Monday, December 8, 2008

Liberty's Kids

We are learning about American history this year, and I am always looking for good ways to reinforce the major events and issues that go along with it. I heard about the animated series Liberty's Kids and yesterday we got to check it out.

Ding ding! We've got a winner!'

We got disc one of Liberty's Kids from Netflix and the kids just gobbled it up. Episodes covered the Boston Tea Party, and featured major players in the American Revolution such as John Adams, Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Ben Franklin, and so on.

To me, this is a wonderful tool for reinforcing the things we've been learning, and is a perfect thing to have available when somebody gets sick and a simple homeschool day is needed. Don't doubt the educational value of stuff like this! Later in the day as I was driving the kids someplace, my 10 year old started asking me questions about people being tarred and feathered, and we had a very worthwhile conversation about brutal ways people have dealt with one another throughout history, more positive ways to disagree with people, and so on. It was good stuff!

You can read more about the series on wikipedia here.

Also, today I discovered the main Liberty's Kids web site which has a few fun things for the kids like games and coloring pages (but some ads on the sidebars that are kind of annoying).

Liberty's Kids--check it out! :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Good King Wenceslas

Have you ever wondered about Good King Wenceslas, the ruler who has been sung about since the famous hymn was written by John Neale in 1853? Just who was this man, why do we call him "king" and why do we call him "good"? Knowledge Quest has a little something to tell you all about it! Clickety click!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life--sale

Hey everybody!

Today I heard from Marilyn Rockett that she is selling off her personal inventory of her book Homeschooling at the Speed of Life for the special price of $15 which includes shipping. (Usual retail price
is $17.95 plus $5 shipping - an $8 savings - 35%).

I reviewed Marilyn's book some time back and really loved it. To me it was like having a big sister come alongside me to encourage me in my homeschooling and give me some fresh ideas. I recommend it to you!

The book will continue to be available at all major book retailers, but Marilyn is just selling the books she has at her own office. :) Take advantage of this great deal!

Visit her site to check it out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Countdown to Christmas Day 1

We just did day 1 of Countdown to Christmas. The story was wonderful (almost made me cry!) and the games were SO fun! Check it out!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Homeschool View Tube

Hey! I just found out about this cool new resource--Homeschool View Tube! Think YouTube....but for homeschool families! Thought you might enjoy checking it out. :)

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Black Friday Sale

There are SO many great deals going on right's tempting to tell about every single one! :) This time around I wanted to mention the Black Friday Sale specials at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine store. Here are some of the highlights:

-Subscriptions for just $7.95!!! Yeah--that's how much one issue of the mag would cost if you bought it at a bookstore. Wow! What's more is that subscribers get a bunch of other bonus gifts, special offers, and more. Over $250 value!!

-Extra bonus gifts with purchases of at least $50!

-My favorite thing about TOS Store is that shipping is always FREE!

The Old Schoolhouse also has a new book available called What about Socialization? You know you've heard that concern before! Well, here's your chance to read up on the answers, if you have trouble addressing that concern, plus you can share the book with others who might have concerns about whether or not homeschooled kids can get "proper socialization."

Enjoy the sale and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Countdown to Christmas Activity Book!

When Amy Puetz showed me her Countdown to Christmas book, I was almost in tears within minutes. This book features a wonderful collection of old-fashioned holiday stories, activities, recipes, games, songs, and more---a grouping for every day from December 1-25.

This collection is just the kind of thing I like to do with my children. It's fun. It's interesting. The stories are great, and will also expose my children (and me!) to some old-fashioned language and concepts. The crafts look fun and manageable. Now that I've got this resource I'm looking forward to December 1 so we can get started with it. I really think that this is going to be our most fun December ever!

I strongly encourage you to go check it out for yourself. Amy has her book on sale at a GREAT price right now, PLUS she has an extra freebie book for you as well. You can see sample pages of the book and a list of stories, etc. here. I feel like this is going to be a wonderful thing for my family, and think it will be for your family too! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Place Mat Activity

I found out about this neat item that is available to you free here. Check it out!

Thanksgiving Lapbook Ideas

I found out about this great post full of ideas if you'd like to make a Thanksgiving Lap Book. Check it out here.

How To Set Great Goals for your Homeschool

I found out about this great goal-setting resource that's free from Sonlight. My good friend (in real life!) Jill Evely is one of the contributors to this resource. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning Centers

Despite my lack of recent posts, you can rest assured that my life is plenty full and busy, with lots of stuff going on that might even be blog-worthy, if only I consistently had time to tell you about it! On the days when I'm really, really on top of the most important things, I'm lucky if I have even an hour or two to do the remaining business, blogging, emailing, and all of the other behind-the-scenes things that come up in the life of someone that manages children, Christmas shopping, educational issues, business issues, and keeping some relationships going.

After struggling for months to tutor 4 or 5 kids at the kitchen table simultaneously during school time, I decided to try using some learning centers to help the kids have plenty of educational and enriching things to do during school time, and allow me to only work directly with one or two kids at a time. For close to a week now I have been working on cleaning out some nooks and crannies of our family room so that I could somehow set up these centers/stations to keep the little hands and minds occupied.

For a few days I only had one station set up, and each night after the kids were in bed I placed something on that little table. It was fun to see kids gravitating toward that spot, sitting down and giving their attention to whatever was there. They loved it, and it reminded me of a past wish I had to make my home like one big all-you-can-learn-buffet, where everywhere a child turns is something that will feed their body, mind, or spirit. These little centers seem to do that in a way that nothing else has for us.

Yesterday was day one for going full force with the centers. Although our family room isn't huge, I was able to set up 9 different centers for the kids to use. Why so many? Because I knew they would need plenty of things to do while I worked with the kids that go s-l-o-w at their school work. That's why!

In the past I have tried this idea and set up stations that were a little heavy with stuff to do, and it seemed like the kids got a little bored with those after a short while. This time I decided to use some small tables and spaces, and just put out a very slim choice of what to do at that space. The other idea is to not have the same thing there every day.

Probably like a lot of other people, we have collected an awful lot of really neat learning resources that we rarely ever use. I've got tons of games, art books, craft stuff, cards, flash cards, cool learning resources, Leap Pads, Flashmaster, Highlights books with puzzles in them, and lots more. I'm so glad that I have a place to put these things, but the trick is that I am a person that tends to forget what resources we have if they aren't in front of me. So now I am just bringing out a few items from the collection each day, one per center area, and letting the kids enjoy them. After school time that stuff gets put away, and as I got through the day I keep my eyes open for what else is around, and pull some new stuff out to use the next day. Now the kids are grabbing stuff and saying, "Hey! We should use this for centers tomorrow!"

We have one round kid-size table. At a yard sale a couple months ago I bought two coffee tables for $10. One is rectangular, one is a small square. I bought these because I liked the shape of the design, and the price was right. But I didn't really have a need for them or know where they would go. Now they are working out really well for learning center stations. Plus I can mention the tables by their shape (circle, square, or rectangle) to tell where something is or where to suggest someone go next. I also use a small part of one coffee table, a corner of a couch, plus a regular size table down in this room. So far, so good.

When I showed the kids the stations, they were quite excited about it. In the morning I set everything up and then gave them a tour, explained how it would work, what the rules were, etc. One of the main things I stressed was that it was important to be very quiet so that the person working with me at the table could concentrate. As it turned out, we had near silence for several hours as we did school yesterday. Wow! It was really nice.

I also had each child pick out a silent reading book before we got going, so that if they got finished at their center before it was time to switch, they could sit and read on their own. I figured it made more sense to have them get their books before we got going, rather than have them all going back and forth to the book shelf at different times.

I set up the centers to be clutter-free. Here is some of what I had today:

On small round table I had a box with our connectagons in it. Later my daughter decided to add Dominoes to the table.

Another table had a phonics thing we have that's called Instalearn, which is mainly used by my early readers. For older kids at this station there were Mad Libs, and for my five year old there were some little learning cards that he likes to play with and can do on his own.

We had a cozy station on the corner of one couch for listening to audio books. Station included pillows, blanket, CD player with headphones, and two CDs with read-along books, plus our Bible verses CD to choose from.

Computer station with headphones was set up for the younger kids to go to to play phonics and reading games, etc.

Art station today had two learn-to-draw books (one geared toward youngers, one geared toward olders) and an assortment of crayons, colored pencils, markers, and paper.

One station had a puzzle.

One area (on the floor--I just put out a plastic tablecloth to create the space) for playing with wooden blocks (they have not played with those for a long time and they loved it):

I didn't really micromanage the timing of switching. Since there was plenty to choose from, and the atmosphere was very calm, the kids seemed to enjoy choosing a spot to go, and they played with it for plenty of time and then cleaned up before going on to the next. Some spots were a little more popular than others, so in those cases sometimes I asked the child if they would like to try another station in two minutes or whatever, to give them a gentle nudge to move on so that someone else could enjoy the station they were on.

Like so many things in my life, this will probably take a lot of mom-power to keep it going, so the chance of it falling to the wayside is pretty decent. I often feel that I'm taking a risk by telling about my latest and greatest idea since I feel like so many of them come and go at high speed. Still, I think this idea has merit as a tool to keep the wheels turning here at our school, and maybe it will give a few of you some ideas too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making the Holidays Family Friendly

The Holidays are supposed to be all about celebrating with the folks you love, yet all too often the focus is on the preparations instead of the people and the children especially seem to get lost in the shuffle. If holidays are stressful to you, or you come to the end of the day wondering where and what your children were doing all day, this book is for you. It is a reminder of why we celebrate, and how to celebrate in a more family-friendly way. Memories are made at every holiday, are they good ones or bad ones? Learn how to make them good ones for everyone.

Check out this new release ebook from my friend Penny Raine! It's at a super low price right now, too. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Check out this film!

If you enjoy the films from Franklin Springs Family Media, you are probably going to love this one from IVL Media. This documentary follows a pastor's family as God faithfully and miraculously provides for them through all sorts of situations. You can watch the trailer for it here.

Right now they are taking pre-orders, which includes free shipping. Looks like an uplifting night at the movies for the whole family!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Tip for the Reluctant Mathematician

Amazingly, in 16 years of parenthood, it's just been in this year that we've used an abacus to help with math. In the past I guess my kids just learned fine with the Base 10 blocks that we have, or other handy around-the-house manipulatives (cheerios, pretzel sticks, mini marshmallows, etc.).

With my reluctant mathematician, though, these things weren't working too well. So I pulled out our handy dandy Melissa and Doug abacus. (you can find these online, or at parent-teacher type stores. They are very well made, and not expensive.)

This abacus comes in super handy for just about any kind of math we do. It helps my son see for himself how addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division work, and also how they are interrelated. One big plus (that I would have done well to appreciate in my earlier years) is that there are not removable parts. Major helpful when your house is already strewn with parts and pieces of all manner of educational (and otherwise) items.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Free Christmas ebook

Who wants a freebie? I've got one for you--a Christmas ebook with lots of great decorating and activity ideas, as well as recipes! Clickety-click!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm So Excited About Grandpa Read's Quiet Time Tales!

Do you wish that there was something gentle, classic, and beautiful for your children to watch and listen to?

Do you miss the simplicity of shows like Mr. Rogers and wish you could find something comparable for your children today?

Grandpa Read's Quiet Time Tales is the answer! These beautiful, friendly, and gentle DVDs share classic children's stories with your children in a way that will delight them.

Each 60-minute (approx.) DVD features Grandpa Read, who reads 5 classic children's stories with your children, as well as illustrations and an original song. Grandpa is accompanied by his faithful canine companion Champ, and some special fish friends, Sparky and Wanda.

My very energetic little boys are ages 5, 7, and 8 and they loved watching the sample story and songs. The warmth, humor, friendliness, and classic stories was just the sort of thing I was looking for!

What a wonderful gift for a family with young children, or for a new big brother or sister that needs a calm and enriching activity to do while mommy feeds the new baby! I plan to use these as a quiet educational activity for little boys who need something worthwhile to do when I help other siblings with their school work. :)

Enjoy a discounted price as we accept pre-orders for a limited time. Products will be shipping in early December, so you will be sure to have them by Christmas.

You can now watch a 12 minute sample video here. Gather up your children and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cirque du Soleil

Netflix is one of my favorite ways to introduce my children to cultural events. Yes, I do also like to actually take them to see things in person, but that's not always available here in podunk, KY, plus I prefer to give them a taste of some things without spending big bucks on it, not knowing if they will even really appreciate it.

Cirque du Soleil is one of our favorites. Today we are watching their Journey of Man performance, and all of us are wowed constantly. The creativity, strength, and artistic presentation of their work is astounding. There are many Cirque performances available from Netflix, so you can watch one every couple of months and have 'em last for years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And the winner is....

Katy from The Country Blossom! I will be sending her the homeschool magazines and some other goodies soon. :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Little Tip To Help The Reluctant Mathematician

My 10 year old son is easily intimidated by math. When he opens his math workbook each day, he usually looks stricken with confusion and frustration, even though 90% of what is on the page is a review of the previous day. He cries. He carries on. He is sure that he cannot manage to understand what on earth he is supposed to it.

In short, it's a little maddening. (is that supposed to have one D or two? oh well. this is about math. Not spelling. or grammar.)

My friend Sooz mentioned an idea to me that she thought might help with Jake's math-a-phobia. A simple dry erase board.

Here's how it works. Basically, just get a smallish dry erase board. The one we started out with was from my office, and it's about 12"x24". Rather than doing the math problems on the workbook page, we do them on the board. This does a lot of good things for my kiddo:

-He's only looking at one math problem. Not the entire page's worth. I think that a lot of his problem is just feeling overwhelmed by all those numbers.

-We can make the numbers bigger, and have a lot more space to work out the problem. Much better than trying to do all of that figurin' in such a small space

-I can help him easier if the number are bigger and we have more space to work. He's not confused about what I'm pointing at or which problem we're working on.

We've been using the dry erase board for a couple weeks now, and math is going much, much better. He actually told me, "When we do math like this, it's really fun!"

Since I needed my dry erase board back in my office, today we purchased a smaller one. It's the size of a piece of paper, so have the feel of an old fashioned slate. We were able to get one with a colored frame that he was excited about, so that made it extra fun. Our board can also have magnets so we can stick it on the fridge when we're not using it, plus it's magnetic itself, and came with a few strong magnets to use with it. The pen has a built in eraser which is another plus.

If your kiddo is struggling with math, why not put a modern spin on the old fashioned slate idea and see if it works for you? (Because, really, isn't $5 a bargain compared to having your kiddo cry over math every day?!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Podcasts Galore!

I recently found out that Sonlight has a whole bunch of great podcasts available for homeschool moms! There is so much here! Topics include

Goal Setting
Homeschooling if you also work outside the home
Clutter busting
Homeschooling with toddlers
and a whold bunch more

This is a ton of inspirational and practical stuff--check it out!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Perfect Unschooling Day

Here is another one of my "posts from the vault." This was written back in January 2008. Enjoy!

Yesterday was just the kind of day that I love. My 9 year old son woke up full of ideas about a story he wanted to write. I set him up on Word and he got to work, writing his story of Paulie's Adventures. Paulie is a penguin who finds buried treasure! My 11 year old daughter got into the act, helping him with some of the typing and spelling, and then she started making illustrations on Paint. She did a good job, too!

Every now and then they would come out to ask me how to spell something, or how to make their pictures turn up where they needed them to in the story, etc.

By the end of the day they had two finished books (the other was a cookbook by my daughter) and they were just beaming with happiness. My daughter told me that she knew she had really learned a lot about how to use the computer and the programs. That was especially encouraging to hear because up til this point she has really had a hard time understanding that she is learning even if there isn't a number grade or a star sticker to prove it. I have tried to explain to her many times that you don't need to be graded to prove you know stuff, but it sunk in on it's own when she could experience it in that way.

Later in the day my daughter got out a drawing program that we had been given, and started working on drawing with charcoal. She really loved it and did quite well.

Overall, the perfect unschooling day. If I had said, "Today for Language Arts you have to write a story" it might not have come at a time when they were inspired. By allowing them to run with the winds of inspiration they got so much more out of the experience, and are still writing books today. I love that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A little bit 'o culture

One of the things I love about Netflix is the wide variety of films and cultural experiences I can share with my children.

Tonite we are watching Cirque Du Soleil's Dralion performance from 2000. It's been fun to share this with them, since our opportunities to see CDS are fairly limited here in Kentucky. :)

Now I have several would-be contortionists and balancing acts going on in my family room.....

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's Bloggy Giveaway Time!

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

Welcome to Supermom's Homeschool Blog! I'm a homeschooling mom of six children (ages 5-16) and just started this blog recently because I wanted a specific place to share my homeschooling ideas with other moms. So, I don't have any cool or fancy blog design yet, but I do have a lot of good stuff here and lots more will be coming up in the next few months. So, come back and visit me, ok? :)

This week I'm giving away a collection of things homeschool moms like! One winner will get a package containing:
The Old Schoolhouse magazine Fall 2008
The Old Schoolhouse magazine Summer 2008
Sonlight catalog 2008
The Family Mercantile Catalog (this is really neat and has lots of homeschool businesses represented in it)

In order to enter this giveaway, you need to leave me a comment telling me one thing you wish you had help for, as a homeschooling mom.

Make sure that your comment includes your email address or a link to your blog so I can notify you if you win! I'll be picking a winner probably on Nov. 2. USA addresses only, please. Thanks!

Want to visit my other giveaways? Check 'em out:
The Baby Boutique Blog: Giving away a Belly Hugger!
Supermom's Health and Wellness Blog: Giving away our most popular item for moms!
Supermom's No-Lice Advice: help for keeping the cooties away!
One Dollar Doggie Adoption: Sharpie marker set!

Teaching Textbooks--We Love It!

My daughter used Horizons math last year, and although she was able to do it, she did not enjoy it. When we found out about Teaching Textbooks this year, we were very interested. This math curriculum comes with computer CDs that feature a human voice speaking and teaching the lesson, with graphics and words on the screen. All of the lesson problems can be entered right into the computer program (which is great because the consumable text is quite large), and the student gets immediate feedback about whether or not their answer was correct. The student can also choose to get an explanation of the problem if they did not understand it, and can get hints if they need help.

At the end of each lesson there is a cute little celebratory animation, such as penguins doing the limbo, or animal characters dancing in a conga line. Very cute and entertaining.

The best part of all was that my daughter LOVES the program. She was so excited about it, squealing "I just LOOOOVE this! It's so fun! I want to do math like this all the time!" She did 7 lessons in a row. :)

It was really easy to install, and best of all, it works on our older laptop, which is a major plus since she won't have to get onto one of the computers that is in use more often.

It has been about 4-5 months since my daughter started using Teaching Textbooks and we are still loving it. She is getting the kind of instruction she had been wanting, and I have a built-in helper to tutor and teach my daughter math. It is a big help to me to know that she is getting what she needs, and I have one less thing to have to be totally hands-on about. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kids...They Never Stop Surprising Me

This post is from May 2007. I love this sort of thing and wanted to share it with you.

Yesterday my almost-9-year-old asked me if we could go to the library so he could get some books to read. I mentioned that we have tons of great books right on our shelf that he could check out. (Apparently he did not realize that we had books that might be of interest to him)

A few minutes later he comes upstairs with a book about Hudson Taylor (famous missionary to China) that was given to my husband by his parents in 1978. (Same age as my son is now) He dug right in and started reading, and is now hooked! He's been going around with the book, periodically telling me what page he's on, sometimes reading a line or two to me in his stilted stop-and-start outloud reading voice of a second grader, or tells me things like, "So Hudson said that God told him to go to China, so he's going to GO!"

This is the child that a year ago seemed like reading was never going to click. And here he is picking a random book off the shelf and gobbling it up. Too fun. I'm loving this.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Great Homeschool Videos

One of our favorite free resources is Great Homeschool Videos. They have a really nice collection of fun, interesting, and educational youtube videos that we have really enjoyed. They are always adding stuff, and I have often been able to incorporate their videos into something that we are learning, or expanding it into a bigger learning opportunity. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life--Book Review

Marilyn Rockett is the encouraging big sister that every homeschool mom

Whether you're new to homeschooling, or just need some fresh inspiration,
Marilyn brings it to you in her new book Homeschooling At The Speed of Life.

With an encouraging, accepting, and inspirational style, Marilyn shares from
her ups and downs raising four sons and homeschooling. She's so great at
respecting that each family really needs to find what works for them, while
also offering up tricks and tips that have worked for her through the years.

I started homeschooling over 10 years ago, so have pretty much "read it all."
However, Marilyn's book had the combination of ideas, reminders, and
inspiration that I needed to refresh my journey as a wife, mom, and home
educator. The complimentary CD-rom that comes with the book is super-easy to use and has a ton of helpful forms to help you get organized, stay organized, and keep your focus.

I highly recommend this book to every homeschool mom, whether you need help getting off to the right start, or if you're a veteran homeschooler that would appreciate some encouragement and a breath of fresh air!

You can check out Marilyn's web site and book here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Counting Coins

We have a large jar of coins that we have been adding to for years. We first started it as our "Disney fund" because the kids said they wanted to go to Disney World. One day I got the kids gathered around the table and we sorted, stacked, and counted all the money, and then put it into coin wrappers. This is such a good, fun, practical way to reinforce math concepts with a wide age range of kids:

The littlest ones get counting practice
The older ones get skip counting practice
They can also get lots of multiplication and addition practice
And don't forget the manual dexterity that it takes to handle all of those coins and put them in the coin wrappers!

And it's just a fun time to listen to some music, talk, laugh, and feel rich. :)

Before we got started we wrote down our estimation of how much money there would be in the jar. Guesses ranged from something around $8 on up to $60. We were all pretty excited to see that we ended up with $82 wrapped, plus a lot more that we had run out of wrappers for!

Now we plan to take a trip over to the bank to open a special savings account for our Disney trip. $82 down and thousands to go......

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Helping Our Community...Whether it costs me my sanity or not

I wrote this in July 2008, when we had just begun our work at the food pantry. I'm happy to report that it does go more smoothly now that we are more used to it, PLUS I now have a wonderful adult helper that joins us on our shift. Having two adults makes a huge difference in this endeavor!

Back when I had mostly really young children, I looked forward to the day when we could do some community service or church service activities to bless others with the people-power that a family of eight can provide. Now that my baby is a strapping five year old, I think we've arrived.

The kids have helped take down chairs at church for well over a year by now, and I've been keeping my eyes open for other opportunities.

A few months ago when my ten year old son was playing baseball we noticed that the ball park was really littered up (mainly because garbage can bags were not getting changed often enough, so there was just a whole bunch of garbage all over the ground by the cans). I decided to be proactive. The next time we went to the ball park we can armed with grocery sacks and rubber gloves. I explained to the kids that I thought it would be cool if we could help out our community by picking up garbage for a little while as we watched their brother's game. My little boys were totally pumped up, like picking up garbage was the highlight of their life! (Simple pleasures are the best, they say!)

When we got to the ball field, the garbage cans had fresh bags and all the garbage around them had been picked up. Oh no! The kids were so disappointed. (seriously!) Until I pointed out that there was plenty of litter all along the fence lines, etc. So they were back in business, with my 8 year old saying to his brothers, "C'mon! Let's go help our community!!"

They were so cute.

Now that baseball season is done (thank you, Jesus) we've got a lot of time on our hands. And since we live pretty far away from all the homeschool classes, we don't have a single thing on our regular weekly schedules. And the local Emergency Food Pantry got on my radar.

I asked some questions, and found out that they had an urgent need for someone to work at the food pantry on Wednesdays for one hour.

So guess who volunteered?


The first week I went alone so that I could get a feel for the "lay of the land" and to figure out how I could get the kids involved there. After that week I started taking the kids with me.

At the food pantry, we do several things. First of all, here are the shelves that hold food:

There is actually a bigger area with more food, but for whatever reason, the way they do it is to stock these smaller shelves with all of the items that go into the back Emergency Food boxes.

There is a list that tells us how many cans of this and boxes of that should do into each box. The kids have really loved making a bucket brigade to pass along the box items from the shelves into the boxes.

Here's one of the boxes we put together: (my daughter, doing her Vanna imitation)

After the boxes are ready, they sit and wait for people to come and get 'em. Some weeks we've had just one person come in. Some days (like yesterday) we were swamped and were super busy the whole time. (In addition to stocking the shelves and making up the boxes, when people come in I have them do some paperwork and find out what their needs are. Often we help people get the food to their cars as well.)

My kids love this rolling cart that is often used so that people can roll their food out to their cars, rather than carry it. In addition to the box of stuff we put together, there are also government commodities that some people get. It can be a pretty big amount of stuff, and would be too heavy for most people to carry to their cars.

Unfortunately, the combination of rolling carts and little boys can be a stressful one. I am constantly having to get my boys to stop pushing the cart around the small food pantry area. There are also rolling dollies that provide a constant temptation to my little hooligans.

In the weeks that we have been going to the food pantry I have tried to improve my preparation level each time. Bring water. Bring a snack. (the first week the kids started telling me how starved they were as soon as they started seeing all the food boxes we were putting together for others....nice and embarrassing!) Bring an activity for down times. (If it's a slow day for people coming in, then there isn't much to do, which can be pretty boring.)

Yesterday I brought a fresh loaf of applesauce bread, coloring books, crayons, and a Mad Libs book. Foolishly I forgot the water. And a cattle prod.

Although there was so much work to do, (and their favorite kind--putting together the boxes) two of my younger boys were really boogers. They fought over the coloring books. They complained because the bread wasn't cool enough to eat. They did not want to work. At one point I turned around to find the 5, 7, and 8 year olds missing. (They had taken off to find the bathroom without telling me. I never let them go off on their own like that! Talk about stress...)

In short, it was very. frustrating. In fact, I had a momentary thought that I am just not going to do this. But of course, that was before I remembered that there is absolutely no reasonable excuse why my children cannot be helpful and well behaved for one hour a week of work at the food pantry. Heck--they do work at home, and they know how to behave at home. I have no idea what came over them yesterday to be so wretched.

So between now and next Wednesday I need to up my game. Will there be an incentive reward of some type for children that do their job at the food pantry cheerfully? Will they get some sort of punishment if they do not? I am flirting with the idea of letting them miss a meal or two and then see if they have a little more compassion for hungry people that need help. I probably won't do that, but when I was walking out of there yesterday it was sounding quite tempting to me.

I assured the children that I am NOT giving up on this. We have the ability to be a blessing to others, and an opportunity to learn to serve. Somehow, we're going to figure this thing out. What I'm telling myself is that if I stick with it, it will get easier, and the lessons and habits learned will be well worth the struggles.

That's true, right?


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homeschool--Where the Style Is

One of the perks to homeschooling is that it doesn't matter what anybody wears. Mom can go around in her PJs all day and still teach algebra and read great books. The kids can wear the same clothes they wore for the past three days and nobody complains. Not that either of these things would happen at my house, of course, but in theory, it could.

Behold my youngest on a recent school day:
The ordinary shirt and shorts were complimented by zany Spiderman socks, a beaded necklace, and a homemade Indian headdress.

Later the look morphed into this:

Yes, that's a homemade loin cloth, folks. It's easy to make! All you need is a pair of underwear that mom doesn't mind if you cut and tape. Add some fabric pieces, adorned with markered Indian pictographs. Just use some duct tape along the waist band to hold the fabric in place. Next, slice the underwear up the sides so that people can get a convenient peek at your nether regions. Voila! Your loin cloth is complete.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Freebie Friday: Scott Foresman Grammar and Writing

Hey folks!

I found out about this nice resource online that is FREE! It's the Scott Foresman Grammar and Writing Workbooks for grades 1-6. Check it out here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Investing In Our Children

I wanted to share this article with you that I wrote back in early 2008. Enjoy!

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that the children have enough time to come up with their own interesting things to do. Not everyone has the slow pace of life that my family enjoys, but for us, having large periods of time that are not scheduled is a really great thing. I get to enjoy seeing my children put on shows (which usually feature costumes, singing, dance routines, and their own plays that they wrote, directed, and act in), see them play "town" (where they make their own money, jobs, rules, etc.), make up games, create things, and a lot more.

Today we were at Walmart to get some groceries, and my 3rd and 5th graders reminded me that they needed more fabric. And duct tape. And a few other things. They love to make their own costumes and clothes. We have an old sewing machine that was given to us by a friend years ago, and sometimes they can use it, but oftentimes they just hand sew. They have made some pretty cool stuff, too. My daughter (11 years old) makes clothes for her American Girl Kaya doll, and my 9 year old son has made some excellent loin cloths for himself and his brothers to dress up as Indians in. :) Today he needed more white fleece material, plus some leopard print fleece, in order to make more Indian clothes. My daughter found some silky pink fabric that she fell in love with, and believed she needed two yards of that. One thing led to another and before I knew it we were looking at patterns, and then purchasing one, plus all the fabric and notions so that she can sew more clothes for Kaya. (Although I'm not much of a seamstress, my mom used to sew for our family all the time when I was a kid, so I do actually know how to read the back of the patterns and figure out what we need to buy. Thanks Mom!)

I was working with a budget for this week's groceries, as usual. I saw these fabric purchases adding up. But I saw how inspired they were getting, and I knew that I didn't want to say, "sorry....we are only going to spend $X on this right now." I did put a few limits on things (what they REALLY got excited about was a new sewing machine!), but overall we were able to get what they wanted.

Now that the groceries have been brought in and put away, they are already at work creating. My 9 year old just came in to show me his leopard print outfit (loin cloth and arm bands--it looks very good!).

Know what? We got everything we needed, plus I was able to invest in my children's creativity and enthusiasm. We never know what that might develop into in their lives, plus it makes for some sweet memories. And, know what? I only went $4 over my budget. :) No prob!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It just wouldn't be a homeschool day if somebody didn't end up in tears....

I wrote this back in September 2007, when I was just homeschooling two of my children after they had been in public school for a couple years. Thankfully we do not have too many teary days any more, but I thought this would be worth sharing, just to contribute to the "Keepin' It Real" category. :)

Today I've hit the jackpot, with both of my little homeschoolers crying during school time. If things keep going like they have been, I might burst into tears myself, thereby achieving a homeschool hat trick.

Despite the good curriculum I have, my complete unwillingness to make my children to meaningless busy work, my good sense of humor, having things be totally quiet here from 10:15-2:45 every day....STILL somebody starts crying about something.

My son cried because of his math, spelling, and language arts. He's now acting like I've asked him to swim the English channel with one arm tied behind his back because I asked him to write his remaining spelling words three times each.

My daughter cried because she got one word wrong on her spelling test, and later because she did not like it that I was going over her mistakes with her from her Wordly Wise book. Last week she complained that I was not doing enough actual teaching. This week she is complaining because I dared to try to teach her something.

A few minutes ago she came down here, red-faced and teary-eyed, to read me the two essays she just wrote. The first was entitled "Why Homeschool Stinks" and the second was "Why I Miss School."

To contrast that, my preschooler is now on a campaign to drop out of school. Most little 4 year olds might say something like, "I don't want to go to school tomorrow" before they go to bed, and you get them to stop talking about it by saying something like, "Well, let's think about it and we can talk about it in the morning" and then by morning the kid has forgotten all about it. I don't have one of those kids. I have the kid who comes to me first thing in the morning, rubbing his sleepy little eyes, and says, "So. Did you think about letting me stay home today? Because I still don't want to go to school." And here I am doing one of the things I never wanted to do, which is basically coercing/forcing a 4 year old to go to school even if he doesn't want to. And WHY am I doing that? So that I can homeschool the kid that writes "Why Homeschool Stinks" essays. Yeah. Good times.

**Adding some more info now. My daughter's main complaints about homeschooling are directly related to the differences between the way she was taught at school as compared to the way we do things here. She is missing being graded (which proves she is smart and learning, or so she thinks), having her time regimented, and things like that. It's a normal thing for her to feel this way and I completely understand. But I have no intention of giving up on her or our homeschooling.

After she calmed down a bit I went to ask her what things we could adjust to make homeschooling better. Once she got past her initial answer that absolutely nothing could make homeschooling bearable for her, she had some very school-ish suggestions. (start school at 7:35 am, keep grades for everything, have specific class times and schedule, etc.) Then the phone rang and her best friend called. When she got off the phone she was looking kind of funny and said, "So. Guess what they studied in science today? Reproduction!! I am SO glad that I wasn't there for THAT!" hahahahahaaha I love it that she got that reminder of why the grass isn't always greener on the other side....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Magical Poker Chips

I have found a chore currency and good-behavior incentive all rolled into one: Poker Chips.

I started out last year with the super cheap ones that are white, red, and blue. (found them at Walmart by the playing cards and games) Now that I have five kids at home full time I got the heavier, more expensive set that has five different colored chips. Each of my at-home kids has a color for their school stuff. (more about that later) The kids have opportunities to earn a chip for things like getting their chores done properly and on time, getting their school work done without fussing, and so on. Pretty much any time I need to dangle a carrot or want to give a reward, I use the chips.

Later on the chips can be used a currency to buy goodies from our Treasure Box. The Treasure Box is only open on Saturday, and contains snacks, candy, little toys, or fun things like Little Dover Books of temporary tattoos. Basically, when I see something cheap that I know they will like, I purchase it and add it to the box.

I have set up the prices in the box to roughly have one chip equal something that costs me 25 cents. I will admit that I put higher chip prices on items that I want them to get less of (candy) and lower prices on items I would rather have them pick (not candy). The Treasure Box is ever-evolving, and they are always surprised by the things I have added to it through the week.

So far I have had pretty good success with using the chips for:
-getting chores done
-getting schoolwork done
-being a good worker when we go to the food pantry to work each week
-going to bed without any nonsense ***** (Glory! Glory! This is worth gold chips!)

Try it and see how it works for you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Math Monday: Timez Attack

Several weeks ago my 10 year old son needed some help learning multiplication facts, so I turned to my friend Google to see what I could find. We got a free download of this cool game Timez Attack and boy howdy does he love it. It is set up a lot like a playstation game and I would say is extremely appealing to boys in general. Seems like a good tool, and he was out of his mind with excitement that he could play Timez Attack and it would count for school. :) Check it out!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Inspirational Article

I was initially inspired by this article over a year ago, and it continues to inspire me today.

If you are thinking about homeschooling, or needing a fresh burst of reasons to soldier on, go get some refreshment! This is just so rich, down-to-earth, and wonderful.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Homeschooling ABCs

Yesterday I found out about a wonderful resource that I think will make a huge difference for those of you that are homeschool moms who aren't feeling quite as confident and at peace with the way things are going in your home school this year.

The Homeschooling ABCs course offers you 26 weeks of ideas, direction, and encouragement in your inbox to help you, PLUS over $200 worth of free curriculum and resources!

Check it out here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We love Times Tales!

My 10 year old son tends to struggle with math. Though we've found many tools along the way that have definitely helped him, it's still pretty slow going on a typical school day.

Lately he has had trouble learning multiplication facts, so I was on the lookout for a way to help him. I was reminded of Times Tales, which I've been aware of for quite awhile but hadn't ever seen in person. I decided to get their original set that covers upper 6, 7, 8, and 9 times tables, to see how it would work.

The system arrived, I started looking it over, and promptly could not understand what it was going to do to help my kid learn math facts. I half-distractedly read some of the instruction booklet and really, really didn't understand how it would work. The next morning I looked at it some more and was thinking that I wondered how quickly I could sell it to someone else. ;) But then I decided to just follow the instructions, even though it wasn't making sense to me, and just see what would happen.

My 8 and 10 year old boys sat down with me while we went step by step through the program. After a few minutes I was starting to see how it was going to work. And within 40 minutes BOTH of those boys knew EVERY multiplication fact for numbers 6-9! My 8 year old was smiling from ear to ear, all excited about how "Now I learned multiplication!" and he's only in second grade, so isn't even up to multiplication yet. The 10 year old was more subdued....sort of mildly amazed that his brain had been tricked into learning something. His regular math lesson went easier than usual, and I was pretty darn excited.

Basically, the program works using mnemonic devices and little stories to help the child remember math facts. It's quite clever. The set I got is their older set which just covers numbers 6-9, but tonite I'm ordering the supplement that covers 3s and 4s. It's not expensive, is non-consumable, so is an easy, helpful purchase to use for all of the kids.

40 minutes!! Can you believe that? Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Muffin Tin Meals--How Fun!

I found this post about using muffin tins to make fun meals for kids and thought it was really inspirational. You could do tons of cool stuff with with these ideas.

My "baby" is 5 now, but I think all of my kids would enjoy this idea.

What would you put in a muffin tin meal?

(now I need to go dig up all of my muffin tins, and figure out how many more I will need to buy in order to have one for each child.....)