What the kids & I are into these days No. 2

After my previous post What the kids & I are into these days, I really enjoyed the feedback from you all about the products, shows, etc that your family is into.  So I thought I’d write another post and keep the conversation going!  So here are a few more things rocking our world right now.

Sling TV

slingWe have been cable-free for most of our 15 years of marriage, mostly because we are ridiculously cheap frugal.  So we normally have an exterior HD antenna (like this one) for our local channels and Netflix.  This works GREAT, especially since it costs a whopping total of $8/month.  The only drawback is that we can’t watch many sports.. and we love us some football around here.  So last fall we decided to cancel Netflix and give Sling TV a try.  We loved it!  I’ll do my best to explain it.  Sling TV is an a la carte live cable service with no contract.  Their basic package is $20 a month and includes CNN, ESPN, Disney Channel and lots more (see pic).  Not only can you watch shows live, but there are also many previous episodes available to watch.  You need a device to stream Sling and we purchased a Roku to do this.  If you prepay your first 3 months of Sling TV, you can get a Roku from them for 50% off (info here).

What we loved:

  • Watching live sports
  • Disney movies
  • Live news
  • Movies on AMC
  • House Hunters, Duck Dynasty and of course Fixer Upper!

What we didn’t like:

  • Commercials.  We’re SO not used to commercials since we’ve had Netflix for so long.  I am amazed at how evil some of them can be!  So I had to stay close if my kids were watching.
  • There wasn’t as much for kids as there is on Netflix.

So we kept Sling TV through the football season, then cancelled it and resumed Netflix for the kids and to save money.  We’re planning to switch back when football season is here (go Noles!)

The Book of Virtues

book of virtuesI love to read aloud to my kids.  And I love classic literature.  The Book of Virtues combines both, so it makes the perfect addition to your home library.  Right now we are reading one or two short passages each morning.  The book is a collection of “moral stories” and is categorized by character quality, such as self-discipline, compassion, etc. You will find classic poems, Bible stories, writings by America’s founding fathers and much more.  Here’s an excerpt from one of our favorite poems called Boy Wanted…

A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl.

A boy who does not smoke and has no desire to learn how.

A boy who never bullies other boys or allows boys to bully him.

A boy who, when he does not know a thing, says, “I do not know”; and when he has made a mistake says, “I’m sorry”; and, when requested to do anything, immediately says, “I’ll try.”

How great is that?!

Trikke Carving Scooter

trikkeMy kids don’t play with toys.  I don’t get it.  But I’ve given up.  The truth is that they want to be outside playing with their friends, climbing trees, building fires, chopping down trees, fishing and piling way too many people into a paddleboat.  So when it’s time to make Christmas lists for the grandparents, I’m always on the hunt for anything that they can use outside.  Two years ago I hit the jackpot with these Trikke Carving Scooters.  Granted, these things are expensive, but hear me out.  They are equally fun for my 4 year old and my 13 year old, meaning this toy has lasting power!  It can either be powered by one leg like a traditional scooter, or by standing on it with both feet and twisting your body back and forth.  And they go really fast if you want them to.  I can’t say enough about how much we love these!


Now it’s your turn!  What is your famiy into these days?



Why I’m a little tired of being called a super mom

I could never do what you do.

Better you than me.

I don’t have as much patience as you.

These are the top comments I hear from other moms when they hear that I have lots of kids or that I homeschool.  And I’m here to say that those 3 statements couldn’t be any further from the truth.

You can do what I do.

You would probably do it better than me.

You SURELY have as much patience as me.

BThere is a myth that large-family and/or homeschooling moms are somehow a cut above the rest.  That only a select few can succeed at such a feat and the rest of moms shouldn’t even try.  As my tween daughter would say, that’s “riDONCulous.”

Just like a runner finishes a marathon or an accountant finishes an audit or a nurse graduates from school, any mom can raise lots of kids or homeschool.  And just like running, business and college, it’s not easy or for the faint of heart. Dare I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done?  But it should be hard.  Molding little tyrannical toddlers into responsible adults is no small job.  But it’s doable.  And worthy of being done.

So why shouldn’t you do it?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to raise a bunch of beautiful babies who go out and change the world?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to teach those minds of mush what they need to know?  Why not you?

But I must confess that I do have one secret weapon.  And I’m guessing many moms in my situation would agree.

I have Someone who steps in and takes over when I am spent, done, gone, about to run away.  He made me a promise a long time ago that when I am weak, He would be strong on my behalf.  I’ve taken Him at His word and found him to be completely trustworthy.

You have access to this same secret weapon.  His name is the Lord of Hosts. God Almighty.  He is the source of patience.  The source of order.  The source of organization.  The source of love.

How many times have I cried out to him (usually by about 8:00am,) okay Lord, I’m all out of patience!  I need to draw on yours now.  And He delivers.  Every.single.time.

So, yes, mom… you can do it.  Because He has all that you need.  He loves those babies even more than you do, if you can imagine it.  He spent 9 months crafting them in perfection in your womb, just the place He chose for them to begin.  And He has big plans for those mini monsters.  Plans for them to learn, to influence and to thrive.  Surely He will give you all you need to partner with Him in this incredible role of Mom.

Friends, let’s avoid the mushpot of mediocrity

I have a confession to make.  I am a total news junkie.  I was surely the only girl in my dorm to get the Wall Street Journal delivered to my mailbox.  During my college job, I spent my lunch break glued to MSNBC so I could track the stock market’s movement that day.  My poor college roommate.  How many hours of news did she endure in our tiny apartment?  No wonder she cranked up George Strait in her bedroom!  I think it all stems from the fact that I was becoming an adult at such a news-rich time.  The stock market was hitting its peak, the Bush/Gore recount happened during my honeymoon (and yes we watched some of the coverage from our hotel room in Italy…. sexy I know!)  And September 11th happened the next year.

These days I struggle to keep up with the news because I am sorely lacking two things… cable television and the time to pay attention to anything besides feeding/teaching/cleaning up after my 5 cherubs.  But i do my best via Twitter, Drudge, Rush, Mark Steyn, etc.

But even if you’re not a news junkie like me, you surely know that all is not well in the world.  From the horror of ISIS to Russian aggression to the rise of antisemitism, the world seems at the brink.  Honestly, I wake up each day and wonder, “is today the day” that something life-changing, even world-changing happens?  But truthfully, I believe that the demise of our culture and way of life will not be sudden. In fact, that might be easier to bear than the alternative.  What I see coming for America (and happening already) is a slow, gradual slide into a mediocre existence.  A place where tyrants are tolerated, brave men are few and morals are non-existent.  Where the Church is silent or even approving of so many things that are against the teachings of Jesus.

So that’s all super depressing right?  Is there anything we can do?  How can we prevent the demise of America and the American church?  Here are a few of my thoughts:

I may not have riches or fame, but I have a husband whose Bible looks like this. And that is worth far more.

I may not have riches or fame, but I have a husband whose Bible looks like this. And that is worth far more.

1.  Read the Bible.  I’m all for reading Christian books, blogs and listening to sermons.  But nothing can replace the Living Word of God.  My kids are memorizing John 1 and the first verse just hit me like a brick.  “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  It’s so easy to look to everything/everyone else, but the Author of our faith.  Sadly, Bible reading has become almost obsolete in this country.  I struggle with this discipline myself.  But we must continue to struggle until it is a non-negotiable part of our day, our lives.  You see, the Church will not be torn down from without, but from within (I believe).  We see even now that a false gospel is taught every Sunday by so called “pastors” like Joel Osteen.  The only way a believer can discern what is true is to hold up the church’s teachings against the standard of the Scripture.  But if we never read the Scripture, we can’t make the comparison.  And our flesh will quickly grab onto teachings that tickle our ears, instead of convicting our hearts. :: Friends, Let's Avoid the Mushpot of Mediocrity2. Teach our children to walk in the Way.  Who is the main voice in your children’s lives?  Their teachers?  Their coaches?  Their grandparents?  Their babysitters?  Their friends?  Characters on television?  Musicians?  You should be the overriding voice in your children’s lives.  And you have to fight for this.  Because the world longs to take that place.  What does this mean practically speaking?  For us, it means homeschooling and severely limiting outside voices that are contrary to the Gospel.  Yes, we are sheltering them.  Because that is what good parents do.  They protect their young from danger.  But we don’t stop with protecting.  We are teaching them the Truth so that one day they can face all the contrary voices and still stand strong by the grace of God.  I do not claim that our way should be everyone’s way.  But every parent needs a plan to maintain that primary voice in their children’s lives.

3. Be holy as He is holy.  Okay, I’m going to meddle (if I haven’t already.)  I find it hard for someone to claim to be a believer in our Holy God and yet continually fill their minds with all that stands against his Gospel.  How can we pretend to oppose the culture while opening wide our doors to all of its messages?  How many Christians watch trash on TV?  Game of Thrones, Criminal Minds, Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance (oh, how I wish I could watch that!), Modern Family.  Have I hit a nerve yet?  How about music?  Do we listen to songs that glorify sexual promiscuity or use foul language?  What about books?  Should we move onto movies next?  I’ll just write four words.  Fifty Shades of Grey.  You may disagree vehemently with me on this.  But I challenge you to put this verse above your television and judge all that you watch by it.  Trust me, you’ll have way more time on your hands:

…”always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.” (Phil. 4:8)

No one is going to force any of us to do these things.  We can all choose to ride the wave down the descent of culture and melt into the mushpot of mediocrity that awaits (and possibly an eternity of separation from God… yes I just said that) or we can choose to align ourselves with God Almighty.  To throw off all that stands against Him and to teach our children to do the same.  What would America look like with a Church who stood tall upon the great Cornerstone of Jesus?  What would happen if His name was proclaimed with abandonment to a world dying without Him?  How would your city, your company, your country be different if there was a remnant there who was unmoved by the cultural decline?

It begins with you.  Will you stand?

My Classical Conversations Memory Board :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review Board


We are apart of Classical Conversations, a homeschool program that has a major emphasis on memorization in the lower grades.  It’s super hard to explain, so head over here if you want to learn more.

My first year I tried to just teach from the Foundations guide and it was a disaster.  By about week 3 we were way behind and I never felt like we got our heads above water that year.  The second year I made a “memory board” like this one and it worked pretty well.  But I didn’t like the extra time it took me to change out the papers each week.  (See my previous post about how I’m terrible at the night-before stuff.)  I wanted to create a board that I could set and forget.  And I came up with one!   All on my own!  I’m pretty proud of myself!  Honestly, I wish it was a little cuter, but I don’t have time for cute these days.  If you do, by all means, cutify your board!

Here’s how I made it… :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review Board :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review Board :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review :: My Classical Conversations Memory Review Board

How we use the board….

– At some point during our homeschool day, we gather in the school room, fire up Google Play and start listening to this week’s CC songs (hopefully a Google Play/CC tutorial is coming soon!)

– We go through each memory item piece by piece.  And that’s it.  It takes about 20 minutes.  This is our second time through this cycle, so it would take longer if all the information was brand new to us.

A few notes…

– I download all my memory work visuals from “CC Connected,” the file-sharing site on Classical Conversation’s website.  I think I pay $6/month for access to the site, which can be cancelled at any time.  To me, it’s worth it to save all the time of creating these myself.

– I don’t have a color printer so I upload the color documents to, pay online and pick them up the next day, usually.  This year’s printing probably cost about $15.  I will save and re-use everything when we do the cycle again in 3 years.

– You might want to add Timeline cards to your board.  I ran out of time to do that. I”d love to hear any suggestions.

– There are probably a million better things to use than those hook/screw thingies I bought, but I had about 10 minutes of alone time in Home Depot and that was the best I could find.

– You could probably hang this on a wall, but it’s super heavy, so keep that in mind.  Plus the screws stick out the back a little.

– I have found an unexpected perk of the board is that I’ve caught my kids curiously looking through the pages and learning (gasp!) on their own (gasp!)

Have any questions or ideas for improvement?  I’d love to hear them!

How 6 hours at Starbucks has revolutionized my homeschool planning

I want to do homeschooling well.  Really well.  So when that is not my reality, I can get really down on myself.  Because… you know… my children’s entire education is resting on my shoulders.  No pressure.

But reality is this… I have 5 young children and hopefully more to come.  There is a ton of cleaning, laundry and cooking to be done.  There are babies who need snuggled or nursed.  There are toddlers who need to be potty-trained.  There are husbands who need to talk after a tough night at work.  There are meals to be made for a sick friend.  There are all-day headaches.  Did I mention the laundry?

So is it possible to homeschool with excellence amongst the chaos?  After 6 years I’ve discovered that yes… yes it is.  And here’s the key… planning ahead.  And Starbucks.

homeschool planning

Leaving your house is key to planning. And going somewhere fun like Starbucks makes it something to look forward to!

I’ll tell you how that works for me.  Over the summer I do a TON of planning.  Then throughout the year I take several days here and there to plan.   I put these times on the calendar and get a sitter if needed (usually it works out for my husband to watch the kids).  I go to Starbucks with my laptop and all my curriculum and I plan like a crazy woman.   If it’s the summer, I plan out everything for the fall semester, such as:

  • Make a curriculum list.  Order what I need new, bid on used ones on Ebay, make a list for curriculum fairs (yes, right there at Starbucks)
  • Plan which days we’ll do school and when we’ll take off.  Put it on my Google calendar (I need that accountability and it helps the hubs plan vacations and such)
  • Plan each week’s activities for each subject (see example below)
  • Find projects, crafts, worksheets, printables, lapbooks, videos, whatever I need.  Go crazy on Pinterest and annoy all my followers with a gazillion history/science/geography pins.
  • Download what needs to be printed and save in a separate file on my computer to print at home.
  • Plan our read-alouds and buy those books.
  • Plan field trips and put them on the calendar
  • Make a supply list of every teeny tiny thing I’ll need for each project.  Leave Starbucks and go buy those things!
homeschool planning

In the summer I tear out all the kids worksheets and put them in binders, separated by weeks. Each kid grabs their binder in the morning and starts working. No stacks of books everywhere, no wondering which page we’re on, etc.

This past summer I needed two 3-hour sessions at Starbucks, plus about four 3-hour sessions at home to make this all happen.  (The time at home was mostly hole-punching, printing and making binders.)  But the entire semester is planned.  I can roll out of bed on a random Tuesday morning, pour myself some coffee, sit down at the school table and be totally prepared for the day’s work.  The worksheets are printed, the links to the videos are ready to go, I have the supplies that I need for our science project.

That, my friends, is an amazing feeling.  Because when you are prepared, you can better handle the interruptions of daily life.

You may be reading this and thinking… why don’t you just prepare the night before?  God bless you.  If you are a prepare-the-night-before kind of person, will you please rub off on me?  That just isn’t me.  Once I put those precious cherubs to bed, I collapse like a cheap tent and my brain completely disengages.  And that’s okay.  I’ve found what works for me and you need to find your own style.

But be encouraged… you can homeschool with excellence amid the chaos of life.  If I can do it, anyone can!



homeschool planning

Here’s a screen grab of my planning worksheet, showing just history for our first week of school. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s all in one place. I especially love having the links to the videos ready to go. And when I go to the store I can just pull this up on my phone and there is my supply list.