Category Archives: Learning

God’s Gift Farm

Maybe you’ve seen their miniature horses at the Harford Farm Fair. Sweet little baby things you just want to pick up and hold.

Our friend invited us to come squeeze them at her farm. She let us squeeze on a few other softies as well.

Seems some of our clan might like to defect.

Yeah, I’d say she’s pretty squeezable.

After lunc, the call to adventure came from this mysterious place.

Of course, I, the level-headed, no-nonsense mommy, was more drawn to this inviting space.

Thank you, Winnie and family, for such a magical day.

New Approach to Household Chores: Hats

To tell you the truth, I was getting a little bored with the way we were taking care of the house. Not so much the getting clean part, but the “You have to do it because you live here,” line. So I decided to add a little spunk for the summer. Now we have four roles, represented by four different hats, for the children.

The Chef

This child (I still need to find a cheap kids’ chef hat…maybe Ikea?) gets to help choose the week’s meals, shop with me, and prepare dinners (which coincidentally relieves them of setting or clearing the table because if you cook you get out of those). She keeps the kitchen clean (and the nearby living and dining rooms since they’re all together). If she does a particularly excellent job, she gets to go out for a treat with mom or dad.

The Caretaker

I didn’t want to give such power by calling this the Third Parent, but this child does things similar to what only Mom and Dad can do (thus he dons an Ironbirds ballcap). He feeds and waters the dog, cleans the bathroom, and sorts the laundry. Sounds like a terrible role, right? Only this one gets to help walk the dog and stay up late one night during the week. Doesn’t matter how scummy the toilets are, they’re worth staying up late.

The Social Planner

Oh yeah, get out the plastic fruit covered hat! This child keeps the family room (where we take guests) and play room (where we keep the boxed fun) neat and tidy. She also plans family night, organizes dinner games, chooses our playdate for the week, and sets the dinner table. For a job well-done, she is invited to play a game ALONE (you know what a treat that is if you have four children) with mom or dad. This is, inevitably, the coveted position. Sometimes the kids have to beg for their hat back from me.

The Steward

This child, after donning the official gardening hat (okay, I don’t make the boys wear it), gets to help with all the “green” chores. He empties the compost bin, puts the recycling in plastic bags, takes out the trash, and water the gardens. (He also sets the dinner table–how that fits in, I’m not sure, but we needed someone to do it.) In celebration for a job well done, he gets a walk with mom or dad (which leaves zero carbon footprint).

Here are some photos of our first Steward. (She’s not too fond of the hat.)

Our Garden

My favorite part of gardening is my journal.

Well, and the fresh veggies. But that’s so obvious.

I started a journal last year, and it’s been such a joy to record our progress in it. Something about putting things down in black ink makes it worthy of sharing. I think this year I’ll print out photos and tuck them in randomly. Like this one of my precious six year old watering our cucumbers and squash.

I seriously would love to continue this gardening journal for the rest of my life. Call me weird. But God has taken me from despising dirt to longing to dig my fingers into its warmth and grittiness.

In fact, I like mygardening journal so much, I’m up after midnight taking photos of it and telling you about it.

Sorry I can’t make you a salad with my veggies instead. This is the best I can do long-distance. Bon Appetit.

Multimedia Learning

In the past I’ve rejected most of the online educational opportunities available. I like pencil and paper. I think it makes the mind sharper. But with adding in my fourth child to the home schooling mix, I’m newly open to computer learning. It’s fun for her and she is learning. I might be a convert yet. Just check out that proud face!


We’ve always used Handwriting Without Tears for printing. But for cursive, my oldest daughter decided HWT wasn’t “fancy” enough. She just loved the pretty script of other styles. So we tried no less than three workbooks in other styles; we abandoned them all. They were just too difficult.

Finally, we decided to take up the Handwriting Without Tears cursive program. My daughter learned in less than two weeks and LOVES it! I have to say it’s pretty cute–now I’m hard-pressed to find her anywhere except at the dry-erase board writing in cursive. Gotta love when learning makes them this happy!

I love you, too, sweet girl!

Inexpensive Preschool Tools

When my oldest was just four, I spent a few hours cutting all sorts of shapes from brightly colored card stock. On some I printed the name of the color, on some I printed the name of the shape. This one bag of goodies has been the backbone of my preschool curriculum for my four children, and they’re in good enough shape to pass on to friends. A few dollars and some time, and–voila!–a wonderful teaching tool.

My favorite thing is to just hand the bag to my preschooler and let her do whatever she wants with it. This time, Breanna built houses. All on her own. What creativity!

Poetry In Our Home School

A few years back I picked up a few books from the “A Child’s Introduction to…” series. This month we’ve been working through A Child’s Introduction to Poetry just after Bible and Breakfast on school mornings.

Each chapter introduces a style of poetry and gives examples. Sometimes we listen to them on the included audio cd, sometimes we read them aloud. You can’t just read poetry-with your eyes-you must hear it!

Then, you must write it. This is the children’s favorite part. They keep journals with their poetry and illustrations. These photos are from our Alphabet Poetry chapter.

Last week when we were running short on time, the children begged, “Please, Mom, please please please do poetry with us today!” They wanted poetry more than “free time.” What a testimony to the learning spirit inherent in children.

At the same time we also purchased Story of the Orchestra (which will be perfect to follow up our tour and performance at the symphony last week) and A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky, both of which we absolutely love. Sometimes impulse purchases are good.

Our Relaxed Home School

Some home school families are strict and regimented, with the adults making good use of schedules, desks and textbooks. 

Some home school families are  child-led, and very careful to avoid parent-imposed structure and so-called traditional learning techniques.

We fall somewhere in the middle, something we call Relaxed Schooling. Today I found a photo to explain.

(Yes, that is my son completing his workbook in…well, an empty laundry basket.)