Home Education~Ministry Moments~Hearth and Home

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Introducing My First Guest Blogger: My Oldest Son

      My oldest son had a very interesting adventure last week.  I thought it was such a unique story, and must be written down.  Here is his story:

The Reversal of Fates and What Happened Thus

     The cross-hairs lined up with the buck's shoulder blade.  I slowly eased in on the trigger.  Blam!  The deer mule-kicked and ran into the woods.
     "Nice shot.  I think you got him," my dad said sitting to my right in the stand.  I leaned back against a tree and slowly let out a breath.  The sun habitually splayed its light on the dew split grass and robins flew overhead.  There was nothing quite like waking up with the world.  We sat in the stand a few minutes watching a quirky fox squirrel scamper around on the grass.  Then, all of a sudden, there was a loud racket behind us.  I turned in my seat to see what it was. It sounded like a bird screaming. 
     "That's weird, I've never heard a bird make a sound like that before." I said.
     "Me neither," said Dad.  "What's that moss moving for?  Why don't you go check it out."  So I got out of the stand and walked over to where we saw the moving moss.  Then I saw a little gray bird with a crest and rusty sides hung up in the moss, and some of it wrapped around its neck like a noose.  I thought it was dead.  Then it made another pitiful noise and struggled.  I went over to it and gently undid its wing and tail.  Then he fell a few inches and hung there from the moss around its neck.  I quickly grabbed him, He struggled and tried to bite me, but I held on.  The moss was very tight, and if I tried to pull it off he would  choke.  How did you get yourself into this mess I thought.
     I eventually broke the last strand.  The small Tufted Titmouse flew quickly into the tops of the trees.  As I walked back to the treestand I gave my dad a thumbs-up.  How ironic it was to have taken the life of one animal and resucued the life of another, both in the same five minutes. 


Monday, January 30, 2012

Something About Homeschooling I Really Didn't See Coming

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
The Virtual Curriculum Fair Final Week: The Nuts and Bolts of Homeschooling

     5 1/2 years ago I had plans.  I was going to take on the full and complete responsibility for my children's education.  Why? (*) Because it was best for them.  They would learn so much from the  books I had ordered.  My sons would continue to grow closer together.  They would have a great teacher-student ratio.  The curriculum would be tailor-made to suit their interests and abilities. They would get ample outside playtime.  There would be hands-on science every week.  They would get to spend more time with their dad.  Homeschooling would enable them to spend more time with other people not their same age.  How GREAT this would be for my kids!
     Fast-forward a few months, maybe even a year.  I can't remember exactly.  I just remember one day it hit me:  God didn't just call us to homeschool for our children's sake.  He also called us to homeschool for my sake.  I needed to homeschool my children.  Apparently, I need(ed) help in the areas of patience and diligence, because those are the two muscles that have gotten the most workout since I/we started homeschooling.  God knew that spending numerous hours with my offspring would help to develop my patience.  He knew that waking up 170 days out of a year and "being on the ball" as teacher to my sweet boys would work diligence into my character. 
     Homeschooling has been wonderful for my kids.  Pretty much everything I mentioned above has occured.  Homeschooling has been great for me as well.  I have not "arrived", but I am starting to see growth in the areas I mentioned. I am more patient with my kids that I once was.  It gets easier to be diligent about our studies, as I can now see some of the fruit of my labor and now have an even deeper conviction to homeschool than I did in the beginning.
      I am most thankful to God for His patience and diligence as he continues to work in and through me. 
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  Philippians 1:6

(*Note: The biggest Why?: Because God told us to do it...but that's another post!!!)

Check out these other links from the Virtual Curriculum Fair:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Spicy" Organization

It seems that everytime I needed a spice to add to a recipe, I found myself fumbling around my spice cabinet, trying to remember what shelf I put it on.  My husband's Christmas gift of a label maker was the little bit of incentive I needed to get my spice cabinet organized! 

Here is my cabinet emptied out.  I need to clean my "lazy Susans"!  The one on top is from my mom...maybe from the 70's?  The white one is relatively new.  I love how they just fit perfectly.  But--without proper organization they were not working to their full potential.

Here they are all cleaned up!

Here are my unorganized spices, eagerly awaiting their proper place in this kitchen.

After alphabetizing the spices, I then divided them in half.
(A-F) on the white lazy Susan, and (G-Z) on the yellow.

I made labels for my cabinet.  SOOO Fun!

A-F on the bottom shelf and G-Z on the top.

This is some information I found in a magazine a while back.  I taped it to the inside of my spice cabinet door. 
Here is the info in case you have a hard time reading the words in the picture:

spices, ground: 2-3 years shelf life
spices, whole:  3-4 years shelf life
seasoning blends: 1-2 years shelf life
herbs: 1-3 years shelf life
extracts: 4 years shelf life, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely

I try to always add the date on my spices the first time I open them. 

Have a blessed day!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Power of the Smiley Face

     I teach Bible Drill to a great group of 4th-6th graders every Wednesday Night.  This past Wednesday, I gave them a little fill-in-the-blank sheet about Paul's Letters while they were taking turns saying their verses to the other teacher. After they filled in the missing books of the Bible, I checked their papers and helped them with anything they were missing.  I then gave them a big smiley face on their paper with a magic marker. 
      A little while later a few of the kids came up to me (after we had moved on to our next activity) and said, "Mrs. Letha, I'm finished now, can I have my smiley face?"  Of course, I checked over their paper and gave them all smiley faces!  This is not the type of activity we do very often, so they were not used to me "checking" their papers or giving them smiley faces for that matter.  I thought it was so wonderful and interesting that pre-teens still want their smiley face!
     A few months ago, a college student I know posted a paper his professor had graded.  On it was an A+ and a smiley face.  He said something like, "Hey, look, you can still get these in college!"  I think he was very excited and proud that his professor had thought enough of his work to give him a simple smiley face!
 The moral of the story?  I'm no philosopher or psychologist, but I think there may be a lesson here:

 1.Children love/need to be affirmed for hard work. 
2.There are still children out there today who will work for smiley faces. 
3.It is fun to give smiley faces to children. 
4.Children appreciate smiley faces for a long, long time. 

***My personal preference: If at all possible, smiley faces should be drawn using a brighly colored, thick magic marker...more drama.  :) 

Cohesion (or how we just love using eye droppers!)

     Yesterday, we started using this book:
It is has 24 experiments in them.  We did the first one yesterday.  We compared the size and shape of drops of different liquids, then ordered them according to their relative cohesive strength. 

We tested soapy water, canola oil, tap water and rubbing alcohol.  (My kids really wanted me to put "poison" on the container...so funny!)

They loved using eye droppers!

We lined up one drop from all the liquids to compare them.

After we compared the droplets on the wax paper, we measured 50 drops of each liquid in a graduated cylinder.  (My chemistry days are coming back to me!!)

34, 35, 36....

Getting eye-level to get the exact measurement.

All put together in their science notebook...
(Oh, by the way: Tap water had the greatest cohesive strength.  It was the tallest droplet, and took up the most volume in the graduated cylinder.) 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

GratiTuesday! (Glowing with Gratitude!)

     You may be asking, "What in the world is this???"  This is a picture of a few of our youth a two nights ago as they were having a blast playing "Glow Stick Dodgeball".  My son thought it was the greatest!  This picture reminds me of several things I am thankful for: 1) That my teenage son had several hours to hang out at church and play/be silly/crazy with his friends  2) That there was no blood during the Dodgeball game ;)  3) But MOST OF ALL...I am so thankful that my child has a youth minister that will invest his time and energy into my child!!  (**Not just in fun/games...SO thankful for the biblical teaching he gets 2X a week from our youth minister!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Two History Must-haves

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

     I want to share with you my two most important tools for teaching History. 


This is the "Mark-it" map that we have used for 6 years of History.  On the reverse side is the United States.  This map is made to go along with all our Sonlight History Cores.  I simply love it.  We mark it as we read our books.  For example, we are studying Egypt. Our Read-Aloud goes right along with that.  Here, we have marked (with a washable marker) the places mentioned in The Story of the World and The Golden Goblet.  Later, I can erase the markings and "test" their memory. 

Here is a close-up view.

This is one of the school desks.  My dad made them for us a few years ago.  We had the idea to put maps on them.  My dad had glass cut to fit over the top.  I think my kids can learn through "osmosis" this way!! hehehe!

Here is a look from the other side.  My other son has the world map.  Each year they trade maps!


This is our "Book of Time" from Sonlight Curriculum. We have been using this since the beginning our homeschool. It comes blank, so you can use it however you wish.  You can simply write in important dates, your children can draw the pictures, or you can order the stickers.  We have added our own dates, like births in the family, etc.

As you can see here, we ordered the stickers.  The pictures on them are so detailed.  My children simply look up the dates and put the sticker on the right date.  Here is one of the "earliest" stickers!

Here is a look at one of our pages.  The "BC" pages are in yellow, and the "AD" pages are in white.  All of the stickers correspond with our studies...love it! 

The pages get really full!  My boys really enjoy this.  I will "catch" them looking through this book just for fun.  This will end up being a homeschool keepsake! 

Check out more "History and Science" posts from the Virtual Curriculum Fair:












Sunday, January 15, 2012

My View from the Front Pew~~Exodus and Egypt

     Today as I as sitting on the front pew listening to my husband preach his second sermon in his Exodus series, it hit me.  We just started studying Egypt last week!  I love how God works!  SO many times this has happened.  We have been learning about something in our homeschool, and something (totally unplanned) will take place that goes right along with our theme/topic of study.  I just love it when God does that. 
     (One other particular example that comes to mind:  A few years ago we were studying birds and on the way home one evening we saw an owl---and he let us look at him for a long time.) 

Leave a comment sharing how this has happened to you!  

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Votes are in!!!

     Last week my children and I finished up the "Eastern Hemisphere" Core from Sonlight. I decided to take a poll and see which books were their favorites.  It was fun to look back and remember all the great stories they read or we read together! 

     Here are the top picks from my boys: 

In the "Read-Aloud" Category:

1st place: The Hobbit, by Tolkien  (a no-brainer!)
2nd place: The Master Puppeteer, by Paterson
3rd place: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Aiken


In the Reader Category:

The top 2 picks were: Rascal, by North
 and Henry Reed, Inc., by Robertson


Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Magnificent Math Manipulative

     Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

     Six years ago when we started homeschooling I decided to go with Singapore math.  I did this because I read or heard somewhere that worldwide, kids who use this math score highest on testing.  I'm not really into test scores, but it sounded good to me.  Singapore has been a challenge...in a good way.  One of the items that was recommended to be purchased with the math curriculum were the gram/centimeter cubes.  I love hands-on anything, so I purchased them.  I had no idea they would be so well used.  There are uses for them K-6!  The versatility of these little fellas is seemingly endless!

My kids love the colors and how there are several possibilities of how they link together.
Never a complaint when it's time to do math with these!  It really helps them (and me) to SEE the math...not
just numbers on a page.  These cubes are used as an introduction to lots of lessons.  After my kids "get" the concept,
we just move along to numbers and paper. 

I found this picture in our archives...back when my oldest was
finishing up 3rd grade.  I remember this fun assignment: He was
to see how many different combinations he could make with 5 cubes. 
Geometry and critical thinking skills all in one.  :)

Check out these other great posts on math:
























Friday, January 6, 2012

My blog find of the day: "5 Simple Ways to Accomplish More Each Day" (From Heavenly Homemakers)

I loved this post! So true and very encouraging!  You may want to check out the other "5 SimpleWays" posts below her original post.  They looked really interesting as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Favorite Time of the (school) Day

     My most favorite part of our school day together is read-aloud time.  Right after lunch my boys and I sit in the living room while I read aloud a book.  These books are assigned by our curriculum (Sonlight).  They always pick such great ones...and most of the time fall in line with what/where we are studying in History.  Today I read the last two chapters of The Hobbit.  I hated to see it come to an end.  What a great joy to read such a classic together.  I had not read it since 10th grade; my boys read it 2-3 years ago.  Their fairly recent reading did not bother them one bit, since it is an all-time favorite.  Their dad even read a couple of chapters while he was home due to some minor surgery. 
<em>The Hobbit</em>: Or There and Back Again [Book]
     Although I hated for the reading of this great classic to come to an end, I had so much fun reading those last chapters.  I always get a little teary (and sometimes really teary--depending on the book!) during the last chapter of our read-alouds.  My boys are used to it.  I was thinking today as I was reading those final pages that it really is a thrill to finally read the last chapter.  We spent a lot of hours together reading and enjoying this book.  We had seen Mr. Bilbo Baggins go through countless adventures and peril.  What a sense of accomplishment to finish that story together! 
     Whether you homeschool or not, I encourage you to read aloud to your children~!  (Note: It is very beneficial to read about 2-3 grade levels above your child's reading level.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WOW! A Fabulous Christian Family Magazine for FREE!

Thriving Family® Magazine   -

     This morning I was on the "Focus on the Family" website, when I came across a free offer for this magazine!  I started getting it in the mail several months ago, and I really enjoy reading it.  It has such timely and helpful articles to help moms and dads along the journey of Christian parenting.  I wasn't sure why they were sending it to me, but I loved it!  (I figured out later it was probably because my son currently gets the Clubhouse Magazine, seen below.)  If you'd like to order go here.

more information about Focus on the Family Clubhouse® Magazine (1 Year  Subscription - 12 Issues)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

GratiTuesday....A Change of Plans

     Last week, my oldest son and my husband were all set to go with our church youth group to Winter Xtreme Conference in Pigeon Forge, TN.  The day before they were to leave my husband's back was hurt and he could hardly walk or bend over.  So, at 8:00 the night before they were to leave, it was decided that I would go instead. I was trying to wrap my brain around packing, etc.  I do not switch gears very easily. 
     I'm a girl who likes to PLAN.  I want to know way in advance how things are going to go.  I already had designs for my long weekend with just me and my youngest.  I was going to stain a piece of furniture and do some cleaning out and re-arranging of furniture and such.  (You know, what you always do when you have an almost empty house.)
     I knew in my heart that at some point during the trip I would say, "This is why I was supposed to be here."  It happened more than once.  God had a perfect plan.  He always does.  My husband was able to stay home and heal.  He was also able to get a lot of his doctoral studies/assignments finished.  I was able to spend three whole days just hanging out with my oldest son.  Not something I get to do very often.  Momma didn't have to cook, do laundry or clean the house.  Instead, I was able to go out to eat with my oldest and his friends, praise the Lord in worship with my son, jam (I know that's an 80's word!) out to some great Christian bands with him and hear God's word preached.  I was still his mom...but it was nice not to be in our regular routine.  I am so thankful for the time we had together.  I hope he remembers that trip for a long time.  I know I will.  :)  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Only 5 Spelling Tests a Year! (Can we do that?)

(FYI...this is my first of several "Virtual Curriculum Fair" posts.  This week two dozen (including yours truly) homeschoolers are joining together to share with you some aspects of our Language Arts curriculum.  I could go on and on and ON about how I love Sonlight LA program, but decided today to just talk about one tiny part today....spelling)



     I would like to share with you a small part of our homeschool Language Arts program, spelling.  We use the "Sequential Spelling" program.  (We use Sonlight Curriculum, and it is what they recommend.)  I love it because it is simple, inexpensive and IT WORKS!!  There are seven levels.  The numbers of these levels do not correspond with a grade level.  My 5th grader is finishing up level 2 and will be moving to level 3 in a week or so.  My 7th grader is finishing up level 4.  You can read more about the spelling program here, on the Sonlight website. 

     We REALLY do only have 5 spelling tests per year, but then again---we sort of have one everyday!  Let me explain.  Students are given 25 new words a day.  There are four sets of words which continue to build upon one or more word patterns. By the end of four days (and 100 words) of "testing", your child should know those words/word patterns.  Each day you give your child 25 words.  You call out one word at a time, and your child writes the word on his/her paper.  (They do NOT study the words ahead of time!)  After EACH word, you write the word, and then your child studies how you spelled the word and corrects his/her spelling of the word (if needed).  It has been suggested by the book that you write in a different color of pen the word pattern.  You can see below how we did our lesson today:

Mom's paper

You can see how I wrote in red the repetitive word patterns.  This is a great visual to aid in his learning. My older (7thgrade) son prefers his words to be written all in one color.  I say, "Whatever works best!"

My son's paper from Sequential Spelling 2, lesson 160
He received a "100" because he spelled all the words correctly the first time, or caught his mistake(s) after looking at how
I spelled the word.  This method really teaches my children to look for details, and they are "studying" spelling words this way without even knwoing it!!  (These words were the last in the set of four.  Before spelling "belling" for example, he had spelled "bell", "bells" and "belled" in the preceding lessons.  These seem like simple words, but the theory here is to build upon the small base words to much larger words in a progressive, straightforward way. 

This is my son's test he took today.  He did not study at all before hand.  This is just a review of the word patterns he has learned.  My boys almost always make an "A"  Once they may have made a B+, but never below that.  Needless to say, I really believe this program works!  (They have also enjoyed doing well in a local spelling bee!)  You will notice my son did miss one word, so I just talked to him about the mistake, and he wrote the word 5 times. 

A few personal notes about how we do things....

*We usually do 50 words per lesson, because we don't always get to do spelling everyday.  It saves time in the long run, since we already have our book/paper  ready for spelling.  We do one lesson on the front of the page, and one on the back. 

*There a lot of words in this spelling curriculum that even I do not know the meaning of (and some I've never heard of).  I keep a dictionary handy so that if needed, we can have a vocabulary lesson,too.

*Spelling is carried over into our writing assignments, which we have everyday.  Once a week my children are given a dictation, where correct spelling is also required.

Check out the "Virtual Curriculum Fair" button to visit other homeschoolers and see what they are doing in Language Arts!!  (Or check out the links below!)