Tag Archives: summer activities

A Pig Parade and a Cupcake

This summer, my children participated in our library’s summer reading program. To win all of the prizes, younger kids had to read 80 picture books (that was a lot of books!). Needless to say, we made multiple trips to the library looking for new books to read. Some we read were pretty good, and some were not so good. And two of the books that we read really surprised me. They were A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Micahel Ian Black and Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper.

While I figured A Pig Parade would have be one that the kids would enjoy, it actually turned out to be so much fun for me to read aloud. While it doesn’t tell a story, it does tell you why you shouldn’t try to have a pig parade. Discussing everything from the majorette uniforms to the music  to the floats and balloons, the book offers convincing arguments for avoiding a piggy production. It has some bigger vocabulary words, making it a very entertaining book for older children and adults.

The second book that surprised me was Cupcake. This one features a cupcake that thinks he is very plain. All of his decorated brothers and sisters are quickly chosen (and eaten!), while he is left behind. As I’m reading  along with my kids, I was thinking this was one of those books that was going to be very hard to get through. It was obvious what the moral was going to be, and it seemed so “cheesy” (or rather, “sugar-coated?”), that I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the book. However, we needed to read 80 books, so we kept going.

Well, about half-way through the book, the cupcake meets a candle that is also plain. The candle has the idea of putting different things on the cupcake to dress him up a little.  The things he chooses are so funny — pickles, smelly cheese, even a squirrel! By this time, we are all laughing, and then my daughter guesses what the ending will be — the candle will hop onto the cupcake. But she has guessed incorrectly, and the surprise ending brings even more laughs. No lesson — just fun.

So, if you’re looking for an afternoon read to enjoy with your kids, give a pig and a cupcake a try!

Are You a Rule Follower – Part 2

I walked the long way back from the car, now hot and sweaty, and the ink on my arm had run so much you couldn’t see what it said. I looked at the employee checking people through and said, “Please let me back in.” The security guard laughed, but he stopped when the beeper went off.

“Do you have anything metal on you?” he asked. “Maybe your keys?”

I handed him my keys, then went through the scanner again. And it went off again. I could feel my already-sweaty palms begin to sweat even more.

“It’s probably just not working right,” said the employee. He was going to let me through.

“Anything else?” the guard asked. I gave him my watch and went through again. It beeped again.

“It’s just not working right,” the employee said again. I liked him.

But the guard said, “Anything else?” I gave him the two rings I was wearing. And it beeped again.

The guard looked at me funny. “Do you have anything else on you that’s metal?” My hand moved towards my pocket, and I pulled out…two packages of tuna.

Now, two packages of tuna aren’t much of  a threat to anyone, unless you’re throwing them in frustration.  But I wasn’t throwing them. I was SO embarrassed, all I could do was turn around, drop them in the nearest garbage can, and move quickly through the detector — again. No beep.

“No outside food allowed,” reminded the guard in a pleasant voice. I gave him a little smile, then scooted away as quickly as I could. I knew my face had to be bright red. It sure felt like all the blood had rushed to it.

As I made my way back to the rest of the group, all I could think of was my sister’s words, “I’m a rule-follower.” My, she could really rub it in if she wanted to! And though I’m usually a rule-follower, to save some money I tried to break the rule…and I was caught.

I debated for a while if I should share the story with anyone, particularly my children. But I did, as it was a good lesson for them too.

There are a lot of rules that are easy to “bend”. Driving a little faster than the speed limit, smuggling snacks into a movie theater, and copying songs from someone else’s CD are all “small” infractions that shouldn’t seem to matter. But they do. They are a reflection of character and integrity, two things we want to hang on to.

It was also a good lesson in kindness, as my sister never did gloat. 🙂


Photo by sideshowmom

Are You A Rule-Follower? – Part 1

Last month, we met with my sister and her family for a fun day at a nearby theme park. We had gone to the same park last year and had such a good time,  and this time my kids were excited about sharing the experience with their cousins. I felt confident about navigating through the park and handling the high food prices — that is, until we went through the main gate.

As with many theme parks, the drinks, snacks, and meal deals weren’t deals at all, but we knew that ahead of time. Last year, we took some snacks along with us to save some money, and no one working at the gates commented on them at all (we did buy our drinks there). Because the park had such a family-friendly policy of allowing snacks into the park, I assured my sister we could do it this year as well.

So, before we headed off to the park, we each packed a bag with snacks and a few extra waters. We were ready for a great day.

That is, until we lined up to go through the turnstile. This summer, as the workers  looked through the bags,  if you had any extra drinks or snacks, they told you to throw them away or take them back to your car, at least a thirty minute walk there and back.

“Really?” I said, incredulous. “Take them back?”

“Yes,” the worker repeated. “You can take your water through this time, but the snacks have to go back.”

My sister went through in a different line. The worker there told her she could keep her snacks just this once, but she had to throw her drinks away. We watched as others had to throw away some of their stuff, too.

Shocked and angry about the randomness of it all, we put a few of our snacks in my sister’s bag, and I headed out with the rest. I wanted to put all of my snacks in her bag, but she insisted that she was a rule-follower, and said that we shouldn’t do it. So we’d eat her snacks, drink my water, and make it through the day without having to spend too much on extra food.

Back in the parking lot, I unlocked the car and put the backpack in the van. I stood there a moment, thinking about all of the snacks in there. Included in the stack of snacks were two tuna packs in foil, the kind you would take if you were camping. I had bought them for my husband, as he’s a big guy and granola bars just don’t fill him up. I thought of him, thought of my sister, then put the packs in the pocket of my shorts. No one would even notice.

On the long walk back into the park, I had a lot of time to think about that tuna. Was it the right thing to do? Was it right to break this rule that just didn’t seem fair? What did it say about my character and integrity?  Could we afford $10.00+ hamburgers for everyone? Did my husband really need that tuna?

I decided he did. After all, it was a bad rule. It was not family-friendly, and I had a family to look after.

On the way out of the park, I had my arm stamped, so to return, I had to go through a special entrance. When I approached the gate, I saw one of the workers and a security guard. I held out my arm to show him the stamp. Then I had to pass through the metal detector.

A metal detector…

Fun Things for Summer

Well, this summer will be another one spent finishing up the school year. “But it’s summer!” the kids say. It is, and for that reason, we’re going to try to keep the formal schooling to just a couple hours a day. But we’ll still have time for some summer fun! 😉

Summer movies – Our local theater offers summer kids’ movies twice a week for a dollar per person. While we’ve already seen them all on video, we might still go to one or two for the fun of the theater experience.

Roller Skating – The roller skating rink offers year round “homeschool skate days.” Twice a month, homeschooling students meet to skate together for two hours. We missed the skate days during the school year, so this summer we’ll catch up!

Swimming – In pools, lakes, and rivers, my kids love to swim. Our state park fees are very minimal; for just a couple of dollars admission, we can spend a hot day splashing in the icy cool water.

Reading – Our library offers a reading program for children of all ages. After reading a certain number of books, they receive special prizes, such as ice cream coupons. Yum!

Field Trips – A friend of mine who organizes a field trip group keeps the activities scheduled all summer long. I know blueberry picking is already on the agenda.

Friend Days – Summer is the perfect time to plan for friends! We’re already planning  some themed “get-togethers” this summer (the girls especially love themes).

Scout Activities – With so much to do during the school year, my oldest son doesn’t have a lot of time to work on extra merit badges. Summer affords the perfect opportunity for him to get them done.

House Projects – There the list goes on and on. Besides just cleaning up and cleaning out, we need to give several rooms a fresh coat of paint.

Whew!  Looking at the list, I know we’ll be spending good quality time together — which, as my oldest prepares for 10th grade, is becoming more and more important, as he’ll be leaving for college in just a couple of years.  What will you be doing this summer?

Ending the School Year?

Mid-May seems to be the time of year when a lot of homeschoolers are finishing up the school year and looking ahead to next fall. Our co-op classes finished last week, and because we had company visiting as well, we took the week off of schoolwork. And that’s how our year has gone; when things come up or company comes to visit, we take time off. And it’s during those times we all think, “Homeschooling’s great!”

But then, we have yet to finish up our school year in May. Or June. We usually keep schooling through July, taking time off here and there to travel or spend time with family and friends. And though the kids are moaning a little, I’m still thinking, “Homeschooling’s great!”

Sure, we’re still working on math, reading, and grammar through the summer, but as we do, they’re keeping their minds sharp and prepared to learn. They also have things to work on in the afternoons when it’s too hot to stay outside; instead of playing video games or watching t.v., we’re doing science and history projects. And simple summertime activities, such as planting tomatoes or catching fireflies, take on a whole new meaning when paired with unit studies in botany and entomology.

So even though our school year isn’t ending quite yet, we’ll still enjoy the lazy days of summer. We’ll get up a little later, sip on lemonade during lessons, and play on the slip and slide during break time. We’ll work on house projects and go swimming during free time.  We’ll spend more time hanging out with friends and visiting with family. And when September comes, we’ll be ready to get back to a regular schedule and co-op classes. And I know we’ll all be thinking, “Homeschooling’s great!” 🙂



Photo by PenyWise

Getting Back to School?

Every summer, it seems we have a few subjects to catch up on, and some days we’re more successful than others. By the end of July, my children had completed a number of school days interspersed with swimming, camps, and time with friends and family. August is usually the month we start back, and my plan was to start full-swing this past Monday. But, as sometimes happens with homeschooling, things didn’t go quite as planned.

After a busy weekend, we started our school week by gathering schoolbooks, clearing off desks, and finding supplies. Not the best way to begin, but we started early and by mid-morning everyone was organized and working on lessons. I didn’t give them a full day’s work, but it was enough to get re-acclimated to a school schedule. Everyone finished up shortly after lunch except for my oldest who was still working on math. All-in-all, though, it was a pretty good day.

Tuesday came, and the kids got an earlier start on their work. Most finished before lunch and had some free time before I had to take the girls to their music lesson. Another good day.

Wednesday, however, was much different. With dental appointments and errands to run, we left the house in the morning and didn’t return until suppertime. While my older two children worked on some subjects independently in the car, the younger two didn’t finish any schoolwork. And the remainder of the week appears almost as busy.

Sometimes that happens, though. Sometimes, life comes up and there are things that demand your attention or need to be taken care of right away. But that’s one of the benefits of homeschooling — the flexibility in scheduling as your family works to get it all done. So this week, we’ll have to do school on Saturday — I just haven’t told the kids yet. 😉

A Good Cause

Last week, a friend of mine who heads up a group for field trips and celebrations organized a yard sale for the kids. The children gathered toys, books, household items, and more for the sale. But instead of working the sale for profit, my friend wanted to make it a fundraiser for a worthy cause.

There are so many needs, and so many good causes, but she wanted to find something that would be meaningful to the children and closer to home. I told her about my niece and her husband who are in the process of adopting a baby from Africa, hopefully later this year, and we decided to raise the funds for them. I gave my friend their photo and a letter about their family to post at the sale.

Due to a prior commitment, we weren’t able to be there for most of the sale and could only stop by towards the end. The day was hot, and the crowd was small, but the effort was amazing, as my son would say. Besides gathering items for the sale, families made cupcakes and lemonade and brought bottled water along to sell too. And all this for a family that they didn’t know, all to help bring a little girl to her new home. How neat it was to see the children so excited about doing something totally for the benefit of someone else.

One of the reasons we homeschool is for character education — I want my children to grow up to be honest, compassionate, dependable, generous, responsible adults. Yet often, in the rush of school assignments and activities, it’s easy for me to overlook opportunities for building those character traits. This yard sale was one such opportunity, and, in our busyness, we couldn’t be a part of the actual sale. I thought we’d missed it again.

But as it turned out, my children didn’t miss it after all. As we were driving to the sale, my son asked why their friends would work so hard raising money for their cousin — they didn’t even know her family. We talked about that on the way, and then they saw it for themselves. They saw their friends working; they saw the drinks, the snacks, the items for sale, and the bag of money for their cousin.

They saw love in action — and it was a lesson learned.

Photo by Jane Sawyer

Finishing Those Unfinished Projects

Today was the last day of our writing camp. It began on Monday and ran for two hours each day. By the end, every child had a completed story in a folder, with the folders acting as the cover of their books. They had designed and colored a picture for the front of the folder, as well as created a title page, a dedication page, and an author page. We also included an author photo. They had completed two author’s bookmarks and a painted picture frame which contained a photo of the child holding his or her book.

While most of the children finished everything, a few didn’t complete all of the illustrations for their books. Two of my children who were at the camp ran out of time, and one of them was quite upset. “Don’t worry, ” I told her, “We can finish at home.”

Now comes the tricky part — setting aside time in the very near future to get those books completed all the way, especially during the summer when there are a lot of other things going on. I have a shelf full of my children’s unfinished art pieces, so I know it’s going to be a challenge. If you’re like me and want to help your children finish those unfinished projects, here are some ideas for you (and me!) to try:

  • Get back to the project right away! The longer it goes unfinished, the less likely your child (or you) will want to work on it again.
  • Set aside a particular time — a day, a morning, an afternoon — to work only on the project. Don’t worry about other schoolwork you may have had planned; finishing a project is a lesson in itself.
  • If your student is reluctant to finish it, give him smaller intervals of time to work on it, such as 20 or 30 minutes. Provide him with a timer, so he can see just how much time he has left. Challenge him to get a certain amount completed before the timer goes off.
  • Create a place for your student to work on the project and ONLY that project, such as an extra desk or worktable. That way, if it’s still not completed in one sitting, your child can return to it and easily pick up again where he left off.
  • Provide a reward! When the project’s completed, celebrate by showing it off to family and friends or sharing a special dessert or treat.

Now go get started…and get finished!

Photo by JDurham

Story Starters

This week, I’ve been helping to teach classes at a writing/illustrating camp for kids. We have students ages 6-13, and it’s been a lot of fun. The children have come up with some very imaginative stories!

One of the things we discussed at the camp was how the main character of a story has a problem to overcome. After the students decided on their main character, they had to figure out what the problem was going to be. For those who were having trouble thinking of a story line, we gave them a list of story starters.

The story starters were ideas for stories that the children could build upon. A story starter might be something like:

1. Tommy arrived home from school only to discover his baby brother was now sharing his bedroom.

2. The day before the royal ball, the princess fell from her horse and broke her leg.

3. The pirate captain and his crew were ready to dig for treasure, but they lost the map.

4. Spotty the dog wanted to walk with his owner to the store, but there was a cat sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Spotty was afraid of cats.

5. As Jane and Marvin were having a picnic in the yard, a terrible storm blew in.

You can create more story starters to get your child writing. Just choose a character and a problem, and let the story begin! But, if you need even more ideas, there’s plenty of help online. Below are a couple of sites worth visiting:

  • Scholastic.com has a fun story starter “machine.” Just give the wheel a spin and see what comes up.
  • BookWeekOnline offers some interesting story starters for older kids. The first part of the story is written by a well-known author, but it’s up to the student to finish the adventure.

Your child might write using the story starter, or it might inspire him to develop his own storyline. Either way, story starters are a great way to get kids thinking — and writing!

Photo by kakisky


This past month, we’ve been to the strawberry farm twice for strawberries, once to pick them ourselves and another time just to purchase them. Even though it’s already June, fresh strawberries are still available at the farm and roadside markets. If you have extra berries in your refrigerator or freezer and aren’t quite sure what to do with them, visit the website Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com.

I stumbled upon this clean and easy-to-use site not long ago. It’s a great resource for anyone who loves to cook and loves eating strawberries. Here you’ll find breakfast recipes for smoothies, muffins, jams, waffle toppings, pancakes, and crepes. Click on the “salads” link and you’ll find a number of fruit salad recipes, as well as ones for different types of Jello salads. There’s even a recipe for Strawberry Turkey Pasta Salad!

And, of course, there are dessert recipes listed as well. You’ll find directions for making strawberry cheesecake, strawberry cakes, strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, and strawberry cookies. There are also instructions for strawberry ice cream and strawberry sorbet, as well as strawberry milkshakes and strawberry punch.

Often when I’m in a rush, I find myself preparing the strawberries and making the dishes myself. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just place the strawberries in your refrigerator until you have a little more time. Then, invite your children to come help you. Show them how to rinse the berries, pat them dry, and remove the caps. Choose a recipe you will all enjoy, and take them through the steps in preparing it. Show them how to mix, measure, stir, and blend. You’ll find that even young children like the challenge of following a recipe.

With some strawberries, a little time, and recipes such as those on Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com, not only will you be able to cook delicious food to eat, but you’ll create a learning opportunity as well as make a memory with your children — and all at the same time!