Let the Listening, Adding and Learning Begin

This morning we kicked off another year of learning at Starlight School. Aren’t my students cute? We all appreciate the new lunch boxes; in fact, I think I need my very own new lunch box, too.

These from Goodbyn come with dozens and dozens of dishwasher-safe stickers so you can customize and decorate them yourself. What’s more, they stack quite nicely in the refrigerator. One noticeable drawback is their lack of insulation. But here in the frozen tundra, keeping lunch cool usually is not too much of a problem. If you live in a warmer climate, keep this in mind before ordering one yourself.

I was so jazzed about using these that — for the first time ever — I packed the girls’ lunches the night before. How revolutionary!

This completely helps me fight grumpiness around mid-day; my own grumpiness, that is. Some days when we are still deep in the books and the clock ticks ever closer to noon, I really wish I could just send them to the cafeteria for a while! I can’t; but having lunches all ready to go seems like the next best thing for easing my mid-day stress. Of course, this is just Day 1, so maybe I will follow up in a few weeks and let you know if this is still such a grand idea for homeschool moms.

The school room itself finally came together last week. Tah-dah!

Notice the geography theme? And the owls? I am so excited about the owls. We have an owl theme going this year to help us remember some of our key verses. This week’s verse is from Proverbs 1:5 — “Let the wise listen and add to their learning…”

The school room is truly a blessing, and I am very thankful to have the space to keep school books and projects organized. But since the room is in our basement and lacks windows, most days we can only bear to stay down there a few hours before we must come upstairs for air and sunshine and food (for the latter, see lunchbox discussion above).

We had plenty of sunshine and fresh air today. The weather is downright perfect this week! Right after lunch we headed to our favorite park for recess and a few “not” back-to-school photos. The playground equipment at this particular park is scheduled for a major upgrade in a few weeks, and I am feeling a tad bit nostalgic about saying goodbye to the swings, merry-go-round and slides that both my kids have thoroughly adored since before they could walk. Sniff.

Plus, doesn’t the weathered equipment make a nice background for school pictures?

Another favorite feature of the park, besides its massive trees, is the gazebo.

Lots of brides have their pictures taken here, and for a good reason. It offers nice lighting in the afternoon and an array of leading lines to add interest to your photos.

So that’s a quick wrap of our first day of school. Now I gotta run and pack tomorrow’s lunches.

“Not” Back to School — Curriculum Week

It’s August! Whew! I just spent a big chunk of July — and a big chunk of money, it seems — selecting and purchasing books for the upcoming school year.

Since I am the type of person who is motivated by themes, I really do best with unit studies. This year’s theme is “Let the Nations Be Glad” from Psalm 67:4, with a strong world geography undertone.

We are using some parts of the My Father’s World Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum — and some things that I’ve added in — to go around the globe. We’ll “visit” one or more countries in each continent. For each country, we’ll learn about and pray for the people groups who live there, learn about the ecosystems, and learn about one or two missionaries who served there and the biblical virtues they each exemplify. The girls each have passports and flag stickers, and the rumor is they are going to travel hither and yon in an airplane made out of a large cardboard box.

I am most excited to read all the missionary stories — they fascinate me — and to tie in lessons about the biblical virtues these people demonstrated in their lives. And I am eager to learn alongside my children as we peer at various countries with the perspective of a compassionate, biblical worldview.

We will continue to use the NIrV Discoverer’s Bible for Early Readers and some other books that have been on our shelves for a while, but here’s what’s new (or mostly new) to our shelves:


RightStart Math Level D (for 3rd grader)

RightStart Math Level A (for Kindergartener)


Story of the Orchestra : Listen While You Learn about the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! by Robert Levine

Wee Sing Around the World

Language Arts:

A Reason for Handwriting K (for Kindergartener)

Spelling Workout Level C Pupil Edition by Phil Trocki  (for 3rd grader)

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 3 Instructor Guide by Jessie Wise (for 3rd grader)

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1 by Jessie Wise (for Kindergartener; we used Level 2 last year with my second grader)

Writing Strands Level 3  (for 3rd grader)


Hero Tales book series by Dave and Neta Jackson (read aloud)

Pathway Readers Days Go By and More Days Go By (for Kindergartener)

Little Lights (a series of books about missionaries) by Catherine Mackenzie (for Kindergartener)

Ten Girls Who… (a series of books about missionaries and other great women of faith) by Irene Howat (for 3rd grader)

Christian Liberty Nature Readers (book #3 and #4 for 3rd grader)

Foreign Language:

Rosetta Stone Spanish (for 3rd grader)


The Usborne Book of Wild Places: Mountains, Jungles and Deserts  (for both)

Properties of Ecosystems by Answers in Genesis

A Child’s Geography: Explore His Earth by Ann Voskamp (for 3rd grader)

My Father’s World from A to Z Kindergarten (just the units we didn’t tackle last year in pre-K)

Geography Read-Alouds, References and Tools:

Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett with Jill Johnstone

The Illustrated World Atlas by Dr. Alisdair Rogers

A Trip Around the World and Another Trip Around the World (from Carson Dellosa Publishing)

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation

Maps & Globes by Jack Knowlton and Harriet Barton

Geography from A to Z by Jack Knowlton and Harriet Barton

Rand McNally World Atlas

Rand McNally Children’s Illustrated Atlas of the World

Flags of the World: DK Ultimate Sticker Book

Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney


Be sure to check out other homeschoolers’ curriculum plans in the “Not” Back to School Blog Hop going on this month at Heart of the Matter.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

100th Day: Other Lessons

100th Day Signs to Color

Just for fun, I made 100th Day signs and posted them with balloons around the house. I printed a few extras on cardstock, which the girls enjoyed coloring and are using as the cover page for their 100th Day booklets. Click here to download your own copy and have fun with it! Use paint dots, watercolor crayons, scented markers, number stickers or whatever feels extra special.

Handwriting for 1ooth Day

For handwriting on the 100th day, we took a break from the usual practice sheets and used special 100th day handwriting sheets instead.

Click here to download the version for print practice.

Click here to download the version for cursive practice.

Children’s Books

If I were to count 100 days again with a little one, I’d consider using 100 Prayers and 100 Praise Songs God Loves to Hear and 100 Ways to Know God Loves Me, 100 Songs to Love Him Back. I haven’t read them cover to cover, but what I have seen online looks good, and I have been pleased with other books by the same author, Stephen Elkins.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School also looks like a cute picture book for the 100th day, and many, many other books about the 100th day are available.

100th Day Lesson in Counting

100 Days Tally Cup

Since September, Laurel has used a 100-chart, 100 mini popcicle sticks, rubber bands, and a recycled peanut butter jar to tally up to 100.

Each day she added a popcicle stick, re-counted the sticks in the jar, and found the total number on the 100-chart. As the days passed, she grouped the sticks together in bundles of ten and learned to skip count by tens.  

We will continue to use the mini popcicle sticks — also known as tally sticks — as we use the Level A math curriculum from RightStart Math.

One more post on the 100th day is yet to come; check back soon!

100th Day Lesson in Candy Counting

100 Candies Quiz

Can you guess which jar has 100 pieces of candy in it?

I filled these pint-sized canning jars with Hot Tamales and M&Ms; 200 M&Ms fit nicely in one, and 100 Hot Tamalies fit perfectly in the other. For the girls to record their guesses and see if they were correct, this worksheet I created came in handy. (Click here to download the PDF.)

The worksheet includes a small 100 chart to help them count out the exact number of candies in each jar. They LOVED this activity!

I’ll be posting more 100th day lesson ideas and downloads later this week. Stick around!

100th Day Lesson in Measuring

100 Chain

Way back in September we started using these 1- by 9-inch paper strips to make a 100-link paper chain.

Laurel faithfully stapled, day after day, and thrilled at watching the chain grow longer and longer.  After she added the last link on Day 100, we decorated Laurel with the chain.

Linnea, my 2nd grader, helped measure the chain. We used a yard stick, and she came up with the equation 36 X 6 + 15 = 231. 

So the chain was 231 inches long, or 19 ft. 3 inches long. Each of the 100 links was approximately 2 and 1/3 inches long.

Afterwards, Linnea remarked that this was the best-ever math lesson!

During some free time in the afternoon, the girls continued to play creatively with the chain. At one point, one of them was playing guitar and singing made-up songs while the other shaped the chain to form pictures on the floor and danced around inside the picture. The pictures and song lyrics all went together and were quite silly. This was not at all what I envisioned them doing in their free time, but it was a hoot!

More 100th day stuff is yet to come this week, so check back again soon!

100th Day Lesson in Thankfulness

In his prayer to God in Psalm 90, Moses says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Our little homeschool has been numbering days since September, and we recently celebrated my 5-year-old’s 100th day of pre-Kindergarten.

Laurel had been carefully counting and greatly anticipating special math projects and fun activities for the milestone day.   

Since I have been counting to 1,000 myself (inspired by the book One Thousand Gifts), I decided to add a Bible lesson to our 100th day lesson plans. Psalm 100, a favorite of mine, is a psalm for giving thanks and a great one to memorize.

Psalm 100 

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness;

come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.

It is He who made us, and we are His;

We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

and His courts with praise;

give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.

After the girls and I read Psalm 100 together, we talked about giving thanks to God and counting the ways He loves us. We discussed the Israelites en route to the Promised Land and how they had not given thanks to God and had not trusted Him, even though He had faithfully provided everything they needed. We discussed how grumbling and complaining displeases God and how thankfulness pleases Him.

We also talked about how long counting to 100 days took. We did count 100 days, but we couldn’t count forever.  Forever is much, much longer than 100 days, and God’s love and faithfulness endures forever. Forever!

I gave the girls this special sheet to help them start counting and giving thanks for 100 gifts from God. (You can download the PDF to use with your children if you click here.)

In Colossians 3:15-17, Paul encourages us to be thankful and to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God with gratitude in our hearts, giving thanks to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. 

We put this idea into practice by singing praises along with Maranatha Music’s “He Hath Made Me Glad” and Chris Tomlin’s “Forever” — the lyrics of both songs include strong ties to Psalm 100.  

Here’s a downloadable version of Psalm 100 to help with memorization. By the way, this week I’ll be posting more photos and downloadable materials from our 100th day, so check back often!

In the meantime, check out these other posts on giving thanks to God.

First Day of School

I goofed. This month I got so busy posting about Laurel’s expressiveness, posting photos on Facebook, posting about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and posting about the apple orchard trip that somehow I skipped blogging about our first day of school!

So without further delay, here are my lovely students at the park on the first day of school.

classy sisters
Linnea turning...
...into a second grader! Gasp!
Laurel taking off...
in Pre-K!

After lots of late-night re-organizing efforts by yours truly, our classroom is no longer unpresentable. Tah-dah!

We — and by that I mean my husband — shortened the school table and purchased new chairs for all three of us. I could not be happier sitting in any other chair. Yes indeed, I am sitting in a child-sized chair. But it is from Pottery Barn, and it fits me better than our dining room chairs, thank-you-very-much. I also booted two little desks out of the room entirely, which frees up a lot of space and makes the entire room more pleasant to occupy.

On the first day, I gave the girls some lovely new picture books by Tasha Tudor, new Ticonderoga pencils, and little round boxes of M&Ms — because doesn’t everyone deserve chocolate on a regular basis?

Oh yeah, I also gave them some of those silicone shape bracelets that are all the rage right now.

You know, because they already had 473 of them…

Pass It On!

God keeps bringing Psalm 145 to my attention lately — a timely reminder to pass on to my children all that I know about the one true God. 

First, as part of our homeschool curriculum this year, I purchased a fabulous new family Bible story book by Starr Meade called The Mighty Acts of God. The author’s note for parents explains that the book gets its name from Psalm 145:4. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”  

Meade goes on to explain that the purpose of telling stories of God’s mighty acts isn’t for entertainment value or good moral examples. The purpose is to make known the wonder of God’s great character. What a great verse Psalm 145:4 is for parents and grandparents! 

One way of declaring God’s mighty acts is by talking about them, and another is by writing about them. Psalm 102:18 says – “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” 

Over Labor Day weekend, our family had the privilege of seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at our local science museum. How amazing to see those ancient words of God that He miraculously preserved in jars inside of caves for two thousand years. What a mighty act of God! And how thankful I am for those men of long ago who obediently and diligently wrote those precious words down on scrolls so that my generation could see them and praise God! 

My daughters also were quite inspired by seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they were eager to create their own scrolls at home. (We just glued parchment paper to wooden dowels to create them.) 

Laurel writes in her scroll.
Linnea uses hieroglyph stamps on her scroll.
We wrap each scroll in felt to help preserve it.
our jar of scrolls

Another way to pass along truths about God is through song. And that’s actually another way God brought Psalm 145 to my attention. While my husband was leading worship music at church a few weeks ago, he found this fantastic song for a Sunday morning offertory. Our very talented friend Mia sang “The Lord is Gracious and Compassionate” beautifully. It’s one of those songs that you can’t help but sing along to, and the words are right from Scripture. Many are right from Psalm 145. Listen to this version from Vineyard Church and you’ll see what I mean: 

Putting Scripture to music usually helps greatly in attempts to memorize it. So when the fall Sunday School classes kicked off at church this week, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that my oldest daughter’s weekly memory verse comes from Psalm 145. It’s verse 9: “The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” She came home from class with it already memorized, thanks to that song she’d heard over and over!

What’s more, my youngest daughter and I have been studying the seven days of creation in Genesis this past week, so “all He has made” has been at the forefront of my mind. Her memory verse isn’t from Psalm 145, but it dovetails nicely into this message of God’s mighty acts. Luke 18:27 says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Preserving words on paper for two thousand years would be impossible for man, but it was possible with God! 

So, as we dive deep into a busy new school year — teaching the next generation about God — I am thankful for the fresh encouragement in these ancient words of Psalm 145. When I am tempted to be angered by my children’s attitudes or behaviors, I cling to those words “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in love.” Lord, help me respond to my children the way You respond to Yours! 

I am so thankful that God is good to all and compassionate on all He has made. I am thankful that He provides for my needs and watches over me. He is worthy of praise for ever and ever! 

Psalm 145

A psalm of praise. Of David.

 1 [a] I will exalt you, my God the King;
       I will praise your name for ever and ever. 

 2 Every day I will praise you
       and extol your name for ever and ever. 

 3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
       his greatness no one can fathom. 

 4 One generation will commend your works to another;
       they will tell of your mighty acts. 

 5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
       and I will meditate on your wonderful works. [b] 

 6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
       and I will proclaim your great deeds. 

 7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness
       and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 

 8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
       slow to anger and rich in love. 

 9 The LORD is good to all;
       he has compassion on all he has made. 

 10 All you have made will praise you, O LORD;
       your saints will extol you. 

 11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom
       and speak of your might, 

 12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts
       and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 

 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
       and your dominion endures through all generations.
       The LORD is faithful to all his promises
       and loving toward all he has made. [c] 

 14 The LORD upholds all those who fall
       and lifts up all who are bowed down. 

 15 The eyes of all look to you,
       and you give them their food at the proper time. 

 16 You open your hand
       and satisfy the desires of every living thing. 

 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
       and loving toward all he has made. 

 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
       to all who call on him in truth. 

 19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
       he hears their cry and saves them. 

 20 The LORD watches over all who love him,
       but all the wicked he will destroy. 

 21 My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD.
       Let every creature praise his holy name
       for ever and ever. 

By the way, the girls and I have been reading The Mighty Acts of God aloud, and it’s really well done. I highly recommend it.

Expressing Herself

While our oldest daughter has been quiet and reserved since Day 1, our youngest has been, well, much louder and much more expressive. On Day 1 in the nursery at the hospital, one of the nurses told me, “Wow! She’s a pistol!” We spent the next 4+ years fully realizing just what that nurse meant!

If you saw these photos last summer, you know our expressive one makes lots of faces in the backyard. Truth is, she makes lots of faces wherever she roams. Here are some that I caught at the park our first day of school.