Family Ties Home Schooling

Making Treasure Boxes

Our mailbox activity yesterday was so much fun, I thought I’d share how we did it. I chose this craft because we’d done it before to make treasure boxes so I still had the supplies (budget friendly!) and I knew it would be a great big hit with the kids!


  • shoebox, oatmeal cannister, or other box with built-in lid, saltine cracker boxes make great (indoor) mailboxes! ;O)
  • craft paint (yesterday we used leftover Kilz from a home decor project!)
  • stickers, recycled cards, pics cut from magazines, real pictures of pets or family members, lace, rickrack or other edging for pics if desired
  • Mod-podge (my most FAVORITE craft supply ever!!! Well, one of them!) and paint brush

This is messy so spread out the newspapers and fill yourself with enthusiasm (or if you’re like me–coffee!) (Really, your kids are gonna love it!)

Spend some time tossing ideas around so your child can decide on a theme, contrasting paints, etc. My oldest decided on greens and browns, knowing they’d look great with all the horse pics she’d cut off last year’s desk calendar. She painted the box green and sponge painted a dark brown border on the flap. 6 yo had a bunch of foam-craft stickers so she went that route.

After the painted box dries, arrange photos/stickers/etc however you want them and glue them on. Final step is coating the whole thing with mod-podge! It seals it and gives it a wonderfully finished look.

And since ours are mailboxes (hoping this will motivate hand-writing AND family ties) we used one of those brassy looking brads to insert a flag on the side. Mom and dad’s mailbox has two flags…whichever one is up tells the right parent that they’ve got mail!!!

And once again we’ve got a super busy day ahead…I’m calling it a field trip since we’re going with another homeschool family…library, picnic at zoo, plus errands=an all around educational experience!

Home Schooling

First Day of School. Check!

The plans are mapped out and in on my kitchen counter… Btw, several of the following ideas are taken from Terri Camp’s Ignite the Fire book.

  1. Tea Party Breakfast…yes, china teapot and of course: Kolaches for the main attraction!
  2. Nature hike up the hill behind our house and out into our horse pasture. I have a list for each girl of things to find and document. Prizes too! The last thing is for them to find something that doesn’t belong. (Strategically placed by *me* and having to do with later activity)
  3. They each get a penny for every completed item on their nature checklist. These will be used in the penny toss game. All my muffin tin holes will have an alphabet letter, the girls will take turns tossing pennies to review phonics and oldest will make up 4-5 letter words.
  4. Back inside, we’ll make a big dice out of poster board, and use it to play a floor game that goes all over the house…into and out of the bathtub even. I’ve got 26 questions written on fourth-sheets of typing paper, and I’ll have blank papers in between each question for bonus moves. Roll the dice and count to your question. History, Science, Math, Bible, Spelling, Physical actions…sure to be fun! The last square is a question that will lead to our next activity…a craft!
  5. We are making mailboxes, with flags even! Each girl can make one…I will make one for “us parents” and hopefully it will encourage a lot of nice note writing back and forth! I’m foreseeing a lot of anonymous gift giving…

So that’s the plan…we’ll see how closely we stick to it! We’ve also decided to do day #3 of Kolache baking (half of today’s batch is going to work so daddy can share with his co-workers) as we STILL have fillings that need used up! 

Last night my oldest was begging to do math! Ha. Just you wait darlin!

Also, you wonderful dry erase board experts~the cleaner worked great! And so did writing over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker and then erasing! Our white board is ready for school!

I’m counting on your prayers today! Happy Homeschooling!

Home Schooling

A Homeschooling Necessity

The white board and dry erase markers. Yup. A necessity.

And not for the reason you think…yes, they come in handy for the mom or dad when illustrating addition or the silent final “e” rule…but our children’s creativity explodes when given free rein with the white board!

Whether by playing school, or drawing elaborate works of art, our white board gets put to good use by my girls. Pictionary is SO much more fun, as is Hangman, and my oldest loves filling it with words. (shrugging my shoulders, yes, words) She’ll start out by writing all the words that start with a certain letter that she can think of, then she’ll ask me for more, and sometimes (on a REALLY good day!) she’ll get out our children’s dictionary (another must have–ours is by Scholastic) and get even more inspired!

We even have to draw a line down the middle so both girls can have equal space and then it has to remain till Daddy gets home so he won’t miss out on admiring all the fun!

To spur my oldest’s interest in learning to read, I’d write a two or three sentence story on the white board each morning before she woke up…and she’s such a sucker for stories, she’d overcome her “disinterest” and excitedly start sounding out words. She was in kindergarten then, and every morning I’d also have her write the month, day and year on the board.

Our white board is a medium sized one we bought at Staples four years ago.  The other day my oldest found me cleaning the bathroom, and the look on her face tipped me off immediately. “What’s wrong?” I asked. No one was crying, so I relaxed somewhat.

“That marker that we thought was a dry erase marker?”

I nodded. It looked exactly like one.

“It wasn’t. It’s a permanent marker.”


Anybody know of a way to remove permanent marker from a dry erase board?

Christianity Home Schooling

Ready, Set, Homeschool?!

By now, you’ve figured me not to be a “die hard” homeschooler…after all, I still need to order curriculum for this fall, right? The problem is, I’m not into the “one curriculum fits all” theory. I use a little of this, a little of that…and what worked for my self-motivated oldest is probably too boring for my 6 yo.

Two good questions to ask when browsing the endless choices would be:

  1. Will this encourage my child’s love of God?
  2. Will it enhance their love of learning?

My oldest has loved chapter books like Misty of Chincoteague since she was barely four years old. She’s like a sponge, very thoughtful and introspective and loves nothing more than to read “living” books with me. We read many missionary bios.

My 6 yo, still squirms at storytime, unless colorful pictures dot each page! Abeka has the color my 6 yo loves, but using Abeka for every subject would drive us crazy, so we branch out using it one year for health/science and the next for history/geography.

Most importantly, make sure your child catches your enthusiasm for learning. Our first day of school is a day of expectation that sets the mood for the year.

While the children are still sleeping, I take about 15 clues outside and hide them…each one leaving a hint about the next…scavenger hunt style. They include actions such as: “Jump up and run so you won’t be too late, run through the horse barn and over to the gate”…then on the gate they’ll find the next clue. At the end of the hunt, they’ll find a box full of their new textbooks/notebooks, pens/pencils, gold foil- wrapped candy (gold for hidden treasure!), and supplies for a fun craft that we’ve never made before. Then we rush to the house for a favorite breakfast/tea party and spend the day crafting.

The point of the treasure hunt is this: the physical and mental actions of the hunt signify the physical and mental rigors of learning. Sometimes it will be tedious (nah, surely not!) but the rewards are like gold nuggets of treasure…all that learning that no one can take from you.

Just as with parenting, homeschooling has its struggles and its rewards. Keep the faith!

Philipians 2:13, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure!”  (go ahead and follow the link…this verse in context is awesome!)

Family Ties Home Schooling

Summer’s End

Technically the first day of Fall is on September 23, but for me Fall is all about going back to school...

I love this time of year...three weeks left to hit the pool and have friends over...plenty of "free" time before homeschooling takes precedence over our schedule. We've made it through the dizziness of county fair (got the purple and blue ribbons to prove it!) and now it's time to plan Awana.

On Monday, I'm canning pickles with a friend (bread and butter, dill, and pickled okra)and tonight we'll traipse to the youth rodeo so our oldest can open the show with "The Star Spangled Banner." Ah summertime.

I need to be ordering my homeschool materials, and planning the annual scavenger hunt that the girls and I always do to kick off our first day of school.

But for now, I think I'll go pour us all a glass of fresh lemonade...water, sugar and sliced lemons shaken vigorously in a quart jar...

Have a great weekend!

Christianity Family Ties Home Schooling

Charter Schools and Hacky Sacks

Want to read my latest at MInTheGap? Find it here: Charter Schools? Count the Cost. 

We have my niece here today and besides playing with puppies and marbles, we had a blast making beanbag balls! My June 2006 issue of Family Fun had the idea of taking 2-3 balloons, cutting the lip off and using a funnel to fill the first with beans (we used lentils). Once it’s as full as you can get it, take the second balloon and stretch it open wide enough to slip it over the bean-filled one. Then stretch that second balloon’s neck way out and cut it near the first balloon…it will leave a nice round shape and show off the two colors. They’re homemade hacky sacks. The girls had so much fun they made them till our balloon supply ran out.

My floor was covered with lentils, but hey, fun times=messes.

Family Ties Home Schooling

Candle Dipping

What fun! While toddler napped, we girls made candles!

Here’s how: We melted shaved slivers of candle wax and bee’s wax in a glass quart jar (double boiler or large metal juice can would be safest!) that was half submerged in my large kettle of boiling water. After melting, we let the temp cool to 150F, added scented color and started dipping our cotton-like wicks! In and out of hot wax, then in and out of cool water…over and over. Plus, rolling the warm candle-in-progress on wax paper occasionally for a uniform result. We ended up with several tapers, and several of those shaker-style hanging candles.

We had three wicks that were affixed to a small metal base and these we tacked with hot glue to the bottom middle of emptied/cleaned cream cartons. So we’ll have some pretty square candles once the wax sets and we peel off the carton!

Tips: It’s important to add some slivered bee’s wax to your candle wax so that the finished product will burn more evenly and last longer…and if you do the square candles make sure your wick is centered and straight…we had to anchor ours by wrapping the extra wick around a pencil and fastening with tape. Tomorrow, when we peel away the carton, we’ll cut the wick to the right length.

And lest you think I’m terribly clever…my homeschooling friend Kim passed her “know-how” on candle making my way! This was the last of our pioneer projects for the year…we’ve locker-hooked (like rag rug making), made soap, made mozzarella & ricotta, homemade root beer, willow brooms, quill pens/ink, fishing poles, nine-patch pillows, and more…

Quick update, my daughter and her Border Collie won Reserve Champion in dog obedience yesterday at our county fair!