Thursday, June 30, 2011


I seem to need some hand work that I can do in the evenings or while traveling. I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I like it if I have some craft to work on at the same time. After running out of felt sewing ideas for now, I looked around Hobby Lobby and found some darling "retro" iron on patterns. I have been embroidering them onto "flour sack" dish cloths. I am having a lot of fun. I'm about ready to design some patterns of my own for the next ones. I'm thinking of holidays for a theme. They will make fun gifts. I sent my mom the pastel teapot one for her birthday, and she said she used to embroider these a lot too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dear Homeschool Mom

Once in awhile I get a schooling question from others. This is the latest, and my response. This is from a friend from high school. After 22 years of schooling, it is nice to be able to share some experience. Why, thanks for asking!

Thought I'd pick your brain for a minute. My daughter C. has signed up both her boys (age 3 and 4) for preschool. The 4-year-old went last year. The preschool is very nice. It's run by the Lutheran church. Grandson loved it and we think it was good for developing social skills etc. She also had him prescreened for kindergarten even though due to his age, he would not be going this fall. She wanted to see what skills he might need to work on this year.

Anyway.....long story short, the board of directors for the preschool does not want the curriculum to include working on letters, numbers or reading. Reading and writing is the area that C. wants some attention given to. We are looking for an "easy to implement" curriculum that would address this and I thought perhaps you might have some advice or a particular program that worked well for you.

We're thinking to do 3 days a week for roughly an hour or less each day (the days they do not go to preschool) and would probably work with both of the boys. They are pretty smart and catch on quickly to things. They typically have 1-2 hours of story time every day so they have a good size vocabulary and comprehension of the meanings of words.The reason we need an "easy" one is for C. and I!!! So, any advice for us?

I would advise that you are doing the perfect thing to prepare them by being attentive and including them in your daily lives, and by reading to them extensively, and giving them a bit of exposure to other kids.

What we have learned over the years is that the kids who are attuned to their family more than their peers are generally better socialized, regardless of what type of schooling their parents feel is best for their particular situation, so I would advise that you/she always weigh the idea that family/church/ community/service to others comes first and friends/sports/academics follow as an important second. By focusing on a strong family and community life, the child is happier and more comfortable in his proper place.

The parent's marriage and the extended family should always be considered before the individual child's agenda. So, if mom and dad can afford with money and time to have Junior in baseball, and the whole family enjoys this, then it is a good thing. But if baby brother will get too tired, and mom will be overly stressed or if the cost is too much to manage, etc., the family should look for another outlet that will serve the child's needs within the family. God set up the family as the building block to society and if our families are strong and close, we are doing what is best for our world in general, and our children in particular.

I would also urge her to make time for service with her kids. Visit a nursing home regularly, pull weeds for grandma and grandpa, make jam and take it to a neighbor. Openly notice and admire others who serve. These are opportunities that we can just be open to, but often need to deliberately look for in our children's lives. Pay attention so that the pace of life does not inadvertently eliminate these opportunities. Simple things, but natural service to others teaches children that the world does not revolve around them and it develops empathy and altruism. We are to be servants, not served. Our society seems to forget this when it comes to training children, and it is an easy trap to slip into with the pace of life most of us follow.

Now for academics, which is of course, what you really asked me. Sorry you got this big load. You did not know what you were in for, did you?

At their ages, it is great to do numbers and letters, etc...IF THEY ARE INTERESTED. Let the child lead with their interests. Every child is a learner, and we do not want to ruin their excitement by making learning a job. Have things around that they can do. If they like letters and numbers, casually do a few workbook pages or point letters/numbers out in daily life. If they want more, give it to them. If they resist, gently back off.

We often played simple letter games in the car (who can find an "E", what sound does it make?-what are the vowels, etc...), wrote dotted line letters for them to copy in church, spelled out family names, etc. Any little thing you can NATURALLY DO IN YOUR DAY TO DAY LIFE will show them that letters and numbers are fun and exciting and useful. You guys are way ahead here if you are reading to them so much. There is little you can do that is better for them academically.

We often got little workbooks from the store. Look for ones that will appeal to your child in color, layout and content. You know him best. If you want to find these at the grocery store or Wal Mart, etc, you may be surprised at how many choices there are. There are teacher's stores that you can go into, but they can be a bit overwhelming. I would save them for if you do not find something you like while looking more casually. I like to go to Barnes and Noble. They have a great selection by age, price etc. and you can look and compare easily all at once. Amazon is good too, if you are more into on-line shopping. Here there are usually reviews and sometimes sample pages with each. But, I think holding it in your hand and seeing the range of lessons is very helpful.

There are tons of websites with curriulum. You could google "curriculum" or "home school" and lots will come up. There is every flavor and bent you could ever want. That is a whole 'nother world, so you may just want to check out this one, which is one of my favorites: Their catalogue is great for gift giving for curious kids, too. They have fun stuff and I like the sections on curriculum packages or by age/grade. Then you can look at suggestions and samples and go up or down a grade if it seems too easy or hard for your child. These people have been home schooling for years.

For English/phonics I specificaly love (and the kids did too) the Explode the Code series by Nancy Hall and Language Lessons for Children by Sandi Queen. Find the level that works for your situation. Both of these programs are out-of-the-box ready with little or no prep on the teacher's part. They are incremental, engaging and almost self-teaching. I did not ever get the teacher's edition, they are so self explanatory. (Remember, that any curriculum is there to serve you and your child's needs, you are not there to serve the curriculum. Use what works, skip the unnecessary. It is OK to skip things in a textbook. They do it all the time in traditional schooling.)

One warning: Don't over buy. I learned years ago that I could spend tons of money on cool curriculum that we did not use. I made myself a rule (because we were POOR) that I would not buy something unless I saw that we NEEDED it first. It saved a ton of money and unused books. I sometimes weakened and bought something that "looked good" but I was usually sorry later because I seldom used it. (This is where teacher stores can be very dangerous to your pocketbook.)

OK. Probably way more than you bargained for. Sorry. Take what you like and discard the rest. I always think advice is like junk mail-you can keep it if you want, but it's perfectly fine to throw it away if is not something you will use. Good luck. Thanks for asking!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Twenty-Five Years

Our friends Ana and Geoff recently celebrated their 25th anniversary, and this is the verse and illustration they are using for it. LOVE it! See the story behind it here at Ana's blog. Most lovely, just like their Godly marriage.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Peony Drops

Postcards from God-exceptional everyday beauty captured (by Daughter L.)

Bible School Paper Craft Filler

As we worked through the week of Bible School, I would come home and realize that I might need some "filler" during craft time the next day. This is when it comes in handy to have a craft store (or the rough equivalent of it) in your basement.

One night, I decided to try making stained glass coloring pages. I searched the web for stained glass-type images in free clip art, and downloaded a couple. Then I printed them out in multiples on a page and copied them onto vellum paper. Find vellum paper at craft stores or stamping stores. Be sure to try printing one out and let it dry and then color on it with markers to be sure your ink does not run when colored on by the kids. After these are colored, have the kids cut them out and put them in front of a window to show them how they glow like stained glass.

You can also order pre-made stained glass coloring books at They make great gifts or car trip coloring pads.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fish Bible School Craft

Our last day's theme was "Go Fish-The Great Commission." For our craft we made these painted fish bullroarers. A bullroarer is a native craft from Africa and Australia that is used for communication. It is a stick swung on a string that makes a roaring sound.

We started with a paint stirrer stick donated from Ace Hardware. The had some shorter ones that were great. Husband shaped the ends a little for me with a clipper and I smoothed them on some cement and with sandpaper. The end with the "grip" became the tail. I deepened the grooves a little there on cement and painted each stick white.

The kids painted them with acrylic paints. We let one side dry and did the other after recess. Since it was our last day, they were not able to finish them with details, but a black marker was used for details on the fish in the first picture. Daughter W's is the blue one that is third from the top.

Drill a hole about 3/4" from one end and tie a string about 2 feet long firmly to the end. Swing in a circle over your head or in front of you and listen for the roaring. If it does not make a sound, twirl the wood piece a little before swinging it. There are many instructions on the internet. We LOVED this craft, and the kids' designs were great.

More Bible School Crafts

Our Bible School lessons were from the "Go Fish" guys. (A singing group.) It was called Backstage With the Bible. We found these "Pick Jesus" necklaces in the Oriental Trading Post catalogue for each kid. My class made Shrinky Dink pendants each day to add to their necklaces. They liked designing them and watching them shrink in the oven. We had a symbol that they could copy each day. (See above.)

We made these Grace/Faith crosses one day when the theme was "saved by grace through faith." These are easy and fun and inexpensive. I cut out a batch of assorted colored fun foam 1" x 1" squares on my paper cutter, then cut out backs in a contrasting color of fun foam. The kids can choose their colors of foam tiles and glue them onto the cross, then write the letters in the correct boxes. We have made them in a smaller version that said "God" across and "Love" up and down through it. You can hang them or put magnets on the back for the fridge.
We made these crosses on the same day as the fun foam crosses. I wired the two square masonry nails to each other before class. A little hot glue or other glue on the back would not hurt either. The kids could pick out a few beads and wire them to their cross. I attached a jewelry jump ring to the back of each of them so they could hang them on the wall or use them as a necklace. All of these crafts cost $1 or less each.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CD Spinners

We have many crafts this week at Bible School. These are CD Spinners. The kids have enjoyed them every day since it has been a rainy week and they have had to skip recess outside. They are very simple, inexpensive and work great.

The kids made some great designs. I saw the original idea on They are made with CDs, bottle caps, glue and a marble. We used permanent markers for the designs. I bought plain CD's with white on them because I had just gotten rid of any old CD's we had around. (Of course!) I did use an old CD for my spinner, and painted the top of it with Gesso before coloring it with permanent markers.

Bible School

We have Bible School this week. There are 40 plus kids, and we are having a good week. I am teaching 10 3/4th graders (W.'s class).

Daughter L. is helping manage the singing and doing a great job!

Each day we start with the pledges to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible. When Husband and I went to Bible School together years ago, we did the same pledges.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wedding Crafts

I made this initial for Niece Ashley's wedding. I sketched it and cut it out of styrofoam core board with a craft knife. Then I spray painted it brown. They wanted it to hang behind the guestbook. It cost under $10, replacing the $120 initial Sister-in-law had quoted to her.

Here is the final version of the back necklace. It cost about$15 for suppies for it AND the earrings. Beats the nearly $80 they saw them for at the store. You can see a bit of the earrings I made too. (Click on picture to see more details.)

Father's Day

M. and W. made a gift card for Husband out of Shrinky Dinks for a game of golf.

Breakfast in bed before church. Two eggs, over easy, toast, juice, milk, grape jelly and Turtle candies. Roast, potatoes, carrots and gravy for dinner.

The kids and Brian's were out for a bonfire in the evening. We had munchies and made some Jiffy Pop popcorn over the fire. Fun!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Last Day in DC

Our last day in Washington, Husband had meetings until early afternoon. I whiled away the time by the pool.

We walked to the Smithsonian for lunch in the sculpture garden, then went to the Museum of American History for awhile.

We saw some interesting exhibits on numismatics, transportation and the Continental gunboat "Philadelphia", which is the only surviving American gunboat from the Revolutionary War. Benedict Arnold was her commander. The boat was salvaged in 1935. It is a National Historic Landmark.

We flew over our place on the way home. The second picture shows some of the high water levels right now in our area.