Teaching kids how to take notes

As mentioned last week, when the kids took their CKE Earth and Space (affiliate link) test they failed miserably, so I set about to teach them how to take notes and reteaching the entire unit.

teaching kids how to take notes


Here’s what I’ve been doing to teach the kids how to take notes.

Show kids what is important in the lesson

Most textbooks give clues to what they think are important.  Teach your kids how to find those things when taking notes.

  • look for bolded words
  • names of people, battles, peace treaties, locations
  • Names of sections
  • look at any worksheets or review material ahead of time and write that down


Teach kids how to organize their notes

Once they know what to look for, teach them how to organize their notes.  Otherwise, if they’re anything like my kids their notes will be one big blog of text, and they won’t be able to find the answers later.

Here’s the steps I taught my kids, based on how my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Newbury, taught me.

example for how to take notes


  1. At the top of your page write the title of the notes you’re taking.  I like to center it.  That helps me know it’s a completely new topic even if it’s in the middle of the page.
  2. At the edge of the page (or margin) write definitions if they are not part of a major section or are important topics themselves.
  3. At the edge of the page (or margin) write section titles and underline them
  4. indent ideas part of the same topic 2 fingers worth of space (in my giant version it was 1 hand worth of space, which greatly amused the boys)
  5. if it’s another information source for the same topic, also indent 2 fingers worth


Show kids how to add relevant pictures, maps and diagrams to their notes

This is especially important if your child is a visual learner.  It will also help with the kids who are doodlers, because they have a place to add the extra drawings

show them how to add relevant diagrams to their notes


This can take several different forms, for my kids so far it’s been drawings, but I foresee a not too distant future where we’re cutting out and gluing in  maps and other great diagrams from our textbooks.  I’m a big fan of random inserts into notes.

As you can see, the kids learned a rather important thing for visual learners:  add color.  That’s a key for me.  I take notes in lots of different colors.


When teaching kids how to take notes, make sure you teach them to make it personal

encourage them to make notes their own


My kids had different things that caught their fancy.  One of my boys added extra illustrations about earthquakes.  My other son drew all of the different cave types.

Ultimately we need to remember it’s their notes.  We can give them the tools for how to take notes and what works for us, but it has to work for them, otherwise the lessons are useless.


Have you taught your kids how to take notes?  I’m sure I’ll be revising this lesson in the future with more information for them

homeschool this week


On to what we were up to this week.  While almost all of my boxes for Illuminations were checked (we’re behind on CKE Earth and Space because of the reteaching thing), it still feels like we didn’t do all that much.

So, that’s the sum total of my pictures for this week’s school.  One day we went to the park, we’ve been going through Life of Fred: Apples during our morning meeting time, and the kids love that because they can draw on dry erase boards and solve some ridiculously easy math (I went back to the first level because it addresses a few concepts we hadn’t in Math U See).

The boys had Lego club this week and Princess had American Girl doll club and learned about Josephina.  Meanwhile we learned about writing where paragraphs for writing, and I need to work on reteaching it and working more solidly on sentences, but they’re doing okay overall with writing.

Princess has been making math into a major production because she doesn’t IMMEDIATELY remember every math fact ever, so she’s decided in her head that she can’t do math.  Which is the most ridiculous thing ever, considering she’s doing math two grade levels ahead of her age, but that’s what she’s decided, and she won’t be talked out of it.  So, we did some backwards work and making her a “cheat sheet” for her math.  It’s going to be a great resource for her as she works on her multiplication and division, and will build her confidence back up.

life this week


On the home front, last Friday the kids had park day with our local homeschool group, but it was cold so there were only a few families, which worked out perfect for the kids.  We attempted to make homemade noodles, but they did not turn out at all.  Well, they were noodles, but they weren’t particularly tasty, and seemed like a rather blah dumpling.  Friday night we went to an Operation Christmas Child packing party for American Heritage Girls and the kids all had a blast with that.

The rather dark blurry picture is a common sight at our house lately.  Princess has taken to sleeping in the boys room rather often, and then Mac sneaks in to join the giant “puppy pile on the floor,” all 3 kids asleep on the floor.

The boys had a night out together, and so Princess and I had a very lovely tea party put together by her.  Complete with carefully arranged snacks and everything.


Princess birthday week

But, the big news in our family was Princess’ birthday.  Yesterday was her ACTUAL birthday, so we had lots of preparing for it.  Monday, Mom, Jeff, and I each took a kid out in preparation for buying her presents (Princess went clothes shopping with Jeff, an outing I Happily gave to him).  I hung out with Superman, we had a fun dinner and he was on a mission to find exactly what he wanted to get her.

Tuesday night she happily spent planning her party.  She has a long list of items we had to buy for her party, and very specific details for decorating.  Seriously, we spent 20 minutes scrolling through party decorations on my computer.  When we went by Hobby Lobby the boys suggested we needed the “Caution Old People Zone,” Princess was not amused.

Thursday (her actual birthday) was a slew of celebrations.  As soon as she woke up she got to open ONE present, and was a very happy girl.  Then she decorated her cupcakes with the help of her brothers.  Then it was dance class and cupcakes for everyone in that.  Dolphin Tale 2 at the Dollar Theater (during school hours).  American Heritage Girls with yet more cupcakes, and finally a family dinner celebration of fondue (her choice) with one more cupcake.  Seriously she had 3 cupcakes and who knows how much frosting in the decorating process.

Finally she opened the rest of the presents from her family and was a very very happy girl.

And that is our week in review

Isaiah lesson for kids

I love to teach our Isaiah lesson right before Christmas because so much of Isaiah is about Jesus, and many of the major christological (what do you mean that’s not a word spell check?) prophecies come from Isaiah’s book.  Last week we learned about the minor prophets

Isaiah lesson for kids

Why teach an Isaiah lesson to kids?

I think there’s two reasons to teach an Isaiah lesson to kids:

  1. To show God keeps His promises, and how much the Jews had to look forward to as they waited for Jesus.
  2. Isaiah makes a great call to serve God and tell others about God.

That’s an overly simplification of Isaiah, but those are the two big lessons I personally take from Isaiah.  So, let’s dig into the lesson.

As a warning, there’s not as many hands on elements to this lesson, but we had a few guest speakers in our Sunday School class this week.

Isaiah lesson 1: Go tell others

In Isaiah chapter 6, God calls Isaiah up to heaven and Isaiah sees God and all his wonder and says:

Isaiah lesson quote

Then God speaks, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for me?”

And Isaiah says, “Here I am!  Send ME!”

I wanted the kids to get, it’s not just the “Christian Superstars” who go and say yes to that call, but anyone can do it.  So, I asked some members of our church who’d gone on short term mission trips to come in and talk about what it’s like.
Isaiah lesson answer the callAnd they got across just what I wanted them to learn.  You don’t have to be the superstar to go tel others.  God uses everyone, and it’s a great lesson for all of us to remember.  Think of it as a great adventure God calls us on.  One of our visitors wasn’t able to make it on Sunday, so we’ll have another guest in a week or so, which will be awesome to hear his take on missions.


Isaiah lesson 2: God keeps His promises

If you read through Isaiah there’s a lot of warnings about what’s going to happen.  In the midst of all the dire warnings God gives promises of hope.  God will send a savior, and it’s someone no one will expect.

Isaiah lesson visuals

God put it all together, every single detail for His final plan.  For years people placed Isaiah much later in history because of how uncannily it mirrors the life of Jesus, and then they found the Dead Sea Scrolls which so clearly showed Isaiah had been written before Jesus was born.

You can tell someone something, but it always becomes more clear when they actually see it for themselves, so I gave the kids passages from Isaiah and then passages from the New Testament.

isaiah notebooking pages

They slowly went through the Isaiah passages and the New Testament passages and matched them together.  I actually limited the assignment to 7 passages from the over 15 passages I’d picked out (yes I am guilty of assigning too much work from time to time, I get excited about it).

And just because it amuses me, here’s one of the pictures the kids took of me teaching the Isaiah lesson at the house.  It’s amazing how many pictures they can take and not a one really turns out.  Thank goodness for digital pictures. Up above is their super high quality video.

Isaiah lesson

 Get your Isaiah lesson visuals, words, the entire shebang right here.

More Isaiah lesson resources

Fun Financial literacy for kids

Back when Jeff and I were first married we went through several different finance courses (I’ll include links at the bottom of the post), and when the kids were born I looked for some financial literacy for kids stuff and wasn’t all that impressed.  Most of them were obviously self-serving or they were full of junk that I wasn’t going to use with the kids because it added clutter to our house.

I already struggle with clutter enough, no need to add to that.

pirates of financial freedom financial literacy for kids

{Disclosure, I received a free copy of the book, and was compensated for my time}

Enter Pirates of Financial Freedom, Financial literacy for kids

Pirates of Financial Freedom answered a couple of the problems I’d seen in financial literacy for kids materials.

  • It’s fun (unlike most financial literacy materials)
  • It doesn’t have random twaddle to load down my house with junk
  • My kids enjoy the lessons
  • The lessons are short and to the point


What is Pirates of Financial Freedom like?

Well, I’m glad you asked.  If you’re familiar with Life of Fred math curriculum, you’ll enjoy this.  It presents math concepts in the midst of a story.

So far the kids and I have stopped in the midst of chapters to discuss:

  • setting goals, and talked about Princess saving for 6 months to get all her money for a LEGO set
  • making wise buying choices, after saving all that money she decided she would rather spend it for a different goal and saved for a few months because it was more important to her
  • pirates pouring rum on their cereal, they thought this was hilarious and keep bringing it back up
  • what all the financial terms in the book mean, he packs them in there
  • the plot twists in the story
financial literacy for kids

The results of Princess applying the financial literacy lesson in the book, she had the money to buy all she wanted at the Renaissance Festival

It’s a fun story about a pirate’s crew with financial problems, and the captain’s son is a financial planner who comes to help his Dad’s crew and teach them financial literacy (as a side note why is it called financial literacy?).

A few things I really enjoy about Pirates of Financial Freedom:

  • It clearly lays out the financial advice in the book, and has a few side stories to show you different applications of how to use the advice (I particularly liked the hat story line)
  • the puns, they’re horribly cheesy, but they make me laugh.  Especially because it’s the financial planner making all the puns.
  • The real life examples and the math problems thrown in throughout the book
  • The riddles, I like riddles

A few things to beware of about Pirates of Financial Freedom

No book or curriculum is absolutely perfect, and here’s a few things that may give you pause, or may not depending on your thought process:

  1. If you are a complete Dave Ramsey fan, this book will not 100% line up with his advice.  It’s a slightly different take on financial planning, not in complete disagreement, but not completely the same.  I’m a Dave Ramsey fan, so I don’t completely agree with his advice, but I think it’s a good opportunity to talk with my kids about the different financial plans people have and no one plan is right for everyone (I think Dave Ramsey also has some drawbacks, but that’s another post)
  2. Because this book is aimed for teens the main character (Joey) occasionally notices the opposite sex.  It’s a PG rating, but the occasional comment about how the women looked or his noticing it stood out to me because I was reading it with my kids.  If I was reading it to myself I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

pirates of financial freedom

 Still not sure Pirates of Financial Freedom is THE financial literacy course for your kids?

Then join the treasure hunt.  Each of the five bloggers reviewing Pirates of Financial Freedom have a treasure for you, two chapters of the book.  Yesterday Karyn from Teach Beside Me shared the first two chapters, and tomorrow Alicia from Investing Love will have chapters 5 and 6.

Today, I’m giving you chapters 3 and 4 of Pirates of Financial Freedom.  Be prepared for skuldruggery and pirate trickery.  Oh and a bit of silliness on the way.


But wait, I want to win financial literacy for kids, not buy it, think like a pirate man!

Well when you read the book you’ll discover these pirates are learning you can’t get it all by taking, and they’re actually pretty nice pirates.  But since you haven’t read the book yet, here’s your chance to win the book AND two hours of advice from the author himself.

Resources for Financial Literacy for Parents

Presents for the Geeky Mom

Christmas time is approaching, and you’ve already seen my educational stocking stuffers, but that’s kid’s stuff.  What about Mom?  What presents should you get for Mom?

I mean there’s the usual presents, spa gift cards, bubble bath, bath salts, chocolates….  But what about something special?

Something for that inner geeky Mom?

presents for the Geek Mom

First learn her geekdom.  Here’s a few present ideas for the more common geek kingdoms.  And the same Mom can fall into several of these.

First, I’ll start with the most common Geek Mom among homeschoolers, and the geekdom I have belonged to the longest.

{This post is filled with so many affiliate links, lots of them, yes}

For the Literary Geek

This is the Mom who has read all the classic novels on the reading list, who has paid a small fortune in fines to the library and had serious debates about the merits of a Nook (which I now love) or Kindle.

First get them a kindle case, I personally prefer a case like this one that has a stand built in.

Because it’s always good to have a nice coffee mug for her caffeine addiction of choice, and this quote always makes me smile.

Low Country Eclectic jewelry

Or, pick up some literature inspired jewelry, I love my Peter Pan necklace from Low Country Eclectic, and always get asked where I got it when I wear it.  That and my Alice in Wonderland necklace (if you send her a message with a book, she can probably design you a necklace).

I don’t need more tote bags per se, but I kinda want this Your LIbrary is your Paradise Book Bag Tote Bag, because it goes perfectly with my other tote bag saying “If I get a little money I buy books, if I have any left over I buy food and clothes.”  That rather explains my college existence perfectly.


For the Star Trek Geek Mom

I was the Star Trek Nerd in high school.  I will freely admit I had a 4-function calculator in high school that flipped open and I liked to imagine it was an original series communicator and I was jealous of the flip phone people because they looked like communicators.

Star Trek ornament(I may or may not have 10 of these, Jeff actually limits me to 1 Star Trek ornament a year, he does not think the fact we could enact an entire space battle is anywhere near as cool as I think it is)
Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1 [Blu-ray](Because there are SOOOO many cool extra features, there’s a part of me that wants to buy another set of these just for that, if you’re only going to get one season, buy Season 1)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 3 [Blu-ray] (There’s like 10 extra minutes for Best of Both Worlds the season finale, and everyone agrees Season 3 is THE best season of STNG, the only problem is you don’t get part 2, it’s on Season 4)
Star Trek the Next Generation Phaser (I had one of these in high school)
Star Trek Communicator iPhone 5 / 5s Case (Hard Silicone Rubber)

Classic Star Trek Tricorder CASE for iPhone 5 5s case -Black CASE (I would put my phone in either of these, how cool is this?, seriously look at this)


 Gifts for the Star Wars Geek Mom

I was not a Star Wars Geek in high school.  I was more indoctrinated into it by Sam and now have read all of the novels through the New Jedi Order at which point I just wasn’t up for it.  It lost something when they killed Chewie in the book canon.  Then Episode 1 happened, and destroyed the awesome mythos they’d built up.  Episode 1 owes much explanation to the rest of the world.

Teawok, Ewoks divided the Star Wars fandom, do you think they’re cute fun creatures, or annoying things that must be destroyed?  I kinda like them

Star Wars Huttese Translator Ring(because decoder rings are cool)

Princess Leia “Don’t Mess With a Princess” t-shirt

Chewbacca Hoodie (I live in hoodies)

Han Solo Carbonite iPhone 5 Case(can you tell my phone case is broken, and I have them on my mind?)


Gifts for the Comic Geek Mom

In high school and college these were my two geekdoms.  If you get into this, you’ll discover there are several distinct forms of comic geekdom.  First, there’s the DC/Marvel rivalry, then there’s the whole smaller independent publishers, and then you can get into Manga.  That’s a whole other world, I’m not even going to touch.

The cheater answer, go to Superherostuff.com and buy them everything.  The whole site.  Like I want it all.


Batman Logo Print Ladies Hoody Jumpsuit(I am currently wearing this, minus the hood, if I wouldn’t get large numbers of stares, I would probably wear it in public, I’m only slightly exaggerating).

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52)(I decided not to link to ALL of my favorite Batman graphic novels, but sneak a look at your Geek Mom’s graphic novel library and fill in the holes, for my personal Amazon wishlist I’ve updated all of the missing Nightwing trades I don’t have yet, HINT, HINT)
Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One (buy this, love this, and then you’ll know why Once Upon a Time TV show is a dull copy of a vibrant and interesting story that doesn’t feel the need to retreat into soap opera romances, or maybe that’s just my frustration because ABC HAD the rights for this comic…)

In all honesty with this fandom you need to find what specific comics they like and go from there.  Once you have that small niche you have a never-ending source of awesome presents that will make your Geek Mom smile and jump up and down.  Jeff knows he will always make me happy if he shows up with the latest Nightwing or Batman comic.


For the Dr. Who Geek Moms

I’m not a part of this fandom, but several of my friends are (I can’t watch it with the kids, and Jeff doesn’t like it).

Doctor Who Tardis Mini Construction Playset(I made Amanda very happy when I gave her kids this set, and it was happily played with for a long time).

And, what’s better than 1 Doctor and his Companion? Why 11 Doctors, that’s what.  Doctor Who The Eleven Doctors Micro-Figure Set by Underground Toy(only reason I didn’t but this set was because it was outside my price range at the time, but I sure wanted to).

Doctor Who Character Building Weeping Angel Army Builder Pack
(one of the few episodes I’ve watched and it made me jump, a lot).

That’s been explained to me often. And I’ve heard many debates on “the best” doctor and the differences in personality and style.
And of course there’s fun hats, like this one: Doctor Who TARDIS Laplander Hat

Or you could always mix your genres…. (Sigh, I love “Texts from Superheroes, it always makes me laugh, and their t-shirts do too).


I could go on for days linking to random cool things I like, but I won’t right now.  Tomorrow there’s a whole slew of gift ideas going live by other homeschooling Moms.  If these gifts aren’t your style check out:

Educational Stocking Stuffers

Gifts for a Homeschooling Mom


**Star Trek Christmas tree used with permission, it was cropped and the overlay and text was added

Mercury lesson, Astronomy for kids

Back when I wrote my post “Astronomy ideas for kids” I bemoaned the lack of ideas for Mercury, and the complete and total lack of Mercury lessons or activities.

Mercury activities for kids

Well, now I know why.  Scientists, astronomers who study it for their life’s work, don’t know all that much about Mercury, how on earth can we Moms or elementary teachers then teach and come up with creative activities or Mercury lessons.

Enter what we do know about Mercury:

  1. Mercury is very small and very close to the sun.
  2. Because of #1 we can only see Mercury at sunrise or sunset, any other time it looks like one of many sunspots.  Actually many sunspots are bigger than Mercury.
  3. Mercury is a terrestrial planet, with many craters.
  4. Mercury revolves around the sun faster than it rotates.

Bouncing off of fact 3 for our activity, we explored craters, and how a planet or moon gets them.

Mercury lesson

Supplies: pan of flour, small objects to drop, broom to sweep up the mess you got.

Mercury activity set up

Pour about 10 cups of flour on the bottom of your pan.  I completely made that number up, so obviously the amount is not important.  What is important is having a few inches of flour in your pan.

Smooth out your flour so it is more or less flat.  In theory Mercury started out mostly smooth after creation.

Mercury activity process

Start dropping small objects into your flour and seeing how the flour is changed by what you drop in it.

Mercury activity asteroid impact

After you’ve taken out the various buttons and small objects you threw in check out the surface of your Mercury.  You’ll notice it’s no longer smooth, and in some cases you can guess which object causes which problem.  The kids had a lot of fun with this.

After you’ve gotten all the learning you want from your kids, and they’ve observed what happens when you drop the items and the resultant craters, turn the kids loose to play in the backyard with the flour.

This of course means about 1 hour later your kids will come back inside covered in water, flour, and mud.  Don’t ask what happened, just send the kids back to wash up.

Trust me, you will be less stressed out if you do this.


Now on to some more recent activities totally unrelated to our Mercury lesson

a week of learning

I printed out our Illuminations (affiliate link) schedule for the week and realized we were very behind in our CKE earth and space (affiliate link).  I kept putting them off because I didn’t have the right supplies.

Well, we finally completed the hands on part of Unit 2 on Friday of last week and attempted to build earthquake proof buildings.

We failed miserable, in case you’re wondering.  And I still didn’t have quite the right materials.  So, we took the test.  Everyone failed.  Complete and utter failure on their part.

So, I’m changing up how we do CKE Earth and Space.  This was not a lack in the materials, this was clearly a lack in the teaching.  So I went through and now am reteaching the materials.  This time, I’m requiring they write notes.  Previously I’d said they could listen.  I’m going through and teaching them step by step how to take notes (watch for a post on this).  And building in a lot more of what they recommend you do to learn the materials because I was playing fast and loose with the curriculum and that came back to get me.

But both of these topics are probably fodder for a whole separate post…..

For right now I’m linking up to:

All Things Beautiful Science Sunday

Homegrown Learners Collage Friday (and I’ll hopefully add in my happy memory pictures once I can get them off of my phone, but I need to get the kids started on school).

Stocking Stuffers to promote learning

One of my hidden agendas with Christmas presents is to promote learning while having fun.  You could easily spend hundreds of dollars pursuing that goal, but today I’m going to share some stocking stuffer ideas that are less than $15.

stocking stuffers to promote learning

Random question I thought of as I took this picture.  Does your family wrap stocking presents, or do you just have them open?  I grew up wrapping stocking presents, and so the first year I went to go wrap them in white tissue paper (which is of course THE way to do them) and Jeff looked at me like I was crazy, “You DO NOT wrap stocking presents, that’s just silly.”

So do you wrap your stocking stuffers or leave them as is?

Stocking Stuffers to promote reading

There are a lot of great book series for kids, but I want to highlight 5 different games your kids could learn from.

  1. Bananagrams(strong reader)
  2. POP for Blends Card Game (learning to read)
  3. Quiddler (strong reader)
  4. Mini Word Puzzle Game (able to read)
  5. Snap It Up! Phonics(learning to read)


Stucking Stuffers to promote math

Math is a fun subject to learn through games, you can sneak in so much learning through games, and much more enjoyable for both parents and kids than flashcards.

  1. ThinkFun Math Dice Jr.
  2. Think Fun Math Dice
  3.  Addition Wrap-Ups
  4. Learning Wrap Ups – Multiplication
  5. Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception(introduce algebra concepts to younger kids)


Stocking Stuffers to promote science

This is a slightly different take than the previous two categories because there are some great science gear you can get for under $15 (and it fits in a stocking), and some great toys that will promote science learning.

  1. Pocket Microscope
  2. Safari Ltd Ocean TOOB(I cannot emphasize enough how great these are for early elementary science)
  3. Professor Noggin’s Wonders of Science
  4. My First Pocket Guide Stars & Planets
  5. Animal Tracks: A Folding Pocket Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Familiar North American Species (Pocket Naturalist Guide Series)


Stocking Stuffers to promote history and geography

For my kids, I’ve found a large selection of games and toys increases their interaction and knowledge of history more than almost any other thing.  The first two items in this stocking stuffer list are MUST HAVE items in our house for homeschooling

  1.  Safari Ltd Jamestown Settlers TOOB
  2. WWII US Marines Figures
  3. Professor Noggin’s History of the United States
  4. Timeline Historical Events Card Game
  5. Flag Frenzy!



Stocking Stuffers to promote writing

Writing can be challenging for young kids because they don’t know WHAT to write or are still learning how to form their letters and words.

  1. Rory’s Story Cubes
  2.  Once Upon A Time
  3. Lisa Frank Sketch Stationery Set(these were the height of coolness when I was a kid)
  4. Blank Book(your best bet for large numbers of these are teacher supply stores or Oriental Trading from time to time)
  5. Journal (Notebook, Diary) (Small Journal Series)(craft stores and Barnes and Noble always have a great supply of these, all of my kids love little books)


Stocking Stuffers to promote critical thinking

Critical Thinking will be important as you continue in life past school, why is this decision better than the other, what are the risks and rewards of one choice over the other?  All of these games promote critical thinking and problem solving, and additional bonus, they travel well for waiting in doctor’s office or restaurants.

  1. Five Crowns
  2. HABA Catch Me Mini Game To Go
  3. HABA Orchard Mini Game
  4. IQ Twist
  5. ThinkFun Hoppers

Of course you can’t really go too far wrong sticking a pad of paper and a set of markers because you’ll be amazed what your kids will come up with just being left to create and having fun.
Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Gift Guides for Kids on Pinterest.

Today I’m joining up with many other fabulous ladies from Kid Blogger Network to bring you gift guides.  I’d highly recommend heading over to What do We Do All Day to see the other gift guides.

stocking stuffer gift guide

Minor prophets lesson

On Sunday Jeff taught the Minor Prophets lesson to our Sunday School class.  I was out in “the nature” enjoying the women’s retreat from my Mom’s church, and having a totally enjoyable and refreshing weekend.

mob of kids in Sunday School

Meanwhile Jeff and the other teacher had over 30 something kids together and no sub.  I definitely got the calmer end of the deal, but I missed out on the Minor prophets lesson, and I’d been looking forward to it.

Who are the Minor Prophets?

minor prophets of the Bible lesson

First off I have to preface it with, “we call them minor prophets, not because their message was less important, but because their books were shorter.”  Because of that some people classify Daniel as minor and some people classify Daniel as major.  I classified Daniel as a major prophet, and we just finished covering him with our Daniel and the Lion’s Den lesson.

The minor prophets are a motley sort, there’s the professional prophet or priest (Jonah, Zechariah {I think, I might be misremembering}), there’s the dirt poor prophets (Joel, Amos), and there’s the ones we know almost nothing about (Obadiah, seriously, 1 chapter and not a word about himself).

And they’re not spread out over a wide period of time, if you look at the timeline they’re clumped in a couple of different times.  God chooses a few times to try very hard to get Israel’s attention: the fall of Northern Israel, the fall of Judah, and the rebuilding of the temple, to get their attention.  Unfortunately Israel is not so good at listening.


What do the Minor Prophets say?

Now we get to the heart of the lesson and why I was so sad to miss the class (to be honest, I’d say this about EVERY lesson).  Each of the kids got a Minor Prophets lesson book.  It had a page per prophet and a few themes for them to look for.

They spent the first 20 or so minutes going through and finding what the prophets wrote about.  In theory that’s what the kids are doing in the picture up above.

minor prophets lesson notebooking pages

I was going to show you the pages my kids filled out, but their minor prophet books are lost in the nether that is my house, so instead you get to see the pretty blank pages.

themes of the minor prophets

While each of the minor prophets taught at different times, and to different people as you read through them you start to see different themes:

  • Day of the Lord- a final day when God will judge the just and the unjust
  • God’s sadness over the brokenness of the world and the sins of Israel
  • God’s mercy- over and over again God warns them of the coming judgement, and they do not listen
  • Future King- God will send a king who rules justly
  • God’s judgement- There will be punishment for sins
  • Repentance- encouragement for those who repent

the heart of the minor prophets

Jeff had teased me about including Jonah in there because we’d already had an entire lesson on Jonah.  My exact response, “But otherwise the cover would have looked weird because there would have been an empty square.”  I think really it was God pointing out to me I had a lesson still to learn.  The minor prophets are a reminder of God’s mercy and love for us.  I need to remember that.

minor prophets notebooking pages

Resources for the Minor Prophets

For all of the Bible Prophets head over to my Old Testament Prophets of the Bible page.

Next week is Isaiah (hopefully that lesson will be up on Sunday, the kids and I are finishing up a few activities today).

How to make a Roman Fresco

About a month ago we spent a week completing various hands on Rome activities, one of the messiest activities was completing a Roman Fresco.

create a fresco lesson


What are Roman Frescos?

A Fresco is a style of art.  It is painting on wet plaster, usually onto a wall in a house or temple, but occasionally a fresco will be done on a canvas.

In Roman Frescos they are always done on walls (or at least all of the surviving ones were) and usually depicted scenes from Roman mythology or landscapes.  Mythology was more popular however.

In the buried city of Pompeii we have several examples of Frescoes that have survived intact for us to study.

create a fresco


Roman fresco art lesson

Supplies needed: cardboard, plaster of paris, paint brushes, paint (we tried several different types)

  1. Mix up your plaster of paris, it needs to be fairly thick, I found a 2 parts water to 3 parts plaster solution was about right.  But really it’s eyeballing how it’s mixing up.
  2. Spread it on the cardboard about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Then pass the wet mix over to your kid to start painting.
  3. Let your kids have fun painting their creation with whatever they want.

Roman fresco lesson


Here’s what we learned from our Roman Fresco:

  • Plaster dries quickly, so you can’t take too long agonizing over your painting.  I wonder how artists created large frescoes if the plaster dries so quickly.
  • It is hard to paint on wet plaster.  It is very difficult, much more difficult than painting on paper like we are used to.
  • Watercolors were more difficult to paint with and did not have as vibrant a color as acrylic paints had.  Though none of our paints were really very period accurate.


Roman fresco

Our Other Rome Activities

Fingers crossed tonight or this afternoon I get the other pictures edited for the posts I wrote this weekend when I had no internet.  It’s amazing how much writing you can get done when you have no internet to distract you.

Ezekiel lesson for kids

I’m almost done with the prophets, only 2 more lessons to post after this.  Tonight (when I’m writing this) I’m going to work on the Minor Prophets for Sunday, and then it’s Isaiah, and the Old Testament is done!  But for today the lesson is on Ezekiel.

Timeline-wise I taught this right after Jeremiah because it happens at the same time.

Who was Ezekiel and when did he write?

Ezekiel wrote at the same time as Jeremiah and Daniel, and a couple other minor prophets.  So, he’s writing during the fall of Jerusalem.  Ezekiel was one of the Exiles already over in Babylon when he started preaching and encouraging them.

Ezekiel's unusual visuals for his lessons

Ezekiel gets the distinction of being one of the most unique prophets (among a pretty unique group) because of how God had him teach.  He had to shave his hair and divide it into thirds to illustrate how Jerusalem would be defeated.  He was to lie bound for a year to illustrate Jerusalem at siege.  And the illustrations go on and on.

People interested in end times prophecies spend a lot of time in the later chapters of Ezekiel because those chapters haven’t come to pass yet.


Why is Ezekiel important to us?

Partially because we can see fulfillment of some prophecies.  We see the fulfillment of Jerusalem’s destruction, we saw the fulfillment of Israel becoming a country again.  Partially because of the promises of what is to come.  There’s some interesting prophecies in there that have not happened yet.  I’ll be curious to see if they come true in my lifetime or if it waits a few more years before coming to pass.

Teaching the Ezekiel lesson to kids

teaching Ezekiel lesson to kids

I had the kids film a video of the lesson so you can see how I taught it.  Besides, what’s a little public humiliation between friends (I watched it and thought, “work on posture, I stick my tummy out, brush hair better, I ACTUALLY have make up on, and why do they feel the need to interrupt NOW?”  Not necessarily in that order).  This is the best of several attempts.  The kids are not good at filming, they just can’t keep still.

As I taught this to the kids I concentrated on a couple of different things:

  1. God works in unsual ways sometimes
  2. God keeps His promises.  He restored Israel to a country thousands of years after it was completely destroyed.  That’s amazing.
  3. God still has promises He hasn’t kept yet.  They will be amazing to see when He does.

One of the most impressive parts to young kids are the chapters in Ezekiel about “dry bones,” and them coming together.  My boys had quite a few suggestions for activities, but we stuck to the one I had planned: dry bones relay race, and it was a hit with my Sunday School class as well.

Ezekiel lesson game dry bones relay race

I’ve got a link in the download where you can get your own skeleton to play this game.  Our rules said you could only pick up one piece at a time, and they were required to make sure they had all the right pieces (a left and a right arm, as compared to 2 left arms).

This was a blast with all of the kids, both mine and the Sunday School class.  We played the game several times.


Ezekiel lesson for kids

Ezekiel for kids resources

Next up is Daniel and Friend’s Stand Tall in Faith (Ezekiel is going on at the same time as Daniel, so I’ve  done it in different orders from time to time).

All Bible Prophets lessons

Homeschooling through a death in the family

After Tara’s Mom died I counted up the number of funerals I’ve been involved in over the past 13 years (I count from then because that’s when my Dad died), I stopped at 10.  Last week another high school friend told me her Dad had died, and it just reinforced the need to write this post.  It can be hard homeschooling through a death in the family.

homeschooling through a death in the family

I have homeschooled through the death of 2 grandparents, a step-father, a friend who was like a brother to me, death of friend’s parents, death of friend’s children, and they all have unique needs.  As I type this up I just realized most of this comes in the last 5 years.  That’s an even scarier thought.

Make a schedule

You will get nothing done if you don’t have a schedule.  I do not mean from 8:00-8:30 I will do this.  What I’m thinking of is probably more of a to-do list.

I could not have gotten anything done this past month without my Illuminations schedule (affiliate link).  I printed out what needed to be done and worked my way down the checklist.

Because of Illuminations I did not have to think in the midst of grief.  I just went down the page and completed the next box, and then the next box.  That’s all I did.


Know when to throw the schedule out

You will not get everything done on your schedule.  Planning funerals take a lot of meetings.  There’s the meeting with the funeral home, the meeting with the church or the pastor, there’s picking up out of town family from the airport.  It takes a lot of driving around.

Get books on tape, or watch Magic School Bus videos, you will need something to keep your kids busy as you drive from place to place and as they wait for meetings to be done.

The schedule you made earlier will help you know where to pick up and what you need to finish.


Know when to stop school all together

Back when Sam was dying of cancer there were a few times I got phone calls from Tara along the lines of “I need help now.”  School was done for the day, I didn’t worry about it, and that was okay.  It all worked out.


Know when to ask for help and when to accept it

There are a lot of details to plan for a funeral.  It’s like planning a wedding but you have less than a week to do it.  People are upset and emotional and they will say things they don’t mean.  Remember that.  A few quick words of advice:

  • Accept all offers of help, people want to show they’re love for you, and they want to do something.  Let them.  When I traveled to Colorado for my Grandma’s funeral the kids stayed with 4 different people because that many people wanted to help, and that’s how the schedule worked out.
  • Write down what needs to be done, and when.  When someone calls and asks what they can do look at your list and name some of the tasks there, other homeschooling Moms often want to help but can’t do the task, but they can watch your kids while you do it.  That is a HUGE help.
  • Accept offers of meals.
  • Remember everyone grieves differently, and processes grief differently.  Some people won’t cry for weeks because it hasn’t hit them.  Others will fall apart at random things.  There are some movies I still can’t watch almost 13 years after my Dad died.
  • Assume the best of those you love.  They probably did not mean what they said to be hurtful.
  • Remember the Ring Theory, you cannot complain to someone closer in to the circle than you.  Find another person to vent your frustration and hurt to, don’t heap more pain on that person.
  • It will get better.  It takes time, but it gets better.

On to more cheerful things, so I don’t end this post on a total downer.

school week in pictures

We had a unique week this week.  It all started on Monday when Batman decided to help by making hot cider for us, then forgot about it and it all boiled away and our house was full of smoke.  So we set up a tent outside and completed the rest of school outside that day.

Most of Tuesday morning was spent with me laying on the couch blinking at the world as the pressure front had me so dizzy I couldn’t move.  Thankfully the kids are old enough to complete good portions of their schoolwork without my active participation, they just don’t like to.  So they completed a history, math, and science while I blinked at the world.  That afternoon the boys had Chess club where they happily played strategy games with other kids.

We did something on Wednesday….  Oh yeah, we had successful science experiments finally!  Thursday is Bible study for me in the morning followed by more science experiments, and cleaning, so much cleaning from the science experiments.  And I spent Thursday night working on some fun projects I’ve got planned.

week of successful science

As I might have mentioned once or twice in the earlier paragraphs we finally had success with science this week.  After weeks of projects not going quite right we finally had success.  I’ve been doing a lot of rereading my post on what to do when science doesn’t go right to encourage myself.  It also helped us catch up on our CKE Earth and Space (affiliate link) activities.

a happy life

In general bits of fun news.  I took Superman out for lunch and we had a fun time, he played with photo editting on my phone with silly captions.  We had new friends join us for gaming, who also happen to be a homeschooling family that we saw at the boys’ chess club, that was fun.  Princess is having lots of fun in her dance class, and being silly there.  The kids have rediscovered the fun of playing in the wagon.  Mac had decided to take up chess (though how he thinks he’ll move the pieces with his paws, I don’t know), and I saw a possum in our backyard eating Mac’s food.


I’m gonna link up over at Homegrown Learners

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