Primarily written by Adrienne, a homeschooling mother of seven, ages 10 and under. She chronicles life, laughs, struggles, and lessons learned as she raises a larger-than-most sized family and tries to figure out what she's doing day by day.

With occasional posts, Alexandra, Adrienne's older sister, writes of her ranch life in Nevada and raising four sons, ages 5 and under. Life is never dull and her boys have given her some pretty awesome stories to tell.

Stick around awhile, and you're sure to laugh, nod, smile, be encouraged, and see what life is like with a big (little) family.


TOS Review: Math Mammoth

Liberty and Eden have been trying out Math Mammoth for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew lately. We got to use three different worksheet sets, all from the Make it Real Learning series: Arithmetic I for grades 3-6, Arithmetic II for grades 4-7, and States by the Numbers – South Dakota for grades 3-7.

Not a complete curriculum by itself (although Math Mammoth has that too), these are extra worksheets for applying concepts and strengthening problem solving abilities. Using census data, store fliers, and the like, Math Mammoth has created real life problems. With product is a better price per ounce? Buy two small ones or one large? How many people live in South Dakota? (Answer: Not many!)

I chose South Dakota because it’s my home state. It was pretty fun to read about, and my girls enjoyed reading of their birthplace as well. After the first day of sitting with the girls and taking turns answering questions about place value and putting words to the numbers, I set them off by themselves. I loved the fact that I didn’t have to print these out. I’m cheap like that. The girls loved that they got to use the computer – that made it way more fun than handing them a stack of papers. Eden (age 8 and just having finished 3rd grade) especially enjoyed these worksheets – she actually asked to use them! From the girl who groans through math, these were amazingly right up her alley. When it came to applying what she already knows, she had a great time. I’m thinking we might need to change our approach to math for her.

Math Mammoth teaches common core standards. If that is what I think it is, it’s what the uproar lately is about regarding public school curriculum that will, most likely, filter down into our homeschools if it’s not stopped. I have to admit, I cringed when I read “common core” on their website. Upon consideration, though, I wonder if something along these lines, if worse comes to worse, won’t be crucial to being able to pass the tests that it would seem are in the making. I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I love the math in real life concept. We learn and learn and learn, but applying it – that’s when it becomes real to us. I’ve often said common sense isn’t common – it has to be taught. Using the things we learn in books to figure out things in life helps teach that, in my experience.

Reading bar graphs and sharing among friends, averages, fractions, and working with money – and the fact that owing money really means you have less than zero, and therefore a negative number – were all things studied in Arithmetic I. Arithmetic II covers unit cost, large numbers, possible numbers, (How many ways can you change the same digits and come up with different numbers?) budgets, foreign currency, and more.

Arithmetic I is available here for $4.99 as a PDF download. Arithmetic II is available here for $4.99 as a PDF download. Both have 46 pages with 10 activities. States by the Numbers are PDF downloads and are available for $2.99 per state of $19.99 for all 50 states here. Each of the States by the Numbers have 38 pages with 80 activities. All three of the files we used have the typewriting tool enabled to allow the student to work directly at the computer, or they can be printed out.

Read more reviews from the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew on this and other math helps from Math Mammoth at the Review Crew blog.


TOS Review: See the Light

I’ve been able to review See the Light and their art DVD God’s Runaway with the kids last month as part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I received the DVD that contained the story of Jonah and three different lessons that had you drawing along with an instructor with step by step instructions. The story lasted 13 minutes, the “Obey!” art lesson using colored pencils was 18 minutes, “Released!” uses pastels and is 33 minutes, and Salvation is from the Lord is 29 minutes long and uses several different mediums. All four of my older children – ages 4, 5, 8, and 9 watched the video and drew along with the instructor for the first lesson, but just the older two for the second and third lessons. The recommended ages for this lesson is three and older for the story and six and up for the art lessons.

God’s Runaway features three art instructors. Heidi Shorts, Pat Kneply, and Jim Pence each present a lesson that all tie into the story of Jonah dramatized at the beginning of the DVD. From the website, bonus features also include:
- Revel in the original contemporary music performed by “Breathing Room” recording artists Jan Roper and Kevin Dukes while watching Gloria Kohlmann draw her remarkable art expression of this story.
- Watch and Hear The Plan of Salvation, clearly and creatively presented as you have never seen it. (7 minutes)
- Hear See The Light chalk artist Gloria Kohlmann’s commentary as you watch a story scene being created.
- Meet the See The Light team.


This is what my children looked like during the story portion. “Riveted” might be a good term. (I don’t know what’s with the apron on Sterling. I’m afraid to ask.)


And during the first art lesson… I had to pause it often to allow for time for the kids to catch up with the instructor, but in the end, the finished projects looked like this:

Yes, four children drew pictures. When I gathered them afterward to take a picture, I found three. My perfectionist son threw his away when it wasn’t, apparently, perfect. Ugh.

I heard all the way through the lesson that they couldn’t draw things correctly, whining and grumbling that they’ll never be able to make their pictures look like the instructors, but in the end, three out of four were happy with their work - and in all fairness, Sterling’s picture was pretty great. He heard about this one.

When you use the Crayola Extreme Colors, the colors glow under the black light. I doubt I need to mention just how cool my children think that is. Since we have a black light from my artistically-prone husband’s pre-me days (another thing I am afraid to ask about) the possibilities are endless now that we know. See the Light has the black light and colored pencils available if you need them.

The kids loved the story. Movies are a rarity around here, so that might have added to the intrigue, but they really loved it. The art lessons frustrated my two perfectionists – art is not their ‘thing’, they think. The first lesson they did willingly, but when I got it out for lessons two and three, they were less than thrilled. Their pictures, though, turned out great. The first art lesson was great for all four of mine – although Ruby (4) needed a bit of help along the way. The other two lessons got harder and just Liberty (9) and Eden (8) did them. All in all, if you’re looking for a simple art instruction – and one that’s Biblically based is a major bonus – I wholeheartedly recommend this one. If you, however, have children who think their talents with a writing utensil lie more with writing a story, then one that doesn’t show the finished product so much but focuses on techniques instead might make life a little easier.

God’s Runaway is $14.99 and available here. Also at that link is the list of needed supplies to complete the work and links to purchase a few you might not have.

To read more reviews from the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, check out the Review Crew Blog.

Sterling’s 6th Birthday

Sterling turned six on Saturday. To start off the day, he requested homemade doughnuts for breakfast – complete with Christmas colored sprinkles. He didn’t mind.

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I think they were good.


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I had this great idea for his gifts. He got four – usually I have several small things for them, but Sterling’s gifts were more expensive and fewer. Instead of opening them and being done, I made a scavenger hunt. He had to read the clues, figure out where his gifts were hidden, and run to find his gift. The clue was on the next gift. It was so much fun. Definitely the way to go, if your birthday child can read and you have the time to do it. The kids are all asking for a hunt on their birthdays.

Ugh, way to set the bar high.

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The excitement was contagious.

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I’m not sure which is funnier – Sterling’s face as he shot his new slingshot or Pierce trying to get up on the trampoline in the background or Ruby looking the wrong direction like Sterling shot backward.

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Blaine was solely responsible for the purchase of the fishing pole and wrapping it. The reel was in an oil filter box and the pole in a piece of PVC. Clever, my love.

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I was super excited about the Razor scooter. Liberty and Eden got some at a rummage sale a few weeks ago and Sterling’s been wishing for one ever since.

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And, the cake. Liberty made it. I think we have a first, folks. In all my years of motherhood, I’ve made the cake. 29 of them so far. This one, I didn’t make. (Catch Ruby’s cheating cheeks? I have evidence.)

On Friday morning, bright and early, I throw a week and a half worth of clothes for seven people in the van (7x12 = 84 outfits. Be still my beating heart. We’ll take less and wash laundry. I’ve learned to limit them to packing in their backpacks or our gas mileage will suffer from the weight they attempt to bring.) and we drive ten hours to South Dakota to my parents’ home.

Pray for me on Friday?

It’s a trip we’ve made many times. The kids are champion travelers. We’ve exacted our technique to a science. (Except there’s no Taco John’s on our trip until the miles past lunchtime. That would make it perfect. I haven’t had Taco John’s in months and months and months.)

It still fills me with a bit of dread. The worse case scenario, followed by a multitude of other scenarios, fill my brain each time we go.

But, when we get there, I get a day of rummage sales shopping with my mom. A day of sheep shearing that the kids get to be a part of. A visit with good friends whose children fall into friendships with my children like it hasn’t been months/years since we’ve seen them last. A camping trip to North Dakota is on the schedule, and the kids are beyond excited about that.

Ruby tells Blaine he needs to tell the teacher at his work that he needs some days off so he can come with us. If only it were that simple. (Where the teacher idea comes from instead of a boss, I haven’t figured out. For weeks she’s been calling the awful wormlike seed structures falling from the trees ‘mancha’. We couldn’t figure it out. Found out friends told her that’s what they are. In the end, I think she’s saying a version of ‘mulch’. Cheap entertainment, I tell you, when we all sit around and try to figure out what Ruby means. Fun times.)

When we get back, we potty train Pierce. Posts to come that will be greatly anticipated, to be sure. A battle of wills may ensue, knowing this boy.


House Rule #327

327. When needing to use the commode and deciding to be lazy and use the pasture, realizing the reason that boys can and girls can’t, not appreciating the feel of drip drying, raiding your father’s pickup for paper towels, and going on your merry way, remember this:

You must find a garbage for your drying materials. You may find this more work than simply coming inside to use the indoor plumbing we’ve been blessed with. I’m having a hard time seeing this as a bad thing.


These are a few of my favorite things…


Clotheslines sagging with clean drying diapers over freshly mowed grass (and dogs that photo-bomb),


little boys making mud pies and the fruits of their labors,


has-been hair do’s that aren’t anymore…


Flowering chives and buzzing bees,


and sisters pooling their talents for birthday present pictures,


promises of sweet things to come,


brilliant blue eyes and a face full of freckles,


and two year olds who love green gum and (fraternal) twins,

and one year olds who nap longer because the kids are outside,


--- these are a few of my favorite [spring] things.


Summer nights.


One of our favorite things to do on a warm evening. (One of these days, I’ll learn to count to six and realize Eden was busy cooking another marshmallow after donating her first to Charlotte and she never got in the mix of messy s’more eating children. Oops.)

The story of us. Part nine.

Read part one here.

Read part two here.

Read part three here.

Read part four here.

Read part five here.

Read part six here.

Read part seven here.

Read part eight here.

The neighbors. Oh, the neighbors. The ones who shared our building were the hardest part. He was on house arrest, she was angry at everyone, and their children had more language than I knew how to deal with – particularly when my daughters started repeating things. They vacuumed at 2 am, pounded on the wall when our alarm went off at 8 am, and left garbage everywhere in the yard. Showing them Christ was a stretch, when I really wanted to tell them something else entirely. I didn’t, but I failed to show them Christ all too often as well.

The man on the other side of us was Bob, a new widower who loved my kids and gave us vegetables from his garden. I wonder about him still.

Then there was the man down the block who watched us. Constantly. I still don’t know what to think about that. Locks are good.

Sterling was six months old when nursing hit a bump. It wasn’t going well. At all. Christmas in New Jersey had me there and Blaine there and gone again, back to work. My sister in law bought me a pregnancy test. I thought she was nuts. A few minutes later, I was crying, calling my husband, and telling him how horrible and awful our future was looking - words I would never use now to describe Ruby. Ruby, of course, charts her own course. My pregnancy was run of the mill normal. I was sick, then I was better, then I was huge, then I was huger. When I hit 39 weeks, I waited to have a baby. My brother in law came to watch the girls. Liberty and Eden were born at 39 weeks 5 days, Sterling at 39 weeks and 4 days, and surely Ruby would follow my pattern.

Then I hit my due date. That first Sunday after she was due, the neighbor Bob asked me if it was twins, and if I was due soon. The sight of me was painful, to be sure. He suggested I shouldn’t be headed to church.

The day before Ruby was born, at 40 weeks and 6 days, I had an appointment with my midwife. I suggested that Ruby might be breech – she just felt different. She thought not, but ordered an ultrasound.

Ruby was breech. Ruby was estimated to be 8 lbs. 15 oz. They scheduled a c-section.

The next day, Ruby was born behind first in an operating room while I lay strapped to a table. It was not my birth of choice. Afterward, as I healed from major abdominal surgery (during which they did not tuck in my baby belly, unfortunately) for many months, I felt like I was mourning the birth I’d imagined.

Sterling Blaine

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This freckle faced boy of mine turns six today.


just finished Kindergarten

learned how to read this year

excels in math

loves all things practical

loves to build and fix things

wants to be an Architectural Engineer

loves hugs

hates haircuts

loves Jesus

almost always has his shirt tucked in

has grown up so much this year

has a family that loves him dearly.

Happy birthday, little man.


Free today for Kindle…

This recipe book is free on Kindle today. I just got it – thought some of you might be interested too.

Notes to Self

Kasey from has written a blog post called “Notes to Self”. It contains notes she’d have written to her pre-child self, if given the chance. Inspired, here’s my own list:

1. Don’t take it personally. They are children. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they aren’t doing things just to get on your nerves. Most of the time.

2. Do the undies check. Young children routinely forget these things. Before church when young girls are wearing dresses and before little boys are modeling reindeer outfits for Bass Pro Shops when the color swatch has been taken from the rear of the outfit are two times these are most important. You’ll thank me later.

3. Don’t tell any child anything you don’t want repeated, particularly if they are under the age of 5. Don’t laugh at anything you don’t want repeated. When you hear them tell it, it was louder, bigger, stinkier, and worse. Every time.

4. Don’t ever let them the hear word “boobs”. Anything but that. It WILL come back to haunt you. Same goes for “alcohol”.

5. There are going to be nasty comments. This one I was unprepared for when we passed the “normal” family size. The sooner the ability to nod, smile, and thank 10 strangers per store for pointing out that you have fuller hands, work harder, or are lacking the brain cells necessary to prevent such atrocities is mastered, the better off you’ll be.

6. Raise your expectations. If you expect your two year old to melt at the word ‘no’, they will. Likewise, if you expect them to obey on command and act civilized in public, you’ve got a much better chance of that happening.

7. When you turn on the faucet and nothing happens, proceed the meltdown. Likewise, when the gas company says the line has a leak, a meltdown is appropriate there too. It’s gonna be bad. You’ll live, though.

8. Wants aren’t needs. The sooner this lesson is learned, the easier life becomes – and the easier contentment is to achieve.

9. Don’t teach the baby that riding on Momma’s lap during lawn mowing is a possibility. You’ll never mow alone again.

10. Do a head count before leaving anywhere. Having to march back in because you missed someone is humiliating.

11. Don’t take bikes to the park for children who aren’t fully capable of riding long distances. Being miles from the van with six kids, pushing a double stroller, carrying a bike, with a baby tied on your back mere weeks postpartum is going to end badly.

12. Don’t take personal space for granted. Soon, you’ll never have any again - at least for the next 26 years.


We were invited to go to Silver Dollar City with friends yesterday. For non-Missourians, it’s a giant Christian-run wild-west themed park. Roller coasters, rides of every shape and size, and food and stores and music and and and. It’s amazing. It’s expensive.

Friends have season passes. Season pass holders get free “Bring a friend” passes. And so, one dear woman arranged enough friends with “Bring a friend” passes to all go together and therefore get my children and me in free.

It. Was. Amazing.

What’s not to love about eight hours of riding rides and visiting with friends? Sterling and Ruby, at 41 5/6 inches tall, and Ruby, at 41 1/2 inches tall, were tall enough to ride a great deal of rides. Eden was tall enough for all but one, and Liberty has grown to “tall enough to ride them all” status. Oh, the fun they had. One ride, reaching 68 miles an hour…. up side down… was pretty amazing. I felt the uncanny need to hold onto my daughter next to me, despite the full knowledge that I’d never be able to save her that way. Thankfully, no lifesaving clutches were needed and I restrained myself. Whether I screamed or not, I’ll never tell. Water rides seemed to be a favorite all around, and Charlotte and Pierce thoroughly enjoyed riding in bugs and frogs.

The Duggars were there. I used more restraint and didn’t talk to them. But how cool is that?

I got called a mini-Duggar clan myself. We’re less than 1/3 of the way there though.

We weren’t the ones stuck on one ride. We didn’t get to ride that one, but at least we weren’t the stuck ones.

I haven’t been that tired in a really, really, really long time. 16.5 hours later, I’m still tired – but at least my legs feel like they won’t fall off anymore.

The kids came home, declined the supper I wasn’t making, and bedtime has never been so easy. Ah, the joys of sheer exhaustion.

Today… we’re having a “I’m so tired and emotional and therefore naughty” day. Pierce left purple bite marks on Charlotte, Ruby and Charlotte fought over who got to bring the diaper pail lid to Liberty for carrying the washed-out poopy diaper to the laundry room - that very same diaper that Pierce stepped in while I tried to take it off of him. I’ve had to discipline and/or scold nearly everyone. The ones that are left are walking the line, having watched the aftermath of their siblings’ behavior. Naps, all around sound in order – except we have plans with friends this afternoon. I might be pushing my luck on the good-behavior card.

Did I mention what a fun day yesterday was?!


TOS Review: Joyce Herzog

We’ve been using Joyce Herzog’s Scaredy Cat Reading System Express as part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for the past month or so. Primarily Sterling, age 5 (for a few more days!) and reading fairly well, was the one who used Scaredy Cat Reading System Express, but it’s been written for readers of all ages, from those that are struggling to the gifted student. It consists of teacher training with activities and suggestions as well as board games, all the stories, all the word lists and sentence lists for Levels 1, 2, & 3 – mastery based phonics available from

We used this as Sterling’s reading and spelling for this review. He immediately took the the “scared vowel” concepts and thought it was hilarious – and continues to use those terms outside of his schoolwork. SCRS Express has three options for your approach – for the learner who needs to make quick progress and feel that he is not “stuck”, for the older learner who needs to know he is not doing “baby work”, and for the older learner who is merely solidifying his grasp of words and ensuring that there are no “gaps”. We chose this third option, since Sterling is reading quite well but hasn’t had a formal curriculum for instruction, but rather I’ve gone through many easy readers and introduced concepts as he needed to know them. Filling in the gaps after using this approach sounded like a good idea.

We spent anywhere from 30-60 minutes a day on this. It wasn’t the simplest curriculum, and it took some figuring to how it would work well for us, but we’ve had fun. The game board was by far Sterling’s favorite – we could spend an hour just playing on it. My older girls (Liberty is 9 and Eden is 8) would jump in for a rousing game, usually of “Spell…” and they’d try to spell the hardest words I could think of that were words they should know. I exhausted all the words in the book and most of my brain trying to keep them working. Sterling learned a lot and I learned exactly where he’s at in the world of phonics rules and their application. That was super fun.

This book has fifteen rules. Each day we spent time on the rule we were on, but there isn’t a start and stop to the day’s work. There aren’t scripts, but just lots of ideas on learning and studying and having fun with it. The CD includes songs to help learn, and while I’m not sure if it’s my computer or the CD, the quality of it has something to be desired. It was hugely annoying – to me. Sterling, however, doesn’t get the willies when something sings and makes noise for many minutes. I think it’s just me (and maybe the six kids in my home that make noise from 6 am to 8 pm – if I’m lucky).

I like how they wrote the story. Sterling and Ruby both immediately understood how vowels can be scared when surrounded by consonants. Ruby’s a little ways away from getting very much out of this curriculum, as she’s learning to read, but I hope to use it with her in the coming months to round out her understanding. I did Rule 15 with my older girls – foreign words. Those words that are hugely influenced by another language more than English (ie. buffet and fatigue and epitome) can be difficult and make you go “Huh?” Once we talked about those, the range of words that stumped them in our games got significantly smaller.IMG_4513

We’ll continue to use Scaredy Cat Reading System Express for Sterling’s first grade year and hopefully be able to start Ruby at the beginning in the coming months as she works through Kindergarten. This is perfect for where Sterling is now in his pursuit of becoming a better reader and speller. (Whether this pursuit is of his own accord or mine remains to be seen. At any rate, he’s pursuing it.)

The complete Scaredy Cat Reading System Express is $30 and can be found here. It includes the 122 – page book, two multi-use board games, all the word lists, sentence lists, and stories for practice. It also includes the SRCS Rules Songs CD with songs for each of the rules (hello, long term memory!), The Story of LetterMaster MINI, and Using LetterMaster as a Teaching Tool.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more reviews on this and several other Joyce Herzog products from other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew..

Bully who?

Sterling called Ruby a bully.

She disagreed.

He recanted.

Then Ruby asked Sterling what a bully was anyway.

“Someone who’s bossy and mean,” he replied.

Ruby nodded in understanding. In all seriousness, she said, “Oh, like Liberty.”

Liberty howled. “RU-BY!”

And I laughed. And laughed. Kids are funniest when they aren’t trying to be funny.


The story of us. Part eight.

Read part one here.

Read part two here.

Read part three here.

Read part four here.

Read part five here.

Read part six here.

Read part seven here.

After managing the apartment complex for many months, painting more walls than I care to count an awful shade of off white while my daughters played in the paint colored and sang and danced around empty apartments asking if I was almost done, we’d had just about enough. Dealing with tenants, non payment, eviction, judges, massive ice storms, and one interesting and hard landlord who mocked our beliefs had just about done us in.

My final straw was, now pregnant with Sterling, telling the landlord and hearing his reaction. We were insane, I tell you. Two kids replace you in the universe, three is far too many and socially irresponsible. Oh, the horror. If he could only see us now. Then Blaine got a promotion. A really nice promotion that put him on full time and making enough for us to pay rent and quit dealing with all that was at the apartment complex.

We live at the apartments until Sterling was three weeks old, then moved to a two-family rental. That move was interesting. Blaine was still working on apartments and full time at the newspaper, so it fell primarily on me. With a newborn. Blaine’s brother saved the day when he came to stay with us. He helped me pack the van, then stayed with the kids while I took it to the new house and unpacked the van. We got it done up to the big stuff that way, and then Blaine had a day off and we finished. Not the best week of my life, but we were so glad to be free of the apartments.

We had space, a small backyard to share with the other half of our building, and world’s nicest landlords. And then we met our neighbors. Weeks in, my daughters were banned from playing with them alone, and the complaints began.

Life couldn’t just be comfortable. I still had more lessons to learn, after all.

Buying myself some time…

IMG_4507 (2)The Story of Us isn’t going so well this week. (Our story’s fine. It’s the writing of it that I’m failing on.)

While you wait, anxiously to be sure, for me to catch up with life and reviews and the house and the grocery shopping, check out this link. Liberty worked with a curriculum that had her writing a web page. Her finished result – an interview she did with me and then wrote into paragraph form, is here. I didn’t edit it, Eden took the photo, and Liberty worked on it all by her lonesome. I’m impressed. (And flattered.)


TOS Review Crew: Science Naturally! MORE One Minute Mysteries

As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was chosen to review the new book from Science Naturally! called One Minute Mysteries: 65 MORE Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! by Eric Yoder and Natalie Yoder. The second in a series, One Minute Mysteries: 65 MORE Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! is just that: short stories that last a page to tell the story and a short answer on the next page, created for children ages 8-12, bound in a paperback that are interesting and explain why something in the story happened, based on science. It’s just common sense stuff you just don’t necessarily think about. Each story really did take about a minute to read – although the solving my kids tried to do on their own and the discussions we had after reading the story lasted, often, many minutes more. Children engaged in science discussions after the book is done and we've finished the subject? Yes, please!

The book started out with story about kids deciding they should build a mesh cage around their cucumber plants to keep the dog out of them – but it would also keep out the pollinating insects off the plants, so they would be unable to produce. And just like that, my kids were hooked. We read about spinning eggs to decide if they were hard-boiled or raw, why water encourages the presence of mosquitoes, and, well, 62 other short stories that show the science facts – not just plain, less than interesting science facts. Can we call this ‘Applied Science’?

We read these a few at a time each day until we finished the book – some days, we read until my voice gave up. Everyone crowded around, and I would stop reading to see if the kids could figure out the answer of “why” before we finished the story. The stories are simple to understand, and although I’m certain my four year old didn't understand every explanation, she hung on every word right along with the older kids. They all loved to try to guess the answer to the mystery on the first page and then moved on to the next page see if they were right. My two older girls, 8 and 9, read these on their own ahead. This made the guessing a bit of a cheat – but I was glad to see that they remembered the stories and answers to the mysteries! Learning at it’s best, I’m convinced, is when they are interested and engaged and it’s not “work”. One Minute Mysteries certainly did that for my kids. We all loved it.

I wish this was a complete science curriculum, but I don’t think I could get away with that. It is, however, a super fun read that sparked the kids curiosity and fun conversation. After finishing this book, I’d love to read anything else by this publisher. It made learning fun and added a great dimension to our homeschool day that we all looked forward to.

This One Minute Mysteries book is $9.95 and available here. The complete list of Science, Naturally! books available is here.

To read what others on the Review Crew thought about One Minute Mysteries: 65 MORE Short Mysteries You Solve With Science!, check out the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.



Today is Sterling’s kindergarten graduation at co-op. I feel like I should be all weepy and sad. But I’m not. He’s the third of mine to finish kindergarten, and the second (Poor Eden!) to have a “graduation” and well, I have a hard time seeing the point of it all. It’ll be cute and he’s memorized verses he’ll recite and he’ll wear a funny hat and I’ll take photos, but really. Why?

He can wipe his own behind, read anything and everything, add and subtract small numbers, and read a calendar and a clock.

There’s so much more to learn.

He has a solid grasp on the knowledge of Christ and Christ crucified – for him. If he learns nothing else for all his school years, he knows the truth.

But I’d rather he continue to learn. It’ll help him out in this life.

And a 25 year old who can only add small numbers on his fingers might make his teacher look bad.

But for today, we’ll go to co-op, stick him in front of the whole group, and recognize his greatest accomplishment in life thus far.

He finished his first year of homeschooling, lived to tell about it, and isn’t ruined for it.

Ah, the sweet smell of success.


Seeing things.

You know the moment when, after spending over an hour up in the middle of the night with a small child, you finally get them tucked in, and you’re walking towards the bedroom? When you know that, while the house is mostly clean, there’s still a good chance of a lego or doll or toy that talks to be directly in your path and you must walk carefully? That moment when you’re seeing spots, you squint, blink, trying to get your sleepy eyes (that aren’t wearing prescription correction, of course) to adjust and the spots the clear? You blink, squint, and realize that’s just making the spots bigger. And then, half a second before the spot is going to hit you in the face, you realize it’s a floating balloon?

Yeah, that’s never happened to me, either.


TOS Review: Spanish for You!

Liberty (9) and Eden (8) have been using Spanish for You as part of a review for the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew. They've used it usually 4 days each week for 30 minutes or so. I received downloads of Fiestas for grades 3-4 and all of it’s complementing materials that are part of the Fiestas purchase. There are 30 weeks of instruction included with this grade level.

 My girls weren't over their heads in the slightest without any previous  Spanish instruction. They jumped in and began and did their best  Spanish pronunciation in their very-English speaking voices. It was  pretty fun – and funny – to listen to. The audio files are great to help  with pronunciation. They learned common phrases, the song ‘Happy  Birthday’ in Spanish, and colors and numbers and more.

I’d never heard of Spanish for You! before this review. I want my children to learn another language, and they've had fun with this. At first I wasn't sure how much they were remembering with short lessons and what sounds to me like super-fast speech (It’s not – but with one college semester of Spanish under my belt, anything sounds super fast!), but after just the first lesson I heard conversations about colors and their Spanish names. Once I made a correction on the pronunciation of ‘azul’ (one dear daughter kept saying ay-zull) and sent them back to the audio files, I decided they must be learning!


It’s not the easiest curriculum to use. My head was spinning at first, and I kept wondering if we were doing it properly. Once we got into it, though, we fell into a routine and it got easier. I made the flashcards from their files and we were off and running. (I color-coded them based on lessons for ease of finding them quickly.) For the price, I think it’s a great introductory program and a lot can be learned from it. It’s not set in any certain order from Fiestas to any of their other books available, so you can choose where you start and where you move to next. They learn a lot and have gone back to listen to parts again to be reminded of words they couldn't remember.

What I liked: the girls jumped in without issue. They enjoyed themselves and learned a lot. There is a lot of material in this curriculum. The drawings are primitive, but that helps keeps costs low and I really appreciate that.

What I didn't like: It was confusing, especially at first. There was so much in the e-book guide, I was swimming in reading trying to figure it out. I wouldn't choose the e-book option again if given the choice. I’m told reorganization was done shortly after this review began – that might help.

Overall, I wouldn't shy away from this curriculum. If you have a little bit of time to work with it, you’ll really appreciate what can be gained from it. By studying Fiestas through Spanish for You!, we learned a bit about culture, lots of words, and began a foundation for learning Spanish in our homeschool.

Spanish for You! Fiestas is available here for $64.95 for grades 3-8, or for to purchase for either grades 3-4, 5-6, or 7-8, it can be purchased for each grade combo for $39.95. This includes a softcover student book and PDF downloads of lesson guides, worksheets, audio files, flash cards, and activity pictures. Additional student books are available for $12.95. Teacher lesson plans are purchased separately for $12.95 - $14.95.

To read more reviews from the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, click here.

The story of us. Part seven.

Read part one here.

Read part two here.

Read part three here.

Read part four here.

Read part five here.

Read part six here.

Within the month, we’d closed on our house and had a big rented truck packed with all of our worldly belongings. We didn’t know exactly where we were headed. Blaine had great memories of Pennsylvania and the cost of living was reasonable. We looked at a map, considered as much info as we could find online, found a church, area within a few hours of Blaine’s family in New Jersey, and chose Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania as our final destination. Blaine’s pickup went on the dolly behind the rented truck and I followed behind in our car with the girls. I watched the topper to Blaine’s truck flop with every bounce, my ficus tree (this one!) in the back window, all the way to Pennsylvania. Ah, the memories.

We pulled into Wilkes Barre a few days later, found a motel room, and started calling on ads in the newspaper to find an apartment. We met one kind soul, saw a few apartments she had ready, were told that despite never not having a year contract signed, she was willing to do it for us, and we moved in. We had the smallest space we’ve lived in yet: 2 bedrooms, a super-small kitchen, a tiny bathroom, and a living room. It was an upstairs apartment (one of three in a large 3-family home) up 21 stairs straight off the street. The couch wouldn’t fit upstairs, so it went into the shared basement and we sat on kitchen chairs and the one rocking chair we owned, taking turns each night who got the comfy chair. It was definitely an interesting time in our marriage.

We found out days after we moved in that we were now living on the most dangerous street in the city. We found out this news days before looking outside one day to find 50 cops swarming the area.

Turns out, a man who was wanted for theft of a pizzeria who then stole a cop car to get away had relatives living nearby. The cops searched the back of Blaine’s pickup, guns drawn. Nothing. We did have a black Coleman sleeping back disappear out of the basement that week. I still wonder.

Blaine quickly found a job working at a donut store pouring coffee and selling donuts. The job of his dreams, to be sure.

He wanted to work for a newspaper as a photographer. He flooded the local area with resumes and poured coffee at ridiculous AM hours to help stretch our savings.

A few months after we moved to Pennsylvania, Blaine was hired on part time at the Hazleton Standard Speaker, half an hour south of Wilkes Barre. He worked night shift there, mornings at the donut store, and we started talking of moving south to Hazleton. Gas was killing us.

God was leading us during this time, to be sure. Craziness was ironed out, time after time. We spent 5 months in Wilkes Barre before moving to Hazleton. We found a job managing an apartment complex in Hazleton that provided a free apartment and occasional extra income and made up for Blaine “only” working 36 hours a week. We found a church to settle into there, made a few friends, and “enjoyed” working with some interesting tenants at the 32-apartment complex we were now managing. Oh, the stories. Insanity. Some people are crazy, I tell you.


Potty talk.

I keep a book of Sudoku puzzles in the bathroom. Don’t judge. Where else am I going to be left alone long enough to make sense of them?

Sterling apparently also enjoys a moment alone in there – with my book. I’m forever finding, “I love you Mom. Sterling” written in the margins. Lately, he’s been writing his own puzzles there too. 4x3, 6x2… not exactly Sudoku rules. I’d written little notes back but left he boxes blank.

Today, there was a new note. “Write numbers here” was written next to the box he’d drawn. So I wrote random numbers in his boxes. He doesn’t know the rules of the puzzle, obviously, so I’m hoping he’ll be happy.

He’s a keeper though. Who else has a five (nearly six!) year old son who leaves love notes for his momma while he relieves himself at the facilities?

Some things you just can’t write on a blog.

It’s really strange. My life is often laid out before you, and yet, a lot of it you can’t see.

I tell you only what I want you to know.

Today, it’s one of those days. Life is really hard right now. Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. I’m learning and growing from a pretty painful experience that I can’t see the purpose in. It’s not something I want to talk about, but maybe someday that will change. For now, know that, in the story of us, a new chapter is being written. A painful, raw chapter about love and loss and not knowing what the future holds.

But I know Who holds our future.


Tuesday jumble.

You know those weeks when you feel like you just can’t handle much more?

I’ve had one of those. And it’s only Tuesday.

I’ve doled out far more discipline lately than I ever cared to. Come to think of it, that’s always true, no matter how many reprimands I have to make. It’s not a fun job. But lately, it’s been particularly bad. I’ve resorted to teaching Bible verses that reinforce the behavior I’m looking for. I’m not sure if it’s helped, but there’s been a lot of memorization going on around here lately.

Pierce was on my lap last night as I was scolding two of my dear children. He kept holding up his little finger, putting it over my lips, and saying, “Shh. Shhh.” Apparently he’s had enough of it too.

Today is the last day of classes at co-op. Next week is Sterling’s Kindergarten graduation and their year-end parties. Then, we have another day in our week. Time to stay home. Focus our efforts. Go for walks and play outside.

Next week can’t come fast enough.

Sterling was up much of the night Sunday with a croup of sorts. We spent a good chunk of the night on the front porch in the cool air to help him breathe. I thought we’d be in the doctor’s office on Tuesday. He woke up perfectly fine and has been ever since. I still haven’t caught up on sleep from it.

Charlotte says Eden cut her finger off. Reaching into a plate of pasta that’s being cut up with scissors by an older sibling is dangerous business. While Charlie still has her finger, less a bit of skin, if you ask her, she lost a finger in the ordeal.

Sunday Pierce kept insisting his fingers needed to be in my mouth. After telling him to stop over and over, I gave up and bit him, just a little bit. He eyes got wide, he wagged his little finger at me, and told me, “No, no!”

Pierce is getting life figured out. Respect for elders… we’re still working on that one.

Her mercies are new every morning. So thankful for it.


TOS Review Crew: Papa’s Pearls

I just finished reading Papa’s Pearls: A Father’s Gift of Love and Wisdom to His Children and Grandchildren by Diane Flynn Keith. I’ve been reviewing it as part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I read it aloud to all of my children, and they all really enjoyed it. I did change a bit of the language occasionally to make it fit for young ears, but overall, it was a fun read-aloud.

Papa’s Pearls is a story of Carol Joseph Flynn, the author’s father. Carol Flynn was a man who grew up during the Depression Era who overcame the odds that he’d end up in prison and became a successful business owner, a husband, and a father. He became a man of great character who lived by a great number of sayings that told of his beliefs and character. Each of it’s 17 chapters talks of some of these sayings, advice, or wit in stories and memories the author and others had of the man lovingly referred to as Papa.

‘Papa’ became someone we got to “know” through Mrs. Flynn’s stories. He seems like a man that would be hard not to like, fiercely loyal to his family and as hardworking as they come. He started a plumbing business that sounds highly successful and his business ideals are shared along with his morals on how to treat others, and my personal favorites, “Get it in writing” and “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”

Once my kids are a bit older, I’ll have them read this on their own in hopes that they glean more from the story. They enjoyed the story line, but I don’t think they understood much of the advice offered. Each chapter took about ten minutes for us to read together, and we read a few chapters a day – basically, until my voice gave up. The kids were always begging for me to keep reading. Papa’s Catholic faith is only touched on briefly, but his convictions were strong.

Overall, we really enjoyed this book and the opportunity to get to “know” Papa. I wish the language had been appropriate to hand to my daughters, since they enjoyed it so much, but since it’s a vivid account of one man’s life, it’s also real in language as well. Much can be learned from this little 112-page paperback book.

An author-autographed copy of Papa’s Pearls is available from Homefires for $14.97 plus shipping. Papa’s Pearls is also available from Diane Flynn Keith is Papa’s daughter. She has many other works and her other websites include,, and

Click here to read more reviews from the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew.