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

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Cool School Tools: Flash Card Kit

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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 notebooks, 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 prepunched 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, A-Plus: Challenge A Extras.

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?

A-Plus-Cover-Web

Looking for “extras” to ease the transition into Challenge A? I’ve compiled an ebook with helps for directors, parents, and students. Click here for details. Be sure to read through to the end of the post for special offers!

August 19, 2014   No Comments

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   4 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
Highlights:
• 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
Hopes:
• 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
Highlights:
• 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!”)
Hopes:
• 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
Highlights:
• 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)
Hopes:
• 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
Highlights:
• 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!)
Hopes:
• to visit Cars Land at Disneyland someday
• to become a Cub Scout in the fall

Shawn, age undisclosed
Highlights:

• 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!)
Hopes:
• 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!)
Highlights:
• 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)
Hopes:
• 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

A Half-Dozen …

… things we’re celebrating this season:

1. Our faith in a loving God who meets our every need when times are tough. We are not always grateful for the lessons we’ve had to learn, but we know where our trust belongs: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” —Jeremiah 29:11

2. A family life that not only keeps us busy but also allows us all to be together as much as possible. We’re also thankful for grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who help us juggle a tight schedule and meet responsibilities both at home and on the job.

3. Friends! We’ve kept our current ones (whew!) and made several new ones (yay!) — and reconnected with a few old ones, too (thank you, Facebook). :-) All have inspired us in some way. We’re making it our goal to return the favor.

4. There’s no shortage of work to be done around here — and that’s a good thing! Shawn just took a new job as a project manager for a Tempe company, and he continues to do small handyman jobs on his own. Sonya is still a homeschooling mom and free-lance writer/editor, as well as a tutor and writing teacher.

5. And then there’s school. Kellen (11), Kerrick (9), Kennah (6) and Keillor (4) still do most of their learning at home, but the three oldest also attend two enrichment programs each week for extras like art, history, Latin, music, P.E. and science. It definitely keeps us all hopping — and our brains popping!

6. We actually hope to play more in the near future. Sure, Shawn and the boys have hiked and camped with the Scouts, and Sonya and Kennah have tried to squeeze some girl time in here and there. But we’ve resolved to soon do more of those things that refresh our spirits and keep us going. We hope that’s your plan, too!

Merry Christmas from the Hemmings Half-Dozen!

December 23, 2011   2 Comments

The World on a String

The seventh-grade homeschooled students I tutor once a week for a program called Classical Conversations are learning to draw the entire world from memory this year — and label at least 200 countries, capitals and features. It’s no small feat! They’re halfway there, so I thought I’d give them this little memento to help keep up their momentum. I photocopied a world map onto 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper and cut it into half-inch horizontal strips, making sure I preserved one strip in particular with the words “The World” printed on it. I played with that strip to form a circle (secured by tape) that would neatly fit the inside diameter of the clear glass ornament. Then I curled each of the remaining strips around a pencil, smoothing the curl out a bit before pushing each strip individually into the ornament and inside the band formed by the first strip. Each time I pushed in a new strip, I shook the ornament and all of the strips naturally curled around each other to form a jumbled globe shape that I thought looked really fun. My handy husband shortened up and sharpened some Christmas pencils and drilled a hole through each one so that I could tie it on — along with a little jingle bell — with embroidery thread. I hope my students enjoy the ornaments. I liked them so much that I made one for our tree, too. :-)

December 6, 2011   No Comments

Farewell to Prairie

We said a sudden good-bye to one of our guinea pigs, Prairie, yesterday. She was 2 1/2 years old and belonged mostly to Kerrick (holding her in the photo above, taken about 1 1/2 years ago), but we all thought she was pretty cute. We buried her in our backyard next to our pecan tree. Kerrick is heartbroken — which, of course, breaks my heart. Certainly, there are bigger losses in life. But this kind of little loss is tough, too — for Kerrick, because it’s really the first time he has lost something he loves; and for me, because he has so many questions that I can’t answer (“Why did she have to die right now? What made her die? Can’t God bring her back if I ask him to?”). I want so much to handle it the right way. I want him to know that it’s OK to be sad that she’s gone. I want to help him remember how much fun it was to play with her. A part of me also wants to relieve him of the guilt he feels about the times that he didn’t play with her because he was busy with school work or Scouts — or because he chose instead to play the Wii. But I can’t do that, and I know I shouldn’t anyway. How else will he learn to deal with the same issues and questions when the next loss — inevitably a bigger one — comes? Mostly, I want him to know that despite the pain he’s feeling now, it was worth it to love Prairie with all of his heart.

Prairie, a true home companion (all of you Garrison Keillor fans know what I mean!). :-)

September 18, 2011   No Comments

A Half-Dozen …

… fun facts about Kerrick:

1. His first name is English and means “the king’s rule.” His middle name, Andrew, means “manly, courageous.”

2. He loves playing with his dog, his LEGOs and his nine Webkinz (including the newest, a red squirrel named Redwood) — and he collects Playmobil knights.

3. His favorite song is Get Back Up, performed by Toby Mac. To hear it, click on the audio player at right under Song of the Day.

4. He’s super-smart, super-funny, super-outgoing and super-adventurous — all of which makes his parents super-proud (and super-exhausted from trying to keep up with him).

5. He developed our menu for today:
• Breakfast: sprouted spelt raisin cupcakes.
• Lunch: Grilled grass-fed beef burgers on spelt sourdough English muffins.
• Dinner: Pizza (not a healthy version).
• Dessert: a gluten-free (so his older brother can eat it), double-layer chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and strawberries.

6. If you haven’t already guessed, he turns 9 today! Happy birthday, second-biggest Little!

August 27, 2011   1 Comment