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Writer’s Conference

Late at night, when the rest of the family has gone to bed, I like to settle in at the computer and write for children. I have a file full of stories, poems, and articles, some of which have been published, some of which are still waiting to find the right publisher. Last fall, I attended a writing conference for Christian children’s writers to help me with my writing. Not only did I learn a lot, but I met many wonderful people who were supportive, encouraging, and helpful. The best part, however, was that this conference offered classes for students, so I got to take my two oldest children with me!

I’ve been to writing conferences before, but this one was the most fun, because I could share it with them. Their class was with author Jonathan Friesen, and he instructed them on story structure and ideas. They both came away inspired, as they’re still working on the stories he helped them begin.

At lunch, conference attendees had the opportunity to dine with the speakers. My children and I sat with a couple of other authors. Also at our table sat Suzanne Hadley, the editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Magazine, and Nancy Lohr, editor of JourneyForth Books. Wow! My children were sitting and talking with editors!

And, yes, they did talk. And talk. And talk. They told stories to Ms. Hadley about our life at home, and about how their siblings were faring at home with their dad. Their sister, they said, probably had so many tangles in her hair it was standing up on its own, while their little brother was most likely sitting bug-eyed in front of a computer game. They would laugh and she would laugh. As we talked, I found out Suzanne is the oldest child in a homeschooling family, so I’m sure she understood.

I was very impressed at that luncheon. I was so impressed with Ms. Hadley, who was willing to talk and laugh with my children at this conference that was designed primarily for adults. And I was so impressed with my children, who spoke to this unfamiliar adult with such ease you would think she was part of the family.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to take my children along and to show them what a conference was like. They enjoyed it too, for, as my son mentioned just the other day, “That was so much fun!”

Bartering

I’ve read where many homeschoolers barter for goods or services, and I think it’s a great idea. In fact, I’m one of them!

I teach art lessons to children, and I know how costly lessons can be. Three of our children are involved in music lessons, and although the teachers have given us a very good price, the cost can add up over time. So when parents ask me if I’d like to trade, I understand, and I’m happy to oblige. The barter has always benefited both families.

At one time, I had two art students whose family raised goats. Each week, we traded art lessons for fresh organic milk, something I wouldn’t have been able to afford had I purchased it at the farmer’s market. Now I’m trading lessons for homemade organic bread. The mom who bakes it even grinds her own grain. It’s good for my family and tastes delicious, and it’s something that would be too costly for our grocery budget. It’s a wonderful trade!

I’m also trading a class for a class. One of my daughters spends a couple of hours one day a week at a nearby horse farm, where a friend who works there teaches her all about horses. My daughter feeds them, waters them, cleans the stalls, and learns about the different types of saddles, bridles, and bits. She also has opportunities to ride. In exchange, the friend’s son comes over once a week to practice his reading skills with me.

If you’re on a more limited budget and don’t have the funds for classes for your children, you might want to consider bartering, too. You can trade off household or yard help, childcare, sewing services – whatever you can offer. Don’t be afraid to ask – the worst a teacher can say is “no, thanks,” but you might just receive your “yes!”

I Love You Bigger

When my oldest son was about three years old, we began to play a game called “I Love You Bigger.” If we were taking a walk or driving somewhere in the car, I would start by saying something like, “I love you bigger than a table.”

Then, my son would think of something bigger. “I love you bigger than a tree,” he might say.

It was my turn to think of something bigger. “I love you bigger than a house.”

“I love you bigger than a tall building!”

“I love you bigger than the sky!”

“I love you bigger than the whole world!”

Eventually, we say the biggest thing either of us could think of, and the game would end.

Now I play the game with my youngest, a four-year-old boy. He played the game a little differently, though. He never quite caught on that we were supposed to think of bigger and bigger things; instead, he would say whatever it was he could see at the time. So our game went more like this:

“I love you bigger than a table,” I might say.

“I love you bigger than a leaf,” he would say.

“I love you bigger than a house!” I would say on my turn, trying to get him to think of something larger.

“I love you bigger than a napkin,” he would reply, or “I love you bigger than a book.” I knew I was something special when he loved me bigger than the potty.

Then, just last week, my four-year-old won the game. “I love you bigger than this couch,” I said, as we snuggled together watching a show.

“I love you bigger than you can imagine,” he answered.

I know I’ll hold on to those words forever, because I love him bigger than he can imagine, too.

American Girl Doll Help

Like many homeschooling families, we are on a limited budget, and I try to help stretch our income as far as I can. When both my girls wanted an American Girl doll one Christmas, I was able to purchase two very nice pre-owned dolls off of eBay at a fraction of the retail price. They’ve loved the dolls for just over a year now, and it’s beginning to show.

The Mattel Company (who now produces the dolls) has a doll hospital where you can send your doll for some TLC and repairs. There’s a charge for each repair, however, plus shipping charges each way. Our dolls had a few marks on them and frizzy hair – not quite enough for me to justify the extra expense. So instead I went online and searched for ideas.

I found where several people recommended using Clearasil (or the store brand) for getting rid of ink stains and pen marks on the doll’s plastic skin (not the soft body). We followed the directions, rubbing a little bit onto the stain and then placing the doll in direct light (we used a lamp) for almost the whole day. Imagine our surprise when the stain disappeared – even the permanent marker!

Next I came across a wonderful site called JustMagicDolls.com. The author of this site takes you step by step on how to repair your doll, from brushing the hair correctly to reattaching limbs. Following the steps outlined on the site, my oldest daughter and I washed, conditioned, and steamed her doll’s hair, making it look smooth, shiny, and beautiful again.

Now my daughter plans to open up small “doll hospital” of our own, where she can take care of her friends’ dolls as well. We were both excited — what a great way to serve others! Perhaps one day she’ll even turn it into a small business, learning those life lessons as well.

Colloidal Silver

Living in the country near wooded areas, we often come across poison ivy around our home. Sometimes the children come across it before I do, as was the case when my daughter, then five, broke out with a reaction. What started on her arms soon spread to her chin and cheeks. Not having much experience with poison ivy, I searched the internet for advice and information.
Some of the sites I found recommended using colloidal silver. It’s created by binding silver particles to water with an electric current, forming a natural antibiotic that can be used against infections. The silver disables an enzyme that bacteria, viruses, and fungi need to produce oxygen, in essence suffocating them. I couldn’t find any harmful side effects.
So why hadn’t I heard of it before? Apparently, colloidal silver was a common remedy until the mid-1930s, when it fell out of use. I decided it was worth a try, so I purchased a small bottle at the health food store.
Colloidal silver comes with either a spray tip or a dropper, so I chose the spray. I squirted the silver all over my daughter’s arms and face and told her not to wipe it off at all. We did this several times that day.

When I checked her the next day, the rash had stopped spreading and appeared to be improving; the following day showed even more improvement. By the end of the week, it had cleared up so much that it was difficult to tell she had ever been infected.

Since that time, we’ve found a lot of uses for our little bottle of silver spray. We apply it to minor burns, cuts, and scrapes. We spray it in our mouths when we come down with colds. I’ve even applied it to sores and cuts on our pets, and it works just as well. I read online where others have used it for sinus infections, sore throats, acne, boils, and athlete’s foot.

A word of caution, however: don’t overdo it. Apparently, California resident Paul Karason not only rubbed it on his skin, but he also drank so much of it that it’s turned his skin blue.

Seeing It Through

My second child, now ten, has been so easy to raise – she’s compliant, eager to please, and easy-going. When she has a new interest, she pursues it with a passion. Until this past fall, we had very little to work on regarding character issues. That’s when we discovered she has difficulty seeing things through.

It actually began about two years ago, when she decided she wanted a horse. She was so certain that she even chose to stop taking ballet lessons so the money could be saved for a horse. But purchasing a horse and all we needed to care for it was a big step for us, and we needed to more to be financially ready. In the meantime, I said, how about getting a puppy? We used to have two dogs, but we had to give one away when it kept killing our chickens. Another dog would be fine.

Because it would be a while before we could get a horse, she agreed, putting all her energies into the project. She read about all the different breeds and saved her money for dog toys and treats. When someone offered to give her a dachshund they couldn’t keep, she was thrilled…for about a two weeks.

As the novelty of dog ownership wore off, my daughter began looking again towards a horse. I might have thought that a dog just wasn’t a good choice, except that over the years she’s also tried a kitten, a bird, a hamster, and a guinea pig, all of which she eventually gave up to her siblings. There was a bigger issue here than just finding the right pet.

The struggle with commitment was apparent in her music studies as well. She took piano for a while, but quit as soon as I would let her. She began flute lessons last fall, and now she already wants to quit taking those. What would happen if we bought a horse?

I’m not worried about it anymore. This is an area where she struggles, but it’s also an area that she can improve. We’ve talked about it and decided she can learn to stick with something. She can learn to follow a commitment through to the end, even if things become difficult or uncomfortable. She might whine and beg, but I’ve determined that I won’t let her quit. We see the problem, and we have the time to work on it together. And we’re still saving for that horse.

Bringing back the fun

A couple of weeks ago, I was sorting through a box of old school items, and I found a reading bingo game I made for my oldest boy when he was still very small. Now I have another child learning to read, so I pulled it out, and we’ve played it a few times. She loves it, even though it’s made of scrap pieces of poster board.

Since then, I’ve found several other homemade items from long ago. How clever I used to be! So what happened to my creativity over the past five years or so?

Life happened, and I really am still creative. I made the game when I had just one young elementary student, and I wasn’t concerned with pre-algebra, latin, and essays. But the game was a good reminder: learning can be fun, no matter how old you are. Many board games are good resources – Boggle and Scrabble encourage spelling; Balderdash requires creative writing. Here are some other easy ways I’ve found to make learning more enjoyable:

1. Take a nature walk.
2. Plant some seeds in small containers. Place them on the windowsill and watch as they grow.
3. Go on a money hunt through the house. Count the coins you find.
4. Make supper together.
5. Write a letter or draw a picture and mail it to someone special.
6. At the grocery store, pick out 3 fruits or vegetables you’ve never tried before.
7. Put some objects in a paper bag. Have your children reach in, pick one up and feel it, then guess what it is.
8. Fold five pieces of copy paper in half and staple along the folded edge. Write a story or draw pictures in your homemade book.
9. Put on a play about your history lesson.
10. Using a camcorder, make a newscast about your family’s activities.