Upper Room Literacy Program

So, just to review, this is what I have signed my daughter up for this summer. It’s a free literacy summer camp program…

Our Summer Academic Camp is an eight week intense program for students entering 1st – 8th grade.  The program runs from 7:30 – 6:00, Monday – Friday.  Students focus on reading with the help of certified teachers, youth counselors, and volunteer tutors.  Students read from 8:30 – 11:30 each morning.  The program uses “Accelerated Reader” to track each students progress.  They are given a lunch and then exposed to a variety of activities including: field trips to the pool, the movies, the theater, the zoo, private music lessons, dance lessons, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the Kansas City Library.  Students are given a light dinner.

Reading: Each student is tested at the beginning of the program in the STAR system to determine the grade level they are reading on.  Then, each day from 8:00am – 11:30am, the students read books based on that reading level.  The goal is to have each student work with a tutor to enhance the reading process, and encourage the student to stay on task. Once the book is completed, the student walks to the computer lab to take a comprehension quiz on the book they have just read.  These quizzes are provided by a program called Accelerated Reader. The quiz helps our teachers evaluate how the student is progressing at the current level and once they are scoring 80% or above consistently, they are moved up to the next level.

Each reading level is broken down to grade level and month level.  For example, 2.1 is second grade, first month.  Reading is the center of the program.  As the summer comes to a close, the students are tested again in the STAR system to see how much they have progressed.

Math: Math is essential to the education of our students.  More sophisticated tutors are used to work with students one-on-one in math.  Tutors will also work with students on homework involving math.  Recently, we tested the math software used by the Kansas City, KS school district, and are exploring programs.

Nutrition & Wellness:  Each student is provided with a nutritious dinner every afternoon.  We recently began working with the Calvary Fitness Center to provide nutritional education, and exercise opportunities, including running, bicycle, climbing wall, fencing, and games.

Field Trips: Field trips take place in the afternoon when reading is finished. Field trips provide an outlet of fun and a reward for the students’ hard work on reading and math. They also benefit the local community businesses and become part of our neighborhood model.

All of this is FREE to our families.  Our program is open to all students, regardless of family income.  Our students are not required to pass a reading level.  We employ teachers who speak multiple languages to work with parents that do not speak English as a first language.  We try our best to accommodate all of our applicants.  We do not turn any students away until our capacity has been met.

I’m very excited about this program for two big reasons.

#1 – I really think that this will benefit Emily. She will be practicing reading each morning she is there (I’m planning on it being Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays) and it will give her some exposure to new kids and a slightly more organized learning structure.

#2 – I just took a look at MY schedule and I really think I will be able to crank out book #5, the first book of a new series, this summer with the time I will have freed up.

Killing two birds with one stone. Works for me!

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The Art of Distraction

Crying children.

Screaming children.

Struggling, throw yourself on the ground, recalcitrant children.

At some point in your life, whether or not you are a parent, you will encounter the need for the fine art of distraction.

It will be one of the best tools in your parenting (or adult mentoring) toolkit.

Some kids are not as susceptible as others. Take &mommykerrie youngest daughter. I tried distracting her today when she is in mid-whine and she would have none of it. Most however respond quite well to THE QUESTION.

What is THE QUESTION you ask? Just about anything you can think of – usually the whackier the better.

Today, we were on a homeschool field trip to the NOAA weather station just south of the Kansas City airport. My friend was there with her 6-year-old daughter, almost 3-year-old son, and 10-month-old daughter. The baby was strapped onto her chest, and her son had that naughty gleam in his eye that told me he was about to bolt again.

“Hey, Arthur, take a look at this. A rabbit has been going in and out of this hole in the fence right here. See the soft, soft fur on the ground? I bet she has a nest under there.”

Instantly the “about-to-bolt-and-run-feral-in-the-woods” boy was absorbed in the low spot covered in fur at the bottom of the fence. Pretty soon he was finding worms, along with nice clods of dirt and grass that he spread over the sidewalk, leading up to one of the small sensing stations.

While the rest of the childrens’ eyes glazed over with boredom, one little boy was more than happy to find two worms and about fifty clods of dirt and grass over the next ten minutes.

It’s all about the distraction.

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Hmmm…Interesting…What Do YOU Think?

I received the following email this morning:

I came across your blog when I was doing some research. I found it very interesting as it’s having informative as well as unique contents. We posted an infographic “The Old Way Vs. The New Way”, I wonder if you and your readers might be interested in reading. Here is the link: http://www.bestmastersineducation.com/common-core/.

If you find it helpful, please consider it for sharing with your readers. I’m looking forward to your reply.

I figured I would go ahead and post the infographic here and ask what YOU think of it.

Fire away…

 Common Core
Source: BestMastersinEducation.com

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Serious Stuff and Funny Stuff

First the funny stuff…


We have six little chicks in our basement right now and Emily suggested we take a picture of her with them. Well, one in particular.

“Mama, take a picture that looks like I’m about to eat one of them!”

I call this her crazy face.

Disclaimer: No chicks were harmed in this photograph!

In fact, they will live long, productive lives. They are all hens. Come September, or thereabouts, these little cuties will begin to lay an egg nearly every day. Big brown ones. They are Rhode Island Reds.

I can’t wait to see them strutting around the coop, proudly announcing their newest accomplishment. Our established hens, all three years old now, still proudly strut about, clucking loudly whenever they lay an egg. Chickens are excellent self-promoters.

And kids have great ideas for photos.


Now the serious stuff. I just ran across a great website. Actually, they started following ME on Twitter. See what you get when you follow me on Twitter?! In any case, Life Learning Magazine is the site. And I found a great article on there that literally had me crying tears of relief, How They Learned to Read and Write. This woman described the way I feel to a ‘T’ – complete with the understanding that my issues with my kiddo not reading and writing are MY issues, not hers.

When I have the funds, I’m going to sign up for two years of issues. You can test drive it by lurking about the site, then jump in the shallow end by paying just $26.95 for one year’s membership. And a two year membership is just $49.90. I think I’m definitely going to go for the two year. In any case, read the article, it’s a great one.

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Homeschooling, Unschooling, and Fostering Entrepreneurship

We are unschoolers, which is often construed as being anti-school or anti-learning. That would not be correct. Unschooling is what each of us does on a regular basis in our daily lives.

If you are the inquisitive sort, or even if you are not, what do you do when you are curious about some new term, idea, art, et cetera? You research it, you look it up. It all starts with a question – what is this, who is this, how does this work, and on and on.

Unschooling is just that. Most people refer to it as child-led learning, but honestly it is self-directed learning regardless of age.

In any case, I tend to go off on tangents on a regular basis. I do this by exposing myself to a large wealth of knowledge and information whenever possible. Recently that has included going through various homeschool magazines, some old, some new and marking ideas or thoughts that stand out.

For instance, while reading through a 2004 edition of Home Education Magazine about a young homeschooled boy in Britain who liked to play “Shop” with his mother, I got the great idea of promoting entrepreneurship in my daughter. Specifically, helping to guide her in determining what were reasonable prices for different crafts or artwork she might want to sell at the farmer’s market.

That question, what to charge, has guided several conversations on pricing – giving her a basic understanding of supply and demand, marketing, and more. In this same magazine there was another article from a grandmother who had encouraged her grandkids to start their own pumpkin patch to make money. Now granted, she lived on a farm where there was plenty of room for such things. But she helped guide her grandchildren through all of the steps, from preparing the soil, cultivating the pumpkins, removing grasshoppers, and finally to selling their home-grown harvest.

And now I think I will go read a final article in this magazine on science experiments with eggs.

Wait for it!…

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Pierogi (and Face Painting) Paradise


It’s been far too long since we got together “Team E” – as we have begun to call my daughter Emily and a friend of ours, Elizabeth, along with her husband Brian. But it isn’t a party without our neighbors Andy and Blake, so they came over too.


We just had to introduce these two couples to their first pierogi making experience!


We played some music, shared some beers (Crème Brulee stout and also Boulevard…mmm), laid down some flour and got to work stuffing the dough full of meat, onion, tater tots and cheddar cheese before deep-frying them.


Thankfully, Brian and Elizabeth brought some salad so that our arteries didn’t harden on the spot.


They also brought pecan pie and ice cream and these amazing coconut macaroons. At that point there was absolute silence around the table, punctuated by the occasional “mmmm” and corresponding eyeballs rolling into the back of the head.


So good.


But more than the great company, was the benefit to our daughter Emily. She adores Brian and Elizabeth, as well as Andy and Blake, and had insisted we have them all over for dinner. I can remember enjoying the company of adults as well as a child growing up. I enjoyed listening to their stories and interacting with them and it is wonderful to see my 7-year-old daughter making her own relationships and interactions with other adults.


Not a single visiting adult left without a unique face painting done…all on their hands instead of faces…


She was out of the room at one point and the subject turned to her. Andy said, “If I knew for sure I would get a child like that, I would become one in a heartbeat.”


And I think it was Brian who said, “She doesn’t act like a child, but like a real person.” And while that might sound odd, I think I really do get what he was saying.


Children don’t need to be treated like children, but like the adults in which they will become. My dad once said to me, “I wasn’t raising a child, I was raising an adult.” And while I do not treat her as an adult, I do try to keep that in mind at all times, an image of who she will be as an adult, and how someone becomes that over time.


“Because I said so” is not a go to phrase around here. I explain WHY I want something done, and Emily has sometimes challenged it with her own thoughts and reasoning. Give me a good enough reason why you want to do it a different way and I will often change my attitude or expectations.


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A Very Creative Day

My inspiration for the memo board

My inspiration for the memo board

I have to say, finally getting the homeschool room cleaned up really gave a jolt to my creative side…and Emily’s.

While Emily continued to hone her painting abilities...

While Emily continued to hone her painting abilities…

So while she has immersed herself in the minutiae of face paints, I have catapulted myself down the rabbit hole of Mod Podge Rocks. I’ve got two small projects in the works…a memo board and a tiny version of backgammon that will be played using buttons. I just need to find some cute little miniature dice to go with it.

I painted some 4x4 tiles with the blackboard paint and selected four decorative papers

I painted some 4×4 tiles with the blackboard paint and selected four decorative papers

I’m rocking a handful of face paint designs on my arms and face, including two rainbows with starry dots running down my arms.

She says this is a snake, but it looks like the Hungry Caterpillar to me!

She says this is a snake, but it looks like the Hungry Caterpillar to me!

And it has really been a lot of fun creating things with my daughter today. She’s reached that age where she isn’t needy or requiring assistance with every tiny detail, so we work side by side on our projects, doing very different things, but content with one another’s company.

I'll pull a hummingbird from here and add it to one or two of the tiles...

I’ll pull a hummingbird from here and add it to one or two of the tiles…

It’s peaceful and rejuvenating.

This needs to dry, and I need to find more fru fru to add to it...

This needs to dry, and I need to find more fru fru to add to it…

The memo board will be mounted to a piece of plywood, a strong ribbon added to use to hang it with, and then I can keep it here, sell it or give it away. Fun and easy!

Who knows, maybe I’ll make a class out of it!

I’ll show pics and details of the backgammon board later today over on The Deadly Nightshade. Make sure to check it out!

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My Body is Her Canvas


I mentioned the other day that we are ramping up to sell at a farmer’s market. This will be headed by my daughter and I, and as we cleaned the homeschool room to make room for Emily to do some art and crafts (which she will then sell at the farmer’s market) she discovered a face-painting book I bought a few years ago. It includes face paints and she was immediately excited.

She started painting some designs on herself and then this morning asked me if I would like for her to paint some designs on me.


As I explained to her last night, “If you want to get good at something, keep practicing.” And she has really taken this to heart.

So here I am, sitting in the homeschool room, with the laptop, typing away while she paints different patterns on my arms.


My body is her canvas.

You want to empower kids to do more, be more? Would you like for them to become entrepreneurs and artists? Let your body become their canvas.

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Sneaky Learning


Once upon a time I read some article about a mom who used the term “sneaky learning” to describe her teaching style. Basically you teach without really seeming to teach – introducing your kiddo to new concepts without them realizing what you are doing.

This works exceptionally well on the younger crowd, of which my gregarious 7-year-old is very much a part of.

I remember being indignant and thinking that I would never do that to my child.

All I can say is that I have come to my senses.

Learning, teaching, and exposing my child to learning opportunities inevitably leads to sneaky learning, sneaky teaching, just plain SNEAKY.

Take tonight for example. As I was cleaning the homeschool room I came across a bunch of magnetic words. I sat down on a stool in front of the fridge to put them all on there and then the epiphany hit…why am I not having the kiddo do this? She will put them on the fridge and naturally start reading some of them. And that will lead to me commenting that she was recognizing a lot of words and asking her what other words she knew. And that would lead to her putting together short sentences with the words.

And that is just what happened.

It was a low-key learning experience. She didn’t feel challenged, or foolish, uncomfortable or put on the spot. She was simply doing something I had asked her to do – put magnetic words on a fridge – but along the way she made a couple of great sentences and read a lot of words.

I am totally on the side of sneaky learning!

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I Learned All About Killing Chickens from Your 7-Year-Old


There are some days when I am very, very thankful that I hang with a bunch of laid-back homeschool, granola-crunching moms and teachers. If my child were in public school, I sort of have to wonder if they would be as cool or laid-back.

Take the other day for instance when we were at the Waldorf school for Emily’s Friday classes. I was there picking Emily up at the end of the day and one of the teachers came up and said, “Emily taught us all about how to kill a chicken today.”

“Oh,” I said, my heart skipping a beat, “she did?”

“Yes, she said you ‘take them for a ride’ until the neck breaks.” She smiled, “She even reproduced the sound of the neck snapping.”


If it weren’t for the fact that the kid is so darned cute, I don’t doubt that people would be calling social services or worse.

As it is, she is pretty darn engaging.

But I do wish she would refrain from all of the nitty gritty details of our chicken-killing ways. I fear I might scare some people off!

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