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, June 29, 2012

Lessons Everywhere- The Impromtu Lesson in Math

I went to the store to buy some compost. Pumpkin Pie said, "Look, that is $399 and that one is $899." I looked at what she was pointing to. Yes, without knowing about the superscripts it certainly looks like 399 or 899! I remember as a child thinking the same thing. Butterfly concurred that the notation was a bit odd and while she knew that it wasn't $899, she didn't understand why it wasn't listed with a decimal point. I then took the next couple of minutes to discuss the purpose of the superscript and how Pumpkin Pie was correct it was 899 cents but 8 dollars and 99 cents. I left laughing at what a great lesson with real applications we had just had. So much fun.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Suprise for Mom and Dad

Sunday morning 8am. {Knock knock}
Dad: "Yes?"
Pumpkin Pie: "Are you in bed?"
Dad: "No."
Pumpkin Pie: "Is mommy in bed?"
Dad: "No, she is in the shower."
Pumpkin Pie: "Then get back in bed and tell mommy to get in bed too."
I get out of the shower and dress for the day. I then get called to get back in bed.
Pumpkin Pie, opening the door: "Oh good, you are in bed," and then she disappears. Pretty soon there are footsteps coming up the stairs.
All kids: "Surprise!"
Yes, they brought us breakfast in bed for belated Father's Day and Mother's Day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Uh oh, the House is Quiet...

Every mother knows that when the house is quiet and the presence of the two year old can not be felt there is trouble to be had...

Tiger was reading a book, Butterfly was in the garden, and Pumpkin Pie was doing a chore but where was Strawberry? I went to look where I had last seen her and didn't see her there. I called to Butterfly to see if Strawberry was with her- no, no Strawberry. I then began the rounds through the house. Typically if Strawberry is that quiet, she is making a mess in the kitchen, but not today. Today she was causing real trouble. Yes, she was reading. What a beautiful sight to see her curled up on the couch reading one of her favorite books to herself. "I am reading," she proudly declared when I walked into the living room. Then she proceeded to recite, "This is Apple Tree Farm. This is Mrs. Boot the Farmer. She has two children called Poppy and Sam, and a dog called Rusty."

It got even better though. When Tiger's piano teacher arrived, I shuttled the girls upstairs to work on some stuff and not bother the lesson. Strawberry asked if she could stay and read some more. She read on the couch for another 20 minutes before coming back upstairs. It is moments like this that bring true joy into a homeschooling mother's heart.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fancy French Twist

Pumpkin Pie wants to dress "fancy" every day. Some days that includes taping pieces of paper to her ears. Today, it was doing her hair in a "fancy french twist."  :) I just had to post pictures since it was so creative. I think my favorite part is the popsicle sticks to hold it in place.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Summer is the time for road trips and vacations and big field trips. Several times I have driven 2000 miles round trip with all 4 children by myself. Many think I am brave- I just figure we wouldn't go if I didn't do it so I better figure out a system. And I have!

The most important thing to a long car trip with young children is NO VIDEOS! What!? How can I say no videos? Doesn't everyone have a DVD player in the car to keep the kids occupied? Isn't that the only way to do it?

In my experience, no- it breads misbehavior, unrest, and irritation. One time we went on a long trip and Dad borrowed a portable DVD player from work. We didn't pull it out until the last half of the first leg and boy did it backfire! Up until that point, the children were happy. Then they couldn't agree which video. After the video ended they were bored. They could no longer amuse themselves and they wanted more movies but not the ones we had available... needless to say, it was the worst car trip we have ever taken!

So, if no videos, then what!?

I love audiobooks. I bought several Sansa Clips for about $30 from Amazon. I then loaded them up with books specific to each child. I also had a collection of audiobooks we all might like on my ipod. I got the books from Story Nory, Librivox, and the library.

I also make a bag of activities. I always pack some colored pencils for each child, an eraser, pencil sharpener with case, paper, some activity books, etc. One summer I got 4 Polly Pocket dolls and some clothes from a friend. I put them in a little Tupperware. Those 4 dolls kept my 4 and 6 year old occupied for hours. I also always get a couple of games (usually with magnetic pieces) to keep them occupied.  The ones I like are like this:

Mudpuppy Mermaids Magnetic Figures
Mud Puppies has several different ones.

I also love games like Rush Hour and Chocolate Fix from ThinkFun.

In addition to these toys, we bring books. Plenty of good books. Thankfully my kids can all read in the car- which is something I have never been able to do! 

What about the littlest- for the under 3s, it is a little more difficult. I station a child that can help the little one. I bring a couple of new toys (not expensive), a couple favorite toys, as well as a couple new books and a couple favorite books. It seems to work. With a 2+, I might even bring some paper and something to color with. Magna Doodles are a favorite as well.

So now that I have them occupied, how do I handle food, water, and fighting?

Food and drink: I bring a cup for each child. This cup is NOT for drinking from though. Since most car seats have cup holders these days, it makes a clean place to put a few snacks. For snacks I bring non-messy ones. Dad doesn't like any food in the car and I don't like crumbs/sticky all over the car so I do my best. Some favorites are banana chips, freeze dried fruit, crackers (crumbs that can be vacuumed!), and apple slices. Apple slices can be a mess if you don't cut them up small enough. For water, ever child has a stainless steel water bottle that I refill as needed at stops. I keep a gallon or two of water extra in the trunk.
I do bring a couple special snacks that are for a park stop like applesauce or granola bars. I might also bring a couple juice boxes for the park as a treat. Lunch is usually eaten at a park somewhere but occasionally we will stop at somewhere like Baja Fresh.

Potty time- with 4 children, especially one who is under 4, I can't just drive and stop every 2 hrs for a potty break. Sometimes on the routes I take there is no bathroom to be had. I have a solution!  I have a tiny baby bjorn potty that I keep in my car at all times. I then use plastic diaper bags to line it with. I usually buy them at Target. There is a dispenser you can also get, but I just use the bags and tear them off. Then I tie the bags off and dispose of them appropriately.

Fighting is bound to happen when there are 5 people locked in a very small space. I have zero tolerance for it. The moment someone starts fighting, I find a safe place to pull over. I then sit quietly and wait. I sometimes start reading a book.The first couple of times I did this, one of the older ones would ask why we were stopped. I calmly explained that because there was fighting I could not drive. Fighting in the car is unsafe because I can't concentrate on the road. Now I just wait until the children are quiet and calm and remind them that I won't drive if they are fighting. If necessary, I point out the time lost fighting. Sometimes they get quiet and I am reading a book. I will finish reading my chapter before I continue. Now if I even begin to pull over, they stop and will apologize and ask me not to pull over. I made it 1000 miles pulling over once last summer! I even do the pull over routine at home.

Other things I bring and do:

I bring bubbles so if I stop at a park the kids can chase bubbles. This is especially for the littlest ones, but even the big kids like to chase bubbles.

I also take my ipod touch so I can find parks/ restaurants, etc if needed. I bring my Science Center membership so I can get the family into museums we have never been to. There is almost always at least one or two we want to hit somewhere on our route.

Other Crew mates are talking about Summer Field Trips too. Click the button to find out about their adventures.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I think most families have silly things between parents and children. I love to play word games with my children, especially when they are 2.5-3 and really starting to understand subject/tense, etc. Dad likes to play physical games. They have several, but walking/jumping on the ceiling has always been a fun one. Last night before dinner, Strawberry asked to "Jump!"  Daddy takes her, flips her upside down, and then jumps her across the ceiling to the next location.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What about socialization?

The most common question I get about homeschooling is, "But what about socialization?" Sometimes I will get told something along the lines of, "Make sure they have outside activities so they can have enough socialization." When I hear this, I really want to scream. Proper socialization takes place first within the home amongst those who love us most and have the patience to teach us and forgive us for making mistakes. Second, socialization should control among children of all ages with parents present to continue to teach appropriate skills.

Many years ago when Tiger was 3 and Butterfly was 18 months I went to a very large park with a group of homeschoolers for lunch after a field trip. There were about 5 families and 25 kids. The moms sat under a tree and talked about all the children from the oldest at 15 down to the smallest (my daughter) ran off to play around a large tree about 50 yards away. As we watched the children play, I saw a 9 year old shepherding my daughter back to the mothers. She explained that my daughter needed me. Butterfly checked in with me for a hug while the 9 year old waited and then gently she shepherded her back to the group of children.That image of the children at the tree has been burned into my memory. Within that group of children I watched as 10 year old boys scooped up my 3 year old son and played on the swings. I watched as 9 year old girls carried my toddler and hugged her and loved her, including her in their games. I watched as they all laughed, played, and enjoyed each other's company. It was a rare moment that I had never seen in a group of children except those who were homeschooled. This is the epitome of socialization- a group of children of all ages, backgrounds, races, abilities, etc finding a common ground and learning to be together.

Fast forward a few years and I have had a few experiences that have further testified that proper socialization is best accomplished within the home- first and foremost among siblings and parents and then in a controlled situation with parents and children present for a common purpose.

There is a little girl that Butterfly goes to church with. They have been friends at church for years. A few months ago my daughter went into class and tried to sit down next to this little girl. The little girl proclaimed, "You're not my friend. You can't sit there."  My daughter was taken back. She had no idea where this came from, and in her words, "That's not very nice." Over time, my daughter has continued to try to be a friend and every time this little girl tells her she can't sit near her, always making sure there is at least 1 seat between them! My daughter truly has no idea what is going on and is always conscious of including everyone. This same little girl has done similar things to other children in class as well. This little girl does not understand what it means to be a friend. She does not understand politeness or how to disagree appropriately. On some level she is choosing to try to manipulate or create a power struggle. She is not developing good social skills. Butterfly can plainly see that.

On the other hand, today was park day. There was a little girl who was feeling a little insecure and pouty because she didn't know how to join in the game with the group. I watched at Butterfly put an arm around her and brought her into the fold of the group. I also got to see a more modern image of the tree crowd today.  I watched as MY 10 year old son scooped up a 3 year old little boy to swing on the swing. No longer was he the little one, he was turning the tables and scooping up a sweet little boy who adores him and talks often about Tiger at home. Tiger was providing the example and love to this 3 year old. I also watched as a 9 year old girl scooped up my 2.5 year old Strawberry and hugged her. I watched as the two 5 year olds played with both the older kids as well as the 2 year olds. I also got to watch as a large group of children of all ages gathered together on a large park porch-type swing to play together. Squeals and shrieks of laughter and joy filled the air as they all played together. The larger children either holding or pushing the little children were having just as much fun as the little ones who squealed in delight. 

This picture is missing a couple kids- the swing game went on for quite a while.
Park day was so much fun, we stayed all day. Today precious naps were missed...but something far more precious was found- joyful friendships and memories. The older children were being leaders and guiding younger ones, younger ones were learning that everyone can be included. They also learned about give and take as they passed around a limited amount of shovels.

Friday, June 15, 2012

IXL Math Website Schoolhouse Review


 IXL is an online math program covering pre-K to algebra to help children review, practice, and master math skills.The first three levels include audio of the questions and answers for non-readers. Most of the levels cover over 200 different skills. An account consists of a parent dashboard and one or more children.

For every skill set, the problems get more difficult as the child attains a higher "smartscore." The smartscore is based on how many correct in a row, difficult of the problem answered, how many missed, and other factors. I noticed that the closer to 100 or "mastered" the more a missed problem depletes the score.

IXL Awards and GamesOnce a topic is mastered, the child will earn an award. These awards are little pictures on the Awards tab. Each level awards have a theme. All of the pictures uncovered will show a picture related to that theme. In addition to the little picture awards, there is a place in the parent's dashboard to print certificates of achievement if desired.

IXL Family ReportsThe parents dashboard consists of graphs, usage reports, state standards alignment, skills mastered, skills needing work, and many other reports and ways to track of all children's progress.  Similarly, the child can find his or her own reports under the reports tab while logged into the child account. In the parent tabs, the state standards covered can also be viewed.

IXL membership is either monthly or yearly. For a yearly plan, it is $9.95/month or $79/yr for one child with the additional children added at a discounted rate of $2/month $20/year.

What the testers thought:
All of my kids really enjoyed IXL. They thought it was fun to find a hidden picture and they enjoyed working through the problems. The one downside was that when a problem was missed at close to 100, the score would drop dramatically and really frustrate a child.

What I thought:
I think IXL is a good tool for review and practice. Because it is on the computer, the children like it, even if it is drill. The pictures are cute and I liked that I could hide the grade level in the parent settings and make all the grades letters. This helps my children to not worry about "grade" and just work where they are at. I liked that not all problems are multiple choice. Some require typing in the answers and others are multiple choice. I also liked the reports both on my dashboard and those that were emailed to me. I could see what topics were being practiced that week, time spent, and what levels my children were working at.

One thing I did not like was the repetitiveness of some of the question topics. It seemed, especially in geometry, there were only so many ways a question could be asked before it was virtually repeated. For example, Tiger had never heard of rotational symmetry. After getting a couple of problems wrong, looking at the explanation for why it was wrong, and getting one correct, he was able to just duplicate his answer without much thought. Also, the child has 1 chance to get the problem correct. This makes sense in the case of a 2 answer question, but if a child is typing an answer in, sometimes a typing mistake is made. A second chance would be nice in that case.

Overall I think IXL is a fun way to reinforce math concepts. I found IXL a good transition tool for when I was working with one child one on one, another could practice while waiting for my help. They all looked forward to their turn on IXL.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Story Builder iPhone App, TOS Review

PhotobucketStory Builder for iPhone from the Mobile Education Store is an app that helps children learn to tell a sequential story from a picture using prompts and questions or just to a picture. It is available for $5.99. After downloading the app, the parent sets up the level of difficulty within the game for each child, and an email address so that stories can be emailed for later replay.

There are 3 levels of play, 50 pictures, and over 500 audio clips to help the child learn to form a story. The levels and other settings can be adjusted in the settings tab. This is what the settings screen looks like:

The child gets a picture like the one below and, if using level 1 or 2, and a question to answer about the picture. The child will then press record and talk about the story, telling what happened. After he finishes his story or answers the question, the child presses Stop (the record button turns red and says stop). If a mistake is made, that section can be re-recorded by pressing record again. After several iterations of this (in Level 1 and 2) the child can play the story back. If desired, the audio file can be emailed to the specified email address. There is no way to save stories except through emailing them. When next picture is pressed, the story will be erased and the new one is recorded. Level 3 is a picture. The prompt is, "Make a story about the picture. Make sure to use complete sentences."


Overall I like this app. I really like the ability to record and email the sound files of the best stories because it is always fun to hear the children's voices later. The email will contain an image of the picture as well as a .caf sound file which I was able to listen to in Quicktime. I also liked that the voice asking the questions was not a robotic sounding voice. In fact, there are several different voices that are used to prompt for the pictures. One thing that I think needs work is the Parent Center access. When you click Parent Center, it asks for the answer to a simple multiplication problem to "make sure you are a parent". This is great for children under 7 or so, but it does little to verify parental status in a child who knows simple multiplication.

Strawberry loved this game. She would sit on my lap and during her brother's swim lesson and we would talk about a story and record it. She liked hearing herself talking back.
Piglet and Pumpkin Pie also had fun recording stories.

I tend to be pretty media stingy in my home; however, I do like to have some good games on my iPod for helping a child get through watching another child's practice or something like that. I prefer not to use mindless games so this works really well. I get to have a few minutes to hold my child on my lap and talk about stories and the child is engaged in something fun. I love that this game can be used with all of my children. It could even be used in the car with one person starting the story and then the next person finishing it.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Announcing the Winner

Thank you everyone for participating in the Teaching Self Government giveaway. I hope it will bring you peace to your home. The winner is..... Wendy J.

Wendy, I have emailed you.

I really wish I could give each of  you who wanted a copy of this book, but alas I only have one copy to give. Please visit Teaching Self Government for your own copy.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mom Needs to Continue Her Education Too!

For a little more than five years, I have trained in Shudokan Karate. In our style, we take our black belt test and IF we pass we receive the rank of Shodan-ho. Shodan-ho is a probational 1st degree black belt. The black belt test is rigorous and tough and many do not pass the first try. Last June I tested for black belt and earned the rank of Shodan-ho. I was presented my black belt without credentials. I continued to train this last year and yesterday, after turning in an essay on the topic of karate and taking another test, I earned the rank of Shodan. I am now a first degree black belt.
Thankfully one thoughtful parent in the audience took a picture or I would not have one!

 Throughout my training for black belt, training did not end at the entrance to the dojo. I continued my training and education in karate throughout my life outside of the dojo. Sometimes I would relate a karate principle to a life principle. Maybe a story that Sensei told was retold to my children to help them. Sometimes it was just practicing while waiting for water to boil. Continuing outside the dojo is in harmony with my beliefs about education. Education does not stop at the door.

Unfortunately I hear from many parents that their children get home from school and learning is DONE. Far too many children believe that learning only happens inside the walls of an institution. How sad! The attitude that learning stops at the classroom door often carries into adulthood. Just the other day as I was leaving the dojo I made a comment to another black belt about it being time to go to the library.  I always go pick up my books on hold right after class. He looked at me with a bit of a blank look and said, "At least you read." I was a bit startled. I told him that I had a pile of books to read but I also needed to pick up all the books for my kids for school. He then proclaimed that he did not read. He only read if he had to, he didn't like reading, and he couldn't wait to finish his bachelors so he wouldn't need to read any more. As we continued to talk I told him about how I love reading because I can learn all sorts of new things from books. He then said that all the books he read in school were rather worthless and it seemed a waste to him. I was so sad for this young man. Here he was about 25 and still had an attitude that learning should end as soon as he was out of the class. He was glad that he got by without even reading some of the books he was assigned.He did not have a love of learning.

Moms (and Dads) need to continue their education. As a parent, we need to set the example for our children. If we want them to develop a love of learning and a life of learning, we need to show it. I have continued my education in various areas of my life throughout my childrens' lives.  I earned a Masters of Herbology when Pumpkin Pie was 2, I took a weekend class every month last year, I read books on many subjects, and I learn along with my kids. Despite all this, my sweet Butterfly said to me a few months ago when I told her I needed to learn while she was in quiet time, "You still learn?" It was quite a profound moment for her. I remember as a child I thought that adults knew everything and were done learning. I am so glad that her view was changed that day. She loves that I continue to learn and that helps her to have a desire to do more learning herself. She sees in me how valuable it is.

So why did I write about karate instead of some great book I am reading? I picked karate because all of my children and husband choose participate in some form. Strawberry loves to play karate at home copying how to kick or punch (always in the air), Pumpkin Pie, Butterfly, and Tiger are all training and even Dad is too. Karate has become a family activity. This picture above was taken just before I had to opportunity to help grade the test for the color belts. Among those testing were my husband and son. Butterfly tests tomorrow and Pumpkin Pie tests in a few weeks.

You don't have to take karate or have the whole family participate in the same activity to teach a love of learning. What matters is being the example. Let the family see you learning and studying. Find something you are passionate about and do it!