Teaching the U.S. Constitution

Teaching the U.S. Constitution

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I was not excited to teach the boys about the Constitution.

I have never been interested in this precious document. Terrible, I know.

Funny how your heart changes as you study something...

We have fallen in love with this document as we read and discuss our Constitution and the power of what was written.

This past week, we were studying t and foche first few sections of the Constitution and have focused on the fact that the founding fathers kept journals of all their meetings.

My boys keep journals, so I thought it would be fun to dig back through the House of Representative and Senate Journals.                                                                      What a treasure!

  • I had the boys choose a period of time in our country's history that interested them.

                          (They chose the Great Depression)

  • We then searched the journals to see what was going on in the legislature at that time.

Things the boys discovered: Just a few...
  • The members of the legislature had to wait until a voting majority arrived before discussing any governmental business. (It took weeks for them to assemble enough voting members)
  • Most of the action items we boring everyday necessities: Like budget.
  • You can glean what was happening at the time by reading through the journals:
    • The need to improve highway safety
    • Death penalty revisions
What a treasure to dig through historical documents with the boys!

I would highly recommend seizing opportunities to dive in deeper with your own kids: regardless of what you are studying together.

Do you want to browse the journals of the House of Representatives and Senate? Follow the links and see what you can discover about our nation!

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Homeschooling with Babies and Toddlers: Quiet TIme

Let me introduce you to my greatest secret for homeschooling 
with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers:

Scheduled Crib-time, Play-pen time, and room time.


Without a safe place to play, and a routine, my boys literally climb the walls...

Parenting Vocabulary:
Room time: a block of time ranging from 5-60 minutes built into your child's schedule where they  
      play alone in a safe and secure environment.
Alone: child is in a safe, and confined play space just out of sight of parent.
Out of sight: baby/child cannot see mom, but mom is fully aware of what child is up to.
Parent: the one in control of child's routine.
Child: little person being trained for future success as a functioning adult.
Parent guided: parent decides what child will do. Period.
Choice: the opportunity to enjoy the activity or go without fun time.
Neglect: never a part of healthy child rearing and training.
Controversial: Talking about parenting techniques that put the parent in control.

1. Prepare
Place toys in bins, preferably in an area that you as the parent can easily control. Choose which toys are for crib-time/room-time.
2. From as early as the time when a baby can sit safely, begin setting baby in a playpen/crib with a safe age appropriate toy, or bin of toys.

3. Set timer for 5-15 minutes. Turn on music. Say "It's play time".

4. Leave the area, but stay alert. I have some children who are more prone to danger than others.

5. When timer "dings" quietly re-enter and say something like "play times over, time to clean up". I always sang the clean up song. 
Help child clean up their space. 

Mama, please remember, "If they can empty a basket/bin, then they can be trained to fill it!" Take the time to teach your children to clean up after themselves.

6. Schedule a play time in the morning, before snack time or outside time; one for just before nap time in the after noon, or just before dinner prep time.

7. Over time, slowly increase the amount of time, until the child can self entertain for 45-60 minutes.

Why build in quiet play time?
  • Maintains parental control over baby's environment
  • Provides safe play area
  • Keeps baby/toddler right where you need them to stay
  • Provides an area of focus
  • Encourages self entertainment
  • Stimulates concentration
  • Unlocks creativity
  • Creates peace and stability in the child's day

Vary locations:
Remember-the goal of playtime is to train  contentment while simultaneously creating a safe environment for learning.
I recommend varying the location of playpen time at least once a week. 
This helps the child be more flexible. I have one child who craves routine far more than his other brothers, this varying of location helped him a great deal!

Safe Environments: I added age appropriate toys and activities to the play area
  • Crib
  • Playpen 
  • High Chair
  • Baby gate to keep child safely in the room I chose.
  • Pet corrals (like the one picture above. This one worked beautifully for outdoor play!
  • Car Seats. That's right. I used a car seat in my home to help little ones sit for a short period of time.

Rewards of Scheduled Independent Play:
All five of my boys enjoyed this quiet and controlled play environments. 
I can't tell you all the benefits I have seen over the years, but here are a few of the best ones:
  • Kids learn to focus
  • Kids have time to really explore a toy, story or idea
  • I could use these pockets of time to focus on older kids and their harder subjects.
  • Kids developed and created incredible "inventions"
  • This pocket of time transitioned to quiet reading time (or Lego Time) as the boys got older.
  • Encourages self-control
  • Still a highlight of each boy's day

I wish I could help you understand how big of an asset it has been for me to have this pocket of time trained into my boys' days. 
Here are some things they have created or completed during quiet time:
Cowboys in action.

He made glasses.

He followed the directions and built his robot.

Notice... I have him on my kitchen counter. 
I am right there preparing a meal.
The other boys were in their quiet zones, but this little guy was required to play quietly with the stickers I gave him:.

He knitted his own beanie on a knitting loom.
)All five of my boys were taught to knit on a loom.)

This is his OWN Lego Creation!

He made a huge Turkey.
(The picture doesn't do it justice)

He solved his rubik's cube.

Notice, most of these pictures show older kids: ages 3 and up. That is on purpose for two reasons:
1. My baby pictures are not digital and I am lazy:).
2. We train our babies so that they can reap the rewards later. Babies and toddlers that learn to sit still, play quietly and concentrate grow up to be incredible artists, builders, musicians, thinkers, readers, writers, gardeners, etc.

Last word:
Have patience. 
Any child can be trained to accept and love quiet time, but it takes thought and patience on your part.
When I first learned about this possibility I already had a wild 5 year old and an infant.
It took time to retrain the 5 year old, but I was patient and always made it a positive activity.

Last, Last word: Are my kids perfect?
(she gets up from laughing on the floor...)

No way! 

There were days that the kids "chose" to complain or whine through their quiet time. I still pressed on. 98% of the time, they settled down and focused within a few minutes. (music helped set the mood)

There were days that they refused to help clean up cheerfully. (They still were required to clean up.)

There were many, many days that they threw fits because they did not want quiet time to end. (Never give in to fits. I always said, "If you want to play a few more minutes you need to ask cheerfully and nicely... Let's try that again." Then I would leave the room and say, "ready to try that again?" Then I would re-enter and give them a chance to ask correctly. The goal was training:)

There were days they did not want to play with what I chose for them. But I was pretty firm. Some days I gave them a choice. I always gave them a bin/basket of books I chose. If they were done playing, they could read. They were not allowed to simply pull out other toys. **as they got older, they would clean everything up and ask if they could "please switch bins". 

I never lost sight of the fact that "I was training them in the way they should go".
It is my job as mama to teach my boys how to play, how to speak, how to listen, how to concentrate, how to respond, how to clean-up, how to sit still, etc. 

Do you train/schedule parent controlled quiet time in your day?

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Have you tried notebook in with your homeschoolers?
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Boys: Messy, Loud, Combative, Energetic-Verbs Personified

Are you a mom of boys? I am.
I am the proud mom of five Messy, Loud, Combative, Wonderful and Energetic future men.
My boys are "Verbs Personified".

(Combative- In this writing I mean competitiveness to the extreme. Possessing a willingness to die for victory. A spirit of "all-in". A determination that is indescribable)

If you only have girls, I am not sure how much this one will apply to you, but please read on and share with your friends who have boys.

I have spent a lot of time trying to stop myself from treating my boys like girls.
I am very aware that boys are made quite unique from we girls.
For the sake of this rambling thought, let's agree on a few things first.

  • Girls are wonderful. 
  • I love girls and believe them to precious in the sight of God. 
  • God and I do not love boys more than girls nor do we believe one is more special than the other. 
  • Boys and girls are uniquely and wonderfully made. 
  • I do not want to follow the rabbit trail of whether girls should do the same things as boys. That conversation would be better over coffee and pie.
  • I will not address girls in the rest of this conversation. Ready?

Boys are not knit together in a way that my girl brain understands.
Boys are verbs personified. Their first words were sound effects.

Boys draw, read and write differently than girls (Remember, I am a girl).

Just ask a little boy to draw you a picture. "Sheesh! What a mess!" you might think. There are scribbles all over the place, right?

Now, ask that little boys what is happening in that "mess" and a great drama unfolds.

This ship is trying to sneak up on that boat, as this soldier is parachuting out of that rocket, while over here that building explodes and these people escape for their lives, mines explode violently...   ...if you have a little boy, you understand.

Boys draw verbs.
They create action and drama.
Their pictures are often a scribbled mess because there is a whole story going on there.

There "subjects" don't stand still for the drawing, they run around, throw things, jump up and down, scream, and conquer.

For the longest time I struggled with this. My girl brain draws and creates "nouns pictures".
That pretty horse standing in a field of lovely flowers. Everything is standing perfectly still and is in focus.

My boys favorite way to draw a picture is to create a background scene and then go back and forth with a brother (or friend) and have a war. Each boy takes turns adding dramatic additions to their artwork. At one point I banned this type of art. My girl brain said, "It's too messy!" I wanted their art to be happy, lovely, colorful and girly.

What a mistake!

I am currently trying to clear out my "anti-boy" rules from my kids lives. Let's face it. We live in a very anti-boy culture. I thought I was pretty boy savvy, but I recently caught my own girl brain bias in action.

Here is my girl bias in action:

One of our sons received an  Ant Farm for Christmas. Best. Gift. Ever. for this future farmer.
I read the little brochure that came with the ant farm and there was a "suggested reading" page in the back. As a homeschooler, this is gold.

Anytime you can incorporate math, reading, writing and science to complement a passion you really have a "perfect storm for learning".

I found one of the suggested readings online.
Leiningen versus the Ants

I sat down and read it to myself to see if I believed the boys would enjoy it.
I was shocked. I decided it was to violent for my boys and was surprised it was included as "suggested reading".

I then began reading a book called Boy Writers: Reclaiming their Voices, by Ralph Fletcher. Inspired to embrace the "boy-ness" of Leiningen I decided to read it aloud to my boys...

They were captivated. They loved the arrogance, drama, and violence in the story. I asked the youngest what her thought about the story.

He said, "I think the main character was just like a teenage boy."
I asked, "What do you mean?"
He replied, "Teenagers think they are invincible and full of themselves. They cause all kinds of issues because they believe nothing bad can happen to them. Leiningen was like that."


I am currently working through the Boy Writers book and challenging my own thought process. Why not let them write about ________? (This is different for every boy, but always makes us girls squirm).

My challenge to you moms of boys is to really embrace who your boys are.

If they are like my boys, they are Loud and combative. My boys' favorite stories are active, combative, violent, good vs. evil, heroic, devastatingly sad, and even gross. They can find humor in the dramatic and be disgusted at weakness. I should not be surprised when their own writing and artwork displays these things as well.

Boys need a chance to express themselves and grow. They need a safe place to explore, battle and conquer. Writing can be a (here comes a girly word) beautiful place to express and explore being a "man". This is incredibly important to your boys.

We went to breakfast at a local restaurant and my son declared that he didn't want a children's menu. He asked for a "Man's Menu".

Of course, we need to guide our boys. There are definitely "Inappropriate and unacceptable" forms of reading, writing, and artistic expression. Each of us have our own set of standards.

But, we also should be allowing our "boys to be boys"... even in school. Even in art. Even in writing.

Embrace the boy. I am not sure that I will ever understand those sons of mine, but I do not want to be the one who pushes their masculinity into a nice pink box and then locks it in a closet.

Face it. We want our men to be strong, courageous, confident, bold, caring, loving, and kind. We want them to stand up for the weak and defend the defenseless. We want them to charge boldly into this world and lead with strength, dignity, and integrity.

Let's let them practice on paper.

Does the picture look like 7 mice had their tails tied together and ran across an ink pad, then across the paper? Simply say, "There is so much going on here. Tell me about your picture!" Then Listen.

Does the poem or story include people getting hurt and even dying? Are their guns and war? Do bones get broken? Are games lost and won?  Resist the urge to require safe and lovely stories. Boys usually grow through this season as they search for their "voice". Resist the urge to edit out the "boy". If they really struggle with the inappropriate, pull them aside and talk it through. Protect their dignity!

Boys are awesome. Boys are messy. Boys are loud. Boys are violent (Controlled use of sticks as swords, nerf guns, and weapons in general are considered a need to many boys- teach safety as they exercise their ability to protect and defend). Boys are chaotic at times. Boys are Amazing!

Do you have boys?
How do you encourage their masculinity in both life and school?

More Boy Articles:
My Son Almost Died Today
Emotional Boys: What's a Mom to Do?

My store is on sale January 20-21, 2016!!

Ants: An Easy Science Lesson for Multiple Ages

Our boys exchange names every year for Christmas and then are are blessed to buy gifts for their selected brother. This year, our youngest picked out an Ant Farm for his brother.

Not only is this an excellent gift for the animal lover of our family, but it has turned into an amazing "cross grade" science lesson. 

I find it crazy that I have been the mom of boys for over 22 years and this is the first ant farm, don't you?

The boys were beside themselves when the ants finally arrived.
Note: ants are not included in the ant farm. We ordered them from AntsAlive. The crazy cold weather caused them to be behind in shipping, but the ants arrived safe and sound!

It has been fascinating to watch these industrious little creature go to town!

If you know me, you'll know that I couldn't help myself. I had to make a fun learning packet to go with the Ant Farm.

Since I have 5th-7th graders I made this packet to be targeted at strong 3rd Grade readers. My youngest is still working on becoming a strong reader, so I wrote the text at his level. The research activities is where the older kids can show their brains:).

Are you studying Ants or Insects this year?
You may like this packet as well:).

Be the first to comment on this post and you will win a copy.
Once you see your comment has posted, email me here with the word ANTS in the subject line.
I will happily bless the first one to comment with a copy!

New Year; Renewed Focus

I have a love/hate relationship with the New Year.

Every year I fall in love with Christmas break. 
I mean, I fall in love with the break...

Late nights. 
Late mornings. 
Long walks. 
Christmas. Lights. Lots of coffee and cocoa. Celebrating Jesus. Family. Ahhh... heaven.

Then comes the longest day of the year for me. New Year's Eve.
I am not a late night owl. (Yes, I said late nights were on my love list just a few sentences ago, but I meant late like ten o'clock).

My kids seem to think that it is awesome to stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Me? Not so much.

I hate New Year's Day because it reminds me that Christmas break is over and that I have not thought about school for a few weeks. Drat.

Well, we are now three days into this year and I am less prepared than ever.
Each morning I am scrambling to make a to do list for each of the boys.

As I remind myself of my priorities, I thought I would share them with whoever may be in the same boat with me. 

If you are brand new to homeschooling, you may find comfort in knowing that even us seasoned homeschoolers short circuit at times!

New Year Resolutions Reminders

  • My attitude sets the tone for the entire home: Make time to spend with the Lord each morning.

  • My relationship with my husband trumps every other relationship: Focus on blessing, encouraging and loving my man.

  • My kid's character is waaaay more important than curriculum: focus on diligence, discipline, integrity, kindness, and love.

  • Plan. This is a big one for me. I need to set aside at least a couple of hours every week to wrap my head around where I am leading the boys in "school". I am behind. I need a big chunk of time to plan the rest of the year. Kids can smell when I do not have a plan...

  • Relax. The best lessons in homeschool are found off the beaten path. Loosen up on the to do list and keep my eyes open for opportunities!

  • Look ahead. I have one child graduating High school and another entering high school this year. I need to wrap my head around that. Make time (and a cup of coffee).

  • Focus on the eternal. Yes, I am a Christian. I believe the Lord is coming back, just like He said He would. The daily news could have been taken right out of Old Testament Prophecy. I need to share my faith with urgency-especially with my kids!

  • Take care of me. I am usually the last person on the list of people to help. I need to make sure I do not forget me. I tend to forget to eat and drink water. I need to lace up my shoes and get outside. I need to lose a few pounds.

How about you?
What would you remind yourself?

Snow Days: Setting Aside Curriculum For a Few Days

My boys and I are learning all about snow!

I set aside our "normal" curriculum and wrote a unit study on snow. Yes, I need a break.

The boys are loving the break from the norm and are dreaming about our first snowfall.

Hopefully we will be sledding before the new year. In the meantime we are learning about all the different types, colors, and sounds of snow. From Blood Falls to Surviving an avalanche, we are all amazed!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Snow Days!! All About Snow-4th, 5th, 6th Grades- No Prep

May the Lord bless you and your family!!!

15 Advent and Christmas Activities 
Math and Reading
3rd-5th Grade

Are You ready for Advent?

5 Advent readings for you to use in your weekly Christmas activities, or as your family advent devotionals.

 3 language activities using vocabulary from the history of Jesus' birth.

4 fun math activities  that are Jesus/Christmas focused.

I made this pack specifically for my fourth grader, but the older kids are already begging to do some of the activities. 
I have included an advent calendar and a Countdown to Christmas Chain.
We always write "prayer requests" and "thanksgiving to God" on our chains. Each day as we tear off a link, we thank god for a specific blessing or lift up family and friends in prayer. The kids love this!!

Hope you enjoy this activity pack!

More Christmas Fun/learning packs:

Best Deal
Christmas and Winter BUNDLE  **Save $8**

20 Christmas No Prep Math and Reading Activities-3rd Grade 

Snow Day Activity: The snowman "fun Pack"- (Created by our