Sunday, May 8, 2016

Exciting Things Happening!

I know it's been awhile since I've posted.  I'm sorry if I've left you wondering what's going on.  So I'm here to share a little of what's going on!

First, I've been having fun over on my blog's facebook page (www.facebook.com/hswotrainingwheels) producing daily under-five-minute thoughs for mamas.  If you click on over there, "like" the page and then turn on notifications, you should see them pop up in your news feed (most) every day Monday through Friday.  As I say in the videos, I try to do them every morning, where "morning" is defined loosely as "before lunch".


The other bit of news, the news that has me almost giddy with excitement, is that we are about to move!  No, not houses.  Blog locations!!  Coming soon (very, very soon!) you can find me over at www.hswotrainingwheels.com!!  If you click on that link now you'll just get an ugly screen that says the blog is "coming soon" so here's a sneak peek at part of the new design and color scheme:


Don't worry - all of the content from this blog has been imported over there.  Some of the posts are "live" now and some I'll roll out a little at a time going forward.  Everything is in place; I just need a little more time to work on the "window dressing" and we'll be open for business!  If you are reading this post in e-mail, your address has already been uploaded for inclusion in the new blog's e-mail list.  (The first time you visit the new blog you will probably be prompted to give your e-mail address.  Go ahead and put it in.  You won't receive duplicate e-mails, but the blog will stop bothering you about it.)

I'm planning some fun "grand opening" events.  I'll keep you posted as I get closer to "go time"!  Would you please pray that I will make wise choices about managing this new space?  The moment one purchases a domain name, one is inundated with plugs from all kinds of services to "grow your subscriber list!" and "increase traffic!".  I'll be honest; I do want people to see the blog.  I do want the work that I put into writing and designing posts to be of benefit to people.  I do need to put some effort (and perhaps some money) into letting folks know that there is something available.

But I also know that numbers are not the clearest measure of whether or not the blog is a blessing to others.  And I'm not really interested in numbers showing up at my blog.  I want people (mostly moms or parents) who can be encouraged or inspired to think about things from a different angle.  It's not a popularity contest.  But it is a marketplace of ideas in which one needs to put out a shingle in order for folks to know that there might be interesting stuff happening inside.

Big adventures ahead.  And big challenges, too, I'm sure.  The support of those who have followed me here is more precious than I can say!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wisdom is the Principal Thing

Today I am guest blogging over at They Call Me Blessed for Ana Willis' "31 Reasons We Love Homeschooling" Blog Party!  Come check out the fun ...


Our family has been homeschooling for a little over seven years.  We now have four "school aged" children and three others waiting in the wings.  So, what gets me out of bed, day after day?  Why have we chosen this lifestyle for our family?  Many of the previous posts in this blog party have hit on some of our top answers.  We, too, want strong family relationships.  We want to raise children who have a hunger for knowledge and who are able to be self-directed in their learning.  We love the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling offers and the opportunity to tailor what we do to meet the needs and gifts of each of our children.  But if I had to pick one overarching reason why we love homeschooling, I guess I'd have to go with the motto that my husband chose for our homeschool:

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom.  And with all your getting, get understanding."
~ Proverbs 4:7

(Follow me over to They Call Me Blessed for the rest of the post ...)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

1 Corinthians 13 for Siblings


We often talk about love and wanting our children to love each other.  But what does "love" actually look like?  Are we talking about some warm fuzzy feelings? Or is love an intentional choice, an attitude, a purposeful reaction?

Let's examine a familiar passage about love and lay it out as it might look applied to the relationships of brothers and sisters.

Love is patient

I know that I have struggles.  I know that she does, too.  I want to keep on loving her, even when it seems like it will take a long time for her to understand or improve.

and kind;

God gives generously and without reproach.  I want to do the same for him.

love does not envy

I can be happy for her to enjoy something that I don't have or get.  It gives me joy to see her happy!

or boast;

When I talk to him, I want to think about how I can encourage and bless him, not on how I can promote myself or make myself feel (or him think) that I am better than him.

it is not arrogant

I do not assume that my opinion is the only right opinion or that my perspective is the only one that matters.  Instead, I assume that there is much I can learn from her and that her thoughts and ideas are valuable.

or rude.

I know that the words I choose, the tone of voice I use and what my body language says matter.  I know that, while my intentions are important, it is also important that I communicate them carefully.

It does not insist on its own way;

The universe does not revolve around me.  My needs and my desires are important.  But they are not the only ones that are important.  Letting him have his way can tell him that his needs and desires matter to me.

it is not irritable

I know that I am a sinner.  Other people around me have to deal with my sins.  Isn't it a little silly of me to behave as though I don't deserve to have to deal with her sins?

or resentful;

I need to keep a clean slate with him.  I want to deal with problems quickly, rather than keeping a list of his faults and offences.  If I find myself quickly reacting negatively, or saying things like "He always ..." or "He keeps on ..." this might be a sign that I'm not keeping short accounts.

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

My value does not come from being better than other people around me.  Therefore, when I see her fail or fall, that doesn't make me any better of a person.  My reaction to her struggles should be compassion, not delight.

but rejoices with the truth.

When we have a dispute, I should be most interested in getting to the bottom of the matter.  I want to know what is true (even about my own heart) more than I want to be "the winner".

Love bears all things,

Jesus bore my sins on the cross to death.  And through his grace I can bear the hardships and sufferings that come as a part of my relationship with him.

believes all things,

I should not jump to conclusions about her.  I should not assume the worst.  Instead, I should give her the benefit of the doubt and approach her with questions rather than accusations.

hopes all things,

The same God that is living and active in me is living and active in him.  I am watching with hopeful expectations to see the beautiful things God will work in his heart and life and in our relationship with each other.  Like a sailor in the crow's nest scouting for the next bit of land, I'm ready to take note and to give thanks when I see what I'm on the look-out to catch sight of!

endures all things.

I will not give up on her.  She might need some space.  I might need some space.  But we're not "done".  How many chances does she get?  Not seven.  Seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22)

Love never ends...
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Dear Mother,

If you are anything like me, you might be rubbing your hands together, cracking your knuckles and preparing to print this out and go preach a morality sermon to your children.  Could I ask you to do one thing before you head down that road?  Would you please go through this list one more time and instead of reading from the perspective of one sibling to another, read it from the perspective of a mother to her children.

(Go ahead.  I'll wait while you look it over.)

Was that painful?  If so, don't panic.  All of the "ouch" moments are actually extremely, hugely, magnificently excellently valuable opportunities for modeling love to your children.  Pull out your heart and place it on the table in front of your children.  Get out the microscope and let them take a look.  Point out what you see that doesn't match what you read above.  Tell them you are sorry for the times you've treated your agenda like it was the only one that mattered.  Explain that speaking rudely to them - or anyone - isn't loving and you want to grow in that area.

Then, take them with you as you go to the cross.  Pray - out loud, right there in front of them - and show them what we do with sins and failures when we find them.  Confess.  Thank the Lord for his free grace and forgiveness.  And then invite them to do the same with you.  That would be a great way to start the "sermon" (Matthew 7:4). ;-)

This post is a part of the Mama Marriage Counselor series.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Enchanted Learning


There is value in "learning to love what must be done".  But there is also value in embracing the natural passions that flow out of a child and his or her particular gifts.  One of my takeaways from last weekend's session "with" Julie Bogart of Brave Writer was this:

"One of our goals in partnering with our children in their education is getting the feelings they have about the things they are passionate about into the things we want them to care about."

I've been thinking a lot about this since I returned from my trip.  My son, Luke, definitely has a knack for sketching.  He loves to draw and any time he's not required to be doing something else, you can often find him drawing.  He is also a huge fan of Mega Man video games, especially the classic, old-school Mega Man.

Recently, my brother told him about a website gallery (http://www.themmnetwork.com/gallery/) full of Mega Man images.  Every boss, every hero, every character is represented.  Luke still spends a lot of his free time drawing, but now his preferred method is to observe one of the images on the computer screen and try his best to copy it on paper.

Luke busy drawing.
Mega Man soundtrack playing in the background.


Several years ago, we gave Luke Mark Kistler's "Imagination Station" - a book all about how to "draw 3D".  In that book, Kistler says this:

"Some folks have told me that copying artwork is wrong or bad.  I don't agree at all.  I believe copying artwork is great, fantastic and wonderful! The best way to learn how to draw in 3D is by copying other 3D art! When you are coping, you are learning techniques that will help you create your own 3D drawings.  The more you copy, the more you will learn.  The more you learn, the more you will draw.  The more you draw, the less you will have to copy.  Got it?"
So this week, when my son asked to use my computer again to copy more Mega Man drawings, I squelched my "hmmm ... is that a video game obsession?" and instead thought "His passion for Mega Man is driving him to self-train as an artist."  And do you know what happened?  Just this week (maybe because God knew I needed a little reassurance that we were moving in the right direction) Luke came and said to me "You know what?  I'm not just copying what I see anymore.  Now I'm kind of looking at the picture to get an idea and then I'm making my own drawing."  Apparently, Mark Kistler's prophecy is coming true!





But I think that the best win of all was when he laid out all of his art work on the floor and I asked if I could take a picture of it to share on the blog.  He was astonished that I was so enthusiastic to document and appreciate his art work.  I couldn't decide whether I was thrilled that he was so encouraged ... or whether I was chagrined that my enthusiasm was so astonishing to him!


Another sweet blessing has been his siblings' fascination with his work.  Once he has completed a drawing in black-line, he photocopies it and they have hours of coloring fun!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poetry Fun!

In our house, poetry tea time has landed on Wednesday afternoons.  If we can manage it, we make a quick trip to the library before lunch.  Today, when we finished lunch, everyone slowly trickled into the school room and all of the new books came out and were being read by children stretched out on the floor.  We almost didn't manage an actual "tea time"!  This library haul included some fun new combinations of poetry material.

First, I've joined a poetry workshop by Jenny White over at wHere Life is Real.  We're each supposed to pick one poet to study for the first half of the workshop.  I decided to choose Edgar Allan Poe since there is actually an Edgar Allan Poe museum here in Richmond.  So, today at the library, I picked up a few Poe books ...


I told the kids that these are for me (and that I got the juvenile biographies because I didn't know how much time I'd have to read).  One has already been "stolen".  Oh dear.  Whatever will I do?

That pretty yellow book is "Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems" by J. Patrick Lewis.


We also nabbed "Science Verse" by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (Scieszka is also the author of "Math Curse" and many other fun books).


Bonus: It comes with a CD recording of the authors reading the poems and joking around, after the fashion of the Car Talk episodes on public radio!  (Brief video on our Instagram account.)

Both of these books used well-known poems as the forms for their math- or science-themed verses, so it's given us a chance to read through some of the originals for comparison.  After all, parodies are always most enjoyable when the originals are familiar!

We also checked out "Mirror Mirror" by Marilyn Singer (recommended by Mary @notbefore7 and interviewed here on www.poetryteatime.com).


Marilyn writes Reverso poems.  She writes a few words a line in one column, and then it the second column, she writes exactly the same lines, but in reverse order, like this:


We also grabbed "Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word" by Bob Raczka.  


As the title suggests, every poem is composed of words that can be made from the letters in the (single-word) title!  One of our favorites is this one:

breakfast

after
rest

eat
fast
as
a
beast

How fun to be introduced to two entirely new forms of poetry!  I am somewhat attracted to the idea of trying my hand at composing Reverso and one-word poems, though I have a feeling it won't be as easy as these poets make it seem!

And finally, just because it was emanating awesomeness, we got "Blackbeard the Pirate King" by J. Patrick Lewis (which, I just realized as I typed this, is the same author as Edgar Allan Poe's Pie listed above!).  As I kid, I watched Blackbeard's Ghost (which, as wonderfully silly as it can be, is a tincy-wincy bit based on actual history).  This book tells, in lyrical style, supplemented with little fact-blurbs what we actually know to be true of Edward Teach (or Thatch or Tach) who became the character of legend: Blackbeard the Pirate!


If you check out and like any of these books, please leave a comment below to share.  Or, if you try a Reverso or one-word poem, please share the poem or a link with us.  Happy poetry-ing, friends!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Telestrations!

Last night Luke and I got to Scope together to share Telestrations with the world - but most importantly, with Uncle Ryan. :-)

Outdo One Another in Showing Honor


We often hear about "sibling rivalry" or "sibling squabbles" and want to know how to manage those episodes.  And, let's face it, those moments arise and those issues have to be addressed.  But the heat of the moment isn't the best time to start talking about how we should relate to each other.  That would be like waiting to start a savings account until you have a major home repair that you cannot afford.  However, if you find yourself in that spot, perhaps it will spur you on to think proactively in the future.

This same principle applies to relationships.  Of course, conflict will happen and will need to be addressed.  But the best case scenario is for there to be a regular, ongoing pattern of relationship building and strengthening in the "good times" so that there is a stock of trust to draw on for a "rainy day".  Rest assured, this is already happening in your home.  Siblings are building relationships.  Trust is being established and is growing.  But it can be helpful for us as mamas to know how to talk about it proactively, intentionally and positively (not just "Quit doing that to your brother!").

We have started to look at Romans 12 and we've seen these themes:
  1. Live peaceably with all.
  2. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  3. Outdo one another in showing honor.
  4. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We've discussed the living peaceably here and the rejoicing and weeping here.  But one of the best guides for positive, active relationship building is the concept "outdo one another in showing honor".  Here are some of the verses from Romans 12 that speak to that idea.


Rom 12:10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 

Rom 12:11  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rom 12:13  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Rom 12:16b ... Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

When read out of context "Outdo one another in showing honor" sounds like some kind of ostentatious flattery contest.  But when you look at the other verses, you realize that we're not talking about fake honor that is a kind of back door to self-promotion.  First, this honor comes from a zealous, fervent spirit intent on serving the Lord (v.11).  Secondly, it is related to meeting the needs of others and even looking for opportunity to do so (v.13).  And finally, it is something we do for "the lowly" - in other words, this is service we render to those whom we would not expect to be able to return the favor (v.16).

When my brother worked for Chick-Fil-A, he was trained to respond to a customer's "Thank You" with "It is my pleasure!"  My father picked up that habit because he felt it was a beautiful response.  I've picked up that habit because I also think it is a beautiful response, and because I have seen the glow in my children's eyes when I tell them that it gives me pleasure to do good for them.   I have also adopted that habit because I hope that by saying it, I can give a little nudge to my heart in those times when it doesn't quite agree with my mouth!

We've talked, in our house, about how diligently we would search if we knew that there were coins hidden in the house.  Since caring for and outwardly demonstrating love to those with whom we most want to build trust is far more valuable than coins, how much more should we be actively seeking out ways to do it.  When someone says "Can you hand me the box of markers?" instead of being annoyed or feeling inconvenienced, instead we want to think "Oh, good!  I've just found another way I can show love!"  Do we naturally respond this way?  Nope.  It takes practice.  It takes intentionality.  And it takes repentance.  "I'm sorry I got irritated when you asked for the markers.  I really want to be helpful to you.  I'm sorry I didn't respond that way earlier."

Want to know a little secret?  You, as a mother, have a tremendous (seriously, do not underestimate this!) power to enhance and multiply the effects of the little acts of kindness that may go unnoticed.  Lean over to your daughter and whisper "Did you know that was the last page of his sketch book that he tore out for you to use?  You really are very important to him!"  Mention to your son "I've noticed how your sister has started making a point to ask you before she uses your tools.  That tells me that your respect and trust is very precious to her."  Try it.  I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Please don't leave this post with the impression that our home is a continual festival of little acts of kindness and beaming cherub children.  What I'm illustrating here is not what we've achieved so much as a vision of what we should be thinking about and working towards.  Every day is a new day.  His mercies are new every morning.  And for this I am eternally thankful!

This post is a part of the Mama Marriage Counselor series.

Our Art Gallery

Just a little more fun from our Famous Artists On-Line Unit Study.  We learned how to use Emaze to make a 3D presentation that looks like our own personal art gallery!  (If you are reading this in e-mail and can't see the image below, click on the title link above to go directly to this post on the blog.)

Powered by emaze

For best viewing, click the arrows to see full-screen.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Loving Learning Freely!!


My friend Beth Napoli is a mama to five homeschool girls.  She's been creating unit studies for her kids for years.  It used to involve trips to the library and lots of books.  But recently, with the explosion in the availability of on-line resources, Beth began developing on-line unit studies for her girls.  Now she is making those unit studies available to others through her website Loving Learning Freely!


We've recently signed up for Beth's course called Famous Artists On-Line Unit Study.  Already I am blown away.  The first module was called "What is Art?" and led the children in an exploration of the concepts of "art" and "fine art" including a quiz where the children had to try to distinguish famous high-dollar art from kids' refrigerator masterpieces.  Not an easy task!

Each of the next ten modules focuses on one famous artist and each represents a different art movement.  Right now we are working our way through the DaVinci module and learning about Renaissance art.  I have to be honest; I have next to no background knowledge on any of these artists or art movements.  But I have been learning right along with the kids and loving every moment of it! We learned about the "sfumato" technique he used (I bet you don't know what that is!!) and a modern digital photographer who has invented a camera that can capture the individual layers of oils and pigment that Da Vinci used to create the Mona Lisa!

Today we studied the Mona Lisa particularly and learned about a man who tried to steal the painting in the early 1900's!  And then we got to our first hands-on project.  When I hear the term "hands-on" I usually feel a little knot developing in my stomach.  Either the materials will be bizarre or expensive or the project will be beyond my ability to demonstrate, manage or clean up (or all three!).  But so far this hasn't been the case at all with this On-Line Unit Study.  Today, we made Mona Lisa Parodies!!

All I had to do was to print out some black-line masters, tape them to the sliding glass door and provide paper, pencils, markers and colored pencils!  That was it!

Blackline master printed from On-Line Unit Study

Robyn, Age 6


Ruth, Age 8

Emma, Age 9

Luke, Age 10

Mama, Age 37

If this all sounds amazing, let me assure you that it is!  Beth has put a tremendous amount of work into this and it will certainly provide weeks of excellent, enriching information and discussion.  The entire eleven modules - and lifetime access to them - are available for only $24.  Unless you want them now.  

Right now, all of Beth's On-Line Unit Studies are 50% off at EduCents, meaning that you could join us in this study for $12!

I'm headed over there to purchase the Solar System course so that we'll be all ready for that next!

Note: This is not a paid ad.  I don't get any percentage of your purchase.  I'm just pretty hyped up about this material and the way in which it is delivered!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It is OK to Talk to Your Children

This weekend I had the opportunity to travel down to North Caroline to stay with a friend and to participate in a kind of satellite retreat.  She owns the rights to the Brave Writer conference videos from last year and so we watched them together with some other Brave Writer mamas.

This graph is a recreation of my favorite takeaway from this weekend.  I was just telling my mother last week how many times the kids and I have lost track of time absorbed in great conversation and then felt like we'd gotten "off track".  This was a great reminder that conversation isn't "off track" - it's kind of the point!

If you'd like to read a little more about the set-up, you can find a summary of the event here written by our amazing hostess!  (Pictures include me taking a "screen shot" of the TV with my phone and all of us enjoying a yummy lunch on the screened-in porch!)

I hope to blog more this week about some other good, encouraging tidbits.  If you'd like to keep up, please either subscribe to the blog or sign up for notifications on the blog's facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hswotrainingwheels.  You can also follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hswotrainingwheels.

Friday, April 15, 2016

-ng and -nk - Answers

Last week our Phonics Investigation challenge related to the ending blends -ng and -nk.  Here were the challenge questions:
  1. How many pairs of words like BANG and BANK can you find?  The first word should end with the -NG blend and the second word should sound exactly the same, but with an additional K sound.  The second word will be spelled with the -NgK blend.
  2. The -ng and -nk blends are used after every vowel ... except one!  Can you figure out which one isn't combined with the -ng and -nk blends?
  3. Can you think of any other occasions where a letter is pronounced even though it isn't written?
Here are some answers:

  1. Some possible examples are: sang/sank, sing/sink, 
  2. So far as I know, the -ng and -nk blends are not used after the vowel -e.  Or, put another way, we definitely have examples of those blends being used after the vowels -a, -i, -o and -u and have not been able to come up with any examples of it being used after an -e ... except perhaps the word "England" ... which may not "count" since it really sounds more like "Ingland".
  3. We still couldn't!  Can you?  It's not too late to contribute!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bazaar. Can't Stop.


Did that post title get your attention?  Well, I do hope so because I've got two great board games by designer Sid Sackson to share with you.  I just Scoped on these, so I'll be embedding the Katch replays down below.

Both of these games are excellent for a variety of age levels (my six-year-old enjoys them both ... all the way up through hubby and me!).  But one thing that has made them an especially good fit for our family is that they are easily accessible regardless of reading ability.  These are not "little kid" games.  But even struggling readers can play without hindrance because there is little or no in-game text.

The first game I Scoped about was "Can't Stop".  This is a press-your-luck, dice-rolling game.  Players roll four dice, make combinations and race to the top!



All of the pertinent info is in the scope except that Periscope froze up on me before I could finish, so I had just one more thing I wanted to share.  This game has been such a hit with so many of the children in our family that we actually have the problem of more people wanting to play than we had pieces for.  The game comes with four colors of player pieces.  Thankfully, my husband was able to order two additional player colors on-line, so we now have enough pieces for six players!


You can purchase the game from Amazon, but extra pieces can be found here.

Also, as I mentioned on the Scope, you can actually make a DIY version of this game. Free printables are available here.

(Be forewarned ... both of these links will take you to www.boardgamegeek.com ... it might be a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated!)

Then I jumped on again and did a quick Scope on a second Sid Sackson game "Bazaar".



I think I mentioned everything I meant to mention.  Except.  Yes, I totally forgot about one of the main components of the game: the die!


At the beginning of each turn, you can choose to make a trade using the exchange options on the market cards or you can roll the die.  There are five colors of "jewels" in the game.  The six-sided die has one side for each of the colors, and then a "magic lamp" symbol which is basically a wildcard.  So not only is there player choice in the jewel exchanging, but there is player choice when you roll the magic lamp and have to decide which color jewel to choose to reach your goal!

I hope that you are able to check out and enjoy one or both of these games.  They are not "brain-burners" (meaning if you have limited brain cells left in the afternoon or evening, they are still very do-able) but they are lots of fun and a good challenge for kiddos and parents alike!  Enjoy, y'all!

This post is part of the "Living" Board Games! series.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Rejoicing and Weeping


While we are called to live peaceably with all as far as it concerns us, there are degrees of relationship.  The closer the relationship, the more energy we are called to invest in it to keep it healthy and safe.  Each of us has a different capacity for relationship; we are not called to be equally intimate, to invest equally deeply in everyone we know.  Some relationships are to be given priority by means of proximity (loving your "neighbor" - see Luke 10:29ff) and sibling relationships are certainly some of those "neighbor" relationships.

Romans 12:10 says that Christians are to "love one another with brotherly affection" [emphasis mine].  Even the use of the word "brotherly" as an adjective suggests that there is a naturally assumed closeness and affinity between siblings.  So, what does "brotherly affection" look like?  There are four main topics addressed in the verses which follow:
  1. Live peaceably with all.
  2. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  3. Outdo one another in showing honor.
  4. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the previous post, we talked about #1 (Peace is an Uphill Journey) and I promised there that we'd expand on what it looks like to actively seek peace in the household. Today let's start a discussion about #2: rejoicing and weeping.  The verses in Romans read as follows:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Romans 12:15-16a

Part of what it means to love brothers and sisters is to "harmonize" with them, both in their joy and in their sorrow, to tune our chords to the major and minor keys of their melody.  This sounds commonsensical, but it isn't always easy.  We are naturally self-focused and concerned mostly with our own experience and emotions.  It takes a great deal of purpose and intentionality to observe what is happening in the lives of those around us and to engage with them in the rejoicing or weeping it produces.

When several children are playing outside and one falls and is hurt, others need to stop and see how they can help.  It is "discordant" for everyone else to laugh and play happily while a sibling cries nearby.  On the other hand, when one child receives a special treat or privilege, it is important for siblings to learn how to be happy for that child and rejoice with them rather than robbing them of a part of their joy by spite or negative comments.

Mama, when one of your little ones comes to you excited about a drawing or a nature find, do you enjoy it with them?  When a child is upset about something that seems to you like a minor problem, do you belittle their concern, or relate to their hurt?  This sharing in the moments of life - even when they arise at inconvenient times - builds emotional capital in the relationship bank.  This proactive, self-sacrificing, other-focused attitude is a huge part of the daily seeking of peace.

This isn't a "quick tip".  Your children will struggle to do this.  You will struggle to do this.  It goes against the grain and takes a great deal of self-knowledge and self-control to engage with another in their joys and sorrows, especially when those emotions happen to be contrary to what we ourselves are currently feeling.  Imagine how difficult it can be to rejoice with someone's new home purchase when you are experiencing financial struggles, or how difficult it can be to tuck away enthusiasm over a new baby in order to weep with a friend who has just experienced a miscarriage.

Sometimes, as a mother, you will have to counsel in both directions at once.  The child who gets to spend a weekend with the grandparents needs to keep from gloating over his privilege and to identify with how sad his siblings will be to miss him and to miss the fun with grandparents.  On the other hand, the siblings need to rejoice with him in his special treat and not try to make him feel guilty for having this priveledge.

What is the balance?  Who gives more?  What emotions are appropriate to share, when and to what degree?  This is not the stuff of rules, checklists and flow-charts.  This is the stuff of living side by side and walking through the experiences of life with your children in a wisdom-building, grace-instilling way.  This is enough work to fill up a lifetime.  But it is good work.  And it is work with eternal value.  Dig deep, mama.  Lean in.  Not a moment is wasted, not a tear or a prayer goes unnoticed.

This post is a part of the Mama Marriage Counselor series.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Phonics Investigation Challenge #4: -ng & -nk


This week's phonics fun fact is pretty simple!  Here we go!

When fireworks explode, they make a big sound; they say

BANG

Now, say that word again, but add a K to the end:

BANG-K

Does that sound like a word you know?  Maybe like this word:

BANK

Sure it does.  Because the ending blend -nk is really and truly pronounced as if it were spelled -ngk!  The word BANK has every single sound you hear in BANG ... plus the K!  Think of it like this:

-NgK

Sometimes we have a letter that is written but not pronounced (a "silent" letter).  However, in this case, we have a letter that is pronounced, even though it isn't written!

So, here is your challenge for the week:
  1. How many pairs of words like BANG and BANK can you find?  The first word should end with the -NG blend and the second word should sound exactly the same, but with an additional K sound.  The second word will be spelled with the -NgK blend.
  2. The -ng and -nk blends are used after every vowel ... except one!  Can you figure out which one isn't combined with the -ng and -nk blends?
  3. Can you think of any other occasions where a letter is pronounced even though it isn't written?
As usual, keep an eye out for this interesting phonics feature as you read this week.  And be sure to share what you find in the comments below!!


Why C is My Favorite Letter - Answers

Here are the challenge questions we were investigating this week:
  1. Can you find examples of c making a team with a k and examples of c making a team with s?
  2. Can you find other examples of words with a double c in which each c is making a different sound?
  3. Can you think of any other example in English of the same consonant repeated twice in a row (a "double consonant") where each of the letters makes a different sound?  (Note: There may not be an answer to this challenge, but if there is, I would be fascinated to know!!)
Answers:
  1. Many possibilities, such as "clock" or "scent".
  2. Many possibilities, such as "success".
  3. We have not yet been able to come up with any answers to this question, but it isn't too late!  If you come across anything, please let us know!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Guest Scoper!

Recently I've gotten to know fellow homeschool mama Andi Gould via Instagram and Periscope and have thoroughly enjoyed watching her Scope board games with her kiddos.  Today I got permission from Andi to share some of her board game Scopes with you here on my blog.  (Imagine me jumping up in the air and yelling "Woo hoo!!")  If you like what you see, you can ...

Find Andi on Periscope: @appleandigould
Find Andi on Katch: @appleandigould
Find Andi on Instagram: @appleandi
Check Out Andi's Blog: A Nest Full of Squishers (Isn't that a great blog title??)

A Nest Full of Squishers

(Note: Andi has tons of other wonderful and helpful information to share, such as tips on helping kids to pare down toy collections, information on participating in Nature Pal Exchange, which she helps to manage, and a tutorial on how to fold paper airplanes!  Check out her blog or Katch account for more good fun!!)

One of my favorite game Scopes Andi has done recently is this one on Clue Jr.  Apparently there are several versions of this game available and Andi did a fair amount of research to choose the one that came most highly recommended.  What I love about this version of Clue is that it eliminates the need for cards (which, it seems, are almost impossible for younger players to keep sufficiently private as to not ruin the game).  Instead, secrets are discovered by means of a red-colored magnifying glass reminiscent of the secret-code book that my brother and I loved when we were kids!!

I hesitated to share this because apparently it was published in the 1980's and Andi's copy was located at a second-hand store, but it seems to be available (used) on eBay, so if it looks fun, see if you can snag yourself a copy!



If you catch up with Andi on-line, please tell her I said "Thanks!"

This post is part of the "Living" Board Games! series.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Board Games for Little People



Tonight I scoped with Hazel, my three year old and Henry, my four year old.

Hazel and I talked about Zitternix, which is one of our favorite dexterity games.



Henry and I scoped about Stone Soup and The Secret Door, two cooperative games based on a matching mechanic with a little twist!



These Scopes are part of the "Living" Board Games! series.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Little People Love Gaming, Too!

Hazel playing picture dominoes with her great-grandmother.
One of the reasons we have embraced board gaming is because of how adaptable it is to whole-family, multi-generational interaction.  Granted we haven't figured out a way to involve the fourteen-month-old in board gaming in a meaningful way (i.e. chewing on game components doesn't count and is a cardinal sin in our household!) but we've been surprised at how early little people can participate in a way that feels like participation and not just "go over there and play with blocks".

Want to know how to involve your 3-5 year old children in family board gaming?  Here are just a few suggestions:


  • Play little-people games that big people (and medium people) can enjoy, too!  Perhaps when you think of little-people games, you think of games like Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land.  And perhaps that brings to mind cheerful images of you checking facebook on your phone while saying to your preschooler "Go ahead and take my turn for me, honey," glancing over only frequently enough to discern how much longer you will have to wait until the game is over.  These games fail to engage because they do not involve any interaction or decision making - they are 100% based on random chance.  Can it actually be called a "game" when you are really only watching it play itself out, rather than actually playing it?

    Perhaps some folks feel that this is the only kind of "game" pre-readers can handle.  Not so, my friend.  Not so at all.  One of the best type of made-for-little-people-but-enjoyable-by-others game is the dexterity game - a game in which the main mechanic is based on balancing or careful moving of pieces.  Other good game mechanics for mixing in little people are memory-based games and matching games.  Hoping to Scope soon on some of our favorites!
  • Play team-style.  Even if you are playing a family game, the strategizing or decision-making making may still be beyond the abilities of your 3-5 year old.  But a little person can be on a team with an older person and still participate in meaningful ways.  Begin simple and increase in complexity so that you can ease your kiddos into being self-sufficient game opponents!
  1. Have your little person roll the dice, spin the spinner or draw a card for you.
  2. Have your little person move your piece on the board, place a card or hand the dice to the next player.
  3. Have your child add up the total of a dice roll, count spaces on the board or announce the move or choice your team is going to make.
  4. Discuss the gaming decisions with your child to help them see how you decide what to do and what effect your choices have on the game.
  5. When your child is ready to be a player in his own right, you might play a round "open handed" - show all of your cards, etc. and discuss what to do (and why) before each move.
The more you game with your children the more adept you will become at anticipating how the unique abilities and developmental level of each child will interact with a game and how to make adaptations so that more kiddos can play. Oh, and sometimes the three year old will just want to go play blocks instead of sitting with you.  That is OK, too!

This post is part of the "Living" Board Games! series.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Living" Board Games!

I began the discussion here about investigating the concept of "living books" and jumping from there to musing about "living board games".  And I promised that I'd share my husband's brilliant thoughts on that topic, so here's me keeping my promise!

How to tell if you are playing an excellent family board game ...
  1. Quality family games are engaging for multiple age groups.  What does "engaging" look like?
    1. You are so involved that you really want to win, not just finish the game.
    2. You enjoy the gameplay so much that you'd play again, even if you don't win.  (In family board gaming - typically more than two players - statistics suggest that you will probably loose more often than you win, so games that are only fun if you win won't have much staying power.)
    3. You are drawn into the gameplay such that even when it is not your turn, it is interesting to watch what other players are doing and what choices they make.  (This is especially enhanced by game mechanics that result in some sort of interactions between players - i.e. the decisions of other players affect you and your choices.)
    4. The experience of a great board games makes family memories and stories.  You are still thinking about it the next day.  The play-by-play is enjoyable, even on the re-telling.
  2. Quality family games have excellent gameplay.
    1. They are built around engaging mechanics or an engaging theme that is supported (or at least not detracted from) by the mechanics.
    2. They invite analysis ("thinking") but in an organically entertaining way.
    3. Many of the best family games on the market today do not involve "player elimination" - in other words, all players play to the end of the game.  Winning isn't determined by "last man standing" but by points or other progress tracked throughout the game.  This avoids the scenario where those who fall behind not only don't win, but spend a great deal of "game time" sitting and watching other people finish the game without them.
    4. Usually they include some kind of catch-up mechanic, reducing the likelihood of a "runaway winner".  When the person in the lead is more easily able to make progress, the gap between the winner and the losers grows rapidly and those not winning become increasingly disinterested in playing.  Some games include special end-game scoring or bonuses so that it isn't really clear until the last minute who will finally triumph!
  3. These days, excellent family board games have high quality components.
    1. Board game manufacturers have learned that the tactile experience of playing a board game is very important.  Part of the enjoyment of board games is the physical movement of aesthetically pleasing bits and cubes and the handling of sturdy cards and dice.
    2. Sturdy boards, thicker cards and solid - perhaps even wooden - bits and player pieces make for long-lasting board game life and playing time!  Family versions of games often have larger cards, larger tiles and larger, sturdier player pieces.
This description of the experience of an excellent family board game can be found on the new page "Living" Board Games!.  In addition, you can check that page for links to related posts.  Upcoming discussions include Scopes on board games we love, tips for adding in little people to the family board game experience, and how to tell if a game will work for a non-reader or early-reader!


Friday, April 1, 2016

Phonics Investigation #3: Why C is My Favorite Letter!


The letter c can be a very tricky letter for little learners.  With many consonants in English, the name of the letter gives a good clue as to how to pronounce it.  t is called "tee" and says /t/.  b is called "bee" and is pronounced /b/.  But c is pronounced "see" and yet it often says /k/.  Except when it says /s/!  I have read that the two letters that can be completely omitted from the English alphabet are the letter c (which could be replaced by either s or k, depending on the sound needed) and q, which could be replaced by kw.

As fascinating as it is to contemplate two letters that do not make any unique sounds, I would be very sorry to lose the letter c, because it is my favorite letter in the whole alphabet.  Let me take you on a journey all about the fascinating properties of the letter c!



Sometimes we use two consonants together to make what we call a "blend", like this ...

snap
play and
twin

The letter c can be a part of some of these combinations, like ...

scat and
crow

However, when we see double consonants (the same letter repeated twice), we pronounce them as one sound, like in the words ...

buzz
fill and
glass

The same is true of the letter c in words like this ...

account

We might be inclined to describe this by saying that when the same letter is repeated, it counts as one sound.  But a more accurate description would be to say that when the same sound is repeated, we count it as one sound!  Check out this word ...

duck

Both the c and the k say /k/ and so they are counted as one sound: /k/!  But hold onto your hat because this is where it gets really fun.  You may have noticed that there is a pattern to when a c will make the /s/ sound.  Generally, c says /s/ when it is followed by an e, i or y, as in the words:

ccertain
city and
cycle

So, c can pair with k to make a single sound (like in "duck") but c can also pair with "s" to make a single sound, like in the words ...

scene
science and
scissors

So c can be a double letter making a /k/ sound, or it can partner with either k or s to make a single sound.  But here, by far, is my favorite phenomena.  Sometimes, two c's can appear side-by-side ... and yet the are not working as a team to make the same sound!!  Check out this word ...

access

The first c makes a /k/ sound because it is not followed by an e, i or y (it is followed by another c!).  But the second c is followed by an e, so it makes an /s/ sound!  I am willing to be corrected, but I cannot think of any other English consonant which can be written as a double letter ... and the letters do not work as a team to make a single sound!!

So, here is the challenge for the week:


  1. Can you find examples of c making a team with a k and examples of c making a team with s?
  2. Can you find other examples of words with a double c in which each c is making a different sound?
  3. Can you think of any other example in English of the same consonant repeated twice in a row (a "double consonant") where each of the letters makes a different sound?  (Note: There may not be an answer to this challenge, but if there is, I would be fascinated to know!!)

-s and -ed Phonics Investigation - Answers!

Last week we talked about the different sounds that are made by the endings -s and -ed when they are added onto a base word.  The challenge has come to and end and it's time for answers and shout-outs!

Last week's challenge questions:
  1. Can you figure out what the relationship between the /s/ and /z/ sounds of the -s or the /t/ and /d/ sounds of the -ed is?
  2. Can you notice any patterns in the base word (the word that you add endings to) that will give you an idea about whether the -s will say /s/ or /z/ or whether the -ed will say /ed/, /t/ or /d/?
  3. Bonus: One of these endings is more complicated to pronounce today than it was a hundred or two hundred years ago.  Do you know which one and how it has changed?

Answers:

  1. /s/ is the unvoiced version of /z/ and /t/ is the unvoiced version of /d/.
  2. The sound that -s or -ed make when added on to a base word depend on whether the base word ends with a voiced or an unvoiced sound.  For example...

    "cat" ends with an unvoiced sound (/t/) and so the -s added to the end makes an unvoiced sound (/s/) also, whereas "dog" ends with a voiced sound (/g/) so the -s also makes a voiced sound (/z/)

    "stay" ends with a voiced sound (/ā/ - vowels are always voiced) so when you add -ed it also makes a voiced sound (/d/).  "pack" ends with an unvoiced sound (/k/) so the -ed also makes an unvoiced sound (/t/).  Words that end with a /t/ or /d/ sound, however, cannot be pronounced by adding on an additional /t/ or /d/ sound, so instead an extra syllable is added, as in the word "braided".
  3. It used to be the case that the -ed ending was always pronounced as an extra syllable.  If you sing old hymns or listen to someone reading the Psalms, for example, you may observe one word that is still mid-transition in our language: blessed.  Some people pronounce it "bless-ed" and some people pronounce it "blest"!
This week's shout-out goes to my daughter, Ruth!  The entirety of #2 above was something she discovered completely independently!  We had already learned that base words that end in -t or -d cause the -ed to make it's own syllable.  But we wanted to investigate if there was anything about the base word that would predict whether the -ed would say /t/ or /d/ in other situations.

As we read through our chapter of the Bible, we made a chart of all of the -ed words we came across and whether the -ed ending made an /ed/, /t/ or /d/.  When we were done, Ruth eagerly pointed out that all of the /t/ words were unvoiced at the end of the base word, while all of the /d/ words were voiced!  We called this "Ruth's Theory" and continued to "test" it as we read.  We haven't found anything to disprove it yet.  Can you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Does It Draw YOU In?

Recently I've been inspired by several mamas I know to read more about and learn from the writings of Charlotte Mason - a pioneer in educational thinking, especially as it relates to the role of the mother in the development of her children.  One of the ideas I've been exploring is the concept of Living Books.  The Living Books Library wrote about What's in a "Living Book" or Why We Collect the Books that We Do and another post, complete with examples and illustrations, called Is New Always Better?.

Leah Boden, host of "The Charlotte Mason Show" on Periscope and blogger at "Living Soul Deep" wrote Can You Tell your Truth from Your Twaddle? Shedding the Light on Living Books  and What is a Living Book?.  Boden points out that, though tastes and interests vary between families and children, there are certain characteristics that can help one identify a "living book" when reading the first two pages:

Here are a few questions to ask during your two page test:
  1. Does it draw you in?
  2. Does it engage the emotions?
  3. Do you want to read on?
  4. Could you narrate from the section you’ve read?
  5. Is the writer passionate about what they are writing about?
I came across this same line of thought as it relates to teaching children how to write.  Julie Bogart, owner of Bravewriter.com and Poetryteatime.com and author of The Writer's Jungle: A Survivor's Guide to Writing with Kids talks about the story behind the development of this material in her blog post In Defense of the Writing Process.  She says that as she examined other writing curricula available,

The manuals I read showed “sample paragraphs” that weren’t even well written (organized, yes; but dull, lifeless).

In her Periscope The Secret to Breakthroughs in Writing with Your Kids, Bogart says,

So many writing programs had really crummy model paragraphs to go with their assignments.  I was looking at them and it’s like “I didn’t even enjoy reading that paragraph.  How in the world can that be a good model for my child?”  If you don’t like the model paragraphs in your curriculum, don’t use that curriculum!  It means that they haven’t actually understood that writing is for readers.

All of this reading (and listening) has been very informative, refreshing and delightful.  I feel inspired to seek out excellent and enriching reading material for our family enjoyment.  But it occurred to me that we do our children a great service when we teach them to seek out and identify the beautiful and the excellent in any field of study ... or even a field of entertainment!

Our family is an avid board game family.  This isn't simply because we like to play board games (though we do!).  It stems largely from the fact that my husband is a board game enthusiast, perhaps even (if I may be so bold) a board game connoisseur!    He not only enjoys buying and playing board games; he enjoys following the board game industry, game designers, game publishers and reviewers and the history of board gaming.

We have had many a conversation about the excellent, high quality and engaging board games that are available to those who know where to look for them, as compared to the sort one typically finds on the shelves of department stores.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or read comments from parents talking about consenting to play a board or card game with their children, and then putting up with it as long as they can stand it for the sake of quality family time.

Although I can't claim that enjoying and investing time in family board games rises to the level of importance of embracing excellent reading material or developing your own voice in the writing process, there are some parallels!  If you are struggling to make it to the end of the board game, if you dread being asked to play it and if you think that board games in general are something one must endure in order to make kids happy, you might not have experienced a really excellent family board game!  Why not set before your children board games that are well-designed enough to engage you?

As I began to mull over these thoughts, an idea took shape in my mind.  I shared  my musings with my husband and I asked him to brainstorm with me about the concept of "living" board games.  How would one go about describing or defining beauty and excellence in a family board game experience?  What he said delighted and surprised me; it was an inspiring encapsulation of what it looks like to enjoy a true masterpiece of a board game.  In the next few days I will be putting up a new page on the blog entitled "Living" Board Games!  I'll include Matt's description of how to recognize an excellent family board game.  And in that space, we will collect posts about wonderful family board games, including tips on how to use them with a wide range of kiddos.  Who knows - I might even be able to convince my husband to 'Scope with me!

"Wrong Chemistry" with Mr. Right.