Five and a Half Ways to Help a Slow Reader

Posted by on 22 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

My first child is a voracious reader. Miss Bug reads from morning to night. If I don’t know where she is, she is probably in her room reading. Her favorite place is the library. And her constant complaint is the lack of new books. She has pushed me to read new books. She has read many books that I haven’t.  She was also an easy child to teach to read. We read to her, taught her the alphabet, and helped her sound out her first words. Then she was off and running.

My second child, T-Rex, has been a different story. And he has taught me how to help a slow reader.


Every child is different. Each has different strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. So the items on this list might not be as helpful to you as they were to me. But hopefully they will be a starting point.

1. Read to your child

Read from real books that he/she enjoys. Let reading time be a time of pure enjoyment, not teaching. I know my son began to really dislike reading because he couldn’t do it well. Even though I was able to see small improvements in him, he felt like he was constantly failing. Reading to him with no goal other than enjoyment was key to keeping him from turning completely off to books.

2. Read a lot

Read from books. Read from magazines. Read websites, encyclopedias, scriptures, dictionaries and newspapers. Have you child read the instructions in their math books, history books and handwriting books. Read one page, and have them read one page. Pick a subject they are excited about and check out books on it from early readers to middle school readers. Have them read to their younger siblings, older siblings, grandparents, or the dog.  And . . .

2a. Write a lot

Writing is an extension of reading. Have your child copy poems, quotations, scriptures and songs. Have them keep a journal, even one sentence a day. Have them write book reports, state reports, current events and stories. If they hate handwriting, have them type. Have them write whatever amount they are comfortable with, and maybe one sentence beyond.

3. Find what works for them

A lot of advice I hear given goes something like this: ‘Boys just need to find a book they are interested in, then their reading takes off.’ This is true for some, not so much for others. For my son, he loved the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ books. We read them with him, each taking a page at a time. Truth be told, this didn’t cause him to immediately begin reading quickly and fluently. But it did respark his interest in books.

Another thing that worked well for us was finding readers that he enjoyed. I had on my shelf the Bob books, a set of Usborne readers, and the McGuffey primers. He read through parts of all of them, with varying levels of success, interest and enjoyment. Then I finally found the readers that my mother had taught me with.

sullivan reader

The Sullivan Programmed Reading Series was interesting to my son, and taught him in ways that he was able to grasp quickly. He really enjoys these readers, and I’ll do a fuller review of them at a later date.

4. Sign up for a reading contest

Summer reading programs and contests can be found at many libraries and bookstores across the country. You might think that this would be counterproductive to your child, as it would compare him to others with better skills. But many contests have basic prizes or rewards for participation, or reading a set number of books. holds a summer reading program each year, and every child who reads five or more books at his or her reading level receives a $5 gift certificate to the website (this is taken from  a fee of $5 per child to enter the program). My son has been very excited to enter this contest the last three years, and while his sister puts up 100 books and thousands of pages each summer, he works his way through five to ten books or so, and proudly claims his prize at then, choosing whatever books he would like with his gift certificate.

You could also make a family reading program. A chart where each book read adds a scoop to an ice cream cone, toppings to a pizza, or helps a rockets take off can be very motivating, especially if the everyone gets an ice cream party after ten scoops!

5. Have your child tested

If your child is having difficulties that you can’t help them with, struggles that are taking years to resolve, or other problems in connection with reading, have them tested for learning difficulties. If your child has dyslexia or other learning disabilities, they will need specialized help. Knowing what they need can help guide you in you teaching. Finding out that your child doesn’t have any of those problems can also be helpful, as you will know what not to worry about. Our son, thankfully, does not have any learning disabilities. But it has taken 3 years of patient work to get him reading with some fluency. He is still progressing, but we finally feeling confident that he is getting where he needs to be.

All of these things can be part of a plan to help you. Something of interest to note is that some countries in Europe do not start formal schooling until children are 7, but still have excellent results. I hope this article is a good starting point for you.

This article is linked at Hip Homeschool Moms and Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Note: I was not paid or compensated to mention any product in this post.



How to get your house clean (enough): Tips and Tricks

Posted by on 19 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: How to get your house clean (enough)

Do you know how to get your house clean in a day? It’s easy! Just invite people over, and magically, your house will be clean for them.



Actually, my magic wand never arrived, so I have to do it the old fashioned way.

How to Get Your House Clean enough

That’s not to say there aren’t tricks to getting a house (with five kids in it, no less) tidy enough for company quickly.

Trick #1 Enlist Help

Your kids certainly helped to make the mess, they can help clean it up. Make strips of paper, each with a job that your kids can do written on it. If you have a wide range in abilities (like I do) make two jars (or more), one with easy tasks, one with harder for the older kids. Your kids can probably do a lot more than you think they can. Some examples of items to include:

Pick up 10 (or 25 or 100) things and put away.

Sweep (area)

Clean toilet

Clean sink

Wipe counters (tables, chairs)

Save the tricky, too high, or too hard tasks for yourself, though, again, your kids can do more than you think! Also, if there is something that you are particular about, you can do that yourself. I or my husband vacuum, not because my kids are incapable, but because they broke our last vacuum. True story: they sucked up too big of things, like popsicle sticks and pencils, and burned out the motor on our vacuum.

Trick #2 Hide Judiciously

If you are down to the wire and have only hours (or minutes) to clean, pick your battles wisely. While counters still have to be wiped and toilets cleaned, more cluttery stuff can be hidden to take care of after company has left. The laundry baskets can be stowed in the laundry room or a bedroom, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, excess clutter can be tossed in a basket and put in a bedroom to be dealt with later. Shut doors of rooms that people won’t go into, and lock them if you have curious kids (or relatives) coming over.

Trick #3 Keep up your foundation

The real trick to a good ‘company tidy’ is to have a foundation of cleanliness. So every day have tasks that you do (making beds, sweeping, dishes, wiping counters) and every week also (clean bathrooms, mop floors, vacuum). If you have a good foundation, it is easier to clean in the moment.

Trick #4 Use all the senses

Use nice scented cleaners, essential oils, or scented candles to keep things smelling ‘clean’. People’s sense of smell is very powerful. If the first impression they get with their nose musty, burned food, or other unpleasant scents, it’s hard for them (or you) to think the house is clean. Take out the trash for the same reason.

Turn on some quiet music as well. Make sure your home is a comfortable temperature. And while I am very fond of daylight bulbs, it must be admitted that soft light bulbs do a better job of hiding dust.

That’s it for the ‘tricks’.  Next week I’ll cover how to get your bathroom clean (enough).

All Posts in this series:

Tips and Tricks


Family Room

Kitchen and Dining


Play Room

Guest Bedroom

The Strange Case of the Disappearing Chicken

Posted by on 17 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

About a year ago, I went to put the chickens up for the night, and, upon counting them, discovered that one was missing.


Courtesy wikipedia

She looks like this, but with the fluffiest bum you ever saw.

Anyhow, Miss Fluffybum was not in the hen house. Nor could my husband or I find her in the hen yard (though it was 10 pm, dark, and we only had flashlights). I remembered at this point that a few nights previously I had heard a squawk outside my back door, but had seen nothing when I went to check. I thus decided that Miss Fluffybum had met a cruel fate at the paws of a predator. The next day I checked more thoroughly, not finding any feathers or remains. I did, however, find Miss Fluffybum pecking contentedly with the flock.

Flabbergasted, I grabbed my husband as soon as he was home to show him. But when I took him out to the flock, Miss Fluffybum was nowhere to be seen. He thought I was miscounting my birds. But the next day I saw her again with the flock. That night I decided to get to the bottom of the mystery.

When it  was twilight, dark enough that the flock had gone to roost, but light enough I could search easily for a missing hen, I went out and shut up the flock. Miss Fluffybum was not in the coop with the rest, nor was she anywhere visible.

I would like to say that I was able to find her by myself, but my son actually led to the break in the case. He said he had seen a chicken fly over the fence and run to the house earlier. We walked over to investigate. By the house, behind old tomato cages, and leftover wire fencing, we found her. Can you guess her secret?


Experienced flock owners probably had guessed the answer from the title, but at the time I was surprised to find a lovely little nest that she had stolen away. It really was the cutest thing, with twenty or so eggs in it. I tried to get a picture with her on it, but our discovery had greatly upset her, and she flew back to the hen yard to sulk.


I locked her up in the coop with the other hens for the night, and the next day her brood was completely broken. I felt a little bad, except for the fact that: a) it was too late in the season to hatch out chicks, b) we didn’t want any more chicks and c) we didn’t (and don’t) have a rooster in the first place! Those eggs were never fertile.

I have since had a couple of hens go broody in our nest boxes, and I routinely root them out and turn the boxes around. We have also found a couple of nests outside the coop in the henyard, and one other hen hiding away with a nest. It almost makes me want to get a rooster to fulfill these poor dears maternal desires.

Curriculum Roundup

Posted by on 16 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: Curriculum, Homeschool

We started our 2016/17 school year two weeks ago. So far, so good. I have been better at making sure we are getting everything done every day, and being totally caught up by the end of the week. This year I have a 5th grader, 3rd grader, and a kindergartner. And I am finally starting to feel like I have a handle on this whole homeschooling thing (ha!).

So here are our curriculum choices for the school year.



Portuguese – Duolingo, Rosetta Stone

Typing –

Memorization – Scripture, Hymns, Folk Songs and Poetry (we are starting with The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

Family Reading – Little Britches, Swiss Family Robinson, and others.

Geography – Road Trip USA

Science – REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry

History – History Odyssey Ancients Level 1 (T-rex and Superman)

Art/Music – Artist and Composer Study, starting with Renoir and Vivaldi (T-rex and Superman)

We are doing a lot of our ‘bigger’ subjects together, although Miss Bug is doing her own level of History. I also want to increase our family memorization skills, so I am hoping to work on quite of few songs, scriptures and poems, although this first couple of weeks has been less than stellar.


Miss Bug – 5th grade

English – Rod and Staff 4 and 5

Spelling – Spelling Power

Handwriting – A reason for handwriting T

Math – Singapore Math 4b, 5a, 5b

History – History Odyssey Ancients Level 2

Latin – Prima Latina

Art – Artistic Pursuits 4-5 Book 1

She will also read, write book reports and keep a journal with copywork and other writing. She takes clarinet and piano lessons, and Hapkido classes with the family.

As you can see, we are catching up from last year in language arts and math. Latin is a subject I personally would like to be more proficient in (as I am not at all right now) so my oldest gets to suffer through it with me. Art is her personal favorite and this book should help her become more skilled.


T-Rex – 3rd grade

English – Rod and Staff 2 and 3

Phonics – Explode the Code 4, 5, and 6

Handwriting – A reason for handwriting B

Math – Singapore Math 3a, 3b, 4a

Reading – Sullivan’s Programmed Reading 2

Additional – Lots of reading real books, a journal with copywork and other writing. Violin and piano lessons. Hapkido with the family.


Superman – Kindergarten

Reading – Teach your Children to Read with Children’s Books, Sullivan’s Programmed Reading 1a

Handwriting – A Reason for Handwriting K

Math – Singapore Math Kindergarten Math

I want to keep his learning as informal as possible as he is a very active and energy intense kid. We read together, and he is learning words and sounds. He hangs around and does whatever he likes of family learning. And a few sheets of handwriting and math every week.


One thing you may notice is that we are catching up a bit in Language Arts and Math from last year. It was a bit of a crazy year, so we are doing our best this year to make up and do better. I think I will go more in depth about certain subjects and curriculum at a future date, but right now life is calling.

This is linked at Hip Homeschool Moms.

Cleaning the Chicken Coop

Posted by on 12 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: Chickens, Homestead Confessional

This is my barn.


We had it built a little less than two years ago. It really isn’t much more than a glorified shed. The middle section holds tools, and chicken supplies. The right hand side is overflow from irrigation projects. The loft is storage as well, for camping and holiday stuff. The left hand side is my chicken coop.

Now, as I said, the barn was built not quite two years ago. And last week it dawned on me that I hadn’t properly cleaned out the coop since then. I had kept adding fresh bedding, but never fully scooped and swept it out. So Saturday I cleaned it out.

This is what it looked like to begin with:


I’ve pulled out the feeder and waterer and nesting boxes, and raised the roost out of the way. How about we look a little closer?

IMG_5969That there is nearly two years of deep bedding. Yikes!

Well, I waded in and started shoveling. And shoveling. And swept a little. Then shoveled and swept some more. Until finally . . .

IMG_5973I had a wheelbarrow full. I dumped it in the compost. Then more shoveling, and scooping, and sweeping.


Almost another full wheelbarrow full to the compost. And what does the coop look like?

IMG_5975So clean and sparkly! Well, not sparkly. But clean!

Side note: We thought that having a concrete floor would be the best option to keep our hens safe. It is super overkill. We don’t have a predator problem to begin with, and the concrete means that all that bedding has a hard time breaking down. I won’t do that again. But back to the task at hand.

So my coop is clean, so it’s time for new bedding.


I had a truckload of wood chips waiting to be spread in my orchard, so I scooped a couple of wheelbarrowful’s over in the coop. Straw would have been my first choice, but this is what I have on hand. And if it’s good enough for the Chicken Ninja Master, it’s good enough for me.

IMG_5977Isn’t that pretty? I kept the area in front of the door clear, because when bedding builds up there it is hard to close the door (leading to chickens escaping when kiddlies go out to get eggs unattended). I have the water inside so it doesn’t evaporate off completely every day in the summer heat.


I’ve downsized from four nestboxes to two as my chickens only ever laid in two anyways. I didn’t put wood chips as the bedding in the nest boxes though. I had a little bit of wood shavings left that someone gave me, and I used that for bedding. I also put one wooden egg in each nest.

So that is my giant cleanup of my coop.

Reboot the blog

Posted by on 05 Aug 2016 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

So it has been almost two years since I last posted on this blog. That is far too long. In my defense 2015 was a crazy year.

In 2015:

Feb: We started remodeling our house, end date in May.

March: I unexpectedly got pregnant with our fifth child.

April:I performed in the ensemble of a community theater production, which monopolized most of my evenings and Saturdays.

May: My dad entered hospice. Also, my house, not finished.

June: I took a roadtrip with my husband to Nauvoo and back.

July: I turned thirty, begrudgingly.

August: My father passed away.

September, October, November: House still not finished. Increasing anxiety about house being finished before baby comes. Also, unexpectedly, severe anxiety about my upcoming birth.

End of November: Began having prodromal labor, eventually leading to severe panic attacks and a total of three completely sleepless nights in four days.  I ended up transferring care from my fantastic homebirth midwife to a wonderful group of hospital nurse midwives. Baby came happy and healthy, and I felt fantastic too.

And then there were the holidays to still get through.

And our remodel didn’t wrap up until January of this year.

But we made it through last year. And the beginning of this year. And the summer.

Now we are one week into our homeschool 2016-17 year. More than halfway done with our gardening year. And finally in a place to sit down and put some small part of my life on the web again. I’m really looking forward to it.

An attic like the Little House

Posted by on 10 Nov 2014 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Today I was reading ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ to my kids. I have adored these books since I was a small child. I loved the vivid descriptions of pioneer life, and how everything that they needed was made from scratch.


The description that caught my eye today was of the attic.

“The attic was a lovely place to play. The large, round colored pumpkins made beautiful chairs and tables. The red peppers and onions dangled overhead. The hams and the venison hung their paper wrappings, and all the bunches of dried herbs, the spicy herbs for cooking and the bitter herbs for medicine, gave the place a dusty-spicy smell.”

Well, upon reading that I immediately realized that I need an attic!


See, I already have a cold storage room planned for my basement, but things such as pumpkins, onions, and peppers won’t store as well in cold storage. I began contemplating putting a disappearing stair up into our attic crawlspace, where nothing now lives but insulation. I began to research  more thoroughly the storage requirements of pumpkins and winter squash, onion and garlic and peppers and herbs, opening my favorite book on the topic ‘Root Cellaring’ by Mike & Nancy Bubel. And I had a reality check.

First of all, my attic is built with a mind solely to insulation. It was never meant to be accessed for any reason but maintenance. The Little House attic was easily accessible, and in fact was part of the living space. It was not filled with fluffy fiberglass. Our houses today are also much warmer, being heated with natural gas rather than wood.


The requirements for pumpkins, onions and the like are warmer than for regular cold storage, anywhere from 40 to 60 degrees, and drier than cold storage, but my attic probably runs warmer  than that in the winter, or at least isn’t as consistent as I would need.

I think I am going to stick with my original plan. I have a northwest bedroom in my basement that has always been earmarked for storage. I am going to wall off the third that is closest to the window and use that as my cold storage, and have the other two thirds for my cool and dry items, including squashes, onions and garlic, canned and bottled  and dry goods, and other things.

Perhaps someday if we buy or build another house I can have an attic space for storage, but I would have to make it the right climate for storage.

Strawberries: Update

Posted by on 03 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

The strawberry crowns that I bought were more or less a bust. Only about a third survived. So for Mother’s Day I bought myself two dozen strawberry plants from the local nursery. These plants have thrived!

I originally had decided on the hill method, which calls for clipping all runners on the strawberries. This is proving to be a lot of work. I think I will move to the matted row method next year.

And I haven’t eaten hardly any strawberries off of my plants, as my 3 year old eats any that are approaching ripeness before I can!

Strawberries: Matted Row or Hill Method?

Posted by on 27 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

So I will be planting some strawberry plants this evening.  I have been reading a few books on berry growing to get ready. However, they don’t agree with each other on planting method.

There are two main methods of planting strawberries. The hill method calls for laying out the strawberries at about one per square foot, and cutting off all runners. The matted row method calls for planting 18 to 24 inches apart, in rows 36 inches apart, and allowing them to set runners at will. You then annually ‘renovate’ the strawberry bed by narrowing the rows to 6-12 inches (often with a tiller) and thinning the plants to one plant per 4 or 5 inches, choosing the strongest daughter plants and removing the mother plants after 3 or 4 years.

‘Fruits and Berries for the Home Garden’ by Lewis Hill states that the hill method of planting strawberries is superior because the plants don’t waste energy on setting out runners, and they could produce up to 6 years and beyond.

‘The Berry Growers Companion’ by Barbara L. Bowling states that the matted row method is preferable. You allow the plants to renew themselves every year, and keep them within space restraints by renovating annually. (Mr. Hill ignored renovation in his book.)She also states that by using this method one can harvest from the same bed for 5-8 years.

I’m not sure which method I want to use. To be frank, I would like to experiment with both. It seems that so long as care is given to the strawberries, either through annual renovation, or removing all runners, the plants can have a reasonably long and productive life. But I don’t have enough room, this year at least, to experiment with both. Next year I will be lengthening my strawberry bed.

I’m inclined to use the matted row method, particularly because Mr. Hill ignored entirely renovating the strawberry bed in his discussion of the matted row system, saying instead that one must alternate planting year to year, and till them under and replant on alternate years. However, I am also drawn to the hill method, as it looks like it will work well in raised boxes with heavy mulch.

What do you think I should do?

Weekly Garden Post: Straightening up the garden bed

Posted by on 24 Feb 2014 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

So three apologies off the bat.

1st, I said I was going to post 3 times a week, and I didn’t last week.

2nd, I don’t have any before photos for this garden post.

3rd, I’m closing comments for the forseeable future, because there simply hasn’t been a lot of interest in my blog (my own fault) and all of the comments are spam.

On to the garden post.

Last fall we had a huge load of compost and a huge load of wood chips dumped onto our driveway, which we then used a mini front loader to move over the garden.

front loader

Looked like this

We topped off the raised beds with compost, then spread wood chips for mulch. Then the remaining majority we dumped in the area that will be my new garden area. We did this as quickly as we could, as we had to get the loader back before our time was up. Thus, the new garden area was haphazard at best, and very much piles of material, rather than an even garden bed.

Last Saturday my husband and I (though more my husband, bless him) worked to even out my garden. He used string and stakes to make sure that the corners were square and the sides were straight. Oh, I love my engineer husband. He also did most of the spreading and smoothing of wood chips. I stayed out as long as I could to help, but as soon as I went in to get a drink, the baby saw me and I had to take care of him.

Anyhow, here are the results:




So now that the garden is straightened up, my next big task is this:


This is the area south of the garden and coop. It is about .15 acre. I intend to use it to plant a few fruit trees, with orchard grass underneath, and my chicken ranging over it. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?


Yes, my beautiful ‘pasture’ is completely covered in tumbleweeds. Fun fact: did you know that tumbleweeds are not native to North America? They were accidentally imported in a shipment of agricultural seeds, and within 10 years covered the country.

So my next task is to clear that area. We are going to get a burn permit in mid March, gather up all the weeds, and burn them. We simply can’t figure out any other way to deal with them.

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