Home Schooling

Homeschooling: Fun with Writing Sentences

Can’t help it, I’m going to rave about Peggy Kaye’s book again: Games for Writing. I’ve gushed about it at Writer…Interrupted and here at Home-steeped Hope in the past, and yes, here I go again…

What fun we had around the kitchen table this morning, with both girls giggling and saying they absolutely loved this creative writing activity! If you have Peggy’s book, we did the activity on page 107: Mixed Up and Missing, and also the activity on page 113: Strange Sentences.

Mixed Up and Missing

Give everyone their own pencil, paper and scissors. Yes, even you mom/dad. Tell them to compose a silly sentence such as this one:

“My dad bakes cherry popovers in a purple apron.”

(I wrote even longer more complicated ones for my 9 year old…she’s always up for a challenge, and gave me back as good as she got…)

Tell them their sentence is a BIG secret from the other players!

Then each writer cuts out their sentence and snips between each word, creating a “sentence puzzle” for the others to put together. FUN! Especially as so many of the adjectives can be switched, resulting in really hilarious sentences…

Strange Sentences

This game teaches the four W’s of writing a sentence: Who, What, When and Where.

Make five columns on a sheet of paper and label them as follows:


Then you and the kids brainstorm six sentences, marking them as 1-6. For example:

  1. My grandpa read a book on the couch yesterday.
  2. A dinosaur lived in a cave thousands of years ago.
  3. My sister hid in a closet today.
  4. A dog chased a cat in the pool last night.
  5. My mom sang a song at church last Sunday.
  6. The soldier snacked on cheetos in the tank at midnight.

Player number 1 rolls the die and it lands on 2. So your subject is the WHO or What of the second sentence: “A dinosaur”.

Player number 2 rolls the die and it lands on 1. So your DID WHAT is: “read a book”.

Player number 3 rolls the die and it lands on 4, so your WHERE is: “in the pool”.

Player number 4 rolls the die, getting a 6: “at midnight” for WHEN.

“A dinosaur read a book in the pool at midnight.”

And so on. Good for many giggles, believe me. My toddler even had fun rolling the die and hearing the silly sentences.

Best of all, it really gets the kids’ thinking creatively and makes writing…fun!

I’m all for that!


Breath of Home

That’s the title of my post at Writer…Interrupted today. It’s a homemaking and encouragement post. I hope you check it out, if only for the “bed mite eradicator” tip…which also happens to scent your sheets something wonderful!

I also share what some of my favorite books from childhood are. What are yours?


Our No-TV/Movie Update

As you know, on August 31, we unplugged the drug, the television drug, that is. We moved it out of the living room, and into the master bedroom. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that jazz.

On Friday, September 7th, we rented a movie for the family, and a movie for dh and me.

Same deal on Friday, September 14th, except we checked them out at the library instead of the movie store. (Spare me the nasty-totally-toddler- innapropriate dvd covers lining the walls! Makes Netflixs look pretty appealing! Except then I think we’d be caught in the trap of: we’re paying for it, we should be making the most of it!)

By Friday, September 21, our girls had heard about the new CBS line-up of Saturday morning cartoons. They asked if they could skip Friday night movies in favor of checking out the new Strawberry Shortcake show. Sure, why not?

To be honest, my older two girls have mentioned missing the TV. I think, mostly because it kept toddler busy! But the exciting part to me, is that toddler doesn’t miss it at ALL! She didn’t even stay with the Strawberry Shortcake show, can you believe it? There is hope for TV addicted 3 year olds! (Perhaps it was more of a mama-addiction? Which is truly sad: Here, hon, we’re busy, sit and watch this video…)

Anyway…we’ve almost 4 weeks under our belt, and sticking with the plan feels very good!

Anybody else want to update?

Cooking and Food Family Ties

Recipes for Hubby’s Birthday Supper

Today is my husband’s 36th birthday! He’s the strong silent type, preferring no fanfare, so we’ll be having a quiet family supper tonight, with foods he requested on the menu.

Here’s what’s for dinner:

Southwest Rollups

~I’ve been fixing these since I first found the recipe in a 1997 issue of Taste of Home magazine–ten years of yummy! This is one of dh’s favorite “chicken” recipes…remember he’s a rancher (GO BEEF!) at heart!

  • 2 TB salsa
  • 1-2 jalepeno peppers, seeded
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TB chopped onion
  • 1 (16 oz) can refried beans
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 TB chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup cubed chicken, or a bit more
  • 1 (4 oz) cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 10-12 flour tortillas (6 inches)
  • sour cream and additional salsa, optional

Cooking instructions: Place the first eight ingredients and 1/2 cup cheese in a food processor; blend until smooth. (I don’t own a food processor, so I just chop everything fine) Spread evenly over tortillas. Roll up and place seam side down in a greased 13x9x2 inch baking dish.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; let stand until cheese melts. Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

Pan de Elote (corn loaf)

~This is such a family favorite, we have it annually at our big family get-togethers; however, it’s souffle-like, so it’s not a great choice for potlucks unless you can prepare and bake it on location. And no opening the oven door to peek while cooking…

  • 1 (16 oz) can cream style corn
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (4oz) can green chilies with seeds rinsed out, drained (optional)
  • 1 cup biscuit mix
  • 2 TB melted butter
  • 1/2 lb Monterrey jack cheese, grated

Combine corn, biscuit mix, egg, butter and milk. Mix well. Turn half of batter into 8x8x2 inch greased glass baking dish.

Cover with chilies and cheese. Spread with remaining batter.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until browned.

Frog-eye Salad

~This is my big sister’s recipe, an extremely luscious fruit salad…hubby adores it, and 7 year old made it just for him! (Read entire recipe before fixing)

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 TB flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

In small saucepan mix sugar, flour and salt. Stir in pineapple juice and egg. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until thickened.* Add lemon juice. Set aside and cool.

  • 1 cup Acini Di Pepe (available in small bags in pasta section of grocery store)
  • 2 cans (11 oz each) mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 can (20 oz) chunk pineapple, drained (reserve 2/3 cup juice for first part of recipe)**
  • 1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 carton (12 oz) dairy whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries

Cook Acini Di Pepe according to package directions. Combine cooked mixture with Acini Di Pepe. Cover, place in refrigerator until chilled. Combine remaining ingredients, stir lightly. Chill at least one hour before serving 8-10.

*Note, cook juice mixture just until thick as over that egg white coagulates. (and be forewarned, it doesn’t thicken much)

**If you don’t like pineapple chunks, you can opt for pineapple tidbits, or eliminate this and just use two cans crushed pineapple.

And we’re having Peaches and Cream Pie and oldest daughter’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (secret recipe) for dessert.

Now, back to class…but before I go…humor me, what’s for supper at your house tonight and/OR what dishes would be on your birthday menu?

Cooking and Food

Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipes

Yes, I’m a hot drink fanatic. I’ve collected some really good hot chocolate recipes over the years and decided to compile them here for you, all in one place.

First, Hot Chocolate For A Crowd. After pony rides and a pony pinata at my oldest’s six year old birthday party, we were freezing. Poor girl loves the outdoors and her birthday is in November which is coat weather or worse here in the midwest. I made a huge kettle of this brew ahead of time and had it heating on the stove…as you can imagine, its steamy warmth hit the spot for our numb fingers and frozen gullets!

Hot Chocolate For A Crowd Serves 22

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Hershey cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 TB (or more) vanilla

In a saucepan combine sugar, cocoa and salt. Gradually add hot water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till mixture boils. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Add milk, heat to serving temperature, stirring occasionally. Do not boil! Remove from heat, add vanilla. Serve hot!

Martha Stewart’s White Hot Chocolate Serves 8

~ Mmm, rich and creamy, completely worth the effort!

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 block of dark chocolate

Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate into curls; set aside. Place white chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl; set aside. Place milk and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan (about 4 minutes). Do not boil.

Remove mixture from the flame. Immediately pour over white chocolate. When chocolate begins to melt, gently stir to combine.

Whisk in vanilla. Continue whisking until light foam forms.

Serve immediately. Garnish with chocolate shavings or marshmallows.

Basic Hot Chocolate Serves 4

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bits
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • pinch cinnamon
  • whipped cream, flavored with vanilla

Melt chocolate bits in a *double boiler over hot water and stir in the cream. Heat just to boiling point, stirring constantly. Add the cinnamon, and serve in 8 ounce cups topped with whipped cream.

*I don’t own a double boiler, I simply place a metal bowl into a kettle of boiling water…works great!

Hot Cocoa Mix Makes 5 quarts

~My friend Kim makes this and gives it away at Christmas, it’s very good!

  • 11 ounces coffee creamer
  • 2 lbs Nestle Quick (powdered)
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 1 eight quart container powdered milk

Mix together in a large bowl. Store in airtight containers. Will fill 5 quart size jars.

To serve: Fill cup to 1/3 full and add hot water, stir, and enjoy!

Lest you think I’m always whipping up homemade concoctions, we usually buy one of those humongous family-sized cannisters of Swiss Miss each fall. Haven’t gotten that done yet. We’ve had some chilly-cold mornings already, so I’ve been glad for the above recipes. You can bet we’ve used more than one of them these past two weeks!

Family Farm Life

My Day, Hour by Hour

7:22 A.M. Toddler stumbles into my bedroom. Rats! Overslept and I wanted to get out the door by 8 A.M. for my mom’s group. Doesn’t matter that we had a loong homeschool meeting the day/evening before, followed by errand running and a 2 hour cooking marathon followed by a really late supper with hubby and me falling in bed around midnight.

8:30 A.M. Breakfast for the kids, check. Bath for me, check. Make-up, check. Suburban loaded with lunch for us, a meal for twelve (friends recently moved back) and schoolwork for two older girls to do during my mom’s group, check, check and check!

9:15 A.M. Arrive at church. Enjoy watching the very last of the Michael Pearl DVD on Teaching Responsibility. Wow, what a great conversation erupted after that–see my post Thursday morning at Weekend Kindness.

11:30-noonish Pizza with friends! Always good.

12:30-1:30 P.M. Wash tons of veggies for a big salad. Toss it all together. Clean up church kitchen. Oldest dd scrubs 12 potatoes and I half them and add to the smothered steaks I fixed last night (ie: aforementioned cooking marathon–three 9×13 panfuls, one for us, two for others) . Clean up church kitchen again.

2:30-ish Arrive at friends’ house, food and kids in tow. Great reconnect! So glad they’re back, safe and sound!

3:15 P.M. Head home. Find hubby ripping into kitchen sink plumbing in crawl space. He’s ready to jump in Suburban and go to nearest city (30 minutes away) for plumbing supplies (and twenty feet of drain pipe).

4:30P.M. Drive through pouring rain, arrive in city, pull into Farm and Ranch supply store. Discover that toddler’s drifted off to sleep. Dh and kids head in to shop, while I babysit. Just so happens that I have a novel handy for such a moment: With This Ring, I’m Confused by Kristin Billerbeck. I spend a delightful hour (or more?) reading in the parking lot. Great book! Can’t wait to get back into it…

7 P.M. One other stop, and we’re on the road home. We stop by my in-laws to borrow a hole saw, also for the plumbing revamp. Once home, I remember that I forgot (don’t you love that?) to return the kid movies we rented last Friday for family night. They were due back today by 6 P.M. Oops.

7:30 P.M. Drop dh and kids off at home, rush to movie store. No late fees, hurray! Rush home. Dh works on plumbing till 9 P.M. Smothered steaks, potatoes, rolls and salad for supper!

And my sluggish sink drains are a thing of the past–we hope!

And if you made it this far, my hat’s off to you! Far more interesting would have been an account of Monday which we spent designing and crafting medieval costumes for a home school Castle Field day…or an account of all the fun we had on Tuesday participating in it!

Book Recommendations

My Life, Unscripted

mylifeunscripted.JPG You pick up a book, scan the back cover and it either grabs you or it doesn’t. When my influencer copy of My Life, Unscripted from Tricia Goyer arrived, the back cover copy jumped out at me and seconds later I was sinking into my couch, stealing enough time to confirm that this book is a definite keeper! Wait! Scratch that, it was SO good I made it a huge priority to finish before my niece’s 18th birthday party that weekend. I knew I had to pass it along. And as I read, I kept thinking of different teenage girls–nieces and friends–that would benefit with this warm and personal, yet hip, mentoring of Tricia’s in their hands.

Drawing on Biblical principles, My Life, Unscripted guides girls through the tumultuous teen years by teaching them to have a plan of attack before temptation or hardship come.

Tricia’s Script:

Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder … What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn’t. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted … and, well, it didn’t go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. Yet my prayer is that when teen girls are asked Who’s Writing Your Life? their answer will be ME … with the guidance of God, My Director.

Mary here: It’s my pleasure to be able to honestly share my excitement over My Life, Unscripted with you. This is exactly the kind of book the teenage girls of our culture need, as inundated as they are with the standards raging through their peers and in the public school system. It’s hard being adrift in a boat full of holes. My hopes are that every girl reading this book will come away smarter and more reliant on God, not this culture, to patch up the holes that can be filled in no other way.

The book’s format is inviting and fun, while the topics are serious and eye-opening. I especially enjoyed the “My Scripts” featured in the margins in which teenage girls across the country weighed in on the issues they all face day to day. Tricia’s heart for teens is evident, she’s welcome to mentor my daughters anyday!

Thanks, Tricia, for being brave and willing to share from your heart how your own difficult teen years affected the rest of your life.

Places you can find Tricia on the net:

Tricia’s Blog: It’s Real Life

Tricia’s Website:

She also has two new books that will be available soon:

  • A Shadow of Treason (Moody Publishing) 2007
  • Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah) January, 2008

And don’t forget to order your own copy of My Life, Unscripted or look for it at your local Barnes and Nobles, it’s part of their back-to-school endcap promotion!

Also, on Saturday, September 22, 2007, I’ll be doing a drawing for a copy of this book! To participate, simply leave a comment on this post!

Family Ties Parenting

Happy Kids

Funny, as we walked through the wind and misting on-again-off-again rain at the state fair on Monday, trying to find a carnival ride for which oldest wasn’t too TALL and youngest wasn’t too SHORT …almost impossible by the way…I realized how nice it was to not have the kids all squabbling about “fairness”.

The carousel always draws us first, and usually dh hops on to stand beside toddler (3 years old) since she’s always been under the height requirement to ride it alone. My equilibrium gets off for a week if I get motion sick. I’m weird that way. I avoid carnival rides. I buy stock in Dramamine for road trips.

So we’re standing in line at the merry-go-round, hoping our youngest is tall enough, and come to find out, she isn’t. Her Daddy, off drooling over stock trailers, had  plans to meet up with us under the ferris wheel at 3 p.m. We normally don’t split up at the fair, but the threatening weather kinda forced us to make the most of the time we had…

So here we are, a mom and three woe-begone girls, chilled and wet and wanting to eek just a little bit of fun out of the experience.

“You guys can ride it without her, we’ll find something her size after this.” I told my older girls, helping toddler back into the double jogging stroller and velcroing the rain shield down over her.

They look at me like I’m crazy. 7 year old especially. “Mom! We’re not going to ride the first ride without her!”

Okay. So we finally find a motorcycle one that 7 & 3 year old can ride together with 9 year old’s urging. Poor 9 year old, she’s tall for her age. Too tall for a kiddie carnival!

But the best part for me was that 3 year old was happy either way. She LOVED the rides, but she accepted the fact that she wasn’t big enough for all of them. To the point of waving wildly at her sisters as they zoomed through the air on baby elephants. A really cool ride in the eyes of a toddler, yet she was ecstatic just to wave and holler hello at them each time they made it around to our side.

Today at lunch toddler brought up the carnival motorcycles and how much she wanted to ride one again.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” I agreed.

She grinned, her spoonful of rice suspended mid-air. “I’m gonna be big enough next year. Next I’ll be four and I’ll be taller to ride, won’t I?”

Yes, you will, babe and on the off chance that you aren’t, we’ll make sure daddy’s there to save the day!



The Lord really has a sense of humor! For Children’s Story at church on Sunday, I talked to the kids about the importance of a good attitude. We smiled a bit at the scripture, “Rejoice in everything” knowing that for sure and certain, days will come and things will happen that are not at all “rejoicing” occasions!

Wouldn’t you know that the very next day, Monday, was just such a day for me and mine? God knew.

Dh took the day off and we set out to the State Fair. I’d purchased advance tickets, which happened to save us $8 off the gate price EXCEPT that we discovered upon arrival that it was dollar day at the fair, ha! We paid the dollar to get in and saved our advance tickets for b&sil and their kids to enjoy. That’s not all we saved for them. Monday was *windy+rainy=cold* and the family pack of tickets I’d purchased (which included 4 tickets each for train rides and sky rides, etc) went unused! Major disappointment to all of us. We did indulge in a smoked turkey leg, Pronto Pups all around, fries, onion rings and ice cream (yeah, crazy, but hot chocolate wasn’t available!). We enjoyed as many indoor exhibits as we could, braved the rain for a few carnival rides and headed for home. Spent as much time in the Suburban traveling as we did actually at the fair.

Took a wrong turn just outside of the city that probably saved our lives. Twenty minutes later, through pouring rain, we came upon a horrible accident. A jack-knifed tractor-trailer rig was across the highway, and a 4 door sedan was smashed underneath his trailer. Don’t think anyone could have survived that. Police and ambulance arrived just before we did. The rain continued the entire drive home, and the road-wash from every semi that we passed jolted me with the realization that life is too precious to waste it wishing for silly things like sunny days at the fair.

The day left me chilled inside and out.

But we talked on the way home about “Rejoicing in everything,” and how much more precious those times are when things go great–like our camping trip to South Dakota. Every minute of that trip was an orchestrated miracle, one blessing after another. What if it had rained and been cold the whole time? It could have been, easily.

I admit that even today I had the blues. Forced myself to go through the motions of fixing breakfast, homeschooling and doing laundry. Had some more bad news, depending on how you look at it (neighbor issues). Felt actually feverish when talking to my mom at 3 pm but decided when toddler woke up that we’d go outside and weed/water flowers together. She hosed me (by accident?) and I felt much better. 🙂

Got online this evening and my jaw dropped at all the blog comments! I think I’m almost caught up now. Thank you all for the blessing you always are to me. I appreciate you! Yes, even those of you that think I’m an awful mom.

Sweet dreams,


Home Schooling

Homeschool Quotes

School Days

” Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
— William Butler Yeats

“I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.” –Martin Luther

” I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas. ”
–Agatha Christie

” To confuse compulsory schooling with equal educational opportunity is like confusing organized religion with spirituality. One does not necessarily lead to the other. Schooling confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. ”
— Wendy Priesnitz

“Teaching does not make learning — organized education operates on the assumption that children learn only when and only what and only because we teach them. This is not true. It is very close to 100% false. Learners make learning.”
— Education Reformer John Holt

” What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child. ”
— George Bernard Shaw

” I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought about as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up. ”
— Albert Einstein

” It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. ”
— Albert Einstein

” Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. ”
— Roger Lewin

” When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.”
–Bertrand Russell

“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” –Theodore Roosevelt