Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Library in Books

I know you've heard about books in libraries, but how about libraries in books? I'd like to briefly introduce you to four pictures books that feature libraries in them.

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra (illustrated by Marc Brown of Arthur fame) is a hilarious book in the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss, to whom it is dedicated for his 100th anniversary.  The animals in a zoo get hooked on reading when Molly McGrew inadvertently arrives there with her bookmobile.  My favorite line is about the llamas and their llunches. I also love the clever haiku written by the animals, as well as the Zoolitzer prize won by the hippo for writing her own book.

Also by Judy Sierra, Mind Your Manners B.B. Wolf tells the tale of the reformed Big Bad Wolf who has been invited to a tea for storybook characters at the local library. This dude has obviously taken a class in sensitivity training!

Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco is delightfully wacky! Eli lives in a town that uses books only for things that don't require reading them (like propping doors open)!  Instead, they watch TV all day. Even the town library was bulldozed to make room for a massive TV tower.  But what happens when Eli's  ancient Aunt Chip starts to nurture the a love of literature in all of the children?  I have read many of Patricia Polacco's books before (like Thundercake, An Orange for Frankie, and The Butterfly) but hadn't known about this one until Linda Werner mentioned it at our last Books & Beyond literature seminar.

I checked out those three books from our public library -- of course! But there is one more, an old favorite, that I can't resist sharing with you, too. My Aunt Camille sent us The Rebellious Alphabet by Jorge Diaz many years ago. The author, in political exile from Chile, wrote it first as a play. The Little General, a diminutive and illiterate dictator, tries to control his subjects by banning books and all other reading material so the people can't learn about liberty and justice for all. He is foiled by a little old man named Plácido, who treasured reading and writing. Plácido trained his canaries to print books using letters strapped to their feet. Even prison doesn't stop their quest, which ends with poetic justice. In the end, Plácido's basement becomes the village library.  This is a powerful statement about freedom of the press, made accessible to children.

Check them out!  And if you know any other picture books featuring libraries, tell us about them in the comment box of this blog post!

I also want to let you know about a terrific resource for learning about libraries.  My friend and blogging partner Cheryl Bastian wrote Check These Out as a companion unit volume for her earlier book You HAVE to Read This One: Raising a Contagious ReaderCheck These Out is a multi-level unit study designed to teach elementary through middle school students (K-8) about libraries, books, authors, and illustrators. This unique study uses classic literature to teach foundational concepts and artistic techniques. Children can study the same material at various levels, discussing and learning from one another.   Topics include an introduction to literary genres, illustration techniques, elements of a story, lessons in library science, instructions for using the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress, the publishing and binding process, careers in book publishing, study skills, and multiple field trip ideas.  Easy on parents, the study also features weekly planning calendars, daily lessons, library lists, and check lists.  The book is 139 pages, including 33 pages of reproducibles.  There are also Internet links available on her web site.   Check out this book (and Cheryl's other resources on math, kids' cooking, and planning high school) here: Books by Cheryl Bastian.

That's all for now, folks!

Virginia Knowles

Friday, May 14, 2010

Penguins: A Perfectly Cool Unit Study for Hot Summers

Several summers ago, the kids and I had an itch for something different. Instead of the usual summer activities (whatever usual might be) we decided to pull together resources and visit the local library to learn all we could about penguins. Interestingly, the local movie theater offered FREE summer movies, one of which was March of the Penguins. We used the event as the kick-off to our study.

Once we watched the movie, curiosity drove the study; I just had to hang on and let the children discover, ready to put my research skills to the task if needed. And of course, I asked some intentional questions when the study stagnated. For the most part, their wonder fueled one another as well as their learning.

One of their main objectives was to make a lap book featuring their art and activities. Each child painted an arctic scene, adding tin foil ice bergs for effect. There were comparative measurements (cash register tapes) representing the heights of each species of penguin, a penguin life cycle wheel, a pop-up baby penguin chick, a flip book menu for penguin's diets, a narrative "day in the life of a penguin", and a colorful world map display of species habitats. In addition to the lap book activities, we experimented with "ice bergs" in the bath tub, made snow cones with shaved ice, watched educational videos about arctic animals, visited a fish market, compared shell fish (shrimp, crabs and lobsters) and enjoyed a day at Sea World. We covered every content area in our adventure naturally, using all our senses (it was a bit stinky at times). A quick check of destinations in the far north proved a field trip cost prohibitive.

Maybe your home could use a cool change for the hot summer months. Consider an unusual study or change in educational method. It may be the very thing the family needs to refresh learning and foster relationships.

Our penguin (and beyond) resources:

Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham

Penguin: See How They Grow, DK Publishing

These Birds Can't Fly, Allan Fowler

A Penguin's World by Caroline Arnold

Penguins! by Gail Gibbons

Puffins Climb, Penguins Rhyme by Bruce McMillan

Splash! A Penguin Counting Book by Jonathan Chester

Evan Moor's January Theme Book

KidZone: Penguins

Antarctic Connection

Enchanted Learning: Penguin Print-outs

My Own Batch of Cookies


OK, folks, I have a really simple way for you to make cookies if you have more than one child. You know that kids don’t want to be told, “Susie, you can add the baking soda after Joe puts in the flour...” They want to do the whole thing by themselves, and at least once a year, they should! (After all, baking is a great opportunity for learning math skills: measuring, fractions, lining up rows and columns on the cookie sheet for “skip counting” etc.)

In stations on the kitchen table and/or counters, set out the ingredients (and a measuring cup or spoon for each one) in the order they are listed. Then send each child through the production line with a mixing bowl and a recipe card (and possibly an older helper). They can choose which optional ingredients to stir into their own batch.

Cream with a mixer:

1/2 cup shortening (butter, margarine, etc.)
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar

Add and mix well:

1-1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Optional: 1/4 cup chocolate chips, nuts, peanut butter, raisins, coconut

Drop by the spoonful onto cookie sheets or press into a greased or sprayed 9"x13" baking pan. Bake at 350º for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Be prepared for a sticky but happy mess!

(I found this article, written by me, in the very old archives of my Hope Chest e-magazine.  I've got to try this again!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Motherhood Management in Your Home School

Are you going crazy trying to keep things running smoothly in your home school when your house is full of young children?  Let's think about two different moms at exaggerated ends of the spectrum.

Mom #1 rolls wearily out of bed when the preschooler starts whining for breakfast. The two older children stumble out of their rooms, poking each other, and meet with a sharp reprimand from Mom. After eating, the children wander off and Mom is left alone to clear up the debris. The baby starts to whimper and Mom discovers a blow-out diaper oozing onto the high chair. She sets the jelly jar back on the table and carries the baby upstairs to the nursery. As soon as she gets the messy diaper off, she hears a crash downstairs. It is the jelly jar, now shattered and splattered on the kitchen floor. After she mops, Mom trudges back upstairs to nurse the baby. The other children scamper outside to play, barefoot and in their pajamas. When Mom yells for them to come in, they track mud all over the fresh-mopped floor.

During morning school time, Mom #1's third grade son repeats the same math mistakes from yesterday, because she didn't grade his paper. They can't do the science experiment listed in their text book because they didn't buy the supplies. While Mom hunts for flash cards for the first grader's phonics lesson, the bored preschooler throws blocks at the baby. By now it's lunch time and Mom must try to make peanut butter sandwiches while clutching a howling baby.

The bedraggled family has just finished eating when the phone suddenly rings. It is a home school friend, inviting them all over to play that afternoon. Escape! After a frantic scramble to find matching shoes, they jump in the van and fight over the front seat. During their visit, Mom and her friend spend the time commiserating over the lack of good field trips in their support group, and ask themselves if maybe they should switch groups. Actually, though, Mom's friend is thinking of quitting home schooling anyway, and the social time turns into a gripe session.

On the way home, Mom drops off the overdue library books and stops at the grocery store to get meat for supper. She forgets to get a new jar of jelly, but her children manipulate her into buying candy bars to keep them quiet. When they get home, Mom has to set the groceries on the floor because the table is still covered with the remains of lunch and the counters are full of clutter. The preschooler has missed his nap and runs around wild until Dad walks in. Mom has a pulsing headache and the house is trashed. There is very little to write down for school, but Mom hasn't kept records this week anyway.

So that was an exaggerated Mom #1! (I hope!) What about Mom #2? She has the same children and the same house, but her perspective is totally different!

Mom #2 gets up early to have her quiet time and a shower. The preschooler is up when Mom gets out of the bathroom, so she puts him to work setting out the breakfast dishes. She turns on some music and greets her grumpy older children with a smile, because she knows that the next 10 minutes can either make or break the day. After breakfast, the children all take their dishes to the sink. One child wipes the table and another sweeps. Since the jelly has been transferred to a plastic jar, the preschooler enjoys putting the food away. Mom throws in a load of laundry, takes tonight's dinner out of the freezer, and quickly reviews her to-do list and lesson plans.

When the baby starts to whimper with that blow-out diaper, Mom takes her and the preschooler upstairs. The preschooler picks out a picture book and plops onto the floor. Mom changes the messy diaper, washes her hands and nurses the baby to sleep.

It's time for the third grader's math lesson, so the first grader takes the preschooler into the living room and helps him with a puzzle. At the dining room table, Mom pulls out a fraction chart to demonstrate the math lesson. She can see the concepts click in her son's brain. This is a dramatic improvement from last week's fraction frustration which impelled her to make the chart in the first place. Then the two older children switch places so that the first grader can do her math and phonics with Mom.

After this, Mom calls the other children in for a science experiment. She pulls the supplies out of a plastic bin, opens the book and directs the children through each step as the preschooler watches with wide eyes. School time proceeds smoothly through the morning. Lunch passes amiably with only one cup of spilled milk and lots of scattered crumbs, which are quickly cleaned up.

When the phone rings, Mom waits for the answering machine to come on, finds out it is a home school friend calling, and picks it up. Her friend invites them over to play, so Mom checks the to-do list. No, it won't fit in today. Mom reminds herself, “Great ideas deserve great planning,” so she suggests postponing it until Wednesday. This is fine with her friend, yet Mom detects an odd note in the voice on the other end of the line. Is anything wrong? “Well, yes,” replies the friend. “I am so burned out with home schooling. I'm thinking of quitting. I just can't seem to get it together. How in the world do you do it?” Mom chats with her friend for 20 minutes, trying to think of a way to encourage her. She recommends a helpful home school book which she has been reading in snatches each day.

After Mom gets off the phone, she tells her children that they can go weed the backyard strawberry patch if they put their shoes and socks on first. She then makes a quick phone call to the health insurance claims department. Next, she pulls out her home school planning notebook, opens to the support group section and flips to her field trip planning page. She calls the local science museum about group prices and jots down all of the information on a notebook page.

When the children are ready to come inside, Mom stands guard at the door to make sure that dirt doesn't sneak in too. The preschooler is filthy, so Mom sticks him in the tub. It's also time for his nap time story and cuddle. Mom grabs her own book to read in his room, because she knows she will have to prevent the nap-fighting preschooler from escaping. When he drifts off to sleep, she sorts through closets and drawers to find items to donate to Salvation Army.

For the rest of the afternoon, Mom reads to the older children, plays with the baby, supervises clean up time and prepares dinner. When Dad gets home, Mom tells about the day and hands him the notes from the health insurance phone call. After dinner and a short Bible video, Dad reads to the children while Mom grades papers and fills out home school record sheets. Mom and Dad chat about the agenda for the next day before she goes to bed, tired but satisfied.

What's the difference? On the surface, the most obvious thing is that Mom #2 has prepared for her day and prevented many of the time-and-energy-eating hassles that plague Mom #1. If you probe a little deeper, you might detect that Mom #2 has gone beyond mere survival to true productivity. How? She is focused on important goals and priorities previously set with Dad. In line with what she feels is her mission in life, she wants to develop a warm home atmosphere, be a helpful partner to her husband, teach and train their children effectively, optimize the family health, grow in her personal life, and assist other moms to do the same. These goals are attached to specific tasks (home schooling, reading, cooking, decluttering and cleaning the house, phone calls, etc.) which Mom does little by little each day, in delicate balance. She must keep her goals and tasks in mind so she doesn't get sidetracked. She knows when to say “NO.” Mom #2 is both efficient and effective. I know this ideal mom seems unattainable, yet we can at least see improvement to the extent that we emulate her and aspire to her ways.

 These two moms reflect different management styles: Management By Objective (MBO) and Management by Exception (MBE). MBO managers set positive, specific, measurable, attainable goals with steps to implement them. They also anticipate situations so they are ready to prevent them or respond to them. In contrast, MBE managers coast along until a problem comes up and then they react to it. They spend prime time on “fighting fires” instead of on productive work. For some, MBE is actually Management by Explosion. What is your current management style? As you move toward MBO management, ask God for a mission statement for your own life, a reflection of what he has called you to be and do. Next, seek God's vision for your life in the areas of marriage, child training, home school, finances, health, ministry, home making, schedule, personal development, etc. These should all be in harmony with your mission. List your specific goals in each area, both long term and short term. Choose a few that are important and/or urgent, and set up a brainstorming page for each. In detail, list the steps and resources needed to pursue each goal. Knowing that I don’t operate in isolation, I even include sections for God’s Part, Others’ Parts and My Part.

Hold on to your visions and keep them in your mind every day! Review your goals and evaluate your progress. Are you overwhelmed? Pace yourself and don't try to accomplish everything at once. Major on one or two things, and dabble in the others as you have time. You are not obligated to become an expert in every “essential” school subject, extra-curricular option, or homemaking skill. Find what fits your unique family. Keep your goals and priorities in balance, so that hobbies, projects, and ministries don't crowd out your first duties to spiritual growth, husband, children, and home life.

Plan ahead so that you can avoid spending all your time reacting to problems. When you are calm and rational, think through recurring problems to reveal creative solutions for the future. For example, if your child routinely bursts into tears while doing a certain subject, consider alternative ways to present or supplement the lessons. The care you take in solving your child's learning problems, rather than merely shifting blame, communicates to him that he is worth something. Your approach to life planning and problem solving will be one of the strongest lessons to your children in the home school of real life. Not even the zippiest workbook can surpass a resourceful and sensible mom.
This article is excerpted from my book The Real Life Home School Mom.  You can read the book for free via the PDF in the sidebar of this blog,

You can also read the first section of this "Life Management 101" section on my blog here: "Let Our Ordered Lives Confess the Beauty of Thy Peace...?" at

Arts & Crafts at Home

Dear friends,

Art is one of those school subjects that often gets neglected, not only in public schools with budget cuts, but also in home schools where moms don't always feel qualified or creative.   We've been in a home school co-op for the past four years and haven't devoted much time to art education at home, though my kids are always creating their own masterpieces.  This year, now that we're doing it all at home again, I want to actually work on teaching arts & crafts more intentionally, especially as it relates to our American history studies.  It helps me to go back and review some basics on art education, so I thought you might enjoy these ideas, too. 

This article is excerpted from my book Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade.  It is part of a larger chapter on the appreciating and applying both visual and performing arts.


“All the skilled men among the workmen made the tabernacle
with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn,
with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman.” Exodus 36:8

I want my children to become proficient in the using elements of form, color and texture in various media. Part of this will come from creative freestyle exploration and “play” but that is not totally sufficient for becoming good at art. That is an acquired skill which takes practice and usually some sort of instruction, whether from a parent, a book, or a professional teacher. Barry Stebbing’s books emphasize this concept, and follow it up with good solid instruction. Nonetheless, most young children can do without intensive formal art instruction for now. While they sometimes need some pointers or a “show me how” demonstration, you don’t always need to hover over your children with a list of instructions. It’s a blast to just get to create something on your own. If they do want to try an organized project without you, there are lots of creative library books that they can check out by themselves.

Acknowledge the Creator as the Master Artist. God can be the creative force behind your art explorations. Ask him to guide your mind and your hands to glorify him! As a home educator, you have the freedom to do art projects on Biblical themes. In the Middle Ages, when most common people were unable to read the Scriptures, artisans used stained glass to communicate the truths of the faith. When I was in 4th grade, my family visited an art museum and bought a Dover stained glass style coloring book with translucent pages. I painstakingly decorated a page with a cathedral window theme, and brought it in to tape up on the classroom window since my teacher had invited each of us to display some work of art. I was informed that I would not be able to do that because it depicted a religious scene! Looking back, this seems so outrageous, even by today’s politically correct standards. A reproduction of a masterpiece of art, banned from the classroom? You, however, can honor God in your artwork anytime you want!

Start with anything that uses creativity or builds visual and motor skills. Puzzles, chunky beads, peg boards and wooden blocks are examples of this. Cuisenaire pattern blocks are simply marvelous for making pictures! Don’t worry if there is not permanent proof of a project.

Plan occasional times for instruction and planned projects. Since this can be frustrating, try to minimize the tears and crumpled up papers through a little prevention. Assure the child that the goal is not a perfect specimen, but enjoyment of the creative process. Try to keep the projects very simple, with easily available materials. You will be more inclined to pick it up and do it than if you had to run out and spend lots of money and then come home and do some elaborate concoction. You also won’t be as disappointed if things don’t work out.

Work one on one whenever possible. Group projects, even with only two children, can easily lead to conflict. Each child wants mom’s undivided attention, and doesn’t want to have to wait for the red pencil that sister is using across the table.

Teach drawing as the first foundation for the visual arts. Drawing seems to be a “fluff” skill, but it is actually quite important because it enables us to make an accurate rendering or diagram of an object or concept for someone who isn’t familiar with what we are trying to communicate to them. “He looked like this...” or “This goes here and that goes there...” Preschoolers are just now learning to control their pencils and make lines where they want them. Make a few basic shapes on paper and see if they can copy them. They may have to trace over several of them at the start, just like they do in handwriting. Talk as you go: “This is a circle. Around we go. This is a square, so let’s make the sides stand up straight.” Put shapes together to make simple objects. A triangle on top of a square makes the start of a house. A circle on a tall rectangle forms a tree. Moving on from there, a simple project for a primary grade student might be to set an item on the table, examine it carefully, and sketch it. Start with a simple contour (outline) of the object, and then try to add details such as shading or patterns. You could also try to copy a drawing that you see, perhaps tracing the outline first. Our shelves are well-stocked with basic drawing books that give step by step instructions for sketching animals and other high interest subjects. Some people might say that “copying stifles creativity” but this is how we learn lots of different subjects! Of course, no child should be confined to that. There should always be freedom to create original artworks.

Imitate art that you see. That’s how the world’s master artists learned -- by copying other great works of art until they could do their own. Try to create something in a similar style, or using the same media. Kelly-Ann Gritner-Gibbons suggests: “Your children may enjoy drawing or painting a picture, inspired by artwork from children's books or art books. If your children don’t seem very excited about the idea, take out some extra paper and get involved drawing with them! When my daughter was five, we read Beatrix Potter stories together. We discussed the illustrations, what we thought was happening based on what we observed. After a couple of days of this, my daughter pulled out paper and began drawing her own pictures of our pets (wearing clothes), engaged in human activities. The drawings are terrific!” 

Set up a regular place to do art projects, and keep your supplies near that place. At our house tidy art projects, such as every day drawing, take place at our dining room table. We keep bins of colored pencils, stencils, safety scissors, and markers nearby. If they want to make a mess with glue, clay or paints, they need to go out in the garage where we have a craft table set up. I expect them to lay down newspapers, wear an old T-shirt, and clean up afterwards. (Sigh... This doesn’t always happen!) I try to keep messy stuff out of the reach of toddlers. I hate to find rubber stamps dumped on the floor, or markers smeared on the wall! [Note in 2010: We no longer have a garage since we converted it to a bedroom.  However, we do have a craft table set up on the back porch! Use what you have!]

Display art projects in a special place. This will serve as a reminder that your child's efforts are important and appreciated. You might want to frame one for Dad’s office, or slide one into a plastic page protector mounted on your refrigerator. Of course you are going to run out of room there! When you need to archive a masterpiece, you can store it in a special Treasure Box, or in a notebook inside a page protector, or in a file folder. You can buy a plastic portfolio envelope or make one of your own with decorated poster board. I still have a whole portfolio of my high school art work in the back of my closet, and my children enjoy looking through it once in a while.

Participate in an art fair. Our support group hosts an art exhibition on our annual Promotion Night. Or, you can hold a private show of your child’s artwork, and invite family and friends. Use small display stands for framed or rigid artwork.

Suggested Art and Craft Projects: 
  • colors (the color wheel, primary and secondary colors, mixing colors to get a desired shade, what colors go well together to create a certain mood)
  • drawing -- straight lines, zig zag lines, curvy lines, dots, basic shapes, contours of items, textures, shading, etc.
  • lettering in different styles
  • painting -- many kinds!
  • collages with cut paper, small objects, or magazine pictures
  • printing with rubber stamps, potato prints, or other methods
  • rubbings to show texture of an object
  • sculpture and mobiles
  • needlework, sewing and weaving
  • paper engineering (pop up cards, slide mechanisms, etc.)
  • computerized art
  • posters and other signs for real life purposes
  • greeting cards or booklets
  • gift wrap and party decorations
  • holiday ornaments and garlands
  • toys, corn husk dolls, puppets, props, masks, and scenery
  • photography and scrap booking

 Materials and supplies to have on hand: 
  • markers, colored pencils and/or crayons
  • lots of paper: blank, colored, graph, card stock, poster board, etc.
  • plastic stencils of alphabet, numbers, shapes, animals and other simple objects
  • computer art software
  • tape, gel glue, white washable glue, glue sticks and glitter glue
  • scissors (with blunt tip for younger children)
  • finger paints, washable tempera paints, water colors, brushes, and plastic plate palette
  • rubber stamps and ink pads
  • play dough or other non-toxic clay
  • Plaster of Paris powder
  • fabric, thread, embroidery floss, buttons, sequins, large needles with blunt points
  • knitting needles, crochet hook and yarn
  • craft sticks, scraps of wood, pre-cut wood shapes, toothpicks
  • felt, stuffing, colorful fabrics
  • scrap book and supplies
  • inexpensive automatic camera and film

Basic Arts and Crafts Method Books:

  • Lamb’s Book of Art and others by Barry Stebbing (
  • How to Draw Wild Animals and other books in series (Watermill Press) -- Simple step-by-step instructions for drawing a wide variety of subjects.
  • Appreciating Art by Debbie and Darrel Trulson (Christian Liberty Press) -- Arts and crafts projects designed for elementary age home schoolers.
  • Art Fun! by Kim Solga (North Light Books) -- Lots of great projects in a colorful book!
  • Get Set... Go! series by Ruth Thompson (Children’s Press) -- Titles include: Painting, Drawing, Printing and Collage. These books are for preschool and early elementary.
  • Draw Write Now series by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer -- themed drawing and handwriting books for early elementary.
  • Start with Art: Understanding Art with Lots of Practical Step-by-Step Projects for the Young Artist series by Sue Lacey (Copper Beech Books) -- Titles include: People, Animals and Landscapes. Each page spread features a famous work of art, and gives ideas for how to use the subject or technique (prints, model, mosaic, collage, etc.) in a simple art project at home.
  • Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes -- A classic for home educators.

Do you want to read about nurturing your own creativity as a mom?  Pop on over to my ComeWeary Moms blog at read all about it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bored? What to Do With a TV Off!

Dear friends,

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but one day when I was seven years old, our TV mysteriously broke. We could no longer spend several hours a day watching sit-coms and cartoons, and thus it remained for six more years. My parents wisely broke the addiction that stifled our creativity and growth. Soon we realized that the worlds of music, art, literature, and gardening were more exciting and productive than Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. My brother and sister and I all ended up with a lifetime love of learning. Many of the skills we pursued in our TV-free childhood days have served us well as adults. I fondly recall the many hours spent with my sister, reading side by side, designing our dream houses, writing zany stories, and going to Saturday morning music theory classes at the conservatory. My brother helped me with the piano. Mom and Dad took us to concerts and ethnic restaurants, and we never missed a school musical with John on the trombone or keyboards, or Barb at the cello. Dad later taught me computer programming and prepared me with a job skill that paid my way through college. As a family, we had become unplugged, but not unglued.

In our own household, we haven't totally gotten rid of our TV. We enjoy educational videos, some PBS, and the evening news. Putting limits on time is always a challenge! We occasionally put the TV in storage for a few months when it has consistently gotten out of hand. You can also buy a set with a “parental control” feature so you can block out TV access for hours at a time or filter offensive content.

Families need regular hours for the 3Rs of recreation, relaxation and rejoicing with one another to affirm their commitment. Why not try a few of these TV-free activities?

♥ Read aloud a chapter from a long book or choose short picture books.
♥ Write appreciative notes to relatives, missionaries, shut-ins, or each other.
♥ Produce an annual family newsletter.
♥ Write and illustrate your own books.
♥ Play thinking games, like chess, 20 questions, or Scrabble.
♥ Design your own game!
♥ Try sign language, Braille, or Morse code. Take a blindfold walk.
♥ Have an art contest or draw self-portraits.
♥ Bake cookies and deliver them to someone who needs a lift.
♥ Walk around your neighborhood and chat with whoever you meet.
♥ Take a nature walk and make collages with your specimens.
♥ Work together on a special household or garden project.
♥ Have family worship time with songs, prayer, story, and craft.
♥ Look at photo albums, show slides, or listen to old records.
♥ Tell stories of when Mom and Dad were young.
♥ Put on a talent show or dress up for skits. Make sure the camera is ready!
♥ Let the children try the old guitar or clarinet.
♥ Have a family discussion about topics like where to go on vacation.
♥ Go to a concert, play, art museum, or zoo.

This article is excerpted from my first book, The Real Life Home School Mom:
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