Family Ties Home Schooling

Preschoolers: First Things First

I heartily endorse the message found here…an article titled Doctors urge more playtime for children. (Thanks go to MInTheGap for the link.)

We’re bombarded everywhere with programs for our preschoolers. Driven almost by fear that our children won’t measure up with their peers, we enroll them in all kinds of structured enrichment activities…bombarding them with academics before they’re even school age. And we homeschoolers are no different.

What skills do children need before Kindergarten? Honestly, I wonder which teachers would find more helpful…children who know their numbers, abc’s and the basics of reading, or children who have good listening skills, fine motor skills, and respect for authority?

It’s kind of like the philosophy: Spread the gospel in India and you’ll solve their hunger problems. (no more sacred cows=plenty of meat for all).

It’s SO important to teach your littles about God their Father, and His plan for their lives. It’s not just about reading Bible stories, it’s about applying them in real time…talking about the heroes of the Bible and how we can apply God’s truth in our everyday lives. Go for their hearts, not just their heads.

Attitude is key to getting a good education.  And teaching your children about God while they’re young, is key to them following Him all their lives. (Look at the Catholic church and how they take the first and most formative 7 years and with their religion classes produce lifelong commitment) As a homeschooling mother, believe me, you will be way ahead of the game if you spend the preschool years working on obedience, cheerfulness, and cooperation…

Well, you say, my 3&4’s are ready, they get whiney and bored without fun workbooks to accomplish, etc.  Excuse me? Whiney and bored? These are character issues that need to be dealt with, and not by thwacking another worksheet down on the table!

Let “kindergarten” be your “school readiness program”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for stimulating learning through environment and activities, just don’t steal that joy of childhood by starting too early on the regimentation of requiring this kind of “success” from your 3 and 4 year olds. (I’m picturing a parent sitting with a child for two hours at the table, trying to complete a ‘curriculum’ and getting frustrated with their squirming child. Please don’t make them feel stupid before they’re even six years old!)

Let them stress when they’re old enough to handle it. For now, let them play. Let them learn what they were created for. Teach the important stuff.

There’s plenty of time for the other.

P.S. For all you moms/dads who’ve made the decision to homeschool and are raring to jump in with both feet…wanting structure and achievement, why not spend this “waiting period” on enriching your own education? Your love of learning will spill over, and everyone will benefit from it.

Cooking and Food Home Schooling

Sourdough Bread Recipes

Here’s a couple of recipes to go along with the Sourdough Starter recipe I posted earlier this morning. The first is for sourdough bread, the second, flapjacks. These recipes would be great to use while doing a pioneer unit study with your children! And don’t stop with just these two recipes, try Sourdough Chocolate Cake with cocoa cream cheese filling! Or Sourdough French Bread, Biscuits, Streusel Cake, Sugar cookies, Applesauce Spice Cake…and many more. Bet you didn’t realize sourdough starter was so versatile!

Sourdough Bread—this no-knead bread is no fuss to make and delicious, too. It has a crisp crust and distinctive sourdough flavor from the starter yeast mixture you stir up in advance. It’s easier than you’d think! 

  • 1 cup Sourdough Starter
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
  • 3 ¾ to 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Cold water

Mix 1 cup sourdough starter, 2 ½ cups flour and 2 cups warm water in 3-quart glass bowl with wooden spoon until smooth. Cover; let stand in warm, draft-free place 8 hours.

Add 3 ¾ cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, baking soda and oil to mixture in bowl; stir with wooden spoon until smooth and flour is completely absorbed. (Dough should be just firm enough to gather into a ball. If necessary, add remaining ½ cup flour gradually, stirring until all flour is absorbed.)


Turn dough onto heavily floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 ½ hours. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.


Punch down dough; divide in halves. Shape each half into a round, slightly flat loaf. Do not tear dough by pulling it. Place loaves in opposite corners of greased cookie sheet. Make three ¼ inch deep slashes in each loaf. Let rise until double, about 45 minutes.


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush loaves with cold water. Place cookie sheet in center of oven. Cookie sheet should not touch sides of oven. Bake, brushing occasionally with water, until loaves sound hollow when tapped, about 50 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire racks.


Sourdough Flapjacks

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 Tablespoons sugar

  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 beaten egg

  • 1 cup starter

  • ¾ cup milk

  • 3 Tablespoons cooking oil

  • Serve with molasses or syrup, to taste

Mix the egg, starter, milk, and 2 Tablespoons oil in the bowl. Stir until it’s smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until smooth.


Place 1 Tablespoon of oil in a griddle or frying pan and heat it at medium heat.


Use 2 Tablespoons of batter for each flapjack. Fry until bubbles appear in the batter of the flapjack. When the bubbles begin to burst, flip it over and fry the other side until it is golden brown.


Serves 4.

Home Schooling

SWR Spelling Blurb

We’re reviewing our spelling words this week and  I just have to rave a bit about how much we LOVE our Spell to Write and Read curriculum! My oldest, at age 8, has 260 words so far this year so we’re testing 60 a day and she’s acing them! And more than getting her words right, she has a great attitude about the process which means so much to this mama!

My first grader has learned 120 words (she gets 20 new words a week) and is loving the spelling. She much prefers spelling to reading and does a whale of a better job at spelling too, I might add! (We’re still struggling to keep focused at reading time! She can read, and is proud of this accomplishment, but doesn’t yet enjoy it!)

The SWR curriculum is a one time purchase that can be used over and over for each child in your family. The spelling lists included go from preschool/Kindergarten to college level, and they’re accompanied by SOOO many great suggestions and teacher “helps” to reinforce grammar, handwriting, understanding of word meanings etc. The program is built upon the 70 phonograms and a slew of spelling rule cards. Finally, the English language makes sense!

Your child learns how to sound out words to spell them phonetically, enters each week’s spelling words into a self-created spelling book and reads those words to you each day. In essence, they learn to spell before/as they are learning to read. You practice the phonogram cards each day, and teach the spelling rules as they’re introduced and practice using them by illustrating how they’re used in the back of the child’s spelling book.

For example, when you’re teaching the five spellings of /er/, they make a chart in the back of their speller with the headings:

er   ur  ir  wor  ear

Then under each heading they file the appropriate spelling words as they’re dictated each week. Under /er/ they’d write “her”, under /ur/ they’d write “church” and “spur”, under /ir/ they’d write “first”, under /wor/ they’d write “worship” and “word”, under /ear/ would be “early”, etc. And it’s reinforced each day when you go over the phonogram flashcards. When they see /er/ they’ll say, “er as in her”; when they see /ur/ they’ll say “ur as in church”. And so on.

We bought the core kit, the learning logs, the clock stamp (for a SUPER fun way to teach preschoolers how to write correctly), and The Alpha List. Great investment.  Wanda Sanseri (the author) will have you outside with your preschoolers painting their phongrams on the sidewalk with a paintbrush and a bucket of water. I could go on and on, and believe me, I’m not getting any perks for this glowing recommendation! If your child is older and already spelling, this program is still worth buying. There are placement tests in the back to let you know where your child falls in the program.

Best of all, it’s Christian based! What more can you ask for?

Family Ties Home Schooling

Contagious Collage

Want a good family read that stokes those fires of creativity? Get thee to the nearest library and check out Alphabet House by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.

It’s an A to Z book like many others with each alphabet letter getting its own page full of corresponding sounds, but the pictures are done in collage and they are amazing! A person could spend an hour enjoying all the details this artist put into her book.

And we couldn’t leave it at just enthusing over the coolness and artistry. Nope, we had to try it for ourselves. It is that engaging! Brown paper bunny families in yellow checked gingham dresses, little bunny girls doing the hula hoop, indoor homey scenes of mama bunny ironing or doing laundry with the twins helping…the mediums were anything from brown paper bags to white paper towels to sandpaper rooflines. (Get the book!)

So the first free afternoon we got (wouldn’t you know, the very next day!) we called our nearest homeschooling friends and asked if we could deluge upon them with scads of paper, glue sticks and scissors. Of course they said, “Of course!” Two hours of fun later, 4 kids had some really neat indoor and outdoor scenes to show off.

Home Schooling Writing

Writing Games

I have here before me a squarish red book titled, Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye. I’m so excited about the games in this book that I just had to plug it.

Here’s a novel idea. Writing is about writing, not spelling. (I’ll admit, I blinked when I read that.)

You all know by now my mantra: Learning needs to be fun whenever possible! Handwriting for the K-3rd graders isn’t exactly a love affair. Why else would there be options out there such as Handwriting Without Tears?

This book is full of fun/easy ways to make the hesitant bold, to fan the flame of imagination gone shy, to reinstate the FUN of wribbling. (Read the book to find out what wribbling is, or use your imagination)

The book is divided into five parts. Below I’ll share one idea from each part to whet your curiosity. Keep in mind that some of her game ideas sound even better than the ones I’m sharing…they’d just take too much explanation on my part! The writing games are all aimed at grades K-3:

Part one is titled: Just For Starters:

  • Make alphabet letters out of pretzel dough (we’ve actually done this and it’s a blast!)
  • Play obstacle course: Take a blank piece of typing paper and at the top write HOME. At the bottom write ZOO. In between the two fill the paper with short 1.5 inch lines slanted every which way. Your beginning writer gets to practice controlling their pencil as they weave in between lines to get from home to zoo. (Easiest of all home drawn mazes!)

Part two is called: Stress Busters:

  • 15 minutes of silent written conversation. Teacher and child may not talk, but instead write questions and answers back and forth. If anyone talks during the 15 minutes, they get points against them for each spoken word. Words do not need to be neat or spelled correctly. (We’re trying to instill a love of creative writing here, no corrections!)
  • Monster Cafe–Boys will love filling in a menu that you’ve labeled “appetizer”, “main dish”, “dessert” and “beverage”. Remember, spelling isn’t important. The boy she worked with in the book used “Slime guts with cklt cockroaches” (cklt=chocolate). Don’t forget to have the child put a price by the item! And if they ask for help spelling, help them. We’re taking the pain out of handwriting.

Part three in the book deals with Spelling, Handwriting and Grammar:

  • Speed contest–give them a page with a challenging spelling word written at the top. Have them study it a couple minutes, then write it as many times as they can in 45 seconds. If they are able to write it (correctly and legibly) enough times, they’ve won the contest.

Part four–Writing With Style:

  • “She is so silly”…have your child write a story about the silliest woman on earth…three or four sentences. She is so silly she wears slippers for mittens. Or “He is so hungry” etc.
  • Have your child dream up a main character. Give them a fact sheet to fill in–name, favorite color, fave food, favorite activity on a Saturday, what they really love and really dislike…

Part five ends the book–Made With Pride:

  • the author gives templates to make a cat shaped book. If your child loves to draw tractors or horses, they could make a shape book out of these shapes and put a three word caption under each page’s picture
  • Make your own board game. Disclaimer: the author makes a game board based on witchcraft (I know…) my girls and I made a board game based on the Spanish facts we were learning last year. We had as much fun making it as we had playing it.
  • Make their own alphabet book…a page for each letter, a word(s) for each letter…they could illustrate it themselves or find a magazine picture to paste on the page.

As you can see, this book is 225 pages chock full of ideas. I got it last week at the library, and will probably end up buying my own copy!

Home Schooling

True Confessions: Today at Our House

It took me and my six year old an hour just to dictate/write ten spelling words, review phonagram cards/spelling rule cards, and to read two “early readers” together. We may have overdone it as I had to bring her down from the verge of tears twice. Her attention tends to wander, she thinks by guessing she’ll save herself time, etc.

My toddler was watching “Miss Pattycake” the whole time we worked, and my oldest was outside playing with her puppies.
I did snag her eventually and we got her school work mostly done, and finished with six year old’s other subjects by lunchtime (including laps around the house on foot and on bike–does that redeem me?). 

Six year old is SO close to reading fluently, I’ve just gotta stay on top of it. Her tears totally demotivate me. She would have been reading last year (kindergarten) if I’d been consistent with sitting down and plodding through the early readers. Sigh.

My biggest confession: I’ve discovered how motivating watermelon licorice is.

Bad mommy, slapping my hand as I hit publish…


Home Schooling

Homeschooling: The Floor Game

Gina asked a while back if I’d give more details on how to play the floor game.

The floor game is a board game played all over the house, or even outdoors. You and your kids design the game, the board and your kids are the playing pieces.

Using poster board for durability, make “spaces” to be hopped on by the players. You can make your game all about a certain subject (history for instance), or like I’ve done…questions about everything for review purposes. Make up your rules (decide if you’ll have a penalty for wrong answers or an extra turn for correct ones), make a few bonus spaces (“hop 3 spaces forward”, or have one space be a “mystery question” that mom thinks up on the spur of the moment), and construct a large cardboard/posterboard dice.

Here are some questions I put on our spaces for my girls aged 6 and 8:

  • How many planets are there? Name as many as you can.
  • Spell the name of the month in which you celebrate your birthday.
  • How many digits in 1,002,200,333? Hop to the next space if you can read this number correctly to me.
  • Say a Bible verse and reference. (Or put the reference there and have them quote the verse)
  • Name 5 internal organs.
  • What’s the world’s largest desert?
  • Name the 4 oceans
  • Do 5 jumping jacks

You get the idea. The fun part is when you take these spaces all over the place…up and back down the stairs, in and out of the bathtub, around hazards like dirty laundry (gasp, yes, it exists!!), up onto step stools, etc.

This game is so flexible. If your children need to work on their multiplication tables, your younger ones can still play by adding the numbers instead of multiplying.

Store all the spaces in a labeled gallon sized ziplock in your game cupboard! Incidentally, this is a good way to store all your puzzles…just cut the flat picture part out of the box top and store in bag with pieces. Saves a lot of space!

Home Schooling

Why I Homeschool

There are many reasons we chose this path, the most important that my husband and I knew without a doubt that it was God’s will for our family.

My biggest fear when homeschooling, is not that I’ll fail to pass on the 3R’s or that my children will be societal empty-heads. My fear is that I’ll fail to make the education experience a rewarding one.

I want them to love everything about it.

To that end, I encourage learning without calling it “school”. Never fear, we do our allotted “schoolwork” but we follow creative tangeants all the time, and my girls are having so much fun they don’t realize that it’s “school” in its best form!

Yesterday, my oldest got up early so she could hurry through her cursive practice, math, spelling, etc. She’d packed her backpack the night before for a “morning adventure”…she prolonged her adventure so she could be a part of our “toddler school” and songtime, but then she was out the door. She had a blast, and even got to “play” archaeologist! She actually found two bones jointed together–and excitedly told me, “Maybe God wants me to be a Christian scientist someday!” (Smile) That afternoon she spent over an hour reading a book on backyard adventures that I’d conveniently picked up at the library our last visit. (note: get fun-looking educational books and leave them lying around to tempt curiosity!)

Last night, (who says school can only be done during the day?) my oldest worked feverishly on a flip book about North Dakota. She has a good friend that lives there and wanted to check out a library book about it. We’re turning this newfound interest of hers into this year’s geography project. My plan is to buy a big map of the USA and see how many post cards we can get from the different states as we study them/make flip books about them. As the post cards arrive we can tack them to the state on the map. Her flip book has self-illustrated pics of the state flower, a pic we copied of the state bird, another pic of the badlands, and one of Indians running buffalos off a cliff (historically, that’s how they hunted them). We’ve learned some fascinating things about ND. Did you know that lightening strikes can crack the ground open in the ND badlands which catches the underground coal on fire? That coal can burn for years, hardening the ground and turning it brick red…

The teacher in me wants to pipe up and suggest certain things, but I have to be really careful how I do so or it quenches her excitement. She takes it so much further when it’s “her idea”…

Another reason I love homeschool is the fun we had yesterday at the piano singing Wee Sing Bible songs with my youngest…an hour flew by as we did toddler activities together. We played a toddler version of “Simon Says”, “Follow the Leader”, sat on the floor with our feet together and holding hands we “rowed” to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. We read a dozen (literally) library books together, and sang a few hymns out of the hymnal.

Another wonderful homeschool day.

Christianity Home Schooling Writing


My husband and I are once again re-vamping our budget. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but it’s just starting to occur to me that the same principles that apply to budgeting our money can apply to many areas in our life.

I’m a Christian, a wife, a home school mom and a writer. I’m also a daughter, sister, aunt and a friend to many people. Budgeting my time is important.

When budgeting, most Christians tithe first and then they allot a certain amount of money in various categories. If there’s not enough money in the car maintenance category to pay the repairs, then they borrow the remainder from the entertainment category.

When the “writing bug” bit me back in December I did most of my writing at night or very early in the morning. Coffee kept my eyes propped open, and I exchanged meaningful relationships (with dh and children) for my new obsession. Getting the story inside me on the screen.

I struggled along trying to be all and do all, but the joy was gone. I poured all my creativity into my writing, and bankrupted everything else. Shortchanging God spills over to shortchanging everything.

In June, writing took a backseat to our busy summer. Ever since, I’ve been reluctant to take it up again. My heart is in homeschooling my children and I’m scared to death that even one little peek at my manuscript will suck me under.

So here’s where budgeting comes in. Time-budgeting.

  1. God first. When I start my day with prayer and devotions the patience and love that fills me never stretches thin…
  2. Getting at least 6 hours of sleep at night and taking care of my health. One way I’m being proactive about this is the supplement I recently bought at WalMart: Juice for Life–Power Fruit Formula. It’s full of whole food concentrates and Antioxidants, an energy booster much better for me than coffee. Yesterday, after little sleep (toddler had a fussy night) and a very busy day, I realized I made it through the whole day with NO coffee!!! And no grumps!) I’m also drinking quite a bit more water.
  3. Plan my day ahead so the important things don’t get shuffled under the carpet. Like kids.

Luke 14:28-29, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him.”

By budgeting my time and assets, and making priorities of the most important jobs God’s given me, how can I go wrong?

If writing is God’s will for me, I’ll be able to budget it in. For now, I think He’s telling me to lay low and pray about it.

James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” Then summing up in verse 17, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

My question for you, is how are you making time for writing while keeping your other priorities straight?

Christianity Home Schooling

Hiding God’s Word in Young Hearts

Last year within my small homeschooling circle I taught the attending children a weekly Bible verse. To teach the verse, I used ideas from a Bible memory book for kids, called Hide God’s Word In Young Hearts by Joan Dower Kosmachuk. It’s an old book published in the early 90’s…a relic from my Kid’s Club days, what a gem though.

Here are activities that we did:

  • Print the verse on poster board, then print its opposite right next to it. Example: the opposite of John 14:15 is, “If you love yourself, you will do whatever you want.” This is an eye-opener to kids, as they see how their actions/attitudes sometimes easily contradict God’s word
  • Use puppets to teach the verse. (My girls love making sock puppets with yarn for hair and marker faces…EASY project)
  • Print each word to the verse on a separate 3×5 cards and hang each one on a clothesline. Say verse with kids, then have each one take a turn removing a card while all continue to repeat verse. Do this till all cards are gone! (A different version of this is to write the verse on a white board and have the kids take turns erasing words)
  • Make “stepping stones” out of blank typing paper. Kids can hop from stone to stone “across the river” as they say the words in order from memory. If they miss a word, they’ve fallen in the river!
  • Have the children sit in a big circle and toss a ball back and forth with each catch being that person’s turn to say the next word(s) in the verse
  • Sing the verse…especially if you already have the verse on tape. There are some wonderful CD’s out there with verses put to music for kids.
  • Always discuss the verse and how it might be lived in our daily lives.

Verse time was a blast. But the best part, the part that really pumped was their homework.

The assignment involved drawing/illustrating the verse before our next meeting. You’d never believe how excited they were the next week when showing the last week’s verse/drawing. And it was a great review of that verse before we plunged into the next one. Not to mention the time spent creatively drawing really reinforced the impact of the verse.

My girls kept all their pictures in special folders. Each picture painstakingly drawn, full of thought and love…with the reference and verse written out below.