Category Archives: education

Being a Jingle Bell Rocks!

Being a Gym Wallflower – the last one picked for a sports team – can be the most scarring childhood memory.

The Helena Junior High School had organized an intra-mural volleyball season so the 7th grade girls were gathered in the gym to make their own teams. We all knew the drill. The girls sat in the bleachers while the captains lined up in front to choose. 

A co-captain with my friend, Shanna, we stood together with a competitive spirit. We could taste victory with the team we’d mentally assembled in whispered hallway conversations the previous days. We were disappointed to be on the end of the line, therefore, the last ones to choose.  We complained all the “good” girls would be taken.

The drama unfolded as the captains began choosing. As one team announced the name of a “good” player, girls would cheer, and the other captains would huff in disappointment. The chosen girl would swagger to her huddle and began contributing her opinions about who was good and who wasn’t.

The quick study in human behavior wasn’t lost on two girls who had already survived six years of elementary playground torment. In slo-mo, we vividly saw pride and shame taking sides and didn’t like it. We didn’t see the ugly until someone else wore it.

After the first round, we changed our minds about our team’s purpose. We would not choose to win. We would choose our friends and the girls that needed to be chosen. Our conversation was continued in a louder decibel, and we threw out a few casual compliments for the girls sweating in the bleachers to overhear.

Even when it was down to the last girls, we said their names with confidence and enthusiasm, to show we wanted  them on our team.  Other captains were disappointed to have to settle for the wallflowers, and let it be shown.

Helena Junior High 7th grade Basketball Team

(My 7th grade basketball team.  Different girls, same bleachers.Yep, I’m number 13.)

When the last girl straggled down from the bleachers, each team was assigned a place in the gym to practice. We huddled together and tried to become a team.  We couldn’t agree on a name, and all the cool names, like Tigers and Panthers, were quickly taken. We opted for unique humor and agreed to name ourselves Jingle Bells and tie little silver craft bells on our gym shoes.  We would mark our territory with the jingle of a different drum.

As our team  began practicing together, Shanna and I noticed once again pride and shame rearing their ugly heads in the gym as we watched some of the “good” girls on each team berate the “bad” girls.

Another huddle was called. I gave a pep talk with the passion and vocabulary of a 12 year old who desperately wanted a team different than the others.

  • We would NOT call out each others’  mistakes, but  would always say “Good try!” Humiliation makes someone play worse, not better.
  • We would NOT name call.
  • We would practice and try to improve our skills.  If you needed to correct or instruct someone, be nice.

In the brutal world of Junior High, we determined to be different. We might not win a lot of games, but we were going to try hard, have fun, and show our spirit. Our unity would be announced with jingle bells. We wanted the other junior highers to hear our message.

I’ve never forgotten my 12 year old amazement.

It worked. 

During the short volleyball season, the Jingle Bells chattered and encouraged through the games, giving back pats and smiles.  We were noticed, and it wasn’t just the jingle bells tied to our shoes.  The girls improved because they weren’t  shamed by humiliation. Other girls wished they could play on our team because they were tired of being  yelled at when they made a mistake.

We won some games. We lost some games. But, we had a great season because we became a real team.

I have no idea if any of my former volleyball teammates even remember this time in Junior High when we marked our territory with the silvery jingles of acceptance and encouragement.

But I will never forget what it means to be a Jingle Bell.

Being a Jingle Bell rocks!


I’me A Gud Spelllar


cool tools 008



Y’all know about spell check.


Y’all know you should use it.

We’ve all been nagged about spelling since we began school.  Friday didn’t feel like Friday until the weekly spelling quiz was over.

Spelling is telling, and it might be telling secrets about somebody.



Somebody was not  paying attention to those  little red squiggly lines that show something is spelled incorrectly. Or maybe they’re color blind? Or don’t know how to right click?

Somebody’s boss may need to hire someone else to write eye-catching headlines.


Somebody was not paying attention in second grade when contractions and apostrophes were taught.


Do you think  somebody still has a job as MSNBC?



wrighting table – $250 (milton)

Somebody might be confusing what they learned in history class with what they learned in English class.

The Wrights flew, but not a desk. Authors write about the Wrights at a writing desk. And $250 is way too much for an old desk, unless it was owned by the Wrights.  But, even if it was owned by the Wrights, it still wouldn’t be a wrighting table, it would be a writing table. Right? Right!


Somebody read Hansel and Gretel  a few too many times as a child.

Nobody will hear people yelling  “What hath God wrought?” if you  found children in these wrought iron bird cages.


I knew what somebody meant, but it still made me laugh.


Using my trusty BING Translator I discovered somebody used a Swedish word  to sell a German figurine.



Cool thing for a reasonable price, but didn’t somebody listen to all the VCV  and VCCV lectures?



Technically, this is a grammatical error, but is still funny.  The laughing only increased when I was so busy criticizing the sign, I didn’t read the sign and walked right into the door.  It wouldn’t open, ya’ know, because it was an exit door only. My dear mother had to console me with an ice-cream cone.


As much as poor spelling catches my eye and makes me laugh, the fact is, we all misspell words.

Sometimes we’re  in a hurry.

Lack of sleep or illness makes our brain fuzzy.

It might be a keyboard error. 

Or, you might be a good writer who can’t spell. After homeschooling and reading about spelling curriculums for years, I discovered a shared conclusion.

You  can either spell naturally or you can’t.

The general opinion is that a spelling curriculum can improve your spelling, but can’t make you a great speller.

You don’t have to be a good speller to be a good writer, but your inspired writing can’t have spelling errors. I read on an an editor’s website he’ll turn down a book proposal if it has incorrect margins and two spelling errors. His guidelines are posted and he expects you to follow them. He also assumes if you aren’t serious about your spelling, you won’t be serious about your writing.


You don’t want someone to disregard your writing or use it for blog fodder.



ABC Jars – Part 2

These are the additions I’ve developed for the ABC Jar Project.

I made an extra set of vowels, “blanks” and a question mark.
You can make them find the missing vowel in the middle of small words,

or you could leave off either the beginning or the ending consonant.

I began collecting mini things to begin sorting when school begins this week.
I raided the Barbie accessories, the bathroom, my sewing cabinet and the junk drawer.

Have fun crafting!


I can finally cross this project off my list of good intentions!

The original idea came from my daughter Jana’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Benson, but she used white frosting tubs. Each week they highlighted a letter of the alphabet and the kids brought items for the jar.

I loved the idea of having see-through jars, but if you have toddlers and glass isn’t an enticing idea for a manipulative, you might choose the plastic alternative.

I started with 26 baby food jars. Thanks, cutest granddaughter, Brookie!
I bought a can of gray spray paint ($3) and alphabet stickers ($5).
I can’t believe how expensive stickers are!
You could choose a cheaper option, but I loved that they were puffy, plasticy and bright.
I spray-painted the lids outside on a sheet of plastic.
One coat covered the colored caps well.

It dried in four hours.

Beka and I applied the lower case stickers to the lids

and uppercase stickers to the jars.

For her first grade phonics, Beka is excited to fill the jars
with little items that begin with the letter on the jar.
We began scouring the house today for tiny plastic animals,
monopoly movers, and scrabble letters.

Other ways to use the jars:

1.  Match the upper-case letters on the jars to the lower-case letters on the lids.
2.  Cut out alphabets words from magazines to put into each jar.
3.  Cut out pictures from magazines to put into each jar. You could choose a theme like animals or food.
4.  Use the jar lids to spell simple words.
5. Give the student an ending like “in”, “at” or “it” and have them choose the beginning consonants to form words.
6. Give them the beginning and ending consonant of a three letter word and have them fill in the correct vowel.
7.  Give them a beginning sound like “ba“, “pi”, “bi” and have them choose a final consonant to form a word.
8. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes after.
9. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes before.
10. Choose two letters and have your child choose the letter that comes in between.
How you would use the alphabet jars?

I’d love to have your input on this project!



part 2

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.