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.

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.