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.


Monday, March 21, 2016

A Trip to the Dairy


A mere generation ago it was very common to have milk delivered to your door. Now, most Americans purchase their milk from a grocery or convenience store. But how does it get there?

Most children know that milk comes from cows. But what does that mean? If you cut open a cow, does it bleed milk? What about chocolate milk? Does it come from brown cows?

Do your children have a concept of how the milk they pour on their breakfast cereal gets from the cow to their fridge? I wasn’t sure mine did, so we took a trip to a local dairy!

We visited the Shatto Milk Company about an hour’s drive north of Kansas City. When we arrived, we were greeted by Barb and Leroy Shatto who started us off on our tour with a round of milk tasting. We tried banana, orange creme, strawberry, cotton candy, root beer, coffee, and, of course, chocolate flavored milks. Mr. Shatto told us that their root beer flavored milk has won first place in the world among flavored milks! Their chocolate milk won second in the world two years ago, but last year the chocolate didn’t make it to the competition. It is suspected that the delivery man may have gotten thirsty. Hmmm…


After filling our bellies with delicious milk, we followed a dairy farmer to the milking barn to observe a batch of cows being hooked up to the milking machine. We got to put our fingers in one of the udder attachments to see what the suction feels like. The cows seemed eager to have their turn at the milking machine. It must be uncomfortable to be so heavy with milk!


Then the dairy farmer led us to the milk processing room. There he pointed out the pasteurizer, the homogenizer, and the tank that is used to blend the sugar and flavored powders into the milk. The flavored milk goes back through the pasteurizer once mixed to be sure any bacteria that may have been introduced gets eliminated. We also saw a big churn making butter. Most of the buttermilk is simply washed down the drain since there isn’t much of a market for buttermilk in America these days.

Shatto Milk Company packages their milk in sturdy glass bottles. Glass keeps the milk colder than plastic jugs or paper cartons. The bottles can be washed and reused many, many times. Consumers are charged a deposit fee when they buy Shatto milk, a fee that is then returned when the bottles are returned. Bottles can be returned anywhere Shatto milk is purchased. Glass bottles don’t taint the milk with any unusual smells or tastes, keeping the milk at its finest! We watched as some dairymen ran the bottling machine. They fill and seal more than five thousand bottles of milk every day!



Next we went to the Calf Barn where we got to meet some of the cows up close and personal. Two new calves were born just that morning. They were both boys, so they didn’t get tagged or named. Only girl cows get to stay at the dairy. Can you guess why? Yep, it’s because only girls give milk! Both of the kids got to milk a cow by hand. They also got to see the cows poop and pee, a fascinating event when you’re 3 & 6!



The cows were quite curious. They investigated a demure barn cat and came close to see my camera. It was a really fun experience and I got to field lots of questions when we got home: “Mom, why were the cows’ udders so jiggly?”


My kids now have a better understanding of how milk gets out of a cow and into our refrigerator! Oh, and now they are big fans of candy cotton flavored milk!



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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creation to the Greeks: Weeks 6, 7, and 8

Spring has come to our parts early this year and that means it's been really hard to discipline ourselves to stay indoors with our books. It also means I've been terrible about taking pictures, posting on Facebook, and blogging!  There's nothing quite like getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine after the dreary chill of winter.

My last update on our school year was at the end of Week 5, looking forward to a week off. And what a week it was! I took the entire week to sew up a storm and ignored all the piling up housework.  It was wonderful therapy! The following week, we spent our time deep cleaning and catching up on all those pesky little house chores that tend to accumulate over time.


After two whole weeks off, it was tough stuff coming back to routine on Monday morning.  I gave plenty of extra time to Mister E to get moving in the morning.

And Miss M brought her feathered friend down to school with us.


On hard mornings, sometimes the best thing is a little alone time "airing out" with a fractal tile puzzle.


Once back indoors, Mister E investigated some honey and honeycomb while we discussed the verse: "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24).  He was very amused by breaking the cells on the honeycomb and watching the honey run out.


Miss M's started her study of the Ten Commandments with a sweet birdie on her shoulder.  Actually, it's a grumpy, crotchety old bird that has never really warmed up to people, but Miss M loves it dearly. Her love seems to be slowly winning it over!


We did some art. Miss M worked on some lessons from God and the History of Art and Mister E worked on a book of Animal Tales.


Sometimes it helps to share the writing with a reluctant writer. "I'll write a word, then you write a word," can help get over the hurdle of writing seeming like too much.


It continued to be absolutely gorgeous outside, so we spent a ton of time either doing our work outdoors or pushing through our bookwork quickly so we could just be out and enjoy it!  I had dug up a bunch of daffodils and irises ahead of some grading we had done along the side of the house, and all those beauties needed to go back into the earth.


The kids played and helped (and played) outside too. I think they're pretty happy to not be cooped up indoors all the time anymore.



We've continued on with our study of Ancient Egypt and the calling of Abraham.  Miss M and I made our own cartouches with hieroglyphics.


Our final "lesson" for Week 8 was how to remove the upholstery from the back of your couch and fix the frame so it supports a body, and you don't have to buy a new couch!  Isn't that on everybody's lesson plans this year?


We'll be starting off Week 9 with a Pi Day Pie Party and then putting our noses to the grindstone for the next two weeks before we get another week break.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

No More Quiet Time


I have always thought it sounded trite to speak of “falling in love with Jesus.” But trite or not, isn’t that what I want for my children? To learn to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

With that in mind, and having run across this blog post on Pinterest several months ago, I created a morning devotion basket for the kids and I to use. You see, up till now, I would typically find time to read the Bible and pray away from my children. Away from distraction, away from the demands of dust and dirty dishes, and away from the 437 questions a four-year-old asks every day. Then I realized I was doing them a major disservice by disallowing them to see me in the Word regularly. If I want them to love the Lord God, then I must show them how I love the Lord my God!

Our new routine is to wake up in the morning, prepare a simple breakfast — usually cold cereal for the kids, toast and tea for me — and sit down together with our meal and our Bibles. For a special treat, I often prepare the kids a cup of “milk tea.”

Here’s what I have in the basket:




The Children's Bible — This was my husband’s when he was a boy. I love the detailed artwork (in spite of the blue-eyed, blond-haired Jesus). It’s much more appealing than the cartoony artwork you often find in children’s Bibles.




Student Discovery Bible — Like The Children’s Bible, this is not a full-text Bible. Instead, it contains all the major stories of the Bible, but in a condensed format. It also has many side notes and facts that pertain to the life & times of the people in the Bible.




The One Year Bible for Kids — This Bible has been divided up into 365 readings, short enough for kids to get through in just a few minutes. While it doesn’t include every chapter and verse, it goes through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Each day’s reading includes Biblical text and a tiny focus paragraph to relate the reading to the child’s life, and back to Christ, too! I like that the readings are more Bible and less object lesson.




Jesus Storybook Bible — This widely popular title is a dramatic read that relates every story back to Jesus. In spite of its popularity, my kids don’t seem to like it any better than any of the others. The artwork is very pretty, but we still prefer the realistic art to the cartoony stuff.




International Children’s Bible — Here we finally have a full-text Bible, a complete translation that is accessible to kids. I prefer this translation over the NIrV for early elementary readers.




Proverbs for Kids from THE Book — It took me years to track down this book! That was mainly because I couldn’t remember its title. It is no longer in print, but used copies are available. It brings the wisdom in the Proverbs to life in amusing and memorable ways and opens the doors to conversation about right and wrong for the whole family!




My First Bible in Pictures by Kenneth Taylor — I adore the artwork in this sweet little picture Bible. The stories are told in simple language and the pictures are a feast for the eyes. You wouldn’t want this to be your only Bible or Bible storybook because the text assumes the child has a certain familiarity with the stores already, but we find it a wonderful addition to our devotion time.

I also have our Scripture Memory Box (ours is like this one) and a jar of prayer sticks with the names of all our family and friends written on them. The final item is my favorite hymnal.






Milk tea recipe:


  • Make a quick pot of tea. Our favorite is Winter Dream from Coffee Bean. Update: since Winter Dream is discontinued, our new favorites are Harney & Sons teas. They can be found on Amazon or at Target.
  • Spoon 2 large scoops of powdered milk into the bottom of a mug.
  • Add 1 spoon of sugar. (We prefer brown sugar!)
  • Fill the cup about 3/4 full with tea.
  • Stir well until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Top off the cup with cold water so as not to burn little tongues and give it one last stir.


Do we get this done every day? No! In a perfect world, perhaps. But — hear me now — it is not essential to have a perfect track record. You know you’re busy, I know you’re busy, and most important of all God knows you are busy. And we’re not talking college-student-finals-are-coming busy. We’re talking about the life and well-being of another human (or multiple humans) is entirely dependent on you! Sometimes you don’t have the choice between sitting down for 20 minutes and tending to your little one’s needs. The little one takes priority. Every time. So give yourself a little grace and remember that it is not essential to have a perfect daily devotion track record. What is essential is to show your children that spending time with the Lord is important.

So make it fun, but keep it simple. And don’t be afraid to abandon the idea of “quiet time” in favor of a rather raucous gathering of the tiny disciples in your care.




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

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: The Word of Promise New Testament, NKJV {an audio Bible}


I have had this product since mid December, so why am I just now getting around to reviewing it?  One simple reason: Miss M stole it from me and has been listening to it at bedtime every night! In fact, when I borrowed it back from her she was upset, insisting that she just finished one of the CDs and needs the next one for tonight.  That's gotta be a good testimonial right there!


What you get is a case containing 20 CDs covering the full text of Matthew through Revelation.  The recording is more than just a reading of scripture by one person; it is an audio drama in which different voices speak the different verses as if they are actually there. Sound effects enhance the production.

It's supposed to be a big deal that the cast includes:

Jim Caviezel as Jesus
Richard Dreyfuss as Moses
Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene
Stacy Keach as Paul
Louis Gossett, Jr. as John
and Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Mary the Mother of Jesus

But these big names are no big deal to me. In fact, I find that while Jim Caviezel made a pretty impressive Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, having him voice long passages such as the Sermon on the Mount quickly grows tedious.  Still, overall the voice acting and production quality is quite nice.

The Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible
ISBN: 978-0718024246
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
20 audio CDs, 20-hours

Having the Bible on audio CD is great for many reasons: little ones who can't read yet, you need to rest your eyes, your eyes are otherwise occupied (such as driving in the car), you wish to listen in a darkened room, and on and on.  I myself enjoyed listening while tidying up around the house and while doing some watercolor art with the kids.  For this price (under $25), this audio New Testament is a great deal.

Find it from the publisher here or on Amazon. I was given a free copy of this audio book in exchange for my honest opinion. The FTC requires that I disclose this information, but it in no way changes my expressed opinion and I wasn't required to give a good review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

10 Reasons for Year-Round Homeschooling


Here are ten reasons we school year round and what that looks like for us.

1. Enjoying the outdoors.

We take longer breaks in the spring and fall when the weather is perfect.  Unless you live near the beach (in which case, pat yourself on the back and move on to number two), you are pretty much guaranteed to have miserably hot summers and possibly even bitter cold winters.  It’s generally a lot more pleasant to be indoors draped over the air conditioner hitting the books in July and August than it is to be out and about.  At least that’s the case here in Missouri!

2. Celebrate!

We get to take the entire holiday season off!  That means more time for holiday gatherings, singing carols, and really focusing on the reason for the season.  This year we will break from the second week of November through the first or second week of January giving us plenty of time to prepare for and celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.

3. It’s life.

Year-round schooling is a better representation of adult life and teaches my children to work hard all year.  Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with a long summer break, but it is unlikely as adults they will get two to three months of vacation at a time.  (And if they do, they better come take me on vacation with them!)

4. Relaxed.

Because we school more weeks of the year, our days and weeks are lighter which leaves room for this mama to take better care of the house and yard.  Homeschooling a shorter, more concentrated school year is too intense for me.  I end up giving it all my time and attention allowing other things to slide.  When we school year round my house stays cleaner, we eat healthier, and we spend less money on conveniences.

5. Lifestyle.

Learning is a way of life for many homeschoolers, not just those who school year round; but, for us, doing our lessons is a natural part of our every day routine.  My kids love school. They love to learn new things and explore new ideas.  There are always new books to discover and old ones to revisit.  Because we do not attempt to recreate a traditional classroom at home, my kids are always eager to learn and learning happens anywhere.  Whether we are observing a new backyard visitor or discovering how to convert from kilos to pounds at the local grocery store, we are always learning.  (Yes, I said we — I am learning too, right alongside my children!)  Schooling year round fits right into this lifestyle of learning.

6. No brain drain.

There is no “summer slip” or loss of academic skill due to several months off from academic subjects.  Because the kids are constantly using their knowledge — particularly in subjects like math where the information is built upon previous know-how — they do not experience the summer brain drain traditional teachers dread.  That means we do not have to spend the first part of each new year in review, but can move on to new material and spend our extra time exploring things they are interested in!

7. Routine.

Children thrive on routine.  I thrive on routine!  We do not keep a schedule that tells us “at 8 o’clock you must do this,” but each day we follow a familiar routine that leads us comfortably from one activity to the next.  And we thrive on it!  In fact, Mondays are one of my favorite days of the week because we get to return to our routine after being out of whack over the weekend!  This routine ebbs and flows with the seasons, but it is always there throughout the year and we never have to get readjusted to a shockingly new routine.

8. Flexibility.

If everybody catches the flu and mama doesn’t get out of bed for four days straight, it’s okay.  You will not have the pressure of being behind schedule when you school year round.  Whether you have to log a certain number of days or hours to meet your state’s requirements, schooling year round grants you the ability to absorb those unforeseeable bumps in the road — or sometimes even the foreseeable ones like having a new baby!

9. Kid stuff.

My children get to enjoy their childhood.  They will not be stuck behind a desk on glorious spring days wishing they could go chase a butterfly or climb a tree.  Instead, they will be able to finish their lessons in just a few short hours and have the rest of the day to follow their personal delights.  Childhood is so very short and once it is gone you cannot get those years back.  I’m so happy knowing we have structured their learning in such a way that they can make the most of their young years.

10. Keeping up.

Smaller, more frequent breaks save my sanity.  Usually by the end of a longer chunk of schooling (six to eight weeks), there are areas of my house that are badly in need of attention.  Clutter has accumulated, the baseboards are grimy, the ceiling fans need dusted, and paperwork needs to be filed.  These things get pushed aside during our regular routine because I run out of energy or the kids are too engaged in what they are learning to stop and do extra housework.  Our regularly spaced breaks are a lifesaver!  What some might term “spring cleaning” gets to take place every six to eight weeks around here.  I am able to take some time to catch up around the house, to cook a few extra freezer meals for the crazy days, and maybe, if I’m really lucky, to sit down and sew something!


If my reasons for schooling year round don’t resonate with you, don’t feel bad!  A year-round schedule is not for everyone and you must choose what is best for your family.


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