How young should you start homeschooling your kids?

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I have two stories to relay to you with this topic. One full of tears and one of ease. The first story begins something like this…

I began homeschooling my daughter at the tender age of four (almost five). She was (and is) a very bright student, of course, being the first child, she excelled at almost everything that was put in front of her…and being the ever eager first-time mother/teacher, I believed that there was not an age too young to put your child on the road to education!

So with the greatest of intentions, I bought a top rate boxed curriculum, a small desk, and all of the school supplies needed to begin our journey into kindergarten.

The first day my daughter met me with all of the enthusiasm a small child could muster. The first few days went swimmingly…but as time went on and the longer I required my wiggly child to sit, I recognized that neither of us possessed the enthusiasm or enjoyment we started with. She willingly did exactly what I asked of her but the joy was not there. Replacing said joys were tears and frustration from both sides as we struggled to keep up with the insurmountable amount of work the boxed curriculum required of us.

Needless to say…that first year of school was rough. As time went on, I began to realize that the before mentioned curriculum was not my daughters cup of tea. Even though it came highly recommended by many, it was not what she needed.

Fast forward to child number two, my son, I did not push him onto the educational train quite as fast as I did with child number one. “Why not?” you may ask…Well, quite simply…I had learned a lot in the four years that passed in between my two children. During that time, I did a lot of studying and had started to realize that there is more to this whole homeschooling thing than just sitting your child down and having their noses pressed into a book.

During this time of growth, we joined a classical teaching co-op in which I had tutored students for two years. Being a part of this co-op, allowed me to meet other homeschooling mommas and through them, I learned many new ways in which I could make our homeschool life more of an adventure and less of a chore.

So, armed with this new knowledge, I taught my son through the art of play. We learned our ABC’s by singing them in the car as we drove to the park, our 123’s were learned during a game of hiding and seek. By the age of five, I knew he was ready… BUT, there was no purchasing of a set boxed curriculum. We learned to write our ABC’s one letter at a time. Instead of sitting down at a table and drearily doing countless worksheets…we would watch youtube videos about the said letter, or have scavenger hunts looking for items that started with the letter of the day or exercise our writing in sand or the dirt…I think you get the idea. We had fun and while doing so, my son flourished into a very well educated and happy student.

You know they say, “Hindsight is 20/20”. I wish I had known all of the above before starting to teach my daughter at the age of four! I wish I had allowed her that one lost “year of play”. Now, don’t get me wrong! She recovered…lol… So, my caution to you is this… don’t start them too young…and always have fun! As a homeschooling mom…it can be tough but continue to have fun amidst the difficult times. Sure, you will make mistakes, but try to learn from those around you! Watch your kiddos and learn their learning style! Think twice before starting them way too early! But most of all, have fun! They are only little for a few years…and before you can blink…they are spreading their own wings.

Encouraging Young Readers

Teaching a child to read can be very difficult for some and for others it is a walk in the park. I have two kids and both have taken very different roads in their reading journey. Here are six tips that I have found helpful in teaching both of my wonderful kiddos!

Libraries are so much fun!

Make reading an exciting event! Go to your local library and encourage your child to pick out a few books with topics that they are interested in. While they do so, take time to pick out read aloud books that will captivate your entire family. Enjoying reading as a family helps cultivate that love of learning together. A great audiobook is sometimes the perfect way to keep your kiddos busy on a long car ride. Try to make visiting your local library a weekly occurrence!

Read along!

From the time that my children were very little, I would put my finger on the page I was reading from and glide it along as I read the words. This helps your children to start recognizing the words from a very early age. As they grew older and were starting to read, I would pass the task to them. I would pace myself to their reading skills, if their finger lingered or somehow got lost in the lines, I will pause and help guide them back to our place.

Don’t just read a book once!

Reading a book over and over is very helpful in building their vocabulary. If they struggled with a certain book, revisit that same book a few books later. This will give them time to grow in their struggles, and allow them to see how far they have come!

Include a sound curriculum!

I have found that it is beneficial to have a language curriculum to coincide with their daily reading! It has made a world of difference for both of my children! My current favorite is The Good and The Beautiful. It is beautifully illustrated and very structured!

Books on the ready.

I have to admit I am a little bit of a book hoarder! I have books everywhere! They are readily available for my children to pick up and read on a whim! In my home, I have always had a bookshelf devoted to my kiddos! The bottom two shelves of any bookshelf I own is filled with kid-friendly books! I almost always have a book packed for them, whether to keep them busy on a long trip or an event where I know they may become bored. Christmas day, there is always a book for each child wrapped under the tree.

Encourage by example.

I have learned that if I have an area in my life that I don’t like but want my kids to be a better version in…I try not to voice my dislike. Hearing those negative words can discourage them from even trying! Encourage them to be better readers, even if you don’t like to read. Try! Find something that interests you and let them see you reading! This will encourage them to do the same! So, pick up a book today!

Visiting Kansas City on a Dime.

Kansas City is one of my favorite places to visit with my husband. We both love the city and all of the culture and beauty this vibrant city has to offer. Each year it is at the top of our list of places we would like to escape to in celebration of our anniversary. Whether you are a fan of art, music or history. Kansas has something for you! Just recently, we were reading as a family and we discovered that Kansas City is known for its many fountains! This small fact brought light to my eyes as we drove through Kansas City and discovered many fountains that I had never really seen before! Here are a few of the many places we (my husband and I) like to visit. I look forward to writing a kid-friendly addition to KC very soon! But for now, this is a couples addition. ūüėČ

Nelson Atkins Museum

We are both lovers of art and the Nelson Atkins Museum is one of our very favorite places to visit. I honestly could roam the many galleries over, and over, and over…and never bore of the beautiful art they have on display. There is no fee to enjoy this beautiful museum. The architectural structure of the museum itself is one that will grab your attention right away. Roam about their beautifully maintained grounds and discover sculptures and an intriguing glass outdoor maze. We took a tour on our last visit and thoroughly enjoyed it! Very much so, that we wished we would have eaten lunch before the tour so we could have taken a second tour!

Advice:

  • If you are carrying a backpack, place only one strap over your shoulder or wear the backpack on your front. This is to prevent you from backing into something accidentally.
  • No drinks in the galleries!
  • Take a tour!
  • Go to the customer service desk and ask for a handheld device. With this device, you can scan any piece of art and it will give you information on titles and artists.
  • Give some distance to the art you are viewing. If you come to close, you may be approached by someone asking you to step back.
  • Take your time…If you are an art lover, give yourself plenty of time! We always get there at opening and almost always end up wishing we had more time. They do close rather early so keep that in mind!

Union Station

I am a sucker for old movies and in almost every old movie…there is a train involved. So naturally, I fell in love with the Union Station in Kansas City! I personally loved roaming the station with its beautifully kept halls and old doors! There are different attractions tucked about in distant halls and below stairs but for me, the structure of this old station had me in a trance. The station is open very late and it was always ended up as our last stop of the day. I relished the thought of roaming the large areas in peace and without large crowds. Arriving late worked out perfectly!

The station has a small museum tucked away in the left-hand corner of the building. Follow the beautifully preserved staircases up to the second floor. There you can read the history of the station and the transformation the old building has taken over the years. Or simply explore and discover all the fun nooks and cranny this old building has beneath its beautifully decorated ceilings.

The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden

This small garden is a well-kept secret of Kansas City. It is small but the fountains and gardens are not understated. Take a moment away from the shopping and hustle of the city to enjoy nature at its finest.

Hallmark Visitor Center

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Crown Center is home to a very iconic company called Hallmark! I had no idea that Hallmark was founded in Kansas City until recently! A friend of mine suggested that we visit the Hallmark Visitor Center and I am so glad that she did! The Hallmark Visitor Center is a must stop for anyone who has loved anything Hallmark! We visited in August but it really put me in the mood to visit again in December! Crown Center is a very vibrant area with both Union Station and the World War I museum very near!

World War I Museum

As you drive up to the World War I Museum, you can sense that there is something very special about this place. Located near Crown Center, the World War Museum gives off a very different vibe. It is a place of peace and patriotism. I wish we had visited earlier in the day. Unknowingly, we decided to visit very close to closing time. Our intention was just to visit the monument and walk the grounds, but once we arrived both my husband and I wished we had arrived earlier and paid admission. The monument is amazing and the view of downtown Kansas City is breathtaking. We took the elevator down to the entrance of the Museum and fell in love with the field of poppies for fallen soldiers at the entrance of the building. Breathtaking!

Advice:

Read here about the elements of the museum and memorial. I wish I had!

https://www.theworldwar.org/explore/museum-and-memorial/elements-museum-and-memorial

Scripture Journaling

I don’t know about you but for me, it can be really hard to stay focused during my devotion time or for that fact, even starting it! I wake up and immediately my mind starts setting an agenda of all things that need to be done. I feel an urgency to get up and make things happen, especially if I have slept in. Devotions can easily be put on the back burner…and as my day unfolds, I know that that was a mistake! Why? Because everything is different when I start my day out in the peace that only my Heavenly Father can bring into my life.

I have tried devotionals and had little success in finishing them because I easily bore of the same thing over and over! About a year ago, I was struggling with things that were out of my control, basically everything (because let’s be honest, as humans we control nothing.) I wanted to find a way to proclaim God over the situations that I faced and I also desired to know what the Bible had to say about the things I was struggling with. I know a lot of the Bible by heart, thanks to my Christian upbringing but the verses I learned as a child are just a small portion of what God has to say over me as an adult.

So, thanks to Pinterest, I found daily plans for writing Scripture on different topics! This has empowered me in a whole new way. I love writing out God’s word! Sometimes, I may just write the verse once but many times I end up writing it out several times to enable me to have it not only written in my journal but also to have it written upon my heart.

Journaling God’s word is the perfect way for me to do my devotions. I not only write down that day’s Scripture but I also write down our needs as a family and prayer request that God has put on my heart. I love going back and marking needs and prayer requests as answered! God’s timing is perfect!

I want to encourage you to dig deep into Scripture and find exactly what He has to say for your life. Write it down, memorize it, and speak it over your existence!

As they say at our kid’s church, “The Bible is God’s word and God’s word is true!”

Hebrews 4:12 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints, and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.

Tips and Tricks for Visiting Silver Dollar City (part 1)

 

I was knee-high to a grasshopper when I first went to Silver Dollar City. I have many fun and fond memories that were created there! It was there, that my husband (boyfriend back then) bought me Dippin Dots on our first unofficial date and also there that both of my kids rode their first roller coaster!

I am an old fashioned gal and I love that Silver Dollar City celebrates the old-fashioned ways! From candle making to pottery, it can all be found in its shanty like stores. The shows are always top notch! And don’t even get me started on the food! If you don’t love it, you must be in the wrong park!

Here are a few things that I have learned over the years going to Silver Dollar City.

Get there early!

Silver Dollar City has a “Park Opening Ceremony” every day that the park is open. In this ceremony, the National Anthem is played and past war veterans are recognized for their service. Every time I go and watch this display of patriotism, my chest fills with pride that America is my home! The ceremony takes place 15 minutes before the park officially opens. Give yourself extra time to get there…the incoming traffic can be crazy and you never know when you will catch a tram to take you to the park’s entrance.

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Grab a map or download the app!

I personally like the paper map over the Silver Dollar City App but I can see the benefit of both. With the paper map, you can navigate throughout the park with ease, there are also large maps placed throughout the park to assist you if you become lost. The SDC app will tell you the wait time for rides, which can be helpful but not guaranteed to be completely accurate.

Silver Dollar City with small children.

Amusement parks with small children can be challenging but one thing I love most about SDC is that it is a family park! There are changing tables in every bathroom and they even have Family Restrooms! This is a big thing for me because I am uneasy about sending either of my kids to the restroom by themselves. And for nursing mothers, there are nursing stations (look for the smiley face on your paper map) located in certain areas of the park!

As a mother of two children, the first place we head for, after arriving at the park, is the Measuring Station (Located in the Grand Exposition near the mini rollercoaster entrance). Here they will measure your kids and give them color-coded bracelets and a matching flyer so that you know which rides your kids can ride! Not only that, but it will also have your phone number on it in case your child wanders away from you. This saved us so much time and heartache in the end…but go there first because the lines can get quite long.

Places you will want to visit with small children:

  • Firemans Landing
  • The Grand Exposition (tucked behind the swings are rides perfect for little littles. E8 on your paper map.)
  • Homestead Ridge
  • Riverblast
  • Flooded Mines (Warning: Its dark in there)
  • Half Dollar Holler
  • Train Depot (There are robbers but they are friendly and put on a fun show. Have something the kids can give to them, a piece of candy or gum.)

Saving money on food.

Like all amusement parks, SDC food can be quite expensive for a family! We have found ways of saving money on food when visiting SDC and here are our tips…

  • Carry an empty water bottle. The restaurants will gladly fill it for you, once you are in the park.
  • Pack a brown bag lunch. We have a small soft-shelled cooler that we pack with sandwiches, Lunchables, or even sandwich wraps in. We easily save between $30-50 each time we do this.
  • Pack snacks. I try to pack something special, something we don’t get all the time… it helps to calm all the cravings you get by smelling the yummy food around you!

Spending money on food in a smart way.

So, SDC has commemorative mugs that you can purchase for around $15 and this ensures you a refillable mug at a discounted price all year long…for that year, anyway! Years ago, my husband and I bought one…unbeknownst to us that mugs after that year would be dated and only good for the purchased year…so, we lucked out and have a mug that may have a cracked outer shell but is still accepted for a discounted rate. We treasure that mug! If you find an SDC mug at a garage sale or even on eBay…make sure that they are not expired. You can clarify this by reading the fine print that is normally found under the mugs handle.

On average a meal for one is going to cost you upwards of $10. If you are a season pass holder, make sure to show them your pass so you can get a discount on your meal!

To be continued…

The Little Lady Next Door

“Who is mowing on a day like today?” I asked myself as I looked out my window to see my 90-year-old neighbor pushing her small lawn mower. The temps were close to 80 and definitely not ideal for her to be doing such a task. I took it upon myself to go next door and remind her of exactly that. As soon as she saw me she let go of the mowers handle and gave me a grin that only a child in trouble could emulate. She amazes me! Nothing keeps her down! She is always smiling and speaking life into anyone who will stay long enough to listen. I aspire to be like her not when I am that age but every day I exist on this earth.

I remember the first time I met her! We had been searching for a house to purchase and finally found one in an older part of town. The house we wanted was being inspected and like any first-time buyer, we were present to get as much information as possible. As we waited for the inspector to crawl out from under the house, she emerged out of her backyard where she was obviously tending to something in the backyard. My husband and I took it upon ourselves to ask her a few questions about the neighborhood and her neighbors (the owners of the house we intended to buy). With a grin on her face and a sweet disposition, she sold us on all of the above. Miss G stole our hearts and made me excited about having a grandma-lady next door. Five years later she continues to charm me with her words and actions.

I have learned that we are slowly losing our heritage by not passing on information. Miss G is an avid writer and has documented all of her life in journals. She is ever ready with an entertaining story from her past and I love hearing her stories! Once she approached me with a request, she needed someone to type up a few of her stories…I felt blessed to oblige her with this request. After receiving the typed copies, she proceeded to distribute her stories to friends and family by mail.

Her yard is as squeaky clean as her house, garage, shed…etc. Everything she owns is lovingly cared for! How she is able to keep up with so much is a mystery to me.¬†She cares about what she has with passion and a sense of responsibility. Unlike most Americans, whose waste is astounding…we no longer fix things but throw them out without a second thought. Her generation finds it hard to throw away something that could be repaired and used for many more years to come. Talk about recycling!

The biggest thing I have learned from Miss G is her love for God. It flows over to everyone she meets. Her heart is so in love with her Heavenly Father and it reflects in her smile which consumes her whole face. She is a bright light that will not be snuffed out. She once told me that she had someone come and help her with something and while they waited for it to be taken care of…she saw an opportunity to tell them about the Lord. What a passion! If I learn nothing more from her, I pray that it will be that, to always be ready to share about our Heavenly Father in a moments notice.

Miss G is a part of our family and an inspiration to me on a daily basis! I am so thankful for such a loving neighbor and a great example of what growing old with grace truly looks like.

 

 

The Blessing Jar

A few years ago, I was at a homeschool co-op Christmas party. It was a beautiful time of laughter and friends. We had a table covered with a variety of tasty foods and dispensers full of hot cocoa and coffee close by to chase away the chilly evening. We were having our fill of laughter too. Watching one another stuff a pair of nylons full of balloons and placing it atop our heads like a pair of deer antlers.

During a lull of the festivities, two friends pulled out Mason jars decorated with a piece of brown twine and the date 2015 hanging from the neck of the jar. Affixed to the middle of the jar was a label that said Blessings. One of the two friends began to explain that there was a jar for each of us. A gift to use in our homes to remind us of the blessings we have received during the year, maybe a handwritten note of a blessing, a ticket stub, or a receipt. It was such a simple gift but one that has blessed my home for three years.

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We still have our Blessing Jar sitting on our small bookshelf. My son and daughter know exactly what it is and what it means. They often remind me to put the paper that represent a given or received blessing into the jar. So much so, that my son asked me to put the gas receipt into our Blessing Jar… because “filling the car with gas is a blessing”.

Every year it is filled with ticket stubs, receipts, small notes…etc. Each New Year’s Eve, I empty its contents and pour them into a small Ziploc¬†bag labeled with the passing year’s date. Last year it was so full that I considered buying a bigger jar but I haven’t found the heart to get rid of the one that was given to us. It is special.

 

Bless someone with a small blessing…you never know how big it will become in their life or how full it will make their Blessing Jar.