Sense-ational Writing for Beginners


We learn with our whole body. The more senses we use to absorb and manipulate information, the more likely we are to remember it. My kindergartener is at the very outset of his reading/writing journey. Those typical handwriting papers full of solid and dotted lines are still novel, but I know they won’t be for long. So, I encourage myself to break loose, teach handwriting with more than just a pencil, get messy, and make it sensory.

My second son, age four, tried desperately hard at the beginning of the year to do everything big brother was doing. We began by learning our vowels and vowel sounds with pictures, poems, songs, and written letters. A few weeks in, I added sign language to our alphabet lessons, and BAM, my second son caught on instantly. As soon as he could use his hands, it clicked in his mind. He’s kinesthetic.

Is yours auditory? Linguistic? Naturalistic, responding strongly to the great outdoors? Visual? Tactile? Spacial? The truth is that, to varying degrees, we are all of them. Use them all! The following are some of my favorite ideas for learning letter formation.

I take no credit for any of these ideas. As Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and these ideas have come from friends, family, and years of wallowing online.

1. Finger paint with pudding, shaving cream, salt, or sand. Spray shaving cream or plop pudding directly onto the table. Use a cookie sheet to contain salt or sand. Let them taste a little pudding while they write. Will a tiny taste of salt make the lesson more memorable? The unique texture certainly will.


2. Try paint in a bag. Do you prefer the mess contained? Squirt paint (or even ketchup and mustard) into a large ziplock bag, and squeeze out all the air bubbles. Tape the bag to a window and let them use their fingers to write. One thing I love about this method is that you can use a permanent marker to draw the solid and dotted handwriting lines on the outside of the bag.


3. Use washable markers or dry erase markers directly on the window. This is fabulous for those of us who don’t own a whiteboard. You could even use your own breath. Breathe on the window, make it foggy, and write in the condensation. I feel a science lesson coming on. And, you can teach them how to properly wash a window when you’re done — good home ec credit!

4. Convert a breakfast bed tray into a dry erase lap board. Any opportunity to use a variety of colors will help a visual learner.


5. Go outside with sidewalk chalk. Feel the sun on your shoulders and enjoy the change in scenery. If you prefer artwork-free sidewalks, give your child a paintbrush and a cup of water. It’s fun to write with the water and it evaporates in a few minutes. I’m teaching a little perfectionist, and one of my favorite elements about some of these is that it takes away the eraser. You can’t erase sidewalk chalk. It forces him to accept the line he just drew and move on, continuing his practice.

6. Use a stick in the dirt. What a simple treasure that is to the naturalist child.

7. Wax sticks, sometimes called Bendaroos or Wikki Sticks, are colorful wax-coated strings that bend and stick to paper.

8. Get out the play dough or modeling clay. Kids can form “snakes” and bend them into letters, or they can flatten “pancakes” and cut the letters out as negative space. SO much fun if you have alphabet cookie cutters!

9. Food! Nibble letters into shape with strings of licorice or pretzel sticks. You can even make fresh pretzels and form them into letters before baking.


10. Use liquid school glue on 3×5 cards and make your own 3D flashcards. This was our favorite last year. I wrote a letter with pencil, he traced it in crayon, and then he traced over that with the bottle of school glue. Those glue skills used a lot of big muscles. The glue dried into bumpy letters, and we used them for multiple games.


11. The Leap Frog writing pad was a nice gift from a grandparent. As you use the electronic pen to write in the book, it responds with words and sounds and tells you where to start, when to stop, if you did a good job, etc. It’s good for the auditory learner and is a nice form of independent work when the teacher is busy.


12. Another high-tech option is the Boogie Board LCD writing tablet. I don’t promote going out and buying the latest-and-greatest, but I do recommend looking around the house and viewing toys or tools with new potential. That was the case in our house with this item. Scribble away and then press the white button on the top for a fresh, clean screen. Remember those Dollar Store Magic Slate Paper Savers? Same concept. This used to just be a quiet-time toy, but now it makes handwriting class exciting.


The God who gave us colors and textures and tastes and sounds gave us a brain that thrives on variety. Explore!

Homeschooling High School: Electives

Homeschooling High School

Now that we have those core subjects planned, let’s talk about electives, which basically include everything that isn’t a core subject. Although, sometimes core subjects can be considered “elective” if your state requirements have already been met. Say, for example, your student only needs three science credits, but you’re having him or her earn a fourth…or they are doing a higher level math than “required.” (That will never happen in my household! Ha!)

First of all, I do have each of my high schoolers do Home Ec — yes, even my sons. I think it’s important for each of them to know how to cook and do laundry. They also need to learn how to properly clean the house.

In this day and age, we find it is important to learn computer skills; not just proper hand placement on the keys, but also the proper format of typing up essays and reports. I’ve also tried to teach the kids proper format for business letters and personal letters.

Other courses I have had or plan to have my kids cover in their high school years are foreign language (my current high schooler wants to learn several languages, because he plans to become a missionary); music appreciation, music lessons if possible; art appreciation and art techniques; and physical education.

My husband has been excellent at teaching the boys, in particular, home maintenance and repairs. He even taught them some carpentry. They have also been learning auto mechanics and maintenance. Oh, don’t forget driver’s ed!

My oldest began a job when he was in 11th grade. In fact, he was at that job for more than 7 years, until he moved back to Florida. He is dependable and well-liked. My current high school student has done some occasional work for his friend’s dad, in his landscaping business.

We had a hobby farm in the past, with which all of the kids helped with the animal care. It was a great way for the kids to learn responsibility. I’ve also tried to have them work on gardening.

Now, drama or speech and debate are some subjects we’ve never covered. I think speech especially would be good for my current high schooler to do, to prepare for a life of preparing and giving sermons.

What resources are available to cover some of these electives?

Well, this year we are in a homeschool co-op. My current high schooler is taking a class there in marketing. He actually could’ve taken speech and debate, but he didn’t want to. He also could have joined one of the teams working on the yearbook (now, my youngest did choose to join a yearbook team…at least first semester).

Both boys are taking photography through the Florida Virtual School this year, and enjoying it immensely. They will both also take driver’s ed through Florida Virtual School. (Yikes! Did I just type that?! My youngest, to take driver’s ed?! Oh, help!) It’s also possible for them to take various computer classes through FLVS.

Now, you don’t have to be living in Florida to take classes through Florida Virtual School. You can enroll worldwide. It just won’t be free, unless you are a Florida resident. I know there are other virtual schools in which your student may enroll.

Don’t forget your local Pathfinder club, or working on the Investiture Achievement coursework and Pathfinder Honors. These are great methods for working on electives.

What are some of the electives you plan to have your student cover?




Picnic Time!

“He giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He sendeth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold?” Psalm 147:16,17.

When days are cold and seem to be in a rut, it’s a good time for a picnic. If it’s still really cold and dark where you live, just put a sheet or blanket on the floor (in front of a fireplace is nice) and have your picnic in the house. Consider not doing school book work, or less of it, and making it a “snow day.” Have your favorite picnic foods and play some games. Games like musical chairs and charades are active to get the kids moving. You could also do some table games or read stories. Maybe start some early garden seeds. You can grow things like leaf lettuce in a container that’s at least six inches deep, that is put near a window that gets a lot of light.

For the menu, we like baked beans (recipe to follow), either potato or pasta salad, a veggie tray, and maybe some cookies or other treat. Sometimes we do sandwiches and a salad. Mostly keep it pretty simple, so that you have more time to have fun together.

Baked Beans: two cups or one 1 pound bag dried navy or small white beans; soak over night, rinse, then cook the beans (may be done in a slow cooker/crock pot)

Then add: 1/2 cup maple syrup (can use molasses)

1/2-1 onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic minced

2 teaspoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (optional)

up to 1 teaspoon Wright’s Liquid Smoke (optional)

1 teaspoon salt (especially if not using Bragg’s or Smoke flavor)

When beans are almost done, add rest of ingredients and cook until beans and onions are soft. Make sure you have enough water in the beans not to burn them.

Variation: add up to 1 cup of tomatoes.



Homeschool Student Interviews – Part 5

tessaThis month’s homeschool student interview is with a talented young lady from the Pacific Northwest. She is learning to play the organ. Recently she started a pay-it-forward style group with a friend, called Daughters of the King, to share kindness with people they encounter in their community.

1 ) What is your name and what country/state/province do you live in?

Tessa Kimmel. Washington State.

2 ) How long have you been home schooled?

Six years.

3 ) What do you like most about being homeschooled?

That I can go places and catch up with school later.

4 ) Is there anything you dislike about being homeschooled?

That I don’t get to see my friends every day.

5 ) What is your favorite thing to learn about?

I like to read about people’s lives.

6 ) What are your favorite hobbies or activities?

Skiing, reading, crocheting, playing piano, riding horses, and drawing.

7 ) What would you like to do when you grow up?

Be a homeschooling stay-at-home mom.

8 ) What is your favorite project that you have worked on for school?

We did Story of the World last year, and I made naan bread while my mom was taking a nap — and I had the whole kitchen to myself!

Taking Care of Us


There comes a time when we start questioning ourselves, when the challenge of parenting, educating, therapy, work, and all the other things we deal with in our lives becomes overwhelming and we wonder if we are doing the right thing, or if we need to let something drop off our list. These are often signs of burnout and fatigue.

We need to make sure we take time to take care of ourselves. Self-care is something I often neglect. It’s important to take care of the whole family, to remember ourselves while we are doing so much. As parents we often put the children first. There are so many things vying for our attention that it is easy to lose us in the process.

There are things we can do, though. We don’t have to go big to take care of us:


  • Journal – Writing for some is greatly therapeutic! It gives us a place to vent and express our thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Sometimes all we need to do is express it.
  • Be Alone – Sometimes just doing something by yourself is refreshing. Grocery shop without the kids, get out of the house alone, go for a drive, sit in the driveway, just find some silence where no one is able to interrupt.
  • Exercise – Plan something regularly to get out and move! Find what you enjoy — dance, aerobics, yoga, swimming. There are many classes you can enroll in to bring accountability into your exercise program. I once joined Middle Eastern dancing for the fun of it, and I’ve done rock climbing too. Find something different, try something new!
  • Friends – Just spend time with friends. Go out for dinner or to a movie, have coffee, go window shopping. Do something you enjoy with someone you like.
  • Date – This isn’t (just) for single folks. If you have a spouse, make a plan for date night. Take care of your relationship, add some spice to your relationship. Make room in your life for uninterrupted quality time with your partner.
  • Get Creative – Draw, paint, photograph, write, decorate, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, sew… You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to do it. Express yourself!
  • Play – Be social. Have game nights, spend time with friends as a family. Have family movie nights, family games, family outings. Make time for fun. So often we get so focused on raising and teaching kids that we forget to have fun with them. It’s important to make sure our kids know relationships are important too.
  • Know Yourself – Know what you enjoy and go do it. Make time for yourself. If you don’t fit this list, make your own.


Burnout happens to everyone. We need to be proactive; if it happens, be honest and gracious with yourself. Be purposeful, make appointments with yourself and keep them! Take care of yourself. Remember we show our children how to take care of themselves, and this is something we must model, not teach.