Monday, October 31, 2011

Caldecott Medal Monday, 2000: Joseph Had A Little Overcoat

Simms Taback won the 2000 Caldecott Medal for Joseph Had A Little Overcoat, a charming story based on the Yiddish folk song I Had A Little Overcoat.  Style and techniques featured include watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, and collage. The affect is eye-catching, colorful, bold, but not overdone. Children will never tire of Taback's artwork, and the story itself is simple to read, with just one sentence gracing most pages. One part, "Joseph had a little _____. It was old and worn" repeats throughout the book, allowing pre-readers to join in.

The main character, Joseph, a Jewish farmer, owned an old, worn overcoat. Each time it became too worn, he used its fabric to make something else--something smaller. Holes in the illustrations (die-cut technique) peek through and give children a hint of what garment Joseph made next. 

With each successive reading of this gem, we're newly charmed. I check it out several times yearly, and we continue to find surprises in the illustrations.

I highly recommend Taback's entire body of literary & illustrated works for pre-readers and new readers. The use of folk songs, rhymes, and repetition is perfect for these children. What a pleasure, a gift, and a help his body of work is to children, parents, and teachers!

Visit teaching background and ideas for Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.

Simms Taback also won a 1998 Caldecott Honor Medal for I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

Visit his official site for a complete list of his works, for information about his artwork, his life, and for videos and interviews.

More works:

These book jackets and more can be found on Taback's website.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Revelation Song - Kari Jobe

We sang this in church this morning. I love the music at our new church! We've been attending a small (150 - 200 people) non-denominational church that meets in the local elementary school. It's a church plant based out of a larger church about 30 minutes away. We wanted something really close to home, in case our van gave out and we needed to walk! So far that hasn't happened, and since the nights have reached 30 degrees, I hope it doesn't happen anytime soon.

Anyhow, sometimes corporate worship sends me to my knees emotionally; this morning was one of those times. The pastor, similarly affected, came up after this song to bid us goodbye for the week. Tears threatened. He fought them, but he still couldn't speak more than a couple words.

We've been studying the Book of Revelation for several weeks, and I think we're all learning, anew, how to fear and worship the Almighty God.

I love the theology in this song, as much as the emotion.

Worthy is the,
Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy, is He
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven's Mercy Seat
[Repeat 2x]

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…!

Clothed in rainbows, of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I - will - adore You!
[ Lyrics from: ]
Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name
Jesus, Your Name is Power
Breath, and Living Water
Such a marvelous mystery

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I - will - adore You!

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come,
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And – I - will - adore YOU…

(Chorus) (Repeat at a cappella)

Come up lift up His Name
To the King of Kings…
We will adore YOU Lord…
King of heaven and earth
King Jesus, King Jesus
Aleluya, aleluya, aleluya!
Majesty, awestruck Honor
And Power and Strength and Dominion
To You Lord,
To the King, to King
To the King of Glory

(Singer: Kari Jobe)

More lyrics:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Prayer Warrior Life: A Mother's Prayers

I may not know you personally, but I know what your days are like.

If you're a momma you work hard, often into the wee hours of the morning, investing in your children emotionally, with hugs and loving words, and physically, with broccoli and oranges and apple slices. You wash, fold, and hang, vacuum mud and leaves, sweep crumbs, Lego Creator pieces, and Light Bright pegs.

You worry about fevers, wheezes, infected cuts. You devour parenting books in five minute chunks while on the toilet. You read parenting blogs to make sure you're understanding it all, and to commiserate with other moms in the trenches.

You take them to the library, to museums, and buy them educational toys. You teach, correct, repeat. Teach, correct, repeat. You devise systems for chores and other responsibilities.

Your children are your life. You're loving them sacrificially, giving everything.

But, could you be forgetting something? Maybe your own fallibility? And the Lord's power?

Are you, perhaps, forgetting.....prayer?

Pray for your children. Pray for their hearts, that they'll belong to the Lord. Pray they'll offer themselves as living sacrifices...laying down their lives for Him, for His purposes.

Isn't this what you really want? 

You want them to heal when they hurt, yes. You want them to do well in school, yes. You want them to work hard and accomplish, yes.

But don't forget their hearts.

The greatest mother--the one with whom He is well pleased--is the one who mothers on her knees, praying for her children's hearts.

He wants their hearts, not letters behind their name, showing accomplishment. He wants your heart--not a mother who pats herself on the back, each time her children shine.

Humble yourself. Give Him the gift of your heart...their hearts.


To read more of my prayer journey, check out Into a Life of Prayer: A Journey Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7

To read even more, check out The Prayer Warrior Life part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6Part 7891011, 12

A sweet friend, Amy, wrote guests posts for us, telling of her prayer journey: Vol. 1, and Vol. 2, and Vol. 3Vol. 4Vol. 5

photo credit

Friday, October 28, 2011

Discipling Boys: A Blog Series

What's happened to the nation's boys? Are you concerned about video games and other electronics sabotaging work ethic? Why are fewer boys applying for college, compared to girls? Why do fewer boys identify themselves as intelligent, compared to girls?

Why do 95% of the nation's young girls envision juggling career and family? Is that what God intended....for all women to be pulled in so many different directions?

Are we as a nation even trying to raise godly male leaders capable of supporting a family, faithfully discipling kids, and sacrificially loving a wife?

How can we help boys navigate puberty in a god-honoring way? Should they be around girls five days a week, for many hours a day?  What about focusing on education and training so they can support a wife some day? Is the constant presence of girls a distraction? Are easy physical relations--those without strings--a deterrent to boys' work ethics? If they can have their needs met, why focus on preparing for a wife and family? Where's the motivation?

The nation's boys are in crisis. What can we do, as Christian parents?

We'll explore all these issues in the next several weeks, as we discuss bringing up godly boys.

photo credit

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Tween Already: Where Did the Years Go?

Do you know how it all started? Armpit smell. Little did I know how parenting would change.

Yes, in late fall, 2010, my son began to smell, at not quite nine years old.

And that was it for another year. Just the smell, which hygiene training easily handled. Life continued. My young boy still acted like a little boy--rough and tumble and well, boyish. Little boyish.

Then earlier this fall, he started taking a shower in the morning sometimes, as well as at night--they're all dirty at night--because that's what adults do, he said. He picked out his own clothes each morning and they always matched. Actual thought went into his ensembles. Not too much thought, as in I-need-the-latest-Nikes kind of sentiment. Just a new consciousness.

A few weeks ago, before Sunday church, he put on a smart looking outfit, saying to me: "This looks nice, doesn't it, Mommy? I want to look handsome for my church friend."

My heart smiled and my mind exploded. Ahhhhhhhh! Help!

The following week we stopped at the drinking fountain at our church. Suddenly, two girls come out of the bathroom, both from my boys' children's church class. My seven year old, kind of shy, looked away instead of at the girls.

But my nine year old?

"Hi Emma. Hi Jennifer. I'll see you in class.".

Spoken like the quarterback of the football team. Smooth as silk. Confident.

And following that encounter, he donned a big, big smile.

I looked at my husband, incredulous. Um, what just happened there?

The following week, he's up till 10:30 PM talking to me--sad that Emma may not be interested in him.  He tells me Emma doesn't listen or behave in class and that bothers him. The less pretty one, Jennifer, does listen, and maybe he should stay away from Emma and befriend Jennifer? He knows, instinctively, that Jennifer is the nicer one. 

The whole time, I'm crying out to the Lord. It seems I just nursed this boy to sleep last week, Lord. How did we get here so fast, and what do I do?

"Son, the nicer one is always better than the pretty one. And the Lord can make a nice girl beautiful to you. He's that powerful and mighty. But Peter, you can't get married until you have the money to provide food, an apartment, and other things for your wife. So isn't it early to feel this strongly about girls?"

He agreed and seemed remorseful. And conflicted.

I don't think he can help any of this. Hormones are circulating, beyond his control. This is as new and confusing to him as it is to me. 

Last night, coming home from AWANA, he glowed with a dreamy smile. (AWANA is at a different church.) I had prayed for all the teachers and students before dropping my crew off. 

"I had the best time ever, Mommy. The Lord answered your prayer. I wish I could see Alyssa every day."

This morning, I learn that Alyssa, a long-time friend from this church--a family we know fairly well--said this to my son:

"I told my parents I have a crush on you."

The look in my eye floored him, I guess. My son got tears in his eyes. His lips trembled.

"Does this mean I can't be friends with her?"

"Do you know what a crush means, Peter?" I sensed that he didn't, but he instinctively knew it was complementary.


"It means she likes you and thinks you look nice. Yes, you can be friends with her, but you're never to be alone with her. Adults must always be around."

I resolved to pray about volunteering at AWANA.

I hugged his conflicted, confused self.

He still loves his Momma. He's happy to hold my hand in public. He still sports milk mustaches. He's a tween--half little boy, half teen. It's a brilliant word. His tenth birthday comes in a couple months.

Still shocked, I headed to the computer to look up Christian tween parenting books. I know nothing. We must disciple him well, so he can choose a godly wife and love her sacrificially, gracefully. These years are a training ground. And yet, how to slow him down?

We do not believe in dating, or in letting young people be alone. We prefer our children hang out with friends in our own home--while we observe, evaluate, train, disciple. If the parent-child relationship remains strong and intimate--something homeschooling facilitates--we believe children will be receptive to this arrangement.

I found Faithfully Parenting Tweens, A Family Resource Book, by John R. Bucka, but there was only one review. Any ideas? 

Faithfully Parenting Tweens: A Family Resource Workbook

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Only One Thing Matters: My Blessing List

I have to admit that since Beth's arthritis diagnosis, there are fewer minutes my mind settles on blessings, and more minutes it settles on how much there is to do, both in terms of comforting and being the face of Jesus for her, and in terms of physically caring for my family--food prep, clean-up, groceries, laundry, paperwork, baths. When there is chronic pain for a child, mixed with good and bad days, you can never anticipate when dinner will be ready, or how much laundry you'll shuffle. Cuddles and songs come first.

Life feels a little sadder and it's hard to divert the mind from memories of days past--days when running and climbing were effortless. Days when my child looked and felt perfectly normal and got out of bed running. When I get into a picture file, I'm bombarded with older images of a healthy, happy-as-a-lark child.

It smarts.

But I'm not blind. I see the brokenness in the world.

A friend tells me she caught her young son looking at nasty images on the computer. I read that 70% of middle school children have viewed such images. Shocking. Unthinkable. What kind of husbands and fathers will these children make some day? Where will society be without self-sacrificing, committed fathers, capable of real love?

My cousin, I learned, not only has to have a double mastectomy for breast cancer, but her tumors are both large and last year her mammogram looked perfectly normal. This must be the most aggressive form of breast cancer? Will she die in a few years? Will it be in her lymph nodes? How is her young teen son taking the news and does he understand what could happen? They have no spiritual truth--no divine strength to draw from.

Some economists predict a 50% unemployment rate, as the economy corrects from the massive housing bubble and other mishaps.

El Salvador, where a Compassion child, Nelson, resides, is facing loss of homes and crops from flooding and landslides.

And the list goes on.

So I understand how richly I'm blessed, even as I shed tears over old photos.

I need--my daughter needs--only one thing. The Almighty, living God.

Keeping my eyes on Him, I know the rest can't shake me.

So today, I am grateful for....

... my Father, who comforts and sustains me. Jesus, who saves and redeems me. Counselor, who guides and answers me. Lord, who rules me.

And I'm grateful for a believing husband who is a rock, even as he hurts, and for my children who know the power and faithfulness of God.

And I'm grateful for you, readers. Thank you for sharing your mothering journeys, your God journeys, with me. Thank you for your prayers and love.

Tree climbing frightens my nervous-Nelly self. I'm grateful none of our yard trees are conducive. These photos depict highly supervised climbs on a park tree.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Prayer Warrior Life: Family Prayer Jar

In writing to a homeschooling friend recently, I requested prayer for healing of Miss Beth's juvenile arthritis. Later that day, I read this from her:

"I am so sorry!  We put her name and request in our prayer jar, so we'll be praying for her a lot."

A prayer jar?  Immediately, I thought of the possibilities for our own family prayer time. We had been using prayer journals, but enthusiasm waned lately, trying my patience and dampening my discipleship spirit.

We must be steadfast in our discipling, not letting housekeeping, cooking or laundry, or outside activities get in the way. Discipling our children isn't a "should do". Rather, it's a "must do".

Deuteronomy 11:19
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 4:9
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:10
Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.

Psalm 78:4
We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.

When something isn't working for you and your family, seek new methods. Change things, shake things up a bit, whenever enthusiasm wanes. My friend's e-mail was a gift to me, from my Father, who seeks to help me in whatever tasks He gives me

I am never alone. Never without the gift of my Father working through me. I am simply His instrument.

Advantages of a Prayer Jar

- It's portable.

- Children like picking prayers out--the anticipation is exciting to them.

- It's a visual reminder of how often you're praying. When the jar is still full and it's Wednesday, you know you need to reevaluate your priorities.

- Children can write the prayers on slips of paper themselves. Invented, or developmental spelling, is just fine. Don't be fussy about mechanics when your child is writing out something for the prayer jar.

- It takes just a few minutes to write one out, so as new requests come in, you'll be able to keep up with them (especially with children helping).

- You can keep a separate jar for answered prayer, reminding you and your family that prayer works. 

- If you start on a Sunday, begin putting the prayed for slips aside, so you can see how far you've come throughout the week. Put them all back in the following Sunday.

- You can break the prayer into chunks of time younger children can handle. For example, one prayer each in the morning, one each at lunch, one each at dinner or bedtime. Or, for older children, three prayers each at bedtime, making for a longer prayer time so that attention span grows over time.

- If you're really type A, you can color code them for your convenience. For example, blue strips of paper for shorter prayers, for shorter people. :) 

Another example: different colors for praises, for thanksgiving, for confession, for relatives or friends, for healing, etc. 

There you have it. The family prayer jar. Ready, set, go!

photo credit

To read more of my prayer journey, check out Into a Life of Prayer: A Journey Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7

To read even more, check out The Prayer Warrior Life part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6Part 78910, 11

A sweet friend, Amy, wrote guests posts for us, telling of her prayer journey: Vol. 1, and Vol. 2, and Vol. 3Vol. 4Vol. 5

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caldecott Medal Monday, 1968: Drummer Hoff

Drummer Hoff, Adapted by Barbara Emberley, Illustrations by Ed Emberley

A chicken in the oven and sweet potatoes needing peeling means this will be a fast one, literary friends. But not devoid of fun, by any means!

Ed Emberley won the 1968 Caldecott Medal for the illustrations in Drummer Hoff--Barbara Emberley's adaption of a cumulative folk song featuring seven soldiers building a fancy cannon. The illustrations are bold and colorful and very unique. This artist would never be featured on my walls, but I can surely appreciate his work in a picture book.

The folk song itself is entertaining and fun and useful. Grab lots of repetitive rhyming books if you have babies, preschoolers or early readers in your home. These books help students learn to rhyme--a crucial pre-reading, auditory-discrimination skill that's more mysterious than we parents think. I've had many children over the years ask me if bat and ball rhyme--maybe not this exact example, but this general misconception, that rhyme refers to things that go together, not things that sound the same at the end.

Learning rhyme is as easy as hearing tons of rhyming books and nursery rhymes. It isn't something you actually teach; you expose them to it consistently during early-childhood years, and they get it--usually by early to late kindergarten, depending on how much exposure they've had. I taught in a low-income neighborhood, and it was never a given that my first graders would have this mastered. Poverty means, sometimes, no car to get to the library, and no value placed on books as a family experience.

Cumulative (Drummer Hoff), repetitive (The Little Red Hen, The Gingerbread Man), and rhyming books also help motivate preschoolers and early readers. Language learning should never be a chore. It should be a loving, fun-filled part of every childhood.

Your kids will recite Drummer Hoff for days after a reading, and you'll never tire of it. It will just make you smile.

Since it's a folk song that's been generating for years, I can type it for you here.

Drummer Hoff fired it off.

Private Parriage brought the carriage, 
but Drummer Hoff fired it off.

Corporal Farrell brought the barrel.
but Drummer Hoff fired it off.

And on and on until it looks like this at the end:

General Border 
gave the order,
Major Scott
brought the shot,
Captain Bammer
brought the rammer,
Sergeant Chowder
brought the powder,
Corporal Farrell
brought the barrel,
Private Parriage
brought the carriage,
but Drummer Hoff fired it off.

Hint for you homeschoolers: There are great sound-family spelling lessons hidden in here for older students.

Go away, big green monster! [Book]

We also have this Ed Emberely book, Go Away Big Green Monster, (teaches colors) which my kids all love. As you turn each page, more and more of a silly monster is revealed. Then, as you keep turning them, all his features go away, one by one. Great fun!

Glad Monster, Sad Monster [Book]

I haven't seen this one yet, but I'm sure it's silly-nilly good!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Only God Changes Hearts

Reading between the lines, some of you may have guessed my husband to be the less enthusiastic Compassion supporter. You would be correct. 

When months of underemployment turn to years, it becomes harder for a man to have hope and faith, especially while negotiating two to three different part-time jobs, which make for long, stressful days. My observation is that no one works harder than the underemployed; they scramble for a living, often seven days a week. Only recently has my husband had a full day off (Sunday). Come snow time though, he will be responsible for salting & snow removal for a church parking lot on Sunday mornings; his 30-hour part-time position is with a church.

So for these many months, I think he's been more frustrated by my Compassion passion, then anything else. Our being unable to sponsor anyone, in his mind, seemed like just another failure. Driving old cars we could barely keep going, praying for our meals and gas money....all the details made our circumstances seem desperate at times--though that was just our flesh, not reality. God has always been there. Faithful.

Several times I've come close to sponsoring a child without my husband's consent. Shameful, yes. 

I never even asked him if we could sponsor. The conversation never came up, because I've known his state of mind too well. Divya and Raphael, as I've mentioned, are both correspondent children; we are not their sponsors.

Thankfully, each time I felt tempted to click on a "sponsor me" button, the Holy Spirit stopped me. It wasn't out of defiance I felt these urges to click, but out of a desperate desire to help those whose circumstances are far worse than ours. For the first time in my life, I knew something of what they felt. 

Hopeless, marked, not good enough.

Yesterday, reading the post about the number of children who've waited so long, my desperation returned. My boys were over my shoulder as I checked the Compassion page featuring all the children--86 when we first looked at it--who'd waited six months or longer for a sponsor. I could see the compassion pouring from my boys' young hearts. How they wanted to click those "sponsor me" buttons as well.

We thought of all the groceries we could give up that would amount to $38. Money saved is money earned, I told them. It wasn't easy and some negotiation ensued, but Peter, Paul, Mary, and Momma each thought of one grocery item we could give up twice a month.

My husband works half day on Saturdays, so he wasn't around for these negotiations.

We continued to check the Compassion website every half hour, watching the number of children go up and down. Peter and Paul watched the children's pictures change position. I explained that as more children qualify for the longest-waiting list, the number goes up. As people sponsor them, the number goes down. It fluctuated, but we rejoiced each time it went down. Peter marveled at the Christians who obeyed God and sponsored.

I began to feel guilty. What right had we to even think about sponsoring? Was my husband going to be mad at me? Should I just tell the children to pray for others to keep sponsoring? Convicted, I decided to say nothing to my husband about our negotiated and reduced grocery bill.

We continued to watch the website though, and when Daddy returned, Peter, ever the talker, told him all about our day. Daddy listened, saying nothing.

We all went to a park for a couple hours, to help Beth with her physical therapy goals. Later, chores and a grocery run.

The busiest hours of the day having arrived, we stopped checking the list.

Until bedtime. One last check.

Peter said something about Nelson, whose picture he'd been watching. I clicked on the "learn more" button at the bottom of Nelson's picture. El Salvador. Seven years old. Loves soccer. Single mom--a laborer. Two children in the home. No father mentioned. 

It was the no father that got me the most. My boys too. My hand wanted to click. The boys' hands wanted to click. 

I picked up the phone, calling the automated phone teller to check our balance. I knew it was low. 

Meanwhile, Daddy asked why everyone abandoned him. We had gone to brush teeth initially, and then planned to return to the playroom for another bedtime story.

We just wanted to check the list one more time. Quickly.

Peter responded to Daddy. "Mommy's doing something. We'll be right there."

In a lower voice, to me, Peter said, "I didn't tell him what you're doing." 

Oh, the guilt at that comment! Was I teaching them to go behind their Daddy's back? Shame on me.  How conflicted I was...pulled in two powerful positions.

I got off the phone, dejected. $68 dollars to last for gas and miscellaneous for the next four days. 

No way, I told the kids. Daddy needs gas money.

Peter returned to the playroom, telling Daddy we wanted to sponsor a boy, but we couldn't because we only have $68.

I expected anger and resentment. After all, this wasn't exactly the proper way to decide these things. I felt convicted.

"I need about $50 for gas", husband said. "We'll do it on faith."

Rejoicing, we ran back to the computer, wondering if Nelson's picture was still there. It shifted positions, but we found it easily. Five minutes later, Nelson joined our family, leaving some of us in tears over Daddy's tender, faith-filled heart. 

And we couldn't be happier. For Nelson...for Daddy. They needed each other desperately.

Bitterness, once rampant in my man's heart, turned to compassion, through the power of God. I've never loved my husband more, nor my Savior.

Only God changes hearts.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How Are You At Waiting?

Do you wait well?

Have you ever been the longest one waiting, like when the gym teacher lined up all the students and allowed the captains to pick their teams?

Waiting is hardest on young children. There are 86 children registered with Compassion who have been waiting six months or longer for a sponsor. As you peruse these photos of the 86, you'll notice most of them are very young....too young to wait longer than six months for hope and a future. Please pray about sponsoring one today? Buying one less bag of chips and one less case of soda per week would give you the money needed to sponsor one child. Who needs chips and soda anyway?

A Compassion blog post aired today which may help these children, but I believe we all need to do our part to help them. If you can't sponsor, can you post the longest waiting list on your blog, or on other social media?

A child will be blessed if you do! Thank you!

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Edited to add: Since posting this less than 30 minutes ago, four more children have been sponsored from this list! Praise God! Of course, children are added to this list every day too, so the number goes up and down all the time.

photo credit

Friday, October 21, 2011

AVKO Sequential Spelling: It Works!

I picked up AVKO Sequential Spelling (used $10 on Homeschool on the advice of a parent who also has a challenged speller. Developed by the AVKO Dyslexia Research Foundation, the program uses an Audio-Visual-Kinesthetic-Oral teaching approach (thus the acronym AVKO).

The AVKO Sequential Spelling Tests were developed to utilize the word family approach sequentially and to apply the very simple flesh-and-blood teaching machine techniques of having children correct their own mistakes when they make them--not hours, days, or even weeks later.
Perhaps the most important difference between the traditional approach to spelling and the AVKO approach is that we use tests as a learning device and not as a method of evaluation. We believe that the natural method of learning is learning from mistakes, and that is why we want children to correct their own mistakes when they make them--so they can learn from them.
(from AVKO Sequential Spelling 1, page 4) 

Each day I dictate 25 words to Peter, using a different list each time. After each word he looks at the correct spelling and corrects his attempt, if necessary, before we move on to another word. A couple different word families are recycled for about eight days--with different suffixes and prefixes added to make longer, varied words--before the program moves on to introduce a few more families. It teaches homophones as well.

Peter and I love it, finding it painless and sensible. And it works!  I highly recommend this program even if your student is in traditional school and has no particular spelling difficulty. Your child will simply learn more from this. Peter doesn't have dyslexia, but he does have a poor visual memory (struggles to attend to visual details).

Only taking a short time each day, it helps all students transfer their word-family learning to their daily writing. With traditional spelling programs most students memorize a group of words each week--forgetting them by Monday in most cases.

I'm not sure why these photos turned sideways, but I decided not to drive myself nuts trying to shift them. Been there, done that, and never succeeded in the past.

There you have it!  A spelling program that works! Here is the website,, where you will find seven different levels designed to teach all the word families in seven years of schooling. The levels are not based on grade level.

They have other products as well. Here is there about us page:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caldecott Medal Mania, 1980: Ox-Cart Man

Fall is the perfect season for introducing Ox-Cart Man, (1130 Lexile) written in 1979 by Donald Hall. The exquisite pictures were done by Barbara Cooney, for which she won a Caldecott in 1980.

In October he backed his ox into his cart and he and his family filled it up with everything they made or grew all year long that was left over.

This sentence graces the first page of a beautiful, lyrical glimpse back at 19th century New England farm life. We read how the ox-cart man and his family lived entirely off their land, selling their products every October in a marketplace located a ten-days walk away.

Fall finds the ox-cart filled up with wool from their sheep, mother's handmade shawl, mittens knitted by a daughter, linen they wove, birch brooms a son carved, maple syrup tapped from their trees, candles, shingles, potatoes from their garden, a barrel of apples, honey and honeycombs, turnips and cabbages, and a bag of goose feathers from the barnyard geese.

When his cart was full, he waved good-bye to his wife, his daughter, his son, and he walked at his ox's head ten days over hills, through valleys, by streams, past farms and villages until he came to Portsmouth and Portsmouth Market.

After he sells all his goods, including the wooden box he carried the maple syrup in, the barrel he carried the apples in, the bag he carried the potatoes in, along with his ox cart, his ox, and his yoke and harness, he buys some items for the family--an iron kettle, an embroidery needle, a Barlow knife for carving, and two pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies.

Next, the reader takes a journey through their gorgeous farm year, as they faithfully produce the same things all over again.

Peter and I, both farm-life lovers, swooned our way through every page of this exquisitely illustrated story. Mary, almost 5, and Beth, almost 3, both stay engaged with the pictures and content.

Barbara Cooney, one of my favorite illustrators, also illustrated and won a Caldecott for Miss Rumphius.

Here are some Barbara Cooney (1917-2000) quotes, taken from

  • On her grandmother and mother: "She gave me all the materials I could wish for and then left me alone, didn’t smother me with instruction. Not that I ever took instruction very easily. My favorite days were when I had a cold and could stay home from school and draw all day long.... She was an enthusiastic painter of oils and watercolors. She was also very generous. I could mess with her paints and brushes all I wanted. On one condition: that I kept my brushes clean. The only art lesson my mother gave me was how to wash my brushes. Otherwise, she left me alone."
  • On her graduation from Smith College: "I have felt way behind technically; and what I’ve learned I have had to teach myself. To this day, I don’t consider myself a very skillful artist."
  • On her travels: “It was not until I was in my forties, in the fifth decade of my life, that the sense of place, the spirit of place, became of paramount importance to me. It was then that I began my travels, that I discovered, through photography, the quality of light, and that I gradually became able to paint the mood of place.”
  • On her receiving the Caldecott Medal in 1959: "I believe that children in this country need a more robust literary diet than they are getting.... It does not hurt them to read about good and evil, love and hate, life and death. Nor do I think they should read only about things that they understand.... a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. So should a child’s. For myself, I will never talk down to—or draw down to—children."
  • On her most favorite works: "Of all the books I have done, Miss Rumphius, Island Boy, and Hattie and the Wild Waves, are the closest to my heart. These three are as near as I ever will come to an autobiography".

Here are some teaching resources and other links for Ox-Cart Man:

Literature Unit from Ox-Cart Man

Teaching Economics with children's literature:  Ox-Cart Man

Ox-Cart Man Discussion Guide From

As-You-Read Activities:

Ox-Cart Man Progeny Press Study Guide

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Gratitude List

My Gratitude List

- Four clean-as-whistle kids piled on the playroom couch with Daddy, reading picture books and munching popcorn

- Miss Beth awoke for the first time since early August with the ability to stand and walk! It was a stiff, slow walk, but I'm overjoyed with this progress. The disease may be loosening its grip on her knees, after several weeks of anti-inflammatory medicine. Praise God for this answer to prayer!

A Hive of Busy Bees: Stories That Help Build Character for Children 5-10  -     
        By: Effie Williams

- A Hive of Busy Bees, recommended by Jess. This Christian character-building book is beloved by all in this house. The first day it arrived, Daddy began reading it to the boys. The next morning Peter grabbed it upon waking, telling me he wanted to read it during the day. "This is a very interesting book, Mommy. Thank you for buying it for us." The brother and sister in the stories visit their grandparent's farm, so of course Peter, my farmer in training, delights in the themes. I'm charmed by the wholesomeness packed into every page. Now, both boys are reading it for pleasure during the day. I'll have to buy book 2 this week.

The quality of writing is mediocre; editing could be better and semicolons are rampant. I suspect the writer was new to the field when these were published. If I were to publish something at this stage of my craft, it too would be unpolished. It takes years of practice to write professionally. However, I still recommend these books! Click on Jess' link above to read her wonderful synopsis.

- My mother had a small cancerous breast lump removed at age 63. No problems for her since then; she is now 70. A cousin of mine will have a double mastectomy in early November, at age 50. The good news is that breastfeeding reduces your risk, with long-term breastfeeding providing the greatest protection. Women who have their first child after 30 are at an increased risk for breast cancer, but this is not true for older mothers who breastfeed. Keep up the nursing for as long as you can. Benefits below found here.

  1. Reduces the risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
  2. Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation. It is thought that the less estrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and perhaps breast tissue also, the less the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous.
  3. Lessens osteoporosis. Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.

Benefits for baby are numerous as well, including protection from several different types of cancer.

- Hearing Peter say this afternoon, "Isn't art the best thing ever, Mommy?"

- Yesterday we ventured to homeschool gym/fellowship time, only to find the church doors closed and locked and the parking lot empty. We were dumbfounded, since we never received any e-mails pertaining to a time or day change. Beth's appointments prevented us from going a couple times, so perhaps a change was given verbally to the participants? 

Anyhow, all were disappointed so we went to a park instead. For the hundredth time since becoming a parent, I marveled at God's design for the human face. Beth climbed up onto a slanted tree stump, only to fall head-first into the base of it. Though she was all scratched up and bleeding slightly, as I inspected the wounds, I marveled at the protection her eyes received; the worst of the scratches were a fraction of an inch from her eyes. God continues to amaze me, as I parent the very active, full-of-life blessings entrusted to me! 

Can I hear an Amen?

- No car repairs for the last two weeks. Amazing sweet it is

- The benefits from Peter's increased Strattera dose continue. My boys are closer than ever right now.

- Since writing to you about my last parental blow-up, I've been a good little girl. Amazing sweet it is.

- Although I had read this blog before, I rediscovered it recently, thanks to a link found on Kristen's We Are That Family blog. This Katie girl (only 23 years old) is amazing! Her main ministry blog is Amazima Ministries. The first link is for her personal blog. She adopted 14 Ugandan children and serves many others!