Monday, February 28, 2011

The Simple Quilt for My SimplyJen

"Jenbug's Ladybugs"

   Of the many quilts I have made, few of them still grace my home. One precious quilt still within our walls is delightfully called "Jenbug's Ladybugs". We all know every quilt has a story, and this one certainly has one all its own.
   This teen inherited my love of fabrics. She sees the rows of color and print; her heart starts racing; her mind begins to swirl with patterns and plans- ideas and action. This quilt was born in such a flurry. Designed by Simplyjen, herself, with particular attention to the way the quilt should drape her bed (farther down the sides and foot than traditional quilts).
   Starting with the ladybug print (in her very favorite colors), she carefully measured simple boarders to size and pieced them log cabin style. She did the figuring, cutting and piecing on her own-being sure it fit the bed just right. When it came time for putting the top, bat, and back together the whole group pitched in.
   The living room floor in front of the fireplace was swept clean as the backing, batting and top were carefully placed together and pin basted by all the farmkids and myself. As we worked and smoothed the pieces, pinned and basted every few inches..the chatter drifted to quilts gone by; ones we loved and gave lovingly. Basting is a long and often tedious task, but none of the teens wanted to do the quilting.
   It was decided that the quilt would be done by me; but with the machine- not by hand. She designed the quilting layout: wandering stipples all around the ladybug panel with straight lined quilting on the outer boarders. So it began.
   Two days glued to the machine produced a beautiful result: a quilt made to her specifications. The stippling made the ladybugs look as if they were scurrying about a grassy lawn and the boarders echoed a nice frame for the busy scene. Bound in the front-to-back fashion, the quilt was washed and dried- a perfect fit for her bed.
   There you have it...Simplyjen and her unique, one of a kind, all her own design quilt.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

It Is Sunday...

The Destitution of Service

                             "Though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."
                                                              2 Corinthians 12:15

   Natural love expects some return, but Paul says- I do not care whether you love me or not, I am willing to destitute myself completely, not merely for your sakes, but that I may get you to God. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor." Paul's idea of service is exactly along that line- I do not care with what extravagance I spend myself, and I will do it gladly. It was a joyful thing to Paul.
   The ecclesiastical idea of a servant of God is not Jesus Christ's idea. His idea is that we serve Him by being the servants of other men. Jesus Christ our-socialists the socialists. He says that in His Kingdom he that is greatest shall be the servant of all. The real test of the saint is not preaching the gospel, but washing disciples' feet, that is, doing the things that do not count in the actual estimate of men but count everything in the estimate of God. Paul delighted to spend himself out for God's interests in other people, and he did not care what it cost. We come in with our economical notions- "Suppose God wants me to go there- what about the salary? What about the climate? How shall I be looked after? A man must consider these things." All that is an indication that we are serving God with reserve. Paul focuses Jesus Christ's idea of a New Testament saint in his life, not one who proclaims the gospel merely, but one who becomes broken bread and poured-out wine in the hands of Jesus Christ for other lives.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Simply Saturday

Daffodils in the sunshine.

   Yellow and white daffodils dance in the breeze as cardinals chirp and chatter at the feeder outside my window. In this warm, sunny Saturday morning there is so much that needs to be done and yet I linger here by the window soaking up the sights and sounds of spring.
   I am gathering my seeds and plans intending to get some much needed planting done, but so many things are calling my name. Passing the sewing table my eyes wander to the stack of pajama bottoms we cut out early this week; they need to be stitched together. This project slipped to the back burner when one of my farmgirls succumbed to the flu this week; I didn't want to run the machine while she was resting nearby.+
   Wandering to the greenhouse I spritz the seedlings and pull a few weeds; the greens are growing so rapidly here in the heat- better eat them faster! As I stir the compost bin my mind wanders over the plans for this area; peppers, carrots, beans and a few lettuces, maybe. Oh, I can't wait to plant them.
   Teens and I gather the gleanings from the stalls and coops; they will be spread over garden beds to replenish nutrients before we plant. Stopping a moment my heart marvels at how big our turkeys have grown and how small our new chicks are; what must have made God create such things? Gathering the eggs, laying fresh hay, our conversation turns to upcoming kidding and how big Willow is looking these days.
   Ah, now I pick up the seeds and head to the the rows already prepared and waiting..eager to help us grow and provide. A few remaining greens and mangles are picked; they are a bit tough so they go over the fence to eager waiting creatures..treats are wonderful! Now it's time...pull back the covering of leaves and set some seeds in the ground..and watch and wait...on this simple, simple Saturday.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Farm Focus Friday....New Babies!

   The big brooder was lined with soft covered shavings and warmed to just the right temperature. Feed pans and water containers were scrubbed clean and filled in anticipation of their arrival. Everything made ready for such an event; excitement in the air!
   One hundred cornish cross chicks were picked up from our local fairgrounds in preparation for our upcomming county fair. A 4-H project the whole family gets involved in and benefits from. Routine feedings, cleanings, clippings and culling require all hands on deck, or coop. Everything for the next six weeks revolves around the meat pen and their needs.
   All warm in their brooder chirping and pecking, the new farm babies are making themselves quite at home. Today we work to keep their brooder temperature steady in the rising Texas heat. We will all take turns watching them peek and peep, chirp and scratch..enjoying their silly antics. Fun and feathers all around..there are new babies on the farm!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Educating....The Question of Physical Education

   Once the decision to homeschool became clear, other decisions presented themselves. One question that needed answered was the question of physical education.
    Many homeschool families I spoke to when I was getting started chose to skip this aspect of learning not desireing the "superstar" or the "athlete" mentality often associated with sports. I have to agree that many families take sports to unrealistic or unhealthy levels, but not all of them do. With this in mind, we set out to find a way to make physical education a fun and encouraging part of our home education.
   Despite the negative associations many conservatives have with sports, physical education has many benefits that need consideration. Providing an energy outlet while teaching coordination, cooperation and teamwork, physical education give our kids a positive outlet for natural desires of activity. Looking further at "P.E." we see that while it has value and purpose, it does not need to be an expensive endeavor. It doesn't even need to be a conventional "sport".
   Many home school groups and co-ops offer organized sport groups for little cost, if any. Local recreation centers and YMCA's not only offer sports programs, but swimming, gymnastics/cheer and  dance or martial arts activities. While these are excellent, they may not fit all families or all children. These opportunities fit our family for a short time, but were not a long term/all time solution to our P.E. classes.
   Physical edcuation does not have to be an organzied sport, it can be as simple as riding a bike, jumping on the trampoline..a nature walk or yoga. Sometimes our physical education revolved around one of our children's physical therapy needs- or one's interest in horse riding. In our home we decided to try to expose our kids to various areas of interest and cull the ones that didn't spark a desire, but nurture (within reason) ones that grew.
   For our family, physical education has taken many forms over the years..but it has always managed to accomplish our goal: to raise healthy, active children to grown into healthy, active adults. Our beginnings were simple and inexpensive, and they changed over the years as we all grew. I am grateful for the fun and memories we made in our "P.E." classes- wouldn't change it at all.
   How does your family answer the question of physical education?


* Our current PE schedule:
   -the senior: equestrian (training/riding)/self-defense
   -the sophmore: equestrian (therapy based)/self-defense
   -the 8th grader: mixed martial arts

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Walk With Me Wednesday.....Through Signs of Spring

   Leaves crunching beneath my garden clogs as I walk the pathway between the rows. Overhead a woodpecker hammers the old pine nearby. The swoosh of hoe and trowel stir the soil filling my senses with the hearty fragrance of earth. Breathing deep from cultivating the empty rows, I stand to stretch as a bright butterfly flutters past me. Here I work through signs of spring.
   Thirsty from my labors, I stroll by the pen and tussle Hadassah's ears; Patch is sunning on a blanket of new grass. My eyes fall on newly opened daffodils near the shoots of green that will be daylillies before long. Seeing this pretty little sight, I wander on to the tea garden to finds hyacinths in purples and pinks poking through the heavy mulch covering on their beds. Here I stroll through signs of spring.
   Refreshed by cool well water, I yield to Hadassah's plea and gather the leash in my hand. Her excitement builds as we head through the gate briskly walking; nose held high, tail wagging. A hearty breeze brushes over us as we pass swaying trees budding out in green. Neighboring pastures are swaying like wind on the sea and geese are waddling through the marshy bank of the little pond. Hadassah urges me hurry- there is so much to see, so many scents to sniff, so many signs of spring.
   Back home the family heads to the barn where waiting livestock anxiously waits for evening meals. Fresh earthy fragrances tickle our noses as beasts munch on grain and fodder. Running our hands over their coats loose hair flies free- another sign of spring.
   Garden tools are stored away; the barn is closed and the greenhouse closed for the night. As we head to the house for the evening meal, our conversations turn to the events of the day--to all the signs of spring.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Garden Preparations

Warm weather stirs the garden bug in us; time to turn some soil!

We fired up the old tractor to work this section of garden.

   As the sun rose over the little homestead this weekend, we gathered our cultivating tools for some serious turnover. Our pasture garden still has kale, chard, onions and garlic heads, but several areas were open for preparations. In an effort to cut our till time, we simply covered our unplanted (or already harvested) areas of garden with a heavy layer of leaves. To prepare these areas we raked the leaves to the side, ran a cultivator over the row--ready to go.
   The tea and herb garden were easy to prepare with the heavy mulch method, however, the back garden section near our greenhouse was left to rest over winter. Not having prepared it with mulch, we used the tractor and tiller to turn the soil. This will make it easier to "hill up" the rows before planting and covering with a heavy mulch.
  Our greenhouse is currently nurturing seedlings, potted herbs, and a few winter greens (planted there incase the frost killed the others). A gentle dose of fertilizer and a good watering was all that we needed there.
   All in all it seems we had some very productive garden, let's get that last frost done so we can plant!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Farmhouse Cooking.......Granola Bars

fresh from the oven
granola bars
   Over the years I have come to realize that active kids eat alot; active teens eat even more! In an effort to improve the quality of the food we eat, handle food allergies, and blood sugar issues, most of our foods are made by hand. One of our kids' favorite snacks has always been granola bars; not the sugary junk found on super market shelves, but real oats and honey- hand made ones.
   Granola bars lend themselves to so many unique combinations of fruits, nuts and grains. With so much room for creativity all the various tastebuds in the family are easily satisfied. Our home has a few standards we love to keep on hand: peanut butter chocolate chip, and almond cranberry-chip.

Farmhouse Granola Bars

1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
4 Tablespoons flax meal
6 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
**1/2 cup chopped almonds
**1/2 cup dried cranberries

** optional variations

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl, being sure everything is well coated. In a lightly oiled baking sheet, spread the oat mixture evenly. Bake the bars for twenty minutes. Score the bars when they come out of the oven, allowing them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

   Lightly crunchy and just sweet enough, these granola bars are a great pick-me-up between classes or after a hard days work (or play). I make these weekly, sometimes twice a week depending upon our schedule. Now, give these yummy snacks a try!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

It Is Sunday.....

The Initiative Against Dreaming

"Arise, let us go hence."
John 14:31

   Dreaming about a thing in order to do it properly is right; but dreaming about it when we should be doing it is wrong. After Our lord had said those wonderful things to His disciples, we might have expected that He would tell them to go away and meditate over them all; but Our Lord never allowed "mooning." When we are getting into contact with God in order to find out what He wants, dreaming is right; but when  we are inclined to spend our time in dreaming over what we have been told to do, it is a bad thing and God's blessing is never on it. God's initiative is always in the nature of a stab against this kind of dreaming, the stab that bids us" neither sit nor stand but go."
   If we are quietly waiting before God and He has said-"Come ye yourselves apart," then that is meditation before God in order to get at the line He wants; but always beware of giving over to mere dreaming when once God has spoken. Leave Him to be the source of all your dreams and joys and delights, and go out and obey what He has said. If you are in love, you do not sit down and dream about the one you love all the time, you go and do something for him; and that is what Jesus Christ expects us to do. Dreaming after God had spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him.

My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Broken-Hearted Riders

   Yesterday horses and tack were unloaded; riders gathered eagerly anitcipating their turn in the arena. Before the riders got their moment to shine, a fire broke out in the Astrodome causing the entire Top Hands Rodeo to be cancelled.
   While safety is always a priority, hearts are still broken at the announcement of a cancelled show. To give our precious kids a chance to get their moment in the arena, Leap of Faith will host their own "rodeo event" at their barn today.
   So, today, we encourage and cheer on our wonderful riders as they show their stuff in their home arena. We pray they will have a great day; a great ride; and a moment in the sun.

To read more about the events at the Astrodome, click on:


Friday, February 18, 2011

Scaife Family Farm Proudly Supports Top Hands Rodeo!

image from photobucket

   It's that time again. Farm kids are washing horses and cleaning tack; loading trailers and roundin' up all their little cowpokes; it's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Top Hands event. Rodeo competitions geared toward riders of all levels of physical challenges take place this weekend.
   Our local YMCA hosts the equine therapy program "Leap of Faith" and our family is honored to support and assist in this inspiring program. Our farmgirls give their time and hearts helping precious children with various needs in equine assisted therapy sessions. In addition to their regular therapy, some of the riders participate in Special Olympics and the Top Hands Rodeo.
   So this weekend, pray for our staff, volunteers, parents and participants as they show off all their hard work. If you would like to know more about Top Hands, or would like to see updates of the show, click on:
   Load 'em up and move 'em out--it's rodeo time!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Memories Making with Dough and Sauce

the eating started before we could snap a photo

   I can't remember how it all began or where it seems to have started, but my family has had a deep connection to pizza making gatherings as far back as I can remember. When I was a girl, still at home with my parents, pizza gatherings came regularly in the form of extended family gatherings at my grandparents' home just up the road from here.
   A weekend ritual; each had their place in the pizza making line up. My cousin and I (nearly the same age) always shaped the dough. We chatted and laughed as our hands worked the lump into every inch of the baking sheets; getting it ready for the toppings our mothers and grandmother would add to it. Hot, cheesy pizza was eaten over the chatter of family gathered around the big table covered with my grandmother's embroidered table cloth.
   My cousin and I would slip off to the creek after dinner to catch minnows and wade the cold waters before dark fell on the woods.Off alone, we shared our stories of interests, life and activities- we were close back then. Night would fall; games were pulled from the closet and played around that same big table with great rivalry- the competitive spirit running deep. Those days seem so long ago.

   Now, in my own home, pizza making nights are shared with many who come and go through our doors. Extended family, friends even our past foster children loved gathering around lumps of dough and pots of sauce sharing our lives as our hands worked together forming the meal. No special occasion is needed; no fancy recipes; just hands and hearts and a lump of dough.
   This past weekend, we revisited the pizza making gathering as my parents came to visit. All around the farm table.. dough and sauce, toppings and tasting...chatter about our projects and plans and days gone by. We teased about seasonings and who doesn't like mushrooms..whether there was enough cheese on top or not...about upcoming graduations and teens learning to drive. We made memories together- again.

   One day the torch will pass and it will be up to my farm kids to carry on the tradition. We will gather around their kitchen with dough and sauce; with their families and friends. Laughter and love will continue as we make memories with dough and sauce.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Way to Go Farmboy!!

Farmboy earns his stripes
   Just look at that mixed martial arts student; dressed for success and making progress. Last night our youngest teen was awarded four stripes representing his commitment and his skill levels as a new mixed martial arts student...we are so proud.

look at those stripes

   After only a few months, our farmboy has been making great progress in his new discipline and it shows in other places as well. Focus and determination have greatly improved in the classroom as well as on the mats. I greatly appreciate the coaches who work with our boy to train them in respect, self-control, and self-discipline.
   As for the farmboy...keep up the good work..way to go!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Farmgirl Bakes a Cake

   Our farmgirl took on the task of making a cake for my parents' recent visit. Not just any cake, mind you, it had to be different from all the other cakes we have shared over the years. Pondering a wandering she posed the question- what is their favorite treat? Well, they always loved Oreo cookies. Seems we recall those cookies were always on hand at their
   With careful planning and skill, simplyjen devised a plan. Using her favorite recipe for a dark chocolate two layer cake, a cream cheese filling to which she stirred in crushed Oreos, and a buttery cream cheese frosting- a cake was created. To give it outer decor, she topped the cake with crushed cookies and a few whole ones.
    Not only was her cake beautiful, it was delicious! Moist and tender inside, the creamy cookies filling added a neat favor and texture. The outer frosting was creamy and sweet with cookie sprinkles giving it appearance and taste.
   All we can say is- way to go girl! Oh, the yummy happenings when a farmgirl bakes a cake.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

   Happy Valentine's Day to all of you, but most especially to my precious family. Things have been rather hectic and stressful around the farm these past few weeks; raising teens is hard; night shift for dad is hard; highschool and college-hard; a mom with a nasty migraine-harder!
   So here's to you,  my teens, my husband, my extended family--I love you. Even when your difficult, not here when I want you to be, far away, or making up your own mind and it doesn't line up with mine- I love you!
   Have a sweet day with your loved ones!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

It Is Sunday.....

The Devotion of Hearing

                                                       "Speak, for Thy servant heareth."
                                                                     1 Samuel 3:10

   Because I have listened definitely to one thing from God, it does not follow that I will listen to everything He says. The way in which I show God that I neither love nor respect Him is by the obtuseness of my heart and mind towards what He says. If I love my friend, I intuitively detect what he wants, and Jesus says, "Ye are My friends." Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord's this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not consciously have disobeyed it. But most of us show such disrespect to God that we do not even hear what He says; He might never have spoken.
   The destiny of my spiritual life is such identification with Jesus Christ that I always hear God, and I know that God always hears me (John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Chris I hear God, by the devotion of hearing all the time. A lily,or a tree, or a servant of God, may convey God's message to me. What hinders me from hearing is that I am taken up with other things. It is not that I will not hear God, but I am not devoted in the right place. I am devoted to things, to service, to convictions, and God may say what He likes but I do not hear Him. The child attitude is always, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." If I have not cultivated this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God's voice at certain times; at other times I am taken up with things-things which I say I must do, and I become deaf to Him, I am not living the life of a child. Have I heard God' voice today/

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, February 12, 2011


today, she will play
Today we will:

*do chores, and do them again
*go to mixed martial art class and push ourselves to the limit
*spend time with special needs riders and their favorite horses
*hand make pizza dough then fuss over which toppings to put on them
*share a unique cake creation our farmgirl whipped up yesterday- it looks amazing
*gather around the farmhouse table with family from out of town
*share some memories and make some new ones

Today we spend the day with my parents before they head back home. We will laugh and cry and make plans for their next trip. Today...


Friday, February 11, 2011

Farm Focus Friday....Family Coming

   My parents are coming into town for my mother's doctor visit. She recently had a birthday and celebrated their anniversary so we plan to gather with them this weekend. With our recent crazy weather, the housekeeping has taken a back seat to winter maintenance and classwork; time to get it done!
   As we gather, we plan to gather in the farm kitchen for a pizza making afternoon-fun, fun! Add a tossed salad and a delicious chocolate cake and we have a yummy home cooked meal. No doubt there will be stories shared of past pizza making events, other gatherings we have had; silly memories from days gone by. It will be a good visit.
   I have alot to do and today it won't be easy; I messed up my hand. Strange how things happen. Feeding my hens, my hand got caught in the metal feed container. All of the knuckles on my right hand are badly scraped up and one finger has swollen considerably. Initially I thought it could be broken, but now it seems it is only a deep bruise and a bad scrape. Needless to say, housekeeping is going to be difficult.
   No time like the present- we need to get things started. I'll gather the teens to assist- before they head off to work- and get the farm ready; family is coming.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Farmhouse Cooking.....Carmel Popcorn- Our Snow Day Tradition

carmel popcorn by the fire

   Sitting by the fire with your warm flannels on- our perfect end to a blustery cold day. With grand rarity our region of the south had snow flurries and twenty degree weather yesterday. As is our family tradition, I made a big bowl of yummy, sticky goodness: carmel popcorn.
   Needing only a few on-hand ingredients, carmel popcorn is really fun to make with kids of any age (adults love it, too). Gathering in the farm kitchen, each one has their task. The younger farmkids pop the popcorn and take care to pick out any hulls. The older farmgirl and I mix and stir the gooey carmel. With all hands on deck, the carmel and the corn are tossed together and spread on greased baking sheets to cool- if you can resist them long enough.

Farmhouse Carmel Popcorn

1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups popped corn

   In a saucepan stir together the sugar, syrup and butter. Over medium heat, bring to a boil and keep it there for three minutes. As you remove the carmel from the heat stir in the vanilla before drizzling over the popped corn (you will want the biggest bowl you have to mix the two or do it in batches). Once your corn is sufficiently coated with carmel (work quickly) turn it onto a lightly greased baking sheet and spread it out a bit to cool. Left-overs can be stored in an air tight container or plastic bag.

   Let me share a mother always made carmel corn but added two cups of roasted peanuts and called them Cracker Jacks. My grandmothers made them using white sugar; we shaped those into popcorn balls known also as Snowballs. Being a coffee nut, myself, we made them one year with a teaspoon of coffee granules and they were wonderful!
   No matter what you stir in or what you call them, carmel popped corn is a delicious treat made even more special when shared with loved ones. So gather your family together, pop some corn, and make some memories tonight.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Walk With Me Wednesday....As Darkness Falls

   As darkness falls on our little farmstead, dishes are washed in the old kitchen sink. The teens are chatting as food is put away and the big farm table is scrubbed clean. Getting the coffee pot set for morning, a farm girl puts the kettle on for some warm peppermint tea.
   We all settle into our comfy spots around the warm, cozy fireplace. One the farm girls, with books in hand, are reviewing their assignments for tomorrow's classes as the farm boy shares tidbits from his current  reading selection- a new book about survival skills. My hands find their way to the quilt- not yet finished. The needle swishes through the layers of fabric while quiet falls over us.
   Embers glow and sparks crackle bringing warmth and calm to our senses. Farm papa calls to tell us goodnight; he will work long into the wee hours. After our call ends, the oldest farm girl picks up our evening devotional reading. Sitting nearest the light- soft and dim- she reads calm and steady of our Lord's call to service. Moments of discussion lend to goodnight hugs- extra blankets are carried up the stairs to ensure warmth during the long cold night.
   Alone I sit with only my thoughts; the wind howls at the window; the fire crackles in its place. Quiet contemplation: of today's events, of conversations we had, of the stirring devotion we read. My hands fall still, my heart at peace as darkness falls on the farm.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Educating....Introducing Phonics

A is for Apple
   In our house, reading was always a key part of our day. With this already in practice, sparking an interest in phonics came through their desire to start reading for themselves. A few simple household items and a little creativity phonetics became a part of our kinder-years routine.
   Gathering a set of flashcards (we used ABEKA) we start with the soft vowel sounds. My desire in teaching is to engage all of the student: sight, sound, touch, action. Saying the vowel's name, its sound, tracing its shape introduces the letter. To engage movement, activities were chosen giving way to playful, interactive learning.

Some items we used in phonics:

1. Dry erase board: drawing pictures with the letter written on them, the student identified the letter, said the name/sound and erased the letter.
    *example, underwater adventure: draw ocean waves; beneath the waves draw simple images (fish, plant life, starfish, etc.) letters being studied are on the images; the student collects underwater "fish or plants" by erasing them when correctly identifying the letter or sound or such.

2. A Tree: this was a poster of a tree shape. I added various shapes (related to the season i.e. apples, acorns, leaves) with letters on the back. Sticky-tack or tape loops works well and is easily removable.

3. Toys: gathering various toys or items with the sound in them (for a: apples, ants (picture or toy), alligator, bag, etc.) listen for the sound as the name of the item is said.

   As we learned a letter, we would add new ones each day; always reviewing the previous. This gradually increased our learning time growing their attention span in the process. For us, learning didn't end when the "class time" was over- keeping our eyes open for "teaching moments", we found our sounds all around us.
   The early foundations in phonics has been a vital key to raising a family of readers. Many programs and curriculum are available to assist parents in this endeavor. Personally, we used ABEKA curriculum for most of our home school education. No curriculum is perfect nor is it complete. A little time and effort added to their ideas and teaching aids made our introduction to phonics not only successful, but memorable as well.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Farmhouse Finds

a colorful handmade quilt

    Warm weather finally graced our little farmstead this weekend. After many days of rain and ice- weather not typical for our area- the warm sunshine was welcoming and energizing.
   Driven outside by the delightful weather, we took this opportunity to begin tackling a rather daunting project: cleaning the big barn/work shop.
   Digging through boxes and bags- many still in storage after one summer's string of damaging storms- not the most favored job for anyone.
   Yet, as we all know, sometimes the best things are found in the most mundane places while doing the most mundane tasks.

a bit more fade, but in fair condition

   Back in the corner amidst boxes, tools and cobwebs- an old trunk was uncovered. My husband's memory fondly recalls the old wooden trunk originally belonging to his grandfather, whom he loved dearly. 
   Over time the trunk came to belong to my husband's parents- at which time his father had it refinished. The strong scent of the varnish was always quite overwhelming, so the trunk was rarely used for anything important.
   After my father-in-law's passing, the trunk came to reside with us. During the damaging storms it was stored away in the barn/work shop and forgotten- until today.

the old trunk, now residing in our farm boy's room

   Opening the old wooden trunk, the strong yet familiar scent of varnish graced our memories. Lifting the upper compartment a discovery was made: old family quilts.
   Contacting my mother-in-law, it seems the quilts were left there since they were only used to move furniture-she knew they were there and did not want them back since she had several old family quilts which were in better condition than these.
   It felt like a holiday- opening each one; seeing the pattern and design of each one. Simplicity born of necessity; the quilts are quite plain- sporting a few stains and tares.
   The kids gathered around the clothesline as my husband and I hung them out (both to air them and to view them). Dazzled by their simple charm, they asked us to determine their history. So we did.
   Recognizing some of the quilting, I contacted my mother-in-law for more details and clarity. It seems these quilts were most likely pieced by my husband's great-grandmother lovingly called "Moony". His grandmother as well as one of his aunts would have most likely been the ones assisting with the assembly and actual quilting; primarily done by a machine "Papa Kelly" had rigged up to run on a train track.
   This quilting was the key for me because this story has been shared in my home several times: you see, I inherited the frame, the tracks, and the antique Singer sewing machine that quilted these quilts.
   Plenty of cleaning was done, but the best part of the day was standing at the kitchen sink seeing my beautiful farmhouse finds gently swaying in the afternoon breeze.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

It Is Sunday

Are You Ready to Be Offered?

"I am already being poured out as a drink offering"
2 Timothy 4:6

   I am ready to be offered. "It is a transaction of will, not of sentiment. Tell God you are ready to be offered; then let the consequences be what they may, there is no strand of complaint now, no matter what God chooses. God puts you through the crisis in private, no one person can help another. Externally the life may be the same; the difference is in will. Go through the crisis in will, then when it comes externally there will be no thought of the cost. If you do not transact in will with God along this line, you will end in awakening sympathy for yourself.
   "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.: The altar means fire- burning and purification and insulation for one purpose only,the destruction of every affinity that God has not started and of every attachment that is not an attachment in God. You do not destroy it, God does; you bind the sacrifice to the horns of the altar; and see that you do not give way to self-pity when the fire begins. After this way of fire, there is nothing that oppresses or depresses. When the crisis arises, you realize that things cannot tough you as they used to do. What is your way of fire?
   Tell God you are ready to be offered, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Visions of a Winter Storm

the icy driveway

ice on the bare pasture ground

frosted leaves in the garden path

glistening cover in the herb garden

the birdbath- frozen solid

chilly reflections

sparkling rose bushes

ice on the eves

ice lights?

winter decoration

even in the poultry house

Friday, February 4, 2011

Frost on the Farm

   Morning light streaks across the sky filtering through the trees as they sway. Glistening there in the early morning light the beautiful gift of frost on the farm. Crunching beneath our foot steps; cracking under hooves and feet- the icy sounds as the farm animals stir from their stalls. Hens rush forth in a flutter stirring the crunchy ground as Willow is wary of the unusual texture of the ground beneath her.
   The garden is painted in frosty wonder; white lace on deep green. Under the frost cloth greens still thrive, now tasting sweeter with the touch of icy air. Rare and unique, precious it seems- the patterns and pictures in the frost on the farm. Dustings of feather light sparkles grace the fences and cover the picnic table like spun sugar. The tractor sits in glistening light beside the greenhouse in the glittery field; patiently waiting for plowing to resume.
   The only winter we ever see; a striking sight- here in the deep south. Today we marvel at the lacy artwork drawn by the hand of God in the frost on the farm.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Walk With Me Wednesday.....As the Sun Fades

   Hadassah and I return from our chilly afternoon walk; damp and cold, the walk has done us good. She heads to her warm shelter after a romp with Patch- his arthritis kept him in today. Not in the mood for her antics, he sulks off to curl up under the tree finding the driest patch of ground left in the yard.
   Gazing across the farm yard I am grateful for all the work we accomplished before the winter storm came yesterday. Clean stalls give warmth and comfort to the chilled livestock. Roosters crow drawing my attention to the coop; lack of sunlight today means we let them free range early. They rush the gate with eager anticipation; they flutter their wings and ruffle their feathers cackling and calling to one another.
   On my way back to the house, a ruckus in the turkey house catches my attention. Stepping into their warm pen, it is clear they are fine- attention is what they are craving. Eyeing each other, they gobble and cluck as I walk on toward the house.
   Hand work and homework keep hands and minds busy on this cold afternoon. Gentle chatter about dinner plans and how cold our toes are randomly breaks the quiet. Hearty vegetable and beef soup is decided upon; maybe some biscuits, too. One by one we make our way to the kitchen to chat and chop over supper preparations.
   As the sun starts to dip in the sky and supper settles into a simmer, jackets and boots are gathered. Opening the door our barnyard erupts in a chorus of sounds; a braying donkey, bleating goats, hens and their roosters call as turkeys gobble over the barking of hungry dogs. Evening chores are done in the cold grey as the sun fades.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Educating....Count with Me

   In my home, for what ever reason, counting and math skills has always been our first education item of the day. Engaging their minds with movement, we counted as we: clapped our hands, did jumping jacks, hopped on one foot- you get the picture. Counting started our home school day with the realization that God is a God of order as is evidenced in numbers and nature. Yet, how do we get them going?
   My conviction in teaching has always been to teach the way they learn and keep it real...what is the purpose? In order to show purpose in counting the kinders need to see the meaning of the counting: what it stands for. My student my recognize the number five, but does she know what it stands for- what it represents? The number five stands for five fish, or five apples, five children or balls or five different items together in a box. As my children learned to count, we also learned what the numbers represented.

Ten ways I taught counting concepts:

1. Flash cards: these are invaluable! Numbers on front, dots on back- in order or mixed  up, the cards were part of every lesson and stored neatly in their pencil box.

2. Flannel board: again- invaluable! Put shapes on the board- they count them, match the number- switch it around by giving them a card and they add the amount of shapes.

3. Manipulates: buttons, beans, pennies, foam shapes, sea shells, farm animals- the possibilities are endless. Using the same basic pattern above, cards and manipulatives work together for active learning.

4. Movement: hop, step, clap. When we are having a wiggly day, movement engages that energy in a positive learning environment. A game of Mother May I works wonders on energetic learners.

5. Hidden treasures: a box of packing peanuts became a counting game when my kids stuck their hands in the "ice" and "dug out" different hidden items I had placed numbers or directions on (example, take five steps, count to three hopping on one foot)

6. Play store: pantry items with "prices" and simple strips of green "money" become a game and a lesson.

7. Feed the animals: stuffed animals with numbers on their tummies need the right amount of "food" (cheerios or goldfish are great). Be creative!

8. Dominoes: count the dots and find the matching flash card- my kids loved this.

9. Games: Uno and Go-Fish are great to start with. They also introduce the concept of taking turns and good sportsmanship.

10. Life: it's amazing how much counting shows up in our daily routine; setting the table, picking up the toys, sliding on the slide.

   Imagination and creativity flow naturally in the heart of the kinder years. Connecting those hearts with creative and interactive learning sparks a desire for knowledge. It always amazed me how long my kids could sit still and "study" when our classes were filled with interactive learning activities.
   We are far from those simple days of counting concepts, but the foundation remains. Lessons taught in creative interaction have stuck with them- often bringing them to reminisce about those early days. Precious are the memories of the days when my little ones would count with me.