Writing Organically

While there is always a time and a place for formal writing and learning grammar and techniques, I find my kids make the most progress through a more organic method of learning. By organic I mean naturally occuring…a term I fell in love with while reading this article in Homeschooling Today.

I have a five year old boy and a three (almost 4) year old girl who are at that age where writing has suddenly become very important. If these had been my first I would have been lining up the preschool-kindergarten curriculum. But they are numbers 3 and 4 sandwiched between six kids and I’d like to think I’m a bit wiser now.

They really don’t need much from me. They seek out writing utensils whenever they possible can…pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, sharpies…whatever they can get their hands on whether it is out to use freely or locked up. They write on everything…paper, scraps, notebooks, recycled material, the walls, furniture, cement. They mark their territory as individualism starts to shine. (As I type my laptop cooling pad sports the name “Luc” in sharpie). They are fascinated with letters and all I have to do is where t-shirts for quick 5 minute lessons as they point out and sound out letters on my chest. They draw picture upon picture upon picture and sign their name to everything.

Why was I ever worried with my first that I had to “teach” writing? God gave them these amazing brains that develop and unfold in His perfect timing. In the same way we don’t sweat teaching our children to talk, I’ve learned that we don’t need to do much for writing either. Showing them how letters are formed here and there, providing them with tracing opportunites so they can “do” school with the others, and writing down (dictating) their stories as they want is about the extent I do now. I know that later there will be copywork and dictation that will ease them into excellent grammar, spelling, and composition work. But, for now, I will thoroughly enjoy watching them discover writing on their own.

Unadulterated passion for learning…

A natural extension of who they really are…

Isn’t that worth stepping out of the way for?

Linking up with ~

The Elements ~ a Lapbook and Trading Cards

We had a full school week here despite strep visiting our house. There was plenty of sunshine for outside play and bike rides and plenty of rain for inside work. I set up the workboxes for older independent study this week. And the littles got to have fun with a Mario math activity and this cute princess sorting game.

Most of the work was catchup of miscellaneous stuff that just needs to be done…those last few grammar and phonics lessons and the dreaded end-of-the-year-this-is-too-hard-mom math workbook pages. I threw in some history-oriented literature ~ Tom Sawyer for Gabe and the first Meet Samantha book for Lily ~ light history with no extra activities for a little break.

To break up the monotony of the school that needs to be done, I threw in some fun stuff. For Lily, she got to spend each day playing with the Math Interactive Dictionary. She looked up what she was specifically studying for that day and had fun play learning some more about it (base ten, symmetry, inches).

Gabe finally got to start the elements lapbook he’s been wanting to get to. (More science mom, less history has been his rally cry for the past month.) I found a wonderful lapbook on elements over at Homeschoolshare.com based on the book Fizz, Bubble, & Flash: Element Explorations and Atom Adventures ~ a wonderfully living book on elements with lots of fun experiment opportunities. We added these make-your-own Element Trading Cards to the mix (he is cutting them out and using them as the base for his lapbooking) and using The Elements and The Periodic Table: Elements with Style as reference books for looking up information.

And for copywork and poetry memorization he is learning a poem right out of the book.

A Periodic Poem

Each element has a spot on the Periodic Table,

Whether metal or gas, radioactive or stable.

You can find out its number, its symbol, its weight,

And from its position, its physical state.

Elements lined up in columns and rows,

The reason for this order, as each chemist knows,

Is that atoms are made up of still smaller bits,

(Figuring this out tested scientists’ wits!).

In the nucleus, protons and neutrons are found,

And a cloud of electrons is buzzing around.

First take one proton, put in its place;

Now you have hydrogen, the simplest case.

Add two neutrons and one more proton,

and suddenly, the hydrogen’s gone!

Now you have helium, quite different stuff…

You get the picture; I’ve said enough.

These tiny particles: they’re like building blocks

That make people and buldings, flowers and rocks.

They create all of the elements we find

In everyday things of every kind!

I feel like we got a good chunk of work done despite not getting to everything on my list. But my list never gets done. Even when I think I’ve only planned a little, it always turns out to be more then we have time for! How was your week?

Joining Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers @

First Feedings and Other Musings

It’s quiet here tonight. Everyone is in bed snuggled deep in sleep. Even husband has turned in early in order to rise early feeding hungry teenage mouths. I find myself relishing this little piece of time. It is mine alone. There is no agenda. I am free to play or plan or work as I choose. I dabble a bit in the online library catalog requesting some stories that have been rattling in my head but that I keep forgetting to write down. I wish list a few more good picks from a pleasantly-stumbled-upon blog lushly titled Farmbrarian. I sip my Verona which has been out of stock for over a month and my taste buds delight in reacquaintenance. I listen to an NPR interview with Kirstin Kimball over her book The Dirty Life of which I am reading and laughing over. I am dreaming of a family cow and have pangings similar to baby fever.

And now I am here thinking of my littlest one.

He started solids this week.

And he is loving it.

I am a bit saddened. I waited until 6 months…long enough to build up my milk supply and get a few teethers in. I know I could go a full 12 with only breastmilk. I did with Ivy. Not by my choice but hers. She refused any sort of solid food whatsover whether it was rice cereal or applesauce. She wanted only mom’s milk and food did not interest her in the slightest till she was about a year old and then she went straight to table food. I worried and fretted for nothing. She was a fat little butterball getting all the nutrients she needed with plenty of cushion on her. But I would’ve liked a little more freedom. Freedom for daddy or grandma to feed her some solids so mom could do a grocery shopping trip or library trip alone. And with the annual garage sale outing coming up I started with this little guy. He takes to the spoon like duck to water.

Still, he had his first non-breastfeeding poop yesterday and a part of me cried a bit on the inside. No more cinnamon-yogurt-yeasty smelling diapers. Sniff sniff. I will spare you the picture! But the thought turns my attention back to cloth diapering and finding a detergent that works for hard country water. So I am all ears if anyone has any suggestions. Until then, I will enjoy a little me time.

Wide Open Spaces

We had some escapees this past weekend. I walked out ready to scold children for not staying up on chores when they commented on watching the horses. I had no idea what they were talking about at first until Lily pointed out the window.

And there they were in all their splendid glory. I was mesmerized. Being allergic to horses (or the hay they are kept around), I do not get many up close encounters of the equestrian kind. I just had to go outside and snap some pics. The nursery rhyme of all the dappled horses kept running through my head as my fingers clicked striking images. They just lazily stared at me with a passive interest munching on our weeds. Tree branches cracking as they stripped branches of leaves. Sounds reminding me of the massiveness of their musculature. Very Jurassic Park. Very primal. Horses…literally in my own backyard.

I was so sad to see them scooted on back to their own pasture an hour or so later.

Lazy Composting

After 5 years of gardening experimenting, I’ve learned a few gardening tricks that really work. Well, learned may be a bit of a stretch…more like learning the hard way by failing miserably!

My favorite gardening trick ~ lazy composting with egg shells and coffee grounds.

How it works ~

Plant three beautiful heirloom tomatoes in good soil with lots of compost.

Eat a really yummy breakfast of pancakes and eggs.

Drink your morning cup of coffee.

Rinse out your egg shells and mix it in with your leftover coffee grounds.

Sprinkle it around the base of your tomato plants.

Work it into the soil a bit with your fingers.

Voila…instant calcium and nitrogen fertilizer.

The result ~ Heirloom tomatoes you can actually eat that don’t have blossom-end rot.

Things Unseen…

Note ~ I wrote this post back in August of 2010. I think I meant to publish it or add a photo first before publishing. I’m not sure. But somehow it escaped posting and ended up sitting in my dashboard. While cleaning up I found it, reread and thought this is still just as important to me this day! Enjoy!

BLESSING # 421 ~ That He sees and that is enough

Wow…I am speechless as I read Ann’s lovely words, words that soothed my soul today. Our day was full and there is still more to do. I think about this blog often and have words in my head, sometimes even pictures on my camera. But time slips as my family priority intrudes and takes over. So, for now, I will give a glimpse of Ann’s insightfulness (PLEASE visit her site and read the rest…a balm for your day!) as I ponder my own priorities and the dark recesses of my heart.

Ann’s wise words:

Who can see the spelling lessons? The breakfast made this morning? The next chapter of The Yearling read, the last child rocked early in the morning, the prayers whispered in the middle of the morning? I try in a week and a lot may get done, but the right things?

I think how I want a crumbless, smudgeless, spotless house, a house with empty laundry baskets, empty sinks, empty garbage cans, with floors like mirrors and mirrors like water, and a pantry lined neat like books in the study and pies lining the counter like sweet children all in a row…

I want things seen.

The seen things can be idols…

Too often, sadly, I want product, others to see product, so they can see: I have worth. Stinking idols…

Again, today, I must: Slay the idol of the seen…

I’ll whisper the mantra that orders all priorities:

Unseen. Things Unseen. Invest in Things Unseen.”

~ 2 Cor. 4:18

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


Spring Shabby Chic

Having 6 little kids hardly affords me the luxury of styling my house in that Victorian shabby chic style of the magazines. All my pretties have moved higher and higher and higher so that now I have one small shelf way up high that little kids can’t touch. (Although I might have a few more high spaces if they weren’t taken up by my other love of homeschooling books!) So, what to do? Well, move out to the country…obviously. Doesn’t get more shabby chic then this.

My little piece of home paradise ~

Guilty-Pleasure Picture Books

I bet you have them too. Those books that your kids beg to be read over and over again. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those books that you sigh and say, “Okay…just one more time and then it’s time for bed!” Except that really inside you are smiling because  secretly you love reading these books.

They are lyrical and you find yourself changing voices, slowing and speeding up dialogue, and just plain enjoying yourself as you hear their giggles erupting.

Here is my guilty-pleasure picture book list.

The newest ~

Sleepover At Grandma’s House by Barbara Joosse

This is the newest addition to our collection from, you guessed it, grandma! I was a bit skeptical at first until I started reading lines like this

Well I’m going there this minute

to the Gramma who is in it

and the Doozie who is barking

and I’m bouncing bouncing bouncing

and I’m flipping off my shoesies

and I’m rolling down my socksies

and I’m sighing

and I’m singing

and I’m…



We love each other so.

and then end the book with lines like this…

At the tippy-end of our sleepover day

we like to finish up this way…

snuggled and together

on the pitter patter porch

on the ricky rocky swing.

“Ooooooh!” watch the lightning

sky writing.

“Ahhhhh!” hear the thunder

rain rumbling.

This we know –

the very best way to fall asleep

is inside a hug.

What’s not to love!!!

The classics ~

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

I know most mothers I have talked to are tired of reading this book. They grow weary of the repitition and the constant demand for it. But I can honestly say after six kids that I still love reading this book to the littles. It has been a household staple and the one audio book that has transitioned all of our children to their big kid beds.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

How many times have you heard yourself chanting this line under your breath when that is the kind of day you had? I can’t count the number of times I have lamented this line to my husband. As totally relatable books go, this one is the most relatablist. (Is that a word? Afraid not!) I like to read this one with a lot of 5 year old voice drama going on, which my kids totally appreciate. What more can I say?

The best before nap ~

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

This one is a quiet book that’s repitition is soothing to read right before a nap. And I love drawing out the sleep words like dozing and slumbering.

The best from a series ~

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Henkes is by far one of my favorite children’s authors and I love all his mouse series but Chrysanthemum is by far my favorite. There are three things I love about this book. The obvious is the moral tale of not being swayed by the opinion of others. I also love the use of big vocabulary used in such a charming unassuming way. All of my children have asked me what the different words mean and it creates a nice habit of allowing them to see that you don’t have to be afraid to ask about words that you don’t know. But my most favorite part is the repitition of the name Chyrsanthemum. There is something soothing and special about this that my children and I just love.


Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoben

Who doesn’t love the Frances books? They are chock full of exactly the kind of problems that real kids experience and what one is more potent then not wanting to try something new at the dinner table? My kids love hearing me make up a tune to her songs that pop up during the stories and I must admit…I’m not very original! These are the same tunes I made up to them when I was a child reading them for the first time.

The favorite from when you were a kid ~

I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayor

I think I used to beg my mom for Mercer’s books continously as a child. That said, in hindsight maybe I just rememberd them being read so often because they are short and my mother was all about a short story before bed. Regardless, pouring over the pictures on ever page to find the spider and grasshopper was always a delight.

the obscure but delightful ~

Cheese, Peas, and Chocolate Pudding by Betty Van Witsen

This is one of those books I found cheap, cheap, cheap at a thrift store…like 25 cents cheap…and picked up on a whim. But it is my children’s absolutely most requested book for me to read! But I mean, really, who can resist chanting, “Cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding…cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding…every day the same ol thing…cheese, peas, and chocolate pudding.” Do you see how addictive that is? Okay, maybe that’s just me.

Joining up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Free French and Spanish Lessons for Kids Online!!!

We have been having a bit of a spring break this week. Kids rooms got switched around. Gardening finally got started. New vans were registered. Errands were squeezed in between. There was little time left for any formal schooling so unschooling it was. More often then I can count the kids were immersed in some sort of self-learning…math, reading, writing, art. But the highlight of our week this week was finding these ultra fun free foreign language sites for kids. I noticed Lily browsing through our French Picture Dictionary and writing the french names of animals on a seperate piece of note paper.

I was secretly thrilled inside because I took French in highschool and fell in love with the romantic language.  Granted, I remember very little of it now but I was hoping maybe to relearn alongside a little one as they have an interest.  We mainly work with Spanish around here as that is what is most practical.

So I wondered as she was asking about the pronunciation of animals if there was a place online where kids could learn and play and hear the language. And…thanks to google…we found 2 very cool French sites and 3 very cool Spanish sites. Wanted to share them here today for any other homeschool moms who also are looking for language resources that don’t cost an arm and a leg!!!

Free French Lessons for Kids

  • Learn French Online ~ Great site for kids with drop down menus that allow the kids to easily navigate. Allows them lots of practice to hear the sound and then practice using the words in interactive games. I even love the alphabet page.
  • Cartoonita ~ Videos here geared towards early elementary students that teach basic language concepts. Will remind you of a PBS style French site.

Free Spanish Lessons for Kids

  • Learn Spanish Online ~ Same site as above but the Spanish version with all the same great perks.
  • Noah Comprende ~ A PBS kids site with short video cartoons and interactive games. About a little boy named Noah who visits relatives in Mexico and does not speak the native Spanish. He is constantly getting into a pickle based on his ignorance of the language. Does a GREAT job at engaging the kids. Even my three year old loved this site.
  • Spanish Town ~ More like an interactive kids Spanish Dictionary online.
So, what else have we been doing with our school week?

*You can find all these resources and more at the top under the Free Homeschool Resources tab!!!

A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie

A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie

No, we don’t have an Aunt Bessie. That is the title of a new book we are using…or rather an old book reprinted and revamped by Queen’s Homeschool Supply. One of those true living books about nature that I longed to read to my children but had no clue how to expand that over into an actual study of nature.

Sandi Queen must have had that same thought and she did something wonderful with it by putting together a Discovering Nature Series just for busy moms like me who are mulit-level teaching and just can’t squeeze one more thing into our already-busy planning sessions!  I just love grass roots efforts of other talented homeschool moms that really fill a need that is not there. That is just what this book does. It is a great mix of living book and Charlotte Mason teaching style!

Sandi cleverly breaks the lessons into chapters from the original book. You read a chapter to wet your appetite and then use the corresponding activities to further your study. It’s perfect. Some activities are coloring, some are researching, some are drawing, some are hands-on. There is enough activities after each lesson to pick one or two of your favorites or match according to level of grade but not so many so that you may just decide to do them all.

This book has been a favorite of the kids. We’ve been doing it for three weeks now and have learned all about spiders and swallows and sparrows. I will definately be ordering the next two books after we are through with this one. Here are some pics of the kids enjoying their new nature study.

Other spider books we read (from our own home library collection) ~

Beautiful Redemptive Weeds

I’ll admit…I’ve always had a soft spot for weeds.

As a little girl I made wishes on them. I painted with them. I collected them. I gave them as presents. I studied them. I pretended with them. I imagined with them.

And as I looked today out our window I was mesmerized by the beauty of the weeds popping out in color against the blue grey of the sky before the afternoon spring storm rolled in. I looked upon our very own meadow growing in our own backyard and thought of all those suburbanites killing their lawns with toxic poison.

I thought of all the children who would miss this childhood opportunity of mingling with the weeds.

I was glad mine would not be counted among them.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

And I like to think of Jesus seeing us that same way…not a noxious weed to be eradicated but a beautiful wild flower that, when planted where we were meant to grow, flourishes under his care.

Joining Ann at A Holy Experience

My Greatest Blessings

It seems only appropriate after Mother’s Day to reflect on being a mother and where my blessings truly lie.

Spring flowers are beautiful but fading.

But these…

…oh these children!

How they make my heart ache with a love so deep

They are the balm over their own chaos!

Counting Blessings # 414 ~ 420

#414 ~  first born sons

#415 ~ a daughter growing into a lady

#416 ~  my tankster who is the biggest softie of them all

#417 ~  our fairy changeling

#418 ~  crabby abby

#419 ~  my breath of fresh air

#420 ~  homemade cards that will not be put out by the curb like Hallmark recyclables

Joining Ann @ A Holy Experience

The Simplicity of Spring in the Country

I wish I could post the perfume that pervaded the air as these were picked! 

I wish that we could just do this and not worry about dishes and laundry and jobs and money and security. 

know that because of the fall we must work. And I even know work is good…good for the soul. 

But it is in the spring with the singing of the first flowers, the praise of the first perfumed spring scents lingering in the evening air where simplicity stirs again in my soul and I long for it like a parched plant in the desert. 

Psalm 104:14-21 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.

Romans 8:22-23 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

I feel myself groaning as I watch the sun set knowing I will walk inside and have to give baths, do dishes, fold more laundry, and clean the mud off the floor. Let it be a groan of praise…a waiting on Him and knowing His promises stand firm forever!