GIANT Space Hopper

Too fun for words . . . and a bargain!

You’ve seen little kids bouncing along on fun hopping balls.  Now, there is a GIANT one—big enough for teens and adults (up to 240 lbs.) to have their own hoppity fun!  We opened the package, eagerly pumped up this big, big ball with the included (and kind of filmsy but still works) foot pump, and the laughter began!  If you have an air compressor or bicycle pump, go for it get hopping faster!

Bright orange and 32″ high! Hang onto this giant ball’s “horns” and off you go!  Louisa decided to do her yoga poses on top of it, getting us all laughing, as she couldn’t balance for more than a minute without slipping off.  We only inflated ours to 28-30″ because we were too eager to play with it and it already looked gargantuan!

Sold only in science museums, we were able to purchase some for our customer friends.  Often selling at $49, we priced it at just $19.99, so this is a bargain!

We also offer smaller, 23″ matching Jumbo Space Hoppers, just right for kids 8-11, for just $15.99.

Besides hopping, sit on your hopper ball to work on your computer or to read.  The constant unnoticable balancing that your body does as you sit on it builds strong core muscles.

My husband Rick loves it too! Great exericse, fabulous fun!

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!

Watch this fun video of live action.


What to do with Halloween?

What to do with Halloween? Don’t ban it! Revise it!

Halloween is an unsavory holiday for many Christians. We don’t seem to know what to do with it. The black magic, the ghouls and other frightening images, the often devilish costumes, the spook alleys, the haunted house attractions . . . these all fly in the face of seeking after whatsoever is good, uplifiting and praiseworthy.

It might seem like an exciting holiday that children enjoy, but if you’ve ever lived in a country that practiced withcraft, you may have experienced how very real—evil and horrifying—it truly is. My children who have served missions in foreign countries (and brushed up with real Halloween stuff) have expressed surprise and wonder as to why good Christians would want to promote such a holiday and put up frightening decorations to invite such a spirit.

So why am I for Halloween?

Well, it’s about physics. Whenever you remove something and create an empty space, the vacuum begs for something else to rush in and fill the void. If you remove Halloween and stay home with the front porch light off and do “regular life”, you create a vacuum that is just yearning to be occupied. You might maintain the void for a few years, but as your children get older and more part of the world outside your cottage, you’ll find it harder and harder to fight off Halloween.

Halloween is the second biggest retail holiday, scoring just under Christmas in sales. That means everyone is thinking about, making or buying a costume or decorations or foods for Halloween.  And your kids will sooner or later be touched by it.  We can’t keep them little forever, but we can give them traditions with meaning that they can repeat with their own families.

I’m all for replacing Halloween with something better.  And it is a perfect time of year to do it. Halloween comes just as the garden is being put to bed, and the pumpkins and big squashes picked. The orchard is ripe and laden with apples, and the cornstalks freeze and turn pale.  There are autumn leaves falling. Your decorations are already in place! If you’ve done much food preserving, there is a definite sense of relief and cause to celebrate when your work is done, and the garden is closed for the season. It is natural to make it a time of celebrating the harvest!  So why not have a Harvest Festival? Invite a few families, or a lot.  Have it at your home, or in a bigger location.  Here’s some ideas we’ve tried:

  • potluck supper featuring soups and breads
  • non-scary costumes for all, adults too: animals, historical figures, storybook characters, etc.
  • set up some simple carnival type games around the edge of the room so children can go from one to the next (cake walk, bean bag toss, fishing pond, etc.)
  • every family brings a bag of candy as a “ticket” to get in.  The candy is then used as prizes in the carnival games.
  • have a “healthy treat” Halloween with natural treats, popcorn, muffins, apples
  • A “Family dance” (all ages): western line dances, square dance, English contra-dancing are all great fun!

Another tradition that our children have wanted to keep going, as they’ve grown older, is to visit the elderly people in your neighborhood or church community on Halloween—trick or treat style.  Most of those who are elderly now grew up when Halloween was a more innocent holiday where the children dressed up in costume and went safely door to door through the neighborhood in droves. Most of the older people I know buy candy and wait and wait . . . and wait . . . in hopes of treating little children in costume.  My neighbor told me that “The Hopkins” were the only trick-or-treaters she’s had in the last ten years!  You can brighten someone’s evening by a visit, showing your costumes and staying for a while to chat. My college kids still go visiting our elderly neighbors on Halloween.

Whatever you choose, remember that children are quick to set it in concrete as tradition and want it be repeated every year.  Celebration of harvest with family and friends, or visiting the elderly are both things I am happy to see my children carry on.

And oh, Happy Halloween Harvest!

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

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Don’t Let High School Sneak Up on You!

It can happen!

Here you are, a happy homeschooling mom having fun teaching your little brood, and suddenly, your oldest child transforms into a “big kid”. And before you know it, high school requirements are staring you in the face.  What’s a mother to do?

Preparation is always the best plan. Before your oldest child becomes a 9th grader and credit matters, get all your ducks in a row.

The high school requirements aren’t really that complicated. They are simply an outline for giving a student a well-rounded education, preparing him for life and/or college.  I find the requirements helpful, and use them to create a great homeschool plan, with online courses or classes at a high school as options when desired. Although each high school (and college) varies in the exact details, the general educational requirements are pretty much the same:

High School Requirements (9-12th grade)

  • Math
  • English
  • Science
  • History
  • Fitness for Life, Health and P.E.
  • Computer literacy
  • Life/Career Skills
  • Fine Arts
  • Foreign Language

With this outline you and your student can build a wonderful plan to get the well-rounding knowledge and education while focusing on his interests. Don’t let high school overwhelm you! I’ll walk you through how to implement a high school schedule for each year on my next blog post. For now, let’s take a look at the required classes:


One course per year: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Advanced Math.  Make sure your child gets through pre-algebra (at least) before he enters high school.


Four years of learning our language, including reading classics, learning to write well both in content, analysis, and mechanics such as punctuation, spelling, use of words.  Grammar, vocabulary are taught here too.


4 years worth of lab sciences create a great foundation of understanding the world around us.  They are generally taught in this order:

  • Physical Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Advanced Science

Marine Biology, Human Body, Advanced Chemistry or Advanced Physics is taught during the 12th grade if you do Physical Science before high school. Apologia Science books, which I highly recommend, teach Physical Science during 8th grade.


My favorite subject!  I think teaching history gives children a sense of who they are, where they fit in the earth’s history, and helps them see the lessons that our planet has gone through and the preciousness of freedom.

Here is what is generally required  during high school:  American History World History, Geography, American Government and Citizenship.

Fitness for Life, Health, Physical Education

These classes focus on keeping your body healthy and fit.  If you’ve raised your children with Christian values, you may find high school health to be assaulting (as we did) with its focus on sexually transmitted diseases, alternative lifestyles and drug abuse.  I choose to focus on the positive: eating right, and experiencing a variety of activities such as walking, hiking, canoeing, swimming, not just team sports and exercise workouts.  Plus, a very brief exposure to drugs and sexually transmitted disease in the proper way is helpful.  Usually high schools require 1 semester of Fitness for Life, 1 semester of Health and 3 semesters of Physical Education (sports, fitness activities, can include dance).

Computer Literacy

Most homeschoolers could teach this class!  In our world, knowing how to type on a computer keyboard, and how to operate basic software—Word processing, Excel and Power Point—are the requirements. It isn’t too hard to demonstrate proficiency.  My high schoolers chose a subject they were interested in to create a great Power Point presentation using photographs they had taken.  Your teen can put his budget (or study hours) on Excel and track it for a semester.

Life Skills

Here’s where the fun comes in! Sometimes called Career Electives or by other names, the general thrust of this category is to prepare the student with some kind of skill that they could make a living with.  This is a fabulous category because this is where your child’s talents and interests can really gain expression and expertise! Includes such classes as: Cooking, Nutrition, Sewing, Gardening (Horticulture), Agricultural Tech, Woodworking, Metalworking, Welding, Engine Repair, Small Business, etc.

Fine Arts

All things cultural and beautiful: Music, Dance, Theater, Choir, Orchestra, Band, Art, Photography, Sculpting . . . many homeschoolers excel in the Fine Arts.

Foreign Language

Two years of the same language is recommended for college-bound students. Aside from that, knowing another language is a fabulous skill!


There you have it!  Semester classes count for 1/2 credit and full year classes count for 1 credit. A student must take 6 credits per year for 4 years giving them the required 24 credits to graduate with a high school diploma. (Schools vary a bit here with “elective” credit, no stress). Whether you want the diploma or not, the general knowledge is priceless . . . if you choose the right books, perspective, courses, and mentors.

How-to” plans next time!

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might enjoy:

Learning Language Arts

Saxon Algebra

Jumping Ship



Easy Ratatouille

Have you got garden produce—summer squash, eggplant, zucchini, basil and tomatoes—stacking up on your countertop? Here’s a sumptuously delicious way to use up late summer harvest all in one pot! No need to measure, just use what you have:

In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Add and toss to sear:

  • Minced garlic (1-5 cloves)
  • Chopped onions (about 1 large)
  • Chopped sweet bell peppers: red, green, orange, yellow, Hungarian, etc. (about 2-3 peppers)
  • Chopped zucchini  (about 4 small)
  • Chopped yellow squash or patty pan, or any other summer squash (about 4 small)
  • Chopped eggplant, skin on (1 large)

Cook and toss, until all veggies are browned.


  • Chopped tomatoes  (about 4 large)
  • Chopped fresh herbs: basil, parsley (about 1/4 cup of each, roughly cut)
  • Optional: marjoram and thyme
  • Salt + pepper

Simmer until veggies are very tender, and tomatoes have dissolved into a sauce.

How to eat this mixture?  Just scoop it hot onto a crusty chunk of artisan bread and top with grated cheese to melt.

Fabulous tasting! Super nutritious!

The scoop on ratatouille:

*the word “ratatouille” comes from the French word “touiller” which means to toss food.

*Say rat-a-too-eee!

*to make a gourmet tasting ratatouille, toss and sear each veggie separately, adding it to a pot after browning.  In this way, each vegetable retains its own taste.  (Since I am more interested in getting dinner on the table than being a gourmet, mine all goes into the same pot to toss around in the hot oil just as soon as I get it chopped, and it still turns out delicious!)

*Can us ratatouille as a pizza topping, in an omelet, or thinned with a little water to make a soup.

*Ratatouille is highly nutritious, low fat and low calories.

*Make it now, freeze in containers, and enjoy summer’s savory taste this winter!

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!


You might enjoy:

Hopkins Cookbook 

“Queen” Apron 

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day



Maid to be a Mother

Maid to be a Mother

Welcome to the home that lives within the house,
Where loving kids is all that really counts.

The dishes in the sink, the crumbs upon the floor,
And all the dirty laundry are secondary chores.

Now don’t assume me lazy by looking at the mess,
I’ve put forth forty hours and still don’t take a rest!

I polish little minds as bright as they can be
And sweep out tiny hearts and keep them pure and clean.

Each and every soul is scrubbed until it gleams,
I also pick up spirits, should they ever lose a dream.

So push the clothes on over, and have yourself a seat—
Excuse the toys and cookie crumbs sticking to your feet.

Judge me as a mother, not the maid I ought to be
I’d prefer sparkling lives to a house dirt-free.


Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

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Nearer, My God, to Thee

Sometimes I forget how old I am.  There is nothing like a really hard trial to transform you into a child again—a student—trying to learn the lessons of life so that the pain will stop and peace will replace it.

In church, the old hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” opened its treasure to me. I’ve sung it a hundred times in my life, at least. Probably more.  And never “heard” it.

“Nearer, My God, to Thee”
Verse 3:
“There let the way appear,
Steps unto heaven;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy given . . .”

Oh! I get it! God in mercy sends us the growth opportunities, life’s hard lessons: tragedies, trials, insurmountable difficulties. Why is it merciful for us to suffer?

Because the way appears . . . the path opens up . . . steps unto heaven.

It is because He loves us, in mercy He let’s us learn.  He orchestrates learning. Just like any good parent. We do it too, for our child’s benefit.

Verse 4:
“. . . so by my woes, I’ll be
Nearer, my God, to thee
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!”

Our woes can draw us to God, if we allow them to. Nearer to God. The hard things are really the door opener so we can learn to know God. Challenges disguise themsevles as obstacles, but they are really stepping stones.

The speaker at church talked about Happiness.  He said, “my hobby is to be happy”.  I thought to myself how very much I need to make it a conscious decision, to make happiness a hobby for me, too, since I am often overwhelmed, frazzled, frustrated, and hurt by the grinding day-by-day challenge of Ammon’s recovery.  At the peak of a very difficult few weeks, Ammon told me I didn’t smile anymore. I hadn’t realized. Happiness a hobby . . . it is by our own choice and effort that we smile, that we count our blessings, that we feel gratitude and focus on the good things.

The speaker’s formula for happiness:

1- Gratitude
2- Serving Others
3- Personal Integrity
4- Forgiving
5- Being considerate (. . . and I would add: never judging others)

We already know those things are what make us happy, but it is easy to forget to choose them when life gets intense.  ”Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

If pain is the rocky path leading one nearer to God, so be it. It would be a small price. Soul stretching lessons are difficult to live through, but the education they provide is priceless.

I want to learn.

God, help me want to learn.




A Lush and Lovely Garden

I live in a desert. Which is one reason my overflowing green garden gives me such satisfaction!  I also think being a mother makes me love it:  I have spent my life creating beautiful, growing living things.  Come into my garden, and I’ll show you what’s growing this summer:

First, my tools hang high on the fence inside the garden gate entry.  Gotta have them close by at harvest time!

This year I planted half of my garden in square foot garden beds, and half under black plastic.  Old carpet in the walkways ensures that no weeds grow in my garden, stealing water from the plants and making my back hurt to remove them! Drip lines go under the carpet and black plastic, but I still have a garden hose to water this and that as I choose.  When it is planting time, I simply cut a hole in the plastic for big melon and squash seeds or transplants. I cut a dotted line slit in the plastic for cucumber and green bean seeds, planting them right next to each other, as they have an entire bed in which to spread their roots sideways. The black plastic can be used year after year, if you buy the thicker type. We remove it in the winter, adding the summer’s chicken coop debri and autumn leaves, digging them into just the bed areas, not the pathways.  When spring comes, we put the black plastic back on a couple of weeks before planting time to warm up the soil.

Everything grows up! I have a fence down every bed in the black plastic covered side and I spend some time tucking vines through the fence so they’ll keep growing up, staying nice and tidy.  I can walk through the pathways easily, plus pick green beans at waist level rather than leaning over. Besides green beans; tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, and pumpkins have to obey this rule and it is fun to see the melons hanging off the fence, getting plumper by the day.

I mix flowers in with my veggies in the square foot garden side of my garden. That way, when the radishes or lettuce are finished, the summer flowers are just blooming.  Besides, having them mixed in my vegetable garden means I remember everyday to pick a fresh bouquet or two, right along with picking the vegetables. Morning glory goes up the fence between the garden and the chicken coop, creating a spot of beauty.

Growing new varieties intrigues me!  This year I grew a French pumpkin that is excellent for making pies and other baked goods.  It surprised me how quickly it got big! There are so many varieties of eggplant, that I love to see what new colors of fruit will pop right out of those pretty purple blossoms.  Eggplants love the heat so much that the difference between planting them in black plastic (see it on the ground in the picture) and planting them in open soil is enormous.  I have eggplant planted in my square foot garden, where it is struggling along, and I have it planted in black plastic where it is a monstrous plant, high and bushy, and has at least 5 x the fruit!  I live where the summer days are 90 degrees every day, so it is certainly hot enough already, but the black plastic definitely makes them more productive!  Eggplant just loves the high soil temperatures, as do tomatoes, squash, peppers and melons.

Horses hang around on the other side of the fence while I’m in the garden on the chance that they might get a tasty weed tossed their way.  Do you see the “poles” at the corners of my square foot beds?  They are really shelf corner brackets or something like that, leftover. Stuck in the corners of my bed, they make it simple to throw a blanket on top, in case of frost, without bending over the plants too much.  I cut the neck off regular water bottles and stuck them on these poles, upside down, to prevent injuring anyone. The water bottles need to be glue-gunned on, though, as our high winds have gradually taken them.

Last year’s asters reseeded themselves and I didn’t plant any this year, but my garden is full of purple, pink and white asters—such a beautiful and delicate flower. One of the benefits of square foot gardening is that the tiny herb and flower seeds drop down into the square foot bed and re-seed. Since square foot gardening does not require tilling or cultivating, those seeds will grow and give you surprise blossoms next summer!

Today I planted lettuce, as the cooling temperatures of fall will soon make it ideal for this leafy veggie that detests summer heat.

The benefits of growing a garden:

  • sunshine on your skin
  • peace and quiet
  • exercise
  • being outdoors
  • beauty
  • helping things grow
  • attracting birds and butterflies
  • fresh, organically grown vegetables to boost your health and make your meals gourmet
  • abundance to give away to others
  • a reminder that “whatever we sow, we will reap”—both in the garden and in life
  • joy!

Isn’t it fun!?

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might enjoy:

Square Foot Gardening

Art of Gardening

Encyclopedia of Country Living



Why Can’t He Read Yet?

School can be pretty frustrating if you have a child who is old enough to read, but not reading well, happily or smoothly.  Is he just stubborn or is something else going on? Here’s some things to consider:

Is he ready for reading?

Some children (boys especially) require a little longer to mature before being able to tackle reading.  If you find yourself teaching and re-teaching the same basic phonics sounds or concepts and not getting anywhere, your child may not be mature enough to retain the information needed to read.  Give it 3 months and try it again. Neurodevelopmentalist Cyndi Ringoen claims that until a child has developed the ability to recall a sequence of 4 numbers you have spoken, they will not be able to retain phonics instruction.  You’ll know when your child is ready to read when he can remember the letters and their sounds from day to day. Before that time, your efforts may not be very effective.

Are you making it fun enough?

If learning to read just means he has to read his math workpage instructions himself—oh joy—there is not really a reason to learn!  I remember a retired school teacher who told me how she got boys interested in reading.  She would read aloud the first part of a chapter in a Tarzan book.  When the suspense got high, she would put the book down, open with a bookmark, and move on to other things.  She often “caught” her reluctant readers trying to finish the adventure on their own.

Just like with anything else, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. If reading means he can play a game more independently, order from a menu, read the little notes you leave in his “mailbox“, and other rewarding activities, he has a reason to read!

Are you giving him opportunity?

Sometimes mom is so eager to help, that she doesn’t patiently allow a child to figure things out by himself in daily life.  When it is family scripture reading time, give him a turn and be patient, helping only when needed.  We only remember what we use.  Plus, “who needs to read if Mom will do it for me?”

Does he have the tools?

I love to garden, but I need my trowel, scissors, harvest basket and my straw hat.  Without my tools, it can be less enjoyable.  Does your child have the tools he needs to be able to read?  Basic phonics sounds that accompany each letter are the tools of reading. If you need a fun way to teach phonics, try my twice award-winning  Happy Phonics program which teaches phonics in a game format.

Before I began homeschooling, one of my sons was learning to read in public school, and was hopelessly behind.  When summer came, I determined to help him get up to speed so he could start the next year reading with the same proficiency as his classmates.  I got the needed books and materials, and began the process of having him read aloud to me.  It didn’t take long before I realized that he was operating without any tools! He was uncertain even how to attack an unknown word and decode it.  He had been taught the “look-say” method (which I cynically call “Guess Reading”) and it didn’t give him any phonic skills so necessary to good reading.

Teach phonics, pure and unadulterated. No sight words. No guess reading.  Teach simple and always-to-be-depended-on phonics skills.

A mother came to me once and explained that her daughter couldn’t remember anything she read, which of course, made her not want to read.  I advised her to get books that presented snippets of information, such as interesting animal fact books, and the like. Little morsels of interesting reading with pictures can motivate a child to keep at a book because of the immediate reward, while you get the necessary phonics practice done day-by-day. Comic books are great for this!

The problem of lack of comprehension is really lack of automatic phonics skills. When a child knows his phonics very well, from lots of fun practice, comprehension will begin to soar. What slows down a reader—both in speed of reading and understanding the story line—is the struggle to remember phonics. Once phonics is mastered, reading gets easy and fun!

P.S. I just got this letter from a happy mother:

I wanted to thank you so much for making the Happy Phonics program!  We have been enjoying it so much!  I am using it with 4 of my 6 children right now; my 10-year-old who has struggled in reading, my 8-year-old who has bucket-loads of energy, my 5-year-old who is eager to read and my 3-year-old who won’t miss the opportunity to spend time with Mommy.  Your program takes all the stress out of me teaching them to read and them learning to read.  So please know that you have made our homeschooling a pleasurable experience because you spent the time to help other Moms.

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might like:

Happy Phonics

Phonics Firefly

Phonics Readers



Pillowcase Food Drying

It’s that time of year again, when the garden is producing faster than I can keep up with it. And the sun is so hot, it definitely begs to be put to use in the process.  And so, pillowcase food drying was a natural solution!  Here’s how:

1. Wash your garden produce and spread it on a drying tray (or a window screen, etc.)

2.  Slip the trays into a pillowcase to keep insects and the direct sun off.  (If you are using big window screens, fold them into a tablecloth or sheet.)

3.  Set them up on the clothesline and pin to secure from wind.  The clothesline allows ventilation from both sides.

4.  Keep the rain off.

5.  Check daily for crisp, brittle veggies that snap in two, rather than bend. This is the perfect state for long-term storage. Herbs and leafy veggies may take just one day. Tomatoes, green beans and other vegetables may take a few days. I dry those beans too big for fresh eating, and make them into veggie powder.

6.  Crumble herbs in a large bowl with your hands, removing stems.  Other veggies may be stored whole or powdered in the blender to make a great addition to soups and casseroles. Store in a jar and label.  Use all year long for that fresh garden taste!

Can food preservation get any easier than this?

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!

You might enjoy:

Food Dehydrator

Fruit Roll Sheets

Add-A-Tray (2 Pack)



Another Way to Clean Your Teeth

We’ve just started a new tooth cleansing practice at my house and it is really amazing! It is technically called “Oil Pulling” but “Coconut Oil Swishing” is what it is all about. Here’s how you do it:

Put about 1/2 teaspoon (estimate) of high quality coconut oil into your mouth first thing in the morning (right out of bed, before drinking or eating), and you can do it before each meal if you want. Once a day is great. If you are really motivated to heal cavities, before each meal will keep your mouth really clean! The first moment feels a little weird as the oil melts, but then it mixes with your saliva feels fine. Just swish, swish, swish—sucking it back and forth through your teeth.

If you can keep at it for 5 minutes, great! 10 minutes, better— and at 20 minutes, you win the prize! Stop, spit the foamy white stuff out on the grass (or in the trash, but not in the sink or toilet where it can eventually clog pipes). Do not swallow!  It has germs in it.

Now rinse your mouth with warm water a few times—you can spit it out in the sink or toilet. The coconut oil will actually soak up bacteria in your mouth from your saliva, gums and teeth. A microscopic slide of coconut oil before and after swishing shows a scary collection of bacteria and other undesirables.

The downside: you can’t talk for 5-20 minutes.  This can be a pro or con, depending on whose voice is turned off.  And it gets your lips greasy, which is okay if you are used to using lip balm anyway, of which coconut oil is often an ingredient!

The benefits: your teeth will be amazingly clean and whiten with each swishing. Stain is often caused by bacteria and I noticed a whitening difference within 3 days.  Many people claim oil-swishing softens built-up tartar, which eventually slides off the teeth, greatly reducing the need for dental cleanings.  Removing toxins from your mouth improves the pH of your mouth, which is he big plus—facilitating healing of dental caries.

It’s easy, cheap and effective—just my kind of cure!

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!