Friday, July 30, 2010

day 204: story time

”A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” ~Lemony Snicket

Jakie and I are the only ones who regularly enjoy story time nowadays (sniff, sniff). However, sometimes we can talk Josiah into joining us, and occasionally, if we are reading a chapter book, Jonathan will listen from the dining room as he does school or works on a project. Of course, we all enjoy listening to chapter books and devotional type books together, especially when we are traveling.

Story time is one thing that I for sure do not regret spending the hours upon hours in the past twenty-seven years of parenting. When I had several small children, we would get the babies to sleep then cuddle in Mommy’s bed and read for one to two hours, then drift off for afternoon naps (including Mom!).

My first reaction to that is “How did I ever find time for that nearly every weekday afternoon?” And my answer is that I found the time because it was a priority to me. We find the time for everything that is truly important to us. (And I found the time for the nap because it was essential during the fourteen out of seventeen years that I was nursing and/or pregnant!) I stayed home most days and just invested in my kids and home—and I don’t regret it at all!

Obviously, storytime does not have to be just before naps. However, just like anything else we want to do, if it is important enough to us, we will put it somewhere in our schedule where it will for sure get done. For us, this meant attaching whatever we wanted to add to our schedules to something that was already in our schedule. (Another Gregg Harris tip from long ago!) For me, this meant attaching story time to just after lunch—right before naps. There in that spot for twenty years it got done “more often than not.”

I am forever grateful to good friends who taught me the art and beauty of the afternoon story time—right before naps—which we have adhered to during all of my days with napping kids. In the past several years, Jakie and I no longer nap, so we have our story time just whenever (oftentimes at night). I mark it on the calendar nowadays, making sure that we have three or four sessions each week of thirty to ninety minutes. (If I don’t keep track of it carefully, I can easily go a week or two without story time…it’s harder to fit in with only one child who is still at the storytime age, especially with so many olders and their needs.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

day 203: follow up to penmanship post--link for handwriting sheets

The other day I wrote about helping your kids with penmanship this summer. A link just came through my Facebook that is super for creating penmanship sheets for your kids--in the font, style, size, etc. that you want! It is amazing, so I thought I would share it!

August is nearly here! Not to make you feel rushed (though I am definitely starting to feel it)...but don't put off much longer any of the wonderful ideas you had for this summer!!

Penmanship Sheet Maker Link:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

day 202: last twelfth birthday

"...close your eyes very tightly and breathe in a deep breath of that moment...for someday you will want to close your eyes...and see that moment again."

Our baby just turned twelve. Unbelievable. I remember the days when all I wanted was a twelve year old! I actually thought that all of my problems (too much work, too little help, short nights, long days, so many needs of young children, etc.) would be solved if I just had a twelve year old to help me. I’m not sure where I came up with that magical age, but for me, a twelve year old was like having two adults home during the day!

Guess what? I was right to a large extent. The ages between ten and fifteen became true “magical” ages for me as my kids were so helpful, cheerful, and diligent. Of course, sixteen to twenty-seven have been wonderful too, but our kids get pretty involved in ministry, higher education, and work and are less and less available at home in that stage (as it should be). Those years have been amazing too, though, as we have watched our kids grow into the adults they are.

What I didn’t count on was the fact that once your first child turns twelve, time speeds up at two or three times its previous rate. While the days had felt so long, they were now over in the blink of an eye. While I had thought Joshua would never turn twelve, he did, and the next thing I knew, Kayla turned twelve, and, it seemed, a month later, Cami did. And so it continued until now…when our last little guy turned twelve.

So today we are having our last twelfth birthday party. Last night, as Ray and I lay in bed, we commented with teary eyes that Ray had just played basketball in the driveway for the very last time with one of our kids at age eleven. I had just read bedtime stories to our final eleven year old—for tomorrow, he would turn twelve, as all of the kids had done. And to think that I wished and wished for a twelve year old.

The moral of this story: don’t wish for a twelve year old. For you will likely get what you wish for—and maybe before you want it. You will probably get, as we have gotten, more than one twelve year old—in rapid succession.

Another piece of advice: every once in a while, close your eyes very tightly and breathe in a deep breath of that moment, whatever that moment might be. Hold it in your mind in still picture and say aloud, “I will never forget this moment.” Someday you will want to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and see that moment again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

day 201: penmanship help

Being the author of over thirty language arts and composition books, I get asked quite often about penmanship. Unfortunately, penmanship is not my area of expertise. Language arts and composition are communications/English courses—penmanship, however, is art!! Smile… In other words, I didn’t do the greatest job at penmanship instruction, in spite of my two credit hour penmanship class during college. (I can, however, write fairly nicely when I have “my” pens and write slowly.)

Therefore, I will give you some insights that I have gained along the way—in case you have kids with illegible writing that needs turned around in the next four weeks before school starts! And after you read my meager attempts to help you with penmanship, please go to the link provided at the end. Those people know what they’re talking about when it comes to penmanship help—and maybe you will get the assistance you are seeking! 

1. Penmanship and composition are two very different things. Composition is “writing,” in the sense of putting sentences and paragraphs together. Penmanship is, in my humble opinion, art.

2. Children do not “catch” penmanship. Trust me on this. It doesn’t just happen. Children need detailed, step-by-step penmanship instruction.

3. It takes forever for a child to learn to write—and even longer for a child to learn to read—cursive writing. Thankfully, there is a lot of research coming out lately arguing whether cursive writing is really needed.

4. Penmanship requires daily practice and thorough follow up. Once you check a penmanship page, the child will need a lot of help learning to form the incorrect letters right.

5. Penmanship should be done at a desk or table with the proper writing tool.

6. Penmanship needs to be done out of a penmanship book with the correct letters modeled and preferably with the stroke order given (i.e. start here, next go there, etc.).

That’s all folks. My limited advice about penmanship. It is one subject I wish I had done differently from the very beginning…so learn from my mistakes! 

And now, the link to really help you with penmanship:

Monday, July 26, 2010

day 200: it’s library time!

Here is where people,

One frequently finds,

Lower their voices

And raise their minds.

~Richard Armour, "Library"

In the fun days of summer, we can often forget about one of the greatest places to spend hot afternoons (if you can’t go swimming!)—your local library. The boys and I just enjoyed a day of “library hopping”—where you go from one library to another throughout the day (stopping for lunch, of course!), losing yourself in books, audios, and more. We have two branches of our local library and another dozen or so branches of the “big” library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We love library hopping!

Every Monday I have a list of “to do” items to get my week started off right. One of those tasks is “Library online.” This means that I go to my two accounts (one at our local library and one at the “big” one), renew books that are going to become overdue that week, check to see if any holds are ready to be picked up, place holds for books that I want to pick up in the next week or so, and often write up a “teacher’s collection.”

The “teacher’s collection” is, to borrow the colloquialism, the best thing since sliced bread. It is an amazing service that our large library offers that I take advantage of as often as possible. With the “teacher’s collection,” you fill out a form (available online or at each branch) for the types, ages, topics, etc. of materials that you need. It is available to teachers as well as homeschoolers (though I am sure they would oblige any parents who want to use the service to help their kids at home).

Here are some recent “teacher’s collections” I have requested, to give you an idea of the terrific things they do for us:

1. Audio historical fiction for grades four through eight that took place in the US between 1800 and 1900—25 pieces

2. Newberry award winning audio books from 1922 (the year the first Newberry was awarded) to 1950—as many as available (we use a lot of audio books here!)

3. Historical non-fiction books about US history for grades four through eight about the years 1800 to 1850—25 pieces

4. All “Little House” books on cd

5. Book and cd sets that are Caldecott winners—25 pieces

Obviously, the Fort Wayne library main branch can do those types of collections because it is a huge library system. I am so grateful for their help with our kids’ education.

So…take some time out in the remainder of the summer to go to that wonderful place, the library.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

day 199: the academy of arts

Two of our kids are gone this summer—ministering and working with an organization out of Taylors, South Carolina, The Academy of Arts. This ministry, founded nearly forty years ago by Dr. Nicky and Sherry Chavers, has been a blessing in our life—and I wanted to share it with our readers.

Specifically, our kids, Jonathan (nearly 18) and Kara (nearly 20), have traveled with their summer drama ministry over the past three summers. Jonathan is on the East Team this year and is playing Nichodemus in the original production, “Joseph of Arimethea” (written by Dr. Chavers). Kara is in their two year college program, an internship/Bible associates program in which students get hands on experience in drama ministry by traveling around and teaching drama to homeschool groups and Christian schools, as well as taking course work. This (the drama seminars for homeschool groups and Christian schools) is the part I would like to encourage families to participate in. (See Kara and Jonathan in costume in picture three of this link—aren’t they incredible??? Smile… )

During the academic year, the Academy of Arts has drama seminar teams that travel around to Christian schools and homeschool groups and teach drama to students in kindergarten through high school (broken up into two age groups). Our local homeschool group, Fort Wayne Area Home Schools, has utilized this amazing service for five years now—and I can’t say enough good about it.

Their website describes the seminars in this way:

“The Drama Seminar & Camp Teams, consisting of qualified Directors, Tech Men and Costume/Make-up Supervisors, have been "making the Bible come alive" for Christian schools since 1973. The ministry is convinced of the effectiveness of drama in teaching solid, biblical principles and religious history and is committed to instilling a conservative, biblical worldview in philosophy, teaching students that they can and should serve God with their talents. Take a moment to look at the two different kinds of "camps" (Dramatic Word Seminars and Homeschool Drama Camps) we currently offer during the school year. “

So many drama opportunities for students are either incredibly secular (not in itself a bad thing, but they often become less than wholesome environments for kids) or extremely time consuming (several nights a week for months). The beauty of the A of A is that they come in and do in one week (full days for junior high and high school and half days for elementary) what often takes several weeks. AND they bring everything with them. You provide the facility, meals and housing for their teachers, and the K through 12th grade students-and they will provide everything else: the drama, make up, props, costumes, teachers (our Kara is one of them!), sounds, lights, godly instruction for the kids via devotionals and positive lifestyle examples, and much more.

It’s not too late for your homeschool group or Christian school to register for a seminar in the upcoming school year. Check out the links below!

Our homeschool group’s drama productions over the past few years (elementary and other—this will give you a great idea of what your group or school will end up with!):

Academy of Arts home page:

Drama seminars for Christian schools and homeschool groups:

College/internship program:

Pictures of college kids’ home production “Last Leaf” (close up blonde who is ill in the pic is our sweet Kara!):

Another drama seminar’s pictures (“Man Without a Country”):