Ideas for Keeping Summer Fun & Productive


Summer can be a busy time.  Family vacations, tending gardens, canning and freezing fruits and vegetables, swimming lessons, and more take up our days.  For most homeschool families, the pace of home education changes during this time.  Even for those who school year-around, the more traditional academics are usually set aside while my active pursuits take precedence for education.  Even though we are busy with our children during these days, sometimes individual time and attention can be lost unless specific attention is given to spending time doing things together that promote communication and togetherness.  In her book, Survival for Busy Women, Emilie Barnes shares a list of ideas that promote planned family events.  She suggests that these be combined with a family conference (discussion time where family issues are discussed) on a weekly basis.  Here are some of her suggested activities:

  • Make a collage on love.
  • Make and fly kites.
  • Assemble a puzzle.
  • Write and produce a play.
  • View family movies or videos.
  • Have family celebrations.
  • Exercise together.
  • Have a make-up party.
  • Have a fix-it night.
  • Make a terrarium.
  • Write letters to grandparents.
  • Cook and bake.
  • Make and sail a boat.
  • Play board games.
  • Tell stories.
  • Put on a puppet show.
  • Go on picnics.
  • Model clay.
  • Ride bicycles.
  • Play charades.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Have discussions and debates.
  • Have a fire drill.
  • Go to a pow-wow.
  • Make Christmas ornaments and candles in preparation.

Emilie Barnes shares that a list of family activities is limited only by our imagination!  These times play a valuable part in establishing harmony, respect, and pride in the family unit.

Nature Tips from a City Girl

First off, let me start with this disclaimer: I’m a city girl — born in a city, grew up and went to school in a city, worked in a city. Frankly, most of my vacations have even been in a city. I am NOT Nature Girl. Therefore, moving to Montana, a state that is all about being outside, has been a jolt to my comfort zone. What an amazing expansion of our homeschooling possibilities it is, though.

If you’re an intrepid studier of nature or outdoorsman, don’t expect to learn anything new here. For those who may have a similar life experience to me, however, I’ll share our plan. We’re determined to add lots of outdoor adventures to our homeschooling.

1. CAMERA. I’m putting that in all caps because it’s nearly the most important element for me. As a communication professional, getting behind the camera makes me instantly comfortable, even when attempting something totally new. I’m passing that on to my son, and he enjoys taking his iPod on our excursions and cataloging the things he sees. And…that’s why you’ll see a lot of pictures in this blog post.

2. Google, etc. The amazing thing about technology is that you have a walking encyclopedia inside your phone. When we’re out and about, we look up things — animals, plants, facts and figures. If I can’t find it easily, I’ll even post a pic on Facebook. Guaranteed one of my friends will know exactly what it is.

3. Driving. Find the scenic routes. Not sure you’re up to a big hike? There’s a lot of beauty to be observed from the inside of a car. What are you driving by? Mountains? Rivers? Wooded areas? Flowers in the city park? There is always something to observe, and maybe to make note of for future study.

4. Get out and walk. Better than the car (usually), though, is to walk. Walk on trails, walk up mountains, walk around the neighborhood. Every opportunity we get in this “new land,” we try to find a trail or an interesting place to stop and explore.

5. Nature centers. Hunt for nature centers, wildlife sanctuaries, even your local animal shelter. The staff who man these places can provide interesting information, and it’s often more impressive coming from a “professional” than coming from mom. If you have access to wildlife sanctuaries, you may be able to learn about lions and tigers and bears (oh, my); but, even if your local shelter is for cats and dogs, you can get useful information on pet welfare and safety.

6. Up close and personal. I guess this is part of #4, but it goes a little further. Leave the beaten path when it’s safe (or when you have bear spray). Wade in the creek and look for fish and amphibians. Climb the tree. Find a pair of binoculars so you can study birds in their nest. Touch. Smell. Taste.

So, maybe you don’t live near the Rockies or the Okefenokee Swamp or Death Valley. Guaranteed you can find ways to explore nature where you are. Put on your tourist cap if you need to, and figure out what someone visiting your region might want to see or do that is outside. Google for nearby parks or nature centers. If you’re tied at home with tiny ones, then make it a point to examine your own yard: plants, ladybugs, trees, birds, spider webs, pine cones, bats, ant hills…

Explore. And, don’t forget to take your camera.

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.”
~Job 12:7,8 (The Message)

Addie & Vinnie in Beaufort, SC – USMC Father Daughter Dance


Addie, the girls, and Daddy are dressed and ready to go to the Father Daughter Dance. But where is Vinnie? Well, since the dance is only for Father’s and their daughters. Vinnie had to stay home with Mommy and her son.


They decided to have a “Mommy and Sons” night at home.


They hung out, ordered pizza, and watched Veggie Tales while Daddy and the girls were gone.


Meanwhile… Daddy and the girls had a wonderful time making crafts, eating cupcakes, and a healthy meal.


The night was wonderful. The girls had many stories to tell about all they did. They can’t wait to go again next year.

Addie & Vinnie in Beaufort, SC – Making Pretzels


Addie and Vinnie arrived in Beaufort, SC. We picked them up and decided to make homemade pretzels as a family in celebration of their arrival. They are watching the pretzels baking in the oven now.


The pretzels are out and now it is time to coat them with butter. They are almost ready to be eaten.



The final step is coating them with cinnamon sugar. The girls had a great time covering the pretzels.

Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart


“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

These words clearly instruct that God’s word should be committed to memory and passed on from generation to generation.  Committing portions of scripture to memory is vital in retaining knowledge of the scriptures.

In Psalm 1 and Joshua 1:8 share that prosperity and success in life come from scripture memorization, as it creates familiarity with God’s word and causes the learner to meditate upon the principles of God which promote these things.

Memorization takes discipline, and that can become tedious if not handled with some creative care.  A teacher-mom or dad can help speed along the process of memory work by building fun and interest into the process.   In her book, Building Your Child’s Faith,  Alice Chapin outlines some great techniques for accomplishing this.  She recommends:

  • Set up contests between adults and kids.  Offer fun prizes.  Draw up a “contract.”  For instance, if the kids memorize the verses more quickly than the adults, the adults will take out the trash for a week.  But if the adults memorize them first, the kids will do the supper cleanup for a week.  Be sure to sign the contract to make it official!
  • Help little children learn by repetition.  Review while rocking, bathing, and playing with them.  Repeat while driving or waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • Post current memory work on the refrigerator, closet door, or kitchen bulletin board.  Or stretch a “clothesline” and clothespin verses for the month to it.
  • Have memory charts.  Award stickers, stars, or seals for each learned verse, prizes for every five stickers.
  • Purchase a Scripture songbook, and sing Bible verses right into the minds of the family.  Or make your own music for favorite verses.
  • Use flannel-graph letters or verse flashcards.  Mix up letters and words, and take turns straightening them out.
  • Write the verse on a chalkboard.  Take turns erasing one word at a time.  Repeat the whole verse after each erasure.
  • Print different verses on 5×8 cards.  Cut each card into pieces.  Put the pieces for each verse in an envelope.  Pass out the envelopes, and use a timer to see who can put the verse-puzzle together the most quickly.  Have each member read his or her assembled verse.
  • Let the leader begin quoting a verse, stopping after every few words to ask another person to add the next four words, or two words, and so on.  Have a stick of gum or a lollipop ready for the first person to identify where the verse is located.
  • Let the small children use magic markers to print the verse of the week on sheets of construction paper.  Add stickers or magazine pictures and use for placemats at dinner.
  • Give each youngster an empty photo album with see-through plastic pages.  Insert weekly memory cards for an individual record of verses learned and for easy private review.
  • Once in a while assign short Scripture verses to be memorized by the following day.  Celebrate completion of the assignment with a yummy treat.
  • Do a search in the SDA Homeschool Families Facebook group for suggestions of online resources for scripture memorization.