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!!!


Hard Easy

There are two ways to raise a child.

You can do it the Easy-Hard way, which is to roll along, give your child his way because he is young and “doesn’t know better”, keep him from crying by handing out cookies, don’t put demands on him to behave well or follow the family rules or contribute. Pick up after him. Do everything for him and expect nothing of him. Don’t teach him to use tools or cut with a knife or carry something to the table, because he might get hurt or break something. Do it yourself and save the mess. Easy. It makes for less stressful times, because a child who gets his way doesn’t pitch fits very often.

The other way is Hard-Easy. It starts out with a bang—rough-riding!  It takes lots of energy to train and teach and persuade and correct, and urge and work side-by-side with and expend lots of effort on polishing your little rough-edged baby-child into a smooth diamond. You’ll have to learn to ignore tantrums.  You’ll have lots of exhausting “let-me-show-you-how” and “work-with-me” instruction sessions. You’ll have to model being happy yourself and smile and take a proactive role in loving him. It takes creativity, patience and energy  to teach a little one how to behave politely, to follow family rules, to pick up after himself, to pull his weight, to respect his elders, to control his emotions and more. There will be cut fingers, broken dishes and messes while he is learning. Hard.

The Easy-Hard way goes along breezily for a few years, maybe even 6 or 8 years, and Mama is serving her child devotedly and life is relatively smooth. The child isn’t developing any skills, and doesn’t have much self-confidence as a result.  And the child senses that he is more a liability than an asset to the family. He just wants to have fun and indulge himself and is glad that Mom is picking up after him and doing the cooking, cleaning, toy-buying, driving him here and there, and still handing out cookies to shut him up. He wants bigger treats, more fun, and complains a lot. Mom feels worn out and wishes for school to start (or summer camp) to get the little demon out of her hair. It is getting hard!

As the child grows, the Hard-Easy method continues to be quite a job for Mom.  But her child is gaining some skills gradually, and the messes are diminishing a smidgen. When Daddy comments on how good the pancakes are, and the 8-year-old beams and proudly says, “I made them all by myself”, there is some honest-to-goodness self-etsteem and confidence brewing. Mom now has a helper, and an eager learner who wants to gain his parent’s skills and knows he is a contributing family member. Self-control has increased, since the crying and tantrums didn’t do anything but wear him out. He can clean a bathroom, help with dinner, work side-by-side with Dad in painting the kitchen and scheme how to spend his carefully earned money. This child is a joy to Mom and she is proud of him. Guess what?  Easy is starting to show its face.

You’re guaranteed to get both the “easy” and the “hard” part of parenting when you raise a child.

Which one do you want to tackle first?

Which direction do you want your child pointing as he moves into adolescence?

Please leave a comment here.  Thanks!!!



Growing Garlic

Today we had an abundant garlic harvest! I think garlic is the easiest crop to grow. Here’s how:

1.  Plant cloves of garlic in the garden in the fall time, first time around.

You can use grocery store garlic, and separate the bulb into cloves and plant them, point side up. You will probably have better success if you buy garlic at a local farmer’s market so you know it works in your climate. Plant nurseries have them too.  Once you get garlic going, it will replant itself every fall by producing little bulbs on top the seed stalks.  These dry and drop into the soil for next year’s crop, or you can collect them and plant them wherever you want.

2. Leave them in the ground when winter comes.

3. Enjoy their bright green presence when spring comes and all else is not yet growing.

Garlic will send up an artistic-looking curling seed stalk in late spring or early summer.  You can cut and eat these shoots when they are very young and tender, like green onions or chives.  Or you can put them in a vase with a flower arrangement. Or you can let them grow and set seed. The garlic cloves down in the soil actually grow around this central seed stalk (rather than through them, like onions). Experiments have shown that allowing the seed stalk to grow gives better garlic yields.

4. Slide them out of the ground in mid-summer when the bottom set of leaves turn brown.

Leave a few in the ground to go to seed (tiny bulbs on top will dry and drop into the soil) to make new garlic plants next season.

6. Braid them, after a fashion, and hang them up in the garage to dry.

If you live in a cold winter zone, you’ll grow “hardneck” garlic (which don’t really braid into those pretty Italian garlic braids of “softneck” mild-winter garlic varieties).  But we kind of braid it anyway.

7.  Enjoy fresh garlic all year long.


Louisa and her enormous garlic braid!


Whipped Cream Words

We’ve lapsed into being a bit grouchy at my house sometimes. And it isn’t fun. I’m not sure how or why, but we all decided that we needed to stop it!

Talking about stopping it worked just fine while we were talking about it and we were all full of resolve to do better.  But then life went on and we all forgot.

One morning we were all sitting at the breakfast table reveling in a most delicious and decadent breakfast made by Louisa while we were out harvesting the garden.  She called us in to enjoy whole grain French toast made with our farm fresh chicken eggs, and topped with cubed mangoes and strawberries—crowned with a generous dollop of naturally sweetened whipped cream.  YUM!  The sunshine was streaming through the open door, the trees outside were swaying in the morning breeze . . . and all was right with the world.  Ummm . . . whipped cream. Sweet and satisfying, delicious and soft.  Everybody loves whipped cream.

Then it dawned on us that whip cream is exactly what we wanted!  We wanted that soft and sweet, delicious feeling of whipped cream in our home, in our communications. That did it!  ”Whip cream” became our code word!

Later, at that very same breakfast, someone relayed some less than pleasing information and I turned to talk to the offender in a very reasonable voice (I thought), which they thought was a scolding voice.

“Whip Cream” they politely said.

I immediately “got it” and reworded my accusation into a sweet and soft question.  I prefer whip cream to caustic acid.

We are all trying to talk in whip cream tones now. It’s working!

Sometimes one of us doesn’t even recognize it when someone requests “Whip Cream” in respond to our less-than-gentle words, so we made a resolve to buy one of those aerosal cans of whipping cream at the store. If someone doesn’t respond to the “Whip Cream” code word, then a taste of the real stuff will help remind him to keep his words soft and sweet!

We all like whip cream words much better.


Please leave your comment here.  Thanks!


What God Gave You Time For


All our grandchildren! Abigial, Isaac, Christian, Rachel, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Joseph

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling . . . It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”

—Rachel Jankovic


Zip Your Lips and Write Yourself a Note

That’s the best parenting advice I can give  . . . and I wish I’d learned it when I was a young mother!

What is your reaction when . . .?

*Your daughter comes out of her room wearing something you think is immodest . . .

*You discover your sewing scissors rusting outside in the sandbox . . .

*You are late for an appointment and your gas tank is empty, courtesy of your teen driver . . .

Well, I hope your reaction is better than mine was as a young mother!  It is so natural to want to see justice done and to be loud about it too! When children are very small, immediate (calm) correction is necessary to match their short memories, but as they grow older, the very most effective reaction is to zip your lips and write yourself a note.  Truly!

If you don’t zip your lips, you might say things that you wish you could take back and you will model reactive behavior you never wish to see repeated. More importantly, the child you are lecturing may go deaf or claim innocence: “it wasn’t me.”  Anyone pushed in a corner will try to wriggle out. No one likes the hot seat, adult or child.

If you don’t write yourself a note, you might forget to do the proper and much needed teaching once your emotions have cooled down.  Life moves on and it won’t be a priority unless you make it so. Being too lax is quite as bad as being over-reactive. Make sure you give fair consequences and teach the lessons your children need to have reinforced, for their sake.

The time for discussing modest clothing choices is a week or more later when your daughter is dressed modestly and the incident has been forgotten. Then the air is clear, there is no need for defensiveness, hearts are more open.  Don’t reference the incident, just teach in the most inspired, memorable and interesting method possible: a story, a movie, a scripture . . . anything that will touch her heart—without pointing a finger of blame.

The time to deal with consequences on the rusty sewing scissors is later.  Am I saying that it is right to just let it go, not set it right in the heat of the moment when all the facts and evidence are clear?  Yes, that’s what I’m saying. There is something in us that aches for justice!  And setting it right punctuated with exclamation points seems justified and satisfying!  By writing myself a note, I can keep quiet but reassured that the price will be paid, that no one is getting away with anything here, that I am exercising wisdom and will definitely be applying consequences later, when I have a level head and can approach it calmly.

A child who makes a mistake needs better skills. He is in need of instruction and consequences.  Not fireworks.  Modeling being in-control is a great blessing we can give our family.


Piña Colada Sorbet, Sugar-Free

Fresh and fabulous, this icy dessert can be made entirely from storage items in your pantry!

Piña Colada Sorbet

  • 1 can (20 oz.) pineapple tidbits in juice, drain and reserve juice
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk
  • 5 cups milk (can use 10 tablespoons instant dry milk powder + 4 1/2 cup water)
  • Sugar-free sweetener (liquid stevia and/or xylitol)
  • Optional:  shredded sugar-free coconut, macadamia nuts

Mix pineapple juice, coconut milk and milk whisking until blended. Dry milk works just fine in this recipe and tastes great. Add sweetener until it tastes sweet enough to your taste. We used 3 tablespoons of xylitol and 3 “squirts” of liquid stevia.  (Remember, when things are hot or cold, they taste less sweet than at room temperature, so make it sweet enough.) Pour into an ice cream freezer and churn.  This recipe fits the 2 quart Cuisinart ice cream maker perfectly. When slushy, add pineapple tidbits.  Churn until firm, about 15-20 minutes.  Sprinkle with coconut and macadamia nuts.




So…What is Stem Cell Therapy?

Guess I am not the only one who didn’t really understand what stem cell treatment is about, and since many of you have asked for an explanation of Ammon’s treatment, here’s the scoop in simple terms—from my limited understanding!

All of us have stem cells in our body.  I erroneously thought stem cells had to do with the brain stem, but that’s not it at all.  A “stem” cell is like a basic building block in your lego set.  It is necessary basic unit that can be made into other things.  If you think about a seedling sprouting up in the garden, the stem comes first. Then it grows into leaves, more stem, flowers, and fruits.  But it all starts with a stem.

As new life is conceived, it is all about stem cells.  Those “basic blocks” go on to differentiate, becoming lung tissue or brain tissue or muscles or an eyeball.  Their versatility is what makes them so valuable.  In adult bodies, our stem cells exist to repair damage.  But when damage is too great, it can overwhelm the body’s self-healing ability.  That’s where additional stem cell treatments become a valuable aid.

The reason using stem cells is so controversial is that stem cells are derived from human embryonic tissue:  life conceived in the test tube for the purpose of harvesting stem cells. Growing babies to use for stem cell harvest is not a happy subject.  The source of the stem cell treatments Ammon received in Mexico were actually from fetuses of animals (lamb or cow) from Germany.   Our doctor pointed out that if you eat meat, using animal stem cells is not objectionable, as you already have accepted the idea of using animals to give your body life and strength.

Why did we have to go to Mexico?  Use of stem cell therapy in the United States has been plagued by controversy over the issue of embryonic harvesting.  You may know someone who is terminally ill who has received stem cell treatments in the US. Apparently it may be available for those in the final stages of a terminal illness, as a medical experiment.  My neighbor’s cancer was healed in this way.

How do these animal stem cells get into the body?  First, blood is drawn from the patient and spun to remove all but the plasma.  Then stem cells are mixed with the plasma and it is injected back into the body.  It can be injected at the local site of damage such as an injured hand or heart valve, or in the case of the brain for Ammon, it is injected in the big muscles (glutes).  The stem cells follow the trail of inflammation, going right to the source of the damage and beginning repair work.  You can tell they are working within hours!  Ammon talked and talked and talked, and didn’t sleep much for 3 or 4 nights after receiving the injections.  His brain was turning on!  We have seen amazing progress within the last week!

If you have had a baby at a hospital recently, you may have been given the option to have your baby’s umbilical cord frozen and maintained (for a fee). Umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid are an abundant source of stem cells, and they are a perfect match for your child’s body in the event of future need.  I sure wish we had Ammon’s umbilical cord!

God can do a healing miracle any time He sees fit.  In the meantime, we are doing all we possibly can. Maybe He does His miracles in this way too.