Browsing Category: homeschool

Those Summer Nights



It is currently 104 degrees here.

Sometimes I just want to look around at my fellow suburbanites, all residing in this state that gets insanely hot (and stays that way), and ask, “What are we all doing here?”

That 104 degree temp? Well it will cool down to a brisk 97 by midnight.

I love how magazines and retail stores like to convince me summer nights are the best time to be outdoors. Obviously they have never visited my part of the country in which outdoors in the summer = heat, mosquitos, and more heat.

If I planned a rustic dinner party under the summer stars in my backyard with twinkly lights and boasting a s’mores buffet… no one would come. Not because my friends do not appreciate a lovely feast but because it is so hot that the marshmallows would melt before reaching the fire and the twinkly lights would only add to the heat index.

By this point in the summer, nighttime usually finds us indoors relaxing to the tune of the air conditioner humming along. This summer our nights have been a little bit different than summer nights in the past.

This summer we have been home at night.

In the past and because we homeschool, I have allowed our nights to be consumed with child-centered activities. I spend the evening hours hustling back and forth between various sports and their locales, while attempting to cook supper, feed the family members who happen to be home, and clean the kitchen. Weeknights become a blur of frenzy for us.

This summer we brought it all to a stop.

I told the children we were not doing any nighttime activities. There were no arguments or dramatic sad faces. Rather they were thrilled to be home.

Their days were filled this summer, as they attended a variety of camps and classes as well as spending lots of quality time with friends.

But their nights were at home with their father and me.

We did not do anything extravagant on these evenings. We ate dinner at the table. We played some board games. We watched some television. We just enjoyed home.

Next week, night time activities start to fire up again. School begins on Monday, carrying with it all of our other commitments and obligations. In the meantime, I will soak up these remaining quiet summer nights.

Homeschool Hack #2: End of the Year Project Based Learning

In the fall of last year, I attended my 20 year high school reunion. I would like to say this was made possible by the fact that I graduated at the  mere age of 14 years old but alas that simply is not true.

Rather the glaring truth is that I indeed finished high school 21 years ago at the typical age of 18.

Despite the two decades that have passed since that time, I vividly remember those months at school leading up to graduation. Class placement was not an issue for me since I had already been accepted to college and my GPA stopped counting in December. This story was true for the majority of my class and so we all entered that final semester of school with a “who cares” attitude.

It was a lot of fun and many nights were spent goofing off since homework no longer mattered (Did we even have homework?). Probably not the best recipe to set us all up for success as we all would soon be staring our freshman year of college dead in the eyes, but it worked in the moment.

About April 12th of this year, I hit a “who cares” attitude with our homeschool for the year. In the past, this has not really occurred. Typically I set out a path to wind down all the subjects and we are finished and ready for summer by memorial day.

Not this year.

This year I was ready to shut it down in mid-April and call in sick for the remaining weeks.

Not a great plan when you are the one in charge.

Part of this attitude steams from a school year that has felt very disjointed to the children and myself. We opted for a new type of schooling in the fall. It did not work for our family so we switched back to that which we were familiar with in the Spring. Although it felt good to “be home” per say we all still felt a bit lost this semester.

Deciding that shuttering school for the year so early was likely not the best idea, I opted to do something radically different.

I jumped in feet-first with the kids into a season of project-based learning.

(If you homeschool, head over to Amazon and grab this book really quick. You are welcome.)

First, we came to a clean stop on all of our basic subjects. I have never been one obsessed about finishing a textbook in a school year because years of public school teaching showed me that rarely is a text book finished. Rather, I always dig the last of the good meat out of a book and bid it farewell…even if we are only on page 241 of 307 pages. This was a bit tricky this year since we switched curriculum mid-year. However, I figured it out (I think. I guess those SAT scores in six years will tell me if I did or did not.). We finished up the basic subjects, put the books to the side, and began something new.

Also during this time our Classical Conversations year came to an end. CC always ends before we actually end at home. However, we tied up those loose ends as well and sent Cycle 1 packing.

I spent about half a morning after all these subjects were closed and shelved to form a plan. My original idea was that the kids would think up a topic, research it, create a project, and write a paper. I quickly decided that was not quite enough to fill our days and enrich their minds. Rather I expanded it to incorporate several subjects and for them to present all the assignments after a special family dinner.

The children were asked to do the following:

  • Research a topic of interests. Find books at the library about the topic. Read the books (such an important step! Those books do not magically read themselves while sitting unopened in our library basket.). Write a paper about what you learned. Design and make a project based on your topic. Present all the materials to an audience.
  • Choose three things that  were learned in math this year. Teach these three concepts to the audience.
  • Select a science experiment and demonstrate it for the audience. Walk them through the scientific method.
  • Choose a chapter from Story of the World (the children are actually on different volumes this year…a result of our fall semester of school. This has not been my favorite because I love doing history all together, but we have made it work). Reread that chapter (We do finish this book during the year) and write a report about this time in history. Develop a project to go along with the report.
  • Select a famous artist. Read up on the artist and write a report about his/her life. Create an original piece of art to display.
  • Choose one book from the literature basket that has yet to be read this year (Each child has a literature basket of books I select for the year for them to read through). Read the book. Write up a book report on the book. Create a project to go along with the report.

There it is: My solution for finishing out the school year strong.

This idea is based on the book “Project Based Homeschooling” which I encouraged you to purchase above (Have you done that yet??). I love what the author, Lori Pickert, says about having some project based learning in the homeschool. She says:

“It (PBL) is a way to learn that sets aside the importance of subject matter and focuses on what it means to be an accomplished thinker, learner, maker, and doer.”

If that does not sound like a successful way to end the school year, I am not sure what does.

I typed up everything I wanted my kids to know/understand about this project, printed it, and passed it off to them. We spent time brainstorming some ideas to ensure this project would not be plagued by “end of the year slackdom” and they were set free to begin however they saw fit.


Since the introduction to this project we have made several trips to the library, spent quite the few dollars at the local craft supply store, and managed to scorch a batch of crayons in the oven as one kid worked on his creative art project. Our mornings have been peaceful and the kids have readily embraced this style of learning. Their projects are creative (with the exception of that burned crayon fiasco that likely ruined a cookie sheet from William Sonoma) and quite different. They have big boards filled with notes and papers and researched thoughts. It is quite exciting to seem them embrace this idea that merely started as a way to salvage the year.

Could we do a whole year of this?

No. My Type A personality just could not jive with it.

But a season of it is working in the moment.

They are presenting everything to the family on Tuesday night.

We will not wrap up the year until the end of next week (I have a few field trips to toss in as well as our annual end-of-the-year quiz I make and give them) but I think we may just end this year on a positive note.

At the very least we have learned how to effectively burn crayons in one’s oven.

Daily Truths

What’s wrong?”

Why are you still in bed? Are you sick? Did the gym close? Is there snow on the ground?”

These are the questions I am peppered with if my children happen to stumble across me still in bed at six o’clock in the morning.

(I know…we are a “special” kind of family in which everyone in our house is typically awake by 6am. Bless us all.)

Their daily reality is that mama is up early and typically at the gym when they rise. I do not do this because I have some sort of sick personality that likes to be tortured in the wee hours of the morn.

Nope. I do this because I know what simple rituals make a day better for me.

In my case, I really need to be the first one up.


Blame this on my introverted personality, but I do not want to talk to anyone or see anyone when I get up in the morning. I relish the quiet and stillness of our home in the early morning. It allows me to deal with the chatter and business of the day later on as the house becomes alive again.

Early morning rising while everyone else snoozes is a daily truth for me.

Daily truths are things that I know to be true that make a day better for myself.

They are not flashy (i.e. having someone hand deliver a cup of coffee and a NY Times best seller to my bedside every morning) and hopefully do not impose on others (my children will tell you there are days when it is *painful* to wait until that clock reads 6:00 am to jump out of bed and start talking).

Rather daily truths are the things I recognize that need to happen (fingers crossed) to feel like I can take on the day.

That sounds rather dramatic, considering I lead a lifestyle in which I never fear for the nourishment or safety of my family, I do not work outside of the home, and I live on the border of one of America’s plushest suburbs. Middle class America is quite nauseating at times, is it not? Anyway, I regress.

Simple truths in our daily life allows us to see the core of ourselves. I know as a believer I live by the idea that the “joy of the Lord is my strength.” I also know that the Lord created coffee and that gives me a whole lotta strength to tackle the day.

So what are my simple daily truths?

  1. Be up before anyone else. Yep..this means I typically set an alarm on the weekends.
  2. Coffee
  3. Time spent reading in the early, quiet hours.
  4. Exercise. My body and its special circumstances requires it to keep functioning. My mind requires it to be a nice person.
  5. Greeting my family on a positive note each morning…even in those moments when #1 does not occur. I cannot feel at peace with myself if I start off grumpy with my people.
  6. Some alone time in the afternoon. We are busy and some days this really may just be ten minutes in my room with the door closed. It is necessary.
  7. Did I mention coffee?

As you contemplate your daily truths, ask yourself these questions.

How do I want to feel on a daily basis?

Be realistic. We cannot feel super excited and terribly happy all the time. That is called a “Disney World vacation” and we eventually have to return home to real life at some point where work and bills and flower bed weeds await us.  The body cannot run on full steam ahead- mode 24/7. Rather, ask if  you want to feel content? Peaceful? Calm?

What is going to get me to the point of feeling that above feeling on a regular basis?

This is where you identify your truths. This is where I start perking the coffee. How can you feel a reasonable amount of calm on a regular basis?

How can I make decisions about my daily truths based on my current situations?

This is where I set the alarm clock on a Saturday because I know I want to read in peace before my offspring shoot out of bed and start asking me what is for breakfast and do we have a plan for the day. If you know your daily truths, examine your situation and see how those can become a fairly normal reality. This is the point where you also have to be realistic with yourself. Want to know how to completely fail at daily truths? Setting the bar too high or setting expectations for yourself that are not going to happen. Be kind to yourself..that is the whole basis behind acknowledging daily truths.


Recognizing your daily truths means going to the extra effort to make sure life is designed to incorporate little things that make you feel good so you can be the best version of yourself.

Not the perfect version of yourself…because that simply does not exist.

Rather work on shaping a pretty darn good version of yourself through the identification of your daily truths as you serve your family and others and reflect God’s love and blessings back on his people.


Now it is your turn: What is your daily truth? Share…because I may want to steal it ;).


Library School: For those days when homeschool seems too much


I recently stumbled across a notebook in my garage, its pages filled with an abundance of notes about effective homeschooling. Because college skills die hard, I had dated these notes carefully.

(Let us pause and remember college in the 90’s when students had to take page after page of notes during lectures. There were no MacBook’s taking up space in the classroom or virtual lectures one could attend in their PJs.

Let us also pause and reflect on the fact that the husband and I just tossed our hundreds of pages of college and grad school notes about five years ago when we realized they were obsolete and Google could tell us everything we would ever need to know.)

These notes I came across were dated July 2015. It was during that time I attended a homeschool convention and was inspired to have the best homeschool year EVER! We would do lapbooks and notebook every snippet of history we read. Science experiments would happen weekly and artists studies would be a routine part of our school.

Some of these things have occurred.

But LIFE has also occurred.

February also happened, which all seasoned homeschoolers know to be prime burnout month.

A great solution I found to this problem of stale homeschooling and abandoned science experiment dreams was to do library school.

Library school is where we keep the curriculum at home, grab the library card and some pencils, and head out to find some education among the shelves of our local establishment. Each child was given a handout that had various subjects printed on it. For example, there was history, science, religion, poetry, math, and grammar. I also included sections that said “Interesting fiction book” and “biography that caught my attention.” Each of these sections had their own box on the worksheet. After a quick refresher course on the Dewey Decimal System, the kids were set free into the library.


Their instructions for the day: Find books for each of the categories. Read and examine the books (they were not expected to read the ENTIRE book…we had other things to do that day…but to read excerpts and sections that appealed to them). Then write down notes and/or illustrations from those books.


Later that night the kids shared what they had learned. In the course of about two hours they had sought out information about foreign languages that appealed to them, had brushed up on pieces of history that struck their fancy, and had learned some really great things on their own.

library school3

Library school cannot replace every day homeschooling but it can bring life back into home education. It shows children that learning and research is fun. Library school puts knowledge into the hands of the child. Rather than force feeding facts down a kid’s throat, the child is empowered to step out on his/her own and find knowledge for himself.

Another day of home education saved.



Homeschooling Notebooks

There is a section of my bookshelf in which four years of lessons plans live. Why? I have not a clue. Perhaps I will look back on these longingly one day and remember the times we educated at home. Or perhaps my children will crack them open, inspect them, and then exclaim, “THIS is why I don’t know blah, blah,blah because it was never taught.”

Perhaps I should just toss those away right now, before more years of lesson plans can add up and fuel the fire of my adult children.

I have used many planners over the years and tried out many systems in hopes of keeping our schooling organized and streamlined.

I have purchased expensive planners, printed off Classical Conversations planners, inscribed the lessons on our school room’s white board, and scribbled down ideas on stray pieces of paper.

The thing that has worked the best and stuck with us the longest is the simple spiral notebook.


Yep…the handy little thing that one can find on the Target clearance aisles after the Back to School madness has settled down and all the homeschoolers begin to do their supply shopping.

Each day the children’s assignments are written down in checklist form. I do maintain a master lesson planner for my own sanity and record keeping. However, each child has their own notebook.

I write down their daily assignments, along with any chores or responsibilities they have to do that day.

Did you get that part? Their chores are written right beside “Math Lesson 62”. Gone are the “But I didn’t hear you say for me to make my bed” days because IT IS WRITTEN DOWN and YOU CAN BOTH READ!

Then the children simply dive into work.

(Ha! This sounds as if they are merrily humming tunes from The Sound of Music and being wonderful, pleasant people 100% of the time. They ARE pleasant people…but some days there is a whole lot of grumbling when they look at those notebooks. Just want to keep it real, in case you think we are all Merry Sunshine and Roses over here.)


Some of their homeschooling is independent work while other of it is group time or one on one time with me. If something does not get done or if we need to push something to the next day, the child simply does not mark it off their checklist. Easy-peasy. Also, there is no need for me to continuously tell someone to do something or inquire as to something’s completion. I can just glance at the notebook. (And hell hath no fury like a mama who spies a box checked that has not actually been completed. That has only been tried once and the child likely will never try it again. )

One child likes to get started FIRST thing (hello, 7:30am!) because she has realized the sooner she begins, the sooner she will finish and thus have all the play time in the world. The Homeschool Notebook allows for her to get a start on her day without me having to jump right in with her (I have to have breakfast cleaned up and a chore done before I can start my portion of the schooling. I just feel better when the house is tidy.)

If the lesson planning and record keeping side of homeschooling is making you feel like educating at home is not working anymore (*), get in the car, drive to Target, grab Starbucks (coffee heals all), and scoop up a pile of ten cent notebooks. Try this method for a few weeks and see if a bit of calm and organization are restored into your homeschooling.

If not, just drink more coffee.

(* There are some things that are true indications that homeschooling is not working and other options should be evaluated. Sometimes homeschooling does not work. And that is OKAY.  )

(** Homeschool Notebook is something I love to share with homeschool groups and communities. Please see my speaking engagements page for more details!)


The Game of Catch-Up

My kids get a kick out of this little corner of the internet that we “own”.


The name “Save the Phillips Family” makes them giggle…and then slightly wonder if they are now officially cooler than their mother.


Looking back on old pictures and funny family stories that are archived in this blog always leads us down a rabbit hole, making us forget the school work that sits before us as we laugh over preschool antics.

(The Holderness Family YouTube channel also provides a rabbit hole during our school day. As do Rotten History videos. Or any funny video involving someone accidentally tripping or an amusing cat. In all honesty, my kids heart a good rabbit hole.)


What have we been up to in this period of quiet?




A bit of vacay.

A lot more carpooling (I say “carpooling” but it is rare that I actually have other children besides my own in the car as I cart them to and fro. Suburbia provides for many things: fun friendships, endless activities, a Starbucks on every corner. But it does not really lend itself to an effective carpooling system when friends are scattered all about. )

Netflix binge watching




This is our fifth year of homeschooling. That blows my mind just a bit because these five years have passed so quickly. At the beginning of this year, I opted to try something different for our educational endeavors.

And it did not work out at all for our family.

We are back to the basics in what we know in regards to schooling at home and fixing things that became a bit bent last semester.

I am devouring this book and learning from it. The thing about homeschooling is that there are a lot of enthusiastic moms out there leading the charge when it comes to educating at home.

And there are a million ways in which homeschooling can be achieved.

Sometimes I find myself swimming in all these IDEAS that begin to drown me.

Lately we have taken in bare bones and are loving some of the things that are happening at home. More to come on this “bare bones” approach on the blog.



Carpooling…and more carpooling.

I remember thinking we were busy when the children were preschoolers. And we WERE home. Now I am busy driving.

I have told my mom many times over the past 2 years how thankful I am that she drove me places all the time as a kid. It did not seem like a big deal then for her to drive me to school, drive me home, drive me to swim practice, drive me to church because I did not realize that all that driving makes a mama a bit crazy.

Now I do, friends.

Now. I. Do.

There is this strip of road in our area of suburbia that I may drive up and down six times in one day taking kids to one place or another.

It is a blessing…a blessing to have a car, a blessing to have children, a blessing to be able to pay for extracurriculars. Yet there are days when I seriously wonder if I would make the evening news if I tucked my eight year old into an Uber and bid her a lovely night at dance.


A bit of vacay

animal kingdom

This year we bought into the hype: The Disney Hype. Honestly, I have been the hold out over not doing Disney. I felt like it seemed very commercial and I have a think about Disney Princesses and the COST. Oh dear, the cost.

We actually planned to do Disney the year I had my surgery and ended up putting it on the backburner.

This past summer we surprised our children with a Pirates of the Caribbean themed dinner and a scavenger hunt telling them we were going to Disney.

At the end of October.

It was a bit anticlimactic (hey kids! You get this really awesome gift…in six months) but I did not think we could pull off the whole “tell them in the car on the way to the airport” thing. This is mainly because they are with me 24/7 (for the most part) and planning for Disney is kin to having a second job (We did have the most amazing trip planner. Let me know if you need her name!).

In the end, the vacation was wonderful and we now understand how families continue to go back to Disney year after year.

We also spent some time at the beach before school was officially over last May. Hands down that is the best time to go…crowds are low, temperatures are warm, and prices are still reasonable.


Netflix Binge Watching

Over the summer the children and I spent a week in Arkansas so the boy could attend a robotics camp. One night I was talking with the husband on the phone and inquired as to what he was doing.

His reply was “Watching Netflix”

My reply….”When did we get Netflix?
Yes, casa de phillips had been Netflix free for many years. In fact the last time we had Netflix was when the DVD would arrive in the mail in that flimsy red envelope.

We are obviously super hip.

Anyway the husband began a free trail to entertain himself with The Walking Dead while we were gone that week. The free trail turned into “let’s get Netflix!” and now we are all binge watching something.

So much better than the flimsy red envelope days.


So there we are. What has been going on with you ?

Summer Reading Guide 2015: The Kid Edition

Growing up, I remember the brother of a friend of mine was being paid per page of every book he read that summer. I really wanted my parents to pay me per page because I could rack up some serious money by basically lounging around with my nose in a book. Obviously the friend’s brother was in need of some literary encouragement. I also happen to remember that his parents’ did not end up forking over a lot of money once August rolled around that year. Said literary encouragement obviously did not provide the type of motivation he was in need of that year.

At casa de phillips, there is no need (or financial way) to pay kids per page to read.

Both my kids love to read. The boy has been a book fiend since the very beginning. He reads quite quickly and can make his way through a pile of books in no time.

The girl has also loved books from the beginning, but her love grew in different ways. She loved to have books read to her but had some hesitancy for a while when it came to reading on her own. That hesitancy has since diminished and she attacks books with fierce bravado.

The interesting thing about these two is that their tastes in books can be quite different. Part is a gender thing, part is a personality thing, and part is “I don’t want to like that book merely because YOU like that book” thing.


So what is on the girl’s list of books for fellow eight year olds to read this summer? First, lots of non-fiction ocean books. If they contain pictures of really disturbing fish, that is a bonus. Below are some of her favorites.


The Shark Encyclopedia

Rainbow Fairy Series

Capital Kids Mysteries

A to Z Mysteries

The Critter Club

American Girl Mini Mysteries


The boy has his own list of great summer reads. The hard thing about the boy is that on occasion I let him venture over into the teen room to check out their library books. He is rapidly reading through everything in his normal section and he is needing some new inspiration. Obviously we are careful with what he comes back with from said room. His summer reading guide contains some of the following titles.

Science Fair

Gollywhopper Games (he LOVED this series. LOVED. IT.)

Kingdom Keepers (Perfect because we are planning for a trip to Disney in the Fall)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Big Nate series

Anything Marvel comics related


Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer series


One thing they both happen to love is a boxed set of Calvin and Hobbes comics that my husband owns. For the past few weeks both of them have been pulling these large volumes of comics into bed with them to get in a few giggles before lights out.


What books have found their way onto your kids’ list of “Must Reads” this summer?



Classical Conversations Memory Work…casa de Phillips style

I like the idea of the one room school house. Everything seems incredibly quaint, from the red of the building to the aged wood of the desks. The interior of such a school also seems inviting. Students of all ages coming together to learn, warmed by the wood stove in the middle of the room and sharing their math answers they have written on personal sized slate tablets.

So obviously everything I know about the one room schoolhouse comes from my childhood viewing of “Little House on the Prairie” and has nothing to do with how such schools actually functioned.

Romantic notions aside, we adopt se of the ideas of the “one room school house” into our homeschooling. When one is educating more than one child at home, it makes sense to bring said children together for various learning times during the day.

We begin our school day this way. Although we have a school room, we start our day at the kitchen table. We need the space to spread out and work. Besides changing locations during the day helps keep moods perky and restlessness at bay. Every morning we spend an hour or so on our Classical Conversations memory work, working together as a collaborative unit .

There are seven facets to the CC memory work (timeline, history, Latin, science, geography, math and English grammar). During the course of an hour we go over each of these areas. We do so by utilizing the following techniques:

1. Drill, drill, and drill some more. During the course of the school year, the kids memorize over 500 pieces of information. We drill this memory work a lot so they know it well by the end of the year. We also do math flash cards everyday during this time . I want to make sure their facts (multiplication, addition , and subtraction) are all really strong.


2. Copy work . The kids choose various things to copy off of our memory work board (pictured above….and just so happens to be a large piece of shower board from Lowes cut down to a manageable size). Sometimes they copy things onto their personal sized white board, other times they write it nearly in their copy work book. Sometimes this copy work is illustrated (like yesterday’s elaborate illustrations that went along with the Mexican revolution) while other days we stick to straight penmanship work.


3. Reading on particular subjects. We spend a lot of time reading about what we are learning . Sure one can learn about the Bolsheivik revolution and what year it occurred but how helpful is a year if you do not know what was actually happening during that time? We have a few books that carry snippets about major world history events that we read from as well as an ever changing stack of library books. My kids have become interested in topics that would appear to be dry and boring to a kid. The power of a good books and well-written word


4. Extension projects . We have always lived a good craft here at case de Phillips . We try to do one or two projects or crafts a week that go along with our memory work. Sometimes the project is small (transforming a balloon into a diagram of the layers of the atmosphere …like we did this morning) or large (play-doh model of the earth). Extension projects really solidify learning, in my opinion .


We manage to do all of these things by keeping all of our supplies ( white boards, markers, erasers, books, maps, and other various materials all together in a basket. When 8am hits, we can grab the basket and go.

As I am sure it was with the one room school house approach, there are times when this part if our morning is not so glamorous nor fun. Bad attitudes show up at the table on occasion. Someone is usually starving despite having eaten ten minutes ago (the kitchen is closed from 8am to 9:30am. Best homeschool decision I ever made.). One person gets mad if the other person answers a review question faster. White board markers are lost / dried up / wrong color.

You know, all things Laura had to deal with when teaching on the prairie.

How do you incorporate the one room school house approach into your homeschool

Chalk it up to the winter blues

Arts and crafts time has always been a significant part of life at casa de Phillips. In fact both children asked for scotch tape, paper and crafting goodies for Christmas. One cannot even venture into Miss E’s room without leaving with an errant piece of string or a misguided strip of tape sticking to their person.

I try to get crafts into our homeschooling time the best I can. Truthfully our artistic endeavors are the part of the lesson plan that will get scrapped if we are running short on time. Fortunately both kids have an art lesson taught in the afternoon of our Classical Conversation day .

I won’t mention that the teacher of the class is me. (Fortunately all instruction is done via DVD)

Lately the kids and I have been practicing the “art” of chalk pastels. We inherited a set of pastels from Tobe ‘s great uncle last January. Prior to that, our experience with chalk had been limited to the sidewalk variety.

The inherited pastels sat untouched in our art closet for months until I got brave and pulled them down. There is something one must know about chalk pastels: they are messy. Despite the mess, we have found them to be incredibly fun to experiment with during the last few months. We have discovered that dipping the chalk in liquid starch prevents the chalk dust from coating the house. Also a quick spray of hairspray will set the chalk and prevent it from rubbing off on everything it touches. Using the chalk has taught the kids how to hold their hand while drawing in such a way that their wrist does not smear or smudge chalk lines.

Have I mentioned that it is fun?

This winter, on days when kids are stuck inside due to weather or illness. grab some chalk pastels and create a masterpiece.

(FYI: our favorite chalk tutorials can be found here).

Day 17: Get Carded (Library Carded, that is)

Last year on the first day of school, the boy got his very own official library card.

It was monumental.

Want you kid to have a love for reading? Have him get a library card.

There is a secret to this trick though. Anyone can get a library card card if they are a resident of a city and can write their name. They can then immediately stuff that card into a wallet or the back of a desk drawer and never, ever use it again.

Or that person can get a library card on a special day (first day of school, birthday, Columbus day, Tuesday) and know that with that card comes great privilege and responsibility. They can come to understand that one little plastic card can get them any book or movie or CD their little heart desires. A library card opens many doors to the young reader and gives them ownership in the act of borrowing of reading materials.

It also teaches a harsh reality when it comes to being responsible for books and dealing with late fines.

(I am the worst about late fines. Always have been. I resist the urgent to analyze what this may/may not mean about my character)

Our family visits the library at least once a week.  Each child has a library bag and a library card. They are asked to check out a variety of books each week. Our list includes:


One science book

One history book

One art or music appreciation book

One craft or how-to book

One biography or autobiography

One classic novel (*Evelyn is asked to get a few readers rather than a long chapter book)

One book of poetry

After they collect these books, they are free to load up on whatever else looks interesting to them. We usually leave with a haul. Most of it gets read during the week while a few go untouched for various reasons. We return it all the next week and start fresh, looking for new treasures among the shelves of our library.

Does your child have a library card? What is his/her favorite thing to scoop up while pursuing the aisles?

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