O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas- Or Santa has a Sense of Humor

We had a lovely Christmas with B’s brother here. Like all our Christmases, it was quiet and peaceful and leisurely- just the way we like it.

Strawberry woke up first at about 6:45 which is only a little early for her and proclaimed, as usual, that it was morning time. Then she proceeded to try to wake her sisters. B went into the girls’ room and found her sitting on her sister telling her to wake up. Pumpkin Pie, who is my sleeper, told B that Strawberry was trying to wake her up and she was trying to go back to sleep! After everyone was awake and mommy dressed, the kids went and woke their uncle, whom they call Quack. Once everyone was awake, the children gathered on the stairs ready to go down. In past years, I have presented them with jammies, but this year they were blessed with beautiful nightgowns and jammie pants made by their grandma Jo. The pattern used for the nightgowns is an adaptation of the Victoria Jones Collection pattern here. My girls love the nightgowns so much, it is hard to get them dressed!

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We opened our stockings, then ate breakfast, and then opened Santa gifts. My kids usually play with most things at least a little before opening another present.

This year, Santa had a little fun with Tiger. Tiger is an excellent speller and almost never makes mistakes. This year, while we were doing our Christmas comes to America unit, he wrote a letter to Santa requesting a “Kindle Paperweight.” I have a friend whose husband is a glass maker. When I told her about his mistake, she volunteered her husband to make Tiger a paperweight… Santa wrapped up the paperweight and labeled it #1. He left a note, with a copy of the letter to Santa, saying, “Since you requested a paperweight, I did not wish to disappoint…”  Dec 2012 118

Here Tiger is reading the note and telling us, “You! You twisted my words!” ;)

Santa then had package number 2 with a note that said, “In case a paperweight wasn’t quite what you had in mind, here is a Kindle.” Tiger loves the Kindle and has been very happy to read even more classic books.

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In the afternoon, my kids helped walk Quack’s dog. It was rather miraculous that Tiger volunteered to hold the leash. He is very afraid of dogs. He also helped Strawberry hold the leash. She too is a bit afraid of dogs. She likes to look at them, but from a safe distance. 

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Quack and the kids before he left.Dec 2012 130

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Butterfly!

warm3 I can’t believe it has been 9 years since Butterfly made her entrance into the world. From the moment I went into labor she has always marked her own path. She is independent, creative, and incredibly loving. She loves all living things and always seeks to comfort those who are sad or in need. Over the years, she has continued to grow in her care for others. At times when her sisters have been sick, she has volunteered and even insisted on taking care of them- sitting by their beds, reading extra stories, and getting them sips of water. She has a fierce desire for justice in all things and a testimony that Jesus loves her. She is also very artistic and amazes me with the details in paper sculptures and drawings she does. If she could do anything all the time, it would definitely be art!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reason # 5465 to homeschool- socialization!

I have been reflecting on socialization a lot this week. This past week  was our last day of co-op before we start again in January. As I was supervising the Reading and Game room, Mommy and Me playgroup, and the park after co-op, my children and several others had several opportunities to interact in a more healthy way than their child-like instincts prompted. This was only possible because there were parents all around to coach them through proper peer interactions and teach them that their instincts weren’t as effective as other means.

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People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.
Vince Lombardi

In our reading and game room, which is for children who don’t have another structured class to be in, there was an incident where a boy carried off some Legos. My little Strawberry was a bit distraught as was another girl who they belonged to. Strawberry came up to me and told me about the incident. I told her it sounded like she wanted to disagree appropriately with the boy. This boy is 5. She agreed and went up to him. At first he didn’t want to listen to her because she is “little” and truthfully she is not much bigger than his 18 mo old sister, but my Strawberry persisted in her calm little voice to explain to him that she knew he wanted to play with the Legos but that she wanted him to bring them back. He did! A bit later, he picked up a Lego someone else was planning to use. The little girl started to whine and she was prompted her to disagree appropriately. She proceeded to disagree and the children were able to sort out their issue.

In playgroup, there were two sisters who were having a problem because it was time to clean up and one didn’t want the other to pick up the toys she had been playing with. The older one started to whine and again I prompted the disagree appropriately. She was able to disagree with her little sister and resolve the situation without tears, whining, tattling, or other negative behaviors.

At the park, this theme continued with prompting children who were whining about another child to disagree appropriately with the others. Over and over we watched as these children were able to handle their disagreements in a mature manner without resorting to whining, fussing, crying, pouting, etc.

In all of these cases, it certainly helped that the parents of these children are also using Teaching Self Government in their homes, but the skills could have been applied even if the parents were not using Teaching Self Government at home- teaching a child to understand the other person and calmly state their need is not trademarked to Nicholeen Peck. They are in fact life’s basic skills.

The biggest incident required a bit more parental involvement. So often on a playground a child will pick on another for some reason or other. Maybe the new kid comes in and doesn’t know anyone. Feeling insecure, he walks up and picks a fight with another child who is unaware that there is an issue. In our co-op we had something like this happen. Without parents immediately available to work with the children, the results could have been much different.

Tiger is one of only a handful of boys in our co-op. He and another boy have been friends for a couple of years now. A new boy, about two years younger, began to come to our detectives book club a few weeks ago. He was a little insecure and didn’t know anyone there. Two weeks ago, he punched Tiger’s friend in the face unprovoked. The parent teacher addressed the situation but now there was tension between these boys. Tiger was quite upset that his friend had been accosted and couldn’t understand why. On Friday, this same boy came up to Tiger and went to punch him. Tiger calmly blocked the punch and backed away to talk to an adult (thank you Sensei). Again the child was dealt with and the mother was spoken to about the situation. At the end of class, the boy approached Tiger’s friend cracking his knuckles and proclaimed that since he too was going to the park, he would fight him at the park. Tiger got in the car unhappy. I had a little information from the mother that the boy was struggling to know how to behave in new situations and she didn’t know what to do. I was able to have a conversation with Tiger about why this boy might be acting this way and what might be done. Tiger reflected that often the boy looked sad and perhaps he really wanted some friends but didn’t know how to go about being a friend. As we got out of the car, Tiger had a plan- he was going to talk to the boy about being friends. Everyone arrived at the park and sure enough, while Tiger and his friend were standing together, the other boy came up to them in a rather aggressive manner. Tiger was able to keep a safe distance between the boys in order to prevent violence but also he spoke assertively. For every aggressive step forward the boy took, Tiger stepped back and continued to talk. Tiger explained that he and his friend had no desire to fight. The wanted to play. They invited the boy to join them and be friends. The boy stopped advancing and put out his hand. I and the other mothers arrived close by in time to hear the boy say, “Ok, it is off.” They were now friends. They spent the next two hours running, playing, making silly videos, and having a good time. I was so proud of Tiger for being assertive and not accepting violence. He handled the situation in a mature manner that was only possible because adults were ready and willing to be nearby to coach and teach through the situation.

Homeschooling is allowing me the opportunity to properly teach my children how to behave in so many social situations. I am so grateful for that opportunity. As they fly into the world, my prayer is that they will be able to lead forth with compassion, understanding, and an ability to be assertive without being aggressive. They will know how to open doors for those with wheelchairs or strollers, provide common courtesies that are lost on so many, as well as disagree appropriately with those who seek to offend or don’t pay any attention. I am also grateful that I found Nicholeen Peck’s Teaching Self Government. It has provided me even more tools to move forward on my mission of parenting my children.

This post contains affiliate links. I use and love Teaching Self Government and only affiliate with companies I feel passionate about. No other compensation has been provided.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Time is Here…

Nov 2012 112 Happiness and Cheer…

Nov 2012 115Nov 2012 116 Nov 2012 136 As we pull the ornaments out, we always take a moment to talk about our special ones. Nov 2012 118 Nov 2012 126This year, Tiger was big enough to lift Strawberry and assist her. 

On our tree is a funny little elf that sticks out his tongue. It sat on my grandma’s tree when I was little and now it sits on mine. It always brings some laughter and fun.Nov 2012 141 Nov 2012 142

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me…

This year when B asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him a clean house… I truly don’t want more stuff in the house. I just want things cleaned… so Tiger chose to clean the refrigerator top to bottom.

He cleaned all the shelves, drawers, etc. Ah, a nice, clean, organized refrigerator definitely sings Happy Birthday to me!photo photo

B and Strawberry cleaned out a car and the van. Ah, organization…

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Better Late than Never- Mini Vacation

Oct 2012 227Oct 2012 214 B and I have always tried to take our children to every LDS temple open house within a reasonable distance. Recently the Boise temple was remodeled and therefore it was open for viewing. We drove the 9 hrs out and stayed in a hotel, went to the open house, and then played before coming home. The temple, like all of the ones we have been to was beautiful. Oct 2012 222 Oct 2012 219  Oct 2012 224 Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of Pumpkin Pie- she didn’t want her picture taken. I think it is because she wasn’t feeling very well on the trip. She started to get a cold on the way out of town but remained well enough to play a bit and still have fun.

The mini grocery store in the Discovery Center was a lot of fun.

Oct 2012 248Strawberry figured out how to make the machine beep by hugging the sensor light. Oct 2012 244 Oct 2012 242

The bubble wall was a lot of fun as well. Oct 2012 255 Oct 2012 256

Butterfly learned about keystones. Oct 2012 259 Oct 2012 260

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


This year Thanksgiving was a little different- I had a helper in the kitchen! In the past years, I have done everything. This year, I was blessed with my son’s help. He stood by me the whole time cooking, chopping, measuring, and stirring. Thank you Tiger! I couldn’t have done it without him.

I got asked so many times what we had for dinner since we didn’t eat turkey. Here is our table spread. It was quite tasty. Nov 2012 104

The little dish in the upper right has roasted Brussels sprouts with roasted garlic and lemon sauce. Yams with apples, salad, cranberry sauce, and “special juice.” Nov 2012 105

Stuffing and lentil loaf. I am still working on finding the lentil loaf we like best. This one was not the best. :(Nov 2012 107

Mashed potatoes too!

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And of course the ever important pies… chocolate pecan and pumpkin. Both pies are made with sprouted grain flour. The Chocolate Pecan is vegan. I used this recipe. Really watch how long it bakes- if it over bakes it will burn. This one was delicious!Nov 2012 109 Nov 2012 111 Nov 2012 110

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Arrow of Light

The highest rank in Cub Scouting is Arrow of Light. It is awarded to a Webelos who has earned certain activity pins and has completed a myriad other requirements. It is the only rank from Cub Scouts that transitions with the scout to Boy Scouts and then on to adult leader uniforms. Some call it the Eagle of Cub Scouts.

I have been a Webelos leader for 2 years now and with the exception of one boy who just didn’t care at all about scouts and didn’t have parental support, all of the boys that have passed through my den have achieved their Arrow of Light. Most of them have earned it within a month or two of graduating out. One was 3 months from graduating.

A couple of weeks ago, Tiger earned his Arrow of Light. He will still be a Webelos until the end of February. He didn’t earn his arrow faster because he was my son. He earned it because he wanted to earn it as soon as he could. He is now on to earning the last 4 or 5 possible activity pins because he really wants to earn that Super Achiever patch for all 20 activity pins.

I am really proud of his efforts. Even as his leader, there is only so much I can do for him. I treated him just as I treated the rest of my boys. He had to work and he had to put in the effort to achieve his goals. He earned his Arrow of Light award with another boy in our den. The other boy was the first boy in about 3 or 4 years to earn the super achiever. I look forward to watching them both fly on in scouts.

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The button blanket and mask were both made by a gentleman we go to church with. They are typical of the native attire for the area we live in.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Teaching Kids to Sing- Schoolhouse Review

The Vocal Coach is a company created by Chris and Carole Beatty. PhotobucketThey have  been teaching people, young and old to sing for over 40 years.  Teaching Kids to Sing is just one of their many products designed to teach good singing mechanics.

PhotobucketTeaching Kids to Sing is a Christian program designed for children ages 5-13. It is a 2DVD/1CD set and costs $44.99. The first DVD covers foundational singing skills like breathing, posture, and tone. The second DVD builds on the first and includes topics like rhythm, diction, vocal health, and dynamics. Each video features children as well as Chris and Carole Beatty. The CD includes demonstration and accompaniment only tracks to the various songs presented throughout the videos as well as  warm up drills.

The method that Chris and Carole Beatty uses to present the information to children is geared to children. They use examples and hands on explanations to help children understand what is being taught. For example, when speaking of singing as something that requires certain techniques and practice, the children in the videos brought in many sports equipment items. They compared singing to soccer, dancing, tennis, etc. By doing this, my children were able to understand why such things as posture and breathing might be important.

My children love to sing. They often sing in the car and all around the house. Since I used to sing in choirs, I know about the foundations but was struggling to teach them to my children. I was excited to receive this set to review in order to share with them something I love- singing.

This was a very thorough overview of proper singing techniques. It contained a lot of scientific explanations which were easily understood by all of my children. I didn’t learn most of the information presented until I was in high school! Technical doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun though. We had fun with this program and I think all of my children learned from it. Like many children, mine have learned to breath incorrectly and are still struggling to learn how to breath correctly. That will come in time, but for now, by reminding them about their posture, tone, breathing, etc. the sound quality has greatly improved and they can recognize it.

The one negative I found was that my children did not like the songs. They were written to help spur a remembrance of a technique or skill but usually backfired on my kids.  They didn’t appreciate the lyrics and  spent more time creating spoofs on the songs than practicing them. For example one is about being an “Upright Child of a King” to help remember posture. Instead of standing tall, my children changed the lyrics and slouched. :( While some families want a strong Christian reminder in all subjects, we didn’t feel this was entirely necessary as it didn’t really add to the product.

Be sure to check out what other crew members thought about this product. The Crew also reviewed Vocal Coach Singer.



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

IEW PAL Reading and PAL Writing

 The Institute for Excellence in Writing or IEW for short has long been known for its excellent writing curriculum.  They now have a curriculum called Primary Arts and Language or PAL. PAL is broken up into two parts: Reading and Writing. Both parts are designed to be used concurrently but also can be used alone. It is designed for use with children in K-2 or at about that reading and writing level.


The PAL Reading complete package includes a teacher’s manual with easy to follow steps for implementation; DVD-ROM with audio files, tutorials, and the student manual in PDF; Phonetic Games book with file folder games to make; and the Phonetic Farm folder with stickers. The Phonetic Farm is a tri-fold folder with a farm scene. As the student learns the phonograms, he adds stickers representing those phonograms. If purchased separately, this would cost $98. As a complete package, it costs $69. The entire package can be used for multiple children except for the Phonetic Farm. Subsequent children will want their own farm to build. An extra Phonetic Farm costs $19.


PAL Writing complete package includes a teacher’s manual, DVD-ROM with audio files, tutorials, and the student manual, the All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit and All About Spelling Level 1 (Teacher’s manual and one student material packet). The cost for this set if purchased separately is $113 but bundled together it costs $89. While this curriculum seems costly, I believe it is worth every penny.

In order to avoid writing a thesis on this product, I highly recommend watching the webinar on the IEW site here.  It may be long, but it is worth it to truly understand this program. The webinar will show you inside many pieces of the program, tips for use, how and why it it was developed and what is included. When I first looked at the website I wasn’t sure that this program would be a good fit for our family. When I watched the video I realized  it would benefit Pumpkin Pie and I was very hopeful that I would be able to review this product. 

 Oct 2012 001    Opening the package can be intimidating because there are many pieces to each piece of the program. I was very grateful for the DVD-ROM to watch for both the PAL Reading as well as the PAL Writing. I suggest watching the videos before even trying to read the manual.  The PAL Reading package also comes with a little Welcome to PAL card Oct 2012 002that has the 4 steps to get started and an email address for extra questions. I especially love the small hint at the bottom of the card that says, “You may want to hide the Phonetic Farm stickers until you are ready to use them!” This is very good advice that I highly recommend. Upon opening the box Pumpkin Pie was itching to dive in and start using the materials. Those stickers would have been long gone if I hadn’t been holding the box! As it was, Strawberry later found the stickers and began sticking them :( Make sure you put them way up high!

Both the DVD from the Reading and the Writing portions contain bonus mp3 lectures. There are 9 total as one is on both discs. The lectures on the Reading disc are:

  • Nurturing Competent Communicators MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Poetry as an Integrator MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham
  • Intro to the Blended Sound Sight Program MP3 Audio by Anna Ingham

The lectures on the Writing disc are lectures from past Writing Teacher’s Symposiums and include:

  • The Four Language Arts MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Reading Comprehension MP3 Audio by Adam Andrews
  • Dictation, Narration, and Public Speaking MP3 Audio by Andrew Pudewa
  • Units 1 and 2 in the Primary Classroom by Shirley George
  • Unit 3 in the Primary Classroom by Shirley George

Oct 2012 018Setup for PAL Reading can be done lesson by lesson or all at once. I found it easier to set up as many games as possible in one sitting instead of setting up each game as the lesson dictated. Above is a picture of my work area setting up the games. I placed them all in a file box with the manuals. I also glued the CD sleeves into the backs of both the Reading and Writing manuals so I wouldn’t lose them. Another thing I did to prepare for teaching Pumpkin Pie was to print out the reading worksheets and letter writing sheets and then bind them into a notebook for her. She loves having her notebook to work through even though she hasn’t been a big workbook fan.

I am a tinkerer. I always mess with curriculum and never use it as spelled out. For the most part PAL has been an exception to that rule. I find that the flow is so smooth and logical, and the lesson manual is so clear that I don’t need to modify things much. My modifications include doing the journal during devotional with all children rather than during Pumpkin Pie’s reading time and not posting every poem or chart on my walls as well as a style of writing change.

Before I share our opinions, I thought it best to give an idea of how the pieces fit together. The best way for me to do this is to share our typical routine- which generally follows the outlined structure in the manuals. Reading time using the PAL system starts with me reading a short story and discussing the story sequence with Pumpkin Pie by asking her the typical who, what, where, why questions. We then will practice her handwriting. PAL does recommend teaching printing but it can be modified to use cursive. I personally believe in teaching cursive first, so I have modified all the letter worksheets to cursive and teach the cursive writing letters. Both the story sequencing and the handwriting practice come from the writing manual. I then get out the reading manual and we move on to reading and talking about a poem. The poem is used in the lesson to teach new phonograms, and review older phonograms. After the poem, we play some file folder games and continue talking about phonogram sounds. These games both introduce new material as well as review old material. The manual gives teaching tips and instructions rather than a script. As Pumpkin Pie plays a game, I can quickly scan over the next small section of information and know what to include in our discussion. Following the games we practice some reading sentences and phonograms and I explain the workbook pages she will do during her own time. Typically it is 1-2 short activities that includes a bit of thinking about letter sounds, helpers, and reading a couple words, coloring, cutting, and pasting. We then do Pumpkin Pie’s FAVORITE part of the whole lesson- the Phonetic Farm. After we review the Phonetic Farm, Pumpkin Pie works on her assignments for the lesson.

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At first I was a little worried about the sight component of PAL. I am a huge proponent of phonics learning. That said, while PAL does introduce some words by sight, it does not do it in a vacuum. Rather than telling the student, “This is green,” and making him memorize “green” the teacher does point out phonetic “helpers” and even underlines them or marks them according to the directions in the manual. As a result, the student might be building a sight word repertoire, but it includes understanding the phonetic clues and being able to apply those clues later. After introducing the word “green” with the card game (flash cards), we discussed the /ee/ phonogram and then added it to the phonetic farm. On the phonetic farm stickers, there are words that use the specific phonogram. One way to handle this is to have the teacher read the words and discuss them. Because Pumpkin Pie went into PAL Reading with knowledge of the primary sounds of each letter, when possible, I have asked her to decode the words on the stickers. She loves it and loves seeing that she is succeeding.

PAL has quickly and efficiently been building Pumpkin Pie’s confidence. She didn’t think she knew all the primary sounds that each individual letter makes. After she saw MUGS the dog game, she wanted to try all the letters so she could feed more bones through his mouth. She discovered she did know the letter sounds! Multi-letter phonograms have been a real problem for her though. The combination of the Phonetic Farm and the games has also been slowly building her confidence. At scripture reading, after she had completed three lessons, she was more excited to read and even attempted more words than she usually would have because they were longer or had a couple of multi-letter phonograms. Yeah! A huge step forward! She also recognized “helpers” in some of the words she was reading.

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One of the PAL Writing components is time for a Class Journal. I love the idea of having a family group “class” journal. On the video for PAL Reading, it mentioned recording things like if someone lost a tooth or what you are studying. Butterfly and Tiger have their own journals but I had never thought about starting a school year journal for the family! When I presented the idea to the children, they loved it. I included all of them in our efforts. They like to add tidbits about their educational plans, the weather, what they see outside, and sometimes just descriptions. It is really a wonderful part of the program that I would never have thought of on my own. While I write for the family, I point out various structure mechanisms I am using to help Pumpkin Pie understand such things as capitals, lowercase, proper nouns, etc. It is good review for my older children as well.

As mentioned before, PAL Writing also comes with All About Spelling Level 1. Pumpkin Pie still has about 15 lessons before she begins All About Spelling, so I cannot comment on its use. Some of my crew mates did get to All About Spelling though, so be sure to read their reviews by clicking the banner below. Prior to receiving PAL, I had considered All About Spelling. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham methods of teaching spelling and is rooted in the phonograms and rules that really do apply to English. I have, in the past, used a similar program with great success. All About Spelling is multisensory and the manual is designed to be open and go. I look forward to Pumpkin Pie getting to the Spelling portion. I know that understanding the spelling rules will really help her to understand reading as well.

I truly can not say enough good things about the PAL curriculum. I have never used a reading curriculum in the past but with Pumpkin Pie, she really needed something to help her grasp the connection between phonograms, sound, and words. This curriculum has been such a blessing to my family and I am so grateful that we were able to review it.

As I finished up this review, I asked BC to read it for me. I really wanted to make sure I did this fantastic curriculum justice. He wanted to add his two cents too. One day was especially busy and I didn’t get Pumpkin Pie’s reading lessons in. She wanted to continue so badly. I really needed to make dinner so I handed BC the teachers manual, showed him our materials and told him to have fun. He was pleased to see that even though he has not been using it from the beginning, it was easy for him to jump in and go. The manual was easy to follow and he really enjoyed giving Pumpkin Pie her reading lesson that day.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.