Category Archives: practical tips

Child Training Bible

Oh how I love Pinterest! I’ve come across some of the greatest ideas on there, and also some of the neatest products that I didn’t previously know existed. This one in particular is among the most practical and useful products I’ve seen on there. I think I spotted and pinned this Child Training Bible maybe a week and a half before Christmas, and I made it very clear to my kids and husband that I’d love to get everything I need to make it (with Christmas and my birthday coming up…I knew there was a good possibility they might need gift ideas anyway). Lo and behold, my hubby made it happen. On Christmas, I got the kit and all the supplies needed to put it together. I got right to work and completed it in just over a day.
What is it that makes this product so great, you might ask? Well, for starters, the Bible has so much instruction and encouragement in it that could and should be used in the training of our children, however, if you’re like me, in the moment when it’s needed, you may forget exactly which verse you’re looking for and by the time you find it, that teachable moment has passed. To have handy scripture available, I’ve tried charts that have verses, along with index cards on rings, but they don’t quite have the same effect as opening God’s Word to see what it has to say. Caroline, my inquisitive and skeptical child, has asked me before when I’ve told her what the Bible says, “Does it REALLY say that?” (“Yes, my dear, I promise you it does say ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right’ even though I know you’d like to believe I’m making that up.”) So now, with this product, I can grab the Bible, quickly find several verses on a particular topic, and sit down with the child whose heart needs to be reminded of truth. THAT is what makes this product an incredibly useful parenting tool. I knew I had to have it when I saw it.

On their website, they list the exact materials you need to make The Child Training Bible.

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Their guide goes in the front of the Bible (that needs to be exactly 9×6) and allows you to easily find verses you’ve tabbed (they give you a list of recommended verses, but I also included some of my own personal favorites) on each issue.

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On the tabbed pages, you highlight the verse in the corresponding color to make it super easy to find. Some pages may have highlighted verses in various colors.

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This is something I decided to add on my own so I wouldn’t have to keep multiple guides stuck in the Bible all the time. The gospel section is broken up further into four parts, so I marked those on the inside so we could easily find what we were looking for.

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Week 9

I’d almost forgotten that I’d scheduled in a short break this week from a few things. A lot of our subjects fill in 32 weeks of our school year, leaving me with four random blank weeks so I inserted a break every eight weeks. It works out similarly with our other subjects where the curriculum provides anywhere from 28-32 weeks of lessons. I made a pretty detailed schedule of all these things before the beginning of the year. I prefer a random break week from a subject here and there over having 4-6 weeks at the end of the year when we have practically nothing to do.

Memory Verse: (one-week break)

Hymn: (one-week break)

Artist: (one-week break)

Composer: (one-week break)

Five in a Row: Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan (learning about homophones) (10/1-10/12)

Pre-K Literature: Aunt Mary’s Rose by Douglas Wood (learning about plants, roses, and focusing on aunts in our family study) (10/1-10/12)

Read Aloud: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

A Few Photos From Last Week

She’s a pattern whiz.

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When went on a nature walk to look for unique pebbles and brought along our nature journals in case we came across anything else interesting.

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Rocks!

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We found the roundest pebble we could so we could paint it red to replicate the pebble in Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

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And of course she needed to paint a rock pink.

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This was our last picture study for Van Gogh.

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We enjoyed lunch outside on a beautiful day.

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I still can’t seem to get enough photos of these two in their backpacks for classes on Friday. They seem so grown up!

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We finished the week at a New York-Style Pizzeria as a fun ending to our current FIAR book, Little Nino’s Pizzeria.

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New School Year=New Home Management Plan

Something about starting a new school year always motivates me to get organized and begin new disciplines in other areas of my life. I’m a pretty organized person already, but there are still areas where I struggle to keep a consistent plan that works long-term. I’ve been doing a study of the book, A Woman After God’s Own Heart with a couple of friends and after going through the chapters on the woman’s God-given role as home builder, I was totally inspired to put together a much better plan for keeping our home in top shape so it can be a peaceful haven for our family, especially since we’re home so often. I had looked into the methods of Fly Lady several years ago, but quickly fell off the wagon because just managing life with two very small children was overwhelming enough. A few weeks ago I decided to look into it again, this time borrowing her book from the library. I quickly became really excited about implementing her ideas. They might have seemed impossible a few years ago but in my current phase of life they sound like exactly what I need!

One of the things she recommends is breaking your home into “zones” and rotating them weekly and taking 15-minute chunks of time here and there throughout the week to work on your current zone. She emphasizes that you don’t have to do it perfectly or even complete every task. Anything you can get done blesses your family more than doing nothing at all. For some reason that really resonated with me because I’ve always been an “all or nothing” type of person. If I didn’t have an hour to do one giant job, I’d do nothing instead. Previously, I had been rotating cleaning tasks weekly, but I would lump them together by type of job (such as dust EVERY room or mop ALL tile floors) and that really doesn’t work very well for an all or nothing person. It makes much more sense to me to focus my attention on a specific area in my home here an there throughout the week.

Another Fly Lady “rule” is to keep some kind of master journal or notebook with all the information you need to manage your home and organize your chores. This is something I’ve always wanted to do (I’m such a notebook type of person) but I guess I’ve just been overwhelmed and confused about exactly what to put in there. I’ve also tried using a couple different apps on my phone that supposedly keep this information handy for you but those have all come up short. I don’t know about you, but whenever I pick up my phone and look for something on it, I become very unproductive because I soon find myself being sucked into something else and wasting time. I decided for this kind of thing I needed a real tangible notebook that I could refer to on my counter throughout the day and slip back not the drawer in the evening. In about a day’s time, I put together a handy home management journal that has everything I need to stay on top of all that goes on around here. I feel like a weight has been lifted off me, knowing that nothing will be forgotten. I’m ready to take on the task of another homeschooling year while also keeping things under control in my home!

Here’s my Home Management Journal

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I used dividers and broke it up into eight different categories: Routines and Schedules, To-Do Lists, Current Cleaning Zone, Cleaning Zones, Meal Plans and Shopping Lists, Bills, Home and Car Maintenance Schedule, and Misc.

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“Daily Routines” are things I do regularly each day, no matter what day of the week. These are the things that keep things maintained and cleaner longer and also help me get ready for the next day of life at home[school].
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I also have a schedule for each day of the week because our Mondays/Wednesdays look very different from our Tuesdays/Thursdays…and Fridays are completely unique as well.
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Here’s my current zone. It’s kept in a page protector so I at the beginning of the week so I can mark what I really want to get done and then I can check the jobs off as I get them completed during my 15-minute cleanings.

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The rest of my zones are in the next divider to be rotated into the current spot each week. There are five in all.
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“Meal Planning and Grocery Lists”
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Here’s the simple layout of my “Bills and Money” section. We do bills twice a month, at the beginning and in the middle, and additionally transfer money into various accounts at those times as well. Having this handy helps me remember when and where the money is going.

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This is my “Home and Car Maintenance” section. Just having these finally written out and organized is a huge burden off of me because I have been trying to just remember this stuff and I’m always worried something important will slip my mind.

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My New School Year Planning Plan!

You know you’ve reached a new level of obsessiveness when you start planning how you’re going to plan your school year, but this is who I am, as crazy as it sounds! I’ve spent the last two summers working my tail off trying to plan the following year so I decided I wanted to make an official planning schedule that allows me to relax and enjoy the summers, especially now that I’ve shortened our summers to eight weeks and added some extra shorter breaks in throughout the year (twelve consecutive weeks of no real routine has been just too much). My planning for the next year now starts in February. I start buying curriculum with the intention of having everything purchased by the end of March. April and May are my planning months, where I go through all my curriculum and figure when and how often it needs to be done to be completed by the end of the year. I absolutely have to know that we are going to finish everything in time or else I go nuts with worry, and a worried homeschool mom is not a good thing to be! At the end of May I plan on buying all new supplies (lots and lots of paper, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, etc.) and then I get to have eight restful weeks until we start back at the beginning again!

Here are a few of the things that get done during my planning phase:

I’d be lost without Evernote on my iPad/ iPhone. I keep so many notes for homeschooling on it that I can always have with me as long as I have my phone. Since our school revolves around our literature units, the first thing I do is schedule those and and try to match them up with the best time of year.

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I also keep a running list to things I need to buy and do that I delete as I do them. This list was SUPER long about a month ago and I’ve finally made some progress on it and am excited to keep taking things off.

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One thing I’m doing differently this year is instead of teaching right out of my FIAR manual, I made my own plan book with only the lessons I plan on doing each day. I found my self getting overwhelmed with all that was in the manual or having trouble finding something specific I knew I had read before, so this allows me to customize our FIAR days and add my own ideas as well.

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Then I start working on notebooks. This year I am simplifying quite a bit, but we still have a couple notebook pages I’ve made myself to go with each story. Here we have new vocabulary terms, which most books have.

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There are also some pages that are specific to each book. For instance, we’ll be doing some additional pages on animal classification, food groups, homophones, etc.)

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This is an oldie but goodie that we do for each and every book.

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This is a copywork page (from homeschoolshare.com).

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And then there are a few other things I’ve found to put in that go along with some of our stories.

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Caroline’s notebook is still a work in progress, but she will have lots of handwriting practice, narration and drawing prompts, and other activities that go along with our family theme and her various books.

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With all our other curriculum, I go through and see how many lessons per week/day we have to do. If one lesson is broken up into several days, I mark where we will stop after each day so that I don’t have to sit there and count how many pages they do. Elliot knows very well by now that the dot at the top of the page means “Go no further!”.
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Then are also things I add in for certain subjects. With phonics, for instance, I plan out sentences with words and sounds that go with the current lesson that I will dictate and Elliot will practice writing. This really helps reemphasize what he’s learned and has greatly improved his spelling and grammar as well.
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And then there’s math. It’s pretty simple since it’s all there for me in our curriculum and is very easily divided into weekly lessons. The hardest part about it is taking all the pages out of the books (Seriously….it’s a beating. I’ve had to reinforce so many hole punches because they ripped when I was trying to get them out.) and putting them in a notebook, which I like to do ahead of time so they are easy to grab when I need them. I add some extras here and there, such as reproducible worksheets on things such as graphs, money, time, measurement, etc. that I keep in a separate file folder for when I think he needs extra practice on something.

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So that’s what I’ve been doing these days! It keeps me busy and helps me get excited to start fresh next year!

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More on Behavior Management, Chores, and Allowance

I’m constantly tweaking our various systems. Sometimes I worry that I change things too much, but if it isn’t working to give you your desired results, it needs to be adjusted, right? So, after being frustrated about dealing with things like laziness, bad attitudes and lack of self-control, I decided it was time again for yet another change. Just taking a dollar away from Elliot’s allowance for these types of offenses wasn’t working well, and I felt like we were just constantly punishing the bad behavior and not focusing on getting positive behavior we want to see. I wanted to have a checklist of expectations that each of the kids and I could go through at the end of the day to assess how they did so we can really talk about the areas they need to work on. When they do a good job of meeting the expectations that day, they’lI get a star. I explained to them that I don’t expect perfection, because we all have bad days, but the goal is going to be that we have more good days than bad (of the weekdays), so if they have received three stars or more that week, they will receive their allowance, which is a set amount for each of them. They either get it or they don’t. Caroline is extremely excited about the possibility of finally earning allowance since she hasn’t until now. She has already been jumping at the chance to be a helper to me. I’ve also already seen Elliot trying harder to keep the peace and have self-control (which are things he struggles with). I hope I continue to see improvement! We’ll see!

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Our New Schoolroom

While the boys were on the east coast, I managed to keep myself pretty busy with my latest project. We’ve talked about turning the playroom into a schoolroom for a while, but I always ended up coming up with a reason why it was unnecessary. Josh has always been so open to doing whatever I need to do to make things work better for me, so when I brought the idea up to him again after being frustrated about the chaotic situation in the kitchen, his response was “Let’s do it!” (I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful and supportive husband.) Unfortunately, he was headed out of town for five days with our son, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing the project. When I get an idea in my head, I typically to want to get it done right away. So Caroline and I went and bought the furniture we needed, brought it home, and I built on my own and set up the room just how I wanted it. I have to say, I absolutely love it and I am only regretful about not doing it sooner. The kids can finally have access to everything they need when they need it and don’t have to wait on me to tell them what to do next. This will definitely streamline our daily routine.

Here’s our school table. I got the inspiration from another blogger, whose name is also Erica, at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She is amazing and so sweet. I emailed her several times to ask her questions and she always answered right back.

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The closet! It’s so easy to find what I need now!
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This is our reading area.
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Yes, that’s a shelf just for my iPad! I use it all the time for educational YouTube videos or to look things up, so I love having it right there.
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I was also nspired by Erica’s workbox system and developed a similar system for us. In each of the kids’ drawers are different assignments they have for the day. With it is a card that tells them what they are to do that day. I laminated them so I can write details in dry erase marker as needed.
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I use the back of the card to indicate when we aren’t doing a particular subject that day.
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His math assignments for the day and manipulative box, so he can have everything he needs right there at his fingertips.
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Speaking of math, Josh even put all of his lessons from our Math-U-See DVD on my iPad so he can easily watch it right there at his desk.
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Here are some examples of Caroline’s drawers.
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As they finish each drawer, they place the card under their desk mat so they can clearly see where they are in their progress for the day. When all four cards are placed there, they are done with their individual work (We do stuff as a group before and after individual work time.)
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More Great Finds from Target’s $1 Section

At the beginning of last year, I had written about being shocked to find some great educational items in the dollar section of Target. I’ve been continually lucky throughout the year to stumble upon great stuff, and just the other day we were there and found some things we’re really excited about. I should explain first that Elliot LOVES workbooks and he LOVES geography and science. I did not buy these in order to bog him down with more to do. He begged me to buy them and has since been working in them for hours during his free time in the afternoon.

These are super neat workbooks filled with fun educational activities. I bought every single one I could find and if there were more I would have grabbed them too.
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Seriously…this is what my child does with his afternoons.
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We also found these great dry-erase writing boards. Caroline had to have one of her own when she noticed they had some with pink and purple lines! I have another similar board that Elliot has used but I like that these have all the lines for lots of practice. I usually give him additional practice on the board when he is done with his handwriting curriculum.

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Reward Systems and Money Management

I’ve made some changes this year for our school reward system. Last year I did a ticket system with Elliot where he earned tickets for hard work and was able to purchase rewards with them. This year I wanted to involve Caroline, but the idea of doling out tickets to two kids overwhelmed me a bit. I was imagining the kids getting their tickets mixed up and, knowing Caroline, tickets stashed all over the place in her room. It sounded like more chaos than I needed to add to my already complicated life, so I came up with something simpler. Since they did so well working together as a team on their chart this summer, I liked the idea of doing something similar where they can encourage one another to do well.

I came up with a few reward ideas that would motivate them, wrote them on index cards and laminated them and now we have what we call our Super Students Rewards.
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Each school day if they have worked hard and not distracted each other too much, they will earn a letter and I’ll write it in with dry erase marker. When they’ve spelled the entire word(s), they get the reward!

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We also decided that Elliot is ready for an allowance, especially since he’s starting to do a lot of chores around the house. We figured this would be a great opportunity to teach Elliot money management, particularly the habit of giving and saving ten percent. We feel these things are SO important for him to learn from an early age. I made a little system inspired by Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Jr. Kit (I loved the idea but thought I could make my own system and not spend $20 on his!), that uses an envelop system to make sure those things are taking place with all the money that is earned. Each Friday afternoon Elliot will get his allowance, based on how well he’s done his chores and what his conduct was like that week and he will put it directly in his money bank, or what we now call the “Holding Spot”. When he reaches ten dollars in his holding spot, we’ll split it up. One dollar goes into the “Give” envelop, one goes into the “Save” envelop, and the remaining eight goes into the “Spend” envelop. (He can put more into “Give” and “Save” if he chooses to do so.) Once money has been placed into the “Spend” envelop, he can choose to spend it how he’d like to (though we’ll encourage him to make wise choices and not just spending it on anything), but he cannot use it until it’s in that envelop. This will help him learn to be disciplined with his money, since he will have to wait a while to spend money he’s earned and we hope it gives him time to put some thought into what he’ll use it on. The money from the “Give” envelop will be given at church and the money in the “Save” envelop will be deposited into his savings account.

This is how we will determine how much he gets. He has the potential for four dollars each week, but if he’s been lazy with his chores and I have to get onto him about it, he will get a square marked off. I also reserve the right to mark it off if I catch him doing something we discourage such as provoking or teasing Caroline. Four dollars may seem like a lot of money for a six-year-old, but I don’t think he’ll earn the entire thing very often (though I wanted the potential to be there since the more money he has to work with, the more he’ll get to practice money management). I told him I’m going to be pretty tough when it comes what marking off squares when I think it’s appropriate. On Friday afternoon, if he has all squares unmarked he’ll get four dollars. If he has just one marked off, he’ll get three dollars. If he has two marked off then he’ll get two dollars, if he three marked off he’ll get one dollar, and if he has gotten all squares marked off, he will not get any allowance that week.

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In this example, he’d get two dollars at the end of the week.

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Here’s our little Give-Save-Spend system along with his “Holding Spot” for money waiting to be split up.

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Morning Routine Rundown

With just two weeks until we start our school year, I decided it would be a good time to start practicing our routine so we’re all clear on what is to be expected once we start. We’ve relaxed a lot during the summer but I know we’ll need to get back to having more structure as we begin our busy school days to make sure we get off to a good start.

One thing I’ve been planning on doing for a while is a chore pack system. Quite a while ago a friend of mine shared with me a link to a video done by Courtney over at Women Living Well (such a great blog!) where she explained how she did her chore packs with her children. I loved it and wanted to adopt the system in our own home, but at the time I didn’t think my youngest was quite ready. She’s three now and I’ve definitely been seeing signs that she’s ready for a little responsibility around here. I made our chore packs and explained to the kids how they work. This morning we had our first try at with the system and things worked flawlessly. Even Caroline was capable of doing all her chores independently and could flip the chore cards to the pocket in the back of her pack when she was done. (I wasn’t sure if she would be able to because it’s a pretty tight squeeze.)

We also plan on having quiet Bible/prayer time several mornings a week after we finish our chores. This morning the kids and I had a nice talk about the importance of being in communication with God and the only way we can do that is if we spend time in his word and in prayer. I emphasized to the kids how important it was for me to be able to get that uninterrupted time and how I wanted to teach them this habit as well. While I am in my room having my quiet time, the kids start out together in Elliot’s room where he reads a few Bible stories aloud. Then Caroline goes to her room for the remainder of the time to look through her Bible, listen to audio Bible stories and pray. This morning we practiced this habit and I succeeded in getting twenty minutes of quiet time in my room without anyone coming in to talk to me. That is a major accomplishment! I know this will really help us to start our day off on the right foot and specifically refocus my mind on the reason why we are homeschooling to begin with.

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Elliot’s chore cards include putting all the laundry in the washer, wiping down the kitchen table, emptying the bathroom wastebaskets, and a few other things. Caroline is responsible for taking the kitchen laundry upstairs, wiping down the bathroom sink, putting the pillows back on the couch, putting shoes away, and tidying her room and the playroom.

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After they are dressed, beds are made, and teeth are brushed, they come get their chore packs and get to work!

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“Another job done! Time to flip the card!”

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They did great with their first quiet Bible time.

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The only flaw I found in the plan was that I did not consider when Caroline’s hair would get done, as you can tell from the photos! We’ll have to work that in somewhere.

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Notebooks

Last year we really enjoyed putting all of Elliot’s Five in a Row projects into a special notebook. With each project he finished, it felt great to add more to our collection and it was so rewarding to go back through it at the end of the year to see all we had accomplished. I’ve been working on getting both of kids’ notebooks for the upcoming year ready. All they lack now are their projects to fill them!

Each week she’ll decorate her letter in a special way. For example, we’ll be gluing blue buttons on the B.

I’ve also added our poem of the week for each letter and several blank pages in each section for her other crafts and photos of activities we do.

Just like last year, in Elliot’s notebook he’s got a section for each Five in a Row book with lots of pages to add projects for each one.

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