Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Teaching With God's Heart for the World

Here's a fantastic freebie you might want to check out.
Teaching with God's Heart for the World, a one-year unit study curriculum, especially designed for homeschoolers, "incorporat(es) God's heart for world missions into nearly every subject!"

I recently discovered that this incredible curriculum, which I used successfully with a co-op years ago, is now available in its entirety online. Consider looking it up and incorporating some of the lessons, which include missionary highlights, history and geography lessons, crafts, Bible studies, writing exercises and more into whatever curriculum you are using now. OR plan ahead for a fascinating study of world cultures next year.

Written for elementary students, this excellent curriculum can be adapted for use with older students, as well as used with the entire family. Give it a look and see what you think...after all, it's FREE!!!!



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gratitude Challenge--Schoolroom-Bedroom Update on a Budget

Back then, the kids all slept in toddler beds,
(except Boo, who was in a crib), 
and we had more toys in the room.

in the "boys' room," but often winds up pulling out the 
extra toddler bed mattress from underneath the bunk beds,
and camping out up here.

Since we don't have a dedicated school room, we use 
the "girls' room" as our school area, when we are 
not working together at the kitchen table.

Over the course of the last week, we made a few changes and 
additions to the decor and organization of the area.

I am so grateful for the dollar store and thrift stores.
They make it possible to spiff things up, even when 
you are on a budget. This table was bought at the DAV,
the chairs from an antique mall, and the white 
"Filing Cabinet" (drawers) are part of a baby bed 
we bought a while back from the thrift store.

The "explorer supplies" (binoculars, net, bag, lantern)
are hung on a peg board I had from ages ago, painted white.

Many of the stickers and supplies are from the dollar store. 
That cool calculator/cash register was a bargain from
the homeschooling convention used curriculum sale!

While the bigger kids work at the larger table, Boo
uses Firefly's Tinkerbell Table (a gift from last Christmas)
to put Cheerios on a fun board book 
we got at a yard sale years ago.

Nanny got the butterfly pegs from Khol's a long time ago,
and it is for the girls to hang their purses on.
There are more hooks on the back of their door
for their favorite hats and dress up costumes.

Boo is ready to get out of that crib and into a toddler bed,
but Mommy is not. I still use it for "time out" and he
respects the limitation...most of the time.

The light above the table was mine as a child.
My mom generously allowed me to bring it over
to our house. It is probably why I collect milk glass.
It looks a lot like it is made of milk glass and I was
always very fond of it.

The white toy box was a "steal" at our local flea market.
It holds our old Karaoke machine which doesn't
get much use as a singing game these days, but is
ideal for playing episodes of Adventures in Odyssey,
Jonathan Park, and Gilead Lane, as well as Bible verse songs
(stored inside for convenience).

The cross stitch ballet pictures were twelve dollars each
at the antique mall. For all the work, and being framed,
I thought that was a great price. Ladybug got them
for Christmas last year.

We love the shelves Daddy put up for us.
The round containers hold their socks, undies, and pajamas.
They are from the dollar store.
The clear containers are from Walmart and each has
a certain type of toy in it: Doll Clothes, Cars, Tools, etc.

Big sister keeps little brother entertained when she 
is finished with her work. What a sweet girl! 
There's plenty of room for everyone in this room,
even though it is smaller than the "normal"
"expected" bedroom these days by square footage
(it's fairly narrow and the ceilings slope).

You can see that the room is long, but the ceilings slope.
It doesn't bother the kids too much at this point.
I hit my head every once in a while, though. Ouch.

Okay, so the beds still need a little bit of work.
And let's not even get into that awful closet door
that is peeling (helped along by Boo...remember, he
still needs that crib for time out, right?)
Curtains would be a nice touch, too.

We're still working on that!



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Learning with the Reading Game

Basic specs of the product: The Reading Game was invented by Kenneth Hodkinson of Worldy Wise. It can be purchased for $24.95. There are woksheets and assessment sheets for use with the game, or you can buy it and just play it for fun. Either way, you learn something. You may check out a clip of how the game is played here. The stories are innocent stories of animals; for example, the first one is about a young skunk who is not included in activies because of his appearance. However, he finds companions among the cat popualtion and becomes their defender. It was cute. Other books focus on the characters of  a bear, an unicorn, a zebra, a snake, and a penguin.

What we did with the Reading Game: I assigned one of the older kids to play the Reading Game with Firefly, our four-year-old pre-reader. Ladybug, age 8, and Cowboy, age 6, are both reading, though still have some trouble spots on non-phoenetic words and some of the high frequency words off of the Dolch lists.
Each game contains six themed books, playing cards to drill the words in each of the books, and there are assessment worksheets for FREE! online.

I felt that this game would be a fun way for them to strengthen their abilities with the dolch words since 54-60% percent of the words covered in the books of the Reading Game are present on the 100 most frequently used words list. By the completion of all of the games, you student should know 180 words by sight. I think that if you worked it into your daily schedule, you might find a child willing to read at an earlier age (their suggested range is 4 and up). I also firmly believe that most anyone learns best by doing, and even more thoroughly if they are in a teaching role, not to mention instilling confidence in my early readers by assigning them reading tasks at or just below their level. 

As Firefly's word skills improved, 
they added sets of cards to their memory game...
Cowboy is trying to look sad 
(not very successfully-it took ten tries to 
get a picture without him laughing)

The Three Amigos enjoyed playing the memory game together...
and Ladybug read the book to Firefly afterwards

Here's what we found: Playing the game two to three times a week as a reading activity, alternating Cowboy and Ladybug as the tutors for Ladybug, not only gave Ladybug a much anticipated introduction to being a "big kid" who is learning to read, but gave the other two an excellent review of sight vocabulary in an entertaining form. They all three liked the game, and never had any conflicts or difficulties with playing it. I did not have to hover over them and supervise...just check in from time to time and review any words they might be uncertain about. In fact, Ladybug took charge quite naturally and guided the others in their reading skills if I was unable to be there.

An example from Book One...the Skunk Book
(Firefly loved this since her brother tells the kids
stories about animals living in a woods and
Firefly is the "Skunkie." )

Just one issue I should mention: One thing I would like to point out is that the standard punctuation and capitalization rules are not followed in these books. Certain two syllable words, such as can-not, were presented in a way that simplified them for early readers and punctuation was not used (line and page breaks indicated breaks in reading). Other programs we have used in the past, including our favorite one, use non-standard rules early on in the process, adding the usual rules as knowledge and ability progresses. I do not have a problem with this, though some folks might.

The Three Amigos playing the memory version of the Reading Game

Did Mom Like It?: Yes. I felt the stories were sweet and simple, yet engaging...not boring. The kids liked the pictures and the fact that once they played  the game, they could get out the book and take turns reading it (though Firefly has not progressed to reading much of Book One, she is pointing out words on the game cards more accurately.) They played well together with little supervision. It was nice to have such a useful means of occupying them.

Yay! She found a match!!

 Would I recommend it to others?: I prefer purchasing educational, but fun, games for my family, and this one definitely fits the bill. It is simple to integrate into our school day. It would be an ideal activity for a family who uses Workboxes, or one who likes to play games and such on a "Fun Friday."

They also found out they could make their own sentences 
using the word cards

The older kids played "Go Fish" with the cards 
from the harder books...These are from Book Five
The Unicorn Book

If your child is in a rut with earning to read, laying off of the formal reading lessons and "playing" this game might just be the ticket to get him interested enough to pursue reading in earnest. I feel blessed to have received this game and appreciate how much the kids have enjoyed it.



Disclaimer: We received this product for the purposes of reviewing it here on this blog. All opinions you see here are my honest impressions of the product when we reviewed it. If you have questions I did not answer, please feel free to contact me or comment below. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Make Every Moment Count

"Make Every Moment Count"

The Time Timer, invented over twenty years ago by Jan Rogers in response to her four-year-old daughter’s need to see the passage of time in order to understand it, is working today to help a new generation of students, classroom teachers, special educators, and homeschoolers keep track of their time.

Time Timer is different from your ordinary kitchen timer or wall clock by the fact that due to its unique construction, you can actually see the passage of time as the red disk diminishes minute by minute.


Time Timer is an excellent tool for a myriad of uses.

These include:
  • setting time limits for work or practice sessions
  • keeping track of time during testing
  • keeping track of silent reading time
  • keeping track of time during therapy sessions
  • helping students learn to manage their time wisely
  • providing a visual aid for learning about the passage of time
  • helping children monitor their time spent during chores, homework, or play activities
  • and many more practical uses, from timing exercise periods to timing computer use
The timer’s silent functionality (there is no ticking, just a ding when time is up) removes the noise of standard timers, making it ideal for testing situations and students who feel pressured by the ticking of a typical timer.

Its striking visual representation of elapsing time can help even pre-readers be able to self-monitor timed activities.

Its easy-to-use design makes it suitable for most ages.

Here’s how we used the Time Timer in our homeschool over the last month or so:
  • timing silent reading
  • timing Bible devotions
  • timing math or writing exercises
  • placing limits on recreational computer time
  • challenging the kids to beat the timer for quick completion of chores
  • timing “ten minute pick ups” around the house
  • timing how long each older kid was in charge of “mini-mayhem, octopus arms” Baby Boo
  • timing piano practice
  • timing tooth brushing and other nighttime rituals
  • timing brownies and cookies when we were in areas of the house other than the kitchen during baking
  • timing how long each student gets to do their computer work before having to let the next one have a turn
  • “Time Outs” (yes, we did need to do some of those…sigh)
  • limiting Mommy’s blogging time (that was a BIG help for me!)
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Our three most successful uses for this timer were for Bible devotions, math exercises, and silent reading. For example, we started having the kids sit down for ten to fifteen minutes a day while I do my daily Bible reading to do their own personal “devotions” (aside from our separate family devotions) now that the older two Amigos can read.

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I saw an idea over at Mustard Seeds that suggests that you gather various child-level Bible activities (easy reader Bibles, Bible coloring or activity books, books based on character traits, etc.) into a bin, then let them do their “Bible time” while you do yours. The Time Timer gave the kids a visible idea of how long they had left to finish their various chosen activities. It worked quite well, and I think we will be sticking with this addition to our day.
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The second most successful use of the Time Timer was to time the kids’ math work. We were also trying out Math Mammoth during this time and found that the combination of the MM worksheets and the Time Timer was golden. I’d go over the how-to’s of the exercises for each of the kids, then set the timer for a half an hour or so, and let them sit at their school table while I was able to work on other things. Occasionally, Ladybug would ask to add a bit more time, and I always said yes. She never seemed stressed out by the timing aspect (perhaps because we used it as a tool and not as a control), and we are fairly sensitive to the potential stresses of timed exercises since Bubba had issues with math due to getting timed frequently in the public schools before we started homeschooling, so this was a huge plus in our minds.

timerccboxes 011

Actually, rather than stress her out, having the timer helped her keep her focus very well, and it also helped Cowboy develop his. Ladybug would notice if he was not attending to his work and urge him to get back on task. Because it was “the timer,” and not his sister “telling” him he had to get busy, it worked much better than I expected. I do think if there was a way to choose to make the timer tick audibly if you wanted it to (it is silent), that might have been more helpful for Cowboy’s focus if he was working on his own (he is less likely to look up to check his progress without the auditory reminder of the ticking), but conversely, audible ticking might have disturbed Ladybug (she’s more sensitive to pressure). As it was, we never had any difficulties with the kids finishing their math work completely, as long as we used the timer and they worked together. What a relief!

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The third most successful use of the Time Timer at our house was for silent reading time. I’d let the kids choose level-appropriate books from our “Reading Suitcase” (where all our Bob books and other early leveled readers are kept) or from the Easy Reader shelf, and then I’d set the time for a half an hour (or whatever time we chose that day). Then the Three Amigos would go sit in comfy corners and read until the timer dinged.
timerccboxes 020

I was free to go about my other business, knowing that the timer was “holding them accountable” and I did not have to constantly check in on them. I became more productive, too!! I kind of wish you could adjust the “time’s up” ding volume to ding a bit louder if you wanted to, since kids who are concentrating in a larger room will not always hear the fairly quiet ding of the Time Timer, but then again, if they forget they are being timed and read more than you planned, well, there is nothing wrong with that, is there?

To be fair, I should mention that several times I used the Time Timer to place limits on my own work time at the computer. If I decided I could spend an hour on the blog, or my other writing, I’d set the timer, and only work for that amount of time. Sure, I have a timer tab on my Google page, but it’s easier to ignore the digital version of the timer. I can’t say why. Something about seeing the red disk of time run out kept me on task better than just checking with my timer tab from time to time. It also gave the kids a tangible manifestation of time to look at if I said, “I need to work for an hour. Find something to do until the hour is up.” It made it easier for them to re-occupy themselves for the remaining time because they could see how much time was left in a very visual way.


The Time Timer comes in a variety of sizes,  ranging from 3” to 12”, to accommodate its many potential uses. It is also available as a watch, an app for the iPod and iPhone, and a software program for your computer, though personally, I thing the actual clock itself is the idea tool (but the watch might be good for an older student like Tex).


Time Timers are $30.00 for a 3” model, $35.00 for the 8” model, and $40.00 for the 12” model (perfect for classroom and group use). The software is $24.00, while the watch is available for $40.00. Orders placed in the United States and those which total over $50 receive free shipping.

I encourage you to check out the Time Timer website and consider whether this might be just what your child needs to help him or her learn to manage their time more effectively…Learning tomake every moment count could make this your child’s best school year ever…I know it has already improved ours.

Click here to see what others on the TOS Crew thought of the Time Timer.


Disclaimer: I received a 3” Time Timer for the purposes of testing it out so I could write this review. What you have read here are our honest and personal experiences with this product. If you have any questions I failed to answer, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sermon Sunday---Do You Love Like Jesus?

My mother pointed me in the direction of Francis Chan after several people she knows well came into the church library (where she works) looking for books he has written (especially my SILs friend, Alex...thanks, Alex!).

I found this talk from the Desiring God Conference on You Tube and it will really make you think. Who do you love? Do you love those whom you perceive as deserving it, or do you love the unlovable? How do you love them? Do you love people enough to tell them about Christ, even in the face of difficulty and discomfort" Do you love them enough that your heart breaks at the plight of the downtrodden and hurting, or just enough to "check off" that box on your list of things you feel must do as a Christian...such as  "be kind to others?"

What makes us more able to wholeheartedly love other people the way that Jesus did, even the ones who are hard to love? Find out by watching. You will be blessed by this pastor's thoughts about the Gospel of Christ.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gratitude Challenge--Operation Christmas Child

Ladybug and Firefly helped me take a receiving blanket and make a dolly blanket and pillow out of it to include with the dolly we included in the box we made for a girl. It was a special afternoon and we covered our handiwork with many prayers for the recipient.

For the last several years, my parents have been in charge of handling Operation Christmas Child at their church. Each year, Tex and a few of his friends, stay over night at Nanny and Poppy's house for the weekend, so they can help on the biggest collection days. This is such an incredible blessing to us as a family. It gives my younger ones an opportunity to reach out to others by helping to fill a few boxes, and my older ones the chance to see directly what goes on at the collection sites, and to experience the joy of collecting so many boxes. Imagine all of the grateful smiles and ful hearts that will come from such a small effort on our part...and such a large effort on the part of those who organize the main operations, such as my parents, and those in the main collection centers locally, and nationally. Some day I'd love for us to go as a family and help deliver the boxes, but just imagining it, and praying for the young lives who will be touched by the many heartfelt gifts, makes me smile.

Cowboy helped me pick out dinosaurs, cars, trucks, a ball, and a drawing board for a little boy. We hope he will like his new toys!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Why Homeschooling Works for Us

Here's a list of my top ten reasons why homeschooling works for our family. 

If you have more to add, please feel free to comment. 
I love comments!

  1. We are convicted that God gave our kids to us and that we are able to be our children's best teachers. God will meet our needs as we follow His desire for us to home educate our children. What better gift can I give my kids than the gift of my attention and my time?
  2. We are able to individualize the curriculum according to each student's needs. One of my students can be two grades above level in history, three in reading, on level in math, and one level behind in spelling (ooops, how did that happen?) and that's not a problem.
  3. I can direct our studies towards developing each student's God-given gifts and calling. If he is an outdoorsy child who loves the earth and animals, I can find him opportunities to work with the Master Gardeners and apprentice him with a veterinarian. If he loves computers and books, I can set him up to volunteer at the library technology help desk...during school hours (and call it "Computer Class". ;-) This also allows them to "socialize" and learn from people of a variety of ages, not just their often "foolish" age peers.
  4. My children can develop deeper relationships with each other since they are together for long periods of time regularly. They LIKE each other. I love that.
  5. My children can develop deeper relationships with me (and their father) since we are in each other's company regularly. I LIKE them...a lot. I think they like me, too. Not to mention the fact that they have more time to spend with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Family is very important to us.
  6. Bible is always on our class schedule. No problem. Prayer is allowed in our school (and encouraged). Amen! Our school's worldview is unashamedly Christian, and I do not have to worry what things my children are being taught that I will have to un-teach. Along with this goes the fact that our kids have more time to be available to be of service to others, such as widows and the needy, just as the Bible commands us to do.
  7. When family crises or celebratory events (death, illness, birth, weddings) occur, my kids can be there. They can help. They do not have to struggle with tons of make-up work when it is time to start school again. Homeschooling is flexible.
  8. They are also there for the day-to-day happenings like "mom has a headache, let's keep the kids quiet for a few hours," or "hurry up and clean, our friends are on their way," or "it's a beautiful day so let's go for a nature walk instead of doing math." They learn to be servants to others in their own homes AND they learn that many fun and interesting things happen at home. That's one of my favorites.
  9. When my military husband is home, we can take time off to enjoy his company, no questions asked. When he's gone, school is in session AND When our military family has to move, we take our school with us. No awkward transitions from one school to the next. Our house may be different, but our books and classmates...and teacher...remain the same.
  10. I just love, love, love the homeschooling convention every year.It is AWESOME!! I am glad I have at least sixteen more years to look forward to attending it as a mom/teacher. After that, maybe they will let me sneak in as a grandma.


Gratitude Challenge--Cowboy

 Today I am thankful for my darling Cowboy...

Things Cowboy has said to me:

  1. "Do you know what is the best thing in the world, Mommy?" "No, what?" "The love of your Mommy. Then God is the best thing, too."
  2. "Do you know what I like better than bananas, Mommy?" "No, what?" "Kisses and hugs from you."
  3. "You know who gives the best kisses, Mommy? You!"
  4. "I love you to the moon and back, Mommy. To infinity and beyond!"
  5. "You are the best mom ever."
  6. "You are the bestest cooker ever. Your cookies are scrumptious!"
  7. "When you are old I will take care of you, Mommy."
  8. "Mommy, you look beautiful. You are the prettiest of all the moms."
  9. "Mommy, you are my best friend. And [Ladybug], too."
  10. "I will always snuggle with you, Mommy, even when I am old."

Do you know what I love about Cowboy?
  • The love he displays through the frequent warm hugs and kisses he generously shares with all of us...especially me.
  • The kind words of appreciation and affection he lavishes on his family and friends.
  • His eagerness to help out and be "daddy's helper" or "mommy's little man."
  • His quick smile and silly sense of humor. He loves to laugh and to make others laugh. He loves knock-knock jokes.
  • His creative side that wholeheartedly jumps into building Lego creations, drawing funny faces, or playing dress-up with his siblings for hours.
  • The way he gets excited over finding and examining bugs, feathers, leaves, rocks, and looking upward into the night sky for constellations. The expression of awed discovery in the face of a child is beyond description.
  • How he dives into reading a stack of books without fear...and the pleasure he gets from looking at pictures in books and making up his own stories if the words are too hard for him. Sometimes his stories are better than the original ones!
  • All the bouquets of dandelions and buttercups he has brought me never fail to brighten my day and my kitchen. 
  • How he eats most things I make with gusto, but has recently decided he doesn't like peas and green beans anymore. He will, however, eat them if he has to to get dessert.
  • The way he remembers that "boys take care of girls" because of the blue rubber bracelet I gave him after we had a talk about that topic. He finds that bracelet and makes sure he is wearing it almost every day. It's so cute.
  • He is always willing to try doing something long as his buddies (the other Amigos) are coming, too.
  • He is enthusiastic about doing almost anything...he says that someday he is going to be a farmer, a daddy, an artist, a builder, a doctor, a gardener, a computer fixer, and a fire fighter. And that's all.
  • The way he loves to talk. And talk. And talk. Believe me, that's a blessing in boys. Then when they are older, they will call you often. To talk. It's so nice.
  • I love the way he gets decked out in the morning with his explorer vest, his binoculars, his treasure bag, and his compass and toy penknife, then heads outside with enthusiasm and excitement for a day of play. He never fails to get the others supercharged for an expedition. 
  • I adore the way he is best buddies with his big sister. They are two peas in a pod. And when she is busy doing schoolwork or helping me, he is just as nice to his little sister, and now even Boo is playing along with the Amigos. Soon I will have to rename their school blog to Blessing Farm's Four Amigos.
  • I love his smile and his laugh and his twinkling blue eyes. He's a keeper, and is growing up to be a gallant Prince of the King of Kings. 
  • I am so blessed that this year he asked Jesus to live in his heart. He did this all on his own, unsolicited from me or Hubby. What a blessing.

I am so thankful for such a wonderful son. Every day, I thank the Lord for my precious Cowboy. He's a huge blessing to us all.

Who are you grateful for today? Link up with the Gratitude Challenge at Garden of Praise.


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