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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter and Grief

I can confidently say I've never fully grasped the power of Easter until this year.

My life was full of doubts.  As I witnessed acquaintances find deep comfort in Heaven as their loved one passed, I wondered if I would find the same comfort if I ever lost someone dear.  Did I really believe in paradise that Jesus promised to the thief hanging next to him on the cross?

 Like so many lessons in life, I wish I had been sure of this particular belief without the accompanying experience;

I want patience without waiting.

I want love without vulnerability.

I want wisdom without experience.

I want appreciation without  loss.

I know what I believe about Easter, my doubts are gone. I know with all my heart where my brother-in-love Caleb is today. He was only 36 , with a fiance and four young children, too much life still left to live. He loved with all his heart, including his love for his Savior.

I know where he is, but I am still selfish. I want our brother back. I want my beloved mother and father-in-law to have never felt the pain of losing a child.  I want my husband to have his big brother back. I want Caleb to be the one to raise his four kids. I want him to spend a lifetime here with the newly found love.

I am thankful  to know that for the 16 years I was his little sister-in-love, I felt protected and loved.

It is OK to believe he in paradise, and still weep.  Jesus wept.  Jesus wept when Lazarus was in the grave, even with the full knowledge he could call him back. If Jesus wept over loss, I can too.

As we weep, my heart knows the joy and grief is mixed together.

When I really ponder on where he is, I couldn't wish him back to this world of pain.

Our brother was carpenter. He loved wood working and building something from nothing.  Caleb rushed into new fun wood working projects with an excitement that was contagious. How my heart aches with joy that Caleb is spending eternity with Jesus the Carpenter.

As much we we loved him, Caleb was always infuriatingly showing up to his own surprise party an hour late! That guy would be so excited with whatever he was doing in the moment, that all other obligations fell away.  If you were waiting on him, it was infuriating, but if you were the one he was with, it made you feel deeply valued.

He is now the one waiting for us, and I bet he can't wait to share paradise.  I am not happy about his death, but I have never felt the true joy of the Easter deeper. The joy is Easter is not happy, it is painful.

Praise you Lord. Praise you for your defeat of death.  Thank you for this beautiful & painful salvation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Inside Our Homeschool Workboxes

We love our 5th grade workboxes! They pair well with My Father's World, and we use them after our morning together time of Science, History, and Bible.  

Be encouraged, you are not the only one who had to tell your children to stop poking each other with pencils today. To those of you think my Homeschool Workboxes mean I get free time to do chores around the house during school, they don't. My 5th graders still need me in the room or they get distracted, bicker and poke each other. 

The workboxes free me from spending my whole day explaining what comes next and do foster a sense of ownership over their day, but they are not 100% independence. I usually work at my computer next to their desks, because they need me for questions and individual subjects of Math and English all morning long. The workboxes do allow me to blog and edit my professional photography business as they work. They allow me to leave the room to quickly throw a load of laundry in, without everyone loosing their focus at once.

Below is a video to  show a little day-in-the-life video of our homeschool workboxes, showing you inside each box. All the supplements mentioned have links below the video.

To read more specifically of each subjects that is inside of the workboxes, see this post!


Some of the supplements mentioned in the video:

Draw and Write Through History
Guitar Lessons for Kids

Free Piano Lessons for Kids

Friday, March 9, 2018

How to Manage Library Books in Your Homeschool

The library is one of my favorite places in the world.  America's library system is a thing of beauty. We have so much wrong with our country, but our library system is a reason to feel to patriotic.  Free books.  To everyone.  It is truly awe inspiring.

As a homeschooler on a budget, the library saves us thousands of dollars a year, enabling us to us to study any subject we want, without any added book expenses.

While I love the library, it can also be overwhelming. The giant book lists in our curriculum is a pro in my opinion, but it can also become a con if the sheer amount of books overwhelms you, or worse, you start adding up fines. Don't let this amazing tool become a burden in your family!

ELIMINATE FINES with online Renewals & Text/Email Alerts
SIGN UP FOR TEXT AND/OR EMAIL ALERTS NOW!!!! Signing up for email alerts & online renewals are the best things I have ever done at my library, it has almost eliminated my fines. I think my total late fees last year were a little over $3.

The moment I get an email alert that a book is coming due:
1.) I go online and RENEW, NO MATTER WHAT. Seriously, renew materials even if you plan to take it back that day!
2.) Put in bag by the front door.   Our library as a drive through drop off box, and we drop off the books when we're out and about, and because I have already renewed online, books can be taken back on my own schedule.

Online Library Holds Save Time
Almost all libraries now allow you to put books on hold online before visiting the library.  Our library has a limit of 10 books for a hold. This can be done on your phone from the convenience of your couch, after your kids go to bed.

I pick up the holds at the front of the library, instead of going all the way to the kid's section.  When we are busy with life, this can really help you get at least some books in that book basket!

Library Book Basket 
This Library Book Basket is where all library books live in our house.  They sleep here. Library Books DO NOT LEAVE the room of the library basket.  Period.   I wish I could let my kids read all over the house, but the fines are not worth it.  The library basket stays in the living room, where I can see it at all times.
There are a very few times where I allow my kids to take a book out of the living room, MAYBE in the car on a long trip.  But  all books must come back to sleep every night in this basket.

Kid Pays their Fines
Make your kids responsible  for the fines if they lose a book.  My boys have paid a lost book fine out of their own money because they lost a book at a park, and it never happened again. They had to split the fine because they couldn't agree on who took it to the park, and who left it there.

If you lose a book, of course you as the mom pays for it.  But I firmly believe as homeschoolers, they need to learn responsibility of keeping track of their school items, especially if they are older than 2nd grade.  A public school child must keep track of their backpack, books, coat, boots, etc.  Our kids need to learn to keep track of  book inside their own home.

Library Cart
With the amount of  books we get, it is easy to hurt your back, shoulder, or any part of you that is over 30 years old!  I have a lovely rolling cart that lives in the back of my back of my van!  I LOVE IT!  Every library as an elevator, and this cart gives me an excuse to use it! I keep a few small bags in the cart, so that I can carry the books into my house, but this saves my back from injury.

Rolling Library Cart saves my back!

I hope this helps someone who is feeling overwhelmed with library books!  Remember the library is your friend!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pros & Cons MFW Exploring Countries & Cultures

Exploring Countries and Cultures (ECC) was our first year in the family cycle of My Father's World. It was by far one of our favorites!  I also think it is essential to begin with this study; the geographical and cultural context you gain will be essential to any historical study that follows.

The beauty of this curriculum is the core teaching is done together, with additional activities are suggested for older students.  While the Daily lesson plans are in an easy-to-use weekly chart format, it took a few weeks to get the hang of the family cycle.   Since the curriculum designed for a multi age classroom, some resources hit younger  kids, some middle elementary, and some for older. Don't get discouraged if a resources seems over your kids heads. You'll see below we had some books that we didn't use now for my 3rd graders, but will use when we repeat the cycle in 8th grade.

 Don't get overwhelmed if you are beginning, the manual will become easier to navigate as you establish the rhythm  for your Together Time.  It took a week or so of actually teaching from the manual to be comfortable with the flow, and to learn how to leave items out that weren't meant for us.  Throughout the year, you will also need to assess if a book suggested works for ALL your kids. It is OK if your youngers don't retain all the details from every book, they are still learning at their own level. For those of you like to check all the boxes,you need be OK with sometimes not doing something listed because it is too old or too young for your kids.

Below are descriptions of why a book did , or did not, work for our kids.  Your kids are different, so your cons may be our pros!  Please leave a comment on what works for you!



  • Teacher's Manual Hands-on activities (cooking, flag sticker book, passport, etc) were easy to execute, without buying too many crazy extra items. I would usually make whatever food item was called for on Friday. If we didn't want to use the recipe in the manual for the country, I'd just google a simpler recipe for that country.
  • Student Sheets- You will definitely need the student sheets for this year!! 
  • Trip Around the World & Another Trip Around the World- These books have a few extra worksheets & activities for some of the countries you visit.  You will have to make copies for each child.  
  • Book basket- We used the book basket list  and the library heavily this year, more than any other year. These books will so much more context than you can provide to your together time. Remember this is a jumping off point for your library search! Every country allowed us to fill the library basket full of fiction and non fiction books for all ages. Online library searches at home were a weekly event, and allowed me to easily add many books that weren't on the book list to our basket. Studying one country or continent at a time made finding alternatives very easy.
  • Geography resource books of Children's Atlas of God's WorldClassroom Atlas, & Maps and Globes were everyday resources that were essential to the study. We did enjoy the blow up Globe, and used it a lot each day. 
  • Geography From A to Z  was a wonderful book, age appropriate book. It might have been our favorite book of the year!  The illustrations are clear and even taught me many new vocabulary words.  The books is also scheduled strategically throughout the year, like learning about Fjords when you visit Norway.  We used the Printables from Mama Jenn, so that at the end of each child had their own hand drawn dictionary!
  • Currency Kit- We used the money kit, but never fully the way described in the manual. We were suppose to use it to "buy" items in your house each week. What we did was to have them visit the "Money exchange" office each time we got a stamp in the passport. Each new country, they would exchange  $10 American for the currency of that country. They just kept the money with their passport, until we went to the next country. 

  • Wall World Map-We did not use a world wall map due to a very small house & not enough wall space, instead used the map placement we had bought during Adventures in U.S.  History. The blow up Globe also took the place of the need for the wall map. If you have the room for this in your house, go ahead and put it up!!!
  • Geography Game. Even though it comes with the Student Sheets, we never actually used the Geography Game.  Instead we used Stack the Countries App.
  • Exploring World Geography. We did not use this, as I only had two 3rd graders.  I am sure we will use it for when we do the cycle again, but it is more for upper elementary or Junior High. Research skills are developed through the study of continents, many reports are done that are better for older kids.


  • Hero Tales- We really enjoyed this kid friendly book of true stories of godly men and women and the character traits they portrayed as they served as missionaries. The manual lays out the schedule well, so you learn about a missionary from the continent you are studying. We printed copy work from Mama Jenn that helped cement then stories and lessons, and counted as handwriting practice.
  • Window on the World- This was an informative book, that was also a family friendly introduction to the religions around the world. I like that it gave us specific prayers for each country, to teach us how to pray for different cultures. It also gives you context on a bigger variety of countries that the student sheets.
  • God Speaks Numangagg-  This book is only used once, but it s a great read.  

  • Memory Verses & Bible Copy work- We did not do the Weekly memory verses and daily readings from Matthew because my kids are active in AWANA, a Bible Memorization Club.  They had enough copy work with Hero Tales printables (see above).
  • Missionary Chapter Books (Deluxe package)- These were way too old for my 3rd graders.  We may visit them again when they are older, but Hero Tales covered all the heroes already, so it felt redundant. 

Our favorite part of this year was the easily accessible science topics. All kids love animals, and the focus on different habitats (desert, rain forest, grassland, forest, polar region, etc.) was loved by all.

  • Living World Encyclopedia was a great kid friendly book, with lots of bright illustrations.
  • Book Basket-Plan to get many of the optional library books listed in book basket, especially for younger kids.  If the book listed isn't at your library, just type in Keyword for whatever ecosystem you're studying! The ecosystem always correlates to the country being studied (e.g., rain forest when studying Brazil), so searching your library catalog will be pretty easy. Even the least well stocked libraries should have some fiction and non-fiction  books on the major ecosystems (babies animals in the desert, animals of the savannah, etc.).
  • The Great Animal Search- This is a good book for younger kids.  Again, the animal study was very age appropriate for elementary aged children. 

  • Properties of Ecosystems was a good book that we tried to read with my science lovers.  It is more of a textbook, as opposed to a living book.  While we enjoyed it sometimes, it mostly just went over the head of my 3rd graders and they didn't retain any details. I'd recommend it for older elementary/junior high science lovers, but may be a bit much for most elementary aged kids.  We will probably like it much better when we repeat the cycle later in 8th grade. 
  • Weekly nature walk and nature journal.  I know this is so important to Charlotte Mason, but   we just spend a lot of time outside already, there was no need to formalize the walks.  We have never kept this up.
  • The Complete Books of Animals (for 2nd & 3rd graders).  We did not use this book, because we used  Draw Write Now which was a science and art curriculum combined.  I found our schedule for these books on the MFW ECC Group.  We also felt the abundance of library book options made this book redundant.  If you do not use Draw, Writw, Now  or your library is not well stocked, I would recommend getting this book for 2nd & 3rd graders. 

For 7th and 8th graders, add Apologia science (purchase separately). We were in 3rd grade, so this didn't apply to us.

Art & Music

  • Teacher's Manuals Art Projects- I am an artistic person, but can slack on art with my kids. Thankfully the projects were scheduled that didn't overwhelm the day, or require super weird materials. Example: When learning about Mexico, we made tissue paper flowers on Thursday that we then used for our fiesta on Friday (we made homemade tortillas on Friday, and it was almost the only thing scheduled for the day).
  • Fun with Easy Origami (Deluxe package)- My kids LOVED this book. That said, is only used during Japan, so you could easily get a simple Origami How-To Book from the library! Be prepared from a house full of paper animals! 

Did Not Use
  • GLOBAL ART (Deluxe package) The teacher's manual provides so many hands on activities, that I didn't usually feel like we needed any projects from this book. It would make your day extraordinarily  long if you added all these. If you have crafty kids, you will like to be able to pull from this book throughout your year.
  • Wee Sing around the world (Deluxe package) At first, when we finished every country by eating food from that country, we would play a song from that region while eating.  But the CD only has one song from each region.  I would recommend just getting some CDs from that country from your library, or looking up some on your phone. 


We have never had great luck with MFW recommend Math. We use Math U See, you can see our review here.

Language Arts

  • Language lessons for Today, Grade 3-  We again enjoyed LLFT, because it is a gentle Charlotte Mason approach to language arts.  Some feel it is too light, but as we have stuck with it, I have seen it gets harder at an age appropriate level.  Some years past have felt almost too light, but I think the 4th and 5th grade are beginning to pick up, and challenge them more with grammar and writing. 

  • Spelling-  MFW Recommendation of Spelling Power is confusing, and just does not work with our work-boxes.  It is very teacher driven and we needed a more independent spelling curriculum that didn't require so much teacher presence.   We used Spelling By Sound and Structure for Christian Schools.

Add- Ons

Stack the Countries App   We use this instead of the Geography Game

LEGO LANDMARKS, free supplement using the Legos in your house- This past year we turned my boys' Lego obsession into another avenue of learning.

Friday Family Movie Night. Family movie night during ECC always included a movie from whatever country we were studying. Thankfully Disney has done several different countries.  You can find an extensive list in the MFW ECC Group.

Workboxes - The Workbox system has saved my sanity! I can't imagine homeschooling without it!

Draw Write Now  We used this as a science, art, and handwriting curriculum, and my kids LOVED IT.  Their drawing improved by leaps and bounds, and it as an independent activity that worked perfectly with our work boxes  We used a schedule for these books in MFW ECC Group.


LEGO Landmarks: Free Supplement to ECC

3rd Grade Workboxes- ECC

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Soft Pumpkin Cookies~Dairy & Egg Free

I love pumpkin all year long. These cookies are easy to make, and fun little mouth full of pumpkin.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Dairy & Egg Free
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 ½ cups sugar 
  • ½ cup margarine (1 stick), softened 
  • 1 cup Pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tsp unsweetened almond milk (add more if too thick to drizzle)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets
  2. COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl.
  3. Beat sugar and margarine in large bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, applesauce until smooth. 
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by small spoon size onto prepared baking sheets.  Do not make too big or they will not cook through.  
  5. BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Drizzle Glaze over cookies. 
  6. MAKE GLAZE Combine powdered sugar & unsweetened almond milk in a small bowl until smooth. I use a spoon and drizzle over top in a side to side motion. It's not perfect looking, but tastes yummy!