Monday, December 11, 2006

A Letter from Aunt Janet

My Aunt Janet loves to send letters.  I get several a year.  Each one is a treasure that makes me laugh out loud in some parts, and contemplate my life in other parts.  I love to get letters from Aunt Janet.  And so, I'm sharing some of her latest letter with you in hopes that it will encourage you as it did me.  Please note that Aunt Janet's letters have lots of run-on sentences and mixed-up grammar, but that makes them even more precious to me.

"Your golden years are ahead of you just enjoy the years now to the fullest, ya hear?  Please do.  Roll with the punches take the roller coaster ride (ups & downs) with a graain of salt and give thanks for everything."  (Aunt Janet doesn't know that I have a blog called Life on the Roller Coaster, isn't that funny?)

When talking about being a stay-at-home mom, "I wasn't organized I just dropped everything and did kids first!  Remember that and know one day you will be thankful you did.  The memories are priceless."

I don't need to add anything, her words and wisdom are so special and important.  I hope they inspire you and they do me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Blessed Reunion



It was cold and rainy.  As a matter of fact, it was unseasonably cold for the end of September in Central Pennsylvania.  The rain was that kind of rain that gets into your bones and makes you cold from the inside out to every extremity.  And yet this day blessed us unlike any other in a long time.


But I have to rewind two months to tell you this story.  I was sitting at the kitchen table with the boys in the middle of the day and our phone rang.  The man on the other end said, "This is a voice from your past."  It was the man who had organized a softball team for which my husband had played over ten years ago.  When my husband and I began dating he played on three softball teams.  We didn't really date, we went to softball games.  The families affiliated with these teams became as close to us as our own family.  We spent weekends at tournaments and evenings at games with these people.  I sat on the baseline with the other ladies as we cheered our men to victory time and time again.  Then, because we were young and stupid, we walked away from those people.  We did it for a good reason, we were starting a family.  I had quit my job to prepare for motherhood and my husband took a part time job to make up for the financial loss.  Softball didn't fit into our life.  But we didn't keep in touch with those friends who had become so dear.  And then, more than ten years later, I got a call from the man who organized the last softball team for which my husband played.


I think there's a line from a movie that goes, "We're getting the band back together!"  Well that's what happened for us except the line was, "We're getting the team back together!"  The plan was to reunite many of the men who played together 10 years ago and play in a local tournament.  Most of us now had children who weren't in existence when they were a team, so our numbers would grow as part of this reunion team.


And so, we fast forward to the end of September.  When we arrived at the ball park there were hugs and smiles all around.  Everyone commented on how much our boys look like their dad.  Many were interested in why we chose to homeschool the boys and what the state required of us.  They were genuine and curious about our lives, as we were with them.  Old jokes were resurrected and we laughed until our faces ached.  As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, it was cold and rainy, but no one minded.  We were together with old friends, really old family.  And we were so blessed by it.


The team did really well, even though they were the old men in the tournament.  They won the opening bracket (winning 3 out of 4 games) before becoming tired and loosing in the single-elimination portion of the tournament.  But no one was upset at loosing.  It wasn't about softball, it was about being together.


That evening, at home, we sat with our boys over our supper and my husband prayed the blessing.  Tears welled in his eyes (and mine) as he thanked God for those men.  Men we had forgotten that we loved.  We thanked God for blessing us so immensely by allowing us to reunite with these dear families.  The blessing we received by being with those old friends and by the efforts of the coach at finding and reuiniting everyone will stay with us for a long-long time.

Game Day

We love games at our house.   We have more than 30, I guess.  And I'm always looking for more!  I find them at thrift stores and discounters.  I always take advantage of Toys 'R' Us' buy one get one free game-sale.  We LOVE games!


A few weeks ago, my youngest son began his day by marching to the living room and pulling out four games he wanted to play.  I wish you could have seen his amazed face when I said we would put aside my lesson plans for the day and have a game day!


We spent the next four hours playing games.  As a matter of fact, we may have played LONGER than four hours!  We played card games and board games and even some games that we made.  We ate our breakfast and our lunch around a game board.  It was a really fun day and we covered at least five subjects with all the games we played.  Even if we had only covered one subject, it would have been worth it because of the smiles and laughter contained in our kitchen that day.


After our pleasant game day, I announced that the boys could select one game day a month.  It would be their choosing, so they must choose wisely.  If they picked the first day in October, then there would be no more game-day until November.  So, one morning this week, the boys awoke and announced that it was game day.  As promised, I set aside my plans and we picked the games for the day.  Luckily, Daddy came home early and played the last game with us which gave us an added bonus to game day.  There was one game I asked to play, Lucky 13, which is a new card game we all really enjoy (I'll blog about that later), but otherwise, the boys were in control of the day, picking the games, setting them up and getting us started.


I am so grateful for the game day idea.  When you're a child, you have very little control over your day-to-day operations.  That must be frustrating some days.  Now, I'm not saying that we should always let our children do whatever they want so that they can exercise control.  Giving them one day a month of their choosing, however,  blesses them.  I could see that the boys were blessed to be in control of our day.


And lessons were covered.  There was lots of reading and writing (language arts), math, and geography (mapping and geography questions from a game we have) in the games we chose to play.


Do you need a break but still want to "get a day in"?  Would you like to learn with your children but have it be 100% enjoyable?  Let them choose a game day!  You will be blessed and so will they!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lessons at the amusement park?

Yes, you read the title correctly.  This summer, we spent A LOT of time at amusement parks.  My dad works as an EMT for a local amusement park, so we were able to visit there for free three times this summer!  The company that owns that amusement park also owns another park a little over an hour from our home, so we visited this park, also for free.  On top of all that, we spent a weekend this Fall camping at a park North of here called Knoebel's Grove.  This is a very family-friendly park and campground.  We make it an annual trip each Fall season. 


As we visited these amusement parks, I watched for learning opportunities.  Obviously, the boys got lots of physical education.  They walked (or most-times, ran) through the parks exercising their legs.  They climbed stairs and ramps leading to various rides.  They played at water parks.  But there are other learning opportunities at various theme parks.  Don't just discount those days as days off from learning!  Count them!  Learning happens!  Here are a few examples:


Health:  My dad is an EMT in the First Aid station at a park.  When we visit that park, we visit my Dad.  You, too, can take your child to the first aid station and ask them to give you a tour.  If they're not busy, I'm sure they'd be happy to explain how they administer care.  This is an opportunity for your child to learn about health-care happening outside their regular doctor's visits.


Science:  Hershey Park has a zoo that you can visit for free with park admittance.  We visit it every time we're in Hershey!  The animals don't change from visit to visit, but we always find something new at which to marvel and discuss.  Also, when playing at a water park, do the children spend time turning knobs and watching buckets fill with water?  Are they playing with all the gizmos and controls that allow them to move water?  That's science!  Many parks have animal shows like dolphins or sea lions.  Any animal observation is science.


Art:  Take in some of the free plays, musicals, and shows.  At Knoebel's Grove, my guys actually participated in a play!  They called all the children on stage to act out a play while the narrator told a story.  I was so disappointed that I didn't have my camera!!!  But most parks have shows that are free with your admittance price.  Watch one of these shows and call it art.  Drama is art.


Social Studies/History/Economics:  At Hershey Park there is a free ride/tour called Chocolate World.  It explains the history of Hershey's Chocolate as well as the manufacturing process of chocolate.  At Knoebel's Grove, they have a walk through museum featuring the history of mining and the history of Knoebel's Grove park.  At Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster they have many displays featuring Amish Life and life on a farm.


Geography:  As you enter the theme park, hand each child a map and tell them to navigate.  Let them read the map and tell you which rides they want to ride, or where they want to go next and how you should get to that spot.  At the end of the day, have them circle all the rides that they've ridden, or use a marker to trace the route you took through the park.  A ride on a ferris wheel or  monorail will also provide time to discuss locations of things around the park or in the park from a bird's-eye-view.


I can't believe our Summer is over.  It seems as though I blinked and the time passed.  We had a lot of adventures this summer, many of which happened at a theme park.  If you are in a part of the country that allows you a longer summer, take in a theme park and call it school!  Just don't tell your children you're calling it school, let them have fun and learn in the process!


Enjoy the ride!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't Overlook a Resource...adapting a product for any age

You won't believe the book I've been using the most for our extra projects this week.  Remember, my guys are 8 and almost 10 years of age.  The book I've been using, I picked up at a thrift store a few weeks ago.  It's entitled 101 Easy Wacky Crazy Activites for Preschoolers.  Yep, you read the end of that title correctly.  It said, For Preschoolers.


But your children are well past pre-school age, you say?  Yes, they are.  But there are activities throughout this book that we can use in many situations.  For instance, there are several ideas for painting in a creative way.  One activity sends the children outside with their easels, or just a big pad of paper and a tray of paints, but no paint brushes.  The children have to find items in the garden or back yard with which to paint.


This book has a wonderful recipe for homemade play dough.  I made it so that the boys could model a new geographic term they learned last week.  I gave the boys each a few balls of this home made playdough colored with food coloring and asked them to make a fiord after we read the definition in the dictionary.  This was a great hands-on way for them to show me what they'd learned.  We've been reading about Vikings a lot lately and fiords are listed in many of our books.  This afternoon, my 10-year-old son made the home made playdough all by himself just for fun!  I just handed him the book and said, "Read the directions!"


We also used the idea in this preschool book to use old markers as water-paints.  By covering a sheet of watercolor paper with water a seemingly dried up marker "paints" beautifully.


So, don't overlook a resource just because it doesn't list your child's age-group.  This pre-school book is going to fill our weeks with wonder.  If I would have set it aside because it said, "pre-school" on the cover, we would have missed out on a lot of fun!

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Daddy's Room Cleaning Game

I have been trying not to explode over the disaster area that is my sons' room.  As a matter of fact, my oldest son bought a sign for their door that says, "Disaster Area."  Their messy room can set me off like a rocket, screaming into orbit.  I get very frustrated over the mess of toys and collectibles in their little bedroom.  But I am trying not to be that crazy mom.  One way I've done this is to discuss it with my husband.  He's always so calm and listens so well.  Just talking about my frustrations with this dear patient man relieves so much stress in my life.


As a result of our conversations, Todd, my husband, was the one who came up with dividing the boys' room into quadrants and making a map of their room with each quadrant marked.  (


Last night, he came up with another room solution by designing a game for the boys to play all day today.  He told them that every hour, on the hour, they must go to their room and pick up one large item, one medium-sized item, and one small item.  When they did this, they wrote their items down on a log sheet that he made for them.  Prior to all of this "picking-up", Todd had picked one item as the prize item.  Whoever listed the prize item on their sheet as an item that they put away won a prize.  Of course, there was also a runner-up prize so that both boys felt rewarded.


So, ever hour, my little timer rang and the boys ran to their room.  They would emerge muttering their list under their breath and head for the lined sheets of paper on the table.  Each boy wrote down their three items dilligently each hour asking me, "How do you spell shield?"  and "How do you spell sword?"


At the end of the day, daddy returned from work with a slip of paper folded in his pocket.  Both boys are always happy to see Daddy walk in the door in the evening, but tonight they were positively animated.  They quickly unfolded the paper to find what was the mystery item that would earn one boy a reward.  As it turned out, our youngest son won the $2 prize because he picked up the black shield with the golden lion on it.


...all this, and their room doesn't look too bad, either!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Yesterday's Astronomy Lesson

I'm not a planner.  OK, there, I've said it.  I've found that when I sit down and plan out all the details of a week's worth of lessons, I get tense.  If we aren't following the plan, I begin to bark at the boys to "Keep working!"  What works better for me is to read a book on the subject we are studying and then complete projects, copywork, and notebooks or lapbooks surrounding that study.  Somedays those extra things after the reading, are not planned until we're in the middle of our day.


Yesterday was one of those days.  As the boys were working on their math, I was reminded of a series of verses that were read in church a few weeks ago.  These verses struck me because they mention a few constellations by name and we are studying astronomy this year. 


Job 38:31-33

Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?  Can you loose the cords of Orion?  Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?  Do you know the laws of the heavens?  Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?


I pulled out my lined notebook paper and wrote these verses.  That was going to be the day's copywork to be added to the boys' astronomy notebooks.  Then I remembered a site I had fallen up years ago where the constellations were arranged as a sort of dot-to-dot.  After a little searching I found the costellation Orion and The Great Bear in this form at

These two printouts went nicely alongside the copywork in their astronomy notebooks.


This made for a great little astronomy lesson as well as time to consider God's awesome control of even the arrangement of the stars in the sky.  AND I re-found a great web site.  After our lessons we listened to one of the radio broadcasts (click on Kids Radio Shows) about how to tell the difference between a satellite and a star.  This brief audio kept my boys attention and taught them something significant.


So, maybe everything doesn't have to be planned.  Let God design a bit of your day.  After all, He put you on this roller coaster in the first place.  Let Him direct  your paths.(hills, valleys and all!)


(as my niece would say) sidebar: one of my favorite verses is found in Job 38.  It's verse 10.  Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?  That it could take the world by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?

What an AWESOME description of God's power!

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Critical Thinking Activities

A few weeks ago, I was invited to an on-line "show" for a company that specializes in activity books and software to promote critical thinking.  The show was incredibly interesting.  I began to realize the importance of teaching my guys about solving problems in different ways.  Critical thinking allows people to look at things in different ways and from different angles.  By promoting critical thinking, I can see how a student would test better because of how they learn analysis from these activities.


I wanted to buy my weight in critical thinking activity books!  But common sense, and the budget, prevailed and the show closed without my name on a purchase order.  And yet, I still wanted critical thinking to be a part of our education.  I wanted the boys to be able to use critical thinking skills on a regular basis.


As I thought about critical thinking and the activities that we had done as part of the "show", I realized that I have a house-full of critical thinking activites, worksheets, and books!  Here is my preliminary list:


Tray of Objects  put several objects on a tray and bring them out for your student to view for a set time, like 3 minutes.  Then remove the tray and have the child list as many items as they can list.  Another variation of this activity is to have the child close his eyes and remove one item, then have the child list the item that's missing.  We used to play this game with various colors and sizes of jar lids.  Then I would rearrange them, or remove one and the boys would try to remember what was on the tray originally


Sudoku  my husband and I are hooked on these number games!  I play them on-line at   We have a children's sudoku book that I bought at a book discounter.  My boys can work through several puzzles in a matter of minutes.  They are great games for reasoning and logic.


Tangrams  I bought a nice Tangram set at a thrift store, but you can make your own from cardboard or a fun-foam sheet.  This puzzle in which you have to arrange shapes to make various pictures can be simple or very-very challenging.  Just type "tangram" into the search box at and you will get more sites that you'll have time to view.  There are lots of printable versions of this puzzle to help you make one for yourself.  Google, "printable tangram".


Origami  Teaching this activity to your young ones helps them think of a flat piece of paper in a three-dimensional way.  It allows them to strengthen their hand-eye coordination while following sometimes complicated directions.  For boys, a great start to origami is paper airplanes.  There are lots and lots of variations on the traditional paper airplane today.


Games  We love the game Guess Who, which is a board game we own.  But we also play this game without the board while driving in the car.  One person thinks of a character or person.  Then the rest of the family asks questions to determine who is the mystery person or character.  Chess would be another great game for critical thinking.  Another one is Master Mind.  We have the Jr. version.  Matching games, like concentration, are also great for critical thinking.  Another game we have, "Cranium Cadoo" promotes critical thinking in several activities.


Magazines  My mom subscribes to "Highlights" magazine for the boys.  There are SEVERAL critical thinking activities in those.  You can often find old copies of Highlights at the library, thrift stores, or yard sales if you don't subscribe.  One of our family favorites is the page where you have to answer a series of questions in order and try to answer them without skipping any.  They also have a page called, "thinking" that promotes thinking of things in a different way.  Another magazine is "Reader's Digest."  The RD Challenge page is always a critical thinking activity.  One example is a page of word clues where the answers all have the three letters CAR in them.  You use the clues to list the word.  Another example would be a list of clues where all the answers are compound words.


That's my preliminary list!  I'm trying, now, to incorporate at least one critical thinking activity into our day every day.  I want our boys to be able to look at a problem and see it as solvable because they've learned many ways to attack a problem.  As a matter of fact, that sounds like how I solved the problem of not having enough budget money for that stack of critical thinking activity books.  With a little critical thinking I wrote the list you just read!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Studying Astronomy? Get out the Lite Brite!

God gave me another fantastic idea yesterday morning!  While I was trying to convince myself to get out of bed, I was thinking about our upcoming yard sale.  I'm trying to get through all of our storage spaces, closets, and shelves to purge what we don't use.  As I was laying in bed, I thought about getting upstairs to the book room and going through the games.  We love games, but there are a few that we don't play anymore.  My mind rested on our Lite Brite.  Friends of ours gave this to the boys several years ago.  Although we haven't played with it in over a year, I truly didn't want to get rid of it.  And that's when I got this brilliant idea...use the Lite Brite for our astronomy studies.


For those of you that aren't familiar with it, a Lite Brite is a toy that you plug into the wall.  A small bulb shines behind a black panel that has many holes in it.  You place a sheet of paper (usually black) over the holes and then you press colored pages through which the light shines to make an illuminated picture.  Here is a link to a picture of a newer version of this toy:


Now, on to my idea:  we could recreate constellations on our Lite Brite!  A few nights ago, we got home after dark and took a few minutes to look at the stars.  While looking we each picked out our own constellation.  We each saw a picture in the sky that was original.  Yesterday we got out the Light Bright, put a piece of black construction paper into the machine and pressed the pegs in the shape of our constellations.  It was beautiful to see our constellations brightly lit on this little contraption sitting on the kitchen table.


After each of us made our constellation on our own sheet of paper, we took the paper, with the holes pressed into it, and drew our constellation around the holes.  This way the casual viewer could see the image we see when viewing our constellation.  We labelled our pictures and placed them into our slowly growing astronomy notebooks.


As we study actual constellations, I have visions of re-creating them on the Lite Brite, adding many pages to our notebooks.  This is a great hands on way to solidify what the boys are learning!  I'm so grateful God gave me this idea.


So what are you waiting for?  Go get out your Lite Brite and make a constellation!


And don't forget to use the gadgets on your ride.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Oh No! My Boys Hate Math!

I love math.  I always have. I was the kid in Algebra I who finished all her homework and then spent the rest of the class helping out the other students.  I elected to take calculus my senior year.  I was the only girl in a class of five boys.  I majored in Math in college.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE math!


When you ask my boys what their least favorite subject is, they always answer, "Math!"  I don't get it!  Math is awesome!  You can always count on math.  1 + 1 is ALWAYS 2.  It's not like English.  You write a poem and maybe the teacher likes it, or maybe it's not her style.  There is nothing subjective about math.  You're either right or wrong.  The teacher can't have an opinion about whether or not your answer is right.  There is no gray area in Math.


So, why?  Why do the progeny of a clearly math-gened woman tell the world that they hate math?  I discovered why last Friday.  While I was running errands and my husband stayed home with the boys, I listened to some old teaching tapes given me by my sister-in-law.  On the tapes, the speaker advocated having a high level of intensity while teaching our children.  He said that it was most important to be our children's biggest cheerleader while they were learning something new.  According to these tapes, I need to focus on what the boys get right and not on the incorrect problems.  I need to make each subject seem exciting, just by my reaction to it.  If I do these things, the boys will respond accordingly.


Both boys are very good at math.  They are both working one year above grade level.  They pick up new concepts quickly and can do basic algebra problems in their heads.  But they hate math.  As I reflect on math lessons in the past, I know why they hate math.  If they aren't focusing, I'm snapping at them to "get it done."  If they don't pay attention and add instead of subtract on a page, I tell them that they've just earned an F.


I haven't been passing along my love of Math, I've just been legalistic about plowing through the work and getting onto the next subject.


As I type this, I wonder, what other subjects and areas of life am I also pushing the boys to "get through" instead of taking the time to enjoy and savor?  Do I live a joyous life as a wife and mother to pass to them the desire to keep their wives at home?  Do I get excited about our bible studies and show them a desire to be in the Word of God regularly?


Have you ever heard the saying "Attitude is everything"?  I see the truth in that saying today as the Lord teaches me yet another lesson through my time with our children.  I'm just glad I was listening.  I wonder how many lessons I've missed because I was too busy to hear God's words?


I hope you are listening on your roller coaster ride.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Which end of the pickle are you?

Today, I made pickles.  I love to can.  I try to do dill pickles, applesauce, tomatoes and a few sweet pickles each year.  It is a very gratifying activity for me, since I feel as though I am storing up summer's bounty to use during those cold winter months.  When I was a young girl, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  I always fantasized that I was living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, living off the land, cooking and sewing.  Scarily enough, that is still my daydream!  Although now, I dream of a small log cabin beside a lake in the middle of nowhere with a laptop and CNN.  Isn't it funny how your dreams change?


I am definitely digressing from what I wanted to share with you tonight!  As I was preparing the cucumbers to be packed in jars and covered in brine I started to think about how the cucumbers grow.  You see, when I prepare cucumbers for pickling, I cut off the bloom end of the cucumber.  It's easy to determine which end is the bloom end.  Cucumbers are darker on the end that was closest to the vine.  The end on which the bloom grew is lighter green in color.


As I was cutting these cucumbers today, I thought about my life.  What end of the cucumber do I want to be?  You see the end nearest to the vine is dark green.  This is the end that was fed and nourished by the life given it from the vine.  The end of the cucumber that was closest to the bloom did not get the same nourishment, so it's skin is lighter in color.  I want my life to be full of the nourishment that only Jesus can give.  If lives have color, I want the color of my life to be rich.  The only way to have that rich life, or abundant living, is by staying close to the vine.


John 15:1  I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.


John 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.


If I stay close to Jesus, through prayer, through regular time reading the bible, through bringing every thought into captivity (II Cor 10:5).  My life can have a rich, vibrant color.  I can be the vine end of the cucumber, and not the bloom end.


So what happens to the end of the cucumber where there was once a beautiful orange flower?  Well, when I make pickels, that end gets removed and thrown into the compost bucket.  The flower has shriveled and left a brown blemish on the end of the cucumber.  I know people who have lives like the bloom on the cucumber.  They are bright and beautiful for a time, and then the flower fades.   A scar is left on their lives where the bloom used to be.  Where once they lived a life of color, like the color on the flower of the cucumber plant, they are now left with a dull green.  The bloom end of the cucumber is not a deep green, but a dull, light green.


I have a friend who is struggling with the result of some bad life choices.  She lived the rich color like the bloom on the cucumber for a period.  Now, she is left with the dull light green as her bloom has shriveled and fallen off of the plant.  I spoke with her this week and she told me that she used to think God humbled you by humiliating you.  She has now learned that God teaches you humility by showing you grace and forgiveness.  Her decisions hurt others in her family.  Now, she is experiencing the grace and forgiveness of God, her family, friends, and her church.  It is a very humbling thing to accept someone else's unconditional love and forgiveness when you know you were wrong.  But this is how God gets us back to that vibrant green life!  Our lives move toward the Vine and away from the bloom.


Ok, maybe the cucumber analogy has run its course.  But my afternoon spent trimming and packing cucumbers taught me life lessons that I needed to share with you tonight.


Live your life near the vine.  And live for the deep rich green color, it doesn't come in a quick burst of color in the form of a blooming flower.  It comes from staying close to the Vine, who is Jesus, and by drinking in all the nourishment only He can give.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Character lessons for your pre-teen/teenage girl: Grace Livingston Hill!

When my oldest son was nursing, I used to go into the church library to nurse during the Sunday morning service.  It was during one of those times that I stumbled onto Grace Livingston Hill.  The church library had four or five of her books and I began to read through them while nursing.  I immediately fell in love.


Grace Livingston Hill's books can be formulaic.  Of the two main characters, one is a man, one a woman; one is rich, the other poor; one knows Jesus as his or her savior, the other is still searching.  From the formula I've just described, you can see the outcome of the romance.


But even with the formula, I have found each of her books to be inspiring and uplifting.  And I realized recently that these books could be great for your young girls in the pre-teen or teenager age range.  Each of Mrs. Hill's books deal with different character issues, and many levels of overcoming.


In my blog, "I Don't Teach Bible Anymore" I mentioned one of her books, but did not name it.  The book is The Prodigal Girl.  This book includes an illustration where the father solicits the local pastor to school his children.  As his main text, the pastor is planning to use the bible.  The Prodigal Girl would be great for a daughter who struggles with rebellion.


With over 100 books to her credit, Grace Livingston Hill's novels cover a wide range of character issues.  I have not read all of her books, but here are some that deal with specific themes:


Matched Pearls:  making a sincere commitment to Christ.


Patricia:  dealing with a difficult person in a Christ-like fashion.


Re-Creations and A Daily Rate:  making the best with what you have.  These books would help a girl struggling with materialism.


The Enchanted Barn: standing by your family regardless of your circumstance.


Job's Neice:  Patience in trials.


Written in the early 1900's, these books are written in a beautiful language.  The girls' dresses and accessories are described in such lovely detail. Scenery and setting are vividly described.  Give Grace Livingston Hill a try!  I get lost in her books every time I pick one up.  I consider it a treasure to find one in a used bookstore, especially in an original hard-back!  Not only will you and your daughter find novels by Grace Livingston Hill to be fun to read, but they will also challenge you in many character areas!

Friday, August 4, 2006

Book Review: Teddy's Button by Lamplighter

I was convicted...yet again. 


Last week, I was able to purchase a tremendous package of e-books from the Erskines who have  I love their radio shows and they offered a packaged through one of the e-groups of which I'm a part at a wonderful price!  I was really excited.  It's going to take me the entire year to pour through these wonderful materials.


One thing I received was an audio by Cindy Rushton on learning using great literature.  I listened to her audio while downloading the rest of the e-books I'd purchased.  The audio was awesome, as are all of those I've heard by Mrs. Rushton.   It really convicted me, however, about how much we are reading.  I realized that in the past year, we have foregone reading together so that we can complete the book work and the worksheets.  I have to tell you, that's NOT me!  This Summer, God has really shown me how I've let our little homeschool drift away from what I see as a true lifestyle of learning.  We haven't been reading together as much.  We haven't been spending time doing those hands-on projects that solidify learning.  That's what I want for our homeschool!  I don't want lots of worksheets and papers and texts!


So after listening to Cindy Rushton's moving seminar, I went in search of a good book and a sofa!  Two years ago I had purchased Teddy's Button from Lamplighter.  I always admired their books and asked them at a curriculum fair for a book suggestion.  The people at the Lamplighter book table recommended Teddy's Button as a good book to start with boys.


We read this book in five days.  The boys were begging for "just one more chapter."  When we were eatting they were chanting, "Teddy's Button", asking me to read.  At one supper table, Daddy was crying as I read.  This book was fantastic!


My boys are nine and eight, and they were entralled by every reading of Teddy's Button.  I highly recommend it as your family's next read!


Even if you don't want to read the book we recommend, read something!  Don't be like me and wait a year and a half before picking up something that your children will love and just reading to them for the pure joy of a book!  I got into a rut where I thought everything I read had to relate to the subject being studied, or be for "school."  But I was missing out on all of those wonderful times of cuddling on the couch, or seeing those wide-eyed faces filled with wonder at what was coming next in the book.  I don't ever want to miss those again!  From this point forward, we will always have a "book going."  How about you? 


Let me know what you're reading that has really "lit up" your children.  I need to develop my book list even further!


So, make sure you're reading on your roller coaster.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

One Beauty of Home Education...Knowing You

This week, we have been discussing our vacation plans for NEXT summer.  We spent a lovely week on North Carolina's Ocean Isle Beach this summer.  What do we want to do next year?  We thought if we plan now, we could save a little money each month toward that vacation.


So, we narrowed it down to two trips and gave the boys a choice.  They could choose between Northern Minnesota, or Disney World.  Guess which one they chose?  I'll bet your guess was wrong!  They chose Northern Minnesota.


You see,  Daddy is from Northern Minnesota.  On a very regular basis, he regales our boys with stories of fishing and catching hundreds of fish!  His stories include making ramps on boat docks and riding off those ramps on their bikes RIGHT into the water.  Todd tells them of swimming out to ice chunks in the Spring when the ice was breaking up on the lake-water, and of listening to the loons and the lapping of the water on the shore as he drifted off to sleep on summer nights.  These adventures are very real to two little boys.  They have visions in their mind of just what life in Minnesota was like.


When we offered them the option of going to Daddy's childhood hometown and spending a week in a resort cabin on a lake, they jumped at the chance.  Do you know why?  Because they know us and want to know us better.  Do you know why?  Because they are with us a lot.  We are their peer group and they want to experience what we've experienced.


We live 45 minutes from my hometown.  My parents still live there today.  We spend LOTS of time with my family.  They boys have seen the school I attended.  They've played at the park in which I played as a child.  Last night, Walker T. said, "We've seen all of Mommy's stuff.  I'm ready to see what Daddy did!"


And so, next year the Lydell family will not be going to Disney World.  We will be seeking the adventures that Daddy sought as a child.  We will be reliving the stories that are our boys favorites, from Daddy's childhood.  Our children have chosen us, yet again, and I give the credit to our homeschool lifestyle.  Because we homeschool, we are the boys' primary influence.  They want to know us better.  I am so grateful for that!  I am so grateful for homeschooling.


On my birthday in the Spring, my sister and my mom and I always go out to lunch.  Of course, the boys come with us.  My sister commented this year on how cute it was that the boys were so excited for my birthday.  Again, this is the fruit of home education.  Because the boys are with me each day and I am their primary influence, they share my excitement.  So, they were excited for my birthday.


Homeschooling has many fruits.  But today I am thankful for the fruit of knowing.  Because we homeschool, our children KNOW us.  Our relationship is stronger because we don't compete with any other adult for their affection, time or respect.  They know us and want to know us even better.


And so it's Minnesota or bust!  They will come home with their own images, and their own stories.  And they will know Daddy even better. 

Monday, July 31, 2006

Still Riding Those Coasters!

It has been over a week since I've written on my blog.  Our Roller Coaster has included Vacation Bible School, my mother's house getting struck by lightening, friends moving, other friends struggling, and just life.  When I would have time to sit down and check email, I wanted to write, but my fatigued and frazzled mind wouldn't allow it.  You know how you grab the bar of the roller-coaster car when you're speeding down an incline or cresting the hill for yet another drop?  Well, my brain was holding the bar and would not allow anything to be dumped out of this roller coaster car.


But this week, I'm able to sit for a few moments and write.  A little over a week ago my family and I spent the day at Hershey Park.  My husband's company graciously invites all of their employees to spend a day at the park for their summer picnic.  With free tickets from my father who's an EMT in first aid at the park, and a picnic lunch provided by Todd's company, we have a lovely day with very little expense.  (I do have to buy a bag of kettle corn on my way out of the park!)  As we toured the park, rode the rides, and enjoyed some family time, I was reminded of the first blog I wrote, and the reason this blog is called Life on the Roller Coaster.  I came home from the park and re-read that first entry:

It seems like I wrote that ages ago, and yet, it's only been a year.  Writing on this blog has helped me to organize my thoughts toward home education.  Writing has prompted me to notice those little times in life that somehow passed by without much recognition before blogging.  Blogging has helped me to enjoy my roller coaster ride a little bit more each day.  It has helped me to see the opportunities for ministry provided to me.  It has helped me to see the education that the boys get every day, even when we aren't completing anything formal!


This blog has given me a space to sort through my thoughts.  I'm blessed to have it and even more blessed that some have chosen to read my mind-dumps.  So, thank you.  Thank you for spending time here.  Thank you for leaving comments.  They all bless me so much!  I haven't figured out how to I just respond here on my blog and hope that you return?  Or do I find you out in blog-land and thank you for your comments or answer your questions.  I don't know!  Please know that I read your comments and am very blessed by each one I receive.  Thank you.


So, as I strap in for the ride this week, I do it thankfully and peacefully.  I don't know how many hills and valleys I will have this week, but I'm safely in the car God has given me.  He has mapped out the path, I just have to faithfully ride.


Enjoy your ride this week!  And write me any time!  Maybe I'll even figure out how to answer!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pray Simply, or Simply Pray

We've been enjoying a visit from one of the boys' friends.  James spent the day with us yesterday and slept overnight.  (Praise God for bunk beds!)  James' father, Craig, is eduring a very persistant virus that has attacked his eye.  As I write this, he is preparing for another laser surgery to repair the retina which is beginning to detach.  Keep Craig in your prayers.


Actually, Craig's illness, is what has prompted me to write today.  Yesterday I took the boys to the local park.  We grilled hotdogs for lunch.  As we were preparing to say our prayer before eating, 10 year old James' asked if he could pray.  His prayer was full of thankfulness for the meal and the park and an opportunity to play with my two boys.  In the middle of all his thankfulness he simply said, "Heal my dad's eye."  Then he continued his list of things for which he was thankful and ended with Amen.


I think that we complicate prayer.  We think it has to be flowery.  We think that we have to explain to God all the details and nuances of a situation as we see them.  He's God!  He knows the details.  And He knows ALL the details.  We don't know all the details.


James' prayer was direct and to the point.  "Heal my dad's eye."  It was in the midst of a littany of thankfulness, almost as an afterthought.  I'm sure that he prays this prayer several times a day.  To James, those four words are all that need to be said.


How many times do we take our prayer and try to embellish it with more words?  When all we need to do is come before our Heavenly Father and make our simple requests known to Him.


Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  Phillipians 4:6


Surround your requests with thankgiving, just like James did, and pray simply.  Simply pray!


Hoping that you're praying your way through the ride!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I don't teach Bible anymore

You read the title correctly.  I don't teach Bible anymore.  In my Homeschool Objectives for the school district last year I had a Bible/Character subject and I listed everything we were planning to do and read under that heading.  I kept track of those things and reported them diligently at year's end.


This year, there was no Bible heading in my objectives.  Under the Language Arts section, however, I included the material that we would be studying using Kay Arthur's Inductive Bible Studies for Kids.  I also listed any memory verses they would be learning, right along with the poems they would have as memory work.  As I'm recording the boy's daily lessons, I am listing any bible study work, reading or writing, under the heading of Language Arts.


Bible is not a separate class.  You and I both know that our times of Bible study come at various  times during the day.  Some days, we need to have time in our Bible in the middle of the afternoon.  It is not a segmented part of the day that we take care of and then move on to other subjects.  Bible, prayer, devotion, or quiet times, come at varied times.  We need them ALL the time.  Remember "pray without ceasing?"


So, I decided to stop segregating it to its own subject.  Bible is part of all of our lessons.  We are learning about Astronomy for science this year.  We will learn and copy lots of verses about stars, the moon, and the skies from the bible.  Is that Bible class?  Nope, it's Science.  We are learning about the Middle Ages for History this year.  Part of this will include studying Tyndale and reading his biography.  Bible?  Nope, it's History.  Singing and learning Hymns?  Music, not Bible.


One of my favorite authors is Grace Livingston Hill.  She wrote nearly 100 romances of which Christ was most often the center.  Her books take me to another time and inspire and warm my heart.  Several years ago, I read one of her books in which a family's children were headed down a wrong path.  The father returned to the church and moved his family to the country in an effort to save his children.  Further into this family transformation, he brought the children home to school and utilized the skills of his pastor to educate the children.  The pastor sat with the children the first day and handed them each a bible.  He said, "This will be our textbook for all subjects."


I may not use the bible as my textbook for each subject, but God is teaching me to to incorporate bible into all subjects, not as its own separate subject.  As my homeschooling adventure continues, God continues to shape and correct me.  I love when He speaks!  I just pray I'm quiet enough to hear Him.  That's not always the case.  But this time, when He lead me to make bible a part of every subject, I listened.


I hope you're listening to the ride!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Lesson in Geography: Room Zones

My boys are slobs.  There is no other way to put it.  Their room is so bad that my oldest son, McLane, bought a sign for their door while we were on vacation.  The sign says, "Disaster Area."  This sign, unfortunately, is total truth.


When I tell the boys to go and clean their room, they are overwhelmed with the task.  Their room is small.  Although there is a place for everything, when one thing is out of place, it creates a dominoe effect.  One thing is out of place and then another thing is placed in the wrong place and before you know it..."Disaster Area."


As we were having the battle of the room yet again, an idea dawned on me.  Divide their room into quadrants.  Instead of saying "Clean your room" and having the boys stand in the middle of the mess with their eyes glazed over, I could say, "Check quadrant D"  Todd, my husband, and pulled out a large sheet of newsprint and made a simple map of their room.  Then he drew dotted lines dividing the room into several quadrants and labelling each quadrant with a letter.


We hung the new map on the basement door in the hall near their room.  Now, we say, "Hey guys, check quadrant B, I think it needs a little attention."  When the entire room needs to be cleaned, we assign one quadrant at a time and the boys report back to us when they've completed that task.  They make it like an army game and salute with a snappy, "Yes Sir!" after completing a task.


Another added benefit to this way of organizing their room is that it is teaching them map reading skills.  The boys must read the map when they get an assignment to know where quadrant K is located in their room.  Isn't it fun to learn when you don't even know it's happening?


By dividing the boys room into quadrants, the cleaning job is much less overwhelming for the boys.  It also makes a very dreary activity fun.  And the boys get to hone their mapping skills.  There's no down-side!


Find creative ways to enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Now Playing...our Music Appreciation Program

In my kitchen there is a neon orange card labelled "NOW PLAYING" taped to the front of one cupboard.  The card is actually a 3x5 index card folded lengthwise and taped at the short sides.  This card is critical to our study of music appreciation.


Here's how it works:  I put a CD into the kitchen CD player.  The boys listen to it for a few minutes and then they try to guess who composed the piece being played.  After they've guessed a few times, or if they guess correctly, I put an index card  with the composer's name written on it into the "NOW PLAYING" holder.  As we listen to the balance of the CD, the boys have a reminder of who composed the pieces being played.


Sometimes we don't play our guessing game.  But I try to put the composer's name in the "NOW PLAYING" sign whenever I play a classic instrumental CD.  By seeing the composer's name on our sign as they listen to that composer's CD the boys are beginning to identify composers from their pieces.


It is so much fun to hear a piece of music and have one of the boys say, "Mommy, listen.  It's Mozart!"  Lately that has happened in public places (not just in our kitchen), and I get so tickled.  I love music and there are many classic pieces that can almost bring me to tears.  I enjoy having various composers playing while we are about our daily duties.  Having the boys learn to recognize these pieces and composers is a great way to round out their education.


This is an easy and painless way for us to have music appreciation on a regular basis.  It is normal for the boys to have music playing in the background at all times of the day.  By making a game out of identification the boys are learning and they don't even know it!


Enjoy the music on the ride!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Happy New Year! Our first day back at lessons...

Today was our first day of lessons for the 2006-2007 school year.  It was awesome!  I've been excited about a new school year for a few weeks.  Today it was finally here!


For curriculum this year we are switching from McGraw Hill math workbooks to Saxon Math.  Our first lesson was a huge success.  I loved the way the text is worded.  It is not dumbed-down for the student.  Walker T.'s 54 book already began with some beginning pre-algebra type problems.  It was terrific!


For history, we are studying the Middle Ages.  At the curriculum fair we picked up a game called Medieval Alliance.  McLane wanted to play the night we returned from the fair, but we've kept it for our new year.  We couldn't wait another day!  We played our game late this morning.  It was very fun and very educational.  I'll be blogging more about this game at another time.


But before all this, we began our day and our new school year with our first inductive bible study.  We are using a Kay Arthur study for children on the book of John.  The boys and I are all studying the same material.  I'm very excited to see how God will use this bible study to draw us closer to Him and each other.  We are definitely going to get to know Jesus better this year.


Our other plans for the year include Spelling Power, which we began with the first assessment test this morning, and English from the Roots Up.  We have not begun "roots" but I'm excited to do so.  For science the boys selected astronomy.  We will be completing lots of projects and notebook pages on this subject this year.


This was our first structured day in almost a month.  Although the boys said that they enjoyed our summer break, they didn't have the same level of animation over break that they normally have.  But today, I could see a difference in our sons.  They have always been children who love a schedule.  That's one of the reasons we have lessons all year without a lengthy summer break.  Today, the boys had a better general attitude.  They didn't bicker or complain.  They were more animated during our family talks over the dinner hour.  They didn't admit it, but I knew they were happy to be back at the kitchen table with the routine of lessons to which they were accustomed.  I could see a change in their countenance from the past month which had no agenda.


Charlotte Mason recommends giving a child three things each day, "Something to love.  Something to do.  And Something to think about."  Today, I clearly saw how the boys blossom when given these things.  Lessons give them something to think about.  Our bible study is giving them something to love.  Projects surrounding our study, such as our game today, give them something to do.  As lessons drew to a close, their creativity had been primed.  McLane spent his afternoon creating and painting a little wooden figure that he made from found items.  And both boys enjoyed telling Daddy all about our day over supper and playing a game of Liar's Dice after our family meal.  God so clearly showed me how home education in our little home in the country is integral to the growth of these two young men.  I'm so grateful for His spark in our home school.


Have a very happy new year!

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Vacation Ideas

It's Sunday morning and we have just spent the first night in our very own beds in over seven days.  We returned from our trip to the beach in southern North Carolina yesterday.  All week I thought about blogging, but when there was "down time" I didn't have the gumption to get out my husbands laptop and add to my blog.  So my blog got a vacation as well as I!


We took our trip with my sister and her family.  I am very close to my neices and nephew, so I loved having them all to myself for an entire week.  The oldest two are away at college, with Hunter (my nephew) studying abroad this fall.  So time with them is precious.  We had lots of fun on the beach, in the water, playing mini-golf and just hanging out.  Time goes by so quickly and it's hard to believe that these two were just children yesterday!


BUT I digress, I wanted to pass along some tips I discovered while travelling this week.  Here they are:


1.  When you pack, remember you have to UN-pack too.  Now that we're home, I feel as though it will take DAYS to get my house back in order!


2.  Found treasures are the best souvenir's.  I'm in the posession of a lovely box of shells, a fallen bird's nest, a cat tail (the plant, not the animal), a pinecone, and some great rocks.


3.  Use a boredom box.  When things were winding down around our beach house in the late afternoon and evening my boys needed something to do.  The first two days it was frustrating because those of us over 18 just wanted to relax.  The three under 12, my sons and my neice, wanted something to DO.  I took a quick trip to the local Wal*Mart and spent about $10 on some little things to play or create.  VOILA a Boredom Box!  I put these little items into an old shoe box and put it on the coffe table.  The children were entertained during the down times for the rest of the week.  Our box contained: grooved popsicle sticks used to build boxes and other items, pipe cleaners, markers, sketch paper, two little handheld games ($1 each), playing cards, and dice.


4.  Get creative.  Another thing we did to keep the children entertained was make some games.  I put 12-15 white seashells into a box with one black seashell.  In this two-player game each player is allowed to take 1, 2 or 3 pieces on his turn.  The person who ends up with the black seashell is the looser.  This idea was taken from a game played on PBS's Cyber Chase.  I had also read in an old Family Fun Magazine about taking playing cards and cutting slits into the cards so that they could be used to make a house of cards by sliding cards into the slits.  We did this with a cheap box of cards purchased at the grocery store.  The boys and my husband made a couple ring toss games with the popsicle sticks and the pipe cleaners.


5.  Keep learning.  My neices and I loved collecting shells on the beach.  We were curious about what we were gathering, so I picked up a little book at the grocery store about the shells in the area.  We had a lot of fun sorting and identifying these shells, Baby's Ears are my favorites.  Try to find a picture of these.  They're adorable.


6.  Egg cartons make great sorting boxes.  I came home with a loaded egg carton full of shells, my neices had three between the two of them.  Later I'll write about the other items I've sorted and stored in egg cartons.


I think those are the best tips from the trip.  It was a wonderful time.  Although I'm glad to be home, I miss waking to the sound of the waves hitting the shore.  There is nothing like the sound of the ocean for me.  God's awesome power and His organization are so evident to me just by watching the ocean!  My roller coaster ride this week was on the back of those terrific waves.  I love to be out past the breakers jumping over the waves and having them place me soundly on the ground after lifting me high in the air.  There's no man-made ride quite so thrilling.


Enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

School's Out...or is it?

For the first time ever, I gave my guys an official break for a few weeks this summer.  In PA we have to have an evaluation by a person with a teaching license.  Our evaluation occurred early in June, so I told the boys that we would not have lessons from the evaluation until we returned from our beach vacation in July.  Usually I just keep our routine year round, with a few days skipped here and there.  But this year, we've got a summer break of a few weeks.


So, let me tell you what we're doing since we're not "doing school."  Over the weekend, we took a camping trip to Gettysburg.  We spent several hours touring the battlefield and then visited the Hall of Presidents.  But we didn't do school.


Yesterday, we visited some friends from church and taught them a couple math games.  We also made up stories about a fish that won a contest on a busy street.  After our visit, we went to the library's summer story hour and listened to local readers read stories about animals.  The boys made cute little animals out of pipe cleaners.  But we didn't do school.


Today, the boys were working on their packets from the library.  If they complete 15 activities they can claim a prize and a free book.  McLane made salt dough and is working on a diorama of a wooly mammoth.  Walker T. searched the web to find a dog breed he would like to raise and did a little research about that type of dog.  Over lunch we listeneed to an adventure tape about knight.  And the boys set up a pet grooming business in the living room.  I was the customer who had to bring them stuffed animals to groom.  But we didn't do school.


Several years ago, I had a friend who was homeschooling her children.  One day when we were visiting I set up a little obstacle course for those children and we had fun running the course and timing each other.  We kept track of the times and tried to make our time better with each round.  We were having a lot of fun, laughing, playing, and even learning.  The mother stopped everything in the middle to get her children's attention and said, "Look, we're doing school!"  This experience made me decide two things: 

1.  Don't call it school.  When we're at the table we call it lessons.  I know tomAto tomAHto.  But to me, they're not in school, that is where you go on a bus and sit in a classrom.  We are learning as part of our life.  These are lessons.

2.  Don't call your child's attention away from learning to point out school!  Yes, log it all.  Keep your log book with you at all times and record anything you deem educational in any way.  But don't tell your children it's school.  It's life and life is about learning.  Learning comes in all shapes and sizes.


One of my prayers for our home is that we promote a lifestyle of learning.  I don't want the boys to compartmentalize learning and say that it only occurs from the hours of 8 to 3 Monday through Friday, September to June.  Life is always a learning process and I want them to love that process.  As I slow down for just a few minutes over our break, I can see that learning is happening in large quantities when we don't even plan it.  Praise God for answered prayer!


Enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Grocery Lists, Making Menus, and Meal Lists

I have a routine every pay day that makes my life SO much easier!  This routine has made my home organization so much better and I'd love to share it with you.  Every two weeks on the day before payday, I sit down with a blank calendar and three lists.


List #1:  the breakfast list.  I asked my family to list for me the breakfasts that they enjoy.  We now have a list of about eight breakfasts on the breakfast list.


List #2:  the lunch list.  See the description of list number one and insert "lunch" where it says "breakfast."


List #3:  the snack list.  This is a list of snacks I would like to keep on hand for the boys during the day.


On my blank calendar, I draw two horizontal lines on each calendar square.  On the block for the first day after pay day in the top third of the square, I list the first item from the breakfast list.  I continue across the calendar putting breakfasts in the first third of each square until the next payday.  Then I write down any grocery items I'll need to have on hand for those breakfasts.  Then I repeat this process for lunches.


Next I consult the snack list and write on my grocery list which items I'll need to replentish.


Now, we're ready to plan supper.  I ask my family if there is anything that they would like to eat for supper over the next two weeks.  The boys are usually full of ideas!  I try to accomodate any requests but I do add vegetables or a salad to most suggestions.  I take all of the family's meal plans, add my own preferences, and any new recipes I'd like to try and plot these onto the menu calendar.  Then I list all my grocery needs for supper.


At the end of this process, I have a grocery list ready to go to the store on payday and a complete menu right down to the snacks for the next two weeks.  But the truly beautiful thing is when my day or week gets busy.  Instead of feeling frantic about what to make for supper, or making the same breakfast for the fifth day in a row, I have a plan!  This has taken the anxiety out of meal times for me.  I have to keep my eye on the calendar to make sure I have things defrosted or marinated, but other than that, my life is simpler because of my menu calendar.


When making my menu, I do have a few rules.  The breakfast plan for Sunday morning is usually a breakfast casserole.  Sunday's can be a little hectic as we are getting ready for church and Sunday School.  It makes things a little less stressful when I can just pull a casserole out of the refrigerator and pop it into the oven.  By the time we're dressed, breakfast is ready!  Also, I am always open to change.  If Daddy wants to make waffles on a Saturday morning, we make waffles.  If we have LOTS of leftovers in the refrigerator, we have leftover night and move a supper to the next week.  And I'm ALWAYS open to dinner out when Daddy says, "Let's go out!"


That's how I plan my meals and groceries every two weeks.  It does take at least an hour, but it involves the whole family.  They are eatting the breakfasts and lunches that they originally suggested.  They have input into what we have for supper.   And I never hear "We're having this again?"  The time it takes to plan is well worth it.  With minimal effort, I always have the answer to "What's for supper?"

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Another use for zip loc bags... for camping!

We have just returned from our first camping trip of the season.  It did rain a little, and we did have some unpleasant neighbors in the site next to ours, but all in all, we had a fantastic time!


I just love to camp.  I think it's because I read and loved all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child.  I always imagined myself a true pioneer girl.  Camping in a tent and cooking over an open fire make me feel like I'm on Little House on the Prairie.


Because I knew that we could possibly have rain over the weekend, I packed  differently.  I asked my boys to bring me three days worth of clothing complete with underwear.  Then I went to the kitchen, yes the kitchen, and grabbed my bag of 2 gallon zipper bags.  I packed each outfit individually into its own zipper bag and sealed it removing as much of the air as possible.  All of these little baggies of clothing went into our duffle bags ready for the weekend.


As we camped, when the boys got out of the showers at the campground, they removed their clean dry clothing from a zipper bag and got dressed.  At the end of the weekend, all of the clean clothes remained in baggies and the clothing needing laundered was easily distinguishable.


Another benefit to packing in this way is that my boys like to rifle through a duffle bag.  They pull clothing out of the bag while looking for something, like spare socks, or a swim suit.  I know you won't believe this, but the clothing they remove from the bags while rummaging RARELY make it back into the bag.  Because each of their outfits were in zipper bags, including their swimsuits, they didn't have to toss loose clothing anywhere.  Our clothes stayed clean, dry and organized.  It was a beautiful thing!


If you've read any of my other blog posts, you're beginning to think that this woman has a sick obsession with zip loc bags.  Not true.  But I'm beginning to believe that a book could be written about their use in society, let alone in the home school!


Enjoy your ride!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

money jars

At the CHAP curriculum fair this year I picked up a treasure.  Along with my copy of "Created to be His Helpmeet" by Debbie Pearl  I received a copy of Debbie Pearl's "My Favorite Homeschooling Ideas" audio CD.  I have listened to this audio about six times!  I enjoy the way Debbie speaks so soothingly.  I love the excited way she speaks of home educating her children.  You can tell that she really enjoyed her time with her children.


I'd like to tell you how we adapted one of the ideas from this audio.  Debbie mentions that her children had money jars and they would buy snacks like raisins.  This sparked an idea of how we would implement this in our home.


I grabbed three small plastic containers and placed a little change in each.  Right now, the boys containers have three quarters, three nickels, two dimes, and four pennies in them.  I explained to the boys that from now on, if they wanted a snack between meals, they would have to buy them!  We would develop a list of available snacks and the price for each item.  When they wanted a snack, they would have to determine the cost of the item.  Then they would give me their money, and tell me if they needed any change.  After this transaction, they could have their snack!  The boys were thrilled with this new game and quickly grabbed their money boxes and my label maker to put their names on their boxes.


This is not a program intended to curb snacking.  I wanted it to be fun, and not to feel like a punishment.  Actually, the way we are doing our money jars, the boys don't even know they are learning!  With the prices we set on our snack list, the boys have plenty of money for their desired snacks.  Also, each night, we renew the original amount of money in the jar for the next day.  This way, they never run out of snack money.


We did, however, set some rules.  You cannot buy a snack less than one hour before meal-time.  You cannot buy more than one of an item per day.  (I have a popcorn addicted son, who would munch bags and bags of popcorn each day.)  And Mommy reserves the right to veto a snack at any time.


This has been a wonderful activity in our home!  My oldest son was so excited about it that he told his friends from church, "Hey, guess what we're doing now?  We have money jars and we buy snacks at our house!"  And it has been great for money recognition, with which my youngest son used to struggle, and basic math.  The boys have to do the addition in their heads to determine the cost of an item, or a combination of items.  They also have to complete subtraction to determine the change that they are due.  And they are so quick!  It took no time at all for them to be making accurate change.  Last week, while at a yard sale, my youngest son purchased a stuffed animal for $.75.  He handed the seller a one dollar bill and said, "That will be one quarter back, please."  He's so used to telling me what his snack change will be, that he did it at the yard sale!


We put our list on a sheet of cardstock and placed it in a clear magnetic frame on the refrigerator door.  Items are priced at unusual numbers so that making change is a challenge.  A bag of popcorn might be 26 cents, a freeze pop, maybe, 9 cents.  Also, we have a charge for room service.  If you want to purchase a snack, and have Mommy deliver it to you in the living room, there is an extra fee!


So, fill a plastic container with some spare change.  Take an inventory of your snacks and make your list.  This is practical consumer math at its finest!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Think on These Things

My feelings were hurt.  I just couldn't seem to let go of the hurtful comment.  I kept turning it over and over in my mind and the more I thought about it, the more sullen I became.  I was getting more and more quiet as the day progressed and I just couldn't seem to stop myself.


You see, earlier in the day, someone had made a comment to me and it had hurt my feeligs.  This person did not intend to hurt me.  It was nothing malicious, but it still hurt.  Ever since that moment, I kept thinking about the comment and how much it hurt me.


Finally, I asked God, "What should I do? I keep thinking about this hurtful comment.  I keep playing it over in my head.  I can't seem to let go of it.  Why do I keep reminding myself of this pain?"


God's reply was simple.  He said, "You don't have to."


There have been a few times in my life when I've known the Lord is speaking to me.  His voice rings clearly in my head and in my heart.  I usually feel the Lord's leading in my life, but this is different.  When God talks to me this way, I have a feeling throughout my spirit that is like electricity.  The other thing that always comes with His quiet comments to my soul is scripture.  When He speaks, He lays a scripture on my heart that affirms His words.  This way, I REALLY know it's Him.


This time was no different, I cried out in my heart asking God how to stop thinking about this offense and He replied, "You don't have to (think about it)."  Then He reminded me of Phillipians 4:8:


Finally, bretheren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


It was so simple, and yet to my broken spirit, it was so profound!  Was this offensive comment true?  No.  Was it honest?  No.  Was it just, pure or lovely?  No.  No. And no.  So why did I continually turn it over in my brain looking at it from every angle, contemplating it, and, yes, obsessing over it?


I determined to shut that thought down.  I focused on anything good that had happened that day.  And if that was not enough I focused on anything good that had happened that week!  And then I truly focused on the good, good God who took the time to speak to me and calm my chaotic mind.


I don't HAVE to think about the negative, offensive, or unkind things.  I don't HAVE to give them any more thought or energy from my mind.  I have a test for what to think about now.  I have a checklist.  If I find myself thinking about one incident or comment, I can measure it against Phillipians 4:8.  Is it truth?  Is it pure?  Is it lovely?


I'm committing to think about all those things that are of good report and virtue.  If I can give praise for it, I will think about it.  I'm determined to take all of my thoughts captive in this way. (II Corinthians 10:5)


I can't say that all of my days will be "sullen-free", but I can say that those sullen moments will be few and far-between.  I've  got the tools to keep myself from obsessing over hurtful words.  Isn't it great that we worship a God who gives us such good gifts?

Friday, June 2, 2006

Give Me a Zip Loc Bag

I have a confession to make.  I love plastic zipper bags.  I use them to contain the mini-books for lap books on which the boys are working.  I love to place just anything in a zipper bag.


This week, someone on the Notebooking Yahoo Group suggested this site:  for preschool activities.  Although I don't have a preschooler I was drawn to many of the messages on the list of activities found at this site.  And, of course, I loved the activities that are contained in a zipper bag!


OK, I've gone a little overboard about the plastic zipper bags.  But I do find them so convenient and easy to use to contain and organize many things.  Yesterday I bought a box of 3 gallon zipper bags.  I will be using these to hold each of McLane's lapbooks that must be placed in his three-ring binder portfolio for our year-end evaluation.


As I was reading through the ideas for preschoolers, I got an idea for an older student.  All of the materials could be contained in, you guessed it, a plastic zipper bag!  On 3x5 cards, write large numbers like 1,543 or 245,690.  On the back of the card, draw a picture of the appropriate cuisinaire rods that would reflect this number.  The student pulls the cards out of the bag and one by one, makes those large numbers out of cuisinaire rods.  He or she can check their answers by looking on the back of the card.


We don't use Cuisinaire rods (now I'm thinking I might want to find some!) but each of the boys has a mini-abacus.  I could do this same activity, replacing the rods with the abacus, for my guys to help them manage large numbers.


This same technique could be used to make different shapes from tangram pieces, or from pattern blocks.  Draw the complete shape on the front of the card and then repeat the shape on the back with the outline of each piece represented so that it shows the child how the shape is made from all the pieces.


So, invest in some zipper bags today.  Let me know if you come up with some great ideas!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

What a busy weekend we just finished!  We had so many events and activities over this Memorial Day weekend that as I reflect, it really represented a lifestyle of learning.  That's what I want for our little family.  I want the children, and Daddy and I, to be constantly learning and not even know it.  It's my heart's desire for us to be bonded together in learning and worshipping and serving.  Today, the Lord showed me that that is just what occurred this weekend.


On Saturday, we went "Yard Saling."  This is a favorite activity at the Lydell house during the Summer months.  We all jump into the car with water bottles loaded and tour Perry County, PA looking for people who have displayed the treasures for sale on their front lawns.  In some areas of the country these are called Tag Sales, but here in PA we call them Yard Sales.


This time we approached our Yard Saling with the boys a little differently.  We gave them each $5 and said, when it's spent, you're finished!  They had to budget and really decide if something was important to buy.  Walker T., our youngest, bought many little things with his money.  It was a math lesson at each stop and he would list what he spent and add the total and then subtract that from the $5 he was given originally to get a balance.  McLane, our oldest, waited for just the right purchase and he got a large lego set for $5.  He was thrilled and has been building new lego sets all weekend.  His lesson was in really waiting for something worth purchasing.  He passed by several yard sales before finding exactly what he wanted.


After our adventures in yard saling, we went to the little town of Eshcol, PA for their Memorial Day parade on Saturday afternoon.  The boys marched in the parade, as all children are encouraged to do, and were given a wreath to place on a veteran's grave at one of the two cemetary's that serve as the beginning and end of the parade.  Todd, my loving husband, ate his weight in homemade ham and bean soup and the boys got candy from the firetrucks and ambulances in the parade.  It's a wonderful life lesson for the boys to acknowledge the service of our veteran's in such a way.  I love this parade, it is a truly Norman Rockwell-type bit of Americana.  I feel as though we are stepping back in time to a period in which I wish we really lived.


Saturday night, the youth of our church went bowling.  The boys bowled on the "bumper lanes" and had a terrific time.  I saw bowling as Physical Education and am now wondering if we should fit bowling into our schedule a little more regularly.  Maybe we could find a few homeschool families and bowl during the day on a regular basis!


One other event that affected our weekend is the purchase of a new vehicle.  We learned in the past week that Todd's truck's transmission is on it's last legs.  We are now "car shopping."  We've decided to get a larger vehicle for the family, hopefully a van, and Todd will take the little Mercury Tracer that we've been driving as his work vehicle.  On Sunday, we drove all over two counties to every used car dealer we could find.  We continued our trek on Monday.  The boys learned about mileage, and BIG numbers.  They looked at vehicles with us and compared pros and cons about each potential vehicle.  They learned about reading the car sticker signs and finding the best vehicle for the money we have available.  And they learned patience!  For they had to endure a lot of stopping and walking around the used car lots, plus a lot of driving.


After all the car shopping, we treated the entire family to several hours at the local pool.  The water was a little chilly, but especially refreshing when you spent a little time in the 85 degree sun-shiny day.  The boys swam for two and a half hours.  They only exited the pool long enough to say, "Mommy, watch this!"  They really exercised their seven and nine-year-old bodies.


Last night, after a light supper of chicken salad pitas, everyone was ready for a rest. The boys took a one-hour bath, and watched Sesamee Street in our bed, while munching popcorn.  I can't think of a more relaxing end to a busy, but educational weekend.


I hope your Memorial Day was just as special.  And if you a veteran or current member of our nation's armed services, THANK YOU.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


We were just finishing breakfast today when it happened.  We heard the slight rumble first.  I turned in my chair and said, "They're here!"  Suddenly there was screaming and squealing!  The excavation man was driving a large Caterpillar backhoe down our driveway and into the yard.  My two little boys who are 7 and 9 were beside themselves.  They were hugging and jumping up and down and cheering.  It was a very intense moment for them.


A few minutes later, the man walked back down the driveway and drove a smaller front loader toward the house.  With this he began pushing all the stones into a great big pile in the driveway.  My guys were smashed against the back door peering at this beast as it moved piles of stone.


Then came the costumes.  I'm not sure what provoked it, but the boys felt the need to dress as soldiers.  They dug into their dress-up supply and came out with their rifles, camoflauge and helmets.  I looked into our little 4 foot by 4 foot mudroom and saw they had positioned one of the kitchen chairs at the door.  They were set for the day.


What is it about boys and large vehicles?  Especially large vehicles with buckets and shovels on them?  This little adventure in landscaping has brought such joy to two little seven and nine-year-old hearts.  I am bursting with joy myself!


Of course, those piles of stone and dirt in the yard are magnetic.  McLane is just DYING to get on top of the largest stone pile.  I can see that it is very very difficult to resist this temptation.  Maybe we'll have a little Phys. Ed. session later playing king of the hill.


I called my husband and said, "I think formal learning may be done for the day!"  There's no way to get them back at the table when such adventure is happening in the yard.  And there's the bottom line for guys, it's adventure.  They love it.  They crave it.  They need it.  Whether it's playing on a softball team, like Daddy does, so that they can have the adventure of competition.  Or it might be hiking in an unknown path, where there could be adventure at every turn.  They need it.  I don't understand it, when I just need some quiet in my day, or some thread with which to crochet.  I don't need adventure.  But they do.  These little balls of manhood with which God has entrusted me need adventure.  If I don't allow them to have it, they will find it elsewhere.  I want them to find it here, where there is safety and security on which to fall.  I want them to be able to come home from their adventures and tell their Dad and me all about it.  And even though I don't love or crave it, I want to be part of some of their adventures.  I don't want to miss a single one, whether it's just in the telling, or if I actually have to take part.  I want to experience their adventures with them and always be able to measure them against what God's plan for their life, and His plan for their spiritual growth is.


He has set adventure in the hearts of my little men.  I am grateful for it, even if I don't understand it.  I know it all has to do with the plans He's made for their fantastic lives.  Now there's a real adventure, watching my little guys grow up and fulfill all that God has planned for them.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Memory Verses

My nine-year-old was two years old when he began learning scripture.  I'm not kidding.  He was two.  I had decided to memorize Psalm 91 just for myself when my baby was toddling around.  Every morning over our breakfast together, I would read and recite the verses in this Psalm.  Then throughout the day, I would quote as much as I could back to myself.


It was nearly Thanksgiving when I was either dusting or vacuuming the dining room and trying to remember my Psalm.  I was stuck and kept repeating the same verse, trying to get my brain to remember the next one.  My little McLane, who was playing nearby began quoting the next verse for me.  I was thunderstruck!  I looked down at him and said, "What did you say?"  He, very easily, began to recite Psalm 91.


It was never my intent to fill his little heart with scripture.  I was learning myself.  I had never placed a lot of importance on scripture memorization.  I had a few random verses in my heart from childhood, but mostly as I grew-up I memorized enough to get the prize or reward being offered and then forgot it.


At two, however, my little guy began his adventure with scripture memorization.  By the time he was five, we had at least 25 verses memorized.  There was never any pushing, we would just recite the verse over breakfast.  Sometimes we would say them as we were playing or later in the day, but mostly we only recited them at breakfast.  And he learned them...oh my how he learned them.  His brother is just as quick to learn scripture as well.  And they both memorized their poetry in the same fasion, quickly and accurately.  We learn poetry the same way, we recite it each morning over breakfast.


Last year, our church began a plan of scripture memory.  One verse or a series of verses is listed in the weekly bulletin and every Sunday we recite the verses as a church.  The children must quote the verses from memory to one particular couple in the church.  If they've memorized each verse at the end of six months, they receive a prize in June.  If they memorize all the verses for the year, they receive a much larger prize in January.  Last year, our Walker T. was the youngest child to receive recognition for memorizing all the verses.  I'm sure some must think I drill and drill the boys, but I don't.  We quote them over breakfast...that's it!


Since the church began it's scripture memory program, I've set aside our own verses.  BUT I just read about Simply Charlotte Mason's plan for scripture memory.  Check it out here:

I'm going to be dusting off our old list of memory verses and begining a new program with our new school year.  I'm so excited to be planning a full program of heart-hiding.


Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11


These are the verses that we memorized during the fist several years of their young lives.  Maybe they would be a good starting place for you!

Genesis 1:1

Exodus 20:12

Psalm 19:14

Psalm 23

Psalm 91

Psalm 100:4

Psalm 139:14

Proverbs 3:5-6

Matthew 5:37

Matthew 6:9-13

Matthew 7:12

Mark 16:6

Luke 2:7

Luke 10:27

John 3:16-17

John 4:14

Philippians 2:14-16

Philippians 4:8

Colossians 3:20

I John 4:18

I Corinthians 14:40

I Corinthians 10:31

Philippinas 4:13