Monday, October 3, 2016

Data Collecting and Graphing with Apples

What better way to celebrate fall than with some delicious apples? Did you know there are over 7,500 varieties of apples worldwide? I’m sure you can find many cultivars in your local grocery store.

We took a trip to our local market and came home with one each of nine different varieties of apples. With our hands on some apples, we decided to do a taste test, gather some data, and graph that information.

Supplies needed:

  • several varieties of apples, be sure to make a note of their names!
  • data collection sheet
  • colored pencils
  • paper plates
  • paring knife
  • cutting board

Pass around each variety of apple. Observe its color, size and shape. Make predictions about how you think it will taste.

Slice each apple. Be sure to keep track of which is which! We put the sticker from each apple onto a paper plate so we could identify each type.

Taste a slice of each apple. Rate the flavor and crunchiness of each one. Use a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst.

Once you have enjoyed all your apples, it’s time to compile your data! Add up the points for each apple (for flavor and for crunchiness).

Draw a bar graph! Which apple is has the best flavor? Which apple is the most crunchy?

After we made a bar graph, I opened my favorite word processing program on the computer and showed my children how to create a graph there as well. We tried several formats and they decided on a bar graph showing both flavor and crunchiness ratings for each apple.

This activity was so much fun that the kids didn’t even know they were doing math! We just love hands-on homeschooling!

This article was originally published in October 2013 by Home & School Mosaics.

Monday, August 8, 2016

I Must Be Doing Something Right

Standing at the kitchen sink with soapsuds up to my elbows, I look out the window and see a little boy under a tree. He has a lapboard and a bucket of crayons. He’s laying on his stomach with his feet up in the air. A curious cat —that thinks it’s a dog —came to investigate him and he scratches it gently, now behind its ears, now under its chin.

I must be doing something right.

I’m sweeping the kitchen floor and stop by the back door window. I wipe sweat from my forehead; it’s summer. I watch a little girl run and leap grabbing hold of a bright yellow trapeze bar. It was new just this spring. I remember that first day; she was terrified to sit on it, afraid she’d fall. Now her young body is stronger and her confidence level is high. She hangs upside-down and hooks her legs over the bar. In an instant, she’s up! And then down again, hanging just by the knees.

I must be doing something right.

The hum of my sewing machine stops. I look at the bed behind me. A little boy is there; he is supposed to be sleeping. Instead, I see his round brown head bent over a book. It’s an old book, a reader printed in 1929; it was my grandma’s. “I know this story, Mama! The one where the pig is building a house.” He can’t read yet, but the book holds his interest a good long while before he surrenders to sleep.

I must be doing something right.

The backdoor slams. Again. I hear the pitter patter of little feet racing toward me. “Mom! Mom! Guess what!” It’s my four-year-old prancing, his eyes shining with excitement. “I counted to 100 without saying ‘one, two, skip-a-few, 99, 100!’” He had been getting tangled up in the teens and hadn’t quite made it to twenty, but once there it is easy to keep on going right up to a hundred.

I must be doing something right.

I’m collapsed in my bed. It’s only one in the afternoon, but I’m not feeling well. A little boy wearing brown knit shorts, an imitation tiger tooth necklace, a feather headband, and warpaint comes running in to me. “I’m an Indian boy,” he says as he leans his whole body against me, “and I live here with you in Indiana.” His shining eyes sparkle as he shares this intimacy with me. He kisses my cheek and runs off again.

I must be doing something right.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

Not every day is perfect. There are still times I have a child dissolve into a sobbing pile of snot because I dared to leave him with daddy while I drove five minutes across town to cast my ballot in the local election. True story. But within the midst of the mundane (and sometimes the frustrating) there are glimpses of perfection. They are gifts from Above reminding me that this life I lead, this work I am doing, is worth something. The work I am doing, the boring, hard, insufferable, joyous work, is right. I am doing something right. It’s right for me and right for my family. And I am blessed because of it!

This article was originally published in September 2014 by Home & School Mosaics.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Creation to the Greeks: Halfway Through the Year

We are now a little over halfway through Creation to the Greeks and MFW First Grade. As you may have noticed, I dropped off blogging every week as I expected I would. It's easier to blog when the days are short and cold, but much harder to find time for it once spring arrives and we're out gardening and such in our spare time.  I wouldn't have it any other way!  If you wish to keep up with our weekly doings, you'll have to follow my Facebook page which is updated almost every day that we do school!

So, now that we're on the downhill side of the year, I thought I would write a little about what has worked well for us this year and what hasn't.

Our planners

Back in January I copied the grid pages from my CTG and First Grade teacher's manuals and assembled them into a lesson planner for the year. (Remember: MFW allows for photocopying of the grid pages for planning and record keeping as long as you agree to never loan, give, or sell the teacher's manuals you've copied from.)  Since I am running these two programs concurrently, this has been a life-saver!  Sure, I still have to pull out the First Grade TM for the phonics lessons and the CTG TM for the notes of the week, but I don't have to juggle them both all day long. I can stash them safely back on the shelf out of my way while keeping my planner handy and keep us moving efficiently on through our day.

My other stroke of genius (or at least it felt that way when the idea came to me in the wee hours one night) was to make a second set of copies of the CTG grid for Miss M's planner.  I went ahead and had the extra copies spiral-bound into the back of my planner so that once a week I can pull out the next week's page and have her prep her planner.  At first I was doing this for her. I would cut apart each day and tape it one day per page into her spiral notebook. Then I would write extra details or special instructions for each lesson.  Somewhere along the way we shifted this task onto her shoulders. Now she puts the lessons into her planner herself and I read her the notes to record. I am so thankful to be modeling this kind of organization and self-regulation for her as she approaches the junction between late elementary and middle school.

Memory verses

I really wanted to make verse memorization something pleasant and maybe even a little bit exciting for the kids. To that end, I created a little "treasure box" of prizes they can pick from at the end of each week if they are able to recite their memory verse(s) correctly. I don't have something new in there every week, but I try to snag little inexpensive surprises to toss in there when I can.  Recently there was silly putty and a Wooly Willy in there.


Art has both worked well and not worked well. Here's what I mean. We started out the year doing both the art from First Grade and from Creation to the Greeks. The only problem is, my first grader really dug his heels in about participating. He's a bit of a perfectionist and just doesn't have the fine motor control to accomplish what he envisions.  So while the program itself was enjoyable, he wasn't having it.  For that reason, I set aside most of First Grade art and have focused on God and the History of Art from Creation to the Greeks. Mister E participates as often as I can get him to, but Miss M and I are enjoying it immensely!  Just take a look at some of the things we've done!

Language arts

We are using MFW's recommendations for 5th grade language arts: the middle third of Intermediate Language Lessons and Writing Strands. (We aren't doing formal spelling, but that's a post for another day).  The way the teacher's manual schedules language arts is ILL on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and then WS on Thursdays and Fridays.  I found through the course of last year and this year that this schedule doesn't work well for us.  Many times the Writing Strands units take 4-5 days to complete.  Having a huge gap between days (the weekend plus three days of ILL) made for a really broken flow. We would waste a lot of time trying to remember what it was we had been doing, where we were in the process, what she had been thinking of writing, etc.  In order to make the writing process flow more smoothly, I have adjusted the timing of the lessons. Once we begin a unit in Writing Strands, we set aside the Language Lessons until the WS unit is complete. At that point we go back and pick up the ILL lessons we missed and do those back-to-back days until we are caught up. Then we flip back to WS.  This sort of blocking has made a lot more sense to us than breaking up the WS units across several weeks.


Since this year is all about Biblical and ancient world history, notebooking has taken center stage. MFW sells a pack of student sheets to go with Creation to the Greeks and we have been using those, but we have added quite a number of sheets in addition to them.  All of our extras have come from <--- this is an affiliate link. If you sign up through this link I will get a little kickback. And if you sign up....THANKS!  We have added pages for major characters, major events like this Jericho page, people groups, geographical locations, etc. It's a great way for the kids to capture what they're learning and is going to make a great keepsake at the end of the year!


Our biggest failure has been -- no surprise -- foreign language. That seems to be the one area I just cannot seem to get a handle on!  We loved Song School Greek when we started out our year, but I just can't seem to fit it in. By the time we're done with everything else, we're done in and ready to break for outside play, housework, and supper plans.  Darn!  But I figure, if nothing else they've learned the Greek alphabet and that's more than I had at their age.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Homeschool Art Supplies You Need

I am not an artist. I can draw passable stick figures — oh, and trees; I can also draw trees — but that’s about it.  My kids are no artistic wonders either.  But we all enjoy sitting down with a few art supplies to let our creativity flow.  I make it a point to keep a few basic supplies on hand.


manila paper
drawing paper
newsprint paper
construction paper

Get started with the proper foundation.  Cardstock for watercolors, newsprint for a budding reporter, manila paper for treasure maps.  My kids typically sit down knowing exactly what kind of paper they want to produce the art they have in mind.  While plain old printer paper will work for most jobs, having the right paper for the project just makes the whole thing more enjoyable!

Bonus: pretty scrapbooking paper, brown paper lunch sacks, index cards, art canvases, tagboard

Writing Utensils:


colored pencils

The most important thing after something to write on is something to write with!  Does your project call for the bold rich colors of a markers? the smoothness of colored pencils? or the texture of a crayon?  Having a variety on hand can inspire the imagination of budding artists of all ages.

Bonus: Do-A-Dot markers, stencils

Office Supplies:

paper clips
binder clips
hole punch(es)

What may look like boring office supplies to you is a world of wonder to a kid! Paper clips, staplers, binder clips and more inspire all kinds of fun and fanciful artwork! 

Bonus: brass fasteners, ink pads and stamps, envelopes


school glue
glue sticks
masking tape
scotch tape

Now that you’ve cut things to pieces with scissors (construction paper confetti anyone??), you’ve got to have a way to put it all back together again.  Collages, paper “quilt” squares, finger puppets, and more can be fashioned with help from a little adhesive.

Bonus: glue dots, washi tape

Painting Supplies:

water colors
tempera paint

paint brushes

No artistic experience would be complete without at least dabbling in paint.  There’s something immensely satisfying about swishing your paintbrush in a cup of water and slashing color across a canvas (or piece of cardstock).  Whether you’re progeny is painting the next Picasso or just seeing what you get when you mix orange, green, and yellow, you simply must have some sort of paints on hand!

Bonus: finger paints, face paints, acrylic paints, oil paints, paint palette for mixing colors

Craft Supplies:

modeling clay
air-drying clay

pipe cleaners
cotton balls
craft sticks

Some days I’d rather do something less artistic and more crafty, so keep plenty of fun craft supplies on hand!  Twist a whole family of little pipe cleaner figures and set them to work building a home of craft sticks, complete with a kitchen sink out of clay.  Or make a colorful mobile with a few popsicle sticks and some soft yarn.  Let your creativity soar!

Bonus: glitter, goggly eyes, stickers, shoeboxes

What is your favorite art medium?  Did I miss anything you consider essential?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Visiting a Newspaper Office

Benjamin Franklin was a great inventor and made a big impact in history. He invented the life-saving lightening rod, started Philadelphia’s volunteer fire department, established a public library, and served as Philadelphia’s postmaster. He also founded several famous newspapers. To enhance our study of his fascinating life, we decided to take a trip to our local newspaper!

We visited The Landmark, one of the oldest newspapers in the state of Missouri and one of the oldest continuously published newspapers west of the Mississippi. The building The Landmark occupies is itself a piece of local history. It was built in 1869 as a drug store and post office. At that time, a post office was oftentimes a town’s center of news, just like in Benjamin Franklin’s day!

The Landmark sends out its paper for printing off site — easy to do in these days of digital layout and the internet — but their office is home to some amazing old equipment from days gone by. The most fascinating machine for the kids and I was the linotype machine. This kind of printing machine was the industry standard for printed media in the late 19th and early 20th century. It operates by casting a solid line of metal type, thus getting is name: line-o’-type. A linotype machine would have been one step up in development from the movable type press that Ben Franklin used.

Owner/Editor Ivan Foley showing us a block of text from the linotype machine.

The keyboard of the linotype machine.

Ivan Foley describing how the linotype machine works.
Ben Franklin was a man of his time, keeping abreast of the technological and scientific developments of the day. I believe he would be pleased to see The Landmark keeping up with modern times by being the first newspaper in the county to open a news and commentary feed on Twitter “where breaking local news, commentary, occasional clowning, and interaction with the public takes place 24/7.”

Archives of past issues of The Landmark.

Office Assistant Cindy Rinehart showing us how she does the layout of an article she received from a reporter via email.
Have you been to visit YOUR local newspaper? I’d love to hear about it!

This article was originally published in August 2013 by Home & School Mosaics.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Storytelling: The Adventures of Dale No-Tail

Shortly after moving to our new home this past winter, the kids and I noticed a squirrel that was different than the others because he had no tail! Or rather, just a stub of a tail left from some trauma he must have suffered. We have spent quite a lot of time speculating about what could have happened to him. Was he caught by a cat only to escape with his life? Did he get run over by a car? Perhaps he was caught in the crook of a tree? (This last theory proved more plausible after we found a different squirrel in January caught by its tail, dead, and frozen solid!) It wasn’t long before this unique squirrel was dubbed Dale No-Tail.

During our bemused observations, we discovered which hole in which tree is Dale’s home and before long we noticed a female squirrel shares that habitation. When she came to the porch rail, we also observed that she is clearly pregnant (and has nursed kits before; nature reveals these things!). She, of course, has been named Mrs. Dale and we are eagerly awaiting the young squirrel kits that will be running around the yard in early summer.

All these antics have inspired quite a bit of lore in our home. Can’t find your shoes? Maybe Dale No-Tail took them! Only found half of a hidden Easter egg? Dale must have absconded with the treats for his kids for Easter. It has also led to a lot of storytelling: Dale No-Tail Saves the Day!, Dale No-Tail and the Missing Acorn, A New Home for Dale. The majority of which are done orally as a group effort. We’ve learned a lot about squirrel behavior with some books from the library to flesh out the facts. One day Mrs. Dale was spied gathering bunches of dry leaves in her mouth and running up the tree to her hole with them, which inspired a whole spate of investigation about the kinds of homes squirrels live in.

This game of crossing back and forth between fantasy and fact is not only really fun, but it seems to help the kids learn to view things from a different perspective. Of course they know that Dale No-Tail is just a regular squirrel going around doing regular squirrely things, but in their imaginations he is a hero of epic proportions with stories of great valor to tell the other squirrels, and is the king of all the neighborhood squirrels. But in their telling and retelling of stories, they are learning a range of skills as storytellers. (Read about the powerful benefits of storytelling).

This article was originally published in May 2015 by Home & School Mosaics.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Favorite Poem for National Poetry Month: Jonathan Herrington Barrington Green

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with poetry. There are some poems I adore, poems that are like a drink of cool water to my soul. There are other poems that I utterly despise; they are like fingernails on a chalkboard to my soul or, worse, like a slow death by boiling. Some of the most enjoyable poems I’ve ever read are John Piper’s Advent poems.

In college I picked up a book of poems at the university bookstore and decided I couldn’t live without it. I sacrificed three days’ worth of lunch money to buy it! And yes, it still holds a place of honor among my favorite books of poetry.

Now there are thought-provoking poems and sorrowful poems; poems about nature and poems about people; and then there are goofy poems. In honor of National Poetry Month the kids and I wanted to share one of our favorite books of lighthearted poems with you. It is called When the Aardvark Parked on the Ark by Calvin Miller. If you enjoy zany poems that make you snicker, ones that you simply must not take too seriously, then you are sure to love this book just as much as we do!

With silly titles like “You Can’t Build a Steeple That’s Taller than God,” “A Glutton Can’t Button His Shirt,” and “Pharaoh’s Galoshes,” it’s hard to know where to begin! But among all the delightful gems, it is probably “Jonathan Herrington Barrington Green” that delights us the most. It is certainly the poem that gets recited around the house the most! Perhaps it’s because as children — either ourselves in younger years or our kids now — we have all experienced being made to eat something that we didn’t prefer. So here for your entertainment is the tale of poor, foolish Jonathan Green.

Jonathan Herrington Barrington Green 
“You can’t get down ‘till you’ve finished your beans,
Jonathan Herrington Barrington Green!
It just isn’t right to eat what you please
Seventeen helpings of ‘toni and cheese,
One half a pie and a strawberry freeze
And not finish one little helping of beans!”
On the thirteenth of May, [ninety two seventeen]
Johnathan Herrington Barrington Green
Looked at his plate of uneaten beans
And said to his mother, Gladys Maureen,
“I won’t eat these veggies. I hate these green beans!”
“Then you’ll never get down,” said his mother.
So he sat there all day and looked far away,
And all through the night ’til the fourteenth of May.
“May I get down now, Mother, sweet Gladys Maureen?”
“Jonathan Herrington Barrington Green, are you sure you have eaten every last bean?”
“No!” said the boy.
“No!” said his mother.
And so passed away
The fourteenth of May. 
Jonathan sat with his chin stuck way out
For a month and a day and a day and a month,
’Til the summer was gone and autumn had come,
And a day and a month and a month and a day
‘Till skies became gray and the snow fell around
And settled upon his old plate of beans.
“Oh, Mother, dear Mother, sweet Gladys Maureen,
It’s snowing all over my plate of green beans.
Please may I get down from this table and go,
For I hate my green beans when they’re cold as the snow.”
“No, not ’til you’ve finished every last bean!” 
Another year passed, then twenty-one more
And Jonathan’s mother was now eighty-four
And the beans didn’t look so good anymore.
“Please, Mother, these beans are too old — May I go?”
His mother was aged but firmly said, “No!”
Jonathan Green never left home again.
He never played football or made a new friend.
He nevermore studied or traveled or wed.
For fifty-five years he never ate bread.
He never slept in a fluffy soft bed.
In his ninetieth year when his beard had grown long
He choked down the beans by the light of the moon.
“Mmm! These weren’t so bad!” said Jonathan Green,
“I wish now I’d listened to Gladys Maureen.”

This article was originally published in April 2015 by Home & School Mosaics.