Inspire Kids to Read by Hanging Them

My son is terrified of needles.
           And swarms of bees.
                         And sour cream.

Strange boy.

But I am not exaggerating when I say nothing makes that boy of mine run faster than presenting him with a book that he needs to read.

You see this is a problem.
I am a homeschool mom. My sons must read. It says so right in the homeschool Bible.

How can I successfully homeschool if my boy don't read and rite? (wink)

All four of our older boys learned to read. So I was determined to trick my youngest bugger into reading too.

I reached deep into my homeschool bag of tricks and pulled out the one labelled "hang 'em".

Ok, not with a rope... with a book!

I love to keep kids hanging in a story.
Actually, I have found that this s the true secret to kindling a desire for reading.

Here's the recipe for hanging a kid:

Get cozy.

Read aloud (regardless of the age of your kids).

Read with enthusiasm and creative voices.

Climb to an exciting point in the story...
...and close the book.


The boy in the hammock was caught and couldn't put the story down once hooked.

Forget that he hates needles.
                 Laugh at the bees.
                              Enjoy an extra large scoop of sour cream on that burrito.
The boy is reading!

Some recent Leave them hanging stories:

The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques.
The Great Brain Series by John Fitzgerald.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini

My boys have taken up the habit of reading to each other as well.
It warms my heart to hear a big brother reading to a younger brother.

Better than that is when an older brother leaves them hanging in a story like I do.


What do comic books have to do with learning?

When I heard there were comic books that could help my children learn science, I was excited. 
My kids love comic books and the magic of Manga learning tools seem like a perfect fit!


What is Manga?

It's a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels, typically aimed at adults as well as children.

Why does it matter? And what does it have to do with learning?

I've discovered this tremendous resource for teaching kids science and all about the human body. Rather than a dry text and diagram textbook, concepts are covered in a story-based format that's also visual, so learners of all kinds have more to glom onto, and it's easier to recall. Sort of like our trusted and true pal Ms. Frizzle of the Magic School Bus, but for a slightly older children depending on the book. Last but certainly not least - it makes learning fun! Imagine if your child requested to re-read a science text book. That's what these amazing books can inspire.

We started on the Survive! Inside the Human Body series, and even I am learning!

Topics covered in this book series about the human body: Human Body (anatomy), Digestive System, Circulatory System, Nervous System, Personal Wellness, Effects of Food on the Body, Medicine & technology, and Genetics.

But there are also advanced topics in this format like the Universe, Physics, Linear Algebra, and more available from Shockingly Awesome Learning on

See inside the books in this cute video:


Mitosis: Cell Cycle Flip Book

We stumbled into a unit on cells this week.
Don't you love the freedom of homeschooling?

We happened to be able to gain access to a microscope, some plant cell slides, and a science teacher all at the same time... excitement was born!

While all I could say was, "That slide looks neat," the teacher was able to share his love for cell division with the boys. In five minutes, the boys transformed from boys trying to use a microscope, to biologists trying to identify the different stages of cell division. 

God's creation is truly amazing!

Here's how I helped fuel the flames of excitement:
First: We watched a few videos on cell division:
We loved Crash Course: Mitosis (He a fast talker, but does great overviews!)

Although these video's are targeting high schoolers, my boys caught the main ideas without a hitch!

Then I stayed up waaay too late creating a Cell Cycle Flip Book kit for each son (for both plant and animal cells).

The boys have been busy today coloring, cutting, arranging and flipping about cells.
It's been a fun and productive morning! 
I posted my cell flip book kit for anyone to grab a copy just a while ago. 

***Be the first to comment on this post AND send me an email saying "I would love a Cell Flip Book for my Kids" and I will email you a free copy!


Flash Freebie: Cooking Camp: Thanksgiving Treats

I am excited to offer you the chance to grab a free copy of my Cooking Camp Thanksgiving Treats for 24 hours.

If you love it, please take a minute to go back to my store and rate it, or share it on your favorite social media site!


Raising Independent Learners

Can you imagine?

You stumble into the kitchen to start your coffee and you find your 8th grader already plugging away at school. You rub your eyes and look again. Sure enough, there he sits quietly working on his math for the day.

This is an every day occurrence in my home. Our 8th grader likes to get a jump start on his day. He feels like he gets his best start when he is the first one awake.

One of our biggest goals for our boys is to teach them to be organized. This is a mentorship program that my husband initiated when our first two sons were in high school. It is now the biggest focus of middle school and high school-Teaching our kids to create and manage a work calendar.

Each of our boys have month calendars (created by me) that break down their lessons for the month. As they approach high school, they get trained how to break their lessons into week long chunks.

The goal is that they will be able to break down a college syllabus into a manageable workload by the time they are juniors in high school.

Each son has a weekly to do list of school assignments. When they are younger, I create this for them.
As they transition into high school, they sit side by side with me as we work together to map out each day's work. Eventually, they will have the skills to do this step by themselves as well.

Time management is a tremendously useful life skill. It is never too early to begin with your kids.
Daily checklists.
Weekly to do lists.
Weekly overviews
Monthly calendars.

These skills enable our boys to take charge of their days. They can see when they have soccer, doctor's appointments, field trips and then they plan their day accordingly.

It is a common occurrence in our home to have kids up early jump starting their day, or older kids to work ahead by taking advantage of days they finish their work early. They are taught to look ahead and grab a later lesson to get a jump start.

Don't get me wrong. It takes a lot out of me to teach the kids organization. Its hard work and time consuming to assimilate three different levels of schooling and to break it all into workable pieces.
But the results are well worth the effort.

It's wonderful!

"What I Have Learned Teaching" Guest Author- (Me!)

I have been given the blessing of guest authoring on one of my favorite blogs today!

Jessica with "What I Have Learned Teaching" writes,
As a teacher we often focus on what students know, the facts, details, the content.  But really, what is our goal?  What counts when raising up the next generation?  It’s about how our children live and learn.  Can we create lifelong learners?

Bekki from A Better Way to Home School is here today to help us consider our focus when teaching and homeschooling.  Her broader, bigger perspective is refreshing in this world of standards, test scores, and always meeting the next tangible goal.
I have to admit that I am blessed and humbled to have such a great opportunity to share my voice.

Would you join me? Hop over, read, share, and comment!

Game and App Designing

My husband is a computer guy.
You know, one of those "what is he talking about?" wicked smart computer guys.

He is always talking about teaching the kids how to program, code, and build Apps.

Today, I stumbled on an incredible deal. 
One full year of game and app developing tools and teaching for pennies on the dollar.

For 9 DAYS ONLY, you can grab the same deal. This is a $600 course for only $15!!!

Here's the description:
Do you want to make your own videos games and apps that you can share with the world? Then join our students who are already making amazing games with our expert team of instructors. Students can learn at their own pace as they work their way through our fun video training library. Our step by step training is great for all ages and skill levels!
I have kids currently wrestling and hopping up and down in an all out competition to see who will be first to take advantage of this year of training.

Don't delay. This is an amazing deal!

From my past... Praying I have a better first day of school this year!

What I wanted to share with you was how amazing our first day of school was this year. This was especially true since I am getting ready to teach a class to homeschoolers this week about "homeschooling More than One Student". I am supposed to know what I am doing...

Dream with me... The kids get out of bed bright eyed and bushy tailed. They eat breakfast and do a few chores and meet me at the table at the pre-determined time. We work through all of our lessons and they all stay focused and work diligently... (Can you hear my bubble pop?)

 I wish I could write that my kids were not only were they begging to be taught, but that I had one of those awesome teacher days where everything I did was a total success.

Nope. That was not our first day of school.

I had high hopes. I thought the kids had read my mental memo and knew exactly what I was thinking. I was wrong.

Although I was well planned and woke up nice and early, it simply was "One of those days". I do not know about you, but I like to reserve these days for right before the holidays, or maybe just after the New Year. I could not believe mine fell on the first day of school!

By 10 o'clock I was wrestling with my high school freshman over goals and I had banished my 4th grader from the school table.

By lunchtime, I had 3 kids basically rolling on the floor with uncontrollable giggling fits.

By 2 o'clock I was trying to not get frustrated with my 5th grader and I had had it with the dog.

By 3:00 I was resisting the urge to suddenly rewrite my entire lesson plan.

By 4 o"clock I realized I had not thought about dinner. If you know me, you know this is a big deal for me.

By 5:30 I was trying to cheerfully answer my husband when he asked me how the first day of school went.

I left the house at 6:00 for a brisk walk and some quiet reflection on the day. Wow. What a first day of school. When it was all said and done we had accomplished everything I had planned to get through, yet I wasn't satisfied. Truth be told, some days are just like that. Nothing seems to go right, the kids will not sit still, the phone rings and the kids split, the "good" kids stir up the squirrely ones, dinner never gets beyond the plan, and you fall into bed exhausted.

Experience has taught me that today will not determine the course of my homeschooling. I will simply fall prayerfully into bed and begin again tomorrow.

I share this with you in hopes that a new homeschooling mom will find encouragement that this veteran had a hard day. I have been teaching for almost two decades and I can still count the really bad days I have had. Most are a result of my lack of planning or being in a funky mood. Very few were fluky weird like today, but they happen. The important thing to remember is that tomorrow is a new day. I will plan a little harder and work a little slower. I will expect the kids to still have summer time energy as I wrestle them to the table for a few hours. 

I am hoping your first days of school are smooth sailing, but if they aren't I'd love to hear about it!

Homeschooling with Babies and Toddlers- It Can Be Done!

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?