2 Bigs + 4 Littles under 1 Midsize Roof = Life As We Know It

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Text Reflection


Kellen, who turned 16 just this month, has been on an amazing adventure this week — attending speech camp at his dream school: Patrick Henry College in Virginia. We hardly heard from him because 1) he had limited access to his phone, and 2) he was BUSY! Even with a three-hour time difference and scant communication, we could tell he was up both early and late. And we’re still waiting for details to go with the quick photos he managed to snap and send during a daylong field trip to Washington, D.C.

Although camp is over, we’ll have to wait a bit more because Kellen took a detour on his return trip to visit friends in North Carolina for a few days. So proud of how he’s navigated it all! I love our text exchange from this morning and wanted to remember it:







July 30, 2016   No Comments

Timeline: Comic-Style Collage

Kerrick8thGradeVerticalIt seriously cannot be true that my second-born is almost officially a high-schooler! And yet, here we are, preparing for Kerrick’s junior high graduation. Collecting and selecting the images for this poster was a challenge physically (the photos were in stored in various boxes all over the house and on three different computers) and emotionally (once I found the photos, it was a little tricky to focus through the memories-induced tears). But I managed to pull it all together and actually have a blast creating this comic-style print that I hope reflects who Kerrick is: a fun-loving, full-of-life, fantastic kid — a real Boy Wonder. I might not be quite ready to turn the page, but he can’t wait to see what happens next! 🙂




July 13, 2016   No Comments

Cool School Tools: Latin Binder Setup

Latin Binder

Whew! It’s summer! And although we homeschool year-round, the summer months are definitely more relaxed, as we work our lessons around swim team, vacation Bible school, and trips to visit grandparents. I also have a chance (finally!) to collect my thoughts about the school year that’s just passed and plan for the one to come. We’re finishing up a few loose ends and gathering supplies for a fresh start in the fall.

I’ve already decided that one cool school tool that we’ll be re-using next year is a Latin binder setup that includes the following:

• a 2-inch, three-ring binder (we like the Better Binders from Staples for their durability)
• 18 clear page protectors with a piece of paper or cardstock inside each to use as dividers
• Post-it brand tabs to label and stick to the page protectors (we use large tabs in red, blue, green, yellow, and orange — and small tabs in solid pink, blue, red, light green, orange, and yellow, as well as striped dark green, orange, pink, blue, red, and light green). The small tabs coordinate with the color-coded Latin flash card system that I also use with my middle school and high school students. (To download a free printable with instructions, click here. And to read about another “cool school tool” we use — a flash card kit — click here.)

The contents of the binder are divided into five major sections (we place a supply of notebook paper behind the first three tabs):
• Exercises — Behind this tab, students can write out the answers to assigned exercises.
• Derivatives — Behind this tab, students can record English words that are derived from the Latin words they’re learning.
• Rules/Charts — Behind this tab, students can copy grammar rules to remember and store any helpful Latin charts.
• Quizzes/Exams — Behind this tab, students can keep their quizzes and exams (great for review and tracking grades).
• Vocabulary — Behind this tab come all of the small solid and striped tabs (one for each of the noun/adjective declensions and verb conjugations, as well as pronouns and “other” words; see Kellen’s Latin binder in the photo above for an example).

NOTE: The small green tab labeled “Q et Q” in the photo above marks the page protector in which we keep extra blank parsing sheets. (To download a free printable of the parsing sheet we use, click here. And for more about how we study Latin around our house — including access to my LATIN EXTRAS ebook, click here.)

What about you? How do you use your summer to prepare for the new school year?

June 10, 2016   No Comments

Farewell, ’14

It’s 2015! We’re excited for a new year, packed with possibilities for all kinds of adventures and activities. But before we look too far ahead, we wanted to take a quick look back at our 2014, and all of the “firsts” and “favorites” that each member of our family enjoyed:


age 14
Firsts: mock trial (he played a defense attorney); speech tournaments (he especially loved delivering a Duo Interpretive speech with a friend based on William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope); science fair (he won 1st place in his category and 2nd place overall at his homeschool co-op fair, and 3rd place in his category at the state science fair); PSAT/NMSQT exam (for practice); graduation (from 8th Grade).
Favorites: Beats headphones and Sphero Ollie (electronic gadgets); Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (book—the Young Adult version); The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (movie);  Latin (school subject); Owl City (musical group); team sports (he played basketball and baseball for the James Madison Preparatory School Patriots, and flag football for the East Valley Athletes for Christ Eagles).


Kerrick: age 12
Firsts: entrepreneurial endeavor (he made and sold 70 tin whistle cases out of PVC and Duck Tape); double Memory Master distinction (he memorized and recited more than 900 facts in six subject areas); junior high team sport (he played flag football for the East Valley Athletes for Christ Eagles).
Favorites: new pet conure, Pip (which he purchased with his business earnings); science (school subject — he especially enjoyed dissecting a squid); Pentatonix (musical group); Studio C (hilarious YouTube video series); The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (movie); The Fantastic Family Whipple, by Matthew Ward (book); IQ Link (game); cherry pie (dessert).


Kennah: age 9
Firsts: stitches (two kinds: 1) to close up a gash on her chin after splitting it open on the tile floor, and 2) to hand-piece and embroider her first quilt — the perfect size for her American Girl dolls); desserts made entirely on her own (a special cake for her dad’s birthday, and rice krispy treats just for fun).
Favorites: girls-only extracurricular activities (a book club with friends from our homeschool co-op, and her American Heritage Girls troop); art (she loves to draw); crafts (she loves to make stuff); Mallory on the Move, by Laurie Friedman (book); Dolphin Tale 1 and 2 (movies); math (school subject); IQ Twist (game); chili (meal); Jessie (TV show).


Keillor: age 7
Firsts: lost teeth (two: one on top and one on the bottom); birthday party with friends (they played at a park and at Pump It Up!); book read  (Eat); shoe-tying success.
Favorites: Cub Scouts (extracurricular activity); Arizona Cardinals (football team); Planes Fire and Rescue (movie); Stubby the Dog Soldier: World War I Hero, by Blake Hoena (book); Hawaii (state visited); Risk (game); VIP, by Manic Drive (song); Miss Shell (new pet Sonoran Desert tortoise adopted from friends); geography (school subject); scooter and Legos (toys); ice cream (dessert).


Sonya: aging rapidly
Firsts: A-Plus: Challenge A Extras (ebook published); full-spectrum homeschooling (she’s teaching elementary school, middle school, and high school).
Favorites: Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University (she enjoyed a summertime visit to the cool pines and a flash back to her college days); Call the Midwife (book, TV series, and music based on the memoir by Jennifer Worth); Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS and The Nature Conservancy (free-lance editing clients).


Shawn: ageless (Ha! His turn!)
First: Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts (he’s wearing multiple hats — and shirts — as he serves in Pack and Troop leadership roles).
Favorite: a glass of wine and a football game (way to unwind when he gets the rare chance).

Here’s hoping that 2015 brings even better firsts and favorites!




January 1, 2015   2 Comments

Cool School Tools: Flash Card Kit


Although we homeschool pretty much year-round (with a few extended breaks here and there) the school year officially gets under way tomorrow for me and my two biggest Littles. (Truthfully, neither of them can be accurately called Littles anymore: Kerrick is beginning junior high, and Kellen is starting high school. But at least until they’re taller than my 5-foot, 4-inch frame, they’re stuck with the label.) 🙂 We’ll all be heading out the door to join the other families who are a part of our local Classical Conversations community, which meets one day each week — me as a Challenge A director, Kerrick as one of my Challenge A students, and Kellen as a Challenge I student.

A cool school tool I recommend for all of my Challenge A students (who will make a staggering 1,500-plus flash cards this year) is a flash card kit containing the following items:

• a hand-held hole punch (with a fairly large hole)
• 3-inch-by-5-inch index cards (blank on one side, ruled on the other)
• colored pencils (specifically pink, blue, red, orange, light green, dark green, yellow — to coordinate Latin flash cards with the tab colors in their Latin binders, which will be shown in a future post)
• flash card rings (because they don’t tear up the flash cards, we especially like the flexible wire rings with a sliding ball-and-socket clasp that pilots use for their log books)
• a flash card template (an extra flash card — preferably a color, to help distinguish it from the other cards — with a pre-punched hole in the upper left corner and the upper right corner trimmed off at an angle to help them color-code their Latin flash cards; see Kerrick’s terra, terrae card in the photo above for an example)
NOTE: I make a template for each of my students at the beginning of the year and explain how to use it both during our class time and in my ebook, LATIN EXTRAS. Click here for more details.

Students store their supplies in a zippered pouch like the one shown above — or even just a quart-size Ziploc freezer bag.

While our flash card kits are ready to go, we have a few more preparations to wrap up before tomorrow morning. Wish us well, won’t you?

How are you preparing for your school year? What cool tools do you make and use?

August 19, 2014   1 Comment

Timeline: Face Race

My latest attempt to stop time (or at least slow it down) has — surprise! — completely backfired. 🙂 If anything, this life-in-pictures project celebrating my oldest son’s 14th birthday (today) and his junior high graduation (in two days) has only served to remind me that we are like-it-or-not living at warp speed, indeed. This portrait collection is a more formal flashback from year one to now. I’m also busy working on another print (as a gift) that gathers candid shots of extracurricular activities — and praying that I can keep the hyperventilating to a minimum as I once again watch the years go racing by. 🙂

July 9, 2014   No Comments

GNOWFGLINS Post: How to Feed a Scout for a Week at Camp (with food allergies)

My guest post at GNOWFGLINS this month is all about how I helped my son pack enough safe and healthy food to keep him fueled for a week away at Scout camp this summer. Please click here to read how we did it!

August 8, 2013   No Comments

GNOWFGLINS Post: Farming with Friends, Part 1

I’m honored and excited to be a part of a new team of writers contributing regularly to the well-established GNOWFGLINS blog, created by my friend Wardeh Harmon. Here’s a teaser from today’s post:

My farming friend Tiffany and I have both been searching for the ideal eating chicken — one that’s not only free-ranging, foraging and consuming non-GMO feed, but also tender and tasty (not tough and stringy) when cooked. We began to wonder whether we could raise our own and keep the cost down while ensuring the quality we want.

Please click here to read the rest of the story on the GNOWFGLINS site. 🙂

July 2, 2013   2 Comments

Happy New Year!

OK, this is more than a little embarrassing. Almost a whole year has passed since I’ve found the time to post here! I won’t bore you with all of the reasons. Let’s just say, “We’ve been REALLY busy!” So busy, in fact, that this is our Christmas card — a week late and only produced in digital form. But — whew! — at least it’s here! The pics of the Littles were captured on Christmas Eve, just after we finished making our traditional holiday treat: gluten-free sugar-cookie stars stacked into Christmas trees and topped with icing and sprinkles. Now it’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re rested (a bit), refreshed (sorta) and ready (almost) to make a fresh start in 2013. Here are a few of our highlights from the old year and hopes for the new year:

Kellen, age 12
• baptized on Palm Sunday at Grace Community Church, Tempe
• achieved Classical Conversations Memory Master distinction (memorized and recited a humongous number of history, science, geography, math, Latin and English grammar facts, learned in 24 weeks)
• performed as The Turkey in a homeschool theater production of Honk! Jr., The Musical (signature line: “I survived Thanksgiving!”)
• swam with the Tempe Tigersharks (his fourth year on the swim team)
• attended Boy Scout camp with Dad at Fiesta Island in San Diego (earning merit badges for kayaking, motor-boating, oceanography and basketry)
• resumed piano lessons after a yearlong hiatus
• adopted his cousin’s turtle, Squirt
• to watch The Hobbit movie with friends this week (Mom made him read the book first!)
• to survive the spring semester of his Classical Conversations Challenge A class (Mom is a tough tutor!)

Kerrick, age 10
• baptized on Palm Sunday at Grace Community Church, Tempe
• learned to skateboard at a friend’s birthday party, and then bought his own board (but, unfortunately, not his own medical insurance)
• attended Cub Scout summer day camp with Mom in the sweltering desert heat (earning badges for archery, BB-gun shooting, engineering, swimming and meteorology) and Camp Geronimo in the cool mountain pines
• swam with the Tempe Tigersharks (his fourth year on the swim team)
• went to war with his brother and their guests at a summer Nerf birthday battle
• performed as Mr. Post in a homeschool production of Wild West Tales — which included Cindy Ellen, a western version of the Cinderella story (signature line: “Howdy, Miss Cindy!”)
• to achieve Classical Conversations Memory Master distinction (yep, now he’s memorizing a humongous new set of history, science, geography, math, Latin and English grammar facts, which he’ll have to recite after 24 weeks)
• to cross over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in the spring

Kennah, age 7
• read her first book (title: Eat!)
• lost her first two teeth (on the bottom, in front)
• spent a week by herself with Grandma and Grandpa (brother-less bliss!)
• joined an American Heritage Girls troop (ahhh! girls galore!)
• watched Soul Surfer and decided that Bethany Hamilton is her hero
• learned to ride her bike without training wheels
• completed numerous art projects (drawings, paintings, collages, etc.) and craft projects, too (sewed pillowcases and dresses, wove friendship bracelets and learned to finger knit)
• to lose at least two more teeth (especially the loose ones on the top, in front)
• to take a trip someday with Mom to the American Girl store to choose a special doll

Keillor, age 5
• spent a few days by himself with Grandma and Grandpa (and got a little homesick)
• participated in a weekly Classical Conversations class (without Mom, but with big sister)
• rode a camel on his own and fed the giraffes with his siblings at the Phoenix Zoo
• learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels (and how to hop off before crashing!)
• to visit Cars Land at Disneyland someday
• to become a Cub Scout in the fall

Shawn, age undisclosed

• enjoyed working at a new job close to home (within walking/biking distance!)
• took time off to attend Boy Scout camp at Fiesta Island with Kellen and Camp Geronimo with Kerrick
• hiked and canoed with Kellen’s Boy Scout troop
• helped design Kerrick’s last Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car, Raingutter Regatta boat and Space Derby rocket (fortunately, he’ll get to do it all again with Keillor next year!)
• stayed busy with several side jobs (handyman extraordinaire!)
• to have a less-hectic home life (including maybe a laundry-free sofa to sit on in case there’s ever a minute to relax) 🙂

Sonya, ageless (ha!)
• tutored a Classical Conversations Challenge A class (third time’s a charm, with Kellen as a student!)
• led a small squad of six sweet girls in Kennah’s American Heritage Girls troop
• continued to fit in some freelance writing/editing for The Nature Conservancy, as well as for GNOWFGLINS.com (even got to meet mentor and friend Wardeh Harmon when she visited Arizona in June!)
• enjoyed a much-needed getaway to California’s central coast
• sewed costumes for a homeschool theater group, sewed matching dresses with a friend for our daughters, and sewed numerous badges onto Cub Scout and American Heritage Girls vests, plus a Boy Scout sash
• read a few good books (including The Help, One Thousand Gifts, and Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement)
• to slow down the pace of life a little bit (if at all possible)
• to continue to learn all that I can and help my children do the same (with plenty of God’s grace)
• to someday spend a year living with my family on Ireland’s Bere Island — and write a book about it (just need to convince Shawn to go for it!) 🙂

Above all, our family hopes that your family is looking forward to an amazing and blessing-filled New Year!

December 31, 2012   No Comments

Growing-up Girl

Oh, how this photo makes me want to stop time! It reveals way too many rites of passage for my sweet 6-year-old Kennah:

• Although you can’t see it in her smile, she just lost her first tooth two weeks ago.
• Today she got a haircut — and for the first time requested bangs (even though several older friends cautioned her that the forehead fringe, with its constant need for trimming, is “too stressful”).
• After the haircut, she persuaded me to take her to the shoe store she’d visited the week before with her dad to buy tennis shoes. While there, she’d spotted a pair of “high-heeled boots” that were “just her size,” and she wanted me to see them, too. Lucky for her, they were still there — and on clearance.
• Of course, then she needed an outfit to wear with the boots :-), so we went next door to Target, where for the first time she spent her Christmas money not on a toy, but on clothes and a headband that she picked out herself. Especially eye-opening for me was the realization that she no longer fits into the “T” (for toddler)-size clothes but has now crossed the aisle into the “Girls” section. (I was so relieved that she didn’t even consider the otherwise adorable floral skirt that, upon closer inspection, also featured pink skulls! Seriously?)

I really can’t take too many more “firsts” right now, so I hope we’re done with them for awhile. I’d like a little more time to enjoy this particular age (and stage) of my all-too-quickly-growing-up girl.

February 4, 2012   4 Comments