Testing Testing 1-2-3!

I was never good at tests . . . especially math.

I’ll never forget one year in fourth grade – this would be around 1977 – we took a special test. Our math teacher walked between our desks, placing a sharpened pencil and test packet – face down – on each one. When we turned it over, I noticed something different. At the bottom was a strange configuration of black lines: skinny, medium and wider ones.

I dreaded any kind of math test (still do). I couldn’t understand math well and tests made me anxious. So during that class, while the other kids answered the questions, I counted the lines over and over, convinced they were some sort of magic code I could crack in order to get the answers.

Later we learned the name of this new thing: it was called a barcode.  Our teacher told us the paper would be put into a machine and graded somehow, but I didn’t believe her.

Barcode meme1

Testing these days is surrounded by controversy, especially when it comes to Common Core. I read a newspaper article the other day that said our School Superintendent was disappointed with the state about the level of required testing. For example, in one high school, students will be subjected to 188 tests designed mainly to assess the teachers, not the kids.

Thankfully homeschool testing is nothing like that. My kids took their national  standardized tests two weeks ago (many schools use only state tests). We hired a private testing company to come to our home and administer the Woodcock Johnson III test. Our administrator is a woman we’ve used for three years; she’s child friendly, compassionate and super smart. She encourages me and the kids to keep going and finish well.

Best of all, no one gets stressed out (ok, except me the first year).

Testing is really for parents; it lets us know how our child is doing and in what areas they could use improvement.

The first year of testing was tough on all of us. I didn’t know what to expect so I worried and got myself and the kids all twisted up about it. Until something happened that I’ll never forget. I took a prayer walk and poured out my heart to God. He said, “Your kids don’t get their intelligence from you, they get it from me.”

I got schooled!

Your Turn: How do you and your kids handle testing?

Our Valentine Tradition

When I was a teenager – probably around fifteen years old – my dad surprised me one Valentine’s Day with a box of chocolates.

I will never forget it. He shyly handed me a heart shaped box covered with yellow ribbons and roses. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. A variety of small chocolates filled the inside. At the time, they seemed exotic; I’d never received a gift like this before.

Photo courtesy: Hans Lindqvist, http://bit.ly/17hA1fR

Most importantly, it was from my dad. Even though I thanked him profusely, I never could express how much it meant to me.

I took my time eating the chocolates, only allowing myself one a day until they were gone. But I kept the box well into my twenties. Dad died when I was twenty-one and though I reluctantly let go of the faded box years later, the sentiment stayed with me.

It still does and I carried on the tradition of the heart shaped box with my own children.

Last year I shopped a little late and the only boxes left had nasty chocolates inside. I whined to my husband about it and he said, “Don’t worry, they don’t care about that stuff anyway (ouch!). We’ll just give them a card with twenty bucks and call it a day.”

So we did and I was feeling okay about it until my daughter said, “Hey! Where’s my heart?” I threw my husband under the bus. “Daddy said you were too old for that.”

They were disappointed but my heart was filled with joy.

As soon as I saw the hearts on the shelves this year, I snatched some up and stuck them in the trunk of my car. My kids are reminding me daily not to forget again, and they won’t have to worry. I’ll be giving them chocolate hearts even when they’re married with families of their own.


Your turn: Do you celebrate this holiday? In what way do you make it special in your home?

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17

Chinese New Year: Unlucky or . . .?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1 (NIV)

According to a recent story on CNN, some would-be mothers in Asia are delaying pregnancy. This is because the upcoming Chinese New Year is the Year of the Sheep. The first day of the 2015 Chinese New Year is February 19th. They use a different calendar system than we do. It’s called the Stem-Branch cycle and is based on the Yin-Yang 5 Element Theory. 

It got its start in the year 2,697 BC. For you math lovers out there, that means that in China, this is year number 4,712.

Specifically it’s the year of the Wooden Sheep and as reported by CNN, it can be considered bad luck. As one folk saying goes, people born under this Zodiac sign have only a one in ten chance of finding happiness. Also, the superstition is based on the belief that “sheep babies end up with characteristics associated with their birth signs — docile and destined to be followers, not leaders.”

According to the Chinese Fortune Calendar, I am a “Water Rabbit” born in the year of the brown monkey. What does this mean to me? Not a thing. I’m not superstitious and don’t believe in astrology, but I find it fascinating that other people do. It helps me remember that not everyone thinks like me. Also, when I understand their culture and belief systems, it also helps me relate better to them.

Boston - sheep

As for being a sheep, I consider it an honor because for me it means I have a shepherd; his name is Jesus. Sheep can’t guide themselves, they have to be fully dependent on their shepherd. In turn, the shepherd has a duty and responsibility to care for and protect his sheep.

Just for fun, here are 5 facts about sheep:

  • Sheep are intelligent – they can recognize up to 50 other sheep faces and can recognize human faces too.
  • Lanolin, a product found in many skin care products and cosmetics, comes from sheep wool.
  • Sheep’s milk cheese has more calcium than cow’s milk.
  • President Woodrow Wilson used a flock of sheep to trim the White House lawn.
  • A sheep named Dolly was the first mammal cloned from a human cell.

In John 10:27 Jesus said, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Your turn: Do you know of any culture related superstitions?

Movie Mondays: One way to turn Mondays into Fun Days

My teens HATE Mondays and let’s face it, many adults do too (myself included).

Lack of sleep and overdoing it on the weekends contributes to the energy drain and lack of attention I was seeing at the start of each new week. Finally, I had to let my frustration over the bad attitudes go. I decided to give us all a mental break and institute Funday Monday.

And you know what? It worked.

Now I choose one movie – that relates to something we’re studying – and we gather together in our family room, dressed in comfy clothes (usually pajamas). After all, what’s the benefit of homeschooling if you don’t enjoy learning together?

This semester one of our classes is World History and right now we’re focusing on the fall of Rome as we lead into the Middle Ages. So far we’ve watched Centurion . . .


and The Last Legion.

last legion

Bloody? Yes. Brutal? Yes. But wasn’t that reality? The movies themselves haven’t turned out so bad – they weren’t blockbusters and the special effects are sketchy – but we’ve all enjoyed them.

I want my kids to understand the world and atmosphere Jesus lived in. I want them to understand that despite the filth, violence and depravity, our savior managed to live a sinless life. Honestly, it amazes me that of all the times in history in which to be born, God chose this. Or that. “Whatev” as my kids would say.

In the end, all that matters is that we get it. And get to spend our morning having movies, popcorn and some amazing discussions about the world we live in.

Your turn: How do you make Mondays more fun?

The challenge of teaching boys

Homeschooling my middle school and high school age children is the most challenging job I’ve ever had.

Yesterday for instance, was a disaster. Being goofy, disregarding instructions, and inattention creates a frustrated teacher. Ok, maybe that’s not quite a disaster but it was certainly “one of those days.” Ever had one?

In my work life I’ve been a nanny, store manager, executive assistant, controller of a large company and a children’s minister. But teaching my own children and one nephew is harder than any of those jobs.

Last night – at the end of a stress filled day – my son runs into my bedroom wild-eyed. He’s coughing, choking and spewing green foam from his mouth. He grabs my water bottle as I rush over, ready to Heimlich him. Once I see he can breathe, I push him toward the bathroom screaming, “What did you do? What the H#%! is that? After he vomits green gunk (and everything else) into my trashcan, he wipes his mouth, looks at me like I’m crazy and says…


It turns out, he took “the Gamma challenge” which is the gamer version of “the cinnamon challenge.” I was so angry I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Oh, by the way, my son is a gamer and Gamma is a powdered energy drink. It’s kind of like Tang, but with added junk vitamins. I tossed the Gamma and shut my bedroom door for the rest of the night.

Boys are different and I haven’t yet mastered the art of teaching them. Most of the time I can’t imagine why they do some of the things they do. For example…

Samih tied to door
Why? Why would you tie your drawstring to the front door?

He thought this would be an appropriate cold-weather Halloween costume. I didn’t.

"I'm going to go as a man."
“I’m going as a man.”

I just need to take one picture of you in front of the tree son.


Now, my girls are better. For the most part they’re easier, except one likes to do her work and get on with life, and the other is not in any hurry.


Yes, each gender has challenges and goes through difficult seasons, but you know what?

I wouldn’t change a thing. They each teach me about a different side of life and I always remember . . . Tomorrow is another day. And I’ll keep headache medicine and a stress relieving ball nearby at all times.


The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) offers an excellent e-book entitled, Teaching Boys, by Andrew Pudewa and Woody Robertson. I’ve ordered products from IEW and highly recommend their site for great info and writing curriculum (I don’t get paid in any way to endorse them). I got my copy of Teaching Boys last year, but I found a link to the free e-book on homeschoolgiveaways.com.

Your turn: Do you have any boy related teaching tips to share?

Life Skills: Helping your kids learn responsibility

This post is inspired by a blog post I read on A Homeschool Mom. She wrote about raising motivated learners and suggests that when we allow children to participate in the chores and duties of our home, we’re teaching them important life skills.

I wholeheartedly agree!

She then asked readers to comment about tasks we’d turned over to our children and that got me thinking . . .

One year when my eldest daughter, Dania, turned ten, I decided one of the gifts I wanted to give her was responsibility. I wrapped “the gift” in an actual box – the words “Congratulations on turning ten! Now you get to take on the responsibility of doing the dishes.”

Dania - funny face

                    She thought I was joking.

Mind you, I didn’t just hand the task over to her to do as she pleased. I spent time training her on how to properly load and unload the dishwasher. I made it easier by making sure she could sort silverware into multi-compartment storage trays.


Then I taught her where to put all the dishes and pots and pans. And when she got it wrong or chose to be sloppy or lazy, I trudged to wherever she was and made her redo it. Eventually she understood that if she didn’t do it right the first time, she’d just have to do it again.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a painful process at first. I can unload the dishwasher in less than three minutes (I know because I try to race myself). But having to train other people can take five times as long (at least). I found that the hardest part for me is being patient while my child is learning a new task.

The funniest thing is that when I gave Dania this gift, her younger sister, Katya, got jealous and decided that she too would have the same responsibility. To that I said, “The more the merrier!”

Here’s a tip: Give your child the job you hate doing the most – it motivates you to hand off jobs every year!

My girls are now 17 and 18-years-old. Dania started working in a restaurant a couple of years ago and outshone the other kitchen workers. In fact, since she’s been there, the sanitation score has gone up and she’s been promoted – twice. I take satisfaction knowing that her early training helped her get and keep a job when others were laid off for the winter.

Your turn to share: What’s your least favorite household chore?

The true heroes

Chris Martin Writes

I’ve been watching the TV show, Cops, quite a bit lately. Spike TV has been running marathons on Fridays and Saturdays. I’ve watched the show in the past, but with a much different attitude than what I have now.

I used to take joy in watching people get thrown to the ground, shot with a Taser, and eventually handcuffed. I would shake my head in disbelief as people constructed lies to try and cover their criminal activity. I would call them stupid and deserving when they resisted arrest, and were forced to their knees by officers with guns drawn.

I watch the show now with a deep sadness in my heart. Policemen encounter people during their worst moments. Some in desperation. Some in the throes of addiction. Most all of them with little or no hope. I watched one the other night where a guy wouldn’t put his weapon down…

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Hope and help for homeschooling challenging kids. From our home to yours!

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