Tasty Tuesday: Fulfilling the Prophecy

Do you remember when microwaves first came on the market? I do (no comments about age here!). They were supposed to revolutionize cooking. Women would no longer be spending hours in the kitchen. The microwave would cut cooking time in half...or more! There's only one problem. That didn't happen. I don't know anybody who really "cooks" in their microwave. Reheat, yes. Steam, sure thing. Defrost, on occasion. But cook? Microwaves didn't live up to their billing.

Well, no longer is that true! I am here to show you a dish that used to be made in the oven that can be cooked in your microwave in less than half the time it normally takes.  What is this recipe that just might bring the microwave into it's destiny?

Here is what you need to make Microwave Scalloped Potatoes:

3/4 cup of milk
1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
4 medium potatoes, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 small onion, chopped

First, combine the milk and soup in a microwave safe 2 quart casserole dish.

Next, add in all the other ingredients, stirring to coat.

Cover and microwave on high for 10 minutes.

-----------------We interrupt this recipe to bring you an important announcement-----------------
(And can I just say here that I did NOT clean up my microwave just because I knew I would be using it for Tasty Tuesday. It actually looked like that when I went to make this dish. And all I have to say is thank goodness it did, because I would have been cleaning like a mad woman to make it look good for the blog!)
----------------------------Now back to your regularly scheduled broadcast----------------------------

Finally, stir and then microwave for another 12 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Here is the finished product:

Sooooo good! Now your only problem is to figure out what to do with that extra 30 minutes you just saved!

Singlehandedly bringing appliances into the 21st century in the treehouse,


Mama Monday: Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya, Tomorrow!

As January ends so does my month of working on gentleness with my children. I've really tried to be more gentle in my speech, my actions, and my attitudes. It has been incredibly difficult, but so very rewarding.

As my final post about the Gentleness Challenge, I want to encourage everyone to stick with it. Since I'm the Queen of Perfectionists Anonymous, I've had to learn some valuable lessons about myself and achievement. I wanted to share what I've learned with you.

First, you have to be patient. Change doesn't happen overnight, especially when you are trying to do something that goes against your nature. Just because you've decided to be more gentle doesn't mean you are instantly zapped by the Gentleness Fairy and become Mary Poppins. It would be MUCH easier if it worked this way, but not nearly so rewarding. We always value things more that we have to work for. True change takes time. Supposedly about 30 days to break a habit and, I think, probably 60 more days to make a new one!

Second, you have to be persistent. When you have a rough day and take it out on your children, don't give up! Don't beat yourself up. Apologize to your children, then (in your best Bronx accent) forgetaboutit. Guess what happens if you keep beating yourself up about losing your cool? You get frustrated and stressed. Guess what happens when you get frustrated and stressed? You lose your temper more quickly and will probably say things or do things that aren't very gentle. Just remember that tomorrow is another day.

Third, you will never achieve perfection. If perfection is the only way you will be satisfied, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. As my husband constantly reminds me, "If things are perfect here on earth, then why would we look forward to heaven?" And he's right. We do our best here and wait to achieve our perfection there. To be gentle moms we need to give up perfection and focus on making gentleness the new normal.
Fourth, you will achieve permanence. When patience and persistence are teamed together for a while, you will be blessed with permanence. This is the goal. To turn around 3 or 4 months later and discover that being gentle with your children has become the norm not the exception. It's become such an ingrained habit that you don't even have to think about it anymore. Wouldn't that be wonderful!?!? To have people characterize you as the "Mom who never loses her cool." But most importantly, to have your children look back on their childhood and be able to recall only a few times that they've ever seen you be unkind and harsh.

I've really grown a lot this past month. I think feeling accountable to all of you out there in cyberspace has really helped. But in the spirit of full disclosure, and to reassure everyone that I don't have it all together, I lost my temper just last week with Magpie and got really, really angry, harsh, and most definitely, ungentle (is that a word?). And I felt sick about it. After just a month, reacting this way has become much less common so when I do mess up, I just feel wretched. I quickly grabbed Magpie apologized profusely, asked for her forgiveness, and played Candyland with her before supper. Maybe if my kid's learn nothing else from my new leaf, it's that we're allowed mistakes, but we're not allowed to not try to improve.

Looking forward to a fresh tomorrow in the treehouse,



Summary Saturday: The Art Edition

I'm sorry Summary Saturday is late this week. Chipette had an art project that she just HAD to get in the blog post this week. Well, we had to let it dry to do the outlining, so that meant it didn't get finished until today.

Well, our week started out with art as well, much to Chipette's delight. We'd learned about Benjamin West in our American history program, Bigger Hearts for His Glory. He was taught how to mix his own paints by the Native Americans who lived in Pennsylvania colony. So we practiced painting with different types of fruit juices (apple, grape, orange, and lemon). Here is Chipette painting her flower picture with juice:

Next I wanted to get a shot of the girls doing one of the activities that goes along with the Salsa Spanish program we use. Here we are working on colors and counting in Spanish:

Once a week, the girls and I get down a set of Cuisinaire rods and their Miquon books. Chipette is working through Miquon Orange at a really accelerated pace until we get to her grade level. Magpie is doing a Cuisinaire alphabet book to work on letter formation and also some beginning math skills. This is a picture of Chipette actually being able to "see" the different ways to make five thanks to the colored C-rods. She already knows these math facts from memory, but this was a visual way to represent them that she had never seen before. I just happened to snap right when the light bulb went off in her head:

If you have more than one child, then you know that what one of them gets the other automatically wants. Well, when Chipette got Hermie a couple of weeks ago, that became all Magpie could talk about. About a week ago, we went back and got Magpie her very own hermit crab as well, whom she named Sebastian (like from the Little Mermaid). However, Magpie is deathly afraid of Sebastian and will not hold him. Sebastian is equally afraid of Magpie and hides in his shell if she so much as breathes on him. Monkey, however, is not deterred by anything. Here he is holding up Sebastian for the camera:

On Friday's we add a picture to our American history timeline that we have on a dining room wall (I gave up this year of trying to keep my dining room looking like a dining room. We homeschool. If people come over to eat, then maybe they will learn some geography or history from the world map, U.S. map, and timeline that we have on the walls.) This is a picture of the timeline and the people we have learned about so far this year in history:

Along with our American history study, I added in a study of American artists and folk songs. We study an American artist and some of their works one week and the next week we learn an American folk song. This past week we learned about the American artist, John Singleton Copley. Copley was a portrait artist, so I found a neat assignment online where you have kids paint their portrait of what they will look like in the future. This is Chipette's future self-portrait which is why this post is so late:

In case you can't tell, Chipette want to be a ballerina when she grows up and this is her in her dance studio at the barre in front of the mirrors. My beautiful ballerina!

We had a fun week that started and ended with art so everybody was happy!

Typing with paint-stained fingers in the treehouse,



Freaky Friday: Dino Huntin'

Daddy will hunt me a T-Rex in the woods. We can eat his bones and his meat. He's going to shoot it and then it's so heavy that Daddy can't pick it up. He's going to get a wagon and put the dinosaur in it, roll it into the back of the truck and then roll it into the house. The T-Rex will taste like chocolate. We will drink his blood with a teapot.

Planning on starving to death in the treehouse if we're depending on a T-Rex to feed us,



Wordless Wednesday: Interactive Book

I found this interactive book sitting our bookshelf during school this week. It was working on smiling for the camera!

Sometimes wishing the interactive book in the treehouse wasn't so active,



Tasty Tuesday: Mambo Italiano

While I might be Irish in heritage, I love some Italian food. One of my favorite and easiest things to make is Chicken Parmesan. It only takes about 30 minutes to make and is super good.

Here is what you need:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced lengthwise to make them thin
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 package of your favorite pasta (I used linguine this time)
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
4 slices (or 1 cup shredded) mozzarella cheese

First, heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat while you set up your assembly line of the egg, the bread crumbs, then the skillet.

Coat the chicken breast halves in egg, then dredge in the bread crumbs until coated. Add them to the hot skillet.

Cook each side until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. The chicken should look like this:

Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray (I used olive oil spray), then pour 2/3 of the jar of spaghetti sauce in the dish. Lay the chicken breasts on top.

Pour the rest of the spaghetti sauce on top of the chicken, then lay the pieces of mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken breasts or sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

Bake this at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes. While the chicken is baking, boil your pasta.

Normally I post a picture here of what the final result looks like when you pull it out of the oven, but my family was all over this like a duck on a june bug. Anyway, put some noodles on your plate, ladle out some sauce, then top with some chicken covered with sauce and cheese. It should look something like this:

Yep. It's as good as it looks, if not better!

We easily feed our family of five with this recipe, but it's also easy to double if your family is bigger or eats more. Quick and easy just what you need for those busy days.

Using the little bit of Italian that I know in the treehouse tonight (Ciao, bella!),


Mama Monday: Be a Barnabas!

This week the Gentleness Challenge at the Women Living Well blog focused on our words. For an example of a mom who uses her words well and with gentleness, Michelle Duggar was used. While you may not agree with the Duggar's lifestyle or Biblical views, you have to admit that Michelle is one gentle mom! With all of those children I have yet to see her lose it. But apparently she wasn't always this way. Losing her temper and using harsh words with her children was something that she struggled with as well. One of their family rules now includes to praise your children ten times more than you correct them.

I definitely find myself falling into  "No" Mom mode more than "Yes" Mom mode, but living in a house of encouragement is so much more enjoyable and refreashing for everyone. I enjoy hearing my efforts praised, so why wouldn't my children? But creating an atmosphere of encouragement in your home is like everything else in motherhood, it takes practice and a change in mindset. Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Look for the Good. It's so easy to fall into the negativity trap that even finding things that we like about our children can be difficult. And if you're not careful it can start to look a lot like whining, "If only those kids would..." or "I just don't understand why they don't...". It is not our natural tendency to praise or encourage, which is probably why God had to command us to do it. Notice that God never has to command us to whine or complain! So change your thoughts and try to purposefully catch your children doing something right. Point it out to them. Make a big deal out of it: clap for them, let them eat from a special plate that night at dinner, etc. But most of all encourage them to be encouragers! Make a family game where you try to catch someone else being good or doing the right thing, then reward the encourager as much as the one who was caught.

2. Be Specific. When we think about encouragement or praise, it's usually something generic, like "Good job!" or "That's so sweet!" But next time expand on that so that your children know exactly what you are proud of them for. Instead of "Good job!" say, "Good job on putting your shoes up. You are really remebering the little things!" Instead of "That's so sweet!" say, "That's so sweet of you to play with your brother when you would rather be doing something else. I know he really appreciates it, and I do too!"

3. Use it to teach. Do you want your children to be kind, generous, loving? Then encourage them when you see them doing those things! Praise is a much more powerful motivator than being griped out. You can use encouragement to teach your children traits that you want them to have. For example, Chipette is a classic first-born perfectionist (just like her mom!). If something is the slightest bit difficult for her or she is afraid that she will fail, then she doesn't even attempt it (just like her mom!). We changed Chipette's math program in the middle of first grade last year. I felt like she wasn't being challenged enough since she's naturally good at math. The first week I was ready to throw in the towel. I even started looking around for a different math program to switch her to again. Every time I pulled out the new math book she would cry, complain, whine, the whole drama-filled child nine yards! But we stuck with it (lots of patient encouragement from me), and the first time she got an entire worksheet correct, then we had a big ceremony that night at dinner where Chipette received the "Thomas Edison Award for Persistence"! Guess who thinks she can do anything now, if she puts her mind too it? An entire lesson on persistence without yelling, threatening, or punishment, just using encouragement!

The more I'm involved in the Gentleness Challenge, the more I see a real transformation occurring in our family. And guess who it starts with...the mom! So now I encourage you to change your family, and change the world, using a lot of gentleness with an extra helping of encouragement.

Time to go encourage myself to do the dishes in the treehouse,



Scripture Sunday: The Great Wall in our Faith

We use walls a lot in our world. They support structures such as our homes. They keep things out, like the Great Wall of China kept out invaders. Or they keep things in, like we use our fence (basically a wooden wall) to keep our dog in the back yard. But we also use walls to designate a boundary line. The most famous of this type of wall would be the Berlin Wall. It maked the boundary between East Germany (communist) and West Germany (democratic). There were stiff penalties if one was caught trying to cross the boundary from East Germany into West Germany.

In Proverbs 3:6, God gives us a boundary for our faith and a line that we should never cross. It reads: In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Pretend like the comma in that verse is a wall, a boundary wall. The first half of the verse is our side of the wall. It is where we should dwell. The second half of the verse is God's side of the wall. It is where we should never go.

Our responsibility as God-followers is to "acknowledge him in all of our ways." That means that we are to live our lives commited to God's word. Every decision, every thought, every choice, every action of every moment should all acknowledge him in our life. When I have a choice of letting my daughter go to her ballet rehearsal on Wednesday night or participating in Bible study, then I choose Bible study every time. Why? Because I want to acknowledge God in all of my ways. When I choose to bite my tongue instead of letting anger spew forth even if I have a legitimate complaint, then I choose to let my anger cool before responding. Why? Because I want to acknowledge God in all of my ways.

God's promise to us is that if we acknowledge him, then he will "make our path straight." That means that he will lead us and take care of us. He will direct our life the way it needs to go. It does not mean that we will never be tempted, have trials, or have heartache. God doesn't promise us a life without problems, but he does promise to lead our path. We may not always understand what is happening, but we can be secure that God is in control.

The problem comes when we try to cross that wall, when we want to take over directing our own paths. Maybe we have in our mind the way that the problem should be handled, we have our own timetable of when it should be handled, and we know exactly the outcome that we want. There is only one hitch in that plan. You have just crossed over the wall and invaded God's territory. It is not up to us to determine how a problem should be resolved. It is not up to you when your trial should end. It is not up to you to choose the outcome.

The companion verse in the New Testament is found in Romans 12:1, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (emphasis mine). This phrase explains to us why staying on our side of the wall is such a hard thing to do. We must present ourselves as a living sacrifice; we must live our lives in submission to God. And as I heard someone say once, "The problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar!" So every day, hour, minute, or second, we must constantly be checking ourself to make sure that we are acknowledging God and staying out of his territory.

When we live our lives following Proverbs 3:6, the result will be all of the benefits of a wall. It will support us on our way to heaven. It will keep out things that hinder our walk, like sin, worry, discontentment. It will keep in things like peace, love, and joy. And it will give us a boundary or a marker to make sure that we are living our lives in faith.

Working on my wall in the treehouse,



Freaky Friday: Crabtastic!

I know last time I talked about an animal, and this time I'm going to talk about an animal that is my pet. He is Hermie the hermit crab. There is one thing that he likes to do better than crawling up my hand is climbing up his wall.

***pssst...now post the picture, Mom***

Now I am going to talk about what I have learned about hermit crabs. The thing that I was most interested in about hermit crabs is their habitat. A hermit crab needs a salt water dish, a fresh water dish, and a food bowl. They like to have other hermit crabs with them because they are social animals. That is why Magpie is getting a hermit crab named Sebastian. Did you know that hermit crabs are nocturnal? That means that they are awake at night.

***whispering...now put The End in big letters***

The End

Feeling crabby in the treehouse,



Thoughtful Thursday: O Captain, My Captain!

I'm sure by now you have heard about the cruise ship that ran aground off the Italian coast. Yet another reason to add to my growing list of reasons why I never want to take a cruise: falling overboard, running aground, getting food poisoning.

I'm sure you've heard about the heroic captain who stayed with the ship until every last man, woman, and child was safe in a lifeboat. What's that you say? You didn't hear about the heroic captian? Well, that's because he wasn't on board. He had tripped, fallen into a lifeboat, and could not get back on the ship. And that is his real excuse.

If you read the transcript between the coast guard and the captian, they are basically begging, then threatening him to return to his ship, but he refuses. He refuses to do what is the honorable thing to do, the right thing to do.

And while I'm not a ship's captain, I am the "co-captain" of my family. And while my children and husband aren't in peril of physical death because of my less than honorable actions, you have to wonder what kind of lessons they are learning by my less than honorable moments.

  • When I ask my daughter to tell the telemarketer on the phone that I'm not home because I really can't deal with it right now. Am I teaching her it's okay to lie sometimes?
  • When I forget to pay for the water bottle that we grabbed when we walked in Wal-Mart but don't want to unload everyone from the car to go back in and do the right thing. Am I teaching them it's okay to steal?
  • When I yell at the TV or call the referees names as I'm watching college football. Am I teaching them that being mean and rude is allowed in certain circumstances?
  • When I make "jokes" about other people or ethnicities. Am I teaching my family that God truly loves everyone?
While the leader of that cruise ship has the title of "captain," I think that everyone can agree that he didn't live up to the expectation that his title holds. We need to do make sure that our lives match up to our title. If you call yourself "Christian" then you need to act like it. If you call yourself the "head of your family," then be one. If you call yourself a "helpmeet", then do it.

And if you want your children to see you as someone to follow and respect, then do the honorable things and the right things all the time. Even when you're embarassed, afraid, or just don't want to. That's how you keep your family from running aground.

Sailing in smooth, open water in the treehouse,


I'm a Homeschool Newbie: Part 2

In case you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #3

If you've done any kind of research at all on homeschooling, then you quickly realized that there is A LOT of stuff out there. If you want to give yourself a panic attack just do a search for "homeschool curriculum" and prepare to have your head explode!

So how are you supposed to wade through all of it? The short answer: you can't. There is just too much. Reading through the book I recommended in Part 1 is a good way to start, but even then there might be something perfect for your child that is not in the Top 100.

The first thing I suggest is to attend a homeschool convention if at all possible. I don't care if you go to any lectures (you can if something really strikes your fancy!), but you do need to go to the vendor hall. This place is like heaven on earth to a homeschooler, all the booths, the beautiful books, the curriculum. A homeschool convention vendor hall is the perfect place to begin your research on what is out there.

But you do need to follow a couple of rules:

1. Do not take any money and do not buy anything! It can be overwhelming and exciting and that equals impulse buying. Most homeschoolers do not have unlimited funds for their school, so make your purchases count. Remember you are here to research not to feel remorse one month later when that "perfect" math program that the vendor assured you would work miracles for your 8 year old is causing tears everytime you even glance at the book.

2. Bring a notepad, cell phone, Ipad, etc. to write down notes. Hopefully you have figured out your educational philosophy and your child's learning style already, so you should have some idea of what you would like. If you want a more traditional type of school, then you know to stay away from the unit studies, etc. Walk around the vendor hall and jot down anything that looks interesting and fits with your criteria. Feel free to ask the vendor questions about their product. BUT DO NOT BUY ANYTHING! I don't care how good of a deal they are offering. It is cheaper to buy something that you know will work, then to buy something that might not because it is on sale.

3. Take your notes, get on the computer, and look at reviews. There are quite a few curriculum review sites, but my favorite is this one. All of the reviews are written by homeschooling parents that have used the products. Keep in mind that just because something has some bad reviews doesn't mean that it won't work for your family. I usually learn more from the bad reviews than I do from the good ones! What one family hated about the program is exactly what I'm looking for!

4. Find people who you can pick their brain in "real" life. Remember in Part 1 where I told you to find some fellow homeschoolers? Well, those folks aren't only helpful for understanding homeschool laws, but they are great for telling you about curriculum too. Use online sources or face-to-face sources, but find someone you can carry on a conversation with who has used the curriculum you are thinking about, even if they hated it. I usually use online sources for this because there aren't a lot of homeschoolers in my area, especially ones who homeschool the way we do.

This leads to...

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #4

You know the old saying, "There are no stupid questions only stupid answers." Well, this is especially true when it comes to homeschooling. Do not be afraid to ask. In fact, ask so many questions that people get annoyed! There are no rule books to homeschooling. If you have a problem or a question, the only way you will find the answer is to ask.

If you can't get Susie to focus on her work, then ask someone. I guarantee that they have dealt with something similar unless their children are robots. If you need a language arts program that is very hands on for your Wiggly Willy, then ask for recommendations. If you can't figure out how to balance housekeeping with homeschooling, then someone will probably have some good tips for you, but you won't know unless you ASK.

I really enjoy the internet homeschool forums for these types of questions because I can be anonymous and not feel like a dolt if I do ask something obvious. It also allows me to ask questions about my specific children without the responders knowing us personally. Sometimes it is easier for me to hear from strangers, "Your kid is being a brat about school," than to hear it from a close friend.

Which brings up our final lesson...

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #5

Homeschooling is like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities; it will be the best of times and it can be the worst of times. One of the hardest things to do as a homeschooler, either a vetran or a newbie, is to give yourself and your children some grace because you will make mistakes. 

1. This is not a life commitment. Just because you decide to try homeschooling, it doesn't mean that you will be forced to homeschool your children from now on. If you realize after a year, that it is just not working out, then you can put them back in public or private school. The powers that be will let you do that, I promise. Many times I think that people don't try homeschooling because they get too caught up in the future. They worry about teaching Johnny algebra in 8th grade when he's only 6 years old. They think that if he misses one year of school because they try homeschooling then he will be behind forever and wind up working at McDonald's for the rest of his life (not that there's anything wrong with that!). None of this is true. You can homeschool just for elementary and then put them back in for high school, or you can homeschool until they graduate. If homeschooling doesn't work out, I promise your child will be fine. There are all levels of abilities in a classroom, so he won't be behind.

2. but do give an adjustment period. Turning your family into a homeschooling family takes some adjustment, even if this is what you want. I started homeschooling Chipette when she was in Pre-K. I did this on purpose so that I would have two years until it "counted." Where we live children aren't required to attend school until first grade. It took until the end of Kindergarten until I really felt that we were starting to get this homeschool thing working for us. That is almost two years! So while homeschooling isn't a life commitment, don't quit too soon either.

3. You will not ruin your child. Unless you do absolutely nothing with your children and call it homeschooling, I promise that they will learn something. It doesn't take hours upon hours to teach your children the three R's, especially when they are young. The general rule of thumb is 1 hour for each grade level, maxing out at around 6 hours. That means if you spend 1 hour teaching your first grader basic math, phonics, and handwriting, you have done a great job that day. Anything else you get added in will be bonus! In the public school, no one gets 1 hour of individualized, one-on-one instruction in math, reading, and writing, so you are already ahead of the game.

4. and they will have friends. Ahh, socialization. The worry of homeschooling parents everywhere: but my kids won't have any friends, they will be socially awkward, they won't know how to act around other children. Here's the truth: It's true we've all known children like this, but guess what? They weren't all homeschooled. I knew lots of loners and weird kids in public school, but nobody blamed their behavior on the public school system. It's also true that if you homeschool, you can stay home so much that your children never get out, but you would have to really make the effort. In one week my children attend three church services, dance practice, library time, and homeschool co-op. Not to mention when they play seasonal sports such as soccer, softball, and basketball. We are socialized to the max. In fact, there is only one night a week (other than the weekends), when we are all home together in the evenings!

5. You will have bad days. I know that as you get ready to begin homeschooling, you envision your children sitting engrossed around your feet as you read to them from Shakespeare, then you will make a craft, practice writing sonnets, and work on your science fair project. They will be excited and interested in everything you teach them. They will eagerly begin each day with excited pleas of, "What do we get to learn about today, you goddess of knowledge that we call mother?" Okay, maybe that was just my homeschool dream, but the truth is that homeschooling is work, hard work. There are lots of days when your children will not want to do school. There are lots of days when you don't want to do school. There will be tears, temper tantrums, and complete meltdowns (and that's just you!). You might think that you are patient, loving, kind, self-controlled, and any other fruit of the Spirit you can think of...until you start homeschooling. Then you realize how far you and your children have to go in these areas!

6. but you will have good days, and even amazing days! Now that we've gotten the scary, reality stuff out of the way, you also need to realize the joy that homeschooling brings. I have taught one child to read (quite well, if I do say so myself!) and am working on teaching kid number two. There is nothing like seeing their eyes light up when they sound out their first word, read their first sentence, and finish their first chapter book. It's wonderful to watch them get so involved in their science experiment or art project that they forget they are even doing school. It's humbling when you are studying the Bible with them and they say things that convict you in your walk with the Lord. It's encouraging when your child pushes through a lesson in math that is difficult for them because you were there reminding them that they could do it. It's these days that make it all worthwhile.

Hopefully something I've written in these two posts will bless you as you begin your homeschooling journey. It is not a trip for the faint-hearted, but then nothing worth doing ever is.

I'm a Homeschool Newbie: Part 1

I've seen on lots of homeschool forums and groups where people have decided to homeschool, but have no idea how to start. Or maybe they have suddenly been forced into homeschooling and REALLY have no idea where to start. I'm putting together a series of posts on how to get the homeschooling ball rolling.

I've only been homeschooling for 4 years (if you count Pre-K which some people don't), but I'm a type A personality, and I love to research. I would love a job where someone just wanted me to go find information for them all day long. So those are my "credentials" for writing these blog posts.

I'm writing these posts from the perspective that your family has already decided to do this. Hopefully you've prayed/meditated over the decision and know that this is what your family needs. Make sure that everyone is on the same page. Homeschooling is hard enough (it is a full time job!) without having a united effort.

On to the important stuff...

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #1

The first and most important part of this process is to know the law in your state. Each state has legislated rules that home schoolers must follow, but rest assured that homeschooling IS legal in all 50 states. The hoops you have to jump through are more numerous in some states than others. The easiest way to find out the laws where you live is to go to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website, then click on your state. Once you get to your state's page, you can click on "Laws" and it will bring up the information.

If your legal speak is not up to par or you're not quite understanding the law, then your next step is to find someone who homeschools in your state and ask them. But maybe you don't know any homeschoolers.  Here are three places to try and find some of those elusive creatures:

1. Your local library. As a homeschooler you will be spending quite a bit of time here and so do other homeschoolers. Simply show up at the library in the middle of the day while school is in session, if there are school age children there, then they are probably homeschooled. Or you can just ask the librarians if they know any local homeschoolers and leave your number for them.

2. Do an internet search for homeschool groups in the area. Search for homeschool groups and the name of your town. Hopefully something will come up, unless you live in the middle of nowhere (which is possible).

3. Find an online homeschool community. There are quite a few homeschooling forums out there that have wonderful men and women who are more than happy to answer your questions. One of my favorites is the Well-Trained Mind forum. People from all over the world post on it, so someone is sure to have an answer for your questions, even if you are not a classical homeschooler.

Which brings me to...

Homeschool Newbie Lesson #2

Exactly what is a classical education, a Charlotte Mason philosophy, traditonal homeschool, unit studies, or unschooling? These are all terms that homeschoolers use to define their educational plan. While I have an education degree, I had never heard any of these terms until I started homeschooling, but they are very important to understand.

It is also very important to understand what kind of a learner you have (this stuff I did learn in my college education classes). There are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners (and combinations of all three!). Basically, in layman's terms, the readers, the hearers, and the doers.

So now you are thinking, "There is no way I will ever figure all of this out!" Lucky for you, there is a book that I recommend to everyone starting their homeschooling journey: 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy.

It's not necessary that you buy the book (I did just because I knew I would be referencing it a lot!). You should be able to check it out from your local library or if they don't have it, then request it through inter-library loan (ILL). If you don't know how to request ILL books, then this is a good time to learn! You will be doing this a lot as you homeschool.

While not everyone agrees with her reviews of homeschool curriculum, this book is invaluable to the beginning homeschooler because of the beginning chapters where the book walks you through figuring out what kind of educational philosophy you lean towards and what kind of learners your children are. Both of these things will help guide you as you start trying to figure out what you need to buy to educate at home.

Chapter 2 in the book deals with different educational philosophies. There is a nifty checklist for you to figure out which one you like best. Here is a picture of my page:

It's also good to note that your educational philosophy can change as you homeschool. I started out fitting firmly in the classical education camp, but last year I found myself drifing much more into a Charlotte Mason education. Now I call myself a "classically Charlotte" educator because I pull from both philosophies.

After you fill out the chart, the book then goes on to tell you about each of the categories so that you can understand a bit more about what unschooling, unit studies, etc. really means. For further reading, there is a list of books mentioned at the end of the section that go in depth on each one.

Once you know "how" you want to teach, you get to figure out "how" your children like to learn. In chapter 4, the book gives you a little insight into what kind of learners you have on your hands.

While the book ascribes monikers to each learning style, such as a Wiggly Willie, don't let the genders confuse you. I have a Wiggly Wilma on my hands, so not all "wigglers" are boys!

The bulk of the book after these initial chapters is dedicated to reviews of Ms. Duffy's opinions of what the Top 100 homeschool curricula are. She begins the reviews by giving a chart of the Top 100 broken down by educational philosophy, learning style, and subject. So say you like Charlotte Mason education, have a Wiggly Willie, and are teaching phonics. The chart will help you figure out exactly which program would best suit all of that criteria.

The Top 100 list is not exhaustive, not even close! The homeschool market is booming as more and more people choose to homeschool, so just because something is not on the list doesn't mean it's not a good program.

Which brings us to...Part 2


Tasty Tuesday: The Pinch Hitter

We all need those clutch recipes: something that is super easy to make, tastes delicious, and can be ready pronto. So today I'm sharing one of my best pinch hitter recipes. It tastes like something fancy, but it's not!

Here is what you will need to make Butterfinger Cheesecake:

1 box Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake
1 package Butterfinger snack size candybars

That's right, you only need two things. Now you will need some butter, sugar, and milk to make the cheesecake, but those are staples that most people have on hand.

First make the crust according to the cheesecake box instructions.

Next, mix up the cheesecake filling according to the instructions on the box.

Now, crumble up the Butterfingers into pieces. I use my electric chopper to do it, but my mom uses a Ziploc bag and a coffee cup. Do whatever works for you.

Add the crumbled Butterfinger to the cheesecake filling.

Mix it together.

Spoon into cheesecake crust and chill for at least one hour.

Slice it up and enjoy!

Keep the ingredients on hand (if you are like me the Butterfingers will need to be hidden from your family!) so that when you need a quick something to take to a potluck or for guests. They will think you slaved in the kitchen for hours :)

Promising myself that this cheesecake will not ruin my weight loss in the treehouse,



Mama Monday: Bubblin' Over

At the beginning of January, I joined the Gentleness Challenge on the Women Living Well blog, which I love to read. Last week as part of my learning to be a gentle mother, I wrote about loving our children.

But what does loving our children look like? And does our motherhood show that we love them? The easiest way for your children to gauge how you feel about them is how you talk to them. I've written a few posts in the past about using courteous speech and kind words, but today I want to focus on what happens when courtesy flies out the window and kind words seem few and far between.

Let's face it, while we would all like to use gentle words to our children every time we talk to them (this really is my goal), some days it is just impossible. I find myself unleashing a volcano of ugly, loud speech. This does not promote family togetherness and affection!

I've been trying to become more aware of what is going on inside of me that leads to these eruptions and there is one thing that I've noticed. When I start feeling frustrated, angry, pressured, stressed, the ugly that is inside of me comes out. It comes out as sarcasm (this is my preferred method), raised voice (second favorite), complaining (third favorite), and many others that I can't think of right now. And the lava spews on to my husband and my kids more than anyone else.

And, of course, in true Heavenly Father fashion, I stumbled across this verse in my Bible study this week: The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance fo the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

So for my part of the Gentleness Challenge this week is to recognize when those rumblings are starting to happen under the surface, remove myself from the room, go somewhere to pray, get myself under control, and stop the evil pouring out of my mouth. If my heart is full of God's fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), then there will be no room for anger, sarcasm, complaining, etc.

I want my children to see that I love them, feel that I love them, and, most importantly, hear that I love them in EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. that I say to them.

Speaking only what is encouraging to my children in the treehouse,


2011-2012 Curriculum: Magpie's Pre-K Books and Such

This is a listing of what Magpie is using for pre-K this year. I will be trying to do in-depth reviews of each of these programs as the year progresses.

Main Program (includes Bible, letters, numbers, colors, shapes, pre-handwriting skills, music, and art): Heart of Dakota's Little Hands to Heaven

Math Programs:
  • Math Practice for Beginners (This is to help learn to write numbers 1-10 and beginning addition and subtraction problems. We do one page every day.)
  • MEP Reception (This is a free math program that uses pictures and fun activities to teach beginning math skills. We do this twice a week.)
  • Cuisinaire Rods Alphabet Book (We do this on Friday to reinforce the letter we worked on that week and to get more math practice. This is linked to Amazon, but you can buy the book new from My Father's World. It is listed in their Kindergarten package, but you can purchase just the book.)
Phonics Programs:
  • Child's Play Science (We use this as a guide of topics to cover. We check out library books and watch Magic School Bus cartoons that go with the different topics. We only do this twice a week, but Magpie really likes it.)
  • Salsa Spanish videos (Although this is technically Chipette's foreign language program, Magpie joins in every time we watch the videos and do our Spanish lesson.)


Summary Saturday: Field Trip and Fun!

Lots of exciting things going on this week in the treehouse...

First of all, Chipette used her Christmas money to buy a hermit crab to be the Live Oak Christian Academy "classroom" pet. She was super excited and could hardly sleep for worrying that Hermie (very original name for a hermit crab) would get too cold and die. But he made it and here's a pic:

You can see him crawling up the side of his terrarium in an aqua shell that looks a lot like the pigs from Angry Birds.

This week Magpie really jumped ahead in her handwriting skills. She can consistently write her name correctly and all of her numbers 1-4 without looking at an example. Don't tell Chipette, but Magpie (almost 4 1/2) is well ahead of where her big sister was at this point!

In our American history studies, using Heart of Dakota's curriculum, Chipette studied William Penn this week. We learned that William Penn enjoyed participating in jumping games that the Native Americans played, so we had a jumping game in our hallway.

Chipette's jump:

Magpie's jump:

Also in Chipette's curriculum, we learned during science about Cotton Mather and his work with smallpox innoculations during the Colonial period. Then we did an activity that demonstrated the way the body creates its own antibodies to a virus and how those antibodies stay in the bloodstream to protect you from getting sick again.

I have to admit that part of the fun of homeschooling as a parent is that you get to learn all kinds of cool things along side your kids! I never knew exactly how the human body worked to fight off infections....but I do now :)

One of Magpie's favorite parts of her preschool work is when she does the ABC Series from Rod and Staff. These are fun little workbooks that help preschoolers develop fine motor skills through cutting, pasting, coloring, and writing. It's always the first thing that Magpie wants to do each day!

And to put an exclamation mark at the end of our week, we went on our first field trip with Chipette's homeschool group this Friday. The first field trip they did we missed because we were out of town. This time they went to visit Habitat for Humanity Restore to learn about Habitat for Humanity and what they do.

We learned that for every home Habitat builds in the US they build a house in another country. They average about 50,000 homes a year. Since Habitat started, they have built 500,000 houses. Most of the work is done on Saturday and Sunday, and a house is completely finished in about 2 and a half to 3 months!

I hope all of you had a great week as well!

So thankful that we have a treehouse to live in,


Freaky Friday: Magpie's Turn

Last week I introduced a new segment for my blog called Freaky Friday. This week it is Magpie's turn to take over my blog.

Hello. I am Magpie. I want to talk about my dog, Zadie. She is a boxer. Zadie is allergic to peanut butter and chocolate.

Here is Zadie talking: Hello, I am Zadie. There is a nice girl who gets dog food and water for me. Her name is Chipette. She feeds me every time when I get out of water or dog food. She comes out to play with me when it's good weather. Because her mother, who writes this blog, tells her to go outside because it is good weather.

Now Hailey Hulu (Crib Life doll she got for Christmas) is going to talk: Hello, I am Hailey Hulu. I can do flips everytime. Goodbye.

Not a lot of original thinking going on in the treehouse,



Thoughtful Thursday: Religion vs. Jesus?

In case you haven't heard there is a YouTube video that has gone viral called "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus". While I could spend my time writing down my own thoughts about the video, Anthony Warnes already summed it up for me. He gave me permission to repost his thoughts (and mine) here on my blog.

“Religion: I hate it. In fact I literally resent it” – Jeff Bethke
These words in Jeff Bethke’s YouTube video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” conclude the four-minute poem that has gone viral.  Christians across the nation are applauding this video and reposting it on Facebook and Twitter.  The video is very well done and Mr. Bethke has a wonderful way of bringing in his audience and captivating them with his words and style of speaking.
However captivating and well done the video is, I feel that there is a need to bring out many statements of Mr. Bethke’s that are not founded on the Word of Christ.
Before we begin, I will state that Mr. Bethke’s apparent purpose for his video is well received.  He attacks the Hypocrites in the church in many different ways.  He attacks those that say they have Jesus, yet their lives would prove otherwise.  A great quote of the video is; “There is a problem if people only know you are a Christian by your Facebook.” Jesus had to deal with the group called the Pharisees (Matthew 23), and He attacked this very problem as well.  To this purpose I will say, we need more of this!
Unfortunately, he goes above and beyond this main purpose and in so doing, leaves the Word of God behind in his video (as we are going to see in the following quotes).
  • “Jesus came to abolish religion.” As we look at the Scriptures, we do see that Jesus abolished something; He abolished the “Enmity” (barrier wall – read Ephesians 2:14-15).  Before Jesus died for our sins, there was a division between the Jews and the Gentiles.  When Jesus died, this “wall of hatred” was abolished.  Jesus never “abolished religion.”  In fact, in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said; “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Nowhere in this verse or in Ephesians do we see that Jesus came to abolish religion.  (Remember the word “fulfill” it will be useful later).
  • “Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools.  Don’t you see, so much better than following some rules?”  When talking about the Pharisees and another group, the Sadducees, Jesus did not hate their religion!  What He hated was their legalism, pride, and unfaithfulness (Matthew 23; Luke 18:9-14).  Many in the religious world believe that when Jesus came, He got rid of “rules”.  How do we explain then John 14:15? “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  Could it be that we have rules that we have to obey?  If we love Jesus, then we will want to obey these rules.
  • “Religion is a man made invention…the infection.”  Really?  It is a fact that there is “false religion”, but did man “invent” religion? And is religion truly an “infection”?  I invite you to search the New Testament.  Search it and find where religion is a bad thing.  You will not find it.  In fact the word “Religion” is used to show how religion can be “Pure” (James 1:27).  “Infection”?  Search the Scriptures again and what will you find?  Sin is the infection, not religion.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)
  • “Religion says DO.  Jesus says DONE.”  In this section of the video, Mr. Bethke does make a valid point; we are not saved by our own merit.  True!  However true it is that we cannot save ourselves and we need Jesus to do it for us, does not mean that we are free from DOING.  James makes it very clear that if we have faith, then we must prove them by our works (2:14-20).
  • “Religion: I hate it. In fact I literally resent it.  Cause when Jesus said ‘it is finished’ I believe He meant it.”  Look at John 19:30; “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”  I told you earlier to remember the word, “Fulfill”.  Here in John 19 we see the fulfillment of the Law, not the crushing of religion.  In John 19 we see the fulfillment of the Prophets, not the abolishing of religion.  He became the Perfect Lamb that crushed sin once and for all.  He became our Savior who saved us from the death that we so deserved.  He did not crush religion, He fulfilled it!
May I just say, maybe I should give the man the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe Mr. Bethke has his definition of religion wrong.  Maybe Mr. Bethke is truly just trying to expose the Hypocrites in the church.  This post is not a personal attack on Mr. Bethke.  This post is rather a response to what has been said, whether he meant it or not.
Do you really hate religion?  Do you just hate the hypocrisy of some?  If so, say so!  Just please refrain from stating things (or reposting things) that you do not truly believe.

Thankful for Jesus and religion in the treehouse,