Saturday, February 27, 2010

Valley Forge National Park

Going to Valley Forge in the winter makes it a bit chilly to walk around, but it is a lot less crowded and a lot more authentic. We happen to be in the area, and we just learned about George Washington. Here is some information if you would like to go too:
  • Plan your trip on their website
  • Start at the welcome center - there is a film, exhibit, and a great little bookstore
  • Ask the range at the welcome center for a Jr. Ranger book and to explain the program to you and your child or read about it on their website. They can earn a badge.
  • There is an audio tour on cd for your car. It is a hour long I believe. You can purchase it in the gift shop.
  • Ask the rangers questions, they are usually more than happy to tell you about the park and it's history.
  • On the weekends they may have people dress in costume. When we went on a Sunday afternoon, there were some teenage boys dressed as patriot soldiers. They told Ms. G about the cabins.
  • Starting in January through April, the park has a special event where your child (6-12) can join the Continental army. The lessons build on one another, so it is best to start in Jan. and try to make each one. We certainly look forward to doing this in the future.
  • FYI tours for Washington Headquarters meets at the train station, not the headquarters. Ms. G loved seeing where he slept and ate, the hike up and down the long ramp are well worth it.
  • Ms. G also enjoyed the recreated cabins and the artifacts (welcome center)
  • Try to spot deer, the park has a lot to offer in nature as well as history
  • King of Prussia Mall is close by if you want to eat out afterward - January is not the best picnicking weather!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow Day

When we started out homeschooling, we made a rule a snow day would only be called if my the snow was so bad that my husband could not go into work. Now that I am in my official 4th year (if you do not counting Pre-K), we have school anyway, and save the day off for the springtime.

To be honest, our days go so much better when we do school. The children get into less trouble. Not to say we do not need a brake, we all do. It is just I like to schedule that for after a few weeks of hard work, not a random day. Besides, most work can get done by lunchtime, if we start early.

A snow day is not as much fun when you know you will have to do the work on another day. I guess originally I wanted them to have the joy as I did as a child with a surprise day off from school. They will have other joys, such as doing school outside during spring or wearing what ever they want to school - like fairy wings or a prairie bonnet. They will have homeschool co-ops. They will have the joy of running around in their art teachers big yard with the other homeschool kids after class. Or my personal favorite, when their overwhelmed mom cannot take the dirty house one minute longer and calls, "Home Ec Day."*

Doing school with the snow falling outside makes our school so cozy. I think I will save my random day off for when I will really need it. Homeschooling is hard, and there will be a day, probably soon, in the future, when I just need a day off.

How do you handle a "Snow Day?"

*Home Economics day is where your children and you cancel schoolwork and clean the house. While I do not count this as a school day, it is an important life skill to teach. You could also call a Staff Development Day, when you need a day to catch up on homeschool preparations or bills or just need a sanity brake. Homeschool is intense, there are those times where both the kids and you just need to take a brake that is not scheduled on the calendar.

Mid-Week Church Update

Since I quiet my job at night, we decided to try the mid-week church activities once again. Here are the pros and cons we have experienced so far:

  • They now have a program for Mr. Z and Mr. JP, so they can make some friends at church.
  • The mom's group was moved to same time as the kids activities.
  • Ms. G really sees going to her mid-week kids club now as a privilege, and works hard to quickly get to bed and not whine so much the next day.
  • It works much better now that my daughter is older - maturity helps!
  • Last week they had a family week at my daughter's club, though we were the only complete family there. Besides those running the club, there was 1 Dad and 1 Mom, that's it. Family to family fellowship has been hard for us to find.
  • One of Ms. G's friends started coming. Before none of her friends really went, so what is the point of building relationships when the girls she knows are not there.

  • They do have trouble focusing on their school work the next day because of the lack of sleep. I let them sleep later, but they like to rise with the sun.
  • My husband only gets a hour with his kids, including dinner in that time.
  • After a 10 or 11 hour day, my husband just wants to stay home, so we do not always go as a family. Us girls go, and the men stay behind.
  • There is no dads or men's meeting, so my husband is still finding his place, which probably will be volunteering once a month.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Giving Goats

For the MFW goat lessons we read several books, but two go nicely together. They are:
Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier
Give a Goat by Jan West Schrock

Beatrice's Goat brought tears to my eyes. It is a story of how out of out abundant blessings, we can give a gift that will have a great change in the life of someone less fortunate. Give a Goat is about a classroom whose teacher read them Beatrice's Goat. The book inspired the class to raise money to buy a goat for someone like Beatrice.

I wish I would have thought of this early, but it would be a wonderful experience to read these books as a family and to set a goal to buy a goat for another family. We could set up a little glass jar with a goat picture on it to save money for the goat.

Give a Goat mentions how to go about the process, but I think I would prefer to give the goat through a Christian organization, like World Vision. As of yet, I have not looked into World Vision very much. I am not sure how much of the money goes to directly help other people. However, I assume that when you donate to buy a goat, that someone actually gets a goat, though I want to make sure that is absolutely true.

Does anyone know of any other Christian organizations that would be good for this? Or know more about World Vision?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Norman Rockwell Exhibit

This past weekend our family had a chance to go to an exhibit at the King of Prussia Mall called Rockwell's America: Celebrating the Art of Norman Rockwell. I had no idea malls had art exhibits. While the it did not have any of his original paintings the post covers were printed from, they did have over 300 original Saturday Evening Post covers. The truly wonderful part of the exhibit was how it was designed so that the whole family could have an enjoyable, educational time. Well, maybe the wonderful part was that kids 12 and under are FREE! (Adults were $5.)

After watching a short film about Rockwell, the curtain opens to Rockwell's paintings in 3 dimensional. My daughter said, "You felt like you were right in the painting!" Unlike most art exhibits, the kids can touch everything. They got to sit in a Model T Ford, attend an old fashioned schoolhouse and work along side Rosie the Riveter. JP did get a little confused at the Christmas scene and wanted to open a present, but he was a good sport about it. It was sweet to see my husband explain the Four Freedoms to my daughter. It was as much about history as it was about art. There were also many photo opportunities, sure wish I had Catherine's photography skills. The lighting was not the best for my idiot proof camera.

Rockwell's paintings are a favorite of mine. People say it is a myth he is painting, but I think his paintings are very realistic. The paintings do not tell the whole American story, but they tell the sweet, good, innocent parts. They capture a snapshot, a moment in time created in a different era in our history. An era where there was more innocence and children were free to roam about town. However, it was also an era of prejudice, where he was told by the Post not to include African Americans in his illustrations, so it is a very white depiction of America. Despite our flaws, I think America is a great country, and Norman Rockwell a great American artist.

I highly recommend this as a field trip, but hurry because the exhibit ends March 14, 2010. Also, I recommend eating at Ruby's Diner in the mall because it has a Americana 5os flare that goes perfect with Rockwell, and the kids are well entertained by the train running on a track attached to ceiling.

Here is a list of books I was able to get from my local library and also found useful for enhancing our visit:

Norman Rockwell Painting America, DVD of An American Masters series (for adults NOT the kids)

Norman Rockwell: Storyteller with a Brush by Beverly Gherman

*Rockwell: A Boy and His Dog by Loren Spiotta-DiMare - My kids loved this sweet historical fiction.

*Norman Rockwell by Mike Venezia - Getting To Know The World's Greatest Artist series

The Best of Norman Rockwell: A Celebration of 100 Years selected by Tom Rockwell (Great colored pictures of his work)

You're a Grand Old Flag by George M Cohan with pictures by Norman Rockwell

*Ones your kids will relate to the most.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Ideas on What to Do With Your Child's Artwork

How Does She Do It blogger has a great list of ideas on how to display your child's artwork.

Here is a link to our last post on what to do with all the precious artwork.

Jesus Tree and other Lent Ideas

During the Christmas season, our family has a wonderful time observing Advent, so I wanted to do something more during the period of time leading up to Easter Sunday, which I will refer to as Lent. It is a very Biblical idea to pass along church teachings to our children using celebrations, Exodus and Deuteronomy are examples of this. It is a practical way to teach our faith to our children, in addition to our living out the Gospel daily.

Maybe it is just my personal experience, but Lent seems to be seriously lacking. At our church all my children received something to take home to prepare their little hearts for celebrating Christ's birth, but they have got nothing so far in preparation for celebrating the Resurrection or in remembrance of Good Friday. I am not being judgmental here, I am just stating the fact. There really is not much our there to give out, just do a search for yourself on
Amazon, Advent books verses Lent/Easter. There are lots more resources for families and children about Advent. Why do Protestants do Advent and not Lent? Should Easter be outdone by Christmas? Oh, well, here are some ideas I have found. May they be a blessing to you during this special time of year.

So here are some ideas for a Jesus Tree:

Jesus Tree (read about this on Building Cathedrals) - You can buy a kit here, but I was not crazy over the idea of cutting so much felt. I also found two lists - List 1*, List 2. From here, you could make your own. I was thinking of printing out pictures and laminating them to string them onto a tree or banner. Any suggestions from you crafty people out there would be most welcome!

Here is a good quote from List 1~
The exciting thing about starting small is that each ornament is given the family’s full attention. Every year the family can add new ornaments, and Mom does not need to feel that the producing of Easter tree ornaments has taken over her life!
We usually use Resurrection eggs*, which are great too - though there are just 12 eggs to open. My children have always enjoyed the little items in each egg.

This one I am really excited about, Passion Hymns for a Kid's Heart by Bobbie Wolguemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada. The book contains 12 hymns. Each hymn has a devotional with an illustrated picture, simple piano sheet music with guitar chords, Bible verse for memorization, and a prayer. It includes a cd too. My husband has brilliantly found that singing the great hymns are a wonderful way to do a family Bible time with our 8 and under crew. We will probably use one song a week from this book, so the kids will really learn it. I will use our circle time to teach them the song, and we will sing it as a family Sunday evening, perhaps adding the devotional, prayer and scripture review than as well.

Mission Possible is a small and inexpensive($2.99) booklet by Charles Swindoll, which is a 40 day adventure with Jesus (adapted from Walk with Jesus: A 40-day Journey to the Cross and Beyond $1.99). Each adventure has a scripture reading with an explanation and facts. Well either use this just for Ms. G to do on her own during her personal morning devotional, or by all of us during our circle time as a read aloud. I think we will read the booklet at circle time, and Grace will read the scripture that goes with it during her devotional, since I think the readings would be too long for the boys. Since it is a 40 day study about the cross, it is perfect fit for the traditional Lent period.

Please share how your family prepares for Easter.

Previous post on the subject

*FYI This site has google ads on it with some weird "Christian" ads/links - the one for Armageddon is one example. So, I just wanted to make clear for my conscience's sack that I am only endorsing the article, not the ads ;-)

The Raising of the Cross c. 1633 by Rembrandt

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Are You Preparing for Easter?

Life whizzes right by me. Holidays come quickly, and I never get around to preparing much for them. Easter is one of the most important holidays in the Christian year. It is something we should prepare our hearts for. At Christmas time there seems to be so many Advent calendars and books on preparing your family to celebrate the important holiday. But what about preparing our hearts and minds for Easter Sunday? Were would our hope be as Christians without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Tonight I spent much time searching the world wide web. Of course, I ordered some books - my standard answer to any problem, hence the many bookcases in our home. Hopefully when they come, I will have some more answers to pass on. Overnight I will sleep on the idea of making a Jesus Tree, better late than never. Perhaps tomorrow I will get around to posting about a few ways to make one. It is times like these that I wish I was as crafty as Sara and Catherine. :) I really want to something in addition to our normal resurrection eggs.

Personally, I think I am going to read my husband's copy of Martin Luther's Easter Book in addition of my normal Bible reading and prayer time.

How do you prepare yourself and your family for the coming celebrations of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Books for Girls

Here are some beautiful picture books we have read this year* that are inspirational for little girls:

Interdependent Dames - This book is about the girls and women who helped to win the fight for out Independence. Revolutionary War history does talk a lot about men, these stories show how females need and can be strong, creative and make a difference.

Thank You, Sarah - About a very interesting wife and mother who responsible for promoting Thanksgiving among other things. After becoming a widow, she started a writing career to support her children. This book makes me want to read more about this interesting lady, Sarah Hale.

Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau's Flute - Story of Louisa May Alcott as a girl, and how she was influenced by Henry David Thoreau.

This is not an exhaustive list, just a quick, short one. I will probably add more though out the year.

*We read these books during my daughter's 3rd grade year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love Messages

This year for Valentine's Day my husband and I are starting a new tradition. Instead of buying each other cards for birthdays, mother's/father's day, anniversaries and of course Valentine's Day, we are going to write each other messages in a journal. We end up just getting the same cards away. This will be simpler, an easier keepsake to keep, a lot less expensive and much more meaningful. I was hoping to pick it out together on a Valentine's date, which we are hoping will actually be on tomorrow.

As a side note, we try to celebrate Valentine's Day by focusing on God's love for us instead of having a romantic love, so we usually go out to eat as a family. This helps keep the focus on God, and not imbeding in the children the need for a romantic partner to fill apart of this holiday (I know they are young, but this is when their ideals form). Of course my husband and I go on a date, but we fine it more fun to go out to eat when it is not so crowded. It is something our children should see us do regularly away, not just on Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Discover America Series

The Discover America State by State

A favorite book series about the United States. Would be great if you are traveling or learning about each state. We are using it with Adventures in My Father's World curriculum. Also great gift idea for your child's friend who is moving to another state. Beautifully illustrated and great historical text in addition to the shorter poem on each page. Each state has it's own book - G is for the Garden State is a book about New Jersey.

I wish our library had them all. The librarian in me wants to collect them ALL. Maybe used? I am going to list them all on my Paper Back Swap account.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Homeschool Make-Over

What once work for homeschooling is no longer working, it is time to make some changes. You also want to add more efficient ways to getting school done. Here are some of our make-over changes:

  • Circle time in the morning - Calendar, prayer, Bible reading( may be additional to curriculum), Pledge of Allegiance ~I will post more later.
  • Little Ones go first for 15 minutes, then finish the rest later when the older one is working independent. This way I get the Kindergartner at his best. I do not know why I did not do this before.
  • The one above will require me to change around the order subjects are done.
  • Timed schedule using a timer to keep us on track - I have a cute apple timer for Ms. G to use. This helps us to keep focused on what we are suppose to be doing.
  • What read alouds we do not get to during the day, will be done after dinner. The kids love piling up on the couch while I read to them in the evening.
  • With my workbox system, each kid has a crate. I have no boxes for JP, but I do have his crate full of preschool manipulatives. When I school Mr. Z, I take both the boys' crates out to the living room carpet. This way JP happily plays with his crate and leaves Kindergarten with little interruption. I will have to do a post about what is in my crates and about using the workbox system.

Remember that change does not happen over night. It takes planning and time to get everything thought out and set up.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What to Do With All That Artwork?

Common Mom problem - What to do with all that precious artwork?
Here are some ideas:

Beyond the Refrigerator Door

Postcard Gift Pack

Art Cards

Family Calendar

Off-the-Wall Art Strip
This idea would be better applied to laminated art prints, otherwise you could go through a lot of Velcro. Not to mention the Velcro would damage the child's artwork.

Masterpiece Theater
Ever-changing Art Museum
Scroll down to this title, it is the one with the red art frames. We want to try this one first! I love the simplicity and the idea of re-using something.-(This is my favorite article on art storage)

From IKEA we purchased 4 magnet strips that run across the walk in our kitchen, which works great for a quick post. My husband often gets frustrated when he knocks them down, so that is a downside. Cannot find it on their website, but they sell them in the Home Organization section in the MartketPlace by the office supplies. They cost us $ .99 when we bought it, and they came with 4 magnets. (see photo)

The smaller 3 D works of art we keep on the high bookshelves for a season. Then we take a picture and depose of it - or - be put it in their treasure box.

Keepsake Portfolio - Gradually buying one for each kid. I write the year on each tab. This if just for the keepers - not ALL of their art :-) You can purchase these at Lakeshore, look for their sales. (see photo)

Can you add your idea to the list?

We love the kids' artwork, but we try not to tie our hearts to objects. So, we like to take a picture of our child holding the artwork before we toss it or pass it along. We never toss it without asking (unless they a too tiny to care). There is just not space to keep it all, so do not feel guilty for moving on and lighting the load. Another hard, but great life lesson!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tips for Homeschooling a Houseful

Here is a link to Tapestry of Grace author Marcia Somerville:

Tips for Homeschooling a Houseful

It is a hour long, so make yourself comfortable. Or you can pause it several times during the course of the day as I had to do. It is a very good workshop, and well worth your time. Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom had the link on her blog.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Feel Beat

When you are homeschooling, other things - like meals need to be simplified. When I finish school, I am beat, but it is also lunch time too! Come to think of it, I feel pretty depleted by dinner, and defiantly done by bedtime, too done to prepare for breakfast the next day. Then there is the house and laundry. My head and shoulders are sinking by the minute.

Habits and organizational skills will go a long way to easing the burden on the homeschool mother. If the HS mom does not address these issues, they can have impact on her family's life on a deeper level. One example is her husband and her may decide to limit their family size because of the level of work and stress. While there is no magical number of children that equals a Christian family, trying to be open to the Lord blessing the family with another child is being open to the Lord's plan. Since this is not a post about family size, I will save the rest of this topic for another post.

Habits need to be built one by one in baby steps. I cannot do it all either, so I will have to learn to say no to somethings. Once the habit is established, it will be automatic. I will be stopping the stress causers before erupt into problems.

Since meals are so important to ones health and ability to function (esp. focus for the kids), I am going to start with food first. Also, since breakfast is the most important of the day, and the meal that effects our school day the most, I will start there.

I will report back with my simple and healthy breakfast menu plan. This will be a challenge with all the picky eaters in this house. Any whole food, kid friendly recipe ideas are VERY welcome.