Monday, January 9, 2023

Celebrating Day 100

One of my favorite days to celebrate in our homeschool is nearly upon us--the 100th day of school. You might recognize some of the ideas listed below because they were posted here, hidden halfway down our list of Fun February Days. Others were used more recently.

Ways to Celebrate Day 100:

  • Make a 100-link paper chain. (We kept the chain up for the rest of the year, adding five links every Friday. In the end, we had a 180-link chain. Very impressive.)
  • Sit by the window and count 100 vehicles. In your creative journal, draw the 100th car that goes by. (One benefit of living along a busy road is that this took less than 10 minutes.)
  • Write a 100-word story in your creative journal using as many words as possible that equal 100--century, dollar, centimeter, Ben Franklin ($100 bill).
  • Choose an encyclopedia and write the entry words on page 100.
  • Have our Traditional Day 100 Lunch of soft pretzels

  • Build something using 100 LEGOs
  • Put together 100-piece puzzles
  • Draw a picture using 100 as the base

  • Learn about America 100 years ago. Who was President? What did a new car cost? What was the price of gasoline? Record your answers in your creative journal.
  • Run a 100-yard dash. (We did ours in snow and winter gear and broke no world record.)
  • Estimate how long 100 inches is, then measure to see how accurately you estimated
  • Write a special candy bar letter to your students. 

Finally, here is a link to 50 Ideas to Celebrate the 100th Day of School which is where I gleaned some of the ideas I used. One idea I love but haven't used is to visit a 100-year-old person and have them share memories of their childhood. 

What have you done to celebrate Day 100? Leave your ideas in the comments--especially if you don't mind me borrowing them. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Celebrating Half Day

As a homeschooling mom, I try to keep my children from being eaten alive by monotonous school days. I certainly don't always succeed; many of our days look startlingly alike. But one way I fight boredom is by celebrating milestones. Tomorrow is Day 90 for us, or Half Day since we log 180 days per school year. In my opinion, the easiest way to honor Half Day is at lunch. Cut everything in half, serve half cups of juice, or have a half dozen grapes per person. My children are unaware that Half Day is upon us, so I'll surprise them tomorrow with Half Day Lunch, serving it on paper plates that have been cut in half, of course.

If you want more ideas on how to celebrate this milestone, here are, well, half of the ideas. The other half are the ones you come up with yourself. Just don't cut things in half like recess or rewards. 

  1. Take a half mile walk
  2. Use a half an hour segment of your day to play an educational game. Consider playing Memory, since you need to find the other half of each pair. 
  3. Do half a dozen exercises
  4. Skip half of the review questions in Arithmetic. (Provided they understand the concept and don't need the practice.)
  5. Draw half of an object in your creative journal or cut an item in half and tape it in your creative journal. My twist on this will be to have my children glue or tape the other half of the object in their sibling's journal. 
  6. Write half of a short story (like, two paragraphs long) and give it to someone else to write the second half. 
I updated this post to show you the lunch 
I made for my children. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Night I Took a Dead Horse to a Christmas Party

The ladies at our church gather once a month for an evening of inspiration. This being the final meeting of the year, we deviated from our more formal meeting pattern and gathered for food, fellowship, and games. The invitation said, "We would love if you could bring some of your favorite festive snacks for the evening, or anything you feel inspired to make!" 

Favorite festive snack. I couldn't think of a favorite, so I paged through an appetizer cookbook and stumbled onto an entire section of baked cheeses. Immediately, I remembered a heavenly baked Brie I made about ten years ago. I no longer had the recipe, but I knew it had been wrapped in crescent roll dough and eaten with crackers. The women helping small children go through the food line had tasted samples and had carried bites of Brie to their husbands so they too could have some before it was all gone. It was an amazing treat. Recalling it now, I decided that same Golden Baked Brie encased in crescent roll dough and served with crackers would be a fitting contribution to a festive buffet. 

But when I went to buy the ingredients, the only Brie Glenwood Foods carried that day was goat cheese. Being concerned that goat cheese might be stronger than I wanted, I searched the shelves and saw a round of Camembert cheese. I knew nothing of Camembert, except that it was the right size and shape. So standing beside the refrigerated cheese case, I did a quick Google search for "Can I substitute Camembert for Brie." 

The first thing I read was published by The Cheese Empire and printed in bold: "Brie and Camembert can be substituted for one another..." And, "They can be changed as required within recipes, baking on their own, or enjoying on a simple cheese board." The Spruce Eats said, "They can be interchangeable and are sometimes confused." On a list of The 5 Best Substitutes for Brie Cheese, Camembert was listed as number one. Perfect. 

Yes, foodies, I hear your groans. I bought Camembert with the good faith that I could replicate the unforgettable appetizer I baked ten years ago. Indeed, this too would be unforgettable but for an entirely different reason. 

I spread the round of cheese with jam, topped it with fresh raspberries, and wrapped it in crescent roll dough. Before I finished wrapping the dough, I broke an edge off the cheese and smelled it. It was strong. Pungent. Powerful enough that I hesitated, wondering if I should risk taking this to a party. But, really. Even though the Camembert packed a powerful punch, other cheeses I love can have a strong smell too. Grated Parmesan, for example, doesn't smell pleasant to me if I put my nose to the can, but it is delicious in a recipe. Thus quieted, I baked the Camembert. It came out of the oven golden brown and smelling wonderfully. Crescent roll dough can deceive you like that. 

That evening, I nestled my platter among festive cookie trays, tiny tartlets, tortilla rollups, cheesecake, snowman-shaped cheeseball, fancy party mixes, nuts, and all manner of delightful eats. It was a beautiful and impressive spread.

My back was turned to the food tables when someone cut into the Camembert. I knew immediately what had happened because an overpowering, sweaty-armpits-in-mid-July smell wafted over to me. Inwardly, I froze. If I had been smart, I would have slunk to the table, picked up the dead horse, and put it outside where it belonged. But I didn't. I suppose I hoped it would taste better than it smelled. Crescent roll dough, you know. 

Much later, I went to the food tables and searched for diabetic-friendly snacks, thanks to the gestational diabetes I was diagnosed with a month ago. I sadly passed up warm cinnamon rolls and darling tartlets and selected meat and cheeses. I took some cheeseball which I supposed wouldn't spike my finicky sugar levels if I ate it with only a couple of crackers. And then I came to it. Lying shoulder to shoulder with a platter of raspberry white chocolate scones was my odiferous dead horse. I needed to taste it, carbs or no. Perhaps the raspberries and crescent roll dough had worked their wonders on the cheese and would give this a better flavor profile than indicated by the smell.

I lifted a bite to my lips and knew immediately no miracle had occurred. No ingredient I can think of could possibly mask the strength of warm Camembert. I nearly ejected the bite--involuntarily, at that. The powerful flavor increased the longer I chewed. My second and final bite was worse. The scent lingered on my fingers and clung to my plate. This was no relative of the baked dish I lovingly recalled from ten years ago. This putrid dish belonged behind the barn to deter rodents from entering the granary, or beneath hoods of cars to prank your frenemies. Whatever it's many uses may be, a ladies' festive Christmas buffet is not one of them. 

At the end of the evening, I quietly picked up my reeking platter and slipped out the back door of the kitchen instead of carrying it through the crowd. I drove with the precision of a limousine driver to ensure that the cheese wouldn't slip off the platter and onto the carpet of the van. If that tragedy had occurred, I supposed the smell would permeate the carpet and render the vehicle unusable for the next decade. 

John met me at the door when I got home. Upon seeing him, I pinched my nose and held out the platter. "Smell it." 

He took a single whiff and looked at me sympathetically. I scooped molten Camembert onto a buttery cracker and fed it to him. John has an incredibly high tolerance for foods of all kinds. Rarely does he ever dislike something he eats. But this single bite maxed his tolerance. 

He chewed, and his face looked like mine had felt when I first popped the bite into my mouth. He swallowed courageously, then turned to the sink for gulps of water. He reached for a banana, for something, for anything that would help wash away the taste. 

"Is Camembert related to Limburger?" John asked. 

Limburger is notorious for being a strong, prank-worthy cheese. Another quick Google search brought up a list of The 10 Stinkiest Cheeses in the World. Limburger was ranked as #7. Camembert effortlessly beat that record by coming in at #2. 

Turns out I had asked Google the wrong question in the grocery store aisle. Asking "Does Camembert stink" gave this understated response from Whole Foods Market: "If you ever have trouble telling Camembert apart from its bloomy-rinded cousin Brie, one sniff should settle things. Camembert is distinguished by an aroma that's hard to miss: one part cabbage and one part barnyard, all wrapped up in that iconic wooden box." 

To any church friends reading this, particularly to the ones who braved a bite of Baked Camembert at the ladies' meeting, I offer my sympathies and apologies. I'd also like you to know that you can safely invite me to future parties. I might make a Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid from a tried-and-true recipe. Or maybe a hot dip to serve with tortilla chips. One thing I do know, I will not bring a crescent roll encrusted dead horse to your party. You have my word on that. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

710 Gulf Gulf

Someone recently asked, "How often does John take you flying?" 

With a few calculations, my answer surprised even John and me. "Once every seven years."

Our record wouldn't even look that good if our date plans this summer hadn't fallen through. To redeem the date, John gave me a ride in the plane he uses as a flight instructor. The plane is owned by the flight school. 

Tail number 710GG or 710 Gulf Gulf 
when talking to the tower

John gave me the pilot's seat and sat beside me like I was his student, offering me the opportunity to do some flying. I declined, but maybe I should have surprised him with a loop or a lazy eight or something impressive. 

Supposedly the plane has cool avionics. I wouldn't know.

I'm not sure who had the most fun. I loved seeing John in that part of his world, and he was grinning when he said, "It's fun to show off my skills sometimes." (Apparently his students don't cheer for him when he touches down without a bump?) 

No flight plans are scheduled in my immediate future, but I'm loving the memory of flying with John in 710 Gulf Gulf. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Creative Journal Ideas

Summer was still in full swing when my children came to me asking, "Are we going to do another creative journal when school starts?" 

"Do you want to?"


I was pleased. I learned about creative journals from Deana Swanson's blog, The Plain Professors. The journals are composition books that we fill with artsy things and fun writing projects. Nothing is graded and nearly everything is meant to be interesting and fun. Apparently, the fun factor is high if I get asked about creative journals during the summer. I've noticed that nobody asks if they can please memorize prepositions or do more story problems.

Creative Writing Journal with decorated cover

We started school this week. Each morning when I grade books and prepare assignments for the day, I write today's journal entry assignment at the top of their page. This works because I only have two students. I would write the day's assignment on the chalkboard if I taught a large classroom.

Several people were interested in the ideas we did in our journals this past school year. I tried to keep this list to original ideas, but I've been so inspired by my childhood and other people that the lines are foggy on what is original and what isn't. 

Incorporate Daily Life

  1. List 6 memories of summer vacation. 
  2. Write 3-5 sentences about yesterday, listing something positive and something negative.
  3. Make a list of 12 things you might see when we go on our nature hike.
  4. Draw and color a mushroom you saw on our hike.
  5. It is raining today because of Hurricane Ida. Write 8 facts or descriptions of hurricanes. Look up the information if you need to.
  6. Write a summary of our trip to SC.
  7. Write a paragraph about the Frontier Culture Museum we visited.
  8. Write a paragraph about Rough and Tumble.
  9. Write 3-5 sentences about Fire Safety yesterday. Be sure to include something you learned. 
  10. Draw a poster for fire safety. Include one sentence of advice. 
  11. We visited Great-grandma Nolt last evening. Give some reasons why it could be fun for an old person in a nursing home to have visitors. 
  12. It's my birthday! Draw and color a birthday cake with 39 candles! 
  13. We just went to Lakewood as a family. Make an acrostic using the word LAKEWOOD.
  14. Draw a map of Woodcrest's Journey to Bethlehem. Label each station. 
  15. Draw and color a scene out of Pilgrim's Progress. Write a sentence to describe it. (They had been listening to Pilgrim's Progress.)
  16. Write a memory from when we lived in Africa. Write a complete paragraph, neatly, and in good sentences.
  17. Draw a map of Antarctica. Label the windiest spot and the coldest spot. (We were preparing to present Antarctica at a Geography Night.) 
  18. Yesterday was our final day of co-op. Write a paragraph about co-op. Why do you like it? What was your favorite class? How did you like singing for the elderly? 
  19. Write a poem about co-op.

Bring God and character-building opportunities into your school day
  1. Write about a time God answered prayer for you or our family.
  2. Write Philippians 4:4 from memory and illustrate it.
  3. Write the books of the Old Testament from memory.
  4. Wilma badly wanted a LEGO door for the house she was building. Her brother had a house with two doors, but it was already built with tall walls and a roof. Wilma accused him of not being kind, fair, or loving. What advice would you give Wilma?
  5. What is one of the most important lessons you ever learned?
  6. My friend Marlene Sue has many children. They live in Ukraine as missionaries. Write a prayer for them in this scary time when Russia is invading Ukraine.
  7. What are good habits every person should develop?
  8. Words are important! Write a list of encouraging phrases you can say to a sibling or a friend. 
  9. Make a list of things to be thankful for. Do NOT include common things like food, family, friends, or health. Be creative. 
  10. Choose any part of the story of Jesus' death and illustrate it. 
Random ideas
  1. (Cut a picture out of a magazine and give it to them. Mine was a fancy birdhouse.) Glue this picture on your page and write a short advertisement to sell it. 
  2. Give me a few reasons why granola is healthy.
  3. Draw the World's Cutest Reptile and color it in fall colors.
  4. Would you be happy to have someone teach you French if you moved to France? Why?
  5. Create a recipe for chocolate cake.
  6. Draw a picture of your mom dumpster diving.
  7. Set a timer and work on a creative story for 8 minutes. 
  8. Cut words out of a magazine or newspaper and use them to write a sentence.
  9. (Give them a picture of two people or animals.) Glue this picture on the page and write an imaginary conversation they may be having. 
  10. Draw the musical scale. Decorate each note.
  11. Finish this story: 
    One blazing summer day, the geese laid hardboiled eggs and the old red rooster burned his feet on the wooden fence post. Suddenly...
  12. (Cut out a picture from a magazine, one that includes a person.) Write a paragraph about this picture. Pretend you are the woman in the window, so write it in first person using I and my 
  13. Choose a car you see going past our house. Write a paragraph about who they are, where they are going, and what troubles or happiness they might be having. Include names and a conversation. 

Include entries for national holidays and special days
  1. Today is National Taco Day! Build a taco by drawing each layer. Leave 1/4" space between each layer. 
  2. Native American Day! Using the page of symbols I provided, copy and label them. 
  3. Chinese New Year! Draw a map of China. Label its capital. 
  4. National Popcorn Day! Look up popcorn in the encyclopedia and write several sentences about its history or any information about popcorn.
  5. Letter P all Day. (This was one of our Fun February days in which activities and food started with the Letter P.) Write a short story using as many words starting with P as you can.
  6. Robot Day. Draw a robot and write a sentence about him. 
  7. Shark Day! On this page, take a chomp out of the edge of the page. You can color or decorate it if you want. 
  8. (We do school on Tyler's birthday.) Draw 12 balloons. Inside each balloon, write a memory from your last year. 

Let them give you great ideas
  1. Make a list of fun things you would like to do in December. 
  2. Make a list of Fun Friday ideas. 
  3. Give me ideas for Fun February. 
  4. What would you like your summer to include? 
  5. List 5 songs we should sing in family devotions. 
  6. Where would you like to go on a field trip? 
  7. What are some supper ideas you would like to have? Put a star beside the one you want to cook.
Ideas we repeat throughout the year (These are borrowed from Deana Swanson.)
  1. What did you learn in Sunday school yesterday? 
  2. What was the sermon about on Sunday? 
  3. Illustrate a spelling word and use that word in a sentence. 
  4. Draw something you are learning about in Science.
"Invisible: This is a giraffe walking past a window."

Count down to the last day of school
The last 10 pages in our journals were a countdown to the summer.
  1. Day 10-- Cut a large 10 out of paper. Glue it on your page. All around it, write 10 countries and their capitals you memorized this year.
  2. Day 9-- Make a large 9. Write 9 people you learned about this year. 
  3. Day 8-- Make a large 8. Write the names of 8 friends you met at co-op.
  4. Day 7--Glue on a large 7. List 7 fun places we went or fun things we did this year. 
  5. Day 6-- Make a 6 using Roman numerals. Write 6 things that distracted you out our classroom window. 
  6. Day 5-- Draw a clock. Set it to 5:00. Write the names of 5 bones you learned. 
  7. Day 4-- Make a 4 out of unusual objects. List your 4 favorite subjects. 
  8. Day 3-- Glue on a large 3. List 3 occupations that might interest you when you are an adult. 
  9. Day 2-- Draw a large colorful 2. Write 2 things you would like to do this summer. 
  10. LAST DAY! Write done, the end, and finished in several languages. 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Pottery Works

I am not fond of city driving. Even downtown Lancaster pushes the envelope of my enjoyment, but I don't mind driving to The Pottery Works. It is located on Orange Street, directly across from a parking garage. The parking garage is a significant detail because not only can I drive to The Pottery Works without stress, I can park within seeing distance of my destination--not something I can say for many city excursions. 

The knowledgeable and friendly staff guides newbies through the steps of painting pottery and offers tips to those who ask. I'm not much of an artist or painter, but I feel like one when I sit at a table full of brushes and colors and possibilities.

Last fall, Sophia and I painted pottery with a friend of mine, Priscilla.

Everything looks better after it has been baked. However, even the kiln couldn't transform my little container into what I had originally envisioned. My succulent doesn't seem to mind; it has grown significantly in its little striped nest.

Recently, I spent an evening at The Pottery Works with my sister from Minnesota. We chose a table by the window where the light of the shop spilled onto the sidewalk and caused passersby to look in--longingly, I supposed. Maybe they wished they had a friend with whom they could share the experience. 

For me, that is the biggest drawing factor of The Pottery Works. It is a shop that provides the space, supplies, and clean up service for friends who want to create beautiful art and happy memories. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Little Pine, the Place that {Almost} Redeemed Camping

After the mega camping fail of 2021 (read about that here), John wanted to take me to Little Pine State Park, a campground in the PA mountains that actually has trees and shade. Going to a beautiful location definitely held appeal. But still, I told John that I'm arming myself with the same mindset I had when entering our church's three-day fast: "This suffering will do good things for my soul." 

"You do know," John said, "that some people go camping because they actually enjoy it, right?" 

Right. But arming myself with the mindset that self-deprivation will be good for me felt like the prepared way to go.

Little Pine State Park is a beautiful campground, even to people who aren't naturally drawn to camping. Our tent was pitched on a carpet of pine needles within hearing distance of a small but dashing river. We were surrounded by the same trees John had camped beneath when he was a boy, adding a touch of nostalgia to the place. We didn't have electricity or cell phone coverage, but all of us agreed that only enhanced our weekend.

We grilled burgers over the fire for supper, toasted marshmallows for s'mores, and went to bed late. I felt rested when we unzipped the tent door in the morning. My immediate view was a green picnic area, towering pine trees, and the edges of a mountain. It was a gorgeous start to our day.

On previous camping trips, the children always had cousins with whom they could dodge off and play. But this time, our family unit stayed together, a super fun aspect of our weekend. We checked out the river and a lake. The views were breathtaking from the top of the dam. The hill leading to the dam was breathtaking too; someone is out of shape.

Tyler and John fished for the trout that swam tantalizingly around their feet. Tyler fished in knee-deep water long after his legs turned red from cold and the rest of us had lost interest. He tossed back everything he caught except a solitary 14" brown trout that we cooked over the fire and served with butter. 

While my men fished, I sat on a rock and watched my other children entertain themselves in a shallow creek. They had no manmade toys, but they were fully engaged for a couple of hours. They floated dandelions and sticks, built dams, stacked up rock towers, climbed rocks, played with a frog, and threw rocks into the creek. I watched them, amazed at the possibilities a child sees in rocks, sticks, and ankle-deep water.

Sophia used water and a stick to paint rocks.
Great idea because your canvases are endless
and your work area is mess-free.

On our way home, John asked what I thought of my Little Pine experience. I didn't know how to answer. In many ways, it was a wonderful weekend as a family. 

But the raw truth is that camping will always be camping with smoke in your eyes and biting bugs on your neck. Neighbors had moved in with a gigantic bloodhound whose indefatigable baying reverberated throughout the entire campground. They also brought a Lab that celebrated their arrival by leaping out of their grasp and peeing either on our camp chair leg or directly in front of it. Throughout the weekend, tiny worms fell from our canopy into my dishwater, dangled into our hair, and needed to be picked out of our food. On the way home while contemplating my answer to John's question, I was still finding worms on myself. You would think there would be easier ways of achieving family togetherness and quality time. 

But even with unregenerated dogs and the messiness of nature, I had more fun and fewer opportunities to remind my soul of its necessary and beneficial purification than I expected. And I loved spending time with my favorite people. 

My verdict? Don't sell the tent.

At least not yet.