Wednesday, December 1, 2010

President Dieter Uchtdorf - Of Things That Matter Most

I am grateful for a good bishop who chose this talk for the Teaching for Our Times lesson in December. I really needed this additional inspiration as I try to simplify my life and strive to serve the Lord in Relief Society. This spoke truth to my soul.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sleigh Bells Ring....Are You Listenin'?

I cannot believe Christmas is right around the corner. Time has flown by this year! Our tree is up already. We bought a 9 ft. pre-lit tree this year. All my Christmas decor is packed away, so I bought a large container of ornaments at Sam's and slapped them on and called it good. I'll try digging out some of our decorations later this week.

My daughter is taking violin again. She is also in a World Lit. class that meets locally. My older two boys are playing basketball. Youngest boy isn't in anything extra-curricular right now. Our homeschool co-op classes are over until about the end of February. Then we will start our spring term.

I am looking forward to some days of not having to be anywhere so we can get our home organized, and I can hang out with my kids and do some fun things like arts and crafts and playing Playmobil and find a good read-a-loud book I can start reading to them. Oooo! I hope we get snowed/iced in a few times this year! Drinking hot chocolate and not having anywhere to be sounds divine. Our gas fireplace and Coleman stove will keep us toasty and fed!

We are having 1/3 of our slab poured this Friday. The "shop" portion of our building will have a slab, now, and we can enclose it and use it for storage while we work on the rest of the building. Projected finish date needs to be by September 1, 2011....we would really like to move out to our farm land by then.

Merry Christmas! If we do anything super cool, I'll post pictures!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Busy Times!

It has been hard to keep up with blogging over the last few months! I'm still impressed with myself for posting as much as I did this year, though. Way more posts than 2009!

Many activities have kept me busy. We moved and still haven't totally unpacked and organized every nook and cranny of our house, which is sad because it isn't a big space. We are in temporary housing while we build, and it is smaller! Our homeschooling co-op was meeting once per week for 7 weeks. I was "in charge" of it, so that responsibility kept me on my toes. Then, I was called as Relief Society president in our ward. Wowza. A week after I was called, we spent a week in Hawaii. This is our second week back and I'm starting to catch my breath.

This week is the last week of our co-op, though. That is going to have to take a back burner for me. My RS calling is more important. I'm still learning and figuring it out. I haven't served in RS in several years. Too many years in Young Women and Cub Scouts...

I'm totally at peace with everything going on in my life right now, though. Things are cruising along, and I'm not really stressed out. Having my two oldest boys use the K12 curriculum at this time was inspired. I would be stressed out trying to totally come up with homeschool lessons every day for 4 students. Right now I just have 2 and one doesn't need much and the other is self-led. It is working.

So, I don't have anything fabulous to post about what we are doing in our homeschool these days since we are on cruise control with that! Nothing spectacular is happening, we are just moving along...

Now, to get through the holidays!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Moving On

Our family had the craziest, busiest summer ever! Camps, trips, All Stars Baseball, and local fun kept us very active. We ended the summer with a move into a new house. We are now closer to our building site and can keep a better eye on things going on with that. We can also visit our land more often to play - it is only about 7 minutes down the road!

We changed towns and changed wards, so we go to church with a different congregation, now. We lived here several years ago, so it is fun to see old friends, again. We miss our Rogers friends, though. It was hard to leave them. We aren't too far away, though, so we can visit!

My two oldest boys are enrolled in a program using the K12 curriculum at home. They have been participating in this for about 2 weeks, now, and they like it. So, I'm only figuring out curriculum and teaching for my two other kids, now. The K12 curriculum does it all for me with the other two.

I, personally, have been through some trials lately. I'm so grateful for a Heavenly Father who answers my prayers, though. I'm grateful for the Spirit to bring my comfort and strength. I'm grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered for me so I don't have to. I'm grateful for my family - they are most important to me. Everything else can crumble, and I still have them. I'm grateful for wonderful, true friends, who stick with me through thick and thin :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Planning for Fall

Cub Scout camp was last week and this week I have a boy at Boy Scout camp and a girl at EFY. My husband was at scout camp for half of this week, too. Half of our family was missing! I just had my two little boys! They got along extremely well and played together all the day long with hardly a fuss. They get to go to some fun places this week like seeing a preview of The Last Airbender at the movies, go play at the park, go play with friends, go to Terra Studios, and go to a Primary activity. For 2 days we had a living room full of army men, Galactic Heros, games, and two 100 piece puzzles...which my 7 year old did complete! Fun times.

Meanwhile, I'm already planning for fall. I'm going to teach science at our homeschool co-op this fall. Not because I'm a great scientist or even really like the subject, but because my kids need a meaty science class and I'm teaching it so I know they get the material! I's a little control freakish. If I do it in a class setting, it will also get done and we can't procrastinate like we do other stuff at home sometimes. Yep. I said it. We procrastinate. Like on the botany we were supposed to keep up with the last few weeks! When my older two get home from their camps we will pick up on some of it in July.

One science class I'm doing is based on Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. In ten weeks, we are going to go skimming through the whole book. I'm having students notebook and keep portfolios of what we do in class. This will be for ages 9-11.

The other class I am co-teaching with a friend. It is based on Apologia's General Science text. Students will also keep a notebook, have homework, tests, and keep a portfolio. We will only go through a portion of the book in 10 weeks. The class is for ages 12 and older.

At home, we will continue with Story of the World, volume 3. We should finish this by Christmas and start volume 4 in January.

As for next week....well....we're going camping!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Time!

I can't believe it is already summer! Where has the time gone?

Well, in our homeschool this summer, we are working on Botany. Yes, we still school through the summer as much as we can. We do this because we take breaks during other times of the year and it all balances out!

So, to update:

The list schedule I made up didn't work out well. We are going to try it again when summer is over.

In the summer, we do math and reading/language arts every day when we are home. I am also having my two older kids add botany onto that list of things to do everyday. Other stuff, like art and music, happen when they happen. We are going to continue having history lessons once per week. We are still meeting up with another family throughout the summer once per week (around trips and camps) to do history activities together. This is going to be super great in July because we'll get to the Revolutionary War time period then. How appropriate.

We have Cub Scout Camp, Boy Scout Camp, Girl's Camp, EFY, Youth Conference, and we just found out our oldest boy was nominated for All Stars in baseball. This is a busy summer for our family, but we will be squeezing in doing some homework when the kids are home. It will be a shortened version, so they'll still have plenty of time to play outside, meet up with friends, play in creeks, etc.

We are also building a house this summer. Construction has started. We will post pictures later. When we get to the finished out phase, I will immerse myself in that for a while - painting comes to mind!

The kids are helping me to do some gardening this year, so the botany lessons are fitting in nicely. Also, I'm having the kids help and observe as I make various herbal remedies this summer. They helped me and watched me work with lemon balm a few weeks ago!

My daughter has launched a new blog. She started this as a YW value project and has decided to carry on with it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sweet Melissa

We have lots of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) growing around one corner of our house and driveway. It was planted by a previous inhabitant. At first I was shy about using it and just let it grow and go to seed and spread around - it is pretty and smells nice. After educating myself the last couple of years about herbs and their uses, I'm not so shy now about actually using the plants I can find and identify!

Today, the kids helped me harvest the perfect leaves and make some herbal honey with the lemon balm from our yard. I had some local honey that had crystallized. After putting the jar in some warm water and breaking it up, I poured it all into a stainless steel pot and warmed it all up until it was smooth. I put several fresh lemon balm leaves into 4 sterile jelly jars. Once the honey was pretty warm, I poured it over the leaves and put on the lids/rings. I'm going to let it sit for at least a week before eating it. These would also make cute gifts. And herbal honey is easier to make than jam or jelly! Next time I want to try lavender. I've had lavender honey before and it is yummy.

I also chopped some of the lemon balm up finely and placed it in another jar. I covered the chopped leaves with apple cider vinegar to make a child-friendly tincture. This jar will sit in a sunny, warm window for about 4-6 weeks. Then, I'll strain out the herb and put the tincture into amber bottles. Dosage will be taken drops at a time for pain relief and stress relief. It is also good for winter illness, strengthening the immune system, and the digestive tract.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Homemade Soaps and Such

I have a few friends who have talked about how they make their own laundry detergent. I thought that was a little overwhelming, but after seeing an actual recipe, it doesn't seem all that hard. The hardest part is finding where to buy washing soda. Here is the recipe a friend shared with me:

Laundry Detergent Recipe

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1/2 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1 bar of Ivory soap, or any 100% pure soap
5 gallon bucket w/lid

Use a cheese grater to grate the bar of soap and place in a saucepan with about 4 or 5 cups of water. On medium-low heat, put in the grated soap and stir. Heating through until soap is completely melted. While the soap is melting, pour 3 gallons of hot water into the 5 gallon bucket add the borax and washing soda and mix well until dissolved. Then pour the melted soup into the bucket and mix well. Then, fill up the bucket with water, leaving about 3 or so inches of space at the top. This will give you room for stirring later. OPTIONAL: If you want to add a fragrance to the soap you can add a drop or two of an essential oil.

Now you have a large bucket of hot soapy looking water. Cover the bucket and let it set for 24 hours. As it cools it will gel into a lumpy mixture. You will want to break this gel up. I use my hands and break/stir it all together again.


1/2 cup for a full load of laundry

1/4 cup for a small load of laundry

This detergent is low sudsing and works well in high efficiency machines. I stir my soap each time before I use it.

This yields about 442 ounces of detergent and will wash about 110-115 full loads of laundry, which should cost less than a penny per load.

I've made several batches of melt and pour soap over the years. I would like to try cold process soap. In the mean time, this recipe works well:

2 cups glycerin soap base, melted in a double boiler or microwave
2 tbsp shea butter, melted separately
Several drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Mix well, pour into molds (you can use regular food storage containers), and cool. is a great source for buying soap making supplies.

Yesterday I stumbled upon a site telling how to make your own shampoo! I'm gonna try this...

Including the kids in these projects teaches them self-sufficiency and how to be frugal - both valuable lessons! Not to mention teaching them the fact that making our own soap and cleaning products is better for the environment since we are using less plastic and using more all natural ingredients that are better for the earth.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ready for the Farm

I am so ready to move to our land and start the farm! Ready to slllllooooowwwwww doooowwwnnnn. Ready to stretch out on 33 acres and create and explore! Not that it will not be tragic when we do move away from all our friends and neighbors here, because it will be. Why can't they all move half an hour south with us??? At least we will still see them. Even if it takes some effort to commute.

India is working on gardening skills for a value project in Young Womens. She spent some time last year, but not enough for the 10 hour requirement. So, she is helping me with a garden this year, which will be tricky to tend while we live here and commute down south to our land a couple of times per week. After re-evaluating the way we eat, though, I think it is important to start growing more of our own food. Tomatos and peppers in containers isn't enough, anymore. I'm ready to move on to bigger better gardens!

We have seedlings started: spinach, beefsteak tomatos, squash, okra, basil, rosemary, garlic, mint, and lemon balm. I have corn that I haven't started just yet, and I plan to get more food seeds this weekend.

We are only growing GMO-free food - organic heirloom varieties ONLY. Americans need to reclaim food production and stop leaving it to the corporations, who are seriously creating mutant food! Who wants to eat soybeans that are resistant to Roundup so the farmers can spray the heck out of the fields with it? Or corn that makes it's own pesticide??? Soy and corn are in so many products! At least 75% of processed foods! How about food that is just nutrient deficient that you cannot save seed from and grow again? NOT ME! Or my family!!! No, thank you.

Every American should watch this film:

Food Inc.

It will totally change the way you look at food and make you really think about where it comes from and what is healthy. Especially it will make you think about what is ethical.

Buy local, eat organic!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herbalism - The Study of Herbal Medicine

I have had the opportunity to take a North American Herbalism class at our homeschool co-op this spring. This has served as a catalyst for me studying all manner of herbs both medicinally and culinary. The world of plants is fascinating. Plant signatures have held me captivated for the last few weeks. It is like Heavenly Father has left us clues in the form of plant signatures so that we can know how to use the beautiful creation of plants on this earthly home.

Over the weekend, I had some brave girlfriends accompany me to Mountain View, Arkansas. While there, we attended a field trip and workshop focusing on medicinal herbs, as well as wild edibles put on by the Ozark Folk Center. It was amazing and eye opening. The weeds that 75% of Americans try to eradicate from their lovely lawns are actually FOOD. Wonderful, nutritious food in the form of greens and blossoms.

On Friday, we were taken by shuttle bus to the scrumptious bakery, Serenity Farms Bread, outside of Leslie, Arkansas. They had all sorts of sour dough breads and pastries. I had biscotti, a chocolate eclair, and an almond croissant to nibble on during our trip. They also had several organic food choices including cheeses, drinks, and other snacks.

We went down to the little Red River flowing nearby to check out the plant life. We found wild carrots and other edibles. Our guides were very knowledgeable.

Next, we went to the Buffalo River, which is a national river here in Arkansas. The river was very high, so we didn't get down too close, but walked in the lower woodland along it's banks. We found ground ivy, elderberry, garlic mustard, violets, river cane, and other valuable plants growing there in the understory.

The little ground ivy plant can stop bleeding while used as an astringent or poultice. In a pinch, you can chew it up and spit it on a wound or mash it up and spit on it and apply it to wounds.

After lunch, we checked out Tyler Bend Visitor Center in the Buffalo River National Park. We drove down the road from there a bit and hiked down a trail passing by the old Collier homestead.

At the end of the trail, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Buffalo River from on high.

It was a beautiful spring day! Good for the soul.

After the hike, we went back to the Ozark Folk Center to gather herbs from the gardens for our lunch the next day.

Dandelions, chickweed, dock, sorrel, wild carrots, Jerusalem artichoke, corn salad, wild onion, wild garlic, and wild violets can be delicious additions on one's diet in the spring time. Believe me, I've eaten them all!

The knowledgeable ladies who put on this workshop at the Ozark Folk Center were fabulous. Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox brewed some delicious, savory Wild & Domestic Greens and Bean Soup, as well as a yummy salad with wild greens and homemade buttermilk and vinaigrette dressings - with herbs, of course. Karyn, from Bean Mountain Farms, introduced us to the gorgeous world of herbal breads, butters, honeys, vinegars, and drinks. We enjoyed a spectacular lunch on Saturday prepared using their recipes. It was truly delicious.

Tina and Susan have co-written a book called The Creative Herbal Home, which is great. Susan also wrote a book called Not Just Desserts, Sweet Herbal Recipes that I have enjoyed this week. They also have written articles for the Herb Companion magazine. Coincidentally I subscribed to it last month! I'm looking forward to reading more from them.

I'm also looking forward to catching a plant sale put on by Bean Mountain Farms. They grow organic herbs here in Arkansas. They will be having a couple of plant sales at Ozark Natural Foods on April 10 and May 8 this year.

Ground ivy, plantain, yarrow, jewelweed, and mullein are good medicinal herbs that grow locally, as well. I now know how to positively identify them in the field. I also know how to use them, which will prove valuable in the future. I can make salves and tinctures now, thanks to my herbalism teacher, Michelle! I can also make poultices and astringents.

The quaint town of Mountain View was lovely. I would like to go back and spend a couple of days exploring that area, as well as the Buffalo River area, some more. The Ozark Folk Center was also a gem I would like to take my family back to when it is open for visitors. It was sad to leave, but I'll definitely be going back!

Now for a nice cup of herbal tea...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our Nature Journals

Lap Books & History Pockets

To make our history studies more interesting, we decided to do some projects - individually and as a group - in our homeschool.

For individual projects, each student is making a "history pocket". I got the idea from an Evan-Moor book detailing History Pockets about Colonial America. So, as we move through our study of Colonial America over the next few months, the kids will do different projects and handouts to add to their pockets.

For the group project, my students are putting together a lap book about 17th Century America. We have never done lap books in our homeschool, but I always think they are neat when I see them. My kids have done them individually in co-op classes.

I found a FREE downloadable one at about 17th Century America. Currclick is a wonderful resource for downloadables, as well as LIVE classes online offered to homeschoolers.

For this lap book, my kids have to read an article, then complete a booklet about what they have read. My oldest daughter is supervising putting it all together. The lap book is made from three file folders that we have re-folded and will glue together.

Here is the first folder so far:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Basketball Rock Stars

My two older boys - ages 9 and 12 - played basketball this winter. We are their parents so we think they are pretty great.

Our oldest has had a great season. Tonight was a play-off/tournament game. The winner of the game plays in the championship game this weekend.

It was hilarious thinking about what various parents probably told themselves before the game tonight:

"I will not yell too loudly and embarrass those around me"
"I will not yell at the refs"
"I will not say "crap"
"I will not tell the refs their calls are crap"

Mine was the first one. I did yell, but everyone else yelled, too, so I didn't embarrass anyone!

The score was so close through the entire game. The teams tied in the end and went into overtime. They scored a free throw, and then my son scored a free throw. Then, with 9 seconds left, another one of our team players scored a free throw shot and we WON by 1 point! Every parent leapt into the air and burst into cheers. It was awesome. We were all so relieved none of us had heart attacks.

Way to go team!!!

We gushed over our kids and eachother's kids. They were rock stars.

Monday, March 15, 2010

All Better

Well, R is all better. Wednesday at 8:30 am was the last time he barfed. Yippee!! He didn't really EAT again - like REALLY EAT - until Friday. Since then, he's eaten non-stop. Yep. I think he will make a full recovery. He's getting his tummy pudge back.

Our weekend was super busy - 4 basketball games and baseball tryouts for one boy. Today we have soccer practice, baseball tryouts for the other boy, and basketball practice for that same boy.

We started The Lists today. I gave them an allotted time and told them to go through their lists.

My youngest roamed around the house, had a fit, threw stuff, and kicked his sister. So, he got to scrub the kitchen floor Cinderella-style. We filled a bucket with warm soapy water and I gave him a rag and he was busy for a good 20 minutes in there in humbling reverie. He is now helping clean out our truck with his brothers. He will have to do some handwriting when he comes back in. Tomorrow we'll try again.

My older two did OK with the lists. My son, C, who is 9, didn't like the list and decided he was going to pick and choose what to do on his list when I wasn't paying attention. Hmmm. He's finding the loopholes...

My oldest boy, A, actually asked me to buy him a spelling book today. Ha. He is started to understand the importance. He hasn't had an official spelling book in about a year, and I let it go. He hated it, and his spelling was naturally improving significantly by him reading more. I noticed this and thought his brain was finally picking it up, so I didn't get him a new book. Sometimes when he is careless, though, or in a hurry, he doesn't take the time to think about what he is doing and he'll have 10 misspelled common words in a paragraph - like there/their. That happened today, and he asked if he could go back to a spelling book to help him remember spelling rules. OKAY. I put in an order right away. Books are on their happy way. He asked for it.

He also just forgets to use punctuation and capitalize sentences. Still. He knows what to do! Just being careless. I think I should start charging him a quarter everytime he slips.

Now, on to finishing chores. Break time is over.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Magic Popsicles

My 7 year old is STILL sick! We are on day 4, now. Hopefully he'll start eating today. He is keeping fluids down.

We are "tricking" his stomach by having him eat some popsicles that I made. Maybe if he licks these, he'll get some fluid without startling his stomach. A friend gave me the idea after I told her on the phone last night that everything he drinks he barfs right back up. I'm concerned about dehydration and do not want him in the hospital with an IV.

The popsicles I made have:

1 cup of red raspberry herbal tea to soothe the tummy
1 cup of gatorade to provide electrolytes
1 tablespoon or so of honey because honey fixes everything
1 tablespoon or so of acidophilus to give him some good bacteria

Another friend gave the acidophilus to my husband at scouts last night. I didn't have any on hand. The pops are in Mickey Mouse shaped ice cubes. We bought those trays and have never used them over the last 5 years. We finally have a use for them!

Here's hoping the popsicles help. I even tasted one and it was yummy.

The Lists

OK. Here is a list that I made up after the manner I posted about yesterday. For one of my oldest, their list looks like this:

Wordly Wise
Language Arts
Nature Study

So, he'll get through as many subjects as he can in his allotted time. Then, he'll pick up where he left off tomorrow. When he gets to the bottom, he starts again at the top. We'll see how this could fail if he only does one or two things per day just to be a punk. I'm hoping they will get through about 1/3 to 1/2 of their list every day. I am trying to mix up their subjects so that a fun one (for them) gets thrown in between their not-so-favorite ones. Just to be nice!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Fever

Literally - My littlest one has a fever and has been throwing up for more than 48 hours.

So, we're hunkered down today watching Where the Red Fern Grows on Netflix instant streaming. Why is it when one kid is sick, everyone else gets thrown off kilter, too? My older two think it is perfectly OK to sit around in their PJs today. My teen and pre-teen act like they haven't slept even though they did for more than enough time last night. My oldest boy did have 3 1/2 hours of basketball practice last night, but still. They must be doing some serious growing.

I have a friend who says she is awesome at making up schedules and shopping for curricula, but not so great at following the schedules and using the curricula! Humans are creatures of habit, and it is hard to form new habits.

I've been thinking about all of this, and wondering what I can do to motivate us into a better routine. We are super busy this spring with everything going on, and if we don't manage our time better, we won't be getting much done here at home. I'm mostly concerned about keeping our home picked up...

I saw something on the new Latter-Day Homeschooling blog about making lists and "rolling over" the subjects we don't complete one day to the next day. What a great idea - I think I am going to try this for us. I always feel like we HAVE to start doing Math and Language Arts/Reading every day and sometimes we don't get to the other subjects. I don't lose sleep over this too much since they take so many classes at our co-op that the holes do get filled in, but there are some things I want to cover with them here at home that we don't always get to.

Off to make our lists... Will share later!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sweet New Website!

Sugardoodle on Facebook posted a link to a pretty sweet new blog today for LDS Homeschoolers. What a great way to unite more LDS Homeschoolers! There aren't very many LDS who are homeschooling in Northwest Arkansas. Only about half of the families I know of are on our Yahoo Group, where we sometimes have discussions. We get together once per month. The other half aren't interested in getting together socially or don't do email or whatever. It is always great to find an additional resource for us! Yippee!

Check it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

March 1 - I can't believe it is already March. Things are super busy for our family...I'm starting to see a pattern, here. Every spring is so crazy busy for us! I think it is the population boom we have every spring at our homeschool co-op, spring sports, and going out often since we are sick of being inside from the winter. So, as mom, I feel like I'm treading water. Hopefully I don't sink!

My kids are taking some great classes at our homeschool co-op including Creative Writing, Native American History, gardening, cooking, drama (and a big play production at the end of April), Space, Guitar, Yearbook layout, and Art. I'm teaching Papercrafts and Set Building (for the play). I'm also taking a class this term - North American Herbalism. It is fabulous. I've already made a tincture for the first time (agrimony), and I'm in the process of making a salve with comfrey, lavender, grape root, and calendula.

I was talking with my husband last night about how I wonder if I should buy some boxed curriculum. He said I must be joking since our kids are learning SO MUCH on their own right now...more so than they would in school. He asked me how much I was learning along with them, and I answered, "Tons." What does that say about my own public school education? Well, I was a "gifted" student. I was always in gifted or honors classes. I made good grades. I paid attention. I didn't learn very much! How did that happen?

Our kids get language arts, math, history, and art regularly. Science not so much. That is my fault since I'm not a science fanatic. We have had many nature study lessons, studied various animals, and we have done some astronomy. Last night while venting this all out to my husband, we decided perhaps I should get some general science book or curriculum so that they are least exposed to it. If they take interest in an aspect of that, we'll run with it. We both agree that exposing them to vital information is important, but if they aren't interested in it, they aren't going to want to learn about it. They all love stories, so naturally they are all history buffs. Hopefully we can get them to be science nerds this year, too.

I think we are going to start using our Apologia Exploring Creation through Botany textbook. It has been collecting dust on one of our bookcases for some time. I also decided to go ahead and buy the Apologia General Science text. It is written for 7th grade, but good for 6-9th grade. That will fit my oldest son and daughter, at this point.

I like the conversational text of the Apologia books we have used so far. The books we have gone through so far are the Exploring Creation through Zoology volumes 1 and 2, which cover flying creatures and ocean life.

I have also tried to get my kids to keep nature journals. It seems we start this every spring and then fizzle out the middle of summer some time. I have 2 children that enjoy it and 2 who do not. The ones who do not enjoy it have to at least sit and be quiet and observe and take notes if they do not want to draw something. Sometimes we go out with a goal to sketch something specific. Sometimes, I let them choose what to sketch. I encourage them to date their work and describe the weather and what it is they are drawing on the page of their sketch. I sketch along with them. I LOVE this book about nature journaling:

Keeping a Nature Journal by: Clare Walker Leslie

I'd post a handy link, but I haven't figured out how to do that in a blog post, yet!

It is available on Amazon, and it is beautiful and inspiring.

For our nature journals, I get a piece of textured cardstock for the cover and several pages of blank white paper for the inside. I stack this together and use a long-arm stapler and staple them together in the center. The kids decorate their covers. They are small enough to fit in a backpack when we go hiking, too. We have taken them to botanical gardens, on hikes, and always in our yard.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Better Late Than Never

OK, so here are some of the Valentines my daughter did last week. She experimented with the cricut cutting out hearts and embossing. I thought they turned out really cute.
The boys...well....the boys weren't as cute. More like a stamp of something and then they wrote their name. They would not use pink or red paper. Only white cardstock. They think Valentines Day is a horrid holiday. They only like it for the candy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


History is one of my favorite subjects. It was so boring when I was in school - memorizing all those dates and people. Now, as I research and teach it to my children, I am learning so much along with them that I didn't get while in school.

Here at home, we use The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It tells history like a story. I read aloud to all 4 of my students from the chapter book. We read one chapter per week. Then, we look in our activity guide. There are recipes, games, crafts, and other projects in the companion activity guides. There are also maps and coloring pages. I do copy these off for my younger two boys. They color while I read to them and it keeps them quiet! The pages and mapwork then go into a history folder for each student. My older two do take notes as I read, as well. I pause and spell things out for them, as needed. The notes go into their history folders.

When we do come into a time period or subject that is especially interesting, we do take a break from plugging along with The Story of the World and do a unit study. For example, when we get to the American colonization and the Revolution in a couple of months, we are going to spend a month studying this more in depth. We plan to do several projects, cook recipes from that time period, and study the people in places more fully.

We do get together with another family or two once per week to do the activities and hands-on projects. This makes our studies all the more fun to do these things with friends.

We also have the:

Kingfisher Encyclopedia of World History
Usborne Book of World History

The Kingfisher version is much better, I think. It is fully illustrated in drawings and photos and great to use as a guide to gain extra tidbits about the time period and cultures we study. The Usborne version we have is all illustrated in comic book style. While interesting, it isn't as visually striking. The more recent edition may be better.

Occasionally my older two students look up some aspect of what we are studying and do a project or write a paper about it.

We are in Volume 3 of The Story of the World. This week we are on Chapter 4, which is about Samuel Champlain and Henry Hudson.

History has become a subject that my students really look forward to. For a couple of them, it is their most favorite time of the week.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Love is in the Air

Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching. My younger two boys worked on making mailboxes last week. They aren't quite finished. My youngest is having a birthday this weekend. When that's over, we will tackle finishing mailboxes and making Valentines. My kiddos usually make their Valentines. It is fun and more meaningful. It is time consuming, but I figure we cover arts and crafts for the month of February!

Check out for fun and cute Valentine ideas. We have gotten several from there over the years.

Of course, just folded cardstock with a colored paper heart or heart doily on the front looks nice, too.

This year I have some Valentine rubber stamps. My cricut will help with cutting out several paper hearts, as well.

We have 2 Valentine parties to attend this year with our homeschooling friends, so we have many Valentines to make!

Will post pictures of some of our creations next week!

Not so bad...

Well, that storm we had last week wasn't so bad. We didn't lose power. Yay! We were stranded for about 3 days. Our driveway is at such an angle that it does not get direct sunlight. We have to wait for the temps to get above freezing before shoveling through 7-8 inches of snow and about an inch of ice! So, Monday things warmed up a bit and we shoveled much of it off the drive. Good news is that the roads are mostly clear in our neighborhood and through town. The snow plows did a good job.

I have sore muscles that I didn't know existed in my back. Shoveling snow is hard work. My oldest boy even did most of it. Chris did much more than me, too. They aren't sore!

We still have a snow blanket everywhere else. It will be a while before it all melts. According to the weather report, we have more coming next week. We have had more snow this winter than I think we have ever had in NWA. Must be global warming ;-p

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bracing Ourselves!

Well, according to the weather guys and gals, we have an ice storm headed our way. We should have identical issues to the ones we had for last year's ice storm, which was almost exactly a year ago to the day.

A year ago my Granny passed away. Almost immediately it started sleeting here. We left after the storm - barely - and headed to TX for the funeral. So, we missed being without power for 4-5 days.

I remember the creaking and moaning of the trees all around our house. The occasional cracking and crashing sound of limbs falling from the trees under the weight of ice would startle us. The kids would run to the windows to see what was falling. I always hoped it wasn't landing on the house. Fun times.

It should start sleeting/icing later this afternoon. All night tonight it should last, and snow/sleet all day tomorrow. It may be worse than last year. Someone said we may possibly get about 10 inches of snow with the ice.

We are hunkering down with our food and supplies and riding it out. I just really hope we don't lose power/heat, but I know we most likely will. At least we won't lose hot water. The hot water heater is gas...We also have propane Coleman stoves to cook on.

So, I'm getting the snow days I wished for last week when I was so incredibly busy running the kids and myself around everywhere! Hopefully we stay warm and cozy, and it doesn't turn to disaster...

Here we go!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Growing up

Will I ever get used to dropping my older two kids off at the movies with friends or the skating rink or their friends' houses? I'm always telling them, "Make good choices!" and making them take their cell phone.

My older two boys are playing basketball. The younger boy, age 9, is playing up a year and doing well despite the fact that he is the youngest on his team and probably the other teams, too. On Saturday, my older boy's team won 34-14 and my younger boy's team lost 28-22. It was close!

My girl, age 13, can now cook a full meal and follow recipes well. She just got called as the Beehive president in Young Women's. This summer she'll be away from us for a couple of weeks with Girls' Camp and Youth Conference and EFY. After May 1, she'll also be going to dances. She is excited. I'm not old enough for all this...

My oldest boy, age 12, is 1st counselor in his Deacon's quorum, can cook pretty well, and isn't looking forward to dancing with girls! He still has a while, though.

My youngest son is now older than my oldest child was when he was born. Wow. He'll be 7 in a couple of weeks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bitter, Anyone?

A friend on our homeschool group's Yahoo Group, just posted a link to a great list of comebacks for people pestering homeschoolers.

The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List:

It is funny and rude and so true. I love #12.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Too much to do

In December, we stayed home more than we went out, which isn't typical for us. For about a week and a half I was sick with a cold/flu thing. None of the kids were sick, miraculously, but I could barely move. Then, Chris was in a car accident (he is OK), and we didn't have my Yukon for a week. By then, it was the week before Christmas. For a couple of days, my husband and I were doing some mad Christmas shopping to catch up for the previous weeks. We finished shopping for groceries and everything by the 23rd, though. On Christmas Eve it started snowing and we stayed put for about 4 days. it melted a bit, and we got out of our driveway for a couple of days. Then, we were hit with snow again.

It was blissful being here at home and not having to go anywhere. Just spending time together as a family and playing was fun and relaxing.

It is all over, now, though. Unless we have another snow or ice storm this winter! Now, we are running around to basketball 3 nights per week and youth and scout activities another night per week. Soon our homeschool co-op will start up on Thursdays. Basketball games start this Saturday. Homeschool group activities on Fridays. Hmmm...... I know my kids are ready to be out and about again, but I'm wishing for more snow days...

Meanwhile I'm trying to get our Cub Scout pack to function without a Cub Master, too. We have a pack meeting in 2 weeks and Blue and Gold Banquet next month. A break from Cub Scouts for 3 weeks was VERY nice throughout Christmas and the snow days.

OK. I'm going to try to have a good attitude and plug along. Try not to over-commit myself for the next 12-13 weeks or so. Yeah...I can do it...I think...maybe...I'm hitting full capasity pretty fast.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I love art. I was an art major in college. I love to teach art and do art with my kids at home. Here are some great titles for teaching art and art history for children:

Discovering Great Artists
Childsize Masterpieces
How to Teach Art to Children
Children's Book of Art (Usborne)
any drawing or art book by Ed Emberly
Art Fun
300 Lessons in Art
Masterpiece of the Month
Learning About Ancient Civilizations Through Art
Artist's Workshop Myths & Legends
Arty Facts

There are also a multitude of "how to draw" and "how to paint" books in the Bargain Books section of Borders and Barnes & Noble that we have found. Not to mention calligraphy kits (I consider calligraphy an art) and other craft kits for crafting time.

We also like to just sit and watercolor paint together. They go through sheet after sheet of paper. To help our watercolor paper go a bit farther, I do buy the large pad of paper (larger than the 8 1/2 x 11 size ) and cut it into fourths. I would cut the 8 1/2 x 11 paper in half. This makes for a smaller more manageable piece to paint on for my kids. My youngest who still likes to paint BIG, gets cheaper paper to paint on when he is in the mood to do 20 paintings in a sitting.

So, what do you do with all that art?

I found these and they are so cute I am going to make some:

I also found them in Pottery Barn years ago, but didn't love the price. Making them will be so easy!

By the way, I LOVE that blog - so many creative and USEFUL crafts on there.

I have become...

I have been looking back over the last few weeks thinking, " What if I had just done this a little different..." It is easy to get sidetracked, sometimes.

All of my adult life I have been a parent. I love my children very much. I never planned to homeschool. I sort of fell into it once our oldest turned 5, and I realized I had been doing it all along. I realized I wanted my daughter to be a better person than she would turn out after going through the system. How different would our family be if I had gone out and had a career, instead? Would we be better or worse? Would my younger self have chosen this life for me?

One of my favorite poems:

Lest We Forget

She came tonight as I sat alone
The girl that I used to be. . .
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye
And questioned reproachfully:

"Have you forgotten the many plans
And hopes that I had for you?
The great career, the splendid fame
All the wonderful things to do?"

"Where is the mansion of stately height
With all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you
And the jewels in your hair?"

And as she spoke, I was very sad,
For I wanted her pleased with me . . .
This slender girl from the shadowy past
The girl that I used to be.

So gently arising, I took her hand,
And guided her up the stair
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay
So innocent, sweet and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems,
And precious they are to me,
That silken robe is my motherhood
Of costly simplicity.

And my mansion of stately height is love,
And the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltering walls
For the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest,
She smiled through her tears at me,
And I saw that the woman that I am now
Pleased the girl that I used to be.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Little House on the.....Hillside?

If you have kids and they haven't seen the TV series, Little House on the Prairie, go Netflix it, now!

I have a good friend who told me she was Netflixing it and her kids were watching it on Sunday afternoons. My youngest has taken a Little House on the Prairie class at our homeschool co-op and knew all about Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, and Carrie. I hadn't read it to my younger boys, yet. The older boy and girl had it read to them when they were little. I'm starting to read Little House in the Big Woods to them today.

I checked out the first disk in season 1 before Christmas. My kids were rolling their eyes at first, but once it started, they were mesmerized! All 4 of them! Little House on the Prairie comes on and they can't tear themselves away from the TV. It is such a wholesome show, too! Teaches some great lessons! I remember loving it when I was able to watch it at my Granny's sometimes when I was little. The shows are also educational in that the kids are learning about life during the end of the 1800s - the technology as it advanced, then, what people had to do for a living, and how their lives were on the farm and in town.

So, we are at the end of season 2. My kids ask me if it is coming in the mail whenever we are between Netflix DVDs. They so look forward to them!

We saw that the entire collection was available at Sam's Club for about $150. I think we may make the investment.

My youngest said we live in the Little House on the Hillside...."but not as little as their's", he said.

Here's the really fun part: Little House on the Prairie is coming to the Walton Arts Center stage this week! Melissa Gilbert, who plays Laura in the TV series, is playing Ma in the show. My friend has extra tickets and invited our older three kids to go with their family this weekend. They are psyched! I'm excited for them!

Our youngest gets to enjoy an afternoon as an only child. We are taking him out to lunch and to see the Frog Princess. He is excited, too!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, no pictures got posted of the lovely cards we made because they were given away or mailed before we thought of it! I'll be making cards throughout the year this year, though, for various occasions. I will post them as India reminds me, since she will be helping me.

My husband was home for 2 1/2 weeks over Christmas. He took his vacation, then since he didn't take much during the rest of the year! So, while dad was home, we didn't do much "official" educating. I've decided to stop calling it "school work" since the idea of school is what we are trying to avoid. We educate, we do not school. There is a difference...just ask John Taylor Gatto.

I read some of Gatto's writings when I very first started homeschooling and my oldest was about 5 (she is 13, now). I have looked at his stuff off and on since then. Recently I reread his essay, Against School.

Every time I read that it knocks me over the head. What I feel and have always thought, he puts into written word. If only the rest of society wouldn't bury their heads in the sand while the school system goes to pot, but rather stand up for the EDUCATION of America's children, perhaps our society wouldn't be in the turmoil it is in today. The family wouldn't be deteriorating so immensely with each new generation. Perhaps our government wouldn't, either, since people would actually grow up into educated people who don't follow the herd, but rather think for themselves.

That has been my goal all along: to raise children who can think for themselves and don't mindlessly do and think what everyone else says they should just because that is what is considered "normal". That is where society gets into trouble. When people do not stop and question, but they follow along instead. Even when they feel and know deep down inside that it things are wrong. Very wrong.

Anyway, we try hard, as parents, to instill this in our children: Think for yourselves! Discover for yourselves! Don't just follow the herd!

OK, stepping off of soapbox, now.

Well, dear husband went back to work yesterday. So, we are back to educating! It is the New Year, also, and we are doing some re-evaluating. Yesterday we still had cousins visiting, so I let the kids play in the snow all day. They don't get snow very often, after all! They had great physics lessons as they went sledding over and over down the road. They also had a bike ramp that they had to get in just the right spot in order to jump it, which was fun for the big 12, 13, and 14 yr. old kiddos.

Today, however, we are doing some other things. This morning we watched an episode of that show about people climbing Mt. Everest. I don't know the actual name. The kids chose it from Netflix, which we are streaming to our TV, now. Later today, I am having my older two do some research on the Himalayas. One of them just informed me that their Wordly Wise lesson is about Mt. Everest, so this is working out perfectly. The younger boys will look up where it is on the map and learn about the people who live there.

Since the Netflix streaming is new for us and we were excited to use it today, we also streamed an IMAX film called Hurricane on the Bayou that was in our queue. A few years ago after Hurricane Katrina, my husband took a business trip to New Orleans. Our youngest was only 4 at the time and we didn't want to leave him, so he and I traveled with my husband. We stayed near the Spanish Plaza at the Hilton. Our youngest and I would take walks downtown and ride the trolley downtown each day. I took him to the Audubon Aquarium there, and we wanted to watch this IMAX film and could never catch it. Today we did. It was about the disappearing wetlands in Louisiana and the effects of that. The wetlands are Louisiana's natural speed bump for hurricanes. This film fits in with our weather study we are starting on. We'll be learning about all types of storms on the earth.

I've been sitting with my youngest teaching him about money today. Also, we practiced his reading. Now, he is working on puzzles.

The older three are working in their books.

Later today, we will have a history lesson. We are just beginning Story of the World volume 3, which covers world history "from Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners". We are excited to cover this time period. We have been on ancient and medieval history for a while. I'm learning so much right along with my kids. I really love this history curriculum. The author tells history like a story, which is what it is. This is far from the dry lecturing and dates memorization that I had in school. They do projects, map work, and the younger boys have coloring pages for each lesson.

So, my break is now over. Back to educating! More to come. This is going to be a great year!