Monthly Archives: March 2009

Breaking the Monotony of Homeschooling

I have to admit, after 15 years of home schooling, there can be some monotony. The books all look the same. The phonics charts become tedious. The miles of handwriting worksheets are overwhelming.



We all know


“If Momma Ain’t Happy


Ain’t Nobody Happy.”




I have been forced to find ways to make Momma and Company Happy. Last spring I began playing more phonic games and doing less of the repetitious charts. I threw away several handwriting worksheets and allow Beka to write letters, love notes to me (aren’t they sweet at that age?) or copy something instead.




When that no longer was working, I created a new variation to break the monotony. I explained to Beka how her Grandma Mary used to teach in a one room school room in North Dakota. I sent her to search her dress-ups for appropriate clothing, we gathered students, also dressed them appropriately, and she school began.
I quickly explained the worksheet to Beka and she “taught” it to her students, asking questions and filling in the right answers. It was adorable!

My Mom really isn’t this old, but we also garnished ideas from our cherished “Anne of Green Gables.” Notice the old school bell? The adorable elf rubber stamps were a gift from my mother-in-law when I first began teaching.

These model students are attentively listening to Miss Rebekah explain the phonics rules. After they finished phonics, they listened to their teacher read out loud.

As we begin a new year, I am praying for the inspiration to KEEP the monotony away instead of fighting it back, to keep our enthusiasm high and to keep learning exciting.

Jesus With Skin On

Just like they say “Don’t Feed the Bears” in national parks, and people do anyway, my family has this habit of feeding my cancer and whining to feed their own. Scott bought a few snacks on the way to the hospital tonight for my MRI. The doctors are trying to better locate the 5mm tumor they will remove April 13th….if they find it.
He ate most of them. In hindsight, maybe I should have eaten more. If sugar feeds cancer and causes tumors to grow, and my tumor is too small to be 100% sure they’ll find it, shouldn’t I have eaten them all?

Many people have heard the story of the little boy who was scared at night and called his mommy in. She prayed with him and tried to comfort him with reminders that the Lord was with him, he was never really alone.

His precious answer?
“But, Mommy, I want Jesus with skin on.”
I knew the Lord was with me, but tonight Scott was my
Jesus with skin on.
When I get into a tall building, I always have to see the view. Scott got stuck with filling out yet another set of forms, while I tried to capture the old Seattle homes with the backdrop of the snow covered Cascade Mountains.

Notice the warnings on the doors? Because of the strong magnetic field, there are warnings for many people – I notice they didn’t warn against braces. If my daughters, Beth and Grace, had been there would they have been swept into the tube with me and stuck to the inside by their tinsel teeth?

I was able to stand behind the door away from the magnetism and get a picture of the latest machine that was supposed to help find this bb sized tumor.

The tube was really small.

I mean really, really, really small.

The technician, Ben, joked that the tube wasn’t really that small for me, because he had people three times my size try to fit into it.

Ben even offered to take a picture of me. He made me smile. It was the last smile I had for about an hour. I looked into the tube, noticed it was about 1/2 the size of the PET scan tube, and noticed this horrible mask they were going to fasten on my face. The clausterphobia was causing me a lot of anxiety.

I told him through tears, “They don’t tell you all this stuff when they sign you up for an MRI.” He gave me a quick hug, then went out into the waiting room and said, “Mr. Peltier, you need to come. Your wife is crying.”

Scott began calming me down with Scripture and strict instructions not to open my eyes, even while I was just sitting there. He helped me wipe my nose, push up my sleeves for the IV, lay down and get comfortable. They had to pad around my head with foam cushions and put in ear plugs. I was feeling squished, and they hadn’t even put on the mask yet. When he did fasten it on, I accidentlly opened my eyes and panicked a little. I asked for another moment. The kind technician took off the mast, allowed me to breathe a few more times, close my eyes and try again.

He inserted the IV with strict instructions not to move my arm. With a few final adjustments, the bed was raised and moved into the tunnel.
It was SO dark.
But, instead of panic, I felt peace.
I kept thinking of the verse,
“I am with thee and will keep thee, in all places, saith the Lord.”
I knew the Lord was with me, but Jesus with skin on was lovingly rubbing my feet, assuring me with his presence. Once he stopped for some reason, and not feeling his touch, I shook my foot until he began holding it again.
The machine made a noise somewhere between a woodpecker pecking on a quonset and a jackhammer. The noise traveled up and down the machine and I could even feel the vibrations on my hip bones. If I hadn’t been under strict instructions to NOT MOVE and NOT TALK I might have been able to come up with a few comedic one-liners.
The technician knew it would be hard for me to get into that tunnel, and he wonderfully praised me on the microphone after each test. But, I don’t think he realized the other serious challenge I was facing. He began each new scan with strict instructions not to talk.
For the final test I couldn’t swallow or breathe for 30 seconds.
It seemed like 30 minutes.
And then, after all the anxiety,
it was over,
and I had survived
with the help of the Lord
and my husband, Jesus with skin on.
If you remember from previous blogs, simple things entertain me.
Mud puddles, window cleaners, the sound of snowflakes.
Tonight, I loved the sqare glass blocks set into a slightly concave pattern.
How DO they do that?

The Longest Day

Last Friday, we drove Grace to a Bible camp for a weekend retreat.
We left about 1:30 pm, hoping to avoid the I-5 traffic.
Who were we kidding?
You people from WA already have knowing knots in your tummy.
I said “Friday” and “I-5” in the same sentence.
I was faced with a hard decision.
Let the teenager drive in rush hour traffic so I could take pics, or take the wheel myself.
I had two fully charged cameras and it was a rare spring day, bright and glorious.
Did I say there was a decision to make?
The temorary relief of SADness, or Seasonal Affective Disorder…you know, you get depressed because it rains all the time.
Job must have understood.
Job 30:28 “I went mourning without the sun…”
Sometimes, we almost forget there is a sun, or a Mount Ranier, or Cascade Mountains, or Olympic Mountains. They become vague, hazy memories after epochs of gray moisture.
Then, the clouds part, and we fall in love, again, with the creation around us.
It almost seems as if we get a glimpse of Heaven,
and are reminded of that promise that there is always an end to the rain.

I am always intrigued by unusual beauty.
The patterns in the dried mud were amazing.

Ansel Adams wannabe.

A beautiful mud puddle, or slough.
We say SLEW….closer to the ocean they say SLOW, rhymes with HOW.

Don’t we love our trees in Washington? The one thing all kinds of people agree on.
Maybe the only thing.

What I looked like all day, enjoying the scenic drive, a day of sunshine and the company of my beautiful daughters.

When the sun went down, and I could no longer take pictures, I drove.
In case you are wondering what would happen if someone took a night picture on landscape mode, take a closer look.
In case you can’t tell, this is Bellevue.
We drove nine and half hours, but with the sun shining, the clouds hovering like a glistening comforter, and the sound of laughter pleasantly filling my heart,
the long day didn’t seem so long afterall.
The day is now a hazy memory, like the scenery we saw for a whole glorious day, before it was swallowed up in gray again.
(click on any picture to enlarge)

Organizing Daily Work for Elementary School

I began home schooling with one student in second grade and four kids running around the house distracting us and making a mess. I had the foresight to understand that I would need order, and a lot of it, in all areas of my life.

Beka is removing her MONDAY FILE.

On a minuscule budget, the Lord blessed my shopping one day by with these white file boxes, two in a package, for $2.50. I bought enough for each child and a few extras. The boxes are now “teenagers” and still used, although worn and slightly tacky from left-over sticker residue.

I have a file for each subject, one for goal charts, one for special projects, and at times, have included Sunday School or Kids Bible Club (like AWANA) files to include all aspects of their lives that need daily or weekly attention.

I remove the pages from the workbooks and fill daily files for 2-4 weeks at a time.

Colored folders make it easier to tell what week you are on.

It is cheaper to buy a box of file folders
than the smaller cellophane wrapped packages.

At the beginning of each year, I create a simple chart with classes on the vertical and the days of the week across the top. I have also included Bible reading, memorization and chores.

If you use dark-colored markers or stickers,
you can’t go back and see what work they have done.
We prefer highlighters or colored pencils.
If you file all the charts, it also keeps track of the number of your school days.
As each worksheet is completed, I correct it and hand it back to the child.
They do the problems over until they are correct.
This is one of my main teaching strategies; we don’t go on to another lesson until the previous one is mastered.
I might not have taught something clearly,
or, they might have not have put enough effort into their work.
A finished page receives a smiley face, a sticker, or a rubber stamp, before being filed.
If a concept is not understood, the following lessons will not land on a firm foundation.
I would rather repeat a lesson, patiently and kindly, and allow them to be successful, instead of moving on in frustration.
I also make them write each misspelled word ten times – this is K-12.
(Thanks, Mom, for the tip. She used to teach in a one-room school in North Dakota.)
If they miss a simple math fact, I may make them write that ten times, as well.
Repetition does aid memory! It can also be overhwhelming, so use discernment.
As the years flew by, I began teaching the other kids, then added a sixth child to the family. I was very thankful I had started school in an organized fashion. Each day, all of my kids went to their file and pulled out what work needed to be done. The only problem came if I hadn’t kept up my end of the system, and hadn’t assigned goal charts or filled their files.
This system actually works with just the daily filing system, OR just the goal chart. I have worked this system in many different variations over the years and have found it to work for me.
I never said that my children did all the work without complaining.
I never said I haven’t found worksheets hidden in toy boxes or under couch cushions.
I never said we didn’t spend hours looking for a PENCIL so we could actually do the worksheets.
I never said they were finished with school before the school buses rolled by the house.
I never said that each worksheet was taught in a patient manner.
We’ll talk about that later….
…..after you get your school organized!

Organizing – No School Room! #1

The split-level home we purchased when we moved to Washington has given us many challenges for home schooling. Because the kitchen, dining room and living room are basically one room, and we don’t have the luxury of having a “school room”, we have need to fit everything into this room, without making it look like a school room.

I need things to be convenient, accessible, organized, attractive and inexpensive.

This has been a lifesavor. Called the Quilting Mate, it cost $12 at Wal-Mart. I priced them in craft and sewing stores for 2-3 times as much.

We use it for putting together puzzles, coloring, crafts and painting. It has a washable surface, keeps the dining room table free (especially if it is near meal time) and can be shoved under the couch for storage. Our favorite useage is for puzzles, since we can keep storing it under the couch until it is completed.

Proverbial – "Needle in a Haystack"

I started this blog thinking I could just write about the fun stuff in life, like my kids and my husband and how they drive me crazy with their antics. I never thought that cancer would be a part of my blogging. The Lord had other plans. Since I have been blessed with a large family and many friends from coast to coast – east to west and north to south – this is a good way to keep loved ones updated in my Exciting Cancer Adventure.

OK, maybe not Exciting,

and maybe not an Adventure,

but it is Cancer.

Or, to be medically correct, recurrent pappilary thyroid carcinoma.

Thursday, Scott and I were to meet our new ENT, Dr. M, from Swedish Cancer Institute. We were on the 15th floor and I was enthralled with the city view below us. I stood at the window, oohing and aahing and taking pictures. Feeling a bit like a tourist, I asked the nurse, “Can you tell I’m not from the city?”

I was shocked that I could hear the street noise almost as if I were down on the street. The nurse explained some of what we were hearing were the drug addicts who were receiving free injections at the methadone clinic. She said it got even louder because of frequent fights and police sirens. Another surprise for a small town girl. Addicts receiving free injections?!?! Only in America.

Although I loved the years living out in the country, I find the city fascinating. I could see a man talking on his cell phones on his balcony, (I wasn’t snooping – just observing), a few pan-handlers, the inevitable saggy pants kids on skateboards, business people striding purposefully, homeless rambling dejectedly. It seemed their walk matched their ambitions and hopes in life.

When I spotted window cleaners, I couldn’t stop staring. How can they NOT be afraid? I was so entertained, I was glad the doctor was running behind schedule. Scott wasn’t as easily entertained. I watched them hanging from their ropes, sitting on a small perch, and wiping with incredible efficiency. After awhile, I was able to judge which of the three window-cleaners was using the most efficient routine and felt like cheering him on like you would at a football game. I was wondering if they were racing against each other. I also wondered what cleaning product they were using….I always leave streaks….

When the doc came in, I reluctantly put away my camera and got down to business.

The surgeon went through a list of worst case scenarios that could occur during a surgery and I can’t remember any of those big words.
We were surprised to find that the lump that is giving us the most concern is not one we have been following. It is behind the right jawbone, cleverly hidden in the tissue. At 5 mm, it is “the size of a bb” and Dr. M is not positive he can find it. It is the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack. Yet, if they leave it, the cancer will grow and possibily spread to the lungs.
I told the doc we were born-again Christians and had probably a few thousand people praying, between the churches across the US and overseas where we know missionaries.
He raised his eyebrows and said, “Well, I wish those prayers would make me perfect.”
I know his heart’s desire is to heal everyone, and it must be frustrating to know you can’t, but I explained him that as people were praying for me, they were praying for him and there would be two sets of hands in that surgery, his and the Lord’s.
Now I have to ask for continued prayer and for the miracle that Dr. M. will find this little tiny tumor, not primarily for my healing, but for the glory of the Lord. I pray that he would open me up and see an answer from the God in Heaven who is the Great Physician. I long for the Lord to be glorified in my body!
I will have to have an MRI (NOT ANOTHER TUNNEL – SIGH!) and the surgery date is set for April 13th. As a non-recovered clausterphobic, I find the testing more challenging than the surgery.
I’ll see if I can fit that in my busy schedule. I’m also wondering if I leave my camera out, if the nurses will take pics of me since I will kinda’ be indisposed….
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with you:
be not dismayed; for I am your God:
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”


I guess my mother-in-law is to blame for this. Really, it’s her fault. She started this tradition of self-learning and independence when my husband was in the 5th grade. She was a single mom with five kids and a car that needed repairs. So, she bought the spark plugs and points, handed them to my husband, told him to put them in the car. When he was done, she handed him the car keys and told him to test drive the car. They lived in Duluth, MN. They lived on a hill. A steep hill.

But, because she handed him the spark plugs, my husband, 11 years old, figured he could do it. He marks his ability to fix or accomplish or master anything life hands him from this definitive moment.

I loved the concept, until it affected MY children and MY house. He began the self-learning concept with our kids when Beth was 11. He handed her a gallon of paint, a brush, and forcibly removed me from the room. I mean forcibly. He wasn’t rude, he wasn’t too physical, but he did use his hands to propel me from the room.

He wanted to give his kids the same “gift” his mother gave him. A spirit of determination, of accomplishment and of conquering a new task on your own.

-Top Ten Reasons to Not Let your Kids Paint-

10. Drips on the floor are hard to wipe up.
9. Drips on the bathroom sink , shower and floor are hard to wipe up.
8. Paint that hardens on your bathroom curtain will never come out.
7. Paint in hair is difficult to get out. (Beth had free highlights. And just think, the rest of you women had to PAY for yours.)
6. When you are re-painting a room your child previously painted, you have to put a lot of your color of paint on the ceiling to cover up their color of paint on the ceiling.
5. If you bend over to pick up something on the floor while clutching a full can of KILZ to your tummy, it will pour out. (DUH, Beth!)
4. If you go to the store AFTER painting, but BEFORE you looking in the mirror, it can be embarrassing. Hmm.. .who do you think went to Target with paint on his face?

(OK, maybe I should have added HUSBAND to the title)
3. If you back into a freshly painted wall, you will have paint on a place you don’t want paint, and a tell-tale place on the wall without paint where you wanted paint.
2. When kids are done painting, they just set their brushes full of paint anywhere and everywhere. They also leave out the cans of paint, the paint-soaked rags, the painting tape, the paint-stirrers, the paint can openers…and if you don’t put this stuff away in the correct spot, all of it could just

d i s a p p e a r.

– and FINALLY –

1. Because when they are done,

their paint job

might actually look better

than your paint job.

Thanks, mother-in-law, for the “gift.”

I really mean it.