Archives for April 2011

the shirt I’m bringing home from the homeschool convention

Math manipulatives for little ones

(This idea was originally posted in April, 2008)

Who says you have to buy all sorts of fancy math manipulatives?  Crayons and tape squares work great at our house.  (The math I use for kindergarten through 3rd grade is Alpha Omega Horizon.)

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…seems to be swallowing up alllll of my time this week, what with chatting with friends, eating extraordinary Mexican food, signing books and — yes —  speaking about balancing time while homeschooling, and saving money at the grocery store. Although a few of my sentences meandered haphazardly, I was reasonably coherent most of the time.

I’m having a great time meeting people and admiring babies. Here’s Dana, convention coordinator extraordinaire, cuddling a sweet little one.  Olahoma is full of great people, if my experience here so far is any indicator.  (However, they do have an inordinate number of country music stations on the radio.  Seriously.)

I found a surprise or two to bring home — I MISS my family! (Even the dog.)  I am looking forward to meeting lots of people tomorrow.  Then it is two more presentations of the same talks on Friday in Tulsa– looking forward to meeting you, Tulsa people!  Saturday morning I head for home, arriving in Boise only an hour before our newlywed daughter Erika, who is almost is done with her semester as a student in Chile.  We will be so glad to have her home.

I will be glad to be home as well.  But for now I am off to bed.  Hope your week is going well too!

How to write a great SAT essay

(This was first published in October, 2009.   Feel free to add additional info and links in comments, below.)

I spent half an hour this morning googling SAT essay tips and thought I’d share the best links I found just in case any of you have student studying up to take the SAT next fall.


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Homeschooling with preschoolers

Homeschooling older children with little ones in the house can be a real challenge. Toddlers and preschoolers are energetic, inquisitive, and mobile. They make things happen. Woe to you if you’re not watching them while they’re making things happen. But how can you occupy them in a way that will still allow you to also teach older ones?

One of the things that has helped me over the years is an idea adapted from Montessori preschools. “Play stations” are independent activities set up in designated spaces on the floor. Children stay with one activity for 5 to 10 minutes. When a timer rings, they rotate to another station. Good activities include: dollhouse and people, Cheerios to string, blocks, stacking cups, Legos, simple puzzles, and stories on tapes.

Play stations require a little bit of training. At first you may want to be flexible with the time. With young toddlers, you’ll want to keep the time short– maybe 2-3 rotations of 5 minutes each once a day. Or you can let your child do an activity for as long as it holds his interest, and then pull out the next thing.


As kids settle in and their attention span increases, you can gradually increase the number of rotations, and the amount of time at each activity. If play is going really well, I’ll sometimes just turn the timer off rather than interrupt the child when he is really engrossed in an activity.

Vary activities often to suit your child’s interests. To keep several kids occupied at once, 4-6 activities are adequate. Set up stations a few feet apart to avoid squabbles. The time it takes to set up play stations will be rewarded by the sight of your little ones learning to play happily— and independently — near you.





1.) Indoor ‘sandbox’: Put uncooked rice into a large bowl on a bed sheet on the floor. Add cups, funnels, and spoons. Afterward your child can help clean up with a small broom and dustpan.

2.) Toy Dump: Suspend a plastic bucket from the ceiling about a foot off the floor. Put a plastic dishpan under it full of small toys. Toddlers fill the bucket and dump it back into the dishpan.

3.) Ball Toss: Use a bucket and aluminum foil balls, and make a masking tape ‘free-throw’ line to stand behind.

4.) Sewing Cards: Glue a picture to cardboard, then outline the picture with a hole punch. Your child ‘sews’ the picture using a long shoelace.

More homeschooling posts

Homeschooling: how we began

Homeschooling: why we stuck with it
Holy Experience: Pros and cons of homeschooling
Raising Five: Shelter is not a place

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Easter Sunday

Come, people of the Risen King,
Who delight to bring Him praise;
Come all and tune your hearts to sing
To the Morning Star of grace.
From the shifting shadows of the earth
We will lift our eyes to Him,
Where steady arms of mercy reach
To gather children in.

Rejoice, Rejoice! Let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice; O Church of Christ, rejoice!

Come, those whose joy is morning sun,
And those weeping through the night;
Come, those who tell of battles won,
And those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change,
And His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days
With the certain hope of peace.

Come, young and old from every land –
Men and women of the faith;
Come, those with full or empty hands –
Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world, His people sing –
Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age:
“Our God is all in all”!

New running gear = fun!

Recently I was sent a cute new running dress called a Nuu-Muu to review on my blog.   I tried it on and immediately liked the feel and weight of the fabric, as well as the flattering cut of the dress.

Male readers may wander away at this point if you don’t want TMI, but gals understand the issues female runners have with shorts.  Unless they’re very long, loose shorts often creep up, leaving you pulling them down repeatedly.  Tight shorts stay put better but unless you wear a long shirt, they’re quite figure-revealing. A lot of gals these days love running skirts (with built-in shorts underneath).  I’ve tried them on but feel they make me look very wide.

This dress has a lot going for it.  It skims over tight shorts, stays down when you’re moving, and is sleeveless for coolness.  And because the top and skirt is combined, the look is much more figure-flattering than a running skirt.  It even has a double pocket at the back of the waist, perfect for a driver’s license or a cell phone or your ipod. Several of my family members, including my husband, thought it looked too dressy for exercise.  But that might actually be an advantage during the times when you end up running to the store before you hit the gym.  I ran errands before the rec center yesterday (wearing the dress, capris, and a black jacket) and felt cute and well dressed.  The dress also looks cute (kinda like a tunic) with slim-fitting jeans and a sweater/shrug.  So you can see, it has a lot of potential for being a versatile wardrobe item.

Now I’m not gonna lie– at $80, I find the price point of this garment to be personally painful.  That is a LOT of money, and as beautifully functional as the dress is, I’d still have to think long and hard before paying that much for a single item of clothing. But if this dress sounds like it would solve your running wardrobe dilemma, the folks at Nuu-Muu are offering a 10% off coupon.  The code is NUUOWL — just type it in at checkout to get the savings.  There are lots of different patterns of the same basic dress.  Check out this picture for one more example of the versatility of the dress.


She talks to me, eyes all alight, telling me the details of her amazing technicolored dream. I watch her life-filled face, transfixed. So many times I’ve heard my children’s dreams, and yet each time I feel like I’m peeping into their souls. What things flow through their minds as they sleep?

Hers is about traveling and bad guys and kitties and doggies and finding people in unexpected places. And in the middle of it I catch a word that I love. At 6, she speaks clearly, no more baby talk, except for one little word that’s a holdout. “Yit” instead of “it”, and it is so endearingly her that my heart swells.

I suppose in a way she always will be my baby, even when I’ve forgotten all about “yit”. But for now I am glad for that last little hold-out, that little reminder that for this minute, for today at least, she is still so small…

Works for Me: Put up your flag

This post was originally posted in January 2008.


This school year I have 5 kids in elementary school. This makes for some crazy mornings of homeschooling. I’ve learned to stagger the subjects so that no more than 2 kids are doing math at any one time, since math requires lots of mom-help. But I’ve been frustrated with the way kids will badger me with constant requests for help, interrupting me while I am helping another child.

Finally I decided to make sure that each child had at least 3 possible subjects lined up in front of him. For example, alongside the open math book, let’s put the handwriting book and the reading book. I told my kids that if they were stuck on math, they were NOT to interrupt or sit waving their hand frantically, but instead
1. Skim the math lesson for other problems they can do unassisted
2. Do their handwriting assignment for the day
3. Get a jump start on their required 1/2 hour of independent reading each day.

To top off this plan, I made the kids flags. Each flag is just a little paper rectangle taped to a wooden skewer. Because I wanted the flags to be free-standing (leaving the kids’ hands free to keep working!) I stuck the point end of each skewer into a tub of playdough, right through the lid of the tub. This makes the flags stand up nicely. I made four, labelled 1 through 4.

During school time I set the flags in the center of the table where four of my kids work. If a kid gets stuck on an assignment while I am occupied, he takes the #1 flag. The second kid gets #2, and so forth. That way when I look up from helping one kid, I can tell who to go talk with next.

It may sound a little impersonal to tell your kid to take a number. But my kids really like the system because they know whose turn is next. Once they’ve grabbed their flag, they can go back to working on another math problem, or begin another assignment. I think this has really helped them use their time more efficiently. Often I find it encourages a few more seconds of thought about the problem too. Sometimes my kids give up too soon if I seem *too* available, ya know, when with just a little more thought they could come up with the answer on their own. This has made our mornings much quieter and less distracting.

I realize that not nearly everyone is homeschooling or dealing with the numbers of kids that I am. But I think that even a mom doing homework with 3 kids in the evenings might find some of these tips helpful.

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On endings.

(Update:  My friend is safe and in treatment.  Please pray for her.)


In case you ever feel that your life has no value, that your kids would be better off without you around, that ridding the world of you would be a blessing to everyone. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

Suicide doesn’t take the burden of you away from your children. It weighs them down unforgettably, tainting even the good memories, makes them question how lovable they were.  What makes a parent value a child so little that they would just leave?

Yes, at some point they’ll read about depression and how it alters brain chemistry, how it is a disease like any other, how the person was not quite ‘in’ his or her head. How it isn’t their fault.  (It isn’t!)  And the grace of Jesus can  heal wounds, even those inflicted by those who are supposed to love us best.  And unlike people, Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.  Never.

But the cold hard truth is that suicide feels like abandonment to those left behind, and every family member of a suicidal person feels the rejection.  Knows the pain.  This is leaving, not rescuing.

So don’t go.  Don’t leave.  Don’t abandon.  Stick with your people.  Beg for help.   Sit on doorsteps til you get it.  Talk. Tell people.  Dig into the Psalms.  Trust people with your pain, over and over and over.  Keep walking.  Take a minute at a time.  Trust God.   Pray.  Talk.  Walk.  Repeat.  Wait on the Lord.

Stay. Stay. Stay.


Apologies to friends for whom this post is personally painful. And friends, please pray for a friend of mine who left a suicide note this morning. My heart is deeply burdened on her behalf.