2nd Grade Finance Lesson


Stationary for the Craft Fair

I should totally be in bed right now.  But I was eager to put pen to paper and share this great moment in homeschooling today…

So this weekend, my daughter (2nd grade) will be a vendor in her first craft show.  For 5 weeks she’s been making rainbow-loom bracelets, collecting eggs from our 30 chickens and crafting stationary from her art projects.  In an effort to teach her the relationship between income and expenses, I sat her down this morning with receipts in hand.  I wanted to show her what I had spent to get her ready for this show.

$24.00 – printing (stationary)
$27.00 – egg cartons (fancier egg cartons than your avg run of the mill)
$10 – craft fair booth fee
$12 – rainbow-loom rubber bands

Total expenses: $73.00

I then explained that these are monies she owes me to help reimburse my cost.  With that her eyes filled with tears.  “It’s not fair!  I don’t have the money, and I don’t know how I’m going to pay you.”

“Hold on, hold on,” I quickly said.  “Your expenses are just half the story.  Let’s now talk about your potential profit – the money you will get once you sell your inventory.

Stationary – $40
Eggs – $48
Rainbow Loom bracelets – $40

Total potential revenue: $128.00
Less Expenses: $73.00
Net Profit: $55.00 (+ a real living, breathing education in finance!!!)

Seeing the potential, her tears faded and a huge smile broke out on her face!  She now understood how it all worked.  She then said (and mind you we only have 2 days before the show) excitedly, “Oh – can I make more stationary or bracelets? ‘Cause if I work more, I could make more money!”  Smiling, I said slowly, “You got it!”

So on Saturday comes the fun part – the selling!  And of course more education to come…marketing her items for sale with signage and pricing, welcoming her customers with a smile and answering any questions they have, and making change for the customer, just to name a few.  I’m excited to watch education LIVE Saturday morning as she puts together all she’s learned.  And in the process – hopefully make a profit!  But then again – in the game of life – that doesn’t always happen either and there are grand lessons to learn down that road, too!  Stay tuned…

The 5 Best Reasons to Travel with Kids

Road tripping with young children is no small feat.  In addition to your clothes and other needed items, there’s the stroller, the pillows, the toys and books (we all want happy riders), the movies and music, the cooler full of snacks and drinks, charge cords for all our mobile devices, oh and of course, the kids!

This last summer, when we set out on our exciting east coast road trip (Liberty Bell in PA, Washington Crossing the Delaware in NJ, Natural History Museum in NYC, etc), I had my itinerary all planned out.  Each day was accounted for with either driving or sight seeing, and we were all excited!  I was sure I had thought of everything.

However, as we journeyed, I was happy to learn I had not thought of it all!  I knew our trip would be educational, but I had no idea how many academic “fringe benefits” there’d be!

A fantastic travel game for kids 5 and up!

The 50 States:  For starters, I had ordered the “Wee Sing America” CD (Pamela Conn Beall) from our library.  In my americanly romantic mind, I thought it would be fun to listen to these patriotic songs as we traversed through the historical, revolutionary roads.  Additionally, as a fun gift for the kids, I purchased Melissa and Doug’s License Plate Game.  The wonderfully thought out game added so much to our hours spent on the road.  For each car or truck we passed during our 3000 mile trip, I had both my 7 and 5 year old reading the plates and exclaiming which state they had just seen.  And as it turned out (which was totally unplanned) there was a “states song” on the CD which my son and daughter fell in love with. Because we were talking so much about the states with the license plate game, they naturally wanted to put these state names to song.  So within a week, they had learned ALL the 50 states, in alphabetical order, with great joy!  That was not part of my educational syllabus – but hey – I’ll take it!

Elevator Etiquette:  I don’t know about you, but I find “social etiquette” and children don’t naturally go together.  There’s time and training that is needed to achieve a happy balance.  So with each hotel we stayed at there were elevators which allowed us to practice the importance of elevator etiquette numerous times a day.  In a short time, my children learned that when waiting for an elevator you stand back and wait to the riders to exit – rather than push on like elephants.  Likewise, once you get on board, they had to take “happy” turns pushing the buttons or that privilege was taken away.  Great motivation to do the right thing the first time!


Hotel Room Numbers:  What a great math lesson this was!  Once we arrived on the floor where our room was each night, we began letting our kids take the key card and do the figuring out of where we’d be spending the night.  We’d walk off the elevator and see the list of room numbers: 401-429 to the right and 430-450 to the left.  We talked about odd and even numbers as well as greater than and less than.  From the number on our key card, the kids figured out which direction our room was (odd or even = left or right) and then had to decide if we need to walk a far ways to our room or if it would be close to the elevator.  It was real life math!!

Organization: To make our mornings smooth, it was each child’s job to know the next day’s activity and to pull out the clothes they needed for that activity; whether it be a long car ride, a day at the Liberty Bell, a day in NYC or just a down day.  They began to use their anticipation skills and pre-plan for their own needs in the future.  Really – exercising that independence skill I strive to teach them daily.

Additionally, this meant they needed to sort through and organize their car pack for whatever items they wanted close to them during the car ride.  They needed to grab their books, music, toys, etc that they thought they’d use the next day.  Again, thinking ahead and becoming self-sufficient.

NO Instant Gratification:  Good or bad, instant Gratification doesn’t exist on road trips.  Instead, car rides help children understand that not everything happens within a couple hours – like a plane ride.  They learn how much distance exists between states and destinations.  And with that stretch of highway comes time.  A blessed thing!  That opportunity of time allows kids to again exercise their muscle of patience and self-sufficientcy.  They learn to entertain themselves.  I loved the natural rhythm that evolved as we drove each day.  The early excitement in the morning as we began our day, the slow settling into the drive and sinking into a good book, sticker project, coloring activity, or new toy, and then the shift into playing with one another.  They learned to entertain themselves or each other with the simpliest of things.

At the end of out trip – we drove from NJ to STL in one day – 17 beautiful hours!  But after about 11 hours of driving, our 10 month old was tired and bored of his toys.  “Enter knee highs!”  I had some knee highs in a bag which my kids found.  They got the idea to tie them together and then across the inside of the car (from hand rail to hand rail).  They then strung toys on it so the baby could reach out and play with the toys.  And happily it worked.  Hey – it all comes down to the marketing, right?  How ideas are presented.  Change up the angle or the way the toys are played with and it’s a new toy.  But that little discovery would not have come about if we were on the plane.

Our east coast trip was one of our most favorite trips to date.  We had so many happy, fun, inspiring, sweet family times that I’d do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance.  In fact, we’re planning a “Westward-Ho” summer road trip for 2014!  Stay-tuned!  I bet there are more “fringe-benefits” when traveling with kids to be discovered!  Have you traveled with kid-lets and what benefits have you found?

REAL History

This fall in homeschooling, we’ve been studying influential leaders in American History.  Because we studied about George Washington and the Revolutionary War this summer, it seemed appropriate to then study the Civil War this fall.

We’ve loved studying all about the Confederate and the Union soldiers, the role women played in caring for and supporting their troops, and the role children played during this time – helping out at home on the farm or becoming an integral part of the war as a drummer boy.  We’ve dug deep into Abraham Lincoln and the great moral courage he expressed to help free the slaves and reconstitute the United States.  We visited his Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL.  We’ve read dozens of children’s books about the joys and hardships this era produced on our people.

In fact today, we had a Civil War “festival” where we wrote with quill pens, created “paper” quilts, made hard-tack (a hard, crusty cracker that was bland in every sense of the word but something you’d love on the battle field if you were hungry enough) and yes, we even ate baked squirrel as part of our lunch.  They did that kind of thing back then.  (And because what country bump-kin’ has frozen squirrels in their freezer?  Um…yeah – that would be us.  Well, at least it’s locally raised.  That’s somethin’ right?!)

Anyway, while my kids and I are no experts on this time period, we’ve developed a love and an appreciation for what our brothers and sisters did during that time.  I can only speak for myself, but all romantic longings to live in a “simpler time” have been cured for me.  I honestly don’t know how they did it back then…but I am sure grateful for their tenacity, courage, and bravery.

But let me get to the point of my writing tonight….

An added bonus to our study arrived in the mail last week!  I recently learned that a family member of mine has dug deep to learn more about our family history.  In fact, she happened to have a first hand account of our family story as told by my great grandmother and lovingly sent us a copy of this incredible story.

One morning during our home-schooling time, I sat my 7 year old daughter down on the couch with me.  I explained that while we’ve been studying about the 1850s-1860s, I was going to share with her something very special.  Through the words in her story, Ella Dodge Avery, my daughter’s great-great-great grand-mother, born in 1853, shares with us her story as if she were sitting on the couch right next to us.

We learned that when Ella was 15, they moved to Owatonna where she and her parents lived in “a little low house (one story – a front room with 2 beds, a kitchen, a closet and a pantry).”  Her family then moved on to Litchfield, MN “when it was a simple prairie.”  Ella shared that “one man said he felt sorry for the women folks because it was so windy that their wide skirts flew about and puffed up like balloons.”

As I read this first page to my daughter, she asked, “This was MY great-great-great grandmother?  Mine?”

I confirmed, “Yes, sweets.  Your great-great-great grandmother.”

Still not quite believing, she continued, “My REAL family member?  Like this is part of our family?”  Laughing, I continued the story and she, riveted, was on the edge of her seat.

At one point, my daughter jumped up off her chair and went dashing up stairs.  I asked her where she was going to which she replied, “Hold on…”  In a moment she brought back a presidential flip book I had purchased for her which explained who was president and when.  She was hungry to learn who was president when Ella was a little girl.  She learned it was Franklin Pierce.  Then we did the math and then realized that Ella was about 8 years old when President Lincoln was elected.  I could see the wheels spinning…”So Ella was about my age when President Lincoln was elected,” my daughter said slowly.  “Yes, that’s right,” I replied.  It was like she was touching history…REAL history.  Not history from a book but her history.  It was a powerful moment.

I could see, as I continued reading, that my daughter began to see herself in Ella.  She saw how hard Ella worked to take care of her “always sick mother” and her sickly sister, Flora, who basically sat in a chair for three years.  And at this same time, Ella was widowed and had a baby of her own.  She took care of all three of them – all the while “making all their clothes.”

I could see my daughter was now not just learning history, she was beginning to define her own character and take pride in the strength of her great-great grandmother.  This is what educating is all about – making the learning real and impactful.  This is REAL history, and we each have it.  I’m curious, what have you discovered about your family history that has made an impact on you?

We THANK them!

It’s not everyday that you get to stand in a place, a specific spot, and know that your life is what it is today because of an event that happened here over 237 years ago.  This summer my family got to do just that!  We had the awesome opportunity to visit Washington Crossing Historical Park in Washington Crossing, PA.

Weeks before we drove up to the park, my 4 year old and my 7 year old and I researched and read (children’s) stories about General George Washington and his army.

We knew that in the winter of 1776, the War for Independence was failing.  General Washington and his army knew only defeat and discouragement.  Early on in December of 1776, he and his men were forced to retreat across the Delaware River into PA.  Cold, wet, many soldiers hardly clothed, and with very little food, this was not the likely sight of war heroes and flags waving.  In fact, Washington saw his army shrinking daily due to desertions and enlistments expiring.  How’s that for a happy Christmas?

But on December 25th, after much deliberation and preparation, and truly most of the odds totally against him, Washington and his men began to cross the Delaware.  “Ok,” you say, “I know that story.  So he crossed, they fought, they won and the rest is history.”  But no, that’s not it!  That’s not the whole picture.

So my kids, my husband and I are standing right next to McConkey’s Ferry Inn.  It’s a beautiful grey stone, house-like two-story building, with a simple pediment over the front door and an ice-house right next to it.  Beautiful park like setting.  But you close your eyes and there’s so much more…

This is the spot…RIGHT HERE…in 1776 on Christmas night at 6:00 PM (about the time you and I sit down to our Christmas dinner with family), when 2,400 troops began assembling for the crossing of the Delaware.  The river was choked with ice.  Flat, sharp jagged pieces flowing down river.  A blinding snow storm blows in, sleet, wind.  There are no Ugg boots for these men, no wool hats to protect their head and ears, no NorthFace water-proof down jackets, no.  They are lucky to have their wet wool coats and thin leather boots.  Maybe socks – but they’re wet, too.  Dinner before a big fight?  Probably not.  Oh, and some men are not even wearing shoes.  They are bare-foot.  Feet are bleeding and yet they are still walking in the snow.  In fact – not just walking.  They are loading guns and cannons and cannons balls and horses on to heavy Durham boats.  And these boats were not custom made for this fight…nope.  These boats were usually used to carry pig iron down the Delaware River.  The troops just grabbed what they could.

So as I am standing by the Inn in this lush green grass, I see a small trail that leads down to the river.  I grab my kids hands and we head down the path.  “Where are we going, Mom?” my four year old asks.  “On an adventure!” I reply.


I took them to the river’s edge.  There was a log that had drifted up.  We sat down – them on either side of me.  I asked them to be quiet for a moment.  We just looked out over the water.  It was a gorgeous day.  And then I began to tell them what you just read above.  I wanted them to imagine the immense hardship, the infinite odds against these amazing men, the blizzard like weather…and how it didn’t stop these guys.  There was a passion in their hearts that would. not. die!  “These are the times that try men’s souls…” said Thomas Paine in “The Crisis” on December 23, 1776.*


We sat there in silence.  This was the place, this was the spot on the river, where history took a hard right turn.  This bold move by General Washington changed the tide of the war in the American’s favor.  It reignited the cause for freedom and rushed new life to the American Revolution.  We are Americans, free and fortunate to be living in this great country.  We THANK them for their ultimate sacrafice!  And on that beautiful, peaceful day by the river, my family and I did just that!


*The Crisis by Thomas Paine

(This is just a small portion of Paine’s article, The Crisis.  Google it, if you want to read the whole post.)

December 23, 1776
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

The Birth of Two Young Patriots

At the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA

At the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA

Since the beginning of July, our homeschool began studying the Revolutionary War and surrounding time period.  One symbol we gave significant amount of study to was the Liberty Bell and George Washington.  So, during our homeschooling road-trip, we went to Philadelphia, PA to specifically see the Liberty Bell.  During our study of the bell, we:

  • Read children’s books about the bell
  • Learned that it weighs over 2,000 pounds…(and they managed to move it down from its tower and into a wooden wagon!  Amazing!)
  • Learned that the British wanted to seize the bell to melt it into ammunition.  In its day, it was considered the “Mother Load” of bells and the Americans went to great lengths to protect it and themselves should the bell fall into enemy hands.  So…
  • …During the revolutionary war, the bell was secretly removed from Liberty Hall in PA and hidden away (under the floor boards of a church) until after the war.
  • Learned that to move the bell in secret, it was hidden in a wooden wagon under a hoop skirt and hay so it was disguised like a pile of hay.
  • And Lastly, we learned that the Liberty Bell had its last clear note rung on February 23, 1846. It was rung to commemorate the birthday of George Washington.

Because of our study, my children understood this was not just a bell…it was a symbol of determination by the people of America to preserve and protect their freedom.  Our American brothers went to great lengths to hide it from the enemy and rang their bell proudly when the war was over.  And through the stories and facts, my kids came to love this bell, this American symbol of freedom, of heart-pounding passion.

Having read stories and learned all the facts, having seen pictures of it in books, and after driving almost 1,000 miles, we finally arrived at the Liberty Bell Center.  We walked down the corridor towards the bell.  Like waiting to see an old friend at the airport whom you haven’t seen in a long while, my children were eagerly anticipating their first encounter with “the bell.”  I could tell their excitement mounted as they walked briskly to see this symbol in the “flesh”.

And then…the waiting was over.  There it was.  Both of their paces  slowed – almost to a stop.  They were unaware of the people all around.  My four year old son’s jaw dropped.  My daughter just stared.  Their eyes were fixed…it was real!  That was it!  It was really real!  I don’t mean to sound corny or overly patriotic.  This is exactly how it happened.  And to be honest, I was amazed at how taken they were with this moment.At the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA

As I stood behind them, watching them more than the bell, my eyes blurred.  They were looking at the bell, but saw so much more!  As a parent, this was a moment frozen in time.  They had captured the spirit, felt (if even for a moment) the passion cast into this bell.

As the privileged parent of these wonderful little people, their inspired moment has inspired me with further resolve to continue teaching them true American History.  Just as we were clamoring for Patriots to fight the embolden British over 230 years ago, so today we search for modern day patriots to preserve the freedoms we hold today.  How privileged I feel to have witnessed the birth of two more young patriots on this special day!

Road-trippin’…Homeschool Style

ImageBack in the fall, I learned that one of my cousins would be getting married the following summer in New Jersey.  Simultaneously, my husband and I were reading Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fisher.  As we became more and more inspired by the heroic acts of this incredible man, George Washington, and the men and women of that day, we hungered to translate this incredible American history (which we did not receive in our school days) to our three children (ages 7, 5, and 9 months).  

It wasn’t long before we realized this summer wedding was right near all the “action” of the Revolutionary days.  My husband and I were excited that we could attend my cousin’s wedding while making a vacation out of it and educate our children about our true American history!  With that idea formulated, I began planning our revolutionary unit of study.

Deciding what sights to see
To begin our itinerary, I started with how many days we had for vacation.  We decided to take 9 days – two weekends with a week in between.  Not long enough for me…I’d be on the road for 3 months if I could – but not without my best friend and partner along side to share the fun (and the work) this trip would entail.  

With 9 days at my disposal, I began feverishly planning all the sights we could see.  My favorite trip planning sight is Trip Advisor, www.tripadvisor.com.  It has recommendations from others as to what to see, where to stay and where to eat.  Travelers rank those attractions (hotels, restaurants, etc.) and give you tips that only those who have gone before would know.  It’s a great resource!  I’ve found many great places to visit I would not have known about.  And likewise, I was able to save time and money by skipping attractions (I thought would be good) thanks to the numerous traveler reviews.  Such good info to know before hand!

Once spending a few hours researching what I wanted my kids to see, I came up with our final itinerary.  Here’s how it unfolded:

Day #1: Indianapolis, IN
Conner Prairie – 1830’s Living Village
Fishers, IN  46038

Day #2: Lancaster, PA
Driving Day…Drive from IN to Lancaster, PA – 9 hr drive
Kids to bed early for fun day tomorrow!!

Day #3: Lancaster, PA
Dutch Wonderland – Family Amusement Park
Drive to Philadelphia (1.5 hr drive)

Day #4: Philadelphia, PA
Independence Hall (Where the Constitution was signed)
See the Liberty Bell
Back to Hotel to rest
Valley Forge in the afternoon??  Perhaps a picnic dinner there?  We can do a driving tour that will take about 30-60 min.

Day #5: Trenton, NJ

Washington Crossing Historic Park

Crossing the Delaware – Grave Sites
See where George Washington crossed the Delaware
Bowman’s Hill Tower – http://www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing/visit/bowman.htm

“A 125’ tower completed in 1931 to commemorate the American Revolution.  The tower boasts a commanding view of the Delaware River and surrounding countryside.
Soldier’s Graves: Grave sites of NY Artillery Captain James Moore and many unknown soldiers of the American Revolution who died during the winter encampment of 1776-1777.”
School Lessons: http://www.eastconn.org/tah/CrossingTheDelaware.pdf
Drive to Manhattan, NY
Spend the night

Day #6: Manhattan, NY

Natural History Museum and New Jersey
American Natural History Museum – New York City
(“Homework” for the kids was to watch “Night in the Museum” while I was gone one weekend.  We will then go to this museum and see all the things that were showcased in the movie…from “Easter Island Head” to the “Capuchin Monkey” to the “African Lions” and the “T-Rex”.)
Wedding Rehearsal Dinner: 6:30 pm

Day #7: NJ
Sleep in/ Relax
Laundry/ organize
Wedding 4:30 pm

Day #8: Begin drive home

Day #9: Home

Because we have three kids of different ages and needs, I planned the trip with room for flexibility.  There were a few pieces of the trip that were in “stone” like the hotels I reserved each night, and two events that I purchased tickets for in advance.  Though I’d like to see everything, I planned more than I needed, knowing some things might get scrapped at the last minute.

I also know we’ll be back to see new things or revisit places we see this trip.  So I approach this trip with flexibility and joy.  The goal of our trip is to have fun as a family, create lasting memories, and learn along the way.

Educating to the “Trip”
Once the itinerary was set, I could begin organizing my lesson plans.  I recently discovered “lap books” which are TONS of fun because we get at the heart of the lesson but with crafts and other kids centered learning activities.  With that in mind, I found this amazing program: Time Travelers History Study Series: Revolutionary War!  It is chuck full of activities for the kids that I could tailor to their grade level.  We also checked out books – lots of them – from the library.  We centered our study on the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, Washington Crossing the Delaware, art and architecture from that time period, our Founding Fathers, and more.  There are wonderful children’s books on these topics which we would read at night before bed.  Our lesson of study lasted about 3-4 weeks.  I planned it so our studying time ended right before we departed for our trip.  I figured the information would be fresh and exciting when we see the actual Liberty Bell or see the 12′ X 21′ painting of Washington’s Crossing by Emmanuel Leutze!


How to Draw Independence Things
Crossing the Delaware: George Washington and the Battle of Trenton
Magic TreeHouse: Washington Crossing the Delaware????
When Washington Crossed the Delaware: A winter-time story for young patriots
For Liberty: The story of the Boston Massacre
Saving the Liberty Bell
A Picnic in October (Statue of Liberty)
L is for Liberty

Songs About America: Celebrating American History
Wee Sing America

Liberty Kids: Across the Delaware

As we go, day by day, I have the children write about their activities each day.  Before we left, I made journals for each child.  I purchased “traveling” and “American” stickers for them to put in their journals.  So when they write, they can add stickers or ticket stubs to their journals to personalize them.  Then we’ll add the pictures when we get home.  A perfect keep-sake for a wonderful trip!

Homeschooling: Where do I start?

Owl Unit: Illustrating Owls in our journals

Owl Unit: Illustrating Owls in our journals

Last March my husband and I were on the fence about homeschooling. We had a soon-to-be first grader that we were interested in homeschooling but weren’t sure if it was something we could do. We talked often about the pro’s and con’s – weighing what might be right for our child. I then heard about a Homeschooling Convention that would take place in April. I decided to attend to see what they had to offer.

Boy was I glad I made the time to go. During the second day of the convention, my husband and I ducked out of “class” and sat down to have a heart-to-heart about this possible decision. By attending the convention, we saw the vast amount of “teaching tools” available to parents and learned about the wonderful support for parents yearning to be successful at homeschooling. It seemed to then be an easy decision…so we said “yes” and took the plunge!

It’s now been a year. My kids and I are still “friends” and we learned tons to boot! It’s fun to look back and see all that we’ve accomplished and to see what growth I’ve had as a parent/teacher. What I didn’t know then – and what I now know…night and day.

If you’re in the middle of trying to make that decision – to homeschool or not – I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned, what resources we used and what we’re changing up this next year. Perhaps with some added info you’ll be able to make the best decision for your family for next year.

Homeschooling Laws
Before you do anything, it’s best to check out your state’s laws and regulations concerning homeschooling. Find out what age they expect from you regarding:
– what age should you start recording keeping for your student
– how many hours of instruction needed per student
if you need to keep a plan book, diary, daily log, or other written records
– the definition of a “school year” in your state
– if, when and how to notify your local school of your intent to homeschool
– and more…(just google “homeschooling laws” for your state)

One of the best parts of homeschooling is that you get to set up your own schedule. We had our 3rd baby due in October. Knowing that, and wanting to complete 9 months of instruction, I began teaching in June before the baby was due. We schooled from June through September and then “took off” October, November, December. We then began again in January and will finish up in May. While everyone was summering, we were schooling. Our “summer vacation” was Oct – Dec, and it was such fun! With all the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, life can get a little crazy. So it was very special to take those months off and really enjoy a slower paced life. We enjoyed calmer holidays and were able to spend more time baking, making Christmas gifts, focusing on the real meaning behind the Nov and Dec holidays and overall, enjoyed just being together during that time of year. I just loved the flexibility!

There are a few ways you could go with this.
1) You could do it all yourself – researching online for math, science, reading, language arts, etc.
2) You can pick one company that gives you the curriculum for all subjects and just use that one company (aka: Complete Curriculum)
3) You can use the homeschooling convention like a buffet and pick and choose what subjects you need a program for. Because I used to be a reading specialist, I didn’t feel I needed a reading program per se. But because I am NOT a math wiz, I wanted some program or guide to help me teach.

This 3rd option is the one I choose. I wanted to pick and choose which programs to buy. I found with the “complete curriculum” you may like their spelling and grammar but their math was dry and boring. So Instead of going for an all-in-one approach – I went a la carte! Here’s what I did…

A year ago, I was not sure what I was doing in math, spelling, and language arts. I used the convention to help me fill those gaps. However, this year, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I had asked other homeschooling parents what they were using and what they liked and didn’t liked about certain programs. This was a tremendous help!

This year’s convention, I felt like a pro going through the exhibit hall. I knew exactly what I was looking for and was able to purchase programs for all my kids in about one hour. I walked out satisfied I had the best programs picked for my kids. Here’s what I am doing and why:

Language arts: Five In A Row – I’ve used this program for about 3+ years and it’s phenomenal! The people at Five In A Row have scoured about 3,000 children’s books. They then picked the best ones and wrote 10+ lesson plans for each book. The basic theory is that you pick a book from their list, read it each day for a week, and each day you then pick a lesson (which they have already thought out and planned) and teach it to your kids. It’s probably one of my favorite parts of my day with my kids. We all have TONS of fun! And by the end of the week, you’ve fallen in love with the book you’ve been studying and learned so much in the process. It’s great for ages 4-8.

Math: Math U See – Another exceptional program! I wish I had learned math like the way they teach it! This program comes with a student book, student test book, manipulatives, parent/teacher guide book and CD. The CD teaches the parent how to teach the lesson (in about 2-3 min) and then you turn around and teach it to your child. The way they teach and organize how they teach is brilliant. My child feels so successful each time she completes her math that I often hear, “Mom, I love math!” I know I never felt that way about math. Two other reasons I love this program: 1) They teach to mastery. It’s not a spiral program. 2) They use manipulatives which helps the child see the math computations. Math is such an “in your head” experience that often I found it hard to find the words to explain it to my child. However, with the manipulative and the work book, my child felt so confident. And that was such a nice contrast to how she felt about herself in kindergarten when she would make comments like, “I’m not good at math” or “I don’t like math.” No way was I interested in her loosing her joy at 6 yrs old for math! Now she can teach (and often does) her brother because she gets it conceptually (thanks to the manipulatives)!

Spelling/Grammar: A Beka – Truth be told I have not yet used this program but I hear great things from other parents who have been in the homeschooling trenches a while. This program will not set the world on fire in terms of their creativity (like Math U See or Five In A Row) but it is tried and true. It’s simple and straight forward and targets mastery in spelling and grammar. We actually just received our 2nd grade and preschool books in the mail today. The kids and I sat down to look at them right away. My 2nd grader turns to me and asks, “Can we start on these books tomorrow?” They look fun and right at their level. I also like that they are Christian based (not afraid to mention Christmas and other biblical terms) and they are pro-America. They mention our fore-fathers and talk about American History as they teach grammar. I really like that. Makes me excited to teach!!

Science: Real Science 4 Kids: Again, this is a new program I have not yet used, but I like how it’s organized and it doesn’t take tons of time to assemble ingredients for experiments. I’m have the student and parent books ready to go and will start using it in May.

What’s the cost?
I have spent approx. $300 on curriculum materials for this next year. I would expect that’s a good estimate for 2 young children in homeschooling. If you are teaching in the upper grades, I would expect that to increase due to the amount of additional textbooks needed. If you’re looking to keep your costs down, I’d look for a used curriculum sale perhaps in your homeschooling network or research on craigslist or eBay.

Hopefully this has been helpful. I’m always looking for new and better ways of teaching so if you have any helpful ideas, I’d love to hear what great “nuggets” you’ve found!

My “Chicken Checkers” and Life Lessons

My “Chicken Checkers” and Life Lessons

As we drive into our drive way after having run errands for a couple of hours, I call out, “I am in need of some “chicken checkers!  Who will help me?”  As I say those words I can hear myself parroting the familiar story of The Little Red Hen.  Eagerly responding, I hear my two happy kids’ voices saying, “I’ll do it!”  Once we park, they both jump out of the car and head for their chicken boots.  (The rule is we wear our chicken boots whenever we go in the coops so that we don’t track chicken “stuff” into the house on our regular shoes.  This is one of the many new “rules” I’ve instituted since getting our chickens about two months ago.  Having these systems in place has made everything run smoother and causes less work for Mom in the long run (the ultimate goal – right?)

We’ve had our 15 laying hens now for about six weeks (and 25 additional chicks who are not yet layers.  That’ll come in the fall.)  Every morning and afternoon we check for eggs and collect between 10-12 eggs a day.  The beautiful shades of tan, some dappled with chocolate-brown freckles, others a pale tan, almost vanilla are such fun to see.  Each egg is as individual as the hen who laid it.  And every day my two kids get excited to see how many eggs are waiting to be gently scooped up.  They each have their own basket, decorated pink for the girly girl and blue-camo for our down home boy!  I got the baskets at Hobby Lobby and then had each child pick out their favorite ribbon.  I then used a glue-gun to wrap the ribbon around the handles and voila – individualized baskets.

So my “chicken checkers” are at their post daily.  And new lessons are emerging daily, too.  They are learning to help each other with coop duties when I am not available.  Our littlest has trouble with the big coop doors (they are very heavy) so his older sister being bigger and stronger (for now) can help him open and shut the doors.  When I see this happen, I find my motherly endorphins shoot off like rockets when the spirit of cooperation out-rides the temptation to annoy one another.  Peace reigns, the eggs get collected, and a habit of helpfulness is once again instilled.  Just one of the many benefits to having chickens in the first place.  It creates opportunity to help one another towards achieving a common goal.  This is a life lesson: one that will be used with their parents (us) as we all grow and mature, in their own marriages, with their own children, on the job with their employer or as the CEO of their own business.  Learning to work together – especially when you are of different ages or generations is a huge asset one can bring to the table in this journey of life.

Having chickens is fun and tasty – but let’s not forget the unromantic part of keeping this (sometimes foul-smelling) fowl.  Mom and Dad play a huge roll in the success of this hobby.  A perfect illustration of this occurred when cleaning the coops last weekend.  I try to do the deed on the weekend as there are less things pressing on my time.  Additionally, I like to get it done early in the morning when the heat of each summer day has not yet hit its peak (although we’ve had about 10 straight days of 100+ degree days – ugh!).  Yet, last weekend as my husband headed off to do errands, there I was, in my oh so attractive grey “mom-shorts”, black tank top and my aqua and brown argyle chicken boots (about the cutest thing I was wearing that day).  Oh and let’s not forget my pregnant belly of 6 months.  Anyway, he calls to me, “I’ll be back soon.”  I look up, standing in 6 inches of stinky chicken shavings, the fragrant chicken air just hanging around like Chevy Chase’s cousin Eddy in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, my pregnant belly growing by the day, holding my snow shovel which I use to scoop up their shavings each week, and sweat dripping off my face and forehead.  Forcing a smile, I respond, “Ok, see ya soon!”  To be clear, I was not unhappy with the best husband in the world, just anxious to get this part of my day over.  But I have to say, just after that moment, I had a change of heart.  I realized that not only was I getting the coops cleaned, but I was getting a great workout to boot!  It really was a win-win!  So the rest of my time, as I listened to the rock hits of the 80’s, was quite pleasant.

And so it goes, another life lesson…for me and the kids.  Sometimes, having the quality results you desire (i.e.: fresh eggs on a daily basis) has a price.  It takes sacrifice, discipline, persistence in tending to the responsibilities on a day-to-day basis.  It’s not a sprint to the finish and collect your reward.  It’s a slow and steady race, with ample opportunities of humbleness sprinkled in for flavor.  And perhaps, as I reflect, the bigger benefit than even the fresh eggs…it’s the character growth for me, the husband, the kids.  And to give my hubby the props he deserves, this weekend he was right by my side and we cleaned the coops together.  You know that “working together thing” I talked about earlier?  Well, we did it today, and it was such fun!  Clean coops in about 40 min.  But what benefits do the kids get from this?  Happy, united parents, forging a team of cooperation and giving that they expect from their “baby chicks.”  It’s about a family who works to contribute – to each other and their world around them.  Looking to make their little world a bit more beautiful and fun at the same time.  It’s a gift we work to give to our “Chicken Checkers” daily.  Is it always neat and tidy (and pretty smelling)?  Not in the slightest, but that’s when the character is cultivated and hopefully rooted in solid ground.  I

like to think of it as “Less take, more give.”  It really fills a heart full!

Our New “Normal”

Friday night before bed, both kids (spontaneously and unbeknownst to each other) asked me to wake them up so they could help with cleaning the coops in the morning.  This is a chore I do weekly – usually on the weekends.  Happily surprised, I agreed to wake them.

However, when the early morning came, I caved and let them sleep in.  After a quick breakfast, I continued to the coops to clean.  Moments after I started, I heard little clomping feet and knew it was my little guy.  He said, “Why didn’t you wake me?”  I explained that I wanted him to sleep a bit longer.  However, secretly I was tickled that he was so motivated to come out and “help” me (although I use the term ‘help’ loosely).

Long story short, he (and soon to follow…his sister) came out and just played and enjoyed the chickens.  I loved the idea that they were not sitting on the couch this Saturday morning watching cartoons, Roku, or a movie (we do do that but I try to keep it under control) but instead were in the coop, in their lawn chairs, playing with the chickens.  We all hung out for about an hour and just enjoyed each other.  Me cleaning, they – in their PJs – singing and talking with the chicks.  I love the new “normal” we are creating for our kidlets.  It’s very intentional and not easy – but I think it’s worth it!  Time will tell…


Ok – so my movie plans for tonight have been thwarted!  We were at the lake all day today with the kids.  I’m dog-tired and was all ready to enjoy a relaxing evening watching a movie with the hubby.  But as of ten minutes ago, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

On our drive home from the lake this afternoon, my husband and I were discussing dinner options.  As I told my husband we didn’t have much prepared for dinner and we were all bushed from being out in the sun all day, I quickly decided Spaghetiio’s and grilled cheese would suffice (at least) for the kidlets.  So we got home, and I brought in from the mini-van the potpourri of towels, flip-flops, and swimming suits.  And I, like a mother who cares about the well-being of her children, started dinner.  As I started the stove, I see my husband TRY to sneak by with his bow and arrows in hand!  I think (with quite a bit of judgement attached) “WHAT?”  I thought we were (as a team) going to get dinner on the table to feed our starving children.  I ask him, “Where you goin’?”  With that, he smiles sheepishly and says, “I’ll be back in a minute.”  Already I can see I am regretting the purchase of that “testosterone-jacked compound bow for our 15th wedding anniversary”.  With worn-out children tired from the day, my priority was to get them fed and “watered” first.  Hence I didn’t have time to debate my case to the “hunter”.  (I know how to pick my battles.)

So about 8 minutes later, I was sitting at the table with the kids, happily inhaling their dinner, and the hunter comes (almost skipping) down the stairs.  I smile reservedly, still questioning what he’s up to.  In a gleeful whisper, he says, “Come outside…by yourself!”  I tell the kids to keep focused on the mission at hand – eating their dinner – and I go outside.  We walk down the rocky path and he reveals his trophy: a squirrel with an arrow…through its head!  The Hunter had gone up to our bedroom (we have a small deck outside our room) and had shot this squirrel from the deck.

Now truth be told, I was somewhat impressed.  This is the first time he had shot a squirrel, he had only taken one shot, and he hit the head no less.  Really, you’ve got to give him some credit for the precision and skill he expressed…but then again it was a squirrel!  I was happy to celebrate the success of his objective (I’m growing as a supportive wife) – but then I asked, “So….um…what is your plan now?”  Without hesitation, and smiling, he tells me he’s going to skin it and eat it (at some point).  Now, I don’t know if you’ve looked at a squirrel recently (with the intent to consume it) but there’s not a lot there.  You’ve got to have a few of ’em to even come close to making a meal!  But there was no stopping this new, enterprising hunter.  Again, I know when to pick my battles and this one was not one of them.

So my relaxing movie would just have to wait.  That was ok.  Seeing the kids happy and asleep and my hubby practically looking like he’d won the lottery was just as good!

PS: Just for the record, my husband has been in touch with the MO Dept of Conservation as well as researching local zoning laws regarding hunting squirrels.  The short of it is he’s compliant and the squirrels have been put on notice!