Friday, December 26, 2008

HSD 2008 Year in Review

As 2008 draws to a close, so does my year in blogging. I will not have time between now and the first of the year to post again since we will be visiting family next week. Once back home, I have much to prepare for the second half of the school year.

Below is a list of the "Best of HSD." These are the posts that received the most comments or have special meaning to me. For my loyal readers, I hope you enjoy a look back. If you are new here, please enjoy this sampling of what HSD is all about.

  • June: My blogging adventure began by taking a look at how our children need for us to permit them opportunities for Learning from Mistakes. A firestorm of unfortunate events caused me to ponder the validity of Murphy's Law.

  • July: As we began the first session of our year-round school, we encountered a Providential Visitor. Michael and I enjoyed a trip to Memphis where we attended a retirement dinner for the man who was our college's BSU director. This dinner doubled as a great BSU Reunion.

  • September: I reminisced in Skidooing, sharing a lesson I learned as a young mother from LinkBlue's Clues. I posted video of BT's crowd-pleasing performance as Patrick Henry.

  • October: I began my Wisdom Wednesday segment with my Christian testimony in Why Homeschool Dawn? I shared the most important lesson I learned as an inner-city teacher in Harvest Time.

  • November: I shared how I learned to rest in God's sovereignty during a period of infertility and miscarriages in The Strong Tower. In Consolation Prize?, I contemplated the value of heavenly treasure. I lost the bid for Best New Homeschool Blog in the Homeschool Blog Awards but received rave reviews for My Concession.

I have a few plans for my return to blogging in January.

  • A New Name: I will reveal a new name for my blog which represents my vision for homeschooling.

  • A Series on Socialization: Every homeschooler has been challenged by this argument. As a homeschooler with ties to the public schools, I frequently find myself in the position of having to defend my world view. I will begin a series on this topic in January.

  • Shocking News from Subway: This will be the next installment in my Christian testimony series.

  • House Updates: Our remodeling adventure begins. Stay tunded for updates on the progress.

Have a blessed and Happy New Year. I look forward to rejoining you all here in the blogosphere soon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Cookie Factory

Last Friday, my kitchen transformed into a cookie factory. I decided to do extra baking this year and make an assortment of Christmas cookies. By making two batches of four different cookies, I had enough to make goodie bags for our friends and neighbors and to fill a few cookie jars for my boys. Below are pictures of the treats I made with links to the recipes.

Peppermint Patties
These were the easiest of all to make. However, the white chocolate chips did not melt well. It made a thick, paste-like icing and did not drizzle. I had to frost each cookie with the melted chocolate instead. If I make these again, I will use white almond bark.

Holiday Trees
These were great! The dough was simple to make and easy to roll out. It kept its form well, too. They were yummy, especially after dipping them in almond bark.

Crunchy Cereal Wreaths
In my opinion, these win the cutest-cookie-ever award. My kids loved them. The coconut gave them a little nicer flavor than the run-of-the-mill Rice Krispie treat. They were messy to make though. I could not form them as instructed in the recipe. I had to spray a large spoon with Pam and scoop out a ball of the mixture. Then I placed it on wax paper and formed the wreath shape by hand. It was a sticky mess.

Sweet Coconut Snowballs
These got rave reviews from everyone, and they were very easy to make. I do not have a food processor, so I used my blender for that step.

Candied Almonds

Although not a cookie, this simple, tasty treat is post-worthy. I first made these two years ago when we celebrated a Colonial Christmas. My family loved them, and they are a must-have each holiday season.

Happy Baking!

Friday, December 19, 2008

You Need to Get Out More Often...

Or do you?

If you are a stay-at-home mom looking for a little encouragement, take a moment to read Making Home: Combating the "You Should Get Out of the House More" Mentality.

Jess at Making Home reminds us to guard our hearts against the temptation to get out and do more. I could talk, or write, all day on this topic but as I have many responsibilities and Jess has said it all very well, I will simply encourage you to visit her blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Family Happenings

Dear Family and Friends,
What a wonderful year we have had serving the Lord in our home and community. As always, He continues to bless our lives, filling our days with the responsibilities and joys of parenting, teaching and serving.

Michael continues to teach high school Spanish. We covet your prayers for him as he labors among a complacent generation. We are praying for a revival among the churched teens of our community and for the salvation of the many unchurched students in his classes.

When not at work, Michael spends his time playing with the boys. Their favorite activities are playing games together and tennis. Michael gave up his position as tennis coach at the high school because it required too much of his time; however, he and the boys still enjoy spending time on the court. He also serves as our church's catechist, teaching a Wednesday night class for the upper elementary children.

BT is in 4th grade. He takes piano lessons from Nohnie, plays golf and takes tennis lessons. Earlier in the year, he received first prize in the HER science fair, elementary division, for his project "What Makes the Red Spot Red?" In it, he demonstrated the science behind Jupiter's famous spot.

He and his brother are avid bird watchers. They compete with two of their friends from church in the Youth Birding Competition each year. In last year's competition, their team won first place in their age division for the most species identified in a twenty-four hour period, first place for the most money raised in their age division for conservation and the most improved award. Each member of the team came home with a new pair of binoculars, a new field guide and a new spotting scope.

Bruster is in 3rd grade this year. In addition to birding with his brother, Bruster plays soccer and golf. In the last few minutes of the soccer season, he scored his first ever goal! He is also the artist in the family. He draws non-stop and loves to paint. If I don't watch him, everything becomes a canvass, including his school desk! He painted a picture of a ruby-throated hummingbird for the Youth Birding Competition's Art Contest. I also entered this piece in Crayola's on-line art exhibition. His painting was awarded 4th place among the 3rd grade entries nationwide and will be included Crayola's Children's Art Exhibition book, due to be published in March.

My responsibilities are many. I spend most of my days teaching, cleaning, cooking... all of the typical homeschool mom duties. I also drive the taxi to soccer, golf, piano, birding events, church and field trips. In the evenings, I enjoy blogging. This is my new pastime, and the Lord has blessed this endeavor and brought friends from all over the world to my blog. Through this new hobby I have also had the privilege of reuniting with many of my dear friends from college. How glad I am to have you guys stopping in here at HSD! I pray that through my writing other moms will be encouraged in the Lord.

I have also taken on two new responsibilities within our homeschool community. I am coordinating our annual Spotlight Night, an event at which our children give presentations pertaining to their school accomplishments. I am also coaching our Mathletes team. There are seven super-smart kids in my group, and we meet monthly to take the International Math Olympiad exam. What a blessing it continues to be to serve my fellow homeschoolers in this capacity.

One last bit of news... over the summer, my parents moved from Tennessee to our hometown. They now live a mere 15 minutes away. My dad even teaches at the same high school as Michael. What a blessing it is to have Papaw and Nohnie nearby and apart of our church and community!

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and catch up on our family. We pray that you are having a wonderful Christmas season.

In Christ,

Michael, Dawn, BT and Bruster

Monday, December 15, 2008


Two of my dearest bloggy friends, Kathleen @ South Forte Farms and Kellie @ Blue House Academy, suggested that I repost some of my favorite "golden oldies" during my blogging hiatus.  Great idea, ladies!  Thank you!!

I first posted Legacy in December, 2008.  I thought it appropriate to pull from the archives and post today since my mom made it through her knee surgery successfully this morning.  Thank you for your prayers. 

She now faces rehab from surgery and has to begin walking again with the aid of a walker today.  Just hearing the word rehab is hard for her.  This post can help you understand why.  Please continue to lift her in prayer as she regains the use of her "good" leg and works to rehabilitate through the added difficult of her disability....

Orville began piano lessons recently. My mom, his Nohnie, teaches him. The piano has so much significance to her, and it is a joy to watch them together. I hope one day he will grasp just how special this instrument has been to her and the beauty of the legacy she is passing to him.

Just before her seventh birthday, my mother wanted to learn to play the piano. Her neighbors owned a piano and offered to let her visit their house daily and practice. They even gave her a few "lessons." She truly loved playing and went to their house as often as she could. Soon, everyone saw that she had a remarkable ability. She could play by ear but was learning to read music and play by the rules, too. It was not long before she could play like a pro.

A few months later, my grandmother and she went downtown to shop for a new dress, a common practice of theirs. There were no malls at the time, so they would park where they could find a spot and walk from specialty store to specialty store. However, this shopping trip would be different.

Mamaw (that's what I called my grandma) got out of the car and walked around to help her seven-year-old baby girl out. Mom took two steps and fell to the ground. Mamaw thought she was joking at first and prompted her to get up before she soiled her clothes. However, Mom could not get up. She was rushed to the hospital and after a long series of tests was diagnosed with infantile paralysis or polio.

The good news was the paralysis was isolated to her left leg. The bad news was she would have to relearn some very basic motor skills, including how to walk. For the next year, she could not go to school, go outside to play or do many of the activities that a "normal" seven-year-old girl would do.

My dear Papaw was not a rich man but he had a heart of gold. He painted houses for a living and money was often tight, but he knew my mom needed something special to help her through such a difficult season. She needed something that she could call her own, that could occupy her days and give her joy as she worked so hard to rehabilitate. He worked extra hours and saved the extra pay until he had enough to buy her a piano of her own.

Her hands and arms worked just fine as did her right leg. She could play and work the foot pedals and forget all about her troubled left leg. She played and played, and her abilities grew. Soon, everyone recognized that she had a very special talent given and blessed by the Lord.

She did eventually walk again but only with the aid of a large, stiff metal brace that ran from her hip to her ankle. She could only move her left leg by swinging it way out to the side. To the kids at school, she was laughable. She was mimicked and teased. They called her "Chester" after the disabled character on the t.v. show Gunsmoke. To her teachers, she was little more than a nuisance. She was behind in her studies from being out of school during the year of rehab. Most thought of her as slow, a poor, little, crippled girl who would never learn anything.

But, she had her piano. It was a comfort to her, a reminder that the Lord had made her exactly whom He wanted, that He was all-loving and ever-present. Her remarkable gift grew and grew as she poured herself into her studies and practice. It was the one thing she could do well and she did it with gusto. By the time she was ten, she was her church's pianist.

Just before Mom's sixteenth birthday, a family moved to Knoxville from St. Louis and visited the church where she played piano. The family's eldest son had just graduated from high school and wanted very little to do with the South. He had protested the move, feeling sure there would be no indoor plumbing and that everyone would eat "possum" like on the Beverly Hillbillies. He intended to endure life in Appalachia for a couple of mandatory months and then take off for college- back to the Midwest where he belonged.

However, at church that morning, his plans were derailed.  He liked what he heard coming from the piano. When he noticed that the pianist was a pretty teen-aged girl, he liked what he saw, too. After the service, he complimented Mamaw on how well her daughter played. She told him that he should tell her daughter himself. He did, and, as you have probably guessed by now, the pianist and the Midwestern boy soon fell in love and married.

My dad would not be the only fellow to fall in love with my mom and her piano playing. Nine years ago, the pianist became "Nohnie".  Her first grandson, Orville, loves to hear her play.  He has since he was born, and it was the one thing that soothed his colicky spells as a newborn. He wanted to start lessons this year so he could learn to play like Nohnie and spend time with her.  What a wonderful time they have together as his precious hands follow hers!

Hers is a legacy of faith and of love. I pray the Lord will continue to bless her life as she passes that legacy to the next generation of our family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One in Her Arms

Wisdom Wednesday

In my first Wisdom Wednesday post, "Why Homeschool Dawn?", I shared my Christian testimony. A few weeks later I wrote "Harvest Time" in which I revealed the greatest lesson I learned as an inner-city teacher. The next month I continued the chronology of my life's lessons in "The Strong Tower." In it I wrote about how God's sovereignty became my resting place as I faced the challenges of infertility and miscarriages. After reading these posts, a few of my bloggy friends sent me e-mails asking for the rest of the story. I will probably dedicate a few more posts to this series of testimonies, but for now, here is the next installment.

After the doctor had the dreaded talk with us, Michael and I decided we were not ready to begin fertility testing. We had been told that things did not look good for us and that we should be prepared for the worst. We knew that would require extra measures of grace. The school year had just begun, so we committed to spend the year praying for that grace and focusing on the work to be done at our schools.

I taught third grade at DES, Dilapidated Elementary School. No, that is not its real name but the pseudonym I have given it in order to protect the innocent. DES was in one of Memphis's poorest neighborhoods, not far from the Mighty Mississippi. It was a "best practices" school. That probably is not what immediately comes to mind when you think "inner city" and may come across as a bit pretentious. It's really just a term used in education circles to indicate a dedication to looking beyond oneself. We sought out what was working at other successful schools, not just in our district but nationally.

Before Christmas break our school decided to adopt a program widely used in the New York Public Schools, specifically at primary schools in Manhattan. A team of five teachers was chosen to go to NYC and observe schools using the program. I was selected as a member of the team.

We arrived in Manhattan in late January and spent a week and a half observing and taking notes. About mid-way through our stay, I experienced dizzy spells. My colleagues said it was probably from riding the subway and elevators. That might seem silly, but I do get motion sickness and am afraid of heights. However, I thought I was getting an ear infection.

Once back home, I went to the doctor expecting to be given a prescription for antibiotics but received prenatal vitamins instead.

What a great day it was when I held BT in my arms. He was born without any problems, full of life. Everyone had a different response. There was laughter. There were tears. Michael jumped around the delivery room, smiling from ear to ear.

All I could do was hold BT and feel the comforting presence of the Lord. It had been an arduous journey, filled with heartache. But, He had been with me every step of the way. His will had been accomplished in losing and in receiving. And I was fully aware that the gift of this little baby was His alone to give. Just as Hannah rejoiced in God's Sovereignty after the birth of Samuel, my heart sang, "There is no one holy like the Lord. There is no God but you. There is no Rock like our God." 1 Sam 2:2

People often ask me what happened. Did the doctors know what had caused the previous miscarriages? Had we opted for a particular therapy? At that time, however, there was no medical explanation, only the knowledge that as our Sovereign God willed, "the woman who was unable to have children, now had seven." 1 Sam 2:5

Well, at least three… two, possibly more, in heaven and one in her arms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Questionaire

Saw this at Mercy Every Morning and wanted to play along...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial. I have alleriges and can't handle a real one.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the day after Thanksgiving but put it up two days before TG this year.

4. When do you take the tree down? January 2nd

5. Do you like Egg Nog? Yuck! No!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? an Atari with the Frogger and Donkey Kong cartridges. I just dated myself with that one, didn't I?

7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad. I usually end up buying him something with UT on it.

8. Easiest person to buy for? my kids

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Actually, I hand most out in person. If I can't do that, I mail them. I seem to be sending out a lot of holiday greetings on Facebook this year. I guess I don't really fit into a category here.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? an ugly shirt that didn't fit

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I'm going to be really unpopular for this one but I don't really like any of them.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? It varies from year to year.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas and favorite Christmas dessert? My mom always made spinach dip for our family Christmas party when I was young. I always want that at Christmas. Dessert: My mamaw's apple stack cake

16. Lights on the tree? White lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song? The First Noel, O Come All Ye Faithful, Carol of the Bells

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Always home on Christmas Day but usually travel before or after.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes, only because I read them while copying this from Mercy Every Morning!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We have one Christmas Eve present and open the rest on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Commercialism.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? My ornaments are mostly clear, red and gold. Though I also have some keepsake ornaments and our Jesse tree ornaments.

24. Handmade ornaments or store bought? Both. I got most of my ornaments before M's and my first Christmas by hosting a Christmas around the World party. We have made most of our Jesse Tree ornaments.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A new mixer. I've already shown M where to find it at the store! LOL

I hope you enjoyed this. If you decided to participate on your blog, leave a comment letting me know so I can read your post.

Merry Christmas!

Mentoring Moments for Christian Women

My article, "Gift Baskets for Christmas," was published at Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. I want to say thank you to the staff for including my ideas and invite my readers to visit this helpful on-line magazine.

Each edition is filled with "encouragement, training, and practical tips for women in their everyday walk with the Lord Jesus Christ."* I have found it an edifying read, look forward to each month's new issue and am honored and excited to be included.

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is their current feature and where you will find my article. As the name suggests, there will be twelve issues containing Christmas devotions and ideas for creating a warm and Christ-centered season.

*quote from Mentoring Moments home page,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pioneer Piggy Builds a Home

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Last week the boys had fun traveling the Oregon Trail. We finished reading Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen. They also played the game Oregon Trail on the computer and kept a journal of their journey.

Today they built these homes for Pioneer Piggy by gluing pretzel sticks to empty milk cartons. Too bad he is too tall to go inside! LOL!! Of course, thar's nary a door ner winder in the place, so I guess he couldn't enter even if he were a wee, little pig. I suppose he doesn't mind. After all, he has been confined to a much-too-small Conestoga for five weeks now!

Great Giveaway

Christy @ Mercy Every Morning is hosting a giveaway. You have until Thursday at midnight to enter for a chance to win one of two Trigger Memory Publications, Clean n' Flip or Times Tables.

I have used Bedroom Cleaning for Kids, also from Trigger Memory, and very similar to Clean n' Flip. I have had really good results. You can read more about my experience with Trigger Memory in my post "Cleaning Rooms." Christy has also written great reviews of these products.

You can read Christy's reviews and enter the giveaway by leaving a comment here.

Feel free to participate if you do not homeschool. These charts are not designed just for homeschoolers but could be helpful for any parents looking for a good cleaning system or way to help their children master the times tables.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Exciting News!

I just received word that Bruster won 4th place in the 3rd grade division of Crayola's Annual On-line Art Exhibition. His art work, "Eco-Friendly Fuel," will be published in the Crayola Art Exhibition book, scheduled for release by March, 2009.

The theme of the competition was "Go Green." As a bird enthusiast, Bruster wanted to paint a picture of a bird. He had completed the winning picture earlier in the year for the Youth Birding Competition's Art Contest. He noticed that the hummingbird eats good fuel and decided to write a statement about the good stewardship of using alternative fuels.

You can see his winning art and statement here.

Congratulations, Bruster! Mommy is so excited for you!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Celebrating the Season

Thrifty Thursday

Molly @ Counter-Cultural Mom is hosting a blog carnival. Join her as she asks us to share our favorite Christmas resources. This week, we are to share our favorite books and music.

There are two books that we read every year, The Advent Book by Jack and Cathy Stockman and The Tale of Three Trees, a Traditional Folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt. For more on how we use these books in our celebration, see my posts "Advent" and "The Three Trees."

The Advent Book is expensive. However, I found it for $25 with no shipping charge on Amazon. Amazon was also holding a promotional special for the Amazon Visa card the year I bought it, $25 off your first bill. So, I really got that one for free. I bought The Tale of Three Trees on ebay for around $6, including shipping.

I do not have many cd's. I think I have an Il Divo Christmas album somewhere, but couldn't find it. Mostly, we sing Christmas hymns from the Trinity Hymnal. I look forward to all of your suggestions. This is an area in which I need some help!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Desire of My Heart

Wisdom Wednesday

Yesterday, the boys and I read our daily chapter of Little Pilgrim's Progress. We are almost to the end of the journey. In yesterday's read, the foolish character, Ignorance, reaches the end of his so-called pilgrimage. When he arrives at the gates of the Celestial City, he does not have the scroll that is needed to be allowed to enter in because he never passed by the cross. He thought it unnecessary and felt sure that as long as he walked the path to the City, obeying the King's commands, the King would be sure to allow him into the Kingdom.

How wrong he was. What happened next brought to mind Mat 7:22-23 which says, "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, those working lawlessness!" Ignorance quickly learned that his works were in vain. His lack of faith in the King's own Son condemned him and his efforts. He was bound and carried away from the presence of the King.

As we finished reading, I looked at BT. Tears were streaming down his little face. "Did this chapter make you afraid?" I asked, wondering if it was too heavy of a topic. "No," he said and sobbed even harder. He fell into my arms and explained that his tears were good because he knew that what happened to Ignorance would never happen to him.

Soon, we were both crying as he explained that he understood that Ignorance was condemned because he had put his faith in his own efforts. He told me in his own child-like words that on the cross Jesus had taken on BT's sins. That Jesus had endured the wrath that BT deserves. That Jesus died and rose again. That faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Sometimes I wonder if our homeschool makes the grade, if it meets the academic standards my boys need to be competitive in the 21st Century. Other times I get frustrated by the "socialization" question. I hear this argument so often that I almost begin to believe it.

However, moments like the one we experienced yesterday provide clarity. As I held my precious little boy, I knew that God's grace was at work and that He will be faithful to complete the good work that He has begun. I don't have to get everything right. I can't. I don't need to worry about the world's opinion. It won't change our standing with God.

Instead, I must spend my days at home, finding pleasure in the Lord's will, praising Him for what He has accomplished, praying that I will keep an eternal perspective. For that which I desire most has nothing to do with academics or socialization and everything to do with eternity. My heart's desire is that my boys will grow to be first and foremost faithful servants of Jesus Christ. I pray for the faith to "Delight [myself] in the Lord, that He may give [me] [my] heart's desire." Psalm 37:4

Monday, December 1, 2008


Teaching Tip Tuesday

The Advent season is upon us, and in our home, we have a few special traditions.

Each evening, the children join Michael and me on the couch where we sing either "O Come All Ye Faithful" or "Hark the Herald Angels." I have made a "song book" for each member of the family by printing lyrics on card stock and stapling the sheets together.

Next, Michael reads one page from The Advent Book by Jack and Cathy Stockman. In this beautifully illustrated book, each page is drawn to resemble the front of a church, and the church door "opens" to reveal the text. There is one page for each night of Advent, and each page tells part of the Christmas story. I have placed this book in my Shelfari in the sidebar for those interested in a closer look.

Afterward, the boys alternate turns finding the ornament for the night on our Jesse tree. I do not have a separate tree for this, but place the ornaments on our Christmas tree. Each night, we tell the boys which story of the Bible is the spotlight story. Then they tell us what they know about the event and find the ornament. Michael then reads a corresponding verse or Bible passage.

The ornaments we own were acquired at discount stores, most costing only $1, or we made them ourselves. We crafted an empty tomb out of clay and constructed Jacob's ladder from craft sticks. I only buy or make about four ornaments per year, so we use cards from the Bible game Redemption for those stories for which we do not own an ornament.

Our Variety of Handmade, Store-Bought
and Redemption Card Ornaments

Inside each pocket of the Advent calendar pictured to the left, I have placed pieces of candy and a slip of paper containing a memory verse. Each morning, the boys remove the paper from the pocket for the day and work on memorizing it in time for family worship. After our Jesse Tree time, they state the verse for the day and receive the candy.

We end our Advent observance with prayer and another Christmas hymn.

I so enjoy this season of family worship. It is simple to accomplish, has created lasting memories for our children and for us and keeps us focused on the only reason for the season, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Merry Thanksbirthsary Menu

If you read my post "Merry Thanksbirthsary," you know that our Thanksgiving is serving triple duty this year. We will celebrate Michael's parents 40th wedding anniversary and the boys' birthdays as well as give thanks. I have prepared the menu and wanted to share.

Spinach and cream cheese pastry puffs

Chicken Pot Pie

Side Dishes
Thanksgiving Medley
Roasted Garlic Corn- recipe below
Green Beans a la Dawn- recipe below
Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins

Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake - a red cake for the "Ruby" anniversary!

Roasted Garlic Corn
1. Soften 1/2 cup sweet cream butter and blend in 4 cloves of garlic, minced.
2. Spread 1 tbsp. of butter mix on 1 ear of corn. Salt and pepper.
3. Wrap in aluminum foil. Place in slow cooker.
4. Repeat until desired number of ears of corn are complete.
5. Cover crock pot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Green Beans a la Dawn
1. Place two large cans or 4 small cans of green beans with shellies in a slow cooker. I prefer Italian beans with shellies.
2. Cover with water. Add 2-3 tbsp. chicken boullion granules and mix until granules dissolve.
3. Add 2 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion salt and sage. Stir. Cover. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Concession

Over the past two weeks, there was Never a Dull Moment from Inside My Homeschool House. The Homeschool Blog Awards turned our life into an Unschooling Adventure. My Thr33 Sons and I watched as my blog went from second to first!

To second. :-(

To first! :-)

Then down and then UP! And then down again, only to land in 4th.

There were many Ramblings from the Crazy House, and though my Kids Love Learning, Momma couldn't be Bug(ged) as she watched her Blog. Maybe it was Onlyme, but I considered enrolling my children in BE Academy ,or maybe CMS Academy, so I could keep track of my status in the competition.

Our Homeschool Creations suffered these two weeks, and we did not live up to the standards of Homemade Homeschoolers. My heart sank as I watched the winner travel 10 Million Miles to the top of the list. Not wanting to admit defeat, I considered hiring Mommy Lawyer to appeal the outcome.

However, after Seeking His Face… in Everything, I have decided to walk The Narrow Path. So as this new day of Home School(ing) Dawn(s), I offer my congratulations to the winner. May you enjoy a Lifetime (of) Books and Gifts.

Congratulations to all the Best New Homeschool Blog Award nominees and our winner, Never a Dull Moment!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thank You

Have you ever experienced a time in life when you aimed for something, a worthy goal, only to reach an entirely different end... one that came from out-of-the-blue and left you speechless? That is what happened to me this week as a result of the Homeschool Blog Awards.

When I learned I had received the nomination for Best New Homeschool Blog, I had my eyes on the prizes and on increasing my readership. I didn't get the goods, but my readership did increase. Thank you to everyone at the Homeschool Post for your hard work in bringing this competition together. All of us gained from the two-week experience, and I appreciate it.

However, the best outcome of this event was something I never expected. Friends from all over the country, rather all over the world, united to vote for me. I received e-mails and phone calls of support. I watched as my site meter showed hits from four different continents. How cool it was to experience friends old and new, near and far, rallying for my sake. Thank you all so much. You have made my day... no, week... no, YEAR!!!

So, the prize for me has been knowing that I have some of the best friends in the world, bloggy and real life. Thank you for sending those compliments and for taking the time to cast your vote for me. I am humbled by your love and support.

Know that my commitment to write, to homeschool and to be a keeper at home flows from a grateful heart. Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, paid the highest price for my sake. I write, teach and live with the assurance that I have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Eph 1:7

I pray that as you read and keep up with the happenings of this bloggy friend that you will experience "this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Rom 5:2

Thank you, friends. I love you all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas

Thrifty Thursday

I don't know how I would homeschool without a slow cooker. The holiday rush is on, and today was filled with school, projects and cleaning. It was nice to put this in the crock at lunch, turn on the cooker and have dinner waiting for me at 5:30 p.m.


1 lb. cooked, cubed chicken (if I find it on sale, I buy the Tyson pre-cooked fajita strips)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 can enchilada sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can sliced black olives
1 can mexicorn
1 16 oz can black beans
1 8 oz pack shredded cheese (I use colby-jack or mexican.)
1 package large flour tortillas


1. Warm a large skillet over med heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Saute for about 1 min.

2. Add chicken to the skillet. Cook just long enough to brown. Add enchilada and tomato sauces and stir.

3. Place olives, corn and black beans in a colander, rinse, mix together and drain well.

4. Add olive, corn and bean mix to skillet. Cook until mix bubbles. Stir frequently.

5. Remove skillet from heat. Spray crock pot with Pam and line with 1 tortilla. Spoon 1/4 of mixture over the tortilla, sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese and place another tortilla on top.

6. Repeat layering until all of the chicken mixture and cheese is used. Place one tortilla on top. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Higher Order Thinking Skills

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Looking for ways to give your school that little something extra? Consider incorporating higher order thinking by developing or finding activities that make your children work beyond skill and drill. I have found knowing and applying the theories of Benjamin Bloom helpful in this regard.

Benjamin Bloom suggested that learning is hierarchical, meaning as children study a particular topic in school, they must master skills by moving from lower order processes to higher ones. He proposed a taxonomy that orders the levels of learning through which students must progress.

To demonstrate how I incorporate this theory in my teaching, I will give an example unit on the story "The Three Little Pigs" citing examples of activities to match each level of the taxonomy.

The lowest level of learning proposed by Bloom is the knowledge level. This is the "Just-the-Facts-Ma'am" level. Memorizing and recalling are the goals. At this stage, mom reads the story and then asks questions like, "Who were the characters?" and "What did the Big Bad Wolf do?"

Next, a child needs to progress to the comprehension stage. This is when he demonstrates that he understands what he has memorized. He can explain, give directions or answer questions. In this stage, the child should be able to retell a story, or restate learning in his own words. He might create his own "Three Little Pigs" book or simply summarize the story to mom.

Most education programs stop there, especially in elementary school. However, Bloom suggested that in order for children to digest what they are learning, they must move upward to higher stages of his proposed "taxonomy." He believed that lower level learning is in large part forgotten over time, but advancing to higher levels of learning helps the material to "stick with" a student.

Application follows comprehension. In this stage, learners find ways to use what they have learned. Solving word problems or preparing a demonstration are examples of application. Now, the student could create a dramatization of "The Three Little Pigs."

In the next stage, analysis, students pick apart what they have learned. How is one thing similar to or different from another? Debating, experimenting, and categorizing fit into this level. Students could debate the value of building with bricks verses the ease of building with sticks. They could attempt to build a model of a sturdy, wolf-proof house.

In synthesis, students combine skills they have learned and propose new ideas. Students arrange, construct and predict outcomes. Now the learners should propose real-life situations in which a house can be blown down. They should seek out solutions to the real world problems, propose ideas of their own and perform experiments.

Finally, students are to evaluate. In this stage, students assess and revise projects or other work. They form opinions and learn to articulate them. Students should determine what they learned from their experiment. Are certain building materials better than others? What building methods withstand high winds the best?

It is impossible to take every concept through every level of learning, but I have found that the more attention I give to higher order thinking, the more curious and zealous my boys become. The more I allow them to explore, the more they want to know. I find that they really do remember better when given the opportunities to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.

For more information on Bloom's taxonomy, see this article. The levels are explained in a little more detail, and there is a list of learning cues for each level. I often use these to brainstorm activities for units.

Happy Teaching!

A Quirky Crew

This week's Heart of the Matter meme is "Things That Make Our Family Unique." Here are the top ten things about my family and me.

10. We like soda way too much. My husband's students actually buy him 12-packs of Coke for Christmas.

9. I have Restless Leg Syndrome. I know you've laughed at those commercials! I have to take meds for it or I dance all night and kick poor Michael.

8. My boys are 13 months apart. This was almost to the day, but I went into labor with Bruster four days before my scheduled induction. I used to get a lot of strange looks when they were babies.

7. I have had the following nicknames: Boofer (I had really big hair in high school), Dawnwoman (long story), and Queen LaTeacha (from teaching in the inner city).

6. My favorite nickname is the one Michael gave me while we were courting, Aurora Carina. That's pronounced Uh-roar-uh Car-een-ya. It's Latin/Spanish for my full name.

5. I really don't like my name. It's Dawn Cherie. That's pronounced "Cher (like Sonny and Cher)-ee. I won't get into to the many pronunciations of "Dawn."

4. I got my name because my dad was a big Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons fan. I was named after two of their songs, "Dawn" and "Sherry." He gave Sherry a French twist.

3. I speak French, sort of. I wanted to learn from age 4 because of Pepe Le Pew cartoons.

2. Michael's nickname is Spike. I call him Roget because he has a huge vocabulary.

1. I was a crazy New Kids on the Block fan in high school. I still find myself singing "Hanging Tough" from time to time and was secretly a little excited about their recent reunion.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cleaning Rooms

Milestone Monday

This room looks like a tornado hit it!

What were you, raised in a barn?!!

Clean this pig sty up!

These are among the list of many things I knew I would never say to my kids. Then, I had some. LOL!

While teaching in the public schools, I attended a workshop on keeping classrooms organized. The speaker had some great ideas… color coding, gluing pictures on storage bins so little ones know what goes inside, taping the outline of an object to the place where it belongs on a shelf, etc. I used many of these in my classroom with success.

I decided that since this worked so well at school, I would use these techniques at home with my boys while they were toddlers. Supposedly, this would teach them organization and build a routine in which they would clean behind themselves without prompting from a parent.

What's that sound? Do I hear giggling coming through my computer?

Yeah, that's what I thought then. But what I know now is that the cleanliness of my house depends on my management of it. I am the keeper of my home, given the charge of its care. Things don't just magically happen. This has been a milestone for me recently… coming to terms with the fact that I must constantly stay on top of cleaning routines.

These are my best suggestions to date:

1. I highly recommend Bedroom Cleaning for Kids: Clean N Flip by von Eggers. It contains a six-step procedure for cleaning a room, written and illustrated so that children can follow it with little supervision. Though I still have to say, "It's clean-up time," I don't have to stand over them to ensure the job gets done right.

2. I room check frequently, at least 4 nights per week, before bedtime. When I inspect, I look for toys in their proper places, for dirty clothes in the hamper, and for neatly (not perfectly) made beds. I always inspect under furniture. My kids' toys have a tendency to migrate there. I place a sticker on the chart pictured above each night the room is clean. This chart helps us determine how much allowance they earn in a given week. I confiscate toys not put away, and they go into a "mom store" from which the boys must repurchase them before they can spend their allowance on anything else. OUCH!! It hurts but works.

3. At the end of each week, we pay our boys an allowance based on how well they performed their chores. Some say don't pay for chores because every member of the house is to contribute without being paid. Michael and I, on the other hand, want our boys to earn money so that we can teach them how to manage it. Chores are the best means for accomplishing this in our house. We require them to tithe, save and invest portions of their money before being allowed to spend. See this post by Counter-cultural School for good advice on teaching money management. Keep in mind that I only mention this tip as something that works for us and would not advise any mom to do anything that contradicts her conscience or her husband.

4. I have a designated "toy area" in each main room of my house. I used to keep all toys in one room. Now, I keep Lego's in the breakfast nook. Board games are stored on a shelf in the living room. Educational games and puzzles are kept in the classroom. This has helped to contain messes, making them easier to clean up.

Play Areas around Our House

Feel free to leave comments with any tips you have.
I am always open to suggestions.

Also, check out Coach Mom Says.
Her sense of humor is great and so are her cleaning tips.

Happy Cleaning!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Conestoga Wagons

Farewell Friday

This week our Social Studies focused on 19th Century travel. We read about Conestoga wagons and the preparation that the pioneers made before beginning their five-month trek across the plains, mountains and deserts. I thought about those brave dads and moms who labored to make months worth of food and supplies, having to think and prepare and pack for everything. I thought about our upcoming holiday trips. What if it took five months to get there? And there were no McDonald's along the way??!!!

The boys completed an activity in which they compared and contrasted travel then to travel now. In our discussion, we noted that the pioneers had no roads,but since the advent of the airplane, we do not need roads. They had sketchy maps and markings carved into bones left along the trail by those who came before them, and we have interstates, amber alerts, GPS and OnStar.

Then, the boys made this very simple model of a Conestoga. I cut two small milk cartons in half and taped the top flap so that it stuck out to make the jokey box. Then, we taped a piece of card stock paper cut to the width of the milk carton to each side to form the canvas covering. The final step was to tape bottle caps to the sides as wheels. Very simple and the boys loved it.

It was interesting to reflect on what life was like just a little over one hundred years ago while my blog's hit counter was ticking like mad due to the Homeschool Blog Awards. Just this week, this blog had visitors from all over the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Some of you live along the trail those pioneers struggled to forge. Some of you live in places a girl from my part of the world would never have dreamed of seeing in the 19th Century. Yet we made it to each other's homes with the click of a button this week.

It truly is the world wide web. How great a blessing we have to be able to connect and to encourage one another. Welcome, friends.

Book Giveaway!

Christy @ Mercy Every Morning is giving away a Salem Ridge Press book!

Christy writes, "Salem Ridge Press, founded by a homeschooled graduate in 2005, has dedicated itself to republishing books from the 1800's and early 1900's that are wholesome, exciting and well-written."

She is offering an opportunity for four entries per blogger and has included a link to the Christmas Wishlist Giveaway currently held by Salem Ridge Press.

Read her post "Salem Ridge Press Book Giveaway!" for all the details.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Gift Basket Themes

Thrifty Thursday
Last week's post, Christmas Gift Baskets, received a few responses with some great ideas. Here are some of the ideas that were shared with me and my thoughts on a few more themes for giving your extended family or friends a gift that will save you time and money and create opportunities for them to make lasting memories. I have included as many ideas as possible under each topic so if you want, you can pick and choose what fits your style and budget.

Family Game Night
Create a collection of games that the receiving family will enjoy. You can find Bible versions of classic games at Amazon. Add a deck of cards and the book 101 Best Family Card Games by Alfred Sheinwold. The card games we grew up playing, such as Old Maid and Go Fish, would make a great addition to this basket. For a finishing touch add popcorn, candy, or a gift certificate for their favorite pizzeria. Thanks to Christy @ Mercy Every Morning for this idea!

Puzzles Galore
A variety of puzzles can be bought at local discount stores. Be sure to add in educational puzzles and large-piece puzzles for the little hands in the family, or a floor puzzle for the classroom. You can find a variety here. Finishing touches include puzzle glue, a puzzle mat, and some snacks to enjoy while working. Thanks to Dawn @ A Home in the Country for sharing this idea!

Super Sundae
Ice cream would melt, but fill a basket with syrups, sprinkles, or other sundae toppings, and the receiver's heart will melt instead. Include gift certificates to your local ice cream shop, ice cream bowls, spoons, and a scoop. Add goodies like this ice cream shaped candle for extra fun. The book, A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti, would thrill any dessert lover. Thanks to FLMom @ The Narrow Path for such a fun treat!

Crafting Fun
Fill a sewing basket with crayons, markers, paint, brushes, scissors, stickers, craft sticks, modeling clay, pom-poms… you name it. Discount School Supply offers a great selection of craft supplies at good prices. Print craft ideas and include to inspire the budding artists.

Bird Watcher's Delight
Have bird watchers in the family? If so, they will love this avian basket. Trust me, I would. Include a couple of inexpensive feeders. I have found them at Big Lots in the $3-5 range. Add some bags of seed. A variety can be purchased from your local grocer or from Wild Birds Unlimited. Birding kids love Audubon plush toy birds available from Ship the Web, and Identiflyer cards (if they have the device that plays them already). A field guide makes a nice finishing touch.

A Colonial Christmas
I put this gift basket together a couple years ago while my boys were studying the time period in school. Press flowers from your garden and glue them to blank note cards. Make authentic quill pens and homemade ink. Include a few batches of homemade Play Doh in different colors (and scents). Sew nosegays or include crosstitch wall hangings and make corn husk dolls for the girls. Create aromatic pomanders. Boys enjoy Colonial games from Colonial Williamsburg, or jacks and checkers, favorites of the time period. For a finishing touch, add a box of homemade gingerbread and a jar of homemade wassail.

The Sporting Family
For the athletic branch of your family tree, buy an assortment of inexpensive outdoor games and equipment. A soccer ball and cones, a football and colored handkerchiefs for flag-football, a nerf set, or horseshoes... just for starters. Make family pennants by cutting the triangular pennant shape from felt. Use glitter glue, fabric paint, or felt letters in a complementary color to add the family name. Add bottles of Gatorade and protein bars for an energy boost.

Computer Whiz
Include goodies such as pc games (our Dollar Tree offers a series based on The Beginner's Bible and Wal Mart offers a good selection in the $10 range), printer paper, software, ink cartridges, mouse pad, or memory stick. A lot of stores offer these items as doorprizes or at a great price on Black Friday. Check your local paper for deals available in your area.

Treasure Hunt
Wrap candy bars in gold wrapping paper. Add a copy of Stewardship Street from Doorposts. Make your own treasure map of where you have hidden a special treasure like a board game, a box of homemade goodies, or a Pouch of Ancient Roman Coins from Vision Forum. Is your budget really tight? Hide small gifts throughout the house. These could be inexpensive toys, craft materials, or whatever the intended family would enjoy. Create a series of clues that will lead the family from treasure to treasure. This will add the value of fun to gifts that might not be as exciting to unwrap.

Tea Party
This one is definitely for the girls in your family. Include a new tea set, tea bags, a recipe for your favorite cookies and the ingredients to make them, note cards for making invitations, and maybe even a guest… a new doll! Also include How to Be a Lady by Harvey Newcomb.

Homeschool Helper
Fill a canvass bag with school supplies and great educational games or fun learning kits. Some of my favorites are available at The Vision Forum, Lakeshore Learning, Answers in Genesis, The School Box, and Home Science Tools.

Literature Theme Basket
Pick a book you love to read to your family. Purchase a new copy and wrap it up with gifts that correlate to the story's theme. For example, a The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe basket could include a batch of Turkish Delight, a sword, a bow and arrow, a toy shofar, a bottle of perfume (for Lucy's potion), and toy crowns. For Around the World in Eighty Days, include an inflatable globe, a deck of cards and instructions for playing whist, chinese checkers, French pastries, toy elephants from the Indian forest, and a puzzle that pictures an iconic landmark from a country Mr. Fogg traverses. If your budget allows, you could also include a toy train or a DVD of the movie version.

Grandparents' Treasure
The boys and I put together this gift basket for both sets of grandparents one year. Both grandmas cried, btw. I made a t-shirt for the grandpas by using iron-on letters to emboss the tee with their grandpa names. For grandma, we used Print Shop to create an "I Love My Grandma" decal that we printed to iron-on paper. After ironing on the decal, the boys made hand prints on the back with fabric paint. As a part of their school assignments, they wrote and illustrated an original story which I scanned and printed two copies of. I laminated each page and created a published work with binding combs. I bought inexpensive canvases, and they painted a picture for each grandparent. Then I added pictures of the boys from various events during the previous year. These were all taken with my digital camera and printed at home. I placed a couple of the better pictures in frames purchased at the Dollar Tree and included scrapbooking paper and embellishments for the others. As an added bonus for the grandpas, I baked homemade apple turnovers, wrapped them in foil and added a cardstock band around each which the boys had decorated with rubber stamps.

Archeology Adventure
Do you have some adventurous boys in your family? Create an event that they will never forget. Start with a CD from the Jonathan Park Series available from The Vision Forum. Add one of these fossil sets for hours of fun. Include toy dinosaurs, usually available at my local Dollar Tree or Wal Mart. Make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and print and include these instructions for a cookie dig. Consider including tickets for an afternoon of archeology at a local museum that provides hands-on experiences. Finishing touches could include an Indian Jones costume or play set.

A Zoo, Aquarium, or Museum Adventure
Give the family you love tickets or a season pass to their local zoo, aquarium, or museum. Package it with the Zoo Guide, the Aquarium Guide, or the Museum Guide from Answers in Genesis. These guides give families hundreds of facts on commonly found animals or artifacts with a Biblical, creationist perspective. For finishing touches, include plastic toy animals found at your local dollar store or Wal Mart.

Meet the Orchestra
For music lovers, Suzuki offers a large assortment of rhythm instruments which are great for budding musicians. Include a good children's book, and let the kids play their instruments on key words or repeated phrases. Add a top hat and baton to the basket for the "conductor" of the family to wear, and perhaps, include a set of ear plugs for the receiving parents!

The Three Trees

Teaching Tip Tuesday

Most of you have probably heard of the Tale of the Three Trees, a traditional folktale, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt. It is generally thought of as an Easter story, but in our house it is a Christmas tradition to read and discuss this beautifully written and illustrated children's book. A few years ago, I found the set of Christmas trees pictured below at our local Kroger store. (This is the best deal I could find online.) I initially bought them because I wanted to spruce up (pun intended) the fireplace. Every time I looked at them, I knew they reminded me of something, but I just could not pinpoint what it was. I don't remember exactly how I finally made the connection, but something jogged my memory, and I ordered a copy of the book.

Each year, after we finish decorating our home for Christmas, we read the story of how three trees, growing side-by-side on a hill, dream of greatness. One hopes to hold treasure. The second wants to be a great sailing ship, and the third wants to grow tall and point to God. All three find their dreams fulfilled, but in the much humbler form of a manger, a fishing boat, and a cross. Though they are not fashioned to be items of significance, each one plays a significant part in the ministry of Christ.

After reading, we discuss our dreams. Just like the trees, we have to remember that the Lord said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness. " And we must respond as Paul did, "Therefore, I will rather gladly boast in my weakness, that the power of Christ may overshadow me." 2 Cor 12:9 We talk about how our hopes and goals must be grounded in faith and we must not consider anything that the Lord calls us to do insignificant. Instead we remember that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1)

We also spread all of our Jesse tree ornaments (see this post by Counter-cultural school) across our table and talk about the purpose for decorating our tree this way. We teach that all of the Bible points to Christ, and that He was born to die. He came to earth to secure our salvation. The manger points to the cross, and the cross to the empty tomb. What a cause we have to celebrate!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Time to Vote!

The nominations are in, and it is time to vote. Thank you to all of my wonderful bloggy friends who gave me the nominations needed to be considered for the Best New Homeschool Blog award. This is a true honor, and you guys are the best. So, if you still like my blog, click the link above and make your vote count. Once on the ballot page, click the dot beside my blog name, Home School Dawn, and then click the "vote" button below and your vote will be registered. Thanks so much!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Merry Thanksbirthsary

Milestone Monday

This year brings a wonderful milestone for my family. Michael's parents and mine married the same year, 1968, making this their 40th year together as husband and wife. Michael's parents are coming to visit us for Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate their anniversary, the boys' birthdays, and Thanksgiving in one grand feast. My parents were married closse to Christmas, so our Christmas dinner will serve double duty as a party for them. Thus, this brings the birth of a new holiday season in our home, Merry Thanksbirthsary!

The 40th anniversary is the "ruby" anniversary, and so I have planned a table setting and dinner to match this theme. I will post the menu with links to recipes on a Thrifty Thursday and pictures of the decor after the big event. Today, however, I want to share some of the school activities I have planned in which the boys will make gifts for their grandparents.

Papaw and Nohnie on Their Wedding Day
First, I am going to help the boys research the year 1968 and create a presentation to give during our celebration meal. Given the decade of their marriage, we will probably title it "It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times."

I am also going to have them write a "When Papaw Met Nohnie" story and anther similar story for their paternal grandparents. They are going to conduct interviews via e-mail and phone this week to gather the facts about their grandparents' courtships. Then, they will each write a story detailing the events, including illustrations or photographs, quotes from the honorees, and an ending explaining why their marriages mean so much to the boys.

In keeping with the "ruby" theme, I will have each boy paint a "red" picture. Sort of like Picasso when he was in his rose phase, they will paint a picture in which shades of red are the dominant colors. It will make for a good art appreciation lesson, and if the pictures turn out not-so-great, their grandparents will love them anyway.

I look forward to celebrating this milestone with our family and praise the Lord for sustaining their marriage over the years. I also look forward to helping the boys appreciate their heritage and recognizing the blessings that God has given them... their grandparents.