A little Phonics and Laundry

Laundry Phonics

Here’s a fun, turn off the TV game for early learners.  To set it up, write the names of basic clothing items on sticky address labels, leaving a space between each phonogram.  Here’s the list we used:

sh ir t

b e l t

P a n t s

h a t

s o ck

c oa t

Here are some other ideas:

s c ar f

sh or t s

t a n k   t o p


Cut between the phonograms and stick to clothespins. Then let your early learner hang the items up putting the pins in order.


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Magical Messy Microwave Cure and Busy Bag Swap

I haven’t forgotten about the magical messy microwave cure,  but first I wanted to tell you about a wonderful party I’ve been invited to–A Busy Bag Swap!  So far there are more than 40 ladies coming and the hostess is having it at a church so we can all be together.  The huge group is divided into groups of 10.  We are each bringing 10 of the same bag and signing up so no one brings the same thing in their group. Then everyone goes home with 10 new activities!

There are tons of ideas for busy bags on Pinterest.  I’m making these pizza factories from secondstorywindow.typepad.com:

pizza factory from second story window

I researched printing the color cards at Kinkos.  They wanted $1.19 a copy if I used their card stock; $.53 if I brought my own.  I decided to print at home.  I need 30 colored copies on card stock–we figured we could refill 2 ink cartridges at Costco and be under budget compared to printing at Kinkos.  I have a no heat laminator that will come in handy to making everything last a long time and should have enough laminator on hand to do the project.


Now for the Microwave Magic:  Fill a glass cup with 1 cup of water and a splash of lemon juice (don’t get fancy, cheap from concentrate like they sell at Aldi is fine.)  Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then leave the door shut for 5.  Do something else.  Wipe down your counters (hmm), Eat a snack (ok!) Something like that.  Then take a damp rag and just wipe it out.  Everything will come off with no effort thanks to the power of steam.  If you have a pretty messy job, you’ll need to rinse your rag out a couple of times.  But that’s it!

Driving through Needle Pass

We were watching our home videos after getting home from the trip and had to laugh at ourselves. It doesn’t take much to send me off in a Bible or Science lesson, lol.  Even though I’m sending my older children to Christian school this year and am only homeschooling Preschool, I will always be a home school teacher at heart.


Wanted: Homeschool Teacher

I have a teaching degree and taught 5th grade for two years, when I was VERY young.  I turned 22 on the first day of school and though I did a decent job, would do a much better job today after having been a parent.  I had already decided that when I was blessed with children of my own, I would be a homeschool mom.  After teaching classes of 20-25 5th graders, I figured that homeschooling a mere handful of my own children would be a piece of cake.  I WAS WRONG.  I have a huge respect for homeschooling mothers who do it right.  Especially those moms of many who persevere year after year while pregnant and nursing and during financial strain.  I wrote this little ad as a tribute to homeschool moms everywhere.  It takes a special woman to do what you do.

Daddy Dollars

I’m on the lookout for ways to reward my kids that reinforce our family values.  I was super excited last year to read about Daddy Dollars in Family Fun magazine and wrote a post about it here.  These types of ideas are hard for me to stick with for a number of reasons.  I don’t always have them with me when a child earns one; they try to interrupt an important project or time with another child to turn the dollars in; and I wonder sometimes if they take the dollars from each other or the bank–gasp!  Because it seems like they have more than I remember them earning at times.

It’s worth persevering with the system though, because it really motivates my children!  I’m making some changes this year that should make this a lot easier on mom.

1.  A chart of what earns a daddy dollar.  For example, Getting up, bed made, dressed and breakfast by 8:00 = 1 Daddy dollar.  All music practiced by 9:30 = 1 more daddy dollar.  And I’ve left myself a random act of kindness clause that lets me reward daddy dollars any time I see fit.

2.  A chart of what they can redeem their daddy dollars on.  For example 1 piece of gum or candy is $5.  An extra hour of computer time is $30.  A friend over to play is $50. Family to dinner at Pizza Street is $100 daddy dollars.  I try to make the rewards in tangible for the most part–and activities I wish we would do as a family but rarely make time for.

3.  A specific time to reward and accept payment of Daddy dollars.  We are going to tally up at dinner each night. This way our children will be rewarded in front of an audience and it helps build excitement for dinner time where we all sit down together.  This means I don’t have to keep the dollars with me all the time or constantly be interrupted during the day to deal with them.  They learn delayed gratification even if just for a few hours.

4.  A record sheet.  I will let the children hang on to their dollars, but I plan to keep track of what each child earns.  That way if a child comes up with $200 daddy dollars but they only earned $40, I’ll know a character issue needs addressed without falsely accusing someone.

Building a Routine

Whether you prefer a strict time dependent schedule or a looser routine, building predicatbility into our families’  lives helps with discipline, eases anxiety, and allows us to get more done.  For those of us with children with high anxiety levels, autism, or ADHD–this is not optional!

Every summer before school starts again, I mull over our past failures and successes and make a new schedule.  I think hard about what I want to happen and hwo to pack it all in the day.  For the last 5 years my scheuldes look pretty much the same even though at the time I thought I was coming up with a grand new plan.  And every year my new schedule falls by the wayside after a few days. 

Finally, I had an AHA moment.  I was trying to pack too much into a day and running ourselves to burn out in a short period.  Instead of building my dream day–I thought about what we already do routinely, and built my day around that.  For me, I had to let go of specific times we do things at the home, except for appointments.  Instead, we do things in a certain order at the pace that works best for the needs of the family at the time.  This allows me to take care of a newborn and toddler around working from home and schooling older children. 

For example, I’d love to get up at 5 am each morning.  But parenting a newborn makes that wake up time torture.  I can get up at 7 without trouble and after a good night, I’ll wake up naturally at 6:30. If it’s imperative that I get up earlier, I can slowly eek the time up 5-10 minutes for several days at a time until my body ajusts to the new schedule.

To get a routine that works with my family, I had to let go of what I thought others expected of me.  I don’t normally discuss in circles that I wake up at 7.  It feels late, and I’m embarrassed by it, but it’s what I need to do right now. 

 Also, we do not sit down and have breakfast as a family.  My husband leaves for work at 7:30, and I wake up the children at 8.  I’ve eaten long before both of those times.  Instead, I trained the children to get their own breakfast while I’m doing my exercises.  I try not to stress about family breakfast and focus on that family dinner instead.  I’ve learned I have to choose between family breakfast and exercising and picked what works best for my family.

Also, I learned that if we don’t get our music practice out of the way before lunch, the day snowballs and before we know it, it’s meltdown time and no practice gets done for the day. 

In short, I’ve learned that my routine needs to be relaxed (not too full), predictable, and organized so that what we need to do gets done when it is easiest for us (physically and emotionally) to do it.

Drill it with Go Fish

Easy to make and easy to play!  Grab 2–$1 decks of Go-Fish cards from Dollar General.   Use a sharpee to write on them.  We used phonograms, but I could see this done with state abbreviations or periodic chart element abbreviations.  Although the original game had 4 matches to a set, we did ours with 2 so we could get more information in.  Play just like you would Go-Fish but ask for the card by letter sound(s) or name of state etc.  They’ll be begging to play. 

Tag Team Chores

I am washing a bathtub full of dishes right now and it seems to fill up so fast.  The task soon becomes overwhelming and the longer I put it off the worse it gets!  If only I could work for 15 minutes and stop that would be great!  I can do anything for 15 minutes.  But then again, 15 minutes a day won’t get all my dishes washed and pretty soon I would be in a big mess again.

But what if I set the timer for 15 minutes and when it rang, someone else (like a child of mine :) would come take over?  They could work for 15 minutes and trade again.  No one would feel they had to be stuck there until the job was perfect.  I would get to stop in every so often for my turn to make sure it’s done well enough and the job would eventually get done.

What if everyone worked in some area of chores for 15 minutes,  someone in the bathroom, someone in the kitchen, someone in the laundry etc. and when the timer rang we just switched jobs picking up exactly where the other person left off?  The object would be to do your very best, fastest work in the time allotted, so when the next person came they would notice and say, “Wow!  You’ve gotten a LOT done in just 15 minutes.

I’m going to try it in the morning.  If you try it, let me know how it goes.

I’m trying not to freak out

Our homeschool starts next Monday and I’m not feeling ready. 

I have 3 kiddoes school age, but thankfully only 2 are old enough to record hours.  My youngest 2 are showing a real interest in learning to read and I need to spend some time with them too.  I might feel better about it if our house wasn’t such a wreck construction wise, but it is what it is. 

I’ve made up a schedule and it feels like I’ll never get a breath.  Do you want to see it?  I made a  pdf Coffman Homeschool Schedule 2010 2011 and don’t mind sharing.  Keep in mind I haven’t tried yet.  My day is on the first page, Heidi and Claeb’s pg 2, Heather and Dub Pg 3, and Brandon Pg 4.  

I’d love to see your schedule.  It helps me a lot to get ideas from what works for other people.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we will spend 2 hours in the afternoon at the ballet studio and I’m not sure how to fit all of school in on those days, but other than that we should be home. 

I’m looking at my schedule and realizing that if I’m going to be able to exercise and supervise chores in the morning, I will need fix ahead breakfasts.  If I’m going to be able to work at my businesses and give time to my preschool boys I’m also going to need fix ahead lunches and dinners.  Yea for the Grocery Shrink Slow Cooker book :).  And you’ll be seeing many more fix ahead options in the future.

I have an idea list going and as I test and modify recipes, I’ll share the ones that work with you. 

 Have you started school?  How is it going?  How do you stay sane?  Do you have a favorite make ahead recipe that I can share with my blog readers? I’d love to hear your encouragment and ideas.

Getting Children to Sit in Church

Going to church with my children has been my greatest joy and my greatest challenge.  My methods have changed from when my oldest daughter was born 10 years ago and how we manage things today.  When I realized things weren’t working for me I sat down and thought about what my goals were in taking my children to church and what was stopping me from reaching these goals.

My desires for my children

  1. To associate joy with church
  2. To love and worship God
  3. To learn more about the Holy Scriptures and God’s plan for their lives
  4. To build godly friendships
  5. To learn new hymns and scriptures
  6. To feel God near

Why wasn’t it working?

1.  The children were hungry and tired–big church comes right at lunch time and nap time

2.  They distracted each other–hugging, kissing, and poking soon turned into screaming and wrestling

3.  If I brought books, snacks or toys into the sanctuary…

      a.  They quickly went through them and wanted more

      b.  They made a mess with everything

      c.  It distracted them from getting much from the service

      d.  It distracted those around us

      e.  The older children wanted what I brought for the baby

      f.  I lost my cool quickly from sensory overload (too much visual movement, noise, and things bumping into me)

4.  When I took all things away, the children started to hate coming to church.

5.  They used bathroom breaks as an excuse to leave the service.

What does work?

1.  Bringing a snack for everyone to eat before entering the sanctuary.  This keeps blood sugar levels stable and helps the children control themselves.  They learned noone would eat upstairs, not even the baby–except for nursing with a cover.

     Here are some things I’ve taken  for snacks:  cheese and crackers, mozzarella cheese sticks, sliced apples, peanut butter finger sandwiches, wheat thin crackers, homemade bread, muffins, bagels, grapes, raisins, animal crackers…

2.  I take them all potty and to get drinks before the service and let them know they won’t be leaving the service for these reasons. 

3.  When we sit on the pew I carefully order the children so that the ones that are ornery aren’t together.

4.  Not bringing a lot of  toys or books for the children.  It keeps their entertainment expectations low. 

5. There are some things I make sure to keep with me for those tough moments.  They are ordinary looking things, not labeled as toys.  It helps them be more interested if they think it’s something real.  Here’s a small list:

     a. A mechanical pencil for each child and if they start to fidget I let them doodle quietly on a scrap of paper before it turns into a discipline problem.  (If I wait until they have been really naughty to hand them something it’s like rewarding their bad behavior.) 

      b.  A small photo book in my purse with wallet size snapshots of family and friends 

     c.  A handkerchief to roll up as twin babies in a cradle.  I couldn’t find any instructions online so here’s a little video how to do it.

      d.  Chap-stick

      e.  Hand cream

      f.  Band-aids and Kleenex eliminate 2 more reasons for getting up

6.  Also there are small things I can do to help the children stay focused.

      a.  Give them a gentle hand massage

      b.  Illustrate the sermon on a bulletin

      c.  Help an older child make a list of words they might hear during the sermon.  During the sermon when they hear a word on their list, they place a little tally mark.  It really keeps them listening.

      d.  Fold the bulletin into origami while they listen.  I only know how to make a boat, but it works.

7.  If my very small child (less than 2) gets fidgety I’ll stand in the back and hold him.  A change of view usually does the trick.

8.  And I’m not above having a little sweet tart treat for the children that don’t have to leave the service for discipline :).

      f.  After church I try to stay long enough to allow them to talk with their friends or run on the lawn a little bit.

Does it really work?  Well, it works better than anything else I’ve tried.  If you’ve sat near me during church, you’d know it’s not a perfect system.  The children are still children and we all get weary and short tempered and sometimes I have to leave the service with a toddler under one arm.  But they do grow and learn…and so do I.  I’m so glad church is a place for sinners to find the grace of God :).