to other children?
I'll take the first week to get to know the kids and figure out what they know and don't know. I'll combine a lot of the learning by using Five in a Row and reading from Little House on the Prairie and other classics. Science and social studies are easy to combine, and math and reading will be fairly individualized. My main priority is to not stress out over any of this and to stay relaxed. I can go overboard very easily, and I just have to remember to take it one day at a time and do what I can in the time that I have.
I also have other projects as possibilities, and if they come to fruition I will share those, too. But right now, I'm homeschooling other people's kids and trying to make sure I know what I'm doing! Wish me luck!

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Things Kids Say...

My son has provided me with some of the best laughs a mom could imagine. When he was about 3 years old, I remember working at my desk and trying to finish what I was doing before I attended to whatever he desperately needed me for. After too many, "Mommy's!" I finally explained to him that he was old enough to start learning what it means to be patient, and that I would be done in just a minute. I realized he only heard half of what I said when he replied to me: "Mommy, YOU be the patient! I want to be the doctor!"
For more funny kid stories, check out this Blog Carnival!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Homeschooling and Lice

Homeschooling is particularly wonderful for getting to spare one’s children many of the things we ourselves may have disliked in our own school experiences, such as lots of homework, bullies, and lunchroom food. However, one old standby that we can’t avoid even as homeschoolers is the threat of head lice.

Head lice are small insects that live off of human blood. Head lice do not fly or hop, but they are accomplished travelers, crawling all over the universe looking for hospitable heads on which to live. Head lice can easily be gotten from church, mission trips, outreach opportunities, spending time with friends, and at any activity that children attend. Even if you home church and home school, your children can get lice! If you don’t know what to do when it happens, it can be a long and costly battle until you finally see the end of it.

Like most parents, I always hoped my children would not get head lice. I had no plan except that I knew I would never use chemical lice shampoos on my children. These products are pesticides that are unsafe for use, particularly for pregnant women and children under two. Being a mother of six, I have spent quite a few years either pregnant or with babies and toddlers…or both! Due to the fact that head lice bite the scalp to live, when we use pesticide products on our children we are introducing these chemicals directly into their bloodstream via the open sores on their head. That combined with the fact that our skin absorbs everything we put on it was enough to let me know I had to find a safe alternative.

A few years ago I discovered head lice on my children. I was horrified! My youngest little boys got their heads shaved immediately since they had quite an infestation and I knew that they would have a hard time sitting still for multiple rounds of combing out nits.

For the older children I first tried home remedies such as olive oil and vinegar. We found both options messy, illogical, and ineffective. I realized that the bottom line was that all the live lice and eggs have to come out of the hair. A fairly simple goal! An online contact told me about a battery-powered lice comb called the Robi Comb, so I bought one and went to work.

The Robi Comb actually electrocutes lice as you comb through the hair and they get stuck in it’s teeth. We were amazed at the amount of lice we found, and how tiny and nearly transparent some of them were. Newly hatched lice are almost impossible to see, so we were very glad our Robi Comb could catch them. We followed up with a metal egg comb to get out all the eggs, and just repeated this process again and again until we were confident that all the lice were gone.

Once we were through with the Great head Lice Battle of 2004 I did some thinking and some research. I knew that I never wanted my children to get lice again, and I wondered if there was anything safe that I could use to help prevent it. Sure enough, I found that the wonderful world of herbs offers many choices for this purpose. I started tinkering around with a formulation until I finally had a product that smelled great, didn’t irritate the skin, wasn’t oily, and worked well. My husband and I eventually got started selling our Supermom’s No-Lice Hair and Body Spray in 2005 and we have been so glad to help other families find a way to prevent and eliminate head lice safely and effectively.

Author Bio:
Erica Johns is owner of Supermom’s No-Lice Advice, a business that is dedicated to helping families prevent and eliminate head lice safely and effectively. Erica is working toward becoming a Certified Natural Health Professional and also offers many more products to help families live healthier through Supermom’s Health and Wellness. Erica and her husband Dave have been married since 1991 and are the happy parents of 6 children.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Socialization of Homeschoolers

The past couple of weeks have been "VBS" time for us, first at our own church, and then at our friends' church. I worked in the craft area, so I got to see every child of every age come through at some point. I also got to see my two children, which of course was a joy.

But the second day into it, I got a call from my friend, a fellow homeschooler. "Is everything okay?" she wondered. Not knowing what she meant, my mind began racing. But she quickly filled me in. The day before, Thomas, my six year old, had gotten upset during story time. He did not want to participate in the group activity. He is GREAT at sitting quietly and listening, but when it comes to him participating in an activity that is not on "his schedule" or for which he does not know the outcome, he panics. He wants to know what, when, where, why, and how, before he agrees to take part in the "unknown" and of course, most people either won't understand this, or won't take the time to explain.

This is when I really started thinking about the way people view homeschooled children. Other parents would look at my child and immediately think, "oh, see what homeschooling does to children? He can't handle x, y, OR z!" I know that this happens. I've seen forums and blogs discussing just this thing and people talk about how "dysfunctional" many homeschoolers are, especially when they go off to college and can't "relate." Do they ever think that children were this way BEFORE homeschooling?

No, they usually want to find a reason to be comfortable with the school system. It's the easier way, the less time consuming way, and the way of the mainstream. It's easy to make a case out of one experience a person has had: "Well, when I was in college there was a homeschooled girl that quit after one quarter simply because she couldn't fit in..." First of all, I wouldn't want to "fit in" with most college activities, and secondly, it's ONE person! Basing your opinion on one person is ludicrous, and - the easy way out.

My daughter was in pre-school for a short time, and I remember asking her if she'd like to, "stay home with Mommy and Thomas?" She jumped at the chance! I already knew that a little girl had pushed her down on the playground (which the teacher didn't see, and therefore she felt there was no justice, making it even harder to get over) but she seemed willing and eager to go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Months later, she told me, "I didn't want to go to school with those babies!" Sure enough, her pre-school friends seemed "behind" socially and intellectually but I never imagined she would pick up on this. She was ready to play with others, and they were still stuck in themselves. Imagine the torture this was for her! She is now four, and while I have held back on teaching her, is on a 5-6 year level socially, conceptually, and even in motor skills. Because her birthday is in November, she would have to wait another year for kindergarten if she went to public school. Can you imagine?!

My children have participated in dance, scouts, soccer, choir, church, homeschool groups, and other activities. They are not thrust into a classroom with same-age kids all day long with only one moderator to make sure everything is okay. While my son is very analytical about EVERYTHING, everyday his comfort level improves to where he is actually almost social! My daughter will talk to everyone who looks her way. If you want to make a case against socialization of homeschoolers, you don't want to look at my family! Because you simply will not be able to draw any conclusions, just like you can't draw conclusions on that "one girl in college..."

Monday, July 30, 2007

How Weather Affects Crops

Before we moved to Kansas, I knew very little about farm life. I knew even less about planting and harvesting. It's amazing how much you learn about different parts of the country simply by relocating and then paying attention to what is around you. We don't life on a farm, but we live in a farming community so how successful the farms are greatly influences the economics of our town.
When we first arrived in Kansas in January 2006, we were in the middle of a drought. That winter was very moderate and I think we may have gotten one round of snow. We also had very little rain, and I kept wondering how the wheat crops would be affected by the dryness. The talk around town was all about how much yield each farmer would get, and would it EVER rain? Then the "moderate" fall and winter turned into a scorcher of a summer, and I think there were over ten days of temperatures close to 110. If memory serves me correctly, this was during or after harvest, so the crop was not affected by this (although, I'm sure the farmers were!)
Then came the rain. And the snow. I can't tell you how many times it snowed in late 2006 and early 2007 because I lost count. And some of the snow came on top of other snow or ice that never melted. Praises to God for all the precipitation could be heard in all the churches! Imagine how well the wheat would do this harvest!
In the spring, storm after storm flooded basements, flooded towns, and even flattened completely Greensburg, KS. Being naive, I imagined what a great harvest we would have in June! But the rain didn't stop. And harvest time came, and the wheat could not be harvested. Most farmers began harvest as soon as the wheat was dry enough. Then more rain would come, putting harvest off again. What I never knew is that there is a small window of time when the wheat is ready, and if it can't be harvested because it is too wet, the window might be missed.
A few days ago, I had to drive an hour away into Wichita. The effects of the rain were very clear, as across the landscape I could see acres and acres of burning fields. Crops that could not be harvested had to be burned as much of it had grown mold from the wetness. The rains, which were such a blessing to the growth of the crops, had become a curse to the harvest. The economic impact is even worse than the year of the drought.
Farmers have insurance to cover these losses, but it certainly doesn't cover the full amount that they would have received with a good harvest. This means that the next year will be tight, and there won't be much excess for many families in Kansas. When I lived in the Georgia suburbs, I did not know any of this. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! It has been a great educational experience for all of us, not only learning about the farming end of things, but also how the weather can affect the economics of a region. It makes me wonder what else we are missing, and do we need to move to another part of the country to learn about it? I hope not!

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Sensible Addition" Just Released

When I first started this blog, I mentioned that I developed a method of teaching addition facts that worked very well with my son. I have since put together a kit which all parents can buy for their children who are either struggling with memorizing the facts, or who simply want to learn them faster. When I started using this method with my son, he literally learned the facts twice as fast as he had before, even though the facts were getting higher in number.

Sensible Addition assumes that the child already has an understanding of addition and what it means to add two numbers together. It does provide suggestions for teaching the addition concept, only to let parents know what their child should have learned in school. While most homeschooling parents understand learning the concept vs. memorizing facts, many parents who depend on teachers to teach the concepts may not realize that their child is having trouble memorizing facts for concepts that don't make sense to them. This is where math starts to go "down hill" for many children, who continue to struggle as more math concepts are built on shaky ground.

With Sensible Addition, any parent can sit down with a few manipulatives, find out how much their child understands about adding numbers, and move forward with practice, and finally with memorizing addition facts. You can learn more about teaching addition facts and what Sensible Addition is (and isn't), and buy a kit for your child today!