Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Published Author

We have some very exciting news to share with everyone, regarding our oldest daughter! Several months ago while reading the local newspaper one morning, I came across a tiny article mentioning a writing contest. I thought it would be fun for my daughter to enter it. The contest was called the Florida Blue Young Authors Contest and it was open to all middle schoolers (grades 6-8) from two different counties in our area. We live in a HUGE school district, and so I figured there would be a ton of children entering. My daughter loves reading and writing, and so we went to the website we were directed to in the newspaper article to find out all the requirements, deadlines, etc...

At first, we were a bit concerned because the contest called for the student to write an original story about our city and include a landmark or special place for each letter of the alphabet. I immediately started questioning in my mind "what on earth could possibly start with the letter X around here?" In addition, the story had to rhyme. Last of all, she only had a few weeks to complete it, revise the story and submit it. Our daughter loves a challenge though and she went right to work.  There were some days where she would spend up to five hours researching special places, trying to get the rhyming just right, and writing and re-writing over and over again. Sometimes I had to tell her to just get up and walk away for a while. The words will come to you.

Now you have to understand, this contest was a lot of work and there would be only one winner. It was either all or nothing! The winner of this contest would have their story actually made into a book and published by the Books By Kids Foundation. The illustrations for the book will be created by patients from our local children's hospital, and all proceeds will go to them.  And since groups of up to 25 children could enter as one, under the guidance of their teacher, I thought our daughter may be at a slight disadvantage. Was I ever wrong!!!

She finally completed her story and after I read it several times to check for any spelling or structural errors, I knew she had the winning entry. I know that sounds bold to say, but I truly did... Still, just because I knew it didn't mean the judges did!

Several weeks went by and then one afternoon last week, I received the phone call- our 13 year old won! I actually screamed because I was so happy for her. But there was even more to be excited about! Not only is her book being published, she won tickets to all sorts of museums, attractions, etc... and I won an iPad for being her facilitator as well as a weekend getaway with my husband at a very nice hotel!
The public announcement regarding the winner of the contest was made at the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game last weekend. It was so thrilling for all of us! Here is our daughter,  waiting for her big moment. I imagine it must have been a bit scary to be standing there in the player box, in front of all those people. But she handled it so well. So much better than I would have...
Finally- here she is being announced to the world. I wanted to cry when I saw her up there on the jumbo screen, and as I listened to the speaker talk about her accomplishments, I not only cheered for her but for homeschoolers everywhere. She competed against entire classrooms of children, yet won all on her own. And when they said she was a 7th grade homeschooler,  we were so proud and I imagined all the homeschool families everywhere feeling victorious right along side her. So, be on the lookout for her book Tampa Bay From A to Z, which will be out hopefully in May of this year. To learn more about the Books By Kids foundation, go to  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Whew!!! What a wonderful, busy Valentine's Day we had. We started out our day with a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast made by Daddy. He is such an awesome cook. I then started my little guy on his Valentine's activities. First, he sorted some cute little erasers I found last year at Target.
Next, he did all sorts of great activities I found at  There were so many great Valentine's printables, we didn't get to do all of them! Here are some below:
The postman arrived with some Valentine's addition cards for him to complete.
He also used some of the Valentine's word cards and magnet letters to spell the words with.
He especially enjoyed this activity. I placed a number card in the empty space at the top of the page, and he had to count out Hershey Kisses and give them to the bear. Several of them were missing from the bear's paw, lol.
All three of our children made these cute mailboxes for park day last week with our homeschool group, but they used them again today to exchange cards with each other.
We enjoyed several Valentine's stories today. These were my little girl's favorites, but my little man liked Froggy's First Kiss the best!
Another great activity from  was this sight word sorting game. I gave my little guy a word from the pile and he had to see if the letters in the word were found in the word "Valentine". If they were, they went on the left side of the sheet, and if not, they went to the right side of the sheet. So much fun!
I forgot to mention I made some cute workbox number cards for Valentine's Day and placed them on my children's boxes this morning, before they awoke. My older daughter particularly likes changing out her workbox number cards, and so I have created quite a supply!
Later, we all participated in a fun game of "Fill My Heart". I rolled the dice and whatever number came up, the player had to place that many conversation hearts on their board. The one who filled their hearts first was the winner. Everyone was a winner in my book though, since the game pieces are edible!

Last but not least, my 2 girls enjoyed some Valentine's wordsearches, sudoku puzzles, and a great scavenger hunt I found at before heading over to their grandparent's house for some Valentine treats.  I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day with the ones you love. I know I sure did and it makes me always think of one of my favorite Bible verses: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4 This verse really says it all...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Park Day!

Today we had our monthly park day with one of the homeschool groups we belong to. The theme was Valentine's Day. The weather was absolutely beautiful, though a bit chilly. That didn't keep the little ones from ripping off their jackets and having fun on the playground!
We had a nice picnic lunch and then all the children presented their show and tell items for the month. I am always amazed by the uniqueness and variety! Some of the projects included:

a favorite book to share

A poster project about an American Girl book
A handmade yarn doll
A picture from a "Father/Daughter Dance"

The kids enjoyed a game of arrow shooting, just like Cupid. I think they were all surprised at how difficult it was to actually hit the target!We even had a tiny arrow collector help them out.
I think the highlight of the day though was when all the children were able to pass out their handmade Valentine's cards and treats. Each child created a special "mail box" for their cards.
We ended our gathering with some delicious Valentine's Day cupcakes and cake. So delicious!
I LOVE our little homeschool group and it was so nice spending the day with friends.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!!!

We had such a great time yesterday, celebrating Chinese New Year! This was actually a week-long celebration, as we began our study of China using Galloping the Globe. The first thing our children did was learn about where China is located, the capital, etc...  They completed their country fact sheets I printed from Homeschool Creations. They also colored the flag of China.  This year was the Year of the Rabbit, and so my children did a coloring page and a "bunny search" puzzle.
Activity Village had an entire section dedicated to Chinese New Year, and I was able to print off these wonderful bookmarks, each with a picture of one of the 12 animals of the Chinese calendar. It was fun to read the descriptions of each animal and see which one fit us best!

We practiced writing in Chinese too, and enjoyed listening to some beautiful Chinese music on You Tube.

One of our favorite crafts from China was this cute little cherry blossom pot. The instructions for making these are on Activity Village.

My little girl really enjoyed practicing all the different yoga positions. Here she is doing the tree. Taoist Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in China many, many years ago.

The kids made some nice paper lanterns to decorate our home. Paper lanterns are used throughout China for most all celebrations.
The girls had fun making these little paper dolls I found at  They have paper dolls from around the world. Some of them are a bit detailed and may be difficult for little ones to cut out ( I had to help my 9 year old) but they still enjoyed it and even gave names to their dolls.
We ended our week-long celebration with a delicious dinner from our favorite Chinese restaurant. This was such a great week and the kids really learned a lot about China and Chinese New Year. There were so many different things to do we didn't get to all of them, but that's quite ok- I will have some new things for them to do next year!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Starfall Fun, Science Experiment, and Self-Control

This week, my little guy has enjoyed some hands-on activities. Starfall comes with so many fantastic picture cards and so I thought I would make a game for him. I made several word cards to go with the pictures and then I placed the word cards in our large pocket chart, which by the way, he LOVES using. I then gave him one picture card at a time and he had to place the picture next to the correct word. I was amazed at how well he was able to sound out the words by himself. He didn't miss any of them!
Another fun activity involving his Starfall word cards involved using play-doh, which is another favorite in our house. I placed several cards on the table and he had to roll out the play-doh and shape it into the correct letters. I must say, he did very well. I only had to help him with the "h".
Meanwhile, my little girl was busy conducting an experiment involving this lovely plant and some petroleum jelly. We wanted to see what would happen to the leaves of the plant when petroleum jelly was placed on the top of one leaf and on the bottom of another leaf. In her hypothesis, she stated she thought that both leaves would turn brown and fall off.
After several days, we looked at the plant and discovered that the leaf with the petroleum jelly on top did not change. However, the leaf with the petroleum jelly on the bottom ended up looking like this:

As you can see, it turned completely brown and died. We found out the reason for this is because plants breathe through tiny holes underneath their leaves. The petroleum jelly covered the holes and did not allow air to get through.
Last but certainly not least, I thought I would share what we've been working on lately for our Bible study. This year, I decided it would be nice to do a thorough lesson on the fruits of the spirit. I was able to find several activities online as well as some fantastic resource books. My favorite by far is the one shown above. It is so full of wonderful activities! This week, we are completing our study and since the lessons are on self-control, I thought I would have my children do a little experiment to see just how self-controlled they really are!
Each of them found a bag of these adorable heart-shaped strawberry scented marshmallows in their workboxes.  After they copied their Bible verse (1 Peter 5:8) and practiced the hand motions for all the other fruit of the spirit qualities, we discussed what it meant to be self-controlled. I then had them open their bags and smell the treats. By now, they REALLY wanted to eat them!
They were then instructed to close the bags and place them where they could see them. I decided ahead of time they would be able to enjoy the marshmallows after lunch time, several hours later. The entire time they were doing other school work, those cute little treats were there tempting them. I am proud to say though that each one of them demonstrated self-control and after lunch, they were finally able to eat them!
This was a fun and tasty activity and it really showed them how it is difficult sometimes to have self-control, especially when something (or someone!) is tempting you.