Tag Archives: fun

Ways We Made Homeschooling Fun

Ways We Made Homeschooling Fun!

If you have read my article about the Fun Factor in Homeschooling, you know that a lot of our homeschooling was hard work. Perseverance. Stick-tu-i-tive-ness. The daily grind. The day-to-day in’s and out’s. Teaching our kids contentment, work ethic, and study skills.

But we also had fun. A lot of fun. Not every subject. Not every hour. But in balance, we had fun in our school.

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The Fun Factor in Homeschooling

The Fun Factor in Homeschooling

We all want to raise children who love learning—and if they love homeschooling, too, well, that’s even better. I wanted my kids to love learning and homeschooling so much twenty-five years ago that I wouldn’t teach a child to read unless he could learn within a few weeks with no tears. (Otherwise, we put it on the back burner for a couple more months.) I was serious about this love for learning stuff!


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When Do I Give My Child a “Mulligan”?

When Do I Give My Child a 'Mulligan'?

Recently when my sister, her husband, and her two young teen daughters were here visiting in Indiana from North Carolina, we took as many from our family who could come and my sister’s family to our local YMCA to play a game called “walleyball” (rhymes with volleyball). This game is similar to volleyball in its rules–with the addition of walls as it is played in a racquetball court.

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Homeschool Benefit #7: The Chance to Use Delight-Directed Studies

Homeschool Benefit No. 7 - The Chance to Use Delight-Directed Studies


Many years ago we were able to go to many homeschooling seminars including the Christian Homeschooling Workshop by Greg Harris. I mentioned before on this blog that we came home from his seminars (basic and advanced) ready to tackle one thing at a  time out of that amazing binder of material.

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Valentine’s Day–Party With Your Kids (All the Time!)

 When we had Valentine’s parties (or any “holiday” party) with our kids, we always did it a few days after the holiday—so we could get the candy and treats for 50-75% off! So…if you are reading this after the “real” holiday, it really isn’t too late to have a party with your kids for Valentine’s Day!

One of the things that we tried to do with our kids for celebrations (or just “anytime parties”) is that we tried to go out of our way to make being with Mom, Dad, and brothers, and sisters cool. Our kids see us go to great lengths to prepare for a Sunday school class party, Mary Kay party, or extended family party. We put thought and effort into having “parties” with our kids—so they wanted to stay home and party with their family–and so that they would know that they are as important (more so!) than the Sunday school class, the gals at the make up party, or the reunion.

We have fond memories of communion nights, footwashings, Valentine parties, Easter celebrations, fondue parties, “flat top grill” parties, and more with our children. Being in our family was just plain fun and way cool! Some times we would just announce to the kids that “tonight, we’re having a movie party” or “tonight, we’re having a chocolate party” or “tonight, we’re having a game party.”

It may have been as simple as frozen pizza and a movie or as elaborate as a fondue meal that Mom and the littles spent the afternoon preparing for. It may have been for a holiday (after the holiday!) or just because we wanted our kids to stay home with us on a Saturday night instead of running around with friends. (We’re not opposed to friends, but the more time we spent with our kids the more WE would influence them rather than peers influencing them.)

I will list some ideas for a homemade Valentine’s Party—some that we have done and some that I have read about or heard of.

1. Write love notes to each other. Okay..I can write this one without crying…I really can. Some of my fondest memories are the times that we sat down and had the kids write notes to each other. Okay…forget the not crying thing. Talk about incredibly sweet and memory-imbedding! We drew names and sat down and listened to the true Valentine’s story on cassette (Adventures in Odyssey) and wrote love notes to each other. I still have some of them! We had the little kids dictate to us. One of the funniest ones: one of the little boys wrote, “Dear Kayla, I love you so much because you have skinny arms.”

2. Have fun foods! This is especially important as your kids get older. After all, what do they have when they go out with friends or to youth group? Pizza, Taco Bell, mall snacks. As our kids got older, we got more elaborate with our party foods. When the two oldest girls were college age and crazy about Flat Top Grill when it first opened in Fort Wayne, one of our Valentine’s parties was a flat top grill night. (It was tons of work to prepare for, but the older kids loved this!) We had meats, veggies, and pita breads all ready—and had griddles and electric skillets all set up on the table. It was quite the feast!

3. Do something for others. Preparing Valentine’s cookie baskets or bath baskets for nursing home residents, etc. is a great way to spend a party—and helps others too.

4. Wait until after the holiday to have your party, so you can get some cool party treats for fifty to seventy-five percent off! With seven children, buying elaborate Easter baskets or Valentine’s hearts was usually out of the question. However, after the holiday, we could go get things for a lot less and still give them special treats.

5. Spend your Valentine’s Day showing love to those less fortunate. For the past several years, we have spent time on or around Valentine’s Day serving a Valentine’s banquet (and sometimes cooking it or helping to cook it) for adults with cognitive disabilities through our daughter’s disability ministry (One Heart). We often do things to prepare for it (cookie making, set up, preparing a special drama, etc.) then serve at it. Valentine’s Day is about love…and what better way to show love than to live out Luke fourteen.

6. Get a special movie, audio, or talking books to listen to or watch together for your Valentine’s party. We love Adventures in Oddysey and other radio dramas put out by Focus on the Family; the Christian bookstore (and Hallmark) have some good movies about unconditional love, etc. that are appropriate for this holiday.

7. Write various verses about love on large hearts cut of construction paper, cut each one in half in various zig-zags, mix them up, and pass out a half a heart to each person. That person then finds his other half, reads, the verse, and discusses it with the family.

8. Sing Scripture songs about love. Once we had piano players around here, we loved to gather around the piano and sing. None of us is too musical (except the two pianists), but we all loved it anyway.

Party with your kids—and make them want to stay home more!

Charlie Brown Christmas (reprint)

“Linus’ reading of the story of the Nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season.” Harriet Van Horne in the “New York World Telegram” December 1965

Every year our family enjoys reading about Christmas traditions and songs—how they began, what they mean, etc. One of my favorite readings is the story of how “A Charlie Brown Christmas” came about—and continues to bless people today. Read my “story behind the Charlie Brown Christmas” below aloud to your family—then watch the movie (or at least check out the given links from youtube). Have fun!

On Thursday, December 9, 1965 (nearly fifty years ago!), “A Charlie Brown Christmas” made its debut on CBS on television screens all over the United States. Surprising the network executives, this darling Christmas story was an immediate hit. It seems that its creator, Charles Schulz, battled with the powers-that-be at the network concerning the show’s religious content (CBS thought it was too religious) and the kids’ voices (citing that they should be professional actors, not children). Additionally, they felt that Vince Guaraldi’s theme music was too modern for kids’ tastes. (The jazz soundtrack has, by the way, become a classic.)

Rumor has it that through the years it has been suggested that Linus’ reading of the Christmas story from Luke be taken out of the movie. However, forty-five years later, this classic still contains that powerful passage from Luke, those sweet child voices, and that catchy music*—and each year the true story of Jesus’ birth and the reason for the season—is proclaimed via the secular media.

*Note: Parts of the show were removed to make space for more commercials, but the spiritual and sweet parts remain.

Free Online Advent Calendar

Sheri Graham, of Graham Family Ministries, knows where all the goodies are! She just sent through another great link—this time a free online advent calendar. With the internet and all of the *freebies* available therein, we have no excuse for not doing great things with our kids all year round!

Click on the link below to get your free online advent calendar!


Christmas Read Alouds for 10 and Under–With Links and Ratings!

Different ones have asked for more read aloud ideas, especially my very favorites, so I thought I would list them by age (today—ten and under) and by category (i.e. “Bible-related”; traditions; devotional; etc.) with *** by my “very-most-favorite-if-we-only-read-a-handful-of-christmas-books-this-year-this-would-be-one-of-them”! Hope this helps you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with your sweet children.


***Wouldn’t want to go a Christmas without it


*Good enough for my list! 🙂

Note: I have included “out of print” ones because you can often pick them up used or at the library.

“Bible/Nativity-Related Stories/Retellings”

***Adornaments –different than your typical “nativity ornaments,” which we also have had through the years, this adornaments set is a book with cardboard ornaments containing the names of Christ and a verse on each one to go with that name. I liked doing this with the kids as it connected the nativity story with Christ as our Savior (and more!) too. http://www.amazon.com/Adorenaments-Parenting-FamilyLife/dp/1572292385

***“The Indescribable Gift” by Richard Exley; Illustrated by Phil Boatwright (out of print); this is a beautiful, elegant Christmas picture book with the Christmas story told from the point of view of all the major players: Zechariah, Mary, Elizabth, Joseph, The Innkeeper, The Shepherds, Simeon, and more. A truly lovely book—for up through adults. A chapter out of this a day makes a wonderful advent devotional. http://www.alibris.com/search/books/qwork/3185413/used/The%20Indescribable%20Gift

**”Jotham’s Journey” Arnold Ytreeide; “Over and over Jotham screamed for his family, but there was no one to hear him. They had vanished. He was alone. Where had they gone? How long ago had they left? Through quick, stabbing sobs Jotham told himself, “I must look for my family, I must search until I find them.” And so his journey begins. In this widely popular, exciting story for the Advent season, readers follow ten-year-old Jotham across Israel as he searches for his family. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem” (CBD Review). http://www.christianbook.com/jothams-journey/arnold-ytreeide/9780825441745/pd/441745/1152561199?item_code=WW&netp_id=533620&event=ESRCN&view=details

**”Bartholomew’s Passage” by Arnold Ytreeide; same type of story as “Jotham’s Journey” but a different child and circumstances. http://www.christianbook.com/bartholomews-passage/arnold-ytreeide/9780825441738/pd/441738?event=AAI

**”Tabitha’s Travels” by Arnold Ytreeide; same type of story as “Jotham’s Journey” but a different child and circumstances http://www.christianbook.com/tabithas-travels-arnold-ytreeide/9780825441721/pd/441720/1152561199?event=AAI

*“King of the Stable” by Melody Carlson; Illustrated by Chris Ellison (not in print); cute picture book about a boy who worked in the stable when Jesus was born; lovely illustrations. http://www.amazon.com/King-Stable-Melody-Carlson/dp/158134032X

*“The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale” by Angela Elwell Hunt; Illustrated by Tim Jonke; neat story about how three trees grew up to be the boat Jesus was on, the manger, and the cross. http://www.christianbook.com/the-tale-of-three-trees/angela-hunt/9780745917436/pd/19014?item_code=WW&netp_id=155456&event=ESRCN&view=details

*“The Singing Shepherd” by Angela Elwell Hunt; Illustratoins by Peter Palagonia (out of print); a cute story about a little singing shepherd boy; http://www.amazon.com/Singing-Shepherd-Angela-Elwell-Hunt/dp/0745930360/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292211682&sr=8-1

*“The Black Sheep” by Elisabeth Heck; Illustrated by Sita Jucker (out of print); cute picture book about a little black sheep who met Baby Jesus. http://www.alibris.com/search/books/qwork/732200/used/The%20Black%20Sheep

*“A King Is Born” by Patricia St. John; Illustrated by Richard Scott (out of print); nice picture book about the birth of Christ; more true to Scripture than many others (i.e. the wise men come when they are supposed to!) http://www.amazon.co.uk/king-born-Patricia-St-John/dp/0862016215

**“Mary’s Treasure Box” by Carolyn Walz Kramlich; Illustrated by Walter Porter; told from Mary’s point of view when she was a grandmother, the cover says, “Beyond retelling the story of Christ’s birth, “Mary’s Treasure Box” creatively shares lessons about Christ gleaned through the objects in a simple wooden box—a bit of straw, wool, flut, and swaddling cloths.” Neat way to tell the nativity story and provide insights into that first Christmas. http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=0849958342&title=&author=Carolyn_Kramlich

*“The Crippled Lamb” by Max Lucado; Illustrated by Liz Bonham; another sweet Christmas story involving a little lamb on the first Christmas; nice illustrations http://www.christianbook.com/lucado-childrens-treasury-childs-first-collection/max-lucado/9781400310487/pd/310480?item_code=WW&netp_id=480026&event=ESRCN&view=details

***“The Very First Christmas” by Paul L Maier; Illustrated by Francisco Ordaz; from the cover: “No more fairy tales for Christopher; he wants a real bedtime story. So his mother tells the amazing and miraculous story of Jesus’ birth. Along the way, Christopher learns the answers to some challenging questions about the Christmas story. And all the answers are right from the Bible. You have selected a wonderful gift for children, families, and friends. Written by best-selling author and historian, Paul L. Maier, and richly illustrated by Francisco Ordaz..” I agree! http://www.christianbook.com/the-very-first-christmas-softcover/paul-maier/9780758606167/pd/606168?item_code=WW&netp_id=316844&event=ESRCN&view=details

*“Mary’s First Christmas” by Walter Wangerin, Jr.; Illustrated by Timothy Ladwig; the Christmas story written in journal form from the view of Mary; lots of good insights and lovely illustrations http://www.christianbook.com/marys-first-christmas-walter-wangerin/9780310222163/pd/22168?item_code=WW&netp_id=109947&event=ESRCN&view=details

***“One Wintry Night” by Ruth Bell Graham; Illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson; from the cover: “When a young mountain boy is caught alone in a sudden snowstorm, he takes refuge in a cabin his grandfather had helped to build many years before. The woman living there shelters the boy, attends to his badly swollen ankle, and spends the hours they are snow-bound telling him the Christmas story—beginning with creation and concluding with the resurrection.” This is a remarkable book—one that ties creation with Christmas and Easter! It is lengthy, so will likely take several reading sessions, but the amazing illustrations and deep-teaching-text are worth it! http://www.christianbook.com/one-wintry-night-gift-edition/ruth-graham/9780801013065/pd/013065/1152539202?item_code=WW&netp_id=481521&event=ESRCN&view=details

“Traditions and More” Types of Books

***The ADVENTure of Christmas” by Lisa Welchel; One of my favorite easy-to-read-aloud Christmas books–filled with lots of activities, recipes, etc. about each tradition/entry. I like it more for the one-page-per tradition in easy kid language. I have a lot of books about Christmas traditions and symbols, but this is the best one I’ve found for younger kids. http://www.bookschristian.com/The-ADVENTure-of-Christmas-by-Lisa-Whelchel-book-p/73449.htm

*”The First Christmas Tree: A Legend From Long Ago” by Helen Haidle Illustrated by David and Elizabeth Haidle (out of print); a story describing the origins of decorating with the evergreen tree http://www.amazon.com/First-Christmas-Tree-Legend-Long/dp/080104393X

**”The Legend of the Christmas Tree: An Inspirational Story of a Treasured Tradition” by Rick Osborne; Illustrated by Bill Dodge; another story describing the origins of decorating with the evergreen tree http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Legend-Christmas-Tree/?isbn=9780310700432

*“The Real 12 Days of Christmas” by Helen Haidle; Illustrated by Celeste Henriquez out (of print); interesting and fun for those who know the song; nice pics http://www.amazon.com/Real-Twelve-Christmas-Helen-Haidle/dp/031070118X

**“Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend: by Julie Stiegemeyer; Illustrated by Chris Ellison http://www.christianbook.com/saint-nicholas-story-christmas-legend-hardcover/julie-stiegemeyer/9780758603760/pd/603762?item_code=WW&netp_id=316815&event=ESRCN&view=details

*“The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy” by Lori Walburg; Illustrated by James Bernardin; sweet, sweet story and tradition http://www.christianbook.com/the-legend-of-the-candy-cane/lori-walburg/9780310212478/pd/21247?item_code=WW&netp_id=131129&event=ESRCN&view=details

“Other Christmas Stories or ‘Set at Christmastime Type Stories”

***“The Christmas Tapestry” by Patricia Polacco; this tale has been handed down for generations and is told in other settings/places/time periods (such as the “Ivory and Lace Tablecloth” in one of our Christmas collections); this is a lovely story; we read it yearly http://www.christianbook.com/christmas-tapestry-patricia-polacco/9780142411650/pd/411650?item_code=WW&netp_id=524629&event=ESRCN&view=details

*“The Quiet Little Woman” by Louisa May Alcott; Illustrations by C. Michael Dudash http://www.christianbook.com/louisa-may-alcotts-christmas-treasury/9781589199507/pd/99500?item_code=WW&netp_id=283266&event=ESRCN&view=details

***“A Christmas Treasury: The Children’s Classic Edition” Illustrated by Christian Birmingham; from the cover: “Celebrate the magical Christmas season with this enchanting pageant of beloved classics that have earned their place as holiday favorites. This yuletide collection features Louisa May Alcott’s vision of holiday spirit in “Little Women’s A Merry Christmas,” “The Night Before Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” and much more.” Beautifully illustrated—this is a lovely book. Hard to find Christmas “collections” for this age group with classic stories too (and not all contemporary mouse and reindeer stories); love this collection for this age group! http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Treasury-Childrens-Classic/dp/0762411384

**“The Candle in the Window” based on a story by Leo Tolstoy by Grace Johnson; Illustrated by Mark Elliot; lovely and heartwarming (out of print) http://www.amazon.com/Candle-Window-Grace-Johnson/dp/0800718151

**“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomy” by Susan Wojciechowski; Illustrated by PJ Lynch; amazingly heart warming story and awesome illustrations; http://www.christianbook.com/the-christmas-miracle-jonathan-toomey-with/susan-wojciechowski/9780763636296/pd/636290/1152540236?item_code=WW&netp_id=509874&event=ESRCN&view=details

*“A Child’s Christmas at S. Nicolas Circle” by Douglas Kaine McKelvy; Illustrated by Thomas Kinkade; illustrations are beautiful (of course!); story is well-written and heartwarming http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0849958830?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0849958830&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk—#10: Half Birthdays and Other “Dates”

#10: Half Birthdays and Other “Dates”

When our older kids turned twelve (girls) or thirteen (boys), they began to have a special privilege known as “half birthday dates.” At the 12 ½ (or 13 ½) year old mark, that child got taken out to dinner with Mom and Dad for a unique dinner date. The first date was a time for the son or daughter to re-committ to purity (and for the girls, included a purity/promise ring)— and included a long conversation affirming all of the teaching that they had received up to this point about our relationship standards. (For our family, this has included a commitment not to “date around” but to only begin seeing someone when he or she is ready to get married and thinks the person might be “the one.” Of course, there are many more details that go into this (i.e. getting parents’ approval on both sides, establishing a relationship (that we called “courtsthip,” etc.).)

Beyond that first half birthday date, our kids’ “half dates” have included the child choosing a restaurant and a night out with Mom and Dad to talk about goals, friends, siblings, academics, ministry, and more. It was a novel idea that we carried out for many, many years.

This tradition has gone by the way for us today—as it served its purpose in establishing times away for one child and Mom and Dad during the child’s teen and young adults years. However, it is no longer needed in a formal manner since we have “dates” with our teens and young adults much more regularly than at the half birthday mark today. As a matter of fact, as I type this, we are driving home from South Carolina to bring our son home from his internship with the Academy of Arts. We just did a “dinner date” with our daughter and son-in-law the night before we left to come to SC. The night before that found us eating dinner alone with our seventeen year old after his first day of college classes. As we drive home today, we will sit down with our son at one of his favorite spots. In a few days, one of our daughters will be home with her “court friend,” and the four of us will sit down alone one evening. A few days after that, another daughter will be home for a short visit, and Mom, Dad, and daughter will go to her favorite spot. (Yes, it costs money and calories—both of which we save just for these occasions—time with our kids is more of a priority to us than a beautifully decorated house or expensive vehicles.)

When our olders were younger, we would sometimes do “dates” one on one with the little kids, too. These could be as simple as getting an ice cream cone at McDonalds and going to the park to walk and see the buffalo or taking a bike ride. Time with our kids one-on-one doesn’t always have to cost a lot. Once again, the point is that each child knows that Mom and Dad want to spend time alone with that child—and we will go to great lengths to be sure that happens.

Twelve Daily Habits for 2012–Habit #12: Kiss Your Spouse for at Least 15 Seconds and Hug for at Least 30 Seconds

Habit #12: Kiss Your Spouse for at Least 15 Seconds and Hug for at Least 30 Seconds

“It isn’t, of course, the magic of kissing for fifteen seconds or hugging for thirty seconds that makes this a good daily habit. It is the fact that a fifteen second kiss is more than a peck, and a thirty second hug is more than a passing squeeze. The “time minimums” force us to stick around a little bit, stop what we’re doing, and be close to the one we love.”

This is a new “rule” for us (as of the 2008 original article)! Don’t blush…you know that you function better in all areas when you have kissed and hugged enough! My brother-in-law, a much cooler, younger person than Ray or I, came home (along with my sister and their kids) this summer to visit following a marriage retreat that they had attended. When anything got stressful for my sister, he would say (as only Uncle Leonard can), “Come here, honey. You know we didn’t have our kissing and hugging yet. That’s probably what’s wrong.” What a sweet husband!

Leonard was just stressing something that all of us married parents need to emphasize: romance, including kissing and hugging, can help alleviate stress! Our kids thought our elevator kissing was unbearable already, without enduring it for a full fifteen seconds! But you know what? They secretly like it. 🙂

It isn’t, of course, the magic of kissing for fifteen seconds or hugging for thirty seconds that makes this a good daily habit. It is the fact that a fifteen second kiss is more than a peck, and a thirty second hug is more than a passing squeeze. The “time minimums” force us to stick around a little bit, stop what we’re doing, and be close to the one we love. Maybe there won’t always be time for romance, hearts, flowers, and rainbows, but our marriage is the most important (and longest!) relationship we have on this earth. We need to protect it, nurture it, and shower it with kisses and hugs.

So….there you have it. Twelve daily habits* that make a huge difference in my home, life, and school. I did want to add that “daily habits,” for us, has always meant “more often than not.” We do not beat ourselves up trying to achieve perfection. We have found through the years that if we can do those important things four days a week at least (more often than not), we will succeed over the long haul. Of course, hugging and kissing has to be 365 days a year to make me truly successful in life. Smile…