Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

David tenth



Happy Birthday, David! Your charm, wit, intelligence, humor, and fun-loving ways have been winning my heart for ten years now. Such a delight to watch you grow up and mature! I can’t wait to see what amazing things you will say and do in the years to come! Love, Mom.

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Every year you grow in loveliness and grace. Every year you surprise me with new growth, maturity, strength of character, humor and wit.

You are good company…

I am so very thankful for the gift you are to me and to our family. Thank you for your helpful ways, your nurture and care of others, for being such an awesome big sister, for watching my movies with me and shopping with me and for whipping up deliciousness in the kitchen.

You are amazing! Happy birthday, Sweet Elisabeth!

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I have loved every one of Sally’s books, they have been a guide and encouragement for me for over a decade of mothering in the trenches. Reading Desperate was a balm to my mommy-soul and I just know that you will love it too! Curling up with this book is the next best thing to pouring my heart out to Sally over a cup of tea and having her counsel and encourage me with words of wisdom and hope and inspiration. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

There are a few giveaways connected with the book’s release, here’s a link to an entry form to win a spa weekend with Sally and Sarah Mae…hey, a mommy can dream, right?

The book can be found just about everywhere, but check to see if Dayspring is still offering it with a free, super-cute journal!

Now…off to enter that giveaway for myself!

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In considering how to approach a series of posts to share all the amazing apps I have found to load onto the two iPads we are using for homeschooling this year, I had planned to categorize them by type or subject (Math, Language Arts, Music, Checklists, etc.). However, life here in our home has been so crazy this summer as I try to plan, clean and organize for our upcoming year while living life with five children (including a toddler) and a new puppy. Needless to say, blogging is not at the top of my list of priorities!

So I thought of a different approach, one that will also help families that are already using an iPad or iPod touch. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone will clear out all the apps they already have, and if someone were to obtain EVERY app I feature by the end of my list, you would find a 16G device full to the max (ask me how I know).

I will start out listing my very favorite educational apps…the ones that I am most excited about using this year, whether they are completely obvious, required a long and arduous search, or were something I stumbled upon quite by accident.

So here we go…

1. Paperless

Once again…I love lists! This is my very favorite app, and has little to do with education, but I wouldn’t be without it! Try out the lite version to see what you think…I opted to upgrade to the full version so I could have as many lists as I like, in a beautiful format, with or without check boxes, and full email capability (which comes in very handy when I want to send my husband the grocery list!). And since I can password protect it, I can keep this app on the children’s iPads as well as my iPhone, even though it has everything from Christmas gift ideas to what curriculum we will use this year, meal ideas and home improvement projects, and what to pack for our vacation. Now I rarely forget an item or an errand, because my phone is almost always nearby, which is more than I can say for a piece of paper and a pen!


2. Chore Pad HD

When I first received the iPads and started figuring out what apps to choose and how we were going to use them for school, I joked around with a friend that “it won’t clean the toilet for me, but there seems to be an app for just about everything else!”

I was wrong.

Use Chore Pad HD to create your own list of chores for each of your children…you can even create one for yourself! The children check off the chores as they are completed, earning stars towards a reward. You determine the payout and the required number of stars, such as 25 for a bowl of ice cream or half an hour of television. Then you sit back and watch the magic! And don’t be afraid to get really creative about what a “chore” might be! We have everything from unloading the dishwasher to “respectful attitude” and “attentive during lessons”…I LOVE THIS APP!


3. Art Database

This app resolved a huge frustration I had as a Charlotte Mason home educator who desperately wanted to do Picture Study but felt constrained by the difficulty of locating materials. Last year I used sets of picture postcards by several different artists, but even that was expensive and not all were appropriate for viewing by young children. And then there was the 4×6 size…difficult to see detail and gain a full appreciation for masterful works of art. Yet in years past I had even more trouble procuring coffee table books from the library or pulling up pictures online. This stunning app has enabled us to do Picture Study to a degree that I never before dreamed could be possible. For $9.99 you can access ALL the works by ALL the artists in the database (and it is comprehensive, I assure you!). You can pull the pictures up through a network connection or download individual images. For artists with a penchant for painting women déshabillé (ahem)…I downloaded appropriate images to a folder in Dropbox. For others, such as Monet or Turner, I leave the whole catalog up on the app so that the kids can browse through the paintings whenever they wish. With the ability to mirror the iPad’s screen onto our widescreen television, we will finally be able to experience the works of the masters in vivid color and crisp detail, and yet I even enjoy scrolling through the works of the Masters on my iPhone. I cannot recommend this app highly enough!


4. Happly

I still love this app, even though it has been temporarily removed from our devices because David figured out a way around it and out onto the internet unrestricted. Happly is supposed to be a child-safe internet app, and I so very much like the setup. Articles, YouTube videos, websites, games, and images all carefully selected for age-level appropriateness and showcased in a fun and interactive display. Parents set up a passcoded account for themselves and an account for each child. They can determine what categories are accessed and add their own content as well. However, some articles are linked to a website, and some websites link to others or to Google. Once out onto the Google site, your child can get anywhere on the internet, so be warned. The creators of Happly are aware of the issue and are working on the problem. I am going to play with deleting all of Happly’s content and adding just my own, but that is a little labor intensive and since new content is added all the time, it will continue to be an issue until safety protocols are put into place. Very cute idea, though, and my children thoroughly enjoyed it for many weeks and will hopefully have the opportunity again soon.


5. Felt Board

My children have spent hours creating scenes with this adorable app. There are numerous backgrounds, figures and “props” (such as animals, trees and flowers, household items, etc.) to choose from, and each can be re-sized, so you can make people at various heights, big trees and small trees (think perspective!), a flock of birds, etc. Items can “stick” in place with the glue function, or be moved around, or a combination of both. With a button for snapping a photo that stores directly to the Photos section on the device, your child’s work can be preserved and even printed, posted to a social network, or emailed to a faraway friend. I knew this app was for us when my 5 year old created a scene from Treasure Island after a morning reading session. Perfect for narration or just plain, creative fun for ages 2 to 102!


6. Art Set and Art Rage

We probably don’t need to have both of these apps, but there are features of each that we love. A full selection of realistic papers, media so rich and vibrant that at times you feel as though when you touch the screen you could pull away with your finger covered in oil paints. Pen, pencil, pastels, marker, charcoal, and many forms of paint…all with customizable line thickness, pressure, and the ability to smudge and blend. A glorious array of color, and of course the ability to save and share. My children have created some amazing works of art on these engaging applications!


7. Peterson Birds of North America

This was a “stumble upon”. While poking around the App Store on Earth Day (no, I wasn’t really aware of the day), I came across this fantastic app that was featured for 99 cents as part of a focus on nature and outdoor applications. Sorry to say, it’s a lot more than that on a day to day basis, but I would still contend that it’s worth every penny! Gorgeous pictures of hundreds if not thousands of birds, all with links to maps and information, each with a sound recording and a top-notch journaling setup to catalog your sightings. Within 48 hours of downloading this app, my children and I identified a bird that we had never even heard of before! We were uncertain at first, as we kept staring at the male through our windows and checking the app to match up markings. But then we spotted the female a few minutes later and shortly thereafter heard the birdsong that matched the sound recording. We were enthralled! I do believe that young ornithologists were birthed in that moment! A great addition to Nature Study materials.


8. Stack the States

Though this app may fall in the “obvious” category, as it’s top-rated and easy to find in the Educational category, I will still put in a plug for it and list it amongst my favorites. There was a time where guilt ran deep because my children knew little to nothing about states and capitols. We had actually done a bit of studying on the subject…they knew the names of the states and maybe a few capitols, but hand them a blank map and you could watch me burn with shame in two seconds flat. Not that filling in a map of the U.S. is the hallmark of homeschooling excellence…but nonetheless I felt like this was a gap in our learning. Now my five-year-old can fill in all the states…which also means he can read nearly all the words this app throws at him. I had no clue he could read to this extent or was capable of such amazing memory recall until I watched him interact with this application…we had just come off of “the cat sat on the mat” this past school year! This app is fun, engaging, and even covers trivia such as landmarks, state birds and flags, and other fun geography facts. A definite winner in my book! We also have the “sister” app Stack the Countries, which is of course more of  a challenge, though my older children do enjoy it.


9. Classical Music I: Masters Collection Vol. 1

We love to study classical music and composers. This app makes it so easy, featuring 120 of the best-loved classical pieces plus information about each composer. Students can mark favorites with a heart, and although the full version (which allows the entire piece to be played instead of a clip) is $4.99, once again I can say that the extra cost is worth is worth every penny. There is also a Volume 2 available with a more extensive selection, but Volume 1 is comprehensive enough to kick off your Composer Study in style!


10. Freefall Money and Freefall Spelling

I love these adorable apps, and so do my kids! The design is so attractive and cute, the layout and function of the app is excellent. Children are presented with three different tasks (add the coins and enter amount, drag and drop in the piggy bank to add up to correct amount, group the coins into correct amount) and they earn fish for their tank. Then they get to have fun feeding the fish and cleaning the tank. The spelling app works similarly with drag and drop or enter modes. You can also customize the spelling app with your own list of words, even adding your own pictures.  These are obviously geared towards lower elementary age groups, but we all unabashedly admit to having fun on these apps, myself included!

There you have it. My very favorites, which alone make the iPad an amazing home education resource. The rest are icing on the cake, and will hopefully be featured here soon. So keep checking back!

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Somewhere around mid-March this past year, I experienced it


The homeschooling mother’s annual nervous breakdown.

My house was a disaster, my nerves were frayed, my kids were climbing the walls, and I felt that we weren’t “getting anything accomplished”…that I just “couldn’t do this anymore”…

Yes, I know…this happens to every homeschooling mom, and probably around mid-March, too!

Whilst I was searching up and down the road for the Yellow Bus to throw my kids onto, or googling opportunities to move to Europe, or dreaming of thousands of dollars I don’t have to send my children to the local Classical-model Christian school that doesn’t exist, a wise friend of mine had some more realistic advice for me. And I don’t even know what it was she said, really…she just calmly chatted with me, graciously resisted pointing out the fact that I was overreacting and behaving like a moron, encouraged me and helped me to think about our schooling process from a new angle.

I came home that night a little subdued, prayerful, and with my thinking cap firmly fastened on. What would help the disorganization and lack of ZIP in our school days? What were our issues? What were some plausible answers?

Our Issues:

  • My children, though they have learned the all-important lesson of sitting (relatively) still and paying (a moderate amount of) attention while I read aloud and walk them through lessons, were not, however retaining information well or engaging with the material in the way and to the degree that I wished them to.
  • Our resources and materials were in a bit of a jumble. Okay, a huge mess. I start off the year/semester/unit with all materials printed out and arranged neatly in binders, with calendars and schedules and all. These are, however, very young children, and even college students don’t necessarily excel at keeping paper planners neat and organized. And my elementary-aged children? A matter of weeks and those papers were marked up, ripped up, and scattered to the four winds. Posted schedules ignored. Calendars a mess because of interruptions and illness, so this math lesson had moved to that day, this field trip cancelled or rescheduled…some changes were made manually with a great deal of scratch marks and arrows. To some extent, the whole plan was tossed out and we moved on to “what’s next in the book, let’s do that today”…(I know you know what I’m talking about!)
  • I was struggling to keep up with monitoring, inspecting, and correcting. We would spend a couple hours in the morning doing our memory and read-aloud work, then move on to math, and finally to subjects like writing or science. By the time lunch was over and the kids moved on to reading off by themselves for a quiet hour or two in the afternoon, I was toast. The idea of picking up their work to look it over, checking that chores were done, etc…made me want to take a nap!
  • We weren’t getting to some of the “fun stuff”…the stuff I knew was out there that makes my children’s eyes sparkle with interest and starts them off on a path of discovery, wanting to know more. I felt that we were so hindered by our messes and scheduling issues and all those books and papers and materials and we just couldn’t seem to keep everything organized.

And then, that night, I thought up this plan. I’m not even sure where the idea came from, it just seemed to pop into my head. I believe it had something to do with discussing the exorbitant cost of private school, and with five children and pricey tuition, wouldn’t there somehow be something in between that would provide a workable solution? Such as online classes or something like that? And I did look into online classes, but they don’t really exist for my children’s age levels. And somewhere in my thinking and pondering and searching, I stumbled on to the idea of…

Something that could help us with schedules and calendars and checklists. Something that wouldn’t get lost or torn or marked up. Something engaging. Something that could provide a gateway to a wealth of visually- rich educational material yet still line up with my Classical/Charlotte Mason/Literature-based schooling style.

A way to study languages, art, music, science, language arts, history, geography, mathematics…and to hold it all in your hands and touch it.

All of our information organized and backed up to cloud storage. Podcasts and audio books available instantly. All of our favorite music, learning songs, and memory songs all in one place. Literally thousands of free Kindle books, including many literary classics. All of our Netflix biographies and documentaries that we have so enjoyed viewing for science and history. Library downloads all linked to our accounts and available at the tap of a finger.

When I had this brilliant idea, the iPad 2 happened to be on sale for $399. Adding in $99 for AppleCare may seem steep at first, but my children are going to be handling this product on a daily basis, and I am covered for damage for two years. Let’s see…

2 children x 2 iPads and 2 AppleCare policies + the marginal cost of various educational apps, spread over two years plus whatever life is left in them after that time (at which point they will likely be passed down to younger siblings)


the cost of private school, or fancy new curriculums that may not even work out for us, or more consumable materials and resources that are subject to loss or damage.


Wait! You still wonder what would push me over the edge to make such an investment for a 10-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy? And did she mention Charlotte Mason? But she is putting her children in front of a screen?

In my next post I will begin an overview of all the wonderful apps I have discovered for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone that have been such a blessing to my family. I will have to break it up into two or three posts, as there are nearly 50 that we use to varying degrees. But let me just leave off by making a few last key points that factored into my decision.

This is where we are headed. I feel so strongly about my children not spending all their time in front of screens that we don’t even own a video gaming system, not even any computer games, nor do we have any television service beyond our Netflix subscription. However, I feel that holding my children back completely from the course of technology and where it will take us in the future is a disservice to them and a naive mistake on my part. I don’t need to sit them in front of flashing lights and colors and sound for their entertainment, but I will certainly turn the screen brightness down on an iPad and place it in their hands for a couple hours a day, providing them with a portal to a world of poetry, music, literature, math, nature, and so very much more.

The parental controls on the iPad are a parent and/or educator’s dream. I can turn off general access to the internet as well as preventing them from installing or deleting apps. I can choose to allow them to use the camera or not, to have an email account set up or not, and all with a pass code that I know and they, of course, do not. I control all the content on the device, leaving them with the feeling of complete freedom while it is in their possession. This is not something that can be said of a desktop computer or laptop, as young children can quickly find their way online or into my files (and into trouble) fast!

Ah, Charlotte! I wish we could know for certain what her thoughts would be on the technologies at our fingertips in this present time. But I have a strong feeling that she would heartily approve of the careful and guided utilization of such amazing devices. To study a composer and hear his works with the tap of a finger. To play with oil paints but be able to erase a mistake. To identify a bird, hear it’s song, and make a note of it’s sighting. To spin the globe with the swipe of a hand and to zoom in on a country or city of interest. To watch a science experiment and then recreate it in the kitchen. To move the words of a sentence around with a fingertip, learning grammar and structure as we rearrange. To view a painting in brilliant detail then to tap and instantly read about the artist’s life. To keep a neat and tidy notebook for all subjects that doesn’t fall behind the dresser or get torn up or marked with crayon by the baby. To build a molecule for fun, keep a stack of flashcards handy at all times, create a scrapbook, read the Bible, memorize a catechism, study Chinese (or Spanish or French or Italian!), solve a puzzle, play chess, sketch, stargaze…the possibilities really are endless.

So this year, I forge ahead with my school planning with a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye. I am so excited! Don’t worry…we aren’t burning our books or throwing away our real oil paints. And I will still scribble things down on paper. My children will still pick up a pencil and cut and paste. But I will feel freed up to do those things because they ARE LEARNING! And they are excited about it!

************MORE TO COME!!!************

including a very exciting announcement about a lesson planning/assignment scheduling/record keeping app being designed (with quite a lot of input by me) by my amazingly brilliant and talented brother! (who is completely qualified because he does this every day as his job!)

so keep checking back!

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My sweet girls, after our lunch at the American Girl Bistro and dessert at the Cheesecake Factory


All Faith wanted was lunch at the Bistro with her sisters (and a couple small things to open)


The now familiar, traditional birthday breakfast of waffles, bacon and sausage, and juice


Happy Birthday my sweet, exuberant, loving, smiling, hugging “Faithful” girl!

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Because after all, a boy needs a dog…


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Two years has flown by…what a delight you have been…what a blessing to our family! Happy Birthday, lovely Anna!

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David at Historic Williamsburg

…my life changed forever and for the better. The birth of your older sister started my journey of motherhood, yes. But you…

I quickly learned I didn’t have this thing down like I thought I did. I learned about limitations and the near boundaries of my fragile capabilities. I learned to pray…really pray. I found out I was that mom…the one in the store chasing down the toddler who just snatched the most fragile thing off a nearby shelf and bolted. The one I would have looked down on in my heart in the past with a haughty “I would never!”

You taught me so much about the lavish grace of the Father. How he could love me so much when I disobey so often. How he could be so delighted with me when I had broken so many of the Rules.

Because I am His child.

And you are mine…

Today you are a bright, charming, delightful boy. You are “good company.” Every day I see more of a glimpse of who God has made you to be…another page turned in the Book of your life. A captivating story, a hero tale, an action-packed thriller, a suspenseful mystery.

Today I celebrate you, and worship the God whose craftsmanship and wisdom takes my breath away.

Happy Birthday, David!

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Having a daughter is such a mix of talking and tears, sweetness and drama, giggles and ear-piercing shrieks. Or maybe that’s just my house and my daughters? And yet I wouldn’t trade a minute of it away for any amount of peace and quiet.

Yesterday we transformed our house into a “spa” so that seventeen girls between the ages of three and twelve could come together to celebrate Elisabeth’s 10th birthday. Since we are a large-ish family and especially due to the fact that all our birthdays save my own fall between the months of February and July, my children know that they may expect a special birthday party when they turn five, and again when they turn ten.

So as you may have already guessed, Elisabeth has been plotting and planning for this party for a long time. Years, even.

We tossed around many ideas as the day drew closer. But it was my mention of “let’s ask our friend if she would be willing to do fancy hairstyles, and we could paint nails, too!” that caused her eyes to light up and sparkle. We had found our party theme.

What began with hair and nails quickly snowballed into a spa theme complete with facials, makeup, and goodie bags for each girl filled with a hair clip, lip gloss, nail polish and a bath bomb.

Yeah…it was involved.

And I didn’t mind one bit. It was a pleasure for me to plan, bake, clean, prepare and set up for this pretty, sparkly, special occasion. Elisabeth is such a help to me and has become such a delightful companion. She works hard here at home, helping with Anna and the other children, doing her chores and school work, and really just being my right hand. I can trust her to throw a last-minute meal together, help with setting up when we are entertaining, get younger children ready to leave the house, and on and on the list goes. At (almost) ten years of age, there is a dwindling list of my tasks here in our home that she has not yet mastered. And so I wanted her to know how very thankful I am that she is a part of our family!

So here are some snapshots from the day.

The picture above and below are of Martha Stewart decorations that I found at a local discount store. What would usually cost an arm and a leg was just a few dollars and definitely added color and sparkle to the day. They also happened to be just the colors of pink and blue that we were using for the party.

Beautiful tulips. Lovely and very affordable at this time of year!

If you are a “regular” here or over at my mother’s blog, you may know that we have agreed to put on a dessert reception for my brother’s wedding. For me, to take on such a momentous project involves ideas, brainstorming, and PRACTICE! Birthdays and church events have been the perfect opportunities to test my new skills, but this birthday party was my first real success. Colors, taste and technique all came together beautifully and the girls were thrilled with the results.

The cupcake wrappers are made from scrapbook paper with a die cut that fits my small Sizzix machine. The cake pops were made using a special baking pan (I am not a fan of the crumbled-cake-mixed-with-frosting-rolled-by-hand cake balls…too sweet and too much work!), dipped into colored candy melts (and a tablespoon of Crisco!), and then coated with sprinkles or drizzled with a contrasting color. To display them, I popped a half sphere of floral foam into a round tin, covered it with white tissue paper, and then stuck on a few paper flowers (the kind made for scrapbooking or card making).

Sweet Elisabeth, thoroughly enjoying her special day!

Seventeen lovely ladies, all dolled up (and sugared up too!). My husband took one look at this photo and said “Wow, that’s a lot of little girls!”

Personally, I love homemade occasions. There is an added dimension of meaning and beauty to the day that simply can’t be found at Chuckie Cheese. It’s certainly true that it’s more work, and I’m not sure I even saved much money, but there’s just something about making the house sparkle, pulling out special dishes, putting on music, arranging flowers, and setting things up “just so” for guests that satisfies something deep inside my mommy-heart. Watching Elisabeth flutter between the basket of favors, the antique ironing board which served as a buffet for the cupcakes and cake pops, and the “spa” stations, taking a moment here and there to glance up at the lovely decorations, her eyes sparkling with expectation, made every minute of preparation worth it.

Note about cake pops: I found this ragingly popular little treat to have a steep learning curve. I spent a lot of time researching the process and decorating ideas online and in a couple of books. I don’t plan to do a step-by-step blog entry on how to make cake pops, but I will share a few key tips. If you use a cake pop baking pan or appliance, make the cake batter more dense by adding an extra egg, a box of instant pudding mix, and by switching out the cup of water for 3/4 cup of milk. When placing sticks into the cake balls, dip them first into melted candy. Use a double boiler to melt candy or chocolate, a moderately small one where the top pan can be easily tilted for dipping. Mix in Crisco, about a teaspoon at a time, until the consistency is runny enough to easily drizzle but thick enough to coat. Do not use white chocolate, it is fussy and clumps easily. If you color white (vanilla) candy melts, use oil based candy coloring. Freeze pops for at least 10 minutes before decorating. When coating the pop, cover a little of the top of the stick so pop will remain secure when candy hardens. Tap stick gently against edge of pan to shake off excess candy while twirling to keep coating even. If applying decoration, allow coating to harden for a minute or so first so that the weight of the sprinkles, etc. don’t drag the coating off. A cake pop decorating stand (or two) can be very useful to allow pops to harden completely (Wilton makes a sturdy and inexpensive one). The best book I found for decorating ideas and clear instructions was “Crazy for Cake Pops” by Molly Bakes. And yes. Bakes is her actual last name. Her book was the best because it lists sources and websites for all supplies and decorations, has the best variety of shapes and styles, and had beautiful pictures for every idea listed.

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