FREE! Printable Valentine Learning Activities and a New Kiss-Tac-Toe Game

A couple of weeks ago I introduced our new Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone where I offered a freeFun With Grammar ~ Valentine Edition” Packet for 2-5 graders. This week, we’ve got a FREE Valentine learning activity packet for younger kids!

Free Pre-K Valentine Activity Packet - Sample Pages

I’ve realized that I enjoy creating fun learning activities almost as much as I enjoy creating recipes! This new packet includes activities to help your younger kids practice color recognition, numbers and counting, same/different, big/small, and more. Pick and choose which activities your child(ren) would enjoy. It’s all FREE!!

Enter your email address below to download your free Valentine Activities Packets:

If the form isn’t showing up for you – click here to sign up. Easy as that!

I’m super excited to share that signing up for these freebies will connect you to our new Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course. You can unsubscribe at any time, your info will never be shared or sold, and being on this list means that you’ll be the first to know of the other fun (yes, FUN!) educational tools we’re putting together! 

Happy Valentine’s Day Kiss-Tac-Toe

Remember when I made the Merry Christmas Kiss-Tac-Toe printables? Several requested a Valentine’s Day version, which is such a great idea! Malachi and I decided that these are perfect packages to put together to distribute to all his friends at our homeschool Valentine Party!

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The download comes with four Valentine themed Kiss-Tac-Toe playing cards, printable instructions, and printable gift tags. Malachi and I printed, cut, and created an assembly line to baggie up the games to have them ready to give away. Each bag needs to include 10 Hershey Kisses – 5 each of two different colors. The Kisses are the playing pieces (instead of X’s and O’s). It’s deliciously fun (although harder to play once you’ve eaten the playing pieces).

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Download your FREE Happy Valentine’s Day Kiss-Tac-Toe Printables Here.

Happy Valentine's Day Kiss Tac Toe Free Download

Next week I’ll share some of our favorite recipes that are pink and red but free of artificial colors – perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day!

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Fun With Grammar ~ Valentine’s Day Free Printable Packet (And My Grammar Confession)

Valentine's Day Fun with Grammar
I write for a living. I homeschool my kids. I love and appreciate correct grammar usage and fantastically written sentences. (The frequent misuse of the words bring and take drives me batty. Take it there. Bring it here. This is not difficult.)

But for all my love of a good sentence, I cannot stand most typical Grammar Lessons (or sentences that begin with but).

I get a headache when reading information like this:

A Complex Sentence has one or more Dependent clauses (also called Subordinate clauses).

Does it? Does it really? How nice that I have not one, but two options for which to label the clauses that make up my (what was it again?)…my Complex Sentence. Now let’s talk about what modifies what, identify all the gerunds, and take the time to break it down into a diagram.

Woe is me. I just want to write sentences. Please do not make me pinpoint the predicate nominatives. I am 42. I have learned the definition of predicate nominative at least 24 times, and I still have to look it up every single time one of my kids asks me a question about it when he comes across it in his grammar lesson. This is because I DO NOT CARE. Oh, but a predicate nominative is a word that renames the subject of a sentence. Great. I just learned it for a 25th time. I will forget that information once again in five, four, three…

Well, now you know the truth.

I’m glad some people love all of the specifics of grammar because someone has to write the grammar lesson books and teach it in our schools. Some of you think grammar is fun and I still like you alot (<— even if I did just write that non-word on purpose out of spite).

While those are my feelings – I still teach my kids grammar because I have to. (This book series is the one I dislike the least and currently use with my older kids.) I don’t, however, make them re-write all 17 sentences if they have mastered the concept after 3 sentences; I don’t insist that they take time to memorize all the correct terminology (see predicate nominative predicament above); and if the lesson in their book is truly not relevant, I modify it to make it meaningful.

However, my kids are all still learning and able to write nice sentences. I know this doesn’t make sense without their mother’s solid knowledge of participles, but our oldest really has been getting A’s in his college English courses and has been successfully cranking out countless essays and term papers for professors.

Maybe it goes without saying that our family values creativity and practicality over fact-spitting. We try to keep education relevant if at all possible. Some parts of school a kid just has to get through because it’s required (so do not ask our current sophomore how he feels about Geometry theorems). But when it can be fun – for the love of the accurate use of then and than – let’s make it fun.

Fun with Grammar

Now that you’ve read my feelings on grammar you will know that when I labeled my newest creation Fun with Grammar, this means something. Our 5th grade son recently completed one of his (boring) Grammar textbooks for the year. (He’s still working through Wordly Wise 5.) As a way to fill in some gaps, I began creating some Valentine related grammar activities for him. One page turned into another, and before I knew it I had 12 pages prepared.

Nice kid though he is, Malachi was not excited or supportive of my new project. “You’re making me grammar pages? Why???” However, as soon as I printed them out and handed them over, he worked his way through the first four pages without a complaint. He might have even looked like he was enjoying himself. I believe his exact words tonight were, “Actually, that grammar thing is pretty fun.” Boom. Mission accomplished.

Bonus: I made said 5th grader proof-read this packet for me before I shared it with you. I’m a sly one.

Fun With Grammar - Valentine's Day Free Printable Packet

None of these activities are tedious. They simply ask your child to be creative and have fun with some basic English and Grammar skills.

Does it get any better than this? I typed out a Brownie Recipe, purposely made some mistakes, and asked your child to find the errors and misspelled words. It’ll take your child just a few fun minutes, then he/she can go bake brownies. Friends, there are no predicate nominatives in a pan of brownies!! (At least I don’t think there are. I obviously already forgot the definition.)

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Even more fun is that this packet is free for everyone. Use it in your home. Use it in your school. Enjoy the activities. Be creative. Actually have fun with grammar. And if your kid still hates it, well at least it was free and you got some brownies out of the deal.

Enter your email address below to download your free Fun With Grammar ~ Valentine’s Day Edition Printable Packet.

I’m super excited to share that signing up for this freebie will connect you to our new Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course. You can unsubscribe at any time, your info will never be shared or sold, and being on this list means that you’ll be the first to know of the other fun (yes, FUN!) educational tools we’re putting together! Emails will not be frequent. I’m too busy trying to relearn what a subordinating conjunction is.

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A Day in the Life ~ Homeschooling Older Kids and Teenagers

Many have requested that I share what life is like for our family now that our kids are older. What is our homeschool routine? How is it that as the kids got older and more independent, Mom actually got busier? What does a day in our life look like?

Today, I took pictures and notes all day long. I’ve documented our Wednesday as best I can. Why today? I chose today because I finally remembered the post request this morning and decided to started taking pictures (and you thought I was so organized). You’ll notice that most of the pictures don’t include the kids. It’s a teenage thing and I respect it. I now present to you over 20 {mostly} kidless pictures.

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After all, what could be more fun than looking at a picture of our overflowing compost bucket??

First I’ll fill you in on who we are – then I’ll share the specifics of our life today:

Matt and I are self-employed. I’m a writer-blogger (hi!); Matt runs a variety of businesses from snow removal/lawn care to rental property management to handyman/construction. Every work day is different for us based on the current deadlines and to-do lists. We tag-team the needs of the kids and needs of the household.

Our boys are now 18, 15 (almost 16), 14, and 11.

Asa (18) is a college freshman, living on campus at our local Christian college and juggling a very full academic and social life. Justus (15) is a high school sophomore; Elias (14) is an eighth grader; Malachi (11) is a fifth grader. So in summary, we have one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary. (And I question why I can’t keep up.)

Family Christmas Pic

For me, today began as it usually does with a cup of coffee and my Bible. I got up later than I meant to (whatever though, I needed sleep) – so that cut into my quiet time as Matt got the boys moving for the day.

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The boys are typical teenagers, which means the first thing they like to do in the morning is grab their ipods from the living room table to see what they missed while they were sleeping. Sometimes I hate ipods and want to run them over with my car (like when the boys are so zoned into them they don’t hear me telling them to load the dishwasher or that the house is on fire). But this is our culture and this is how they keep up with their people and make plans, so I try to be okay with this (while still setting boundaries). After a few minutes, ipods stayed in the living room as the boys headed to the kitchen to find breakfast.

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Everyone warmed up their own leftover French toast or pancakes and grabbed applesauce and/or blueberries. Matt read to us from the book of Romans as we ate. Today we ate in a hurry because Justus and Malachi had to be at their piano lessons at 9:00.

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Teeth brushed, the two boys packed their piano books along with some school work so that while one boy was having his lesson, the other boy could read or do English. In the meantime, Elias tried to sneak back onto his ipod (as I pictured it being crushed under the van tire) and then got scooted upstairs to do his English lesson. Then, since he was the only boy home, he got on the computer to do his Algebra.

I used the quiet time to start writing this post, then shopped online to order Justus’ birthday presents and made a grocery list off Pricematcherz.com.

Matt took his truck to have the tires worked on, and they finished just in time for him to pick up the boys from piano. Good thing since I was still in my jammies. ;)

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Once home, Justus went straight back to the school computer to work on his music. Malachi and Elias started playing soccer in the living room. (It’s winter. I don’t own knick-knacks. THEY WERE GETTING ALONG. Carry on, boys.)

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What? Don’t you have a soccer goal by your front door?

I sent Elias in to empty half the dishwasher. Malachi played the piano for a while, then I sent him off to do his reading. Elias and Malachi began working on a video project together, while still getting along. Justus was working on Geometry on the computer. I finished tweaking an article to send into our local newspaper (I write a weekly column) and suddenly needed food. It was only 11:00, but I am always hungry for lunch earlier than anyone else. (I eat an earlier breakfast, plus I’m more of a five-meals-a-day kind of eater.)

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I warmed up Taco Soup (working on a recipe for you!) and got out guacamole, carrots, and clementines.

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Around noon, everyone else was hungry too, so they dug in. They chose kiwi instead of clementines. While they ate, I read aloud from our latest missionary book.

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Lunch over, I had to head to Walmart to get ink for my computer so I could get a printed curriculum in the mail. I grabbed some price-match items while I was there, then ran to pick up Malachi’s buddy to hang out for the afternoon. While I was out, Justus completed his Physics and did some English and History reading. Elias read English and Science. Malachi completed his math assignment.

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Once I got home, Justus finished cleaning out the dishwasher, Malachi loaded it with dirty dishes, and the rest of us put groceries away.

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At 1:55 Matt, Elias, Malachi, and his friend headed out the door for an indoor soccer session. On the way, they dropped Justus off at the college campus for the 2:00 MWF Psychology class he’s taking. (You can read here about how we get dual high school and college credits for our kids.) I settled in for exactly 45 minutes of quiet work time before I needed to leave to pick Justus up from his class.

Everyone was back home by 3:15. I spent a silly amount of time on the phone tracking down a package that hadn’t been delivered. The boys found snacks to eat. Elias and Justus did their Spanish lessons on the computer. Malachi hung out with his friend. I closed my office door to write this post. :)

I checked on the boys a while later and found the door to the back room closed up tight. Why?? Usually it’s open a crack, but when it’s closed like this, it usually means “I’m recording so don’t walk in until I’m done or you’ll ruin everything!”

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What are the boys working on in there? Well, Justus and Elias currently have four big music/video projects they are working on with their church friends. Our church is hosting a Youth Rally coming up in February, and videos are a must; plus the boys need to complete some videos for LTC – a leadership event coming up in April. They’ve spent hours the past few weeks (some on their own and some with as many from the youth group who can help out) writing lyrics and scripts, creating beats and tunes, recording voices, videoing the action, and editing their work to put it all together. I can’t tell you how much I love them doing this.

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I snuck into the room later to take a picture of what is our “recording studio”/school-computer room/Matt’s office/guest room. The boys invested in that fancy microphone you see there, and Matt and I got them the mic stand and pop filter for Christmas.

The rest of the afternoon passed with me hiding in my office trying to get some work done. I hollered out at one point for each boy to scrub four potatoes for dinner. I came out of my office around 5:00 and made a big pot of Potato Soup. I had the boys work together on sides of sweet peppers, olives, raspberries, and pickles.

We headed out the door at 6:20 for Wednesday evening Bible study. At 8:15 we were back home, joined by a young couple who is getting married this March. Matt and I visited with them (pre-marital counseling/mentoring) until around 10:15. During that time the boys were sent upstairs to fold and put away the huge laundry pile. Once they finished that, they hung out in the back room and watched netflix until 10:00 when we headed them up to bed.

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Now it is 10:54 and I am wrapping this up and calling it a day. Thursdays usually require a little less running around compared to Wednesdays, though the two middle boys have basketball practice tomorrow night. Never a dull moment.

So how was your day? Have you found your schedule changing as your kids get older?

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The Truth About Homeschooling Extroverted (and Introverted) Kids

It’s a good thing none of my kids have friends or like people. Otherwise homeschooling sure would be a drag.

ltc 3

Yes. We just stay home all day long reading books. In Latin.

The kids like it that way. It’s a good thing, too, since there aren’t any sports, music, or drama opportunities for them.

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ltc 1

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Special events like Prom? Nah. Stuff like that would take away from our traditional Saturday evening family folk-singing hour.

spring formal 2015

The Truth About Homeschooling Extroverted (and Introverted) Kids

Let’s see. How long have I been doing this homeschool thing with my kids? I believe this would be year number 14. That doesn’t make me an expert, but it does mean that I’ve heard just about every fear parents have about homeschooling, every weird thing people say about socialization, and every question people have about the possibility of actually getting their kids through school in one piece. I’ve had all of the good days and all of the bad days and all of the days that not only make me question why we chose to homeschool but why we chose to have children at all.

lego_room

Today let’s talk about whether your kids are introverts or extroverts and how that works with homeschooling.

We have four sons ages 11-18. While they haven’t taken the actual survey to properly pin-point their personality types, and while our third son is so laid back it’s hard to tell if he even has a vert at all, I can tell you that it is very clear to me that our oldest and our youngest are very much extroverts. (When discussing this earlier in the week, our second son informed us that he is both an omnivert and a herbivert – because he likes both meat and vegetables. He is the kid who taught me how to make up words.)

Let’s begin by talking about my extroverted kids – one of whom graduated last year after 13 years of homeschool and just successfully completed his first semester away at college.

Just last week, while talking about college life, our oldest said something about how many people there were on campus to be friends with and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day to spend time with all of the people he would love to spend time with. Of the 475ish students on campus, Asa knows almost all of them and is a part of their friend circle in some way. He loves being with people. He can be in rooms full of people for days, then end the week by saying, “We should have some people over.”

asa at soul quest

And our youngest. He’s 11. While explaining personality differences a few weeks ago, I could barely get the definitions out about introverts (get energy by being alone) and extroverts (get energy by being with people) before he interrupted and said, “Oh, I’m definitely that extra-one. Whatever you call it.” Yeah buddy. I know. Malachi loves his people time. He can hardly stand it when I close my door to work alone because he has so many sentences and necessary pieces of information to share and he can’t stand that I might miss something.

lego party 10

Justus (almost 16) and Elias (almost 14) sit more on the introverted side of the fence. They can spend hours alone working on music and writing lyrics with headphones on and be perfectly content for days. Funny though. Those two have just as many friends as my extroverted sons.

So point number one:

1. Every kid – introvert, extrovert, can’t-decide-which-vert – every kid needs people.

I am every bit of an introvert (I recharge by being alone), yet I have oodles of friends whom I love and need in my life. All of us are either introverted or extroverted and have many, many people whom we love and need in our lives. The same goes for our kids.

We all need people. We all need relationships. We all need to deny self (whatever that might look like for each of us) in order to serve and love others.

The word “socialization” makes me want to pull out my eyeballs with salad tongs. If the world would stop focusing on getting our kids socialized and simply focus on teaching our kids to love people the way Jesus loves people, that would probably solve…well, most of this world’s junk that needs to be solved. If everyone did the people thing the way God created each of us to do the people thing (introvertedly or extrovertedly) – wouldn’t that just be nifty?

So, no matter our personality type, we all need people. Therefore, I have absolutely concluded that being an extrovert or an introvert doesn’t make one more or less suited to be homeschooled. Which leads me to…

2. Going to a school building with lots of children and teachers does not necessarily meet the extrovert’s needs better than homeschooling.

While I think there are parts of “going to school” my extroverted kids would enjoy, there are other parts that would be very difficult for them. This is in no way a comparison or a “my way is better than your way” post. On the contrary, I am saying that there are different ways to meet an extrovert’s needs and being in a classroom full of kids is only one of those ways.

It’s a (big, fat, salad tong, eyeball) myth that homeschoolers are “home all day” or “never with people.” Goodness, there have been many weeks that I wondered how we could ever actually be home long enough to finish our school work (the kind that involves books and software).

Our family life is naturally full of people. Ironically, the fullness of this is actually because of the fact that we homeschool. I believe our time and social circle might be more limited if we didn’t homeschool. Interesting to think about.

Our church life and ministry focus’ includes several outings each week – all full of people. The older boys go to church camp up to 7 weeks during the summer between weeks of serving as counselor or enjoying time as a camper because they love it so much and want to live there forever. There are monthly youth rallies hosted by churches all over Nebraska where our boys meet up with dozens of their friends to worship, eat nachos, and not sleep for 56 hours straight.

justus_soccer

And then there’s soccer in the spring and fall and basketball all winter. Plus we invite people to our house frequently. There are field trips and homeschool gym days and science days. I’d write more about what we do with people, but as an introvert, this list is starting to make me tired. Which leads me to…

3. Introverted parents need to be aware of their extroverted kids’ needs.

My extroverted kids obviously love the “going” and the “doing” more than I do. What energizes them wears me out (in more ways than one because I’m 42 and there’s only so much coffee). But it is very important that I realize that they need the going and the people just as much as I need the quiet and the alone time.

As mentioned in point number 2, providing people time for my kids hasn’t been incredibly difficult. It happens naturally in our lives because of our choices and priorities, and because of what our boys have latched onto as they’ve discovered their gifts and interests. Thankfully, the older they get, the more they can create the people time for themselves. They can make the phone calls and the arrangements and I can mostly sit back and provide the popcorn.

I want to be as aware of my kids’ needs for people as I need them to be aware of my need to be alone. I feel an actual ache if I haven’t had enough alone time to recharge. I imagine it’s the same for my extroverted kids when they haven’t had enough people time. I try to be aware of this and provide rides as needed and outings or invites as I can.

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But on the flip side…

4. Extroverted kids need to be aware of their introverted parent’s needs.

This has been more of an issue with our youngest extrovert than it ever was with our oldest – likely because Malachi is the youngest and his older brothers have ready-made outings because of youth group and middle school/high school sports. As a fifth grader and our youngest son, Malachi finds himself at home alone with the parents while his brothers are all off doing teenage activities.

This means that I have to stretch myself a little more to accomplish point number 3 (working to meet Malachi’s extroverted needs even when it’s a stretch for me). But it also means that I’ve had to teach Malachi to understand that there are times he needs to go hang out with his Legos and let Mom enjoy some quiet. It’s been good for him to learn some of these big people concepts and understand what energizes him vs. what energizes me. I can now say, “Mom’s gotta have some closed-door quiet time so I can get some work done now.” or “Bud, my introvert is getting ready to explode. Let’s take a break after we finish this game so I can recharge.”

He gets it. It’s actually kind of cool and maybe, just maybe it’ll help him in future relationships.

science day

5. And the flip side of all of those…

If you are an extroverted parent with an introverted kid, be aware that if you drag them around to lots of outings where there are lots of people, they might melt down when their introverted self gets tired. The exhaustion is a real thing and what might come out as naughtiness, might actually just be weariness from all the people. Plan accordingly. If your introvert needs to sit alone and read a book for a while so they don’t choke someone, well…just pack a book.

6. This isn’t just about homeschooling.

I believe most of this applies to families whose kids go to public or private school too. Each kids’ downtime needs are going to vary based on whether they are introverted or extroverted. Some may come home from school ready to invite the neighborhood over for a party. Others may need to find a quiet hole in the wall to be alone and recharge.

7. I love that God made us all different on purpose.

I’ve shared before that I have, at times, grappled uneasily with God because He made me introverted. Sometimes I feel that life would be so much easier – so much less exhausting – if I was an extrovert by nature. But picture it. What if we were all extroverted? What if we were all introverted? What if we were all go-getters – not one laid back person among us? What if all of us were quiet and reflective? What if all of us were the life of the party?

God has an obvious good system going on here with His creation. Our job is to work with what He’s given us and love and live accordingly. I’ll play my part, you play yours.

Meeting our kids’ needs through all of these differences? Well, sometimes it’s challenging. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for family life and school choices. If you ask and listen, God will make it clear to you what is right for your family. But is it possible to homeschool your extrovert? Absolutely.

Of course, that means they won’t have any friends their own age. You might consider investing in a parrot.

justus camp

Tell me about your kids and school experience. Have you noticed which of your kids is more introverted or extroverted?

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Our Groceries, Our Menu, Our First Week of School…and Our Mannequins?

Well, here we are at the beginning of our first week of school for 2015-2016. I’ve made a few meals and convenience foods ahead of time. I’ve ordered and purchased a lot of groceries. I’ve organized our books and classes for the year. I’ve made a 30-Day Real Food Menu to help make meal time easier. I’ve moved the mannequins out of my office. Hold on. Did I forget to tell you about Sheila and Robert?

Creepy Alert…

mannequins

Why, oh why?

Asa was working on a new video project for a friend last week, and they needed mannequins. What does a person do when he needs mannequins? Well, his mom puts a request out on Facebook, and hopes a friend has some to lend. I truly almost wet myself watching our friend haul two necked mannequins across the street to our porch. I would love to know what the neighbors were thinking.

Ever dressed a mannequin? It’s harder than one would think. Sheila lost two fingers in the process, for which we are truly sorry. I gave up on pants and simply wrapped her legs in a blanket. Then we stored her (as well as a little boy mannequin – see him back there?) on the bed in my office. I jumped every time I walked in – because obviously – and I felt as though Sheila was watching my every move while I tried to work. It is very hard to write sentences while being watched by someone who doesn’t blink. So we moved them to our other guest room. In the process, her legs came off. As did her arms. And her blanket. Then Asa and his friend ended up not needing them for the video after all.
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See sometimes you just don’t want to know all the goings on in other people’s homes. Please still love us.

Want to talk about food now? Yes, let’s move on to the more normal (and I use that term lightly) life of the Coppinger household, shall we? Truly, looking at my bottle of vinegar will be a blessed relief after the previous pictures.

Saturday I picked up an enormous Bountiful Basket order. Along with lots of fruits and veggies we got tortillas, bread, and pizza crusts for the freezer. Ah yes, and a bottle of vinegar. As I was saying earlier, life is so normal, simple, and boring around here.

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My August Subscribe and Save order is beginning to trickle in. I should have the rest by Monday, but so far we’ve received Organic Cacao Powdera case of Kashi cereal, and a case of Rapunzel sucanat.

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Our garden tomatoes are producing well! Soon it will be time to make a batch of tomato sauce.

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And guess what? Our green bean plants are reviving themselves and we already got to pick a few beans. Take that, bunnies! (Yes, we’re still keeping the cat.)

garden beans

I ordered 50 pounds of potatoes and 50 pounds of wheat (not pictured) from Azure Standard. Soooo, we are all set on food for a while!

potatoes

Along with school, some of our boys’ soccer practices also begin this week. I took the 30-Day Real Food Menu list and my Menu Planning Notebook, and I jotted down meals from the list I have food on hand to make. This is so much better than having all the info and thoughts floating around in my head. Yay for a list on my fridge (and for the iced coffee I drank while making it)!

meal planning before school

Here are some of the links to the food I jotted down:

Last but not least, here are some boring pictures of a few of the books our three younger boys will be using this year. (Justus – 10th grade, Elias – 8th grade, Malachi – 5th grade)

school books 2015

This isn’t all of them, but these are some of the piles I was working through for a few hours over the weekend. I got the boys’ assignment lists printed, so we’ll begin bright and early (yeah right) Monday morning.

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Hopefully, the mannequins will not be terribly distracting while the boys work on their math and Spanish on Matt’s office computer. We’re running out of options for places to move them. Our porch, perhaps? That could be fun.

Here’s to a great first week of school! How about you? What are you up to this week? Care to share anything about your normal (or not so normal) goings on? Have any mannequin creepers?

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An Open Letter From My 42 Year-Old Self To My 28 Year Old Self Who Is About to Begin Homeschooling

Dear Much Younger Me,

How I wish we could sit for a while with a cup of coffee and chat about this homeschooling journey you are about to begin! That won’t work though because you are me – 14 years ago – and for some strange reason, you don’t like coffee yet. I do not understand this.

iced coffee

If it was possible, I would love to tell you a few things. First this:

You really, really need to chill out. I mean, your uber thorough lesson plans are adorable, but take a look at that baby’s face and realize that hello?! He’s five. I know he seems old to you because the others are so much smaller. But he’s not big – he’s little. He does not need to sit still for that long and workbooks for boys are almost always a disaster. I know you’ll figure this out by boy number 2, so God bless the oldest child. But really. Long school days with all the subjects and all the books and all the projects – they are too much. Your stress isn’t blessing your children. Keep plugging along for the next 13 years of his schooling, and I guarantee that while there will be holes in his education because there always are for every single kid in the entire whole wide everywhere, he is going to be prepared for adulthood. History is history, so if he doesn’t catch it now, he will catch it eventually because you teach it over and over, year after year. The same goes for science – and pretty much everything else you teach from K to 12. He’ll get it. In the meantime, if you could just reeeeeeeelaaaaaaaaaaax.

Now this one is important, so listen up real hard: The “ideal” almost never happens. In fact, what you can pretty much count on is that at the very moment you have gathered your chicks around you on the floor to learn something fabulous about the Bible or about the weather or about the water cycle…someone will have to poop. Please stop being angry about this and trying to figure out what you are doing wrong with your schedule. Poop happens and toddlers melt down and phones ring and UPS men knock on the door (usually all at the same time but it is okay because when you are weak, then you are strong).

It’s mostly best to stop listening to what everyone else is doing. Every once in a while, what you hear or see inspires you. But most of the time, it stabs you with guilt over everything you’re not doing. (Don’t even get me started about the Pinterest of the future.) The boys don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. They need to do what you – their mama – decides they need to do. Seek God’s direction and listen only to His voice.

You will love every single moment of homeschooling…except for all the moments that you don’t. You’ll feel bad for not loving all of it. I sure wish you wouldn’t. I wish you could see that all the stuff you consider to be a failure each day is really a big part of your kids’ success. This is what real life is made of. So when the day doesn’t go perfectly, recognize that you are teaching your kids to be normal adults who face and handle normal life situations. This…is success.

Most of what you think is important now really isn’t. Godly discipleship and training matters 10,000 times more than memorizing dates on a timeline. Of course you will often think you are failing at the boys’ spiritual training even more than their schooling, but remember God’s bigness. As long as you are in communion with your Savior and seeking his guidance, forgiveness, and recognizing His grace – oh dear one. That’s all you need to be doing. The kids will learn to seek Him too. Keep bringing Him into the conversation often – in the car, when talking about situations with friends, when shopping, when teaching, when cooking, when cleaning – all of it. Make God a part of every part.

You know how you’ve watched other families serve with their kids? Do that. The school work will get done because you are diligent and you understand the importance of self-discipline in learning and education. But truly, let service to others trump the rest of the to-do list. Keep teaching the boys to love God and love others.

They are going to grow up and become young men with weaknesses. Do not despair at this. Understand the power of God at work in their lives. Through their weaknesses, God will be at work in ways you can’t even imagine right now since they are so little. When they are teenagers you will watch in amazement at how God is growing them to become leaders for Him. You’ll see more than ever that God loves these boys and that your job is to trust Him. Like, really trust Him. Stop thinking that you must be perfect, or else. They are His – and His ways are perfect.

14 years from today, you will move your oldest into his dorm room with joy and tears. You will hug him and tell him you love him, and he has grown so tall that he has to practically stoop to his knees to hug you back. You will be amazed. You will watch in wonder at all God has done to grow your family. You will love this. Just you wait.

In the meantime, breathe in the faces of those babies, Mama. Take a lot of pictures. They are precious. While you can’t fathom it, your love for these boys will grow even more fierce. Yes, it is actually possible.

Enjoy your homeschooling journey, Mama. These days are rich and exhausting, delightful and baffling, overwhelming and glorious. Breathe deeply and keep God first. You are going to survive this beautifully, because God equips and prepares His children. Trust Him.

Freely enjoy peace in Jesus.

Love,
Your 42 Year-Old Self

P.S. Maybe I shouldn’t spoil the surprise, but your future grocery bill is going to blow your mind. Enjoy the fact that they can all now share one apple for a snack and be full. This will make you laugh out loud in a few years (we call that lol, but I don’t have time to go into all of that).

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Hey, I’ve got something for you. It’s free. And it’s fun. I promise.

Valentine's Day Fun with Grammar

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Some Of Our Favorite Books

This post was originally posted in October, 2013. Our kids are older now but this list of books is still our favorite!

Books, books, the magical fruit. The more you read, the more you…

Oh wait. Wrong poem.  Sometimes I get confused. Although I’m sure if I threw that poem starter out to my boys, they’d be sure to finish it with something creative. And by creative, I mean gross.

I am excited to share that all four of our boys are now all independent readers. It was a little slow in coming for our youngest, who is now a 3rd grader. But late this summer, it all clicked for him. He now loves reading! Last week he said, “I can’t believe math used to be my favorite. Now reading is so much fun!”  Awesome – just what I love to hear. (Although you still have to do your math, Buddy.)

malachi_reading

Here are some of the books currently at the top of our reading list for the year:

Boxcar Children Books
These books were some of my favorites when I was little. (You know I had my very own boxcar, right? Okay, it wasn’t my very own.  I shared it with my cousins.)  All of our boys have loved the Boxcar Children books, and now I am reading them to Malachi (age 8). Elias (age 11) has already read most of these books, but sits in to listen when he can, because who can resist?

boxcar_children

Ralph Moody Books

We read through most of the books in this series (as a family) a year ago, and now I’m having my two older boys read the last few on their own. What I love most about these books is that they show how important it is to be a hard worker, how much fun it can be to work together as a family, and how if you put your mind to it – you can always find a way to provide. I am so inspired by these books, and my boys love the adventure aspect they include.

Books by Clyde Robert Bulla

These are the first chapter books our boys have read. We have about eight of them on Malachi’s shelf this year – and he’s made his way through two of them already. I love that Clyde Robert Bulla keeps his vocabulary simple and easy to read – all while teaching history and making his books fun and intriguing.  When I pulled these books out for Malachi, all three of his brothers said, “Oh, he gets to read those this year? Malachi, you will love them.”  I love hearing the boys talk together about books they’ve all read.

clyde_robert_bulla

Ramona the Pest Series

Malachi pulled his first Ramona book off the shelf this year, too. So far he’s loving it, just like his brothers did. I read this series several times when I was younger. It’s so much fun re-reading these books with my kids.

ramona_2

Christian Heroes Books

I can’t say enough good about all of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books by Janet and Geoff Benge. We’ve actually decided to use about 15 of these books this year to go along with our History/Geography studies with Justus, Elias, and Malachi. What better way to study the culture and history of a country than to learn about missionaries who worked there? These books are so well written and inspiring!

I also have to share that as we reach the end of each book, Justus (age 13) likes to point out, “You know Mom, this is the chapter when the missionary dies and you cry.”  Pshaw.  Okay, fine. So I cry at the end of all of these (and the Ralph Moody Books, and just about every other book I read aloud to the boys). I can’t help it.

benge

In addition to these sets of books, our three older boys are all reading lots of books from the Sonlight reading lists for their grade level. Asa (a junior in high school) is reading some Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, The Hiding Place (you MUST read this!), and quite a few others Sonlight recommends.

What books are you and your kids reading these days?  I know I’m not the only mom who cries at the end of a good book. Help me out here – do you get choked up when you’re reading books to your kids?

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You Know You’re a Homeschooler If… (Plus, Final Day for the Build Your Bundle Sale!)

You know you’re a homeschooler if…  (wait for it)

…you educate your kids at home.

That’s it. Beyond that one lone fact, I refuse to share absolutes as if every home-schooler does ABC and every public-schooler does XYZ. You know why? Because none of it is true. You can read more of my thoughts on this in a post I wrote last year called Homeschoolers Always Never.

Now, as promised, I am here to remind you that today is the final day of the Build-Your-Bundle sale (yes, the sale was extended one extra day to bless you all!). Whether you homeschool or not, I believe many parents will benefit from these resources. So, come one, come all!

Interested in the Build Your Bundle sale, but not sure how it works? Simplify it by doing this:

  1. Look through each bundle package. Add to your cart each pre-assembled bundle you would like.
  2. OR, build your own bundle from the amazing list of books. (Grab any 10 you would like!)
  3. THEN (best yet!), if you like, you can take advantage of the “Buy 2-Get 1 Free” offer. This means that if you buy two pre-assembled bundles, you can pick a third one for free. Or if you buy 2 build-your-bundles, you can get a third one for free.

I definitely recommend the Buy-2-Get-1-Free option, for obvious reasons (free books!). I did this, picking up the  Boy Bundle, the 4th-6th Bundle #2, and the Unit Studies Bundle. The best thing about this sale is that you can put together a package to benefit your family! There are bundles from preschool to high school and everything in between. There is no one-size-fits-all.

Click here to Buy Bundles!

Yay for the bonus day, but there will be no more bonus days after this. If you’re interested in this sale, do not wait! This ends at midnight tonight (June 2) and won’t be around again until next year.

Let me know if you have any questions about how this works. And help me out as I continue to organize my week. Which post would you like to see tomorrow?

  • Why I Rarely Make Big Meat and Potato Meals (Plus 9 of My Family’s Favorite Real Food, Real Simple Meals) or…
  • The Correct Way (seriously) to Squeeze a Lime or Lemon or…
  • How to Make Mint Extract

bundle last day

Enjoy the blessing of this bonus sale day!
Check out the bundle options now before you forget and miss out.

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This Weekend…

SALE ENDS TONIGHT!!!!!

If you are interested in this year’s Homeschool Build Your Bundle options that I shared earlier this week, I recommend you looking over them during the next day or two if you can. The sale ends early next week and there are a lot of neat packages to choose from. I found it to be a little bit overwhelming at first (fun! but overwhelming) trying to narrow down my decisions.

Waiting until the last day might not give you the time you need to scroll through the delicious choices. (What? Books are totally delicious. Just like baby’s cheeks. And clean sheets right off the clothes line.)

I’ll give you one more reminder about this sale on the final day, but as the weekend begins, I thought I’d give a quick, “Hey! When you have a few extra minutes, you might look through these choices!”

I finally made my purchase yesterday, taking advantage of the Buy-Two-Get-One-Free deal. Now I get to have fun looking through the tons of books I got, organizing them for the fall. I’m excited!

I recommend starting on this page where you can scroll down and see each bundle option. Find what works for you! (I got the Boy Bundle, the 4th-6th Bundle #2, and the Unit Studies Bundle. I might go back and select more because I had a hard time narrowing it to those.) By the way, my Teaching Your Kids to Cook ebook is in the Just For Mom Bundle.

2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

Have a great weekend! After working all morning, we’ll be heading to a wedding for a sweet couple we’ve watched grow up. (Also delicious.)  :)

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Why I’m Excited About Homeschooling After a Challenging School Year

malachi_bug_3

This was Malachi a couple years ago during a math lesson. 
You’ll want to read the entire story.

As much as I love schooling our kids at home, I will admit that the past homeschool year was one of the most challenging of all the previous 12 years. Some years are just tough – and this one was a doozy.

God is bigger than all of it, proven by the fact that we not only survived – we graduated our oldest child successfully. He ended his high school career with 24 college credits, persevering through some very difficult online courses with overwhelming expectations. There were many learning curves this year with the ACT, FAFSA, scholarship applications, and weighty decisions to be made. Praise God: we did not die (not even a little bit). There were several times I thought we might. But here we are, kicking and smiling and half passed out on the couch.

It goes without saying, then, that the thought of school coming again in the fall has made me feel a bit woozy. School books? I couldn’t stand the thought. Educating children? Not today, please. Bring on summer break! Yesssssssssssssssss!

While I am praising God for the next several weeks of refreshment and revival – I am also thanking Him for what He just provided. This is actually making me excited about taking on another school year. (After a lovely break, of course.) I wasn’t sure it was possible. But what was I thinking? God always provides the encouragement and resources we need so that we can do what He has called us to do.

I just had a chance to look through all of the packages being offered in the 2015 Biggest Homeschooling Sale of the Year (available this week only). It definitely helps awaken my school book interest simply because all of these are marked down up to 90% off. But it’s not just that. These packages contain so many great items that will bless our 2015-2016 school year.

2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

My plan is to take advantage of the Buy-Two-Get-One-Free option. That way I’ll be saving even more on the packages I want. I’m finding that I’m very interested in about six of the pre-assembled packages. That means I’ll only have to pay for four of them, and I’ll get two for free. That, along with the already huge discount and the high quality of these educational items is what I find so refreshing and exciting. THIS makes me excited about schooling my kids again in the fall. Thank you, God.

I encourage you to look through the Build Your Bundle offerings to see what works for your family. Even if you don’t homeschool, I believe you’ll find some items or packages that you can use. (I believe we all teach our kids at home, whether we home school or not!)

Here’s how the Build Your Bundle site works:

  1. Look through each bundle package. Add to your cart each pre-assembled bundle you would like.
  2. OR, build your own bundle from the amazing list of books. (Grab any 10 you would like!)
  3. THEN (best yet!), if you like, you can take advantage of the “Buy 2-Get 1 Free” offer. This means that if you buy two pre-assembled bundles, you can pick a third one for free. Or if you buy 2 build-your-bundles, you can get a third one for free.2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

These are the six packages I’m looking at getting. (Some of these won’t apply to you, so be sure you look through all the offerings to see what is available!)

Love Unit Studies? This Bundle is awesome - 89% off!2015 Build Your Bundle Homeschool Sale

Middle School Curriculum at a LOW Price - 85% off!

Character Building Bundle  - HUGE Savings!

Even more fun is that each person who purchases even one of the Build Your Bundle options will receive an entire book of bonuses.

Hundreds of Dollars worth of freebies and deals for every customer who makes a purchase!

You’ll want to click here to see all the details of each bundle offer. Take your time. Have a blast. Equip your family and home with all sorts of learning opportunities at a huge discount!

Praise God with me that He always provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. He is faithful.

Are you enjoying summer break? Still, does it just make you a little bit excited for next year when you see all these great resources?!

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