April 29, 2010

Teaching Boys & Other Kids Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day

This was one of my favorite sessions from the homeschool convention. Andrew Pudewa is an amazing, engaging speaker, and I already look forward to going to more of his sessions in the future.

The first part of the topic centered on neurological differences between boys and girls and how that relates to those of us trying to teach them. I took lots of notes during this session, so I may break this up into a couple of different posts. Don't assume that this is boring--it's actually quite fascinating! And if you're a mom/teacher of boys, I'm sure a lot of this isn't going to be news, but I really loved learning that there is concrete evidence for some of the things we intuitively know!

[ETA: Mr. Pudewa referenced a book called Why Gender Matters by Dr. Sax for the following information. He did give a caveat, saying that the research is very good and solid, but be aware, should you choose to read the book, that the worldview is not a Christian one, so there will be some differences if you are coming from that perspective.]

1. Boys hear differently than girls.
Boys' ears do not detect softer sounds as well as girls' ears--in other words, they literally do hear differently! So you know those annoying little taps and other noises boys make when they are supposed to be reading, writing, or listening? The ones that drive their moms and sisters crazy (or teachers, if they are in a classroom)? Boys don't even realize they are doing it! Take a boy sitting in the back of a classroom with a soft-spoken female teacher...he is back there tapping and banging away, literally trying to keep himself from dying of boredom because he can't hear what's going on!

2. Boys see differently than girls.
The optic nerve in females has more cells connected to cones; in men, the optic nerve has more cells connected to rods. This means that women see colors and textures better, while men see action and speed better. (This so explains card-making and the Super Bowl!) Even newborns are more able to detect this information, depending on whether they are male or female.

Boys draw verbs. Give kids time to draw, and the boys will come up with pictures depicting arrows flying, rockets blasting off, etc. They will probably only use one crayon. Girls, on the other hand, draw nouns. Houses, flowers, ponies, rainbows. So typically teachers will respond to the girls' drawings more favorably--it's easier to figure out what a girl has drawn, and she uses lots of colors. On the other hand, an adult usually has to ask a boy to explain his drawing (unless, like Tobin, he labels everything in the picture!)

When it comes to writing, boys use verbs and adverbs, while girls use nouns and adjectives. If you ask a boy, "Would you like me to help you add more detail to this paragraph?" he'll say, "Naw, I'm good." But if you ask him, "Would you like me to help you add more action?" he'll be more likely to continue writing!

3. Boys respond to stress differently than girls.
Fascinating--did you know the "fight or flight" response is true only of MALE animals? All the tests were done on male animals. Know why? Because all the females had too many hormones raging! Female animals all respond to stress by hiding.

Males regulate stress by standing up and moving around and by being in cooler temperatures. So when we tell boys, "Sit down and work on this hard math page!" we are giving them conflicting messages! Studies done have shown that gender-separated classrooms that allow boys to move freely (chairs optional) have much better results compared to mixed classrooms in which boys have to sit and behave the way that comes naturally to girls.

Females best regulate stress by lying still and getting warmer. If a girl is stressed, often you first have to find her! They are often hiding under blankets. (I had to laugh at this, because it's definitely true of my Charis.)

So now the thermostat wars are explained! 68 degrees is optimal for boys; 75 degrees for girls.

4. Boys react differently to pain than girls do.
When men experience pain, there is an increase in blood flow to their cortex. This allows them to have clarity--it helps in battle, yes? One wants our soldiers to be able to think clearly despite pain. When women experience pain, however, there is a decrease in blood flow to their cortex. It's that fuzzy feeling that allows for the survival of our species--if we remembered the pain of childbirth, we would never truly want to repeat it!

An interesting factoid to close with, and then I'll finish posting the rest of the notes at another time. Scientific studies about these neurological differences showed them to hold true across the board, no matter what age or what "orientation" participants claimed to be. Males responded one way, females another. More proof that God created us perfectly for the roles He wants us to fulfill!

April 28, 2010


My kids have never done any standardized tests before this week. In Nevada, we never needed to even think about it, really. I did have the thought last spring that maybe I should have Charis and Tobin tested, just to see how they did, but when I realized the test dates for our homeschool group were the week before my due date with Lucan, I decided not to bother. Good thing, too, since Lucan arrived just a few days before the testing began!

So anyway, we moved to Ohio, which has considerably more paperwork involved when it comes to homeschooling regulations, especially compared to Nevada, where we filed one "notification of intent to homeschool" letter when our child turned 7 years old. ONE letter. ONE time. NOTHING else needed, ever. Not that it's all that difficult here in Ohio, but we do have to file paperwork with the local school board every year. Now that we're no longer going to be first-time filers, we have a few options to fulfill one of the requirements for showing that we are indeed capable of making sure our children are smarter than the average banana.

While I appreciate the option to submit a written narrative along with a portfolio, and I do like that it is an alternative to standardized testing, I decided that I could not trust myself to hang onto enough significant pieces of paper, make an appointment with someone who doesn't even know our family, and have that person make a judgment on our children's academic progress. So a portfolio assessment was out as far as I was concerned.

The easier of the two options, though admittedly more expensive, was to sign the kids up for testing. I ordered the Spectrum Test Prep booklets from Timberdoodle, which we started working on about a month ago, a few pages at a time, just to give the kids a taste of what the test experience would be like.

We have now finished 2 of 3 days of testing. The kids are loving it! Well, perhaps not the filling in the bubbles part. But they've met some new friends and love getting to hang out with other homeschoolers during the many breaks they enjoy during the day. (As a side note, I have no recollection at ALL of ANY breaks during my elementary testing experiences, LOL.)

Charis had some major test anxiety ahead of time, despite my best efforts to assure her she did NOT have to get every test question correct. She was in tears any time she missed a sample question, and I was about to despair of her ever making it through the SAT or ACT with feelings intact in the next decade. But thankfully she seems to be over that hump now and is taking on the mantra Tony Horton chants in his workout DVDs: Do your best, and forget the rest! Mostly she's just been thrilled to meet some other homeschool girls and make some new friends. In fact, I am pretty sure that the kids will end up saying this week has been one of the best school weeks ever!

Considering the minimum COMPOSITE test score is the 25th percentile...I'm pretty sure we'll be OK. Not to brag or anything, but our kids do seem to be smarter than your average banana!

April 27, 2010

Rebuilding a Concept of Virtuous Boyhood

The second session I attended at the homeschool convention was given by Doug Phillips from Vision Forum. What follows in this post are the notes I took from his session, which was in a very large room in which every chair was filled. Heather and I had to sit on the floor, in fact. So obviously it was a well-received topic! But unfortunately I was unable to see the Power Point slides that went along with his presentation, so my notes are probably not as organized as they could have been. As before, I will simply bullet the points.

* Like it or not, we are in an entertainment-driven culture full of ungodly violence, role reversals, and a watering down of the family.

* Boys are supposed to act like men!

* The modern priority for boys is to feed the flesh. Boys do not identify with their fathers--instead, they identify with rock stars, sports stars, and peer groups.

* Culture is religion externalized. We have an immature culture.

* Much of the communication in our culture is "verbal vomit," or inarticulate speech full of slang, verbal pauses, "like, you know, whatever and stuff."

* Noble boyhood involves relating properly to girls as sisters in Christ. Virtuous boys/men are protectors and defenders of women and sons of the King.

* Our culture is full of indecisive men who are molly-cuddled.

* Our mission: To train our boys to be mighty men of God. This involves 1) Sonship, 2) Nobility, 3) Wisdom, and 4) Dominion. (An example here is Captain John Smith.)

* Doctrine of Manliness: This involves the blessed man, the upright man, and another adjective man that I didn't catch. His point came from several Scriptures where men were exhorted to "be a man," or "brace yourself like a man," etc. (Examples: David speaking on his deathbed to Solomon, God answering Job out of the storm.)

* Duty is a guiding light for true manliness. It involves self-sacrifice for the weak, principle, and faith that overcomes fear.

* Quote from Teddy Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts...[much more than I could get]...the credit belongs to the man in the arena."

* Dare greatly! Peace? Ease? Entertainment? Fantasy? Is this what we are raising our boys for? If so, they will not be engaged in the world of work. Work, business, cause of Christ--this is what they need to strive for.

* Dream noble dreams for the real world.

* Sons: Do something important with your life! At age 15-16, sons should be thinking of themselves as men.

* Even at a young age on earth, Christ was about His Father's business.

* Another example: David. He spent most of his time AWAY from peer groups. His time was invested in hard work. He gained excellence in the Christian culture from an early age. He was about his father's business, and as he worked, both recreation and work became his physical salvation and prepared him for his work as a man. He played a harp, but he was also a warrior.

* Language--(remember the aforementioned "verbal vomit?!")--We need to get back to a language of honor and respect. Sons need to show honor and respect to fathers, but also it should go the other way: "This is my son, with whom I am well pleased."

* Self-discipline in language--use complete sentences! Make your words count. Watch the books you read! (Or let your boys read...)

* Then he talked a bit about developing a library of good literature to inspire boys and referenced Robert Ballantyne and G.A. Henty books. He said, "Boys need to encounter risks." Also, "How a boy responds to history helps to define his perspective about himself."

So, note to self...we need to check out those books! I've heard of the Henty books but not the Ballantyne ones. I think the Henty books are a little above where our boys are right now, but they are definitely on my list for future reading for our family!

The Little Green Drink

I stole this blog post title from my friend Annette, who wrote about this same thing recently. I've long heard that a great way to get kids to eat more greens is instead to have them DRINK more greens. And as the Happy Box people tell us, many greens are best enjoyed in smoothie fashion.

Well, I had never actually tried this, though I thought it was a great idea. Spurred on by Annette's post...AND by BOXES of greens from last week's Happy Box delivery (good heavens, how much lettuce, spinach, kale, and cabbage can one family eat in 7 days?!), I decided it was high time we tried this out.

Yesterday was our first attempt. I didn't let the kids see what I was doing, heh. Into the blender went:

* 7-8 strawberries
* 2 bananas
* 1 cup of orange juice
* about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
* some ice
* and kale...lots of kale...all the way to the top of the blender.

I set the blender on high and let 'er rip until you couldn't see any individual pieces of green--it was just all one smooth shade of green, not unlike Elphaba's skin tone in Wicked. I poured a big cupful into a ginormous cup with a lid and straw so the kids couldn't see what was in it. Then I made them each take a big sip. After I heard all their excited reactions, I told them they could each have their own cup and straw. They laughed at the Yoda coloring, but they drank it all up! I never did tell them there were veggies in it!

Annette recommends some other healthful additions, none of which I have on hand at the moment. But as she pointed out, the simple fruit and greens combination gives so many good vitamins and nutrients!

I made another smoothie recipe this evening to go with dinner--I had made salad for Ted and me, and since our kids aren't big salad fans, I decided why not let them have smoothies?! They thought they were getting away with no veggies for the evening, ha! I did the same thing as last time, only I just had one banana left, so I used the rest of our strawberry yogurt in place of the plain yogurt. It was just as tasty.

I look forward to more experimentation! This will definitely help us use up all of the Happy Box ingredients, methinks!


You know we can't go too long without having a Kenna post. Here are a few things she has done or said recently to make us laugh.

* It took awhile to figure out what she was saying, but now we understand her when she announces Lucan needs someone to wipe his nose. Her phrase? "Yu-can has a not." In other words, "Lucan has snot dripping down his face. Wipe it now."

* We're working on answering politely, since she has gotten into the habit of saying, "Uh-huh!" She does frequently answer, "Yes, ma'am," and since she was dressed like a princess recently, I praised her when she answered me politely, saying that was how a princess would respond to her mommy. She seemed to like that idea, so the next time I called her, she answered, "Yes, ma'am, uh-huh!"

* Though she is perfectly capable of feeding herself, often during dinner Kenna decides to wander away from the table; however, if dessert is on the line, she is usually willing to eat a reasonable amount from various food groups. One night recently she indicated that she desperately wanted dessert but was not willing to shovel her food into her own mouth. I humored her and asked her if she wanted me to feed her. She scooted over next to me, and I proceeded to give her a few bites. Then I asked, "Do you want to feed yourself now?" She answered, "No, YOU feed myself!"

* Much to Ted's and my chagrin, Kenna all too frequently reminds us, "I growing up!" The funny thing is, though, she announces this when she is standing on a stool or a chair or wearing some high-heeled shoes!


I was cleaning the kitchen when Lucan toddled in, all clean from his bath. He wore a huge grin and some red and black Montana pajamas that family members gave us when Charis was a baby. It dawned on me that my days of seeing him crawl into the kitchen are officially over. In less than a week he has gone from taking 2 to 3 steps at a time to plodding steadily all over the house, fists up by his cheeks for balance, heading for no particular place, content just to practice his new skill.

As I gazed at him a bit misty-eyed, he wandered over to his chair and dug out some morsels leftover from who knows how many meals ago, stuffing them into his mouth hastily. I guess that's another milestone--he can now get his own meals!

April 24, 2010

Teaching Kids About Nutrition

Apparently the kids are picking up on SOME of the tips for healthy eating that we've been trying to teach them. Arden came armed with information to make his case the last time he asked me for a snack.

"Mom, can I have some Cheese-Its for a snack? They have zero grams of sugar!"

April 21, 2010

General Update

I'm sitting outside on a beautiful, sunny day, watching Kenna enjoy the simple pleasures of a bucket full of sidewalk chalk. Charis is in the middle of her piano lesson, the boys are enjoying some rare time on Dad's computer playing a game, and Lucan is amazingly still asleep after 2 1/2 hours. He had a rough evening and night, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. All signs point to more teeth...and from past experience, we know this is never an easy time for our little guy.

Perhaps next weekend I'll be able to write up some more notes from our convention sessions, but for now I'll just blather on while inhaling the soft scent of the honeysuckle bush by the driveway. Not so pleasant is the occasional wasp that hovers precariously near my face; I suppose that's the trade-off that comes with spring.

Kenna has abandoned her driveway artwork in favor of a sidewalk stroll. She is holding Charis's purple umbrella to shade herself from the sun. It clashes nicely with her orange shirt and green pants--she needs an "I Dressed Myself" sticker today. Oh, to be three again! Why worry about schedules and what's for dinner when there is a neighborhood to explore?!

This week has been a good one thus far. I was somewhat dreading the necessity of starting up our full school schedule again, but somehow Sonlight must have known that spring is here--our reading assignments have been very light. Of course, the fact that I opted to skip science altogether this week may have something to do with that...hmmm. The kids did some electrical experiments yesterday afternoon with Ted while I was at the dentists getting my teeth cleaned, and Charis and Tobin did an internet search this morning to find out what bag worms are and decide if what was hanging on our bush was a harmful sack of parasites or something friendly. (The jury is still out on that one...they don't LOOK like the pictures online, but our neighbor was quite certain, so out they went, just in case.)

Anyway. So we've done some science, but not the assigned reading. I love being able to choose what learning paths we pursue! The kids have done very well with their independent work, and our read-aloud times have been very satisfying. We just finished A Little Princess yesterday. I LOVE that book! I was glad that Tobin got so into the storyline; he was not at all thrilled about a book with the word "princess" in it at first. Arden was not very excited about the whole thing, but the rest of us enjoyed it. The story went perfectly with our current character quality study, compassion. There were numerous examples of times Sara showed compassion to those around her, even when she was a person who desperately needed compassion herself. Good discussion times!

In other news, I've begun a new exercise program, P90X from Beachbody. While I can't get too enthused about the worldly perspective on health and body image, I have to say I'm enjoying the program thoroughly. (Don't get me wrong--it's nothing terrible, but the instructor is definitely pleased with himself, that's for sure!) I needed something to get me going again. I had fallen into a lull with the other workout DVDs I was borrowing from a friend, and since I haven't purchased running shoes since before Lucan was in utero, running has been out of the question until I can make an appointment with a shoe store and get fitted with some proper foot gear. So when a few acquaintances started talking to me about this program, I did some looking into it and took the plunge with Ted's full support. He has even done 3 of the 6 workouts with me, only neglecting the days when he has his own strenuous workouts on base with the mandatory PT program. His help has helped me so much--there have already been days when I would have rolled over and gone back to sleep instead of getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m., but so far we are 6 for 6 days!! Only 84 more to go, LOL!

We have a busy weekend ahead of us, full of fun church activities. Friday afternoon the kids and I have a field trip to the Sunwatch Indian Village, and then in the evening we host our monthly Family Community gathering. Ted will be doing the kids' devotional time. Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon we'll be at church rehearsing for the Kids Street Live program that will be on Sunday in between the two services. The older kids have birthday parties to attend on Saturday as well, so I'm sure we'll be ready for a day of rest come Sunday afternoon!

Next week will be a bit of a spring break, as if we haven't already had some spring breaks with the grandmas in town and other things going on! But the kids will be joining with the homeschool co-op to take their first ever standardized tests. Testing will happen Tuesday through Thursday mornings, and then Charis has a field trip on Friday that I will blog about later. (Going to school in a one-room schoolhouse in an 1800s school setting!) So there is simply no point to trying to get any schoolwork done next week, in my opinion, LOL.

Well, Lucan is now awake, so it's time for his late lunch and some practice test sheets with the older kids.

April 18, 2010

Dr. John Rosemond at the Homeschool Convention

In a series of posts that may or may not be consecutive and that may or may not be finished before next month, I will attempt to share some of my notes from the homeschool convention in an effort to allow my brain to mull over the concepts again and, prayerfully, to be a blessing to any other parents who may be able to glean some nuggets of wisdom and encouragement on any of these topics.

Ted and I both attended two sessions with Dr. Rosemond as the speaker. If you are unfamiliar with this man, I highly recommend checking out his books. I started reading his weekly columns in the Dayton Daily News when we first lived in Ohio and was impressed by his no-nonsense approach to parenting. I wasn't sure at the time but wondered if he might be a Christian. He mentioned during one of the sessions that he became a Bible-believing Christian 10 years ago, so his words as a Christian psychologist carry more weight with me, especially since he says he retains his credentials as a psychologist in order to obtain credibility with parents--he pretty much feels that psychology is a bunch of hooey. :-)

Rather than try to reproduce his talks in written form, I'll just bullet my notes.

* "High self-esteem seizure" - This was his phrase for a temper tantrum. I just thought it was funny. :-)

* Children need love and leadership. Leadership is acting like you know what you're doing!

* Discipline is typically all about behavior, though it should be a process of teaching. Values and character are what it should be about.

* As parents, you MUST have a vision for what you want your children to be in the future. Are your energies spent investing in your children's secular achievements?? [Side note from me: This encouraged Ted and me as we evaluate what activities we want our kids to be involved in. Is it wrong for them to be in sports? No. But is it the BEST use of our time and money? At this point, probably not. Our job is training disciples for God's kingdom, not shuffling kids to and from practices. Since we do not feel a call in this area for any of our children, why make our lives busier and more stressful?]

* Children need to learn not all their problems can be solved. Let them take responsibility for their own problems--don't accept "I need help." As his mother told Dr. Rosemond as a child, "I figured this out; so can you."

* What percent of your time is spent in the role of father or mother? What percent of your time is spent in the role of husband or wife? Remember Genesis 2:24!! Set boundaries and make sure kids know your marriage is priority. They will be much happier, and so will you.

* Leadership parenting is a role, a matter of presentation. Claim the legitimacy of your authority. Act like you know what you're doing, where you're going, what you want, and what you expect it to happen!

* The mind of a child cannot understand the mind of an adult. We plant SEEDS of understanding, not understanding. Therefore...STOP EXPLAINING!!

* Kids are not going to suddenly say, "Oh, I see your point now, and I agree with you." There are only 6 explanations for saying no (listed below), and kids aren't going to like any of them. So just say, "If I were your age, I wouldn't agree with me either," and walk away! Here are the "explanations:"

1. You're not old enough.
2. You might get hurt.
3. There's not enough money.
4. There's not enough time.
5. We don't like those kids.
6. We don't believe in that.

Dr. Rosemond recommended putting each one on a slip of paper and sticking it in a jar, and when kids want an answer for why you're saying no to something, pick a slip of paper and read it! Soon enough they'll stop asking! (Yes, he was being facetious somewhat, but you have to know his personality and style to truly appreciate this. I personally loved it.)

So what do you do when you tell a child to do something and he doesn't do it? Here are his basic Rules for Consequences...or, Plan B.

1. Tell them ONCE. No nagging, no threatening, no repeating, no constant stream of talk. Tell them once, and walk away.

2. Do what you can when you can. Often immediate circumstances will not be optimal for giving a consequence, but you can bring it down later by describing the precipitating event. By age 3 kids can understand this, so consequences CAN be delayed.

3. Punishment should NEVER fit the crime. Nip it in the bud--don't tolerate it!

So, the example for these 3 rules: Mom tells Billy to pick up his toys because someone is coming over to meet with her and they need to use the room where Billy is playing. Mom says, "Billy, please pick up these toys. I'll be back in a few minutes to see that it's done." She leaves. Billy ignores her. Mom says nothing when she comes back and sees the toys aren't picked up. She calmly picks up the toys herself, has her meeting, and goes on with her day.

As Billy finishes eating later on at dinner time, Mom tells Billy, "Son, it's time to get ready for bed."

"What?!" Billy gasps. "It's only 6:30!"

"That's right. Your bedtime tonight is 6:30. In fact, your bedtime for the next 3 weeks is 6:30."

By now Billy is in utter shock.

Mom continues. "Earlier today I asked you to pick up your toys so the room would be clean for my meeting. You did not obey. Instead, I picked up your toys. As my reward for doing this work, I will enjoy 3 weeks of child-free evenings!"

So there you can see all 3 rules in action. :-)

Very Kevin Lehman, if you're familiar with any of his parenting books. Good stuff! It's always good to be reminded of how we should use our God-given authority!

April 17, 2010

Rest in Peace

So we were driving to P.E. on Thursday and passed a cemetery, and we had a rather "grave" conversation after that. (Oh, I amuse myself!) Tobin announced that he wanted to be buried in Ohio and asked me where I wanted to be buried. I replied, "Oh, beside wherever your daddy is buried, I guess."

Without missing a beat, he spouted out an inspired plan: "Or you could share the same tombstone and save some money!"

Should I be pleased that I'm teaching my children to be frugal?! LOL!

April 14, 2010

Today's Project

I just had to post pictures so my mom and mother-in-law would know that I actually do clean my laundry room! When they were here watching our kiddos while Ted and I were gone last week, the room was a total mess! Taking the winter gear down to the storage room was a big help, as was getting the too-small clothes that had piled up OUT of there. And leaving the ironing board up while we were gone didn't exactly allow for much movement in there, either!

Planning for the Summer and Beyond

So I still have a lot to process from the convention last week, and I'm running out of time today already. But there is one major change I'm making to our school plans that I will write about now.

PLAN A was to hurry up and finish Sonlight's Core 2 so we could hurry up and start on Sonlight's Core 3! Why the rush? We are planning to attend the homeschool days at Colonial Williamsburg this fall, and I thought it would be a good thing to get some of the American History core under our belts so the kids would be even more excited about the experience. We typically school year round anyway, with last summer being the exception since we had a newborn and a cross-country move throwing school plans awry.

When I visited the Sonlight booth in the Exhibit Hall last week, I had one question for Jill, and it's a question my friend Megan has asked as well as she has looked into this curriculum. By Core 3, the language arts readers are lining up with the history portion of the core. Charis is ready for LA 3 to go along with Core 3, but the boys are 1-2 levels behind. My question was...does this really matter? What should I do?

Jill suggested doing something different--instead of rushing into Core 3 and working at our one-core-per-year pace, stretch out Cores 3 and 4 (both American History) to last for three years. This will give the boys time to catch up, as we can continue their current LA pace. Also, she pointed out the opportunity to have Kenna join in Core K at the same time we start Core 5 with the older kids--both cores are "World Culture" oriented. Also, Core 1 goes very well with Core 6.

Light bulb moment for me! The thought of schooling Kenna has obviously crossed my mind, LOL, but I hadn't even begun to think that far down the road in terms of lining up our cores. I had read in the past about other families doing that, but since it didn't apply to our family at the time, it just sort of flew out of my brain.

I love this idea for several reasons. First of all, I hated feeling rushed with the core we're on now. I want to enjoy it! And I was finding myself in a box-checking mentality, and our school time was feeling very dead. Suddenly I feel free!! Funny, isn't it, how we as homeschooling moms--who plan our OWN schedules--often feel tied to something that may or may not be working?!

Also, I realized that there truly is no need for us to "cover" any particular American history information in order to enjoy being at Williamsburg. The kids have done some reading on their own, and we can definitely get books from the library and talk about things ahead of time...but why start a new core simply to learn certain facts ahead of time?

Another reason I'm happy with making this change is that there is simply too much great stuff out there! While I am a perfectly happy Sonlight customer and plan to remain so as we see all our kids through to graduation and beyond, I just love some of the other resources out there. Taking the summer "off" will allow me to incorporate some other activities into our schedule...like the National Bible Bee, for example! I'm looking forward to organizing a light school schedule that will keep us busily learning and doing worthwhile things through the summer while still giving us a bit of a break that will allow me to re-organize some things in the house and plan for some travel.

April 12, 2010

Homeschool Convention Overview

We're back to "real life," sort of, but I'm determined to make time to process at least some of the things I saw and heard during our time away at the amazing Cincinnati Homeschool Convention, which was HUGE! This post will be an overview of what we did, and in following posts I hope to zero in on specific topics and share some of the notes I took and my own observations, what God laid on my heart, etc.

First of all, I just have to say a huge PRAISE GOD for the last few days!! And a huge THANK YOU to my mom and Ted's mom for their willingness to be left alone with five kids for 60 hours, LOL! They did great, all of them, and we only got one phone call from home--a desperate cry of "Where's the nearest Starbucks?!"--which is understandable since Ted and I don't drink coffee as a rule! (Although, ironically, we were enjoying finally being able to use Starbucks gift cards Rhonda gave us for Valentine's Day!)

Both our moms flew in on Wednesday (and boy, were their arms tired, I know, ha ha). Mom's flight was delayed out of Milwaukee, so she arrived around 9:30 p.m. and I picked her up soon after. We drove home, visited awhile, and Ted left to pick Rhonda up after her flight landed at 11:30 p.m. We all crashed around 1 a.m. and slept until 7:30 the next morning, which, for Ted and me, is sleeping in...except for going to bed about 3 hours later than normal! There was plenty of time Thursday morning to go over instructions, answer questions, etc. I left a "Grandmas' Survival Manual," a notebook with pages listing phone numbers and neighbors' names, schedules for Lucan, Kenna, and the older kids, recipes, etc. No one can say I didn't leave enough information, I think!

Ted and I left around lunch time, and the kids barely turned their heads to say goodbye, they were so excited to be left alone with TWO grandmas. We drove a little ways and ate at an Indian restaurant we had gone to on a date night in February and enjoyed their yummy buffet. Then it was on to Cincinnati, where we checked into our lovely two-star hotel (hey, it was a cheap king suite) and met up with Blair and Heather, who had taken a red-eye from Las Vegas and arrived in Ohio around 7:30 a.m. Fortunately they were able to check into their hotel room early and caught some sleep and a shower before we arrived. We visited quite awhile, then drove to the Convention Center to check in. Ted and I were able to trade our 8:30 Tim Hawkins tickets for the 2:00 show so we could be with Heather and Blair, and then we sat down and reviewed schedules, looked through our packets, and finally decided to leave and get some dinner before things started.

We enjoyed a Chipotle meal and then entered the Exhibition Hall, where there were literally over 1000 booth spaces set up. Homeschool heaven!! We girls split up from the guys after awhile, since we were planning to attend different sessions, and Heather and I oohed and aahed and shopped and priced and had a grand old time. Then it was finally time for our one session of the day, since we had skipped a couple in favor of eating dinner and looking at vendor tables.

Sadly, the very first session we had wanted to see ended up being a bust--the speaker was a no-show, and even the tech guys had no idea what was going on. Interestingly enough, the topic was organization, and the room was packed! Heather and I were with a lot of people in the back of the room on the floor, so obviously it was a topic many of us wanted to hear about, but no such luck. The speaker had another session scheduled later in the conference, but it was in a room that seated 100 people, and neither Heather nor I was able to make it. Bummer...but maybe it's a hidden message that organization is truly an unachievable goal, LOL. Anyway, we joined the guys and listened in on the end of the session they were attending.

It took us 45 minutes to finally leave the parking garage...we had had to park on the top level, and the line of cars simply did not move for a verrrrrry long time. So, no Catan for us Thursday night! We were all too beat.

Friday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, then drove to the parking garage and managed to snag a lower level parking spot. Friday was full of great sessions and fun. Ted and I attended two parenting sessions with Dr. John Rosemond as the speaker (love him!!). Later on the guys grabbed lunch from Chick-Fil-A while Heather and I staked out spots at the doors in preparation for them to open for the Tim Hawkins show, which was a great way to start the afternoon. We laughed so hard our cheeks and stomachs hurt! We had seats in the second row and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the show. Blair and Heather agreed the show alone was worth the trip out here!

More sessions in the afternoon, and then we decided we were too tired to stay for the evening sessions. So we went back to the hotel and ordered Papa John's pizza and set up a game of Catan in the breakfast eating area, which was a perfect place to play and eat and visit. We retired at a reasonable hour feeling satisfied with how we spent our time--there's only so much you can do in a few short days, and we wanted to make the most of our time with good friends!

Saturday morning I woke at 5 a.m. realizing it had been nearly 48 hours since I had last nursed Lucan, and I had forgotten to grab the pump. Doh! A long shower and some hand pumping helped, but let's just say I was eagerly looking forward to being reunited with my baby all day! Ted helpfully pointed out that he was sure any number of moms would have been more than willing to let me "hook on" their babies for awhile, as there certainly was no lack of offspring needing to be fed, LOL.

More sessions, more shopping, more note-taking...lots to think about. I did spend more money than I anticipated, but I got some really great stuff!! Not necessarily "curriculum," but good supplemental activities. I'll have to detail the resources in a separate post. Of course I stopped by the Sonlight booth to say hello and to browse through the core 3 books that were on display. I also enjoyed chatting with Jill and got some very helpful advice that I plan to follow--more on that in another post.

We ended on a high note--or at least I did, in the session I attended last--everyone was doing different things at that point. And then Ted and I drove Blair and Heather to the airport, which is actually in Kentucky, and, because of major traffic going back into Cincinnati, drove home via the beltway, which took us through Indiana and back to Ohio. It was nearly an hour and a half of driving, so more good time to talk together and process some of the things we had learned and prayed about. We had hoped to make it home in time to take the family to Young's for dinner, but we had to compromise and have them eat dinner and be ready for us to take them out for Young's ice cream instead. No one seemed to mind, and I for one was just happy to make it home and nurse Lucan before I burst. We had a lovely evening enjoying the nice weather and yummy ice cream and catching up with everyone while we drove to and from Young's.

Sunday morning we were up early because of wanting to attend the early service at church. Since Rhonda had to fly home that afternoon, we gave Tobin his family birthday presents at breakfast (his birthday is actually April 13) and took him, Arden, Charis, and Rhonda to see How to Train Your Dragon in 3D after church. It was a pretty cute movie. I was very glad we left Kenna at home--as much as she loves movies, this would have been too much for her. So thanks to my mom for staying home to watch the little ones! She said she would not have done well with the 3D experience because of her eyesight, and I think she enjoyed a quiet afternoon with Lucan sleeping and Kenna watching a Peter Rabbit DVD.

I got a late afternoon nap, and after an easy dinner of leftovers, Ted and I took all 5 kids to the park in our neighborhood and also let them explore "Dragon Mountain" (which is their name for a pile of rocks and dirt by the pond). It was a gorgeous evening--we agreed we need to take advantage of the wonderful weather before mosquitoes start to arrive and the weather gets too hot and muggy to want to go anywhere.

So now it's Monday, and we're still enjoying some grandma time as my mom gets to stay until Wednesday morning. It's been a fairly quiet day--Kenna and Lucan had dental appointments early this morning, and Charis has been at a girlfriend's house for a rare play date most of the day. Mom and I took the other 4 kiddos to the boardwalk at a local fen after lunch, and we enjoyed hiking and exploring and making observations about various aspects of nature. The kids' favorite part, I think, was seeing the "billions" of tadpoles in the standing water along part of the boardwalk. The skunk cabbage is in full bloom, and the marigolds were gorgeous. Lots of different birds were calling out along the trail, and we even saw a snake!

So, on that exciting note, it's time to wrap this up and wake the little ones from their nap so they will eventually settle back down tonight! Hopefully I will have more time to type up some thoughts about specific sessions later on. I don't anticipate being on the computer any more than I need to in the coming weeks as we enjoy extra time outside and on field trips before the weather gets too warm. Also, I'm just flat out tired of feeling tied to a screen! I've been re-energized and renewed in different ways, and I don't want to resort to the feeling of laziness and apathy that can set in when I park my rear in front of the computer and click away. I intend to schedule computer time carefully so I can continue to enjoy keeping up with friends and my business without frittering away precious moments I could be spending working on the relationships that matter most.

April 07, 2010


Today has been a whirlwind of preparations. I cannot believe it's 11:30 p.m. and I am still up! My mom is reading through the "Grandmas' Survival Manual" that I've been working on all week, and Ted is on his way to get his mom from the airport. This week has slipped by so quickly! Here are some random thoughts because I'm too tired to put this into a cohesive post.

* The plan for tomorrow is to pack our suitcases, then answer Grandma questions, show them where supplies are they will need, introduce them to neighbors, etc., and then hopefully make our getaway and go to a late lunch at one of our new favorite Indian restaurants on the south end of Dayton on our way to Cincinnati. Check-in for the convention begins at 3:30, and we'll meet up with our friends Blair and Heather. CANNOT WAIT!!!

* We actually have done some school work--last week was spring break for our city, but I still had the kids continue with school. However, we did go lightly, and they had plenty of play time. Spring weather continues to lure them outside, so we're still going lightly, but that was planned because of this week's activities anyway, so it's all good.

* Kenna now thinks she is a big kid. She has escaped the back yard on occasion on a quest to make sure she doesn't miss out on anything Charis is doing. Thank the Lord for watchful neighbors and responsible siblings. All this makes for great difficulty getting her down for a nap...but I did manage on Monday, and she slept an hour and a half.

* WIND, wind, and more WIND. The day before Easter I couldn't fall asleep during my "nap time" because of the wind, and it's been kicking up lots of allergens ever since. *ah-choo*

* This morning I hit my personal record for a Commissary bill. I'd like to think we actually save money by only doing one large trip per month, but I'm not entirely sure that's the case...all I know is, I'm going to start needing a helper to maneuver those full, heavy carts!

April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I hope everyone had a joyous, blessed celebration today. We had a leisurely morning at home, having decided to attend the second service. One of the first things we did was take the Easter Story Cookies out of the oven and sample them...a very sweet way to start the day and a great reminder of the empty tomb! Ted made our normal Sunday pancakes and strawberries while I tried to stay out of his way as I worked on dishes for dinner. Ted and the older kids had gone to a squadron egg hunt on Saturday, and I knew they were going to load up on candy and goodies at the party. So we went very simple for our Easter goodies and just got chocolate crosses for each of them. Of course I did a little stamped goodie, too--either a punch art sheep, bunny, or chick with a chocolate. (We had made them at our stamp camp a couple of weeks ago!)

The worship service this morning at Faircreek was fantastic. I loved all the songs we sang. There was a stage full of people--lots of singers and instruments, and the worship center was full as well. A little taste of heaven, right there!

We had been thinking of going out to eat for our holiday meal, but my thrifty nature got the better of me, and last night I ended up deciding to make these yummy pork chops instead. I followed the tips on the third review shown on the web page and marinated the meat first, then baked at 325 instead of 350. I also made garlic mashed potatoes with red potatoes and green onions from our Happy Box. Yum! Buttered peas completed our simple meal, which was well received by everyone except Kenna, who had managed to sneak away and eat most of her chocolate cross right before we sat down for dinner. Sigh.

Somehow we decided that watching the Veggie Tale Jonah movie was appropriate for Easter Sunday, so we did that in the afternoon while Lucan had a 3-hour nap. Actually, it made sense--Tobin asked a good question during breakfast: How do we know that Jesus rose on the THIRD day? (As opposed to the second day or right after they laid His body in the tomb.) We talked about how Jesus foretold this would happen and how He compared it to the three days Jonah had spent in the belly of the whale. At this point Ted burst into the Newsboys song "In the Belly of the Whale," and we couldn't get it out of our heads for awhile, so the only natural thing to do was watch the whole movie together. :-)

After the movie the kids headed outside to play with neighbors--the weather is absolutely gorgeous. Ted relaxed with a Mythbusters DVD his mom got him for his birthday, and I watched along and folded our Easter letters. Ted helped me get some of them stuffed, and then it was time to get ready for dinner. I made these egg salad sandwiches--thanks, Tina, for the link! It was a good way to use up some of our boiled eggs, although with 4 kids who LOVE boiled eggs with salt on them, that really isn't a problem here, LOL. Charis and Kenna were our egg dyers this year. It was SO nice to turn that job over to Charis and let 'em at it!

It's finally getting dark outside, and we just gave the kids the 10-minute warning. The public school kids don't have school tomorrow, so we're letting our kids have a bit of a free-for-all this evening, too. They would normally be in bed by 8 p.m.! I'm just so happy to hear birds singing and see flowers and sunshine again, and I know the kids are thrilled to be able to get out of the house as well.

This week will be a fun adventure as we prepare for 2 grandmas to come spend some time with the kids while Ted and I head out to the homeschool convention in Cincinnati. There's a lot to do to prepare--I essentially will be making "sub" plans, LOL, so that the kids can have some structured time and get some schoolwork done. I'm not as concerned about the schoolwork being finished as I am keeping structure and routine to the days; that will make it much easier for our moms, I think.

So, I guess that's it for our Easter. To see more of our Easter pictures, you can go here. I have a couple more I need to add to the Easter album, but most of the ones from the day are already there.

Rejoice! One day we'll celebrate our own resurrection with our Lord and Savior!

April 03, 2010

An Easter Tradition

We've made these cookies every Easter since I first read about them 6 or 7 years ago, with the exception of last year, since Lucan was brand new and I wasn't really up to any extra effort! I know I've posted this recipe before in various places, but this year I took some pictures to go along with the steps. It was a little sad in that the boys weren't too interested in helping this time around--they're getting older and it's not as exciting, I guess. But it was so fun listening to Charis tell the story to Kenna!

One note we've learned from experience: there comes a point at which you need to beat the eggs and sugar for 15 minutes. This is NOT a great time for children to practice patience. In the past, we have hidden Resurrection Eggs from Family Life for the kids to find and read stories with Dad while I did the beating. This year it worked well for Kenna to get her bath done while Charis and I took turns beating. Then we were ready to finish up after Kenna had her jammies on.


1 c. whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 c. sugar
ziplock baggies
wooden spoon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place pecans in ziplock baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door, and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.

On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9.

April 01, 2010

Maidens by Design

On Saturday Charis and I attended a mother-daughter class called "Maidens by Design" based on curriculum from Blessing God's Way, a site I hadn't heard of prior to registering for the class. The instructor, Denise, is a member of the homeschool co-op I'm part of and asked back in the fall who all would be interested in such an event. When I reviewed the web site and read about Denise's passion for mentoring women in the various phases of life (maidenhood, maternity, and menopause), I decided it would be an excellent starting point for Charis and me to begin more in-depth discussion about our bodies.

It was a wonderful experience! The hostess is the mother of 10 children, and their family lives in an old house in Xenia. HUGE doorways, large rooms, tons of homey Easter decorations, and a ginormous, I mean GINORMOUS dining room table. I LOVED just being in this house! Denise, the teacher of the class, is the mother of 9 children and is studying to be a midwife. She helped deliver her first grandbaby just a few weeks ago! Way cool! She had so much response to her query about a class that she did two separate sessions. Ours was the second one, which was probably good since she had worked out some timing issues. Everyone who attended the class homeschools, though not everyone was part of PEACH. I didn't know anyone there, and I wasn't alone--we were all so quiet in the first hour or so of the class!

Charis received a workbook to use during the class and bring home--it's actually a 10-week curriculum, but Denise felt it would be best to just schedule a seminar rather than trying to coordinate families for a long-term class. It worked out about right. We met at 9 a.m. and did introductions and covered quite a bit of material. Charis went from having not a clue about menstruation to being able to explain it and identify various phases in a woman's cycle. In fact, I would venture to say she now understands a lot more than many grown women do! The topic of "the act of marriage" was not covered, per se, but we did watch an incredible video from Answers in Genesis called "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made." WOW! I always knew life was a miracle, but oh, my! There are so many "coincidences" and "just right" things in this whole process that I cannot understand why people can honestly believe there is no Creator God. I would highly recommend this DVD to anyone--I must say it did go over Charis's head a lot, but when we talked later, I just emphasized to her how incredible God's design is and that it is further proof of His existence. (Which led to another good discussion about evolution.) All in all, we definitely added to our homeschool science hours, LOL.

Anyway, the DVD took up only about an hour of our 5-hour time together. We took a break for lunch and enjoyed visiting with another mom and her 10-year-old daughter, who was just adorable. I think Charis and she could be great friends, and I do hope to get together with Nicole, her mom, before too long.

After lunch our instructor introduced the girls to the wide array of products available to use during "that time." I was glad that she showed non-disposable products as well as disposable. By this time most of the girls had lost most of their inhibitions and fingered the products without being too shy. We also finished the DVD and saw just how amazing the process of growing a baby really is. I've had 5 children and have read, heard, and seen a lot, but I learned quite a bit that I had never known before. Again, I highly recommend this DVD!

One of the things I especially appreciated about this class (and the curriculum) was the idea that our monthly cycles are not a burden, an inconvenience, dirty, gross, or any of that. Denise emphasized the theme of the ministry--we are wonderfully created, and that means ALL parts of us are wonderful! I think I personally picked up somewhere in my teens the idea that our cycles are part of "the curse" (or at least the menstruation part) and didn't really view it as a blessing at all until much later in my life. Obviously there are some aspects that aren't my favorite part of being a woman, but I like that this ministry views it as a cleansing process, a good and positive process. Just as Jesus' blood cleanses us from sin, we as women are cleansed and renewed each month in an absolutely amazing process that evolution really can't explain.

The girls were encouraged to chart their cycles to help them understand when they need extra prayer and grace (!) and to read a chapter of Proverbs daily. There is a "My Personal Proverbs" kit that I just may go ahead and order and give to Charis as a gift when "That Day" arrives.

After the class, we hung around and chatted a little more, and then Charis and I headed out. She asked me some good questions while we drove, and I'm pleased with our start into this new phase of life. Hopefully we can keep the lines of communication WIDE open! To celebrated being women, we went and got Charis's hair cut! She posted pictures on her blog, and we both love her new 'do. (If you don't have access to her blog, let me know and I'll send you an invitation.) It was a fun way to end our girls' day out!