Friday, October 30, 2009

Lewis & Clark free online resources

We are currently learning about the Corps of Discovery in our overview of American History. Here are some great printable resources I found online to use in our notebooking approach to American History:
  • Worksheet - fill-in-the-blank
  • Worksheet - "follow the instructions" tracing the Corps of Discovery route
  • Puzzle sheets - maze, crossword, and word find
  • Coloring pages - scenes of the expedition
  • Bingo game - with full-color photos
  • Paper dolls - Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and Pomp (can also be used as coloring sheets)
  • Paper doll of Sacagawea - full color, with 3 outfits
  • Fact card - Has a L&C graphic with "Did You Know...?" and then blank lines for writing whatever you like (half sheet size)
  • Art lesson - Step-by-step instructions for drawing a portrait of Sacagawea
  • Lesson plans and activities - middle school level (This was much more in-depth than we took time for, but each lesson has a printable student page.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ideas from Other Sonlighters

For years I've collected links and ideas for supplementing Sonlight. I've posted the ideas I've compiled on my website. (And, yes, it needs to be updated. I'm hoping to work on that soon! Let me know if you have links I could add to it.)

In my blog-hopping this week, I came across a couple of posts from other Sonlighters sharing how they added to their Sonlight adventures in creative ways.
I love that Sonlight has that flexibility built in, so we can add in any extras that are a good fit for our individual families.

We're having a great time with Core 3+4 this year, taking a notebooking approach and adding in lots of library books. I'll be sharing more about our experiences as we go along.

Picture from

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I love libraries!

Aren't free public libraries one of the greatest ideas ever? I've alway thought so! My family didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, but we were rich in books because my mother took us to the library just about every week!

I've often thought I could probably give my children a pretty adequate education with just a library card. I'm glad I don't have to, but I bet I could!

Yesterday my 13-year-old daughter and I made a library run. We are studying American History this year, based on Sonlight's Core 3+4. However, my daughter has learning challenges (probably ADD and auditory processing delays) so she needs to hear information over and over to be able to retain it. My approach this year is to read about the same event from a lot of different perspectives, so we are going through stacks of books!

Right now we are learning about the 13 colonies, George Washington, and the Revolutionary War. Here are the titles of the books we brought home yesterday:
  • General Washington and the General's Dog
  • If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution
  • Eyewitness: American Revolution
  • George vs. George: The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides
  • American Revolution Battles and Leaders
  • Hello USA (We got several of these, as there is a separate one for each state.)
  • Shh! We're Writing the Constitution
  • Cartoon Nation presents The American Presidency
  • George Washington's Breakfast
  • Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?
  • Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents: John Adams
  • In 1776
  • The Revolutionary John Adams
  • Midnight Riders
  • Row, Row, Row the Boats
  • Trouble Brewing
  • Take the Lead, George Washington
  • National Geographic Society: George Washington
I'm sure some of these are better than others. I haven't read them all yet. We will probably just skim some of them. But... that's the beauty of library books! You can take 'em home with you and peruse them at your leisure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things I Learned on Pikes Peak

Today's adventure was a drive to the summit of Pikes Peak. It was sunny at the top, above the clouds!
Did you know? "Pikes Peak" has no apostrophe in the name! (Misplaced apostrophes are one of my pet peeves. But I found it interesting that there is officially none in the name of the mountain!)
We met a yellow-bellied marmot along the road! He was kind enough to pose for a picture... but he declined rolling over to show us his yellow belly!
Did you know? The words to America the Beautiful were inspired by the view from Pikes Peak. There is a monument about it on the summit.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Living Geography

Learning is a lifestyle in our family... and the learning doesn't stop even on vacation!

We love to learn more about the places we visit. Often I will make up "trip journals" for the kids before we leave by printing out worksheets about the states we will be visiting. These are fun for them to work on in the car as we travel through each state.

Here are some sites that have state printables:
Our route this year takes us through 10 states:
I'll be sharing more travel-related learning activities here during the next couple of weeks. I'm also posting scenery pictures on Ramblin' Roads, if you care to follow along!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bears' "Ploughed Field"

One thing I like to do on road trips is stop and read the historical markers along the way. As we traveled south through eastern Idaho today, we saw several. This was my favorite one of the day:
When Alexander Ross and his Hudson's Bay
Company trappers stopped here, September 20,
1824, they "observed at some distance the
appearance of a ploughed field, and riding up
towards it, found a large piece of ground more
than four acres in extent, dug up and turned
over. On getting to the spot, we observed
no less than nine black and grizzly
bears at work, rooting away," eating
camas, onions, and wild celery.

This was the first day of our 2-week road-trip. Stay tuned for more interesting things we learn along the way!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Learning on a Hike

We haven't done a lot of formal nature studies over the years, but I'm always amazed at the things we learn just by being observant. Recently my family went on an afternoon hike while we were out camping. We didn't take along nature journals to make notes and drawings, but I did take the camera. I snapped pictures of the things we wondered about.I thought the yellow violets were so sweet. Later I looked them up in a wildflower book and discovered that there actually 5 different kinds of yellow violets in the western United States, and I determined that this particular kind is the Stream Violet.
My daughter caught a little frog along a stream. Or is it a toad? Yeah, I think it's a toad. We learned about the difference between frogs and toads earlier this year, but we should probably look it up again just to refresh our memories.
What kind of bird dropped this feather? I have no idea! Maybe we need a bird book, too. The feather almost looks polka-dotted.
Then we picked up this pretty piece of quartz. I recognized it... but my daughter is sure we need a rock book, too!
What kind of animal left this behind? Elk? Moose? Don't tell me we need a poop book! Oh, wait. We already have one! Really, we do! I'll tell you about it some other time. (I just can't find it right now, which is why I'm not sure whether it's elk or moose.)
Look close! Can you see the gold flakes in the stream? We wondered if it was real gold. Perhaps we ought to research that, too!

Isn't learning fun?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Interview with Mat Halverson

This week I'm interviewing Mat Halverson, author of the Scripture Sleuth mystery books for kids. I first met Mat at a homeschool convention several years ago. At that time he had 3 books out, and we bought them for read-alouds. My kids were hooked, so we've added the next 2 to our collection as they have been released. When I saw Mat at the Christian Heritage conference in April, I asked if I could interview him for my blog. He graciously agreed. Here are the questions I asked him, along with his answers.

Hi, Mat. My family has really enjoyed your Scripture Sleuth books about Concord Cunningham. They remind me of the Encyclopedia Brown books I read when I was a kid, with each chapter a short mystery that the reader has the opportunity to solve before looking up the solution in the back of the book. It seems to be a format that kids love. How did you come up with that idea?

Hi, Karla. First of all, thank you for taking the time to interview me on your blog. When I was a kid, I loved Encyclopedia Brown, too. It was so much fun to read a short mystery and then try to solve it myself. When I started writing, I wanted to write mysteries with a similar structure, but I also wanted to connect kids to the Bible. I credit God for giving me the idea to write short mysteries that kids would solve by looking up clues in their own Bibles.

Could you tell us more about how the books work?

Each chapter is a fun mystery, so there are 12 separate mysteries in every book. The mysteries are lighthearted adventures, and they average about 5-7 pages each. At the end of each chapter's mystery, readers aren't given the solution. Instead, they're given a Bible verse to look up in their own Bibles. When they look up that verse, they find the final clue that they need to solve the case. After they they think they've solved the mystery, they can check their answers in the solution section at the back of each book. By the way, the reading level of the books is ages 8-12.

My daughter insists she can't read a Scripture Sleuth book without her Bible. Even when she has the answer figured out, she will look up the scripture hint before she reads the solution to see if she's right. And some of the scriptures are pretty obscure! How did you find them?

I'm so pleased to hear about your daughter. That's really my whole reason for writing these books--to excited kids about looking up Bible verses. As for finding verses and turning them into clues, that's the most difficult part of writing the Scripture Sleuth books. I don't have a secret formula; I just sit down with my Bible and start searching. Sometimes one verse will lead me to another. And sometimes I can search for hours and not come up with anything. And, of course, I use a concordance all the time, just like the main character in the books. The mysteries are in a current-day setting, and it's been a wonderful experience for me to connect a huge assortment of verses to everyday situations. My hope is that kids will see how God's Word is still completely relevant today.

What other kind of lessons would you say these books teach?

That's a great question because the stories themselves are not designed to teach huge moral lessons. They're just good, clean fun. The point of the series is motivating kids to use their Bibles to solve problems. The main character (kid detective Concord Cunningham) is very respectful to adults, and he completely trusts in God's Word. So, he demonstrates good qualities. But, again, the books are designed to be fun and are definitely not preachy.

There are 5 books so far... a total of 60 "cases"! Wow! I'm impressed that you've been able to come up with so many. And I understand there are more in the works. When will the 6th book be out?

I'm writing the 6th book now, and I hope to have it finished within a year. After I submit it to the publisher, it will take about 6-12 months for it to be released. So, realistically, the next book won't be out before late 2010 or early 2011.

We've purchased our books directly from you at homeschool conventions. Where else can people buy them?

You can purchase the books on my website: Once you're there, you can either buy the books directly from me, or link to other places that sell them. If you buy them from me, I'd be happy to autograph them.

Thanks so much for interviewing me about my books, Karla. I look forward to seeing you at the next homeschool convention!

Thank you, Mat, for being my guest today!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interview with Susan Marlow

A couple years ago I "met" Susan Marlow when I won a copy of one her books (along with an adorable horse Beanie Baby) on a blog-giveaway. My tween-age horse-loving daughter was thrilled! Later, I won another of Susan's blog-giveaways of some bookmarks and a tiny plastic horse! Now I've quit entering her giveaways, lest I seem greedy! But she does have great giveaways! (Including one right here, later this week! Stay tuned!)

Susan writes "wholesome books for kids"-- specifically the Circle C Adventure series set in the Old West. My daughter and I are looking forward to meeting her in person at the upcoming WHO homeschool convention in June. In the meantime, I emailed Susan and asked if I could interview her for my blog. She graciously agreed. Here are the questions I asked her, along with her answers.

My 13-year-old "horse crazy" daughter absolutely loves your books! How did you come up with the idea for a series of stories about a "tween-age" girl and her horse in the late 1880s?
I started writing stories when I was about ten years old. I was greatly influenced by what I read and by what I watched during those impressionable years (the '60s). I watched two types of shows, mostly: space shows (like Star Trek) and westerns (like Bonanza). When I wrote my own stories, I always tossed kids (specifically--myself!) into these established "universes." I felt the stories could be greatly improved by adding characters my own age (at the time). This carried over into my adult life, when I was still writing stories with kids as the main characters (since I've had a hard time shedding my twelve-year-old 'persona'). When people started urging me to submit my stories for actual publication, I knew the stories I wrote about outer space would probably not fly. However, historical stories—especially if I included horses—would be more likely to find an audience. So the "tween-age" girl and her horse is pretty close to what I would have liked to be and do if I'd lived in the late 1800s.
Are there other people you know in real life similar to your characters, from which you draw for your stories?
A few Circle C characters are drawn from real life:
  • Nila Garduño, the Mexican woman who cares for Andi in Long Ride Home, is based on a dear Hispanic friend, whom I taught English for five years. She told me about her childhood in a poor village in Mexico. I even used her real name for the story.
  • A recent picture of my grandfather turned up, and he looks just as I imagined my Chad character should look. Chad is named for my oldest son, and acts a lot like him, as well.
  • Andi's friend, Cory Blake, is drawn from my youngest son, Ryan. He's on the cover of the new book, Trouble with Treasure.
    So you have some involvement with the cover art for the series?
    Purely by accident! Book covers make me nervous. I've seen some terrible ones. My daughter won't even read a book if she doesn't like the cover. So I sent my publisher a picture of a homeschooled girl I knew, only to give the designers some idea of what Andi might look like. I expected them to take the picture and draw a scene for the cover. Instead, they used the picture for Long Ride Home. That was the biggest surprise of my life!
    Ever since then, I've been sending Kregel pictures for the covers. The kids featured on the covers are homeschooled students. The little Chinese girl on San Francisco Smugglers is the adopted daughter of a homeschooling friend from Pennsylvania, whom I have never met!
    What kind of research have you done to learn about the Old West?
    You mean besides watching Bonanza, The Big Valley, Roy Rogers, The Rifleman, and Rawhide? Seriously, one of my first research books about the Old West was the book, The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible! This book gave me the "rest of the story"--the parts Hollywood left out. I've read a number of other books since, like Daughters of the West, Everyday Life in the 1800s, and biographies of actual people--like the missionary who rescued the little Chinese slave girls, for San Francisco Smugglers. The Internet has been invaluable, as well, but I try not to believe everything there. However, it's a good place to begin. From the Internet, I found "primary sources" like More San Francisco Memoirs--1852-1899, which is a collection of writings from folks who visited the City in the late 1800s. I got a flavor for how they talked, what was sold in the streets, and what people did. The problem is: I can get so caught up on reading this fascinating true-life history, that I put off actually writing my book.
    Do you have horses?
    I don't have horses right now. However, my daughter, Kristel, had a horse when she was eleven. Panda was a pet rather than a horse for all the 4-H stuff like showing and competing. Kristel braided her mane and tail, hung out on her back, rode her in the field across the street, and just had fun with her. To learn about our ups and downs with Panda, go here.
    I read on your website that you homeschooled your children. How many children do you have? Are they grown now?
    My husband and I have four children--33, 32, 20, and 17. I did homeschool them, and now our oldest, Kristel, homeschools her six children. I wrote my Circle C Adventures when the kids went to bed, after a long day of homeschooling two teenagers and caring for two pre-schoolers, besides. I'm very glad there was no Facebook or blogging back in the 90s, or I don't think my books would have been written. I would have been doing what everybody else is doing these days for relaxation--social networking. I tried never to be on the computer during the day, because I didn't want my children to grow up seeing their mother in front of a computer screen. It just reminded me of those stereotyped stories about moms devoted to soap operas and glued to the TV while their kids ran wild.
    We have the first 4 books in the series. I understand the 5th book is now out? And the 6th is in the works?
    Book 5 is not out quite yet. Andrea Carter and the Trouble witih Treasure is due to be released next February, 2010. Here's a one-line summary of Andi's newest adventure: Andi's dreams of treasure turn into a life-or-death struggle when she and her friends seek gold in the Sierra Nevada.

    I love doing contests and giving away fun prizes. For Treasure, I have found real gold flakes on e-bay, and I'm thinking of contests to hold so I can give little vials of gold away, along with copies of the new book. Folks can learn all about my contests and upcoming events by going to my website,, and signing up for my e-zine. I've given away two books and some gold already, although the winners have to wait until the book comes out to actually hold their prizes in their hands.

    Book 6, Andrea Carter and the Price of Truth, has been contracted, but I don't know its release date yet. Here is a summary of that book: Andi's eyewitness testimony places a beloved citizen of Fresno at the scene of a crime. Will the price of truth be too high if it means losing Taffy forever?
    We are looking forward to meeting you at the WHO homeschool convention in Puyallup, Washington, in June. Will you be at any other conferences this year?
    I'm excited about having a booth at the WHO (Washington Homeschool Organization) convention, June 19-20. They placed me in "prime real estate" at Booth # 102--right as you come in the main entrance of the Exhibition Hall! If anyone would like their copies of Circle C Adventures authographed, bring them to my booth and I'll be happy to sign them. There will be a "Guess the Number of Horses" in a jar contest to win a prize, free bookmarks, free postcards for Trouble with Treasure, random drawings to win the new book, and just a lot of fun for all.

    In addition to the WHO convention, I will be attending the WATCH conference August 7-8, with the Salt Shaker Bookstore. I will be there both days, signing books and offering contests, as well. The WATCH conference is at Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, WA.
    Where can people buy your books?
    Folks can pick up the books at any Christian bookstore. If the title you want is not on the shelf, the store can order it. It's also available from any on-line bookstore, like Amazon and CBD. My Circle C Adventures is featured in the CBD Kids 2009 print catalog, and they offer a great "set" price, as well!
    As a special surprise, Susan has even offered a free Circle C book as a giveaway right here on Roads to Learning! Check back on Friday, May 29, for my regular weekly giveaway post for details on how you could win!

    Thanks so much, Susan, for being my guest today!

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    Memorial Day

    "Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, is the day we honor Americans who gave their lives in military service.

    This holiday was originally called Decoration Day and honored soldiers who had died during the Civil War. Immediately after the war, various towns in the North and South began to set aside days to decorate soldiers' graves with flowers and flags...

    The first widespread observance of Decoration Day came on May 30, 1868, which Maj. Gen. John A. Logan proclaimed as a day to honor the dead. General James Garfield (later the twentieth U.S. president) gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery in remembrance of fallen soldiers, saying that
    'for love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.'
    Afterward, 5,000 people helped decorate the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

    Over the years the day became an occasion to remember the dead in all American wars, and came to be known as Memorial Day.

    On the Thursday before Memorial Day, in a tradition known as 'Flags-in,' the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small flags before more than a quarter million gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol twenty-four hours a day to make sure each flag remains standing throughout the weekend. On Memorial Day the president or vice president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the cemetery.

    According to the U.S. flag code, American flags should be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raised to the top of the pole. At 3:00 p.m. local time, all Americans are asked to pause for a moment of remembrance."

    --The American Patriot's Almanac, by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    The End of the School Year

    One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we get to set our own schedule. Some families have school year 'round with shorter breaks as needed throughout the year. We follow more of a traditional school year in our family. With warmer weather here the children are playing outside more, and are ready to be done with books for awhile!

    We try to be done by Memorial Day, but since it comes early this year, I don't think we're going to make it quite. But hopefully by the first of June!

    I don't know about you, but I always get to the end of the year wondering if we did enough. Did we cover everything we needed to cover? Did the children learn what they were supposed to for this grade?

    But then as I pack the books away for the summer and take mental inventory of everything we did accomplish, I'm always surprised at how much we actually got done!

    This is the end of our 11th year of homeschooling. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to realize that almost everything my children know academically they learned from me! It has been such a privilege to go through each level with them. And I seriously believe I have learned far more than they have!

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Sight-Seeing on a Budget

    Next month I have 2 homeschool conventions to attend on back-to-back weekends... one in Boise, Idaho and the other in Seattle, Washington. Allowing for travel time, we would only be home 3 days in between, so we've decided to just enjoy some sight-seeing on those extra 3 days!

    Several months ago a friend told me about City Pass for Seattle. It is a package of tickets to 6 different attractions for about half price! They allow 9 consecutive days to visit the 6 attractions for that price. (In our case we'll have 3-4 days, but I think we can fit it all in!) So we'll get to visit the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, the Museum of Flight, the Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, and take the Seattle Harbor Tour cruise! All of that for just over $50 per person!

    What I like about it is that all of those "attractions" are educational as well as fun! You probably couldn't get into an amusement park for one day for that price. This is my kind of sight-seeing!

    I didn't realize it when my friend was telling me about it, but I discovered that City Pass is actually available for 10 major cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, and Toronto. So even if a trip to Seattle is not in your future, if you happen to be in one of these other cities and have some time, you might want to check it out!

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    10 Things Your Kids Can Learn While Camping

    In our family we like to say that learning is not just for school time, but rather learning is a lifestyle. My husband and I take advantage of opportunities to teach our children as we go about our daily lives.
    "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."
    One of our favorite family activities is camping. I posted about our most recent camping trip at Ramblin' Roads... but for this post I thought it would be neat to share a few of the educational benefits we have discovered while camping:
    1. Nature Studies
    2. Survival Skills
    3. Primitive Cooking
    4. Physical Education (hiking, biking, pumping and carrying water...)
    5. Exploration and Discovery
    6. Socialization (They always meet any other kids whose families are camping at the same time!)
    7. Reading (A very relaxing way to spend a lazy afternoon at the campground, when electronics aren't an option!)
    8. Photography
    9. Astronomy
    10. Meteorology
    And that's not mention the great family relationships we are building in the process!

    What does your family like to do for fun and education?

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Expanding Attention Spans

    "How do you keep the children's attention when you read to them? How do you make sure they are listening and comprehending?"
    This is a question parents often ask me, especially about younger children who are just starting school.

    My answer: "Let them do something while you read."I think sometimes parents have the notion that the children should be quietly sitting in chairs, with their attention completely focused on Mom in order to listen as she reads. That has not been my experience.

    I have been reading to my children for 45 minutes to an hour a day since they were toddlers. My oldest daughter was 3 when I started reading chapter books aloud to her. I had read somewhere that reading aloud to children helps increase their attention spans, so I read to her even when she was wiggling about the room, playing. And you know what? It worked!

    I remember one day when she was in 2nd grade the read-aloud was Ginger Pye. It is actually a rather long book for that age group, but I had just allowed the girls (ages 4 and 7) to play quietly as I read each day, not realizing that the 4-year-old, who happens to have learning delays, was even listening. The day after we finished Ginger Pye I showed them the next book on the list.

    "Look! We get to start a new book today!"

    My 4-year-old was crestfallen. "But! What happened to the doggy?"

    She wanted to hear more about Ginger Pye! I was excited to realize she had been following along! Fortunately for her, we happened to have the sequel, Pinky Pye... so yes, we added that in to our Sonlight reading schedule that year!

    Over the years my children have enjoyed a wide variety of "quiet" activities while I read to them. Here are just a few of them:
    • drawing pictures, often related to the story
    • practicing handwriting
    • jigsaw puzzles with pictures that tie in with what we are currently learning
    • coloring pages related to the book or historical period (Dover publishes some really great ones!)
    • Legos (When we were reading about Egypt they build a pyramid, with a tiny Lego person wrapped in tissue for the mummy inside!)
    My only rule is that they have to be perfectly quiet, therefore they can't work on the same activity together-- otherwise they'll try to whisper.

    I have been amazed at how much they retain of what they hear when their hands are busy!

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Finding "something to do"...

    With all the "cool" technology available today... as well as opportunities for organized outside activities, sometimes it is challenging to motivate our kids to "find something to do" that does not involve electronics or adult supervision. My girls love The Daring Book for Girls and the sequel, The Double-Daring Book for Girls, as a resource of ideas for all kinds of old-fashioned fun. (There are similar books for boys, The Dangerous Book for Boys, etc.)
    Last week the girls asked for permission to try their hand at making a pinata, according to instructions in the book. They know the rule is: If you make a mess, you clean it up... so I gave them permission. I was impressed with their finished product... and so were they! They decided it was so cute they didn't want to cut it open to fill it with candy and then whack it to pieces! They just wanted to look at it!

    My older daughter then posted step-by-step instructions, accompanied by pictures she took of the process, on her new blog for teen girls. (That's another activity she has recently taken up, and while it does involve electronics, I encourage it as a fun way to improve her writing skills and learn useful computer skills.)

    I'll be curious to see what the girls come up with next. What creative activities have your kids surprised you with lately?

    Thursday, April 30, 2009

    The Land of Story-books

    At evening when the lamp is lit,
    Around the fire my parents sit;
    They sit at home and talk and sing,
    And do not play at anything.

    Now, with my little gun, I crawl
    All in the dark along the wall,
    And follow round the forest track
    Away behind the sofa back.

    There, in the night, where none can spy,
    All in my hunter's camp I lie,
    And play at books that I have read
    Till it is time to go to bed.

    These are the hills, these are the woods,
    These are my starry solitudes;
    And there the river by whose brink
    The roaring lions come to drink.

    I see the others far away
    As if in firelit camp they lay,
    And I, like to an Indian scout,
    Around their party prowled about.

    So when my nurse comes in for me,
    Home I return across the sea,
    And go to bed with backward looks
    At my dear land of Story-books.
    --Robert Louis Stevenson

    Friday, April 17, 2009


    With warmer weather my family is beginning to think of more outdoor activities. One of our favorite extracurricular activities as a family is Geocaching. Have you heard of it?

    Basically, it's a high-tech "treasure-hunting" game, using the internet and a GPS. The "treasure" (or cache) is usually some kind of well-labeled, weather-proof container hidden in an accessible area, often out in the wilderness. The cache always contains a logbook for finders to sign, and usually a collection of trade items for finders to swap with. The kids love the trading aspect and enjoy seeing what is in each cache we find.Sound fun? To get started, log on to and put in your zip code. That will bring up all the caches in your area. They are rated as to difficulty. Then you can enter the coordinates into a hand-held GPS unit and off you go!

    We like to choose caches that are off the beaten path, and our favorites have been those that include a short hike. We have been Geocachers since 2002 and aren't nearly as active as some, but we love to try to hit at least a few caches each summer.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Supplementing Sonlight Curriculum

    When you order a Sonlight Core package, chances are you will get more materials than you can complete in a year. Most families don't try to "do it all"! However, if you're like me, occasionally you will read a book or hit upon a subject that your children are particularly interested in, and you want to learn more about it.

    Several years ago, when my children were quite young, I began to compile a list of links that enhanced or supplemented the Sonlight Core materials we were using. I posted it on my website, and many Sonlighters have told me that they have found it to be very helpful. Each year I have added to that list.

    Please let me know if you have corrections or suggestions for my list! Thanks so much!

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Resurrection Cookies

    How do you celebrate Holy Week and Easter in your homeschool? One year, when my children were younger we made "Resurrection Cookies" as a family the night before Easter. It was a meaningful devotional time and the confections were yummy! Here's the recipe we used:

    Resurrection Cookies

    • 1 cup whole pecans
    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • 3 egg whites
    • pinch salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • Plastic Ziploc Baggie
    • Wooden spoon
    • Rolling pin
    • Tape
    • Bible

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees. (Do this before doing anything else.)

    • Place nuts in baggie and beat them with a wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3
    • Open the vinegar and let everyone smell it. Put 1 teaspoon into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, all He was given to drink was vinegar. Read John 19:28-30
    • Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11
    • Put a little salt into each person’s hand. Let them taste it, then brush the rest into the bowl. (If you have lots of kids, put a pinch of salt in yourself, and then let each child taste the salt…otherwise there will be too much salt in the recipe) Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27
    • So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Sprinkle a little sugar into each person’s hand. Let them taste it, then brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16
    • Beat with mixer on high speed for 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents our purity in God’s eyes because our sins are cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18
    • Fold in nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60
    • Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and TURN THE OVEN OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door shut. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66
    • Now go to bed. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22
    • On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the third day, Jesus followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9
    He is Risen!

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    Invitation Accepted

    She stands by me,
    this child of three,
    Holding out
    a picture book;
    Her eyes in upward,
    pleading look.

    I think of pressing
    tasks today,
    Of waiting things
    of near demand,
    Yet swiftly reach
    for her small hand,
    And go with her
    to Fairyland.

    --Katherine Edelman

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Free Bible Study Resources Online

    If you know of other great resources that aren't on my list, please leave a comment and I will update this post! Thanks so much!

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    My Sonlight Shelf

    Every year when the new Sonlight catalog comes out and the homeschool convention season approaches, I take inventory of my Sonlight library. I check to see which books are still on the shelf where they belong, which have "walked away," and which need to be replaced. I don't yet have a complete collection, but I'm getting really close!

    I organize my books with color-coded spine labels. I use a white label (printed on regular address labels) identifying whether the book is a reader, read-aloud, history, or science book. Then I add a small strip of colored paper indicating to which level of Sonlight that book belongs.

    Did you know that Sonlight levels are color coded? Just do a search on the Sonlight website for "labels."

    Check out my Supplementing Sonlight page for links to activities to enhance your read-alouds and readers!

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Finding Quiet Time

    Recently I was asked: How do you fit in a prayer life and find those daily quiet times with God when you're surrounded by children, school and daily chores?

    These days are challenging, aren't they? Several years ago I asked my pastor and his wife (an older couple) this very question. How do I make my quiet time a priority when there are already so many critical demands on my time? I appreciated so much the wise advice they gave me.
    The first thing to remember is that this is "just for a season". God understands that as mothers (especially of very young children) we are often stretched to our very limits. He will be there for us even when we just find a quick minute here and there to spend in His Word.

    When my children were younger I found that a good time for me was during the afternoon quiet time. Even when my children got too old for "naps" I still sent them to their rooms for 30 minutes to an hour each afternoon for "quiet time". As they got old enough to understand I explained that Mommy needed a quiet time, so they had to go to their rooms and find something quiet to do. I tried to encourage them to have their own "devotions" with Bible story books or story CDs.

    Now that my children are a little older (and are willing to sleep a little later!) I have found that it works best for me to get up a hour before the children do, to enjoy my coffee and my devotions in the still early-morning house.

    What works for you?

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night...

    A little birdie told me that the 2009-2010 Sonlight catalogs went in the mail today! I always look forward to catalog season each spring. I can't wait to see the latest one! Of course, we can't order from it until April 1st... but we can sure start our wish lists, can't we?

    Keep an eye on your mailbox! It won't be long now!Don't you just love the cover photo this year? It takes me back several years to when my two little girls and I would spread a blanket out on the grass to enjoy a book together. My girls aren't so little any more... but we still enjoy doing this sometimes!

    If you are new to Sonlight and would like a catalog, you may visit the Sonlight website and request one free of charge!

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Myspace Comments

    Do you have plans to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in your homeschool? I don't have anything special planned this year... but boy, my friend Farrah @ Light in the Sphere does! She's going all out to celebrate the "wearin' o' the green" with her little boy! Check out her post on how they're going to turn the water green and all sorts of other mischief! Sounds like fun!

    Other years we have enjoyed reading about the "real" St. Patrick. One especially good biography is Flame Over Tara. It is part of Sonlight's Core 6 program.

    Saturday, March 14, 2009

    School Daze

    Just now in my blog-hopping I happened upon this "Saturday 9" meme which I hadn't seen before. Today's topic is "School Daze" so I thought this would be a great one to post here on my new homeschooling blog! Click on the logo to visit other participants.

    1. Do you have children in school?
    Yes. My children are 13 and 16.

    2. Did you go to public school? If you have children did/do they?
    I did go to public school, except for 2 years. I went to a Christian school for most of 7th and all of 8th grades.

    3. Are you currently in school or taking classes?
    Not officially... but I never stop learning!

    4. What level of education have you completed?
    "Some college." I had a year of Bible college, a semester of university, and a few other odd courses here and there.

    5. Do you, or did you have loans out for your (or your children's) education?
    No. So far we've managed to pay for curriculum as we go along.

    6. What are your thoughts on the cost of tuition for colleges and universities?
    I honestly don't know how most people afford it.

    7. Did school prepare you education wise for working in the real world?
    In some areas I'm sure it did. I mean, it would be very hard to have a job without knowing how to read or having basic math skills! In other areas, there is no way school could take the place of life experience.

    8. Did school prepare you emotionally for what lay ahead?
    Hmm... I don't think so. Was it supposed to?

    9. If you were to run a high school, what changes would you make?
    I do run a high school! :-) I homeschool my children... and I do it just the way I think it ought to be done!

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Books Fall Open

    Books fall open,
    you fall in,
    delighted where
    you've never been;
    hear voices not once
    heard before,
    reach world on world
    through door on door;
    find unexpected
    keys to things
    locked up beyond
    What might you be,
    perhaps become,
    because one book
    is somewhere? Some
    wise delver into
    wisdom, wit;
    and wherewithal
    has written it.
    True books will venture,
    dare you out,
    whisper secrets,
    maybe shout
    across the gloom
    to you in need,
    who hanker for
    a book to read.
    -David McCord

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    School in a Bag for Toddlers

    One question homeschool mothers often ask me is, "What can I do with my toddler while I'm trying to teach the school-age children?" My favorite response: "School in a bag!"

    You'll need a nice sturdy box (the kind that copier paper comes in is a great size) and several gallon-size zipper bags. Fill each bag with materials for one activity, and then put your bags in the box. Save this box only for during "school time."

    Some of my favorite ideas:

    • A handful of pipe cleaners and some chunky beads or buttons… or if your little one still has a tendency to put things in his mouth, provide a handful of Cheerios or Fruit Loops! 
    •  A small cookie sheet with some alphabet or picture magnets 
    • Touch-and-feel or lift-the-flap books 
    •  Preschool-style jigsaw puzzles 
    •  Inexpensive stickers from the dollar store or just colored dots from an office supply store and a spiral notebook to stick them in. 
    •  Play-dough (It's easy to make your own!) 
    •  Blunt scissors with scraps of construction paper 
    •  Extra-large crayons with a coloring sheet 

    The possibilities are endless. You'll probably want to add new bags from time-to-time, and "retire" some for awhile to bring out again later.

     Plop the Little Guy in his high chair with the tray and give him the contents of one bag to play with while you sit at the table and teach your older children. (Note: Take the activity out of the plastic bag before you give it to your child. The bags are just for storage, not to play with.) The high chair helps restrain him and gives him a nice play surface. When he gets bored trade bags with him. If he has a tendency to go through them too fast, set a timer for whatever length of time seems reasonable to you and tell him he gets to trade when the timer goes off. You should have enough bags in your box to keep him occupied for an hour or so by rotating bags with him.

     Have fun with your sweet little one! These years go by very fast!

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    High School Science

    Did you ever wonder how high school homeschool students got their labs done? If you're a homeschooler, you probably already know! In the kitchen, of course!When we were doing Biology we invited a couple other families to join us once a week for the experiments. We dissected an earthworm, a crayfish (which we all persisted in calling a "crawdad"), a perch, and a frog. It was fascinating! The kids were hesitant at first. Just not too sure about cutting into dead animals. But as we progressed they found themselves interested in actually seeing what was inside each creature, and were willing to take turns doing the hands-on parts of the experiments.

    Here's a tip about high school sciences. My daughter is not strong in math, so I was not sure what other high school sciences she could do. Both Chemistry and Physics have a prerequisite of Algebra I. My daughter will be doing good to get through Pre-Algebra and Consumer Math by the time she graduates. I knew she would be okay with Biology, but I wasn't sure where to go from there. I had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Jay Wile about it at a homeschool convention. (The Apologia booth was just across the aisle from my Sonlight booth!) Obviously, colleges will be looking for the Chemistry and/or Physics credits, but if that is not a concern, he recommended Astronomy and Advanced Biology, and then maybe even Marine Biology if we have time. I was surprised about Advanced Biology. I figured Chemistry would be a prerequisite for that, but he said no, the only prerequisite was Biology I. That was encouraging to me!

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    Naming Our Homeschool

    For several years I had been trying to think of a meaningful and appropriate name for our homeschool. Several families I know have come up with special names for their schools. Names are important to me, so I wanted a name for our school, too, but I just never could seem to hit on just the right one.

    Just a year or so ago as I was contemplating teaching through the high school years and considering the fact that my husband was homeschooled his last two years of high school, it came to me! The school name on his diploma is "High Way High School" and it is signed by both his parents. Of course! We would just be the second generation of High Way High School!

    I wondered why my husband's parents chose that name. I was pretty sure it had a spiritual application, and when I looked up "highway" in the concordance I found this verse:
    A highway shall be there, and a road,
    And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
    -Isaiah 35:8
    So I emailed my mother-in-law and asked her. She replied,
    "You asked, 'How did we come up with the name, High Way High School'? Answer: It had two meanings: A HIGH Way, meaning the Christian (and holiness) way of life, as opposed to a lower way, the way of the world. AND we were located on Highway 29. I don't remember which came to our mind first, probably Hwy. 29 where we were located, and THEN we thought that would be a good name for our school I don't think we thought of Isaiah 35:8 specifically, although I'm sure we were aware of that verse, but we definitely had that concept in mind. OR, we might have thought of it, since it fits it perfectly, but we didn't USE it as a motto, or anything. (That's been a long time ago!)"
    But it's a really great verse for a homeschool, don't you think? And did you notice how well it fits in with the theme of my blog? Some things are just meant to be!

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    When Mother Reads Aloud

    When Mother reads aloud,
    the past seems real as every day;
    I hear the tramp of armies vast,
    I see the spears and lances cast,
    I join the thrilling fray.
    Brave knights and ladies fair and proud I meet
    when Mother reads aloud.

    When Mother reads aloud,
    far lands seem very near and true;
    I cross the deserts gleaming sands,
    or hunt the jungles prowling bands,
    or sail the ocean blue.
    Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud, I scale,
    When Mother reads aloud.

    When Mother reads aloud,
    I long for noble deeds to do-
    to help the right,
    redress the wrong;
    it seems so easy to be strong,
    so simple to be true.
    Oh, thick and fast the visions crowd my eyes,
    When Mother reads aloud.

    -Author Unknown

    Monday, March 2, 2009

    Hands-On Learning for the Not-So-Crafty Mom

    My approach to homeschooling is to keep things as simple as possible. However, there's no denying that kids love to do things with their hands, some more than others. Rather than invest in pre-packaged "hands-on" curriculum, I have chosen to take a more natural approach. I provide my children with a variety of construction toys (Basic LEGOs , Lincoln Logs, K'nex , Playmobil, etc.) and allow them to "play" with them while I read to them. I used a literature-based curriculum with a lot of reading, and I discovered my children listen better if their hands are busy. Often they will build something that goes along with what they are learning!

    I also keep a cupboard stocked with arts and crafts supplies. (Shop in August for back-to-school specials and buy enough glue, crayons, markers, construction paper, etc. to last the rest of the year.) They have to keep it at the table, but I allow my children to come up with their own craft projects to supplement school work, or just for fun when chores are done.

    If your children enjoy coloring I highly recommend the quality educational coloring books published by Dover. Or do a search online for "printable coloring sheets." I have found some really nice ones that way, as well.

    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    Why I Homeschool With Sonlight

    Okay, I'll confess... before I had children I honestly thought I would never homeschool. After all, I had survived public school just fine, and as long as I was involved in my children's education I was sure everything would be just fine. The year my oldest child turned 4, a friend who also only had preschoolers invited me to attend a homeschool curriculum fair with her. She did intend to homeschool, and I was interested to see what was out there for preschool... because I knew I wouldn't be sending my child to school till kindergarten.

    Wow! What an overwhelming and eye-opening experience that was! I took the tote box they gave us at the door and proceeded around the hall, gathering as much information as I could. And that's exactly what I recommend to folks who are considering homeschooling for the first time. Attend a conference. Explore your options.

    Up until that time I only knew about a typical textbook curriculum, or a not-so-typical but still very cut-and-dried workbook approach. While I have always loved to teach, I wasn't sure that either of those approaches really appealed to me. I would really just rather read to my children. Imagine my delight when I discovered the literature-based approach to home education! I have always been a voracious reader... and I love to read aloud. To get to do that, and call it school? Umm... yeah, I b'lieve maybe I will homeschool!

    No, I really didn't make up my mind that day, but it sure gave me food for thought. What really clinched the decision for us was an opportunity to move out-of-state the next year, just before our daughter was due to start kindergarten. We moved to Idaho after school was out for the summer, so I didn't have a chance to check out the public school. My husband and I decided that I would try homeschooling for the kindergarten year and see how it went. After poring over dozens of catalogs, I finally settled on Sonlight Curriculum for that first year. By the end of the year, I couldn't imagine not continuing with Sonlight for the next year. So we did... and here we are 11 years later.

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