After breakfast, all the kids grab their shoes and coats for “Audrey’s walk”. She’s our littlest girl and we give her the first hour of the day. We make sure she gets fresh air, a little stretch-of-the-legs, a few nursery rhymes and a few songs about Jesus.


Each step with Audrey is a baby step. I walk slowly by her side, holding her hand, remembering that these little, slow steps are valuable because she is valuable. I love these morning strolls.

Sometimes, the older kids grab bikes and scooters. They zip down the sidewalk and return again. Sometimes, they fall off their bikes (one little boy, in particular) and wait until Audrey and I – step by step – catch up to them and get them back on their feet.


We pass by our neighbor’s prolific rose bush. Even in these late months, the roses continue to bloom and thrive. We stop and admire it every day.  I gather the children around and show them how the rose bush is different today: things have changed.

Look kids… today’s bloom was yesterday’s bud!


They ooh and aah.

We can see the dramatic change – the opening, the growing, the beauty – and they marvel with me. We’re happy for that little-bud-all-grown-up.


And look, kids… yesterday’s bloom has changed, too. It is shrinking, losing its vibrant color.

(“And yet,” my oldest daughter points out, “it is beautiful. And it still smells so good!”)


While I have their attention, I say, “People are like these blooms. We’re all at different stages in life. And we’re all changing from day to day.

Some of us are just starting out, just beginning.  

Some of us are in our prime, the most beautiful we will ever be.

And, some of us are coming to the end of our lives here on earth.

The most important thing to remember is that no one knows which one they are.

My dear little children, how then should we live?”

With great love for our Maker and for one another!

We should bloom and enjoy it!

We should glorify God in every season! With every minute He gives us!

We should take time with people whose steps are slow.

We should go slowly and see the world anew.


And, (as Audrey hitches a ride on Vivienne’s scooter), we should invite others to zip along with us, figuring out a way to help them feel the wind in their hair and the joy of the ride.


So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

– selections from Psalm 90

Posted in All Posts, Character Training, Early Elementary Education, Learning at Home, Motherhood, Physical Activity, Preschool, Things to Say | Comments Off on What I Teach My Children About Time

After much cavorting around the house, Rapunzel and Sir John (aka Flynn Rider) were finally wed in the living room on a wintery day in 2012. Perhaps you will be bored by my many photos, but I was so delighted by their union (and by the adorable wedding planners) that I just have to fill up my blog with snapshots today.

The Guests Take their Seats…

…and talk amongst themselves.

The Bride and her Attendants Prepare in the Dressing Quarters

(At first, Lia was withholding the bouquet. We asked why? She thought “the bride receives the bouquet after the wedding… if she does a good job.” Viv and I explained that, unlike a ballet performance, Rapunzel should carry the bouquet down the aisle with her. The flowers would simply be a beautiful adornment… not a reward, ahem. She was shocked by her misconception and quickly decided she’d rather “do it the way it’s usually done.” Rapunzel received her bouquet gratefully.)

Cue the wedding music!

(Selections from the Suzuki 4 Cassette Tape: some peppy, some slow.)

The wedding party enters.

Sir John (aka Flynn Rider) eagerly awaits his bride…

Everyone oos and ahs at the “Flower Girl Mouse”. And then…

Father Bunny gives away his daughter… his dear Rapunzel, who did not inherit his long ears or long feet, but did turn out with long hair. Sir John is delighted.

You may kiss the bride…

…and carry her down the aisle. (An unconventional pair!)

The bride and groom at the Reception.

Just Married!

Posted in Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling, Laugh About, Motherhood, Preschool | 9 Comments

Candy Experiments: SWEET!

(Blowing bubbles into the water to see that air floats! Don’t worry – they weren’t drinking it!)

We had a blast doing candy experiments with leftover candy. I snagged some clearance bags of warheads, nerds, crunch bars, skittles, m&m’s… and we got to work! I found all of the ideas at Candy Experiments and typed out my own lab sheets. The girls were introduced to the words, “hypothesis,” “results,” and “control”, as well as the concept of conducting orderly experiments with only one variable.

M&M Chromotography

Sink or Float

Does my candy have acid in it?

For the Sink/Float and the Acid experiments, I gave each student four tape-donuts. She taped the wrapper to the paper and recorded her results with a pencil.

The sweetest news? I compiled the experiments and the lab sheets into a pdf just for YOU! Enjoy!


Posted in Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling, Kindergarten | 3 Comments

The Learning Parent keeps running deals on their Character Concept material. I just received an email announcing a free set of character flash cards with the purchase of the book, Crossroads of Character. We’ve been loving this curriculum. If you’re unsure about purchasing the entire curriculum, this book and the flash cards are a great place to start! You can think of your own accompanying Bible stories and activities. (To receive updates from The Learning Parent, sign up to receive their emails.)

Each week, I post the flash card on our white board and we read the stories from the Character Concepts curriculum. These are intended for pre-school children, but Vivienne has been loving them, too! (Oh, Oh! Check out my re-purposed graham cracker box. I snipped off the top, attached a magnetic clip, and wah-lah! Our cards are right where we need them.)

Posted in Character Training, Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling | 1 Comment

Daily Counting Practice

Every week, I set out something different for Lia to count every day. I change the number every day. One week, she counted out little plastic fish into five labeled clear dishes. This week, she is counting out dog bones. (She loves these doggy bones and plunks them in the bowl with such nurturing passion… hoping, with each plunk, that she will one day be feeding a real dog.) I found the big, sturdy bones and the cute bowl at The Dollar General. I attached a velcro dot to the bowl so that I can change the number every day (I use the same set of velcro-dotted numbers every week.)



Posted in Early Elementary Education, Preschool | Comments Off on Daily Counting Practice

Ancient Civilizations, here we come!

This year is going to be so much fun!

We enjoyed our first chapter of Story of the World. We’re reading the book and enjoying the Activity Book. I decided that since Vivienne will be doing narration and composition with her Writing curriculum, we’d hold off on making the history notebook until we cycle back around in fourth grade. Instead, we’re using the Evan-Moor history pockets for Ancient Civilizations, which are just perfect for her level. History pockets have all of the same artsy, hands-on aspects of lapbooks without all of the labor on mom’s part. Needless to say, I love ’em.

The library books that we enjoyed were:

My Family Tree

The Magic Schoolbus Shows & Tells About Archaelogy

Archaeologists Dig for Clues (This one’s great!)

I Can Be an Archaeologist

The highlight of the week was our Archaeological Dig. I planted several items in the dirt (shh! the girls don’t know this) so that we could map out a dig and make some educated guesses about the civilization that left the artifacts behind. I buried a whole bunch of things that would indicate important aspects of our lives: a cross (I wanted something to show that we worship Jesus), the sea shell (I wanted some evidence that we could travel very far and return), money, building supplies that evidenced advanced machines, a ribbon and a bead that showed our love for beauty, a flower pot that evidenced our ability to harvest plants… The girls took it very, very seriously. It was awesome.





Posted in Early Elementary Education, Story of the World | 3 Comments

For the past two years, I’ve used this system for planning and organizing school work. For the Pre-K and K years, it works brilliantly, since the course work is simple.

All I need is:

1 file drawer,

4 hanging folders,

20 manilla folders, labeled 1 – 5, 4 times.

Every four weeks, I plan the daily lessons for the upcoming 4 weeks. I place everything we’ll need for one day’s work in a manilla folder, so that I simply have to “grab-and-go” in the morning.

This keeps me stocked with daily plans for four peaceful and productive weeks. If I planned further ahead, I’d get frustrated when we’d need to skip a day and our whole system would be thrown off. This way, everything is refreshed within a month’s time and I feel like I have a better handle on what we’re going to be doing. At the same time, if I didn’t plan this far ahead, I’d feel like I was always playing catch-up.

At this point, I haven’t kept complicated spreadsheet of objectives or lesson plans; instead, I’ve planned to cover the basics and feel confident that I’m doing a good job. For pre-K and K, I store all completed work – phonics, math, artwork, science projects, and field-trip memorabilia in one huge white binder. It’s not divided by sections or anything fancy like that. I just hole-punch the pages (or slip them into page-protectors) and file them according to date.  This way, I have very solid evidence of the work we’ve accomplished, should anyone ask. It’s also a pleasure for the girls to look back over their progress from time to time.

In our state, we don’t have to register or report until our children are 8 years old, but I like to keep a substantial record of their education, in case I would have to answer for our early years.

Next year, as I begin first grade with Vivienne, I will develop a weekly lesson plan spreadsheet, but I’ll probably keep the file drawer system going, too. I like having all of the papers torn from the worksheets and everything ready to go.

So, if you’re looking for a simple way of planning ahead and storing your little one’s school work, maybe you’ll discover that a simple file-system like this works for you, too!

Posted in Early Elementary Education | 5 Comments

Outer Space Lesson Plans

This Outer Space unit was out of this world!

Many thanks to:

Jolanthe for her Astronaut Preschool Pack

Carisa for her Solar System Learning Pack

Totally Tots for lots and lots of other ideas

and the Space Pack from Musings of Me

I divided the two-week unit in the following way:

Monday – Tuesday: Take Off! Rockets and Astronauts

Wednesday: First Stop: The Moon

Thursday: The Moon

Friday: The Sun

Monday – Tuesday: Stars and Constellations

Wednesday – Friday: The Planets

We enjoyed several of NASA’s Our World video clips.

(Vivienne recommends the clip about the astronauts having to exercise in order to prevent muscle atrophy.)

We used many ideas from Eye on the Sky and this NASA site, too.

We also enjoyed The Magic School Bus: The Secrets of Space project pack and read The Magic School Bus Chapter Book: Space Explorers.

You’ll find most (if not all) of these ideas and printables inside of those links.

Build a Rocket Game


We sang “Five Little Astronauts” every morning.

The girls loved poking the astronauts into the Styrofoam moon…. for two weeks… it never grew old!

Spaceship USA (made out of an orange juice bottle!)

ABC Matching

Making Craters!

Oreo Cookie Phases of the Moon

How Big is the Sun? 1 dot = 1 earth

109 dots later…

Conclusion: The Sun is very, very big. We are very, very small.

The girls enjoyed making random constellations and creating myths to explain the shape. (We spent hours with our library books that explained the stories behind the stars. Vivienne, especially, found these fascinating. What a delight to walk out on the front porch at night and find those stories above our heads.)

Of course, the unit wouldn’t be complete without a super-fun sensory tub!

Big hits: 3-D Planets in a Tube and the Safari LTD Space Toob. Everything else I found at our surprisingly-space-focused Dollar Store!



Posted in All Posts, Early Elementary Education | 7 Comments

When I taught composition classes at Penn State University, I was shocked by the students’ inability to write. Not that I was some writing-genius at the time, but I was the instructor of the course and knew what to look for in collegiate writing. My only conclusion was that they were sorely under-prepared in high school. A few years later, I taught at a local high school and realized that weak writing skills and lazy habits were already firmly in place.  Though I buckled down and did my best to undo bad habits and build upon good ones (oh, how those students whined and whined at the time, but thanked me later!), I realized that the best situation is to build solid writing skills from the time a child is born!

That’s why I love Susan Wise Bauer. She has arrived at the same conclusion and offers such intelligent and simply ways to establish a firm foundation for any child to write with confidence and grace. Her Writing With Ease curriculum is simple, brilliant, and effective. I wish I could have taught this curriculum at the University, or at the high school! Because of my students’ poor preparation, I would have taken them all back to Square 1: Narration, Copywork, and Dictation. I wouldn’t have asked them for an original thought for weeks into the semester.

When I began reading the introduction to the Writing With Ease curriculum, I was so excited to have found such a smart soul-mate! I even read various paragraphs aloud to Ryan.  We particularly appreciated her analysis of “why writing programs fail”. Wise Bauer asserts that people “hate to write” because they have never been taught the foreign language of writing.

“There’s a central problem with the write-more-and-you’ll-get-better method. It treats writing as though it were analogous to speech: the more deeply you’re immersed in it, the more competent you’ll become.

But writing is essentially unlike speaking. Children have an instinctual, inborn desire to speak. Any child who is developing normally will learn to speak if spoken to. The more a child talks, the better her verbal skills become.

Children don’t have that same innate drive to write.”

Wise Bauer explains that students struggle with writer’s block and stubborn writing-resentment because they’ve never been taught the rules and conventions of the written language; they’ve never developed confidence in the basics, so they quiver with insecurity when required to record their abstract thoughts on paper. Just imagine if we were never taught the basics of the Chinese language, and then were asked to express our thoughts – in Chinese – about Taoism vs. Christianity? I’d get writer’s-block, wouldn’t you?

Susan writes, “I have become convinced that most writing instruction is fundamentally flawed because children are never taught the most basic skill of writing, the skill on which everything rests: how to put words on paper.

Young writers need time to learn the conventions of their new language. They need to become fluent in it before they can use it to express new ideas.”

Writing With Ease is a four-year curriculum that may be used in the first four years of elementary school, or at any point in a student’s education.

I am so grateful to begin education with this understanding. This Fall, Vivienne and I will begin Year 1 of the curriculum, which consists entirely of narration, copywork, and dictation. Wise Bauer has selected lovely portions of classical children’s literature to acquaint students with proper writing conventions. After some solid instruction, the child begins using his own narration for copywork, a first step towards writing original sentences. The exercises are simple and consistent, using literature to learn the finest writing conventions so that the student may, someday, harness all of his creative thoughts and happily write well.

Posted in All Posts, Early Elementary Education | 3 Comments

A while ago, I posted our curriculum plans for “first grade”. On paper, this year was definitely “first grade” for Vivienne – first grade reading, first grade math, you name it. HOWEVER, we learned something important: everyone in the whole wide world groups children according to grade level and not age, so our sweet 5 year old would technically be bumped up with the 6 and 7 year old’s in all other activities. Until, of course, she begins her second grade work this Spring, at which time she’d join the great-big 7 and 8 year old’s… all the while, she’s very much just a five year old with many, many “just five year old” ways.

So, we decided to call this year Kindergarten, regardless of how far ahead or behind she may be of the typical “Kindergartner”. It finally dawned on me, that our entire homeschooling life will operate on this principle: she will always be working at her personal pace, and we can’t keep shifting her “grade level” to match what she is – or isn’t – achieving academically.

It only took her a few days to reverse the habit of saying “I’m in first grade!” To saying (for one more year), “I’m in Kindergarten!” just as she is. It hasn’t fazed her one bit. This way, she is with the Kindergartners in Sunday School – exactly where she should be. Sure, she is probably reading more fluently than some of them, but they are probably accomplishing other things that she still needs to learn. I’d much rather her stay with her appropriate age-level, than be rushed ahead.

Down the road, I do not want her to think she is in 11th grade, begging to hang out with the 11th graders because she is “doing some 11th grade work”, but is only 14 or 15 years old. At that point, she will just be a sweet little ninth grader, thank you very much.

SO, we take a deep breath and learn a valuable homeschooling lesson that you probably knew all along and were praying I’d understand before too long. Thanks for the prayers. We got it! :)

Posted in All Posts, Early Elementary Education, Kindergarten | 8 Comments