Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

Morning Calendar Time for Homeschool

When we began homeschooling eight years ago, I came across the idea of “calendar time.” We are not trying to create “school at home.” However, there are certain skills that take lots of repetition and having a daily time to practice those skills seemed like a good idea.

We think of our entire home as our schooling area. We do have a formal school room (I will give you a tour at some point) where we used to do our morning calendar time. That room has now become our “quiet study room” so our calendar time has been moved to a different spot. The older kids don’t join us for calendar time anymore (tear), so it has been nice for them not to be disturbed by this portion of the day which can get quite loud. I don’t love the idea of my home looking like an elementary school, so I picked an unfinished area to pin up our morning board activities.

morning calendar time

I got these cubes about 9 years ago. When I call out, “Five minutes until calendar time,” the three kids that participate in it finish up what they are doing, run to their stools, open the tops to get out their pencils and notebooks and sit down. We start our time together by singing a silly song and them coming up to me and holding my hands and jumping as high as they can.

morning calendar time

Then we move over to our calendar which I bought at a local teacher supply store. We sing songs about the date and then we write the date. We talk about the weather and write one sentence about the weather and sing a song about weather. I teach abbreviations, and different ways to write the date. They record them in their notebook.

I got this little plastic box to store the weather and calendar pieces when note in use.

morning calendar time

After this we move to our cork-board and pick different activities. Sometimes we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We sing silly songs so we know how to spell everyone’s name in the family.(Although, I am not currently doing this as everyone knows how but the three year old. I will start it up again sometime after she turns four.)  There are specific prayer requests for various people written with wet erase markers. Cupcake gets to pick a shape and color of the day each morning. We pray for our pastor and missionaries and ourselves. We practice phone numbers and our address. Each week we work on a scripture passage to memorize.

morning calendar time

After covering the calendar and cork boards we move to reviewmorning calendar time

I’ve found it’s easiest to do things like flash cards and review for the day all in one setting.

morning calendar time morning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar timemorning calendar time

We practice multiplication, addition, and subtraction facts, reading music, state facts, the books of the Bible, and the last picture are flash cards I made of Clay and Sally Clarkson’s “24 Family Ways.” I am just going to be honest and say that my kids did not love the devotional, but I like the concept of reviewing how we idealistically want to relate as a family to God, parents, one another, ourselves and our possessions. We review math facts daily, but we rotate with the other flash cards.

morning calendar time The last thing we do is read from a devotional and sing a hymn. Right now we are finishing up “Leading Little Ones to God.” This devotional is so, so, SO good for young children. I’ve read it several times. I anticipate reading it one or two more times with my little girls in the future. I like doing a devotional that is geared toward younger kids, as the rest of our family devotion times are usually more catered to the older kids in the family. We are not hymn only kinds of people, but the rich doctrine in the hymns is priceless. We learn a new verse each week, which means we end up learning approximately one hymn a month.

These morning times have been precious for me with my children. It’s a great way to begin our day and it only takes 10-15 minutes of our time.

I have the best memories of my kids fighting, saying funny things, and being goofy together during morning calendar time. Now that even my little kids are on the older side, there aren’t really any interruptions or too many goofy antics but it is still fun, in a different way. I was thinking how Odes will probably only do this for one more year and then it will just be the little girls and me. The years really are so short!

I’d love to know if you do a morning calendar time with your kids and what it looks like!

I thought I would leave you with a precious video from when the big four were little. It’s one of our favorites:  

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

Leveled Readers for Homeschoolers

leveled readers

My first born reads books as if her life depended on it. Introverted in nature, she happily retreats to her room with anything from Shakespeare to Family Circus. The idea of leveled readers was not on my radar as she was going through her elementary school years.

My middle kids are great readers. They are also however, energetic and highly extroverted. They like to read, but it’s not something they choose without encouragement.

Making sure my kids were reading books that were challenging and progressing them became a priority.

Finding the books was an easy task. Some of my kids do Heart of Dakota as the core of their homeschool curriculum. Part of HOD includes a program called Drawn Into the Heart of Reading. We don’t follow DITHOR as a curriculum, but the book lists are priceless. I have purchased the various levels of books and put them on shelves by level.

level readersThe first level of books are beginning readers and not a part of DITHOR. I use these books when the kids are learning to read. They read them to themselves several times. Each book must be read aloud to me as well. Once they are ready to move on to more independence, I let them move up to the next shelf. (Beginning readers for us are USBorne books, the readers from Sing, Spell, Read and Write, and various beginning readers I’ve picked up along the way.

The next shelf up contains the readers from All About Reading. After those are completed, the kids begin reading the first level of DITHOR books. 

We have a “homeschool library” check out system. Each shelf has a clipboard with the title of each book. When they “check out” a book, they write their names on the blank. It may take a few days to read a book, so they keep their checked out books in their desks. After finishing the book, they return it to the shelf and check off the box indicating they’ve read it. leveled readers

Each level has been assigned a washi tape. The shelf it sits on, is lined with the tape. The spines of the books have the washi tape, as well as the clipboard. It’s very easy to return a book to the correct spot.

leveled readersAs they move up each shelf, they have different assignments upon finishing their books. In the early levels, I simply ask for an oral narration of the book they have read. Or, I may ask them to read a section of the book to me as well. As they progress, I ask them to write a one paragraph summary. And finally, by the middle of the second to last shelf they are writing full book reports on each book. Occasionally I assign an illustration as well.

Leveled readers for homeschool has been so helpful for both student and teacher. I don’t need to chase down my kids to make sure they are reading. They have no question as to what it is they are asked to do and books are easily found and put away. I have peace of mind that they are progressing in their reading. Let me know if you have any questions! leveled readers


Sibling Peace


Typically, my kids are masters at making peace among themselves. After years of practice they are able to work out most of their problems on their own. Sometimes, however, when big blow outs spring up, they come to me for help.

This time, Jules and Catty came to me first. The boys were unfair, mean, speaking rudely. We talked about how the girls were feeling and I asked if they were in a place to respectfully explain these feelings to the boys. When they tried, the results were not what they were hoping for. I asked the boys to join us. The girls seemed to be ruining the game by not following the rules. We did our usual routine of hearing each other and speaking back what each other felt. When that was complete everyone was still angry and hearts were still hard. I asked each of the kids to look at the situation and think of one thing they could have done differently. Everyone had an answer. But no one seemed to care about anything but their own perspective. We weren’t anywhere near peace.

I paused for a moment, pondering what to do. It seemed like Jules and Peebs were at odds and Odes and Catty could hardly look at one another. I made a decision. “OK guys. It seems like we all did a good job of sharing how we felt, listening to each other, and even understanding. But that didn’t seem to soften hearts. Jules and Peebs, pick out a board game to play together. Odes and Catty, you get a board game to play too.” I pulled out Candy Land and played with Cupcake. We all sat in the same room, in our pairings playing games. Slowly Peebs and Jules began to soften, laugh, and smile. Odes and Catty were not quite as responsive. At one point, I saw the board for “Guess Who” go flying across the couch.

swanniehouse peace

I asked Catty and Odes to put the game away and go to Catty’s room and pick out their favorite lotions and bring them back. Then I set a timer. “Odes, you get to use the lotion Catty picked and rub her feet for ten minutes. Catty, when he’s done, you get to rub his feet with his lotion choice. Odes, she will rub your feet as nicely as you rub hers.”

Odes reluctantly rubbed the lotion on his sisters feet, passionately asking me, “Is this your method of torture?” I smiled and went back to the princess game of “Memory,” Cupcake and I had moved on to. After a few minutes, the foot massaging kids were laughing and talking.

When the 20 minutes of foot rubbing had ended and all the board games were put away, Jules and Peebs asked, “Do you think we could re-try our original game with each other now?”

Four smiling faces found themselves in a joy filled do-over. They needed to step away from the problem and remember they love one another. Sometimes, we can work out our problems with words. Sometimes we find peace in a little lotion and a foot rub.

Valentine’s Day and Our Love for Our Kids

Over the years our family has celebrated Valentine’s Day in various ways. One year I hosted an “I love you breakfast” and we picnicked by the fireplace with yummy cinnamon rolls. Each child was given a heart shaped love note, with specific attributes I adored in each of them. When they were really little we used to get together with my friend Tammie and her crew we would hide hearts with loving words on them and they dashed off like an Easter Egg Hunt in search of the little messages. We’ve given little gifts. Papa Murphy’s heart shaped pizza made our menu once. Heart shaped chocolate chip cookie bars have been a favorite.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day 2017 was an impromptu affair. I searched for craft kits for the kids to do in pairs while the toddler napped. They got some chocolate. Homemade washi tape love notes from God met them at their breakfast spot. I remember loving when my mom gave me a sweet stuffed animal or little figurine with hearts on them when I was kid. I always want to do something special on this day.

Like all parents, I want the message of “I love you no matter what” to daily reach my kid’s hearts.

Are you loving your kids intentionally, each day of the year? 

Ask my kids how often they hear: “There is nothing you can do that will make me love you more. There is nothing you can do that will make me love you less.” When my kids do well in an activity, I often communicate, “I love seeing you succeed. Do you know though, that doing well doesn’t make me love you more than I already do?” The times when my kids face defeat, they hear the words, “I’m so sorry you are disappointed. I hope you know that even though you are feeling down about this, I don’t love you any less.” We always want our kids to know that it isn’t what they DO that makes us love them. We love them always, no matter what.

Kids feel deeply. Sometimes the way they process the world can make us as parents feel defensive or vulnerable. David and I have purposed to always encourage our children to express how they feel, even if it makes us feel rotten. Calmly providing a “safe place” where they can communicate and know that we always try to understand, is our goal. We close our mouths and hear their hearts. We ask questions like, “Did I do something to make you feel this way?” Even if it hurts to hear the answer.

So many times when kids fight or make less than positive choices, they simply need to know we are not giving up on them. As we walk through different valleys with each child, we are constantly (and literally) saying, “We are on your side. We won’t ever give up on you.” This might feel awkward at first. But they need to hear it!

In the tender years when children are in our homes (and I suspect far after as well), they need to know we believe in them. Say it! We often use the phrases, “I know you can do this! You are capable.” Or, “I’m excited to see you growing in this area. I believe in you!”

Gently looking into our children’s eyes with a soft smile, and a loving touch on the shoulder or hand has softened even the hardest hearts in our home. This isn’t always easy. When our children are hurt, angry, disappointed, sometimes they pull away. As parents, at times we want to pull away too. It is better to soften your face, ask if you can give a little hug, and show a sincere smile of warmth and tenderness.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3-4

Over time, we hope to share specific stories of loving our kids. This Valentine’s Day we wanted to share practical phrases and tools to implement in your interactions with your kids today. I hope you who are reading will use this special day to communicate your fierce love to your children. May your homes be chocolate and flower filled! My heart is that each of you will be intentional in living out and expressing your love for your kids; in the mundane, in the hard, and in the victories. Jesus loves them. He calls them unto Himself. When we show tender, compassion, we are modeling the love He has for them. Let’s help each other keep our kid’s hearts. And let’s present our children before the Lord as one’s who have felt from early on that “God is love.” Happy Valentine’s Day!

6 Shortcuts to Simplify Life for the Homeschool Mom

Up early with babies and toddlers, up late with teens and husbands. We feed our families, clean our overly lived in homes, taxi kids to the doctor, lessons, and sports. They depend on us to keep the schedule, pay the bills, shop for groceries, manage the wardrobes and the laundry. Each day teach them math, language, typing, Spanish, literature, science, character, spelling, handwriting, history, Bible, apologetics, writing and more. We read aloud and color, kiss their boo-boos and bandage their scrapes, change diapers and put little ones down for naps. The task of growing them in wisdom and responsibility in their relationships is one we take seriously. There is no such thing as sick days, prep hours, or bathroom breaks. In fact, we don’t get to go to the bathroom alone, and if we do, someone is standing outside with a question or story. We are homeschool moms.

There is no doubt the homeschool mom is stretched all day long. I have a few shortcuts that simplify my life in the midst of the flurry:

Short-Cuts to Simply the Homeschool Life

1. Easy to make beds: Research shows that if you make your bed first thing, you’ll be more productive. Or something like that. My boys have bunk beds, one daughter has a little toddler bed, and one of my big girls has a day bed and trundle. None of these are easy to make. I have a regular bed, but I’ve never been a good bed maker. Enter Beddy Beds! These are a bit of an investment, but so worthwhile. (I sold a bunch of old bedding and stuff sitting around our house to be able to afford these and made sure I bought them with a coupon code.) If the bed is made, a room is on it’s way to clean. My kid’s beds look nice every single day. My bed is made every day, and not just made, but made like a picture-perfect catalog. I have one daughter still holding out on the beddy…however, since everyone else has their beds made beautifully every day, she has risen to the challenge and makes hers now too. (Yes! My three year old can make her bed! Beautifully!)

shortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts bedsshortcuts beds

2. Pre make meals: breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! We’ve all heard of pre-making and freezing dinners. I do this. But I also make ahead kid’s lunches and breakfasts. I make a monthly meal plan. We do one big shopping trip a month. While David takes the kids shopping, I clean out my cupboards and fridge. When they return, I cook all the meat. The next day we assemble all the meals for the month. Then each night I take out the next day’s meal to defrost in the refrigerator. This means no standing with hands on hips in the kitchen thinking, “what should I make?” It means less clean up and less stress.

shortcuts meals

3. Have a quiet time WITH the kids: It is helpful to get up before the kids, but it is also hard. If I wanted to exercise, shower, get ready, and have time in prayer and reading God’s word, I would have to get up pretty early. Not being a morning person doesn’t help. I began having a quiet time with my children many years ago. When they were all small, I rounded up all of our Bible board books and they had baskets of books to look through. Often I gave them a special drink. We set the timer for 20 minutes (I worked up to this when starting out). During those 20 minutes there is no talking. No answering the phone or texts. During those 20 minutes I sit with my Bible and my journal and I have my quiet time with God. Serenity now! It IS possible.

shortcuts quiet time

4. Assign special drinking cups: One thing that drove us crazy in the early years was all of the cups that were used day in and day out. We could run the dishwasher on cups alone! My husband had the genius idea of making Shutterfly mugs for each person in our family. The kids never mistake their cup for someone else’s. The mugs are not only color coded, but also display their names AND pictures. This also means that our dishwasher runs less frequently. I can’t tell you what a game changer this has been. Plus, they are really cute. Turns out they can also be great wisdom building tools.

shortcuts mugs

5. The Laundry dump: Folding laundry one afternoon while watching Little House, my brilliant husband came up with a life-changing solution to this once time-consuming endeavor. We clean all the laundry in one afternoon each week. When it is finished, we bring it up and throw it in mountainous heaps on the floor outside of our bedrooms (hint: wrinkle free clothing–imperative!!!). Then the kids sit with the pile and fling clothing toward the appropriate bedroom door. Once there are seven piles of flung clothing, the wearer of the clothes hangs the items or puts them in a drawer. This takes about 10 minutes…or less. Score!

6. Norwex hair turban: If you own nothing else Norwex, the one item you need is the Norwex hair turban. (Don’t worry, I’m not peddling their goods.) There’s not a lot to explain here. Wash your hair, wrap it in this towel and it will cut down your hair drying time drastically. I used it when I had short hair that required styling with a dryer and it dries it just enough so that you still have enough wet to get the style in. I’ve used it with long hair and it is remarkable how much less time I spend with an electric appliance pointed toward my head. An added bonus is that it makes stepping out of the shower more pleasant when your hair is not dripping down your back.

shortcuts, hair turban

What are some of your short-cuts? I want to hear them!

Homeless Packs

Homeless Packs

Recently, my kids and I were driving away from Chik-fil-a with a bag full of chicken biscuit breakfast sandwiches. As we drove away we saw a man standing with a sign which simply said, “homeless.” I turned to the kids and asked, “What can we do kids? I don’t have any cash.” Each kid volunteered their breakfast.

When we approached the man I told him, “I only have a pocket full of change, which you can have, but we have a bag of chicken sandwiches, would you like them?” The man gratefully took the change and thanked me for the food but told me he had cancer and his stomach wouldn’t be able to digest the food. My heart went out and I asked him a few questions. I asked him if we could pray for him and we did. He told me that day after day, he sees cars with Christian fish on the back, but they never stop. (When a friend heard this story he thought it was a good reminder not to have a Christian fish on your vehicle, ha!) I told the man we were stopping in Jesus’ name and we would pray and see if we could find a way to help him further.

How can a mom and a car full of kids help a homeless man on the street?

We drove away and prayed for wisdom in how we might help this man. The name of a church near our home, with which we have no relationship, kept coming to mind. I called right away and a woman answered and listened to our story. Astonished, she told me that they had JUST gotten a flood of gift cards to give away for this very purpose. She said a house had recently been set up to help people get on their feet again. This man’s story sounded like it may qualify to stay in the home. She was going to go to him right away to see if they could get him off the street and give him some direction.

When I hung up, and realized this woman with a big heart sounded like she was going alone to pick up an unknown man and get him off the street, I panicked. I called back and said, “Please, don’t go alone.” She laughed and said, “The moment we got off the phone, our maintenance man came in and I told him about our conversation. He said he would come with me!” God had orchestrated this day, from beginning to end, so that He could show His love to a hurting man.

As I thought of this man being greeted with gift cards and the possibility of a warm bed for the night, I was reminded of a time back in my college days. I was walking downtown Denver with a friend. We saw various homeless people out on the sidewalk. My friend approached a man, gave him some money and talked about the love of God. As we walked away, I remember challenging this friend with, “How can you give him cash? What if he just drinks it away?” (I have many gifts, but mercy is not high on the list…I’m growing!) My friend just smiled and said, “I’m not responsible for what he does with that money! I am responsible for showing God’s love. How can I show God’s love if I can’t even help contribute to basic needs? Usually I like to have some kind of gift card for food or a granola bar. If I don’t have one with me, I’ll give cash.” I was floored. I’d never considered this perspective. Not kidding. But, obviously, this message of love from a brother in Christ stuck with me to this day.

My daughter and I decided to act. Twelve of her girlfriends came over and we spent a Saturday morning putting together “Homeless packs.” We gathered items we thought might be useful. The girls filled the bags and then they made cards with positive messages of God’s love and scripture to add to each pack.

Recently, on our way to a homeschool field trip, my daughter said, “Oh Mom, look! A homeless man! Pull over!” We pulled over and handed him a bag. The man took the bag and his eyes got teary when he said, “You even added hand warmers. Bless you!” I handed him some cash and said, “Maybe you can get a sandwich for lunch.” He smiled and said, “oh bless you, bless you.” And then, I noticed the car behind us pulled up to him as well and my heart swelled with joy.

I drove away thinking of all we have and how our gift to him was pitiful in light of our bounty. Yet, I had hope that hand warmers were an expression of God’s love in this man’s life today. God was glorified in a small exchange of some hand warmers and socks. And a mom and a van full of kids was able to serve a homeless man on the street.

Homeless pack ideas:
 mouth wash/toothpaste/toothbrushes
 protein bars
 bottled water (in warm climates)
 hand warmers (for colder places)
 lip balm
 cash or gift cards


When Scripture is Abandoned in the Home

When Scripture is Abandoned in the Home

We had a blast on our recent trip to the Homeschooler’s Mecca, (also known as “The Creation Museum”). We rented an old house with another family and paid homage to the vacation spot where no one bats an eye about larger-than-average families ranging from toddlers to teens. One huge surprise to me during our visit was the incredibly worshipful setting created in each of the exhibits. God’s name was magnified and His character was lifted up so meaningfully.

There was a wax museum dedicated to the Garden of Eden…where a few of us reverted back to our middle school days. I got a little obsessed with looking for belly buttons on Adam & Eve. Between myself and the dads and middle school aged boys…we may or may not have made a scene.

A couple of the “warning signs” in the exhibit caught our personal attention, perhaps more than some of the others:

“Scripture compromised in the Church, leads to…scripture abandoned in the home”
“Scripture abandoned in the home, leads to…a generation no different than the world”

These were sobering signs for us as we thought about the world we live in today. When we aren’t taking the high view of scripture in the church, we lead people away from God’s word. This leads to the abandonment of scripture in the home, and changes an entire generation!

When I think of the Apostle Paul, who labored for the church, and calls us to do the same…I wonder if we realize as parents that these verses need to apply to the children in whom have been entrusted to us, far above anyone else?

Colossians 1:28-29 “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” 

So, I have some questions for you: Are you proclaiming, admonishing and teaching your children with all wisdom, so that you may present them fully mature in Christ? Are you strenuously teaching them God’s word? Are you leaving that job to someone else, hoping the hour at Sunday School or youth group will be enough?

How do we make sure we are not abandoning scripture in our homes so that the next generation will continue to shine the Light of Christ into our world?

Over time, we would like to un-fold some of the ways we are seeking to present our children mature in Christ. For now, we challenge you, if you are not currently reading God’s word to or with your kids, get a copy of God’s word, right before or after your family meal for the next month, open it up to the book of Luke, read and discuss. It’s really that simple! Let us know how it goes!


So, You Had a Bad Day

So, You Had a Bad Day

I love homeschooling. I’m passionate about so many aspects of it. I also know the reality is that it isn’t always glamorous. I felt that reality today. Tired, worn out, sick of winter, feeling cooped up, behavioral issues, messy house, how desperately I wanted a break from it all! Ever had a day like that?

My friend stopped by to drop something off, looking all cute and glowy and 20ish weeks pregnant or so. When I met her at my back door, in the midst of dirt, boots, and coats, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked like my three year old when she gets ready for church; crazy hair, unmatching clothes with hideous patterns, no make-up and smudges clouding my vision through my glasses. Heather graciously didn’t mention the medical belt I had around my waist, (my side still gives me issues). She left and I felt like slumping in a heap of despair. But the rice, broccoli, and beef stroganoff kept me on my feet as dinner needed to be served.

Just then, an almost hail-like snow began to fall. The kids ran outside as David was coming in the door and dinner was ready. I decided to light a candle and serve the two of us, alone. Two minutes into our romantic evening, someone came in to use the potty. As soon as that kiddo headed back out, another one looked through the back, saw us eating and approached the sliding glass door indignantly. After telling him that kid’s dinner would start in ten minutes, two other kids came in the front door saying they were cold and took off their boots to sit by the fire. Our quiet alone time thwarted, I was really starting to feel desperate.

Just when I thought I would never be able to finish a conversation with my husband, I remembered for Christmas, our son had given us money to go on a date. I served the kids dinner and asked Jules if she would babysit. We headed through the snow storm for a cone. I hadn’t applied any make up, nor changed my clothing, but no one seemed to care at the local McD.

Upon arriving home, there was a sign on the garage door:

We walked in to an immaculate house. The kitchen was spotless. The rooms vacuumed. Candles were lit and the fireplace blazing. The tea kettle was boiling and out of the oven came a delicious smell. David and I were directed to the couch and in hushed tones preparations were made behind us. Eventually we were served tea and tiny little homemade teacakes on a candlelit tray. I’m telling you, this could have come right out of Jana Duggar’s “How to be a good daughter” play book.


We sat and enjoyed our goodies while the kids took theirs at the kitchen island in silence. After some time had passed, for 90 minutes the children played their best piano pieces, read favorite passages of scripture, danced and sang for us. The entertainment was sweet, including the comedy act which began with: “We want you to know we are a company with Christian values.” As gangsta-rap was piped in the background.

I know tomorrow we will be facing a lot of the same challenges we faced today. But tonight, God gave me the hug I needed as we took a rest from the craziness of life. And I was reminded why I love homeschool.