Saturday, May 30, 2009

My husband, the Toolman

Up to now I have only written about myself and Schnickelfritz.  I have been happily married for seven years to my dear husband and am happy to talk about him, I just hadn't come up with a pseudonym for him yet.  Now I have one--Toolman, as in Tim the Toolman from "Home Improvement." Here's the story behind it. 

Our co-op was having its recital to celebrate the end of the spring semester and Fritz's grandparents were coming to town for the show.  I decided to host a barbeque the day before and invite the family over so my mom could catch up with her mother, sister and brothers.  In honor of the coming of warm weather I planned to make homemade ice cream for dessert.  Year's ago, when we'd visited Amish country in northern Indiana we had purchased a six-quart, hand-cranked White Mountain freezer.

As a child, my job was to sit on the freezer and balance it.  As an adult I'm more than willing to do my share of the cranking.  The way I figure it, the more calories I burn while making the ice cream, the more calories I can consume when it's ready.  I just asked my husband to help out at the end when the cranking gets really hard.  He disappeared while I was preparing the ice cream recipe and I told my mom "I'll bet he's rigging something up in the garage. "  As a teen, he was  co-inventor of  a machine to crank six freezers at once for a booth at the county fair, so one machine should be a piece of cake.

I was right. He had taken the handle off the crank and installed a large bolt on the bar.  This bolt could be turned with an adapter on his 1/2" drive drill--this drill comes with an extra handle to hold for the torque.  In the back of my mind I could hear Tim Allen's caveman grunt and "More Power!!"

The only problem was the drill wasn't designed to be used for so long. The motor started to heat up and smell funny.   There wasn't enough air flowing through the motor to cool it off at the slow speed.  The trigger was rather sensitive and whenever my Toolman would try to speed the motor to improve airflow the canister lid would fly off and the half frozen concoction would flick everywhere.  This happened three times before we decided to put the tried and true handle back on the freezer and finish the job the old fashioned way.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Dog Ate my Book---Literally

This year I've been working on collecting some old Landmark books as I plan to use living books for our history.  I got some great titles at the Greater St. Louis book fair last month.  When I brought in the bags our dog had to give them the once over sniff (which she does for everything in the house).  She lingered over these books and I thought they must have an older, musty smell.  Today I had been reading The Swamp Fox of the American Revolution and left the book beside the recliner when we left to run some errands.  Imagine my chagrin when I came home and found shreds of the spine and covers all over the living room. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Transportation Museum

It's amazing what a difference 24 hours can make.  Last night we got an email that our co-op's swim at the river had been postponed due to high water.  Schnickelfritz was extremely disappointed.....until I came up with an alternative.  The local TV station was hosting an outing for moms and kids to the Transportation Museum   and nothing can put a smile on my son's face faster than a train.

Background:  Fritz has been a fan of trains since he first saw Thomas the Tank Engine on PBS four years ago.  While he still plays with his wooden set, he has graduated to another video series called "I Love Toy Trains."   We've got the whole set, plus the two Christmas videos, plus the "I Love Big Trains" set.  "OH NO!!" the video with all the outtakes and train crashes stays at Grandpa and Grandma's house as a special treat.  While they are obviously entertaining to my little engineer, he's also learning about train history, safety, old hand signals, etc.

Armed with this knowledge, he certainly surprised several museum guides when he walked up to them with these zingers: "This is a cantenary system and that is the pantograph," "Engines are referred to by their wheel structure, so this is a 4-8-8-4," and "Are there any shays on display?"    He certainly made himself stand out from the other kids who were more interested in using the trains as jungle gyms.

Best of all, Fritz got to see two of his favorite trains in person.  The Big Boy------

This is the biggest steam engine ever built and can pull five miles worth of loaded cars.  Fortunately for us, it was one of the engines with a cab open for display.

Fritz's other special train was the Aerotrain, a streamline built by General Motors in the 1950's.

The museum offers miniature train and trolley rides and starting in June they will have special tours just for kids (no, my Schnickelfritz  hasn't been asked to be the guide-------yet)!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reptile week

In a previous entry I mentioned all the animals we have spotted on our property.  This week we added several new ones to our list and ironically they were all reptiles.  The most frequently spotted were box turtles.  I'd say at least seven, but since we weren't actually studying the markings, we may have seen the same one over and over.  There were at least two for certain--my husband almost ran over them with the lawn tractor as they were making baby turtles.   I'll have to read up on where they lay eggs to see if we can spot the babies.

Our next visitor was a little lizard.  It has taken up residence in a stone retaining wall along our driveway.  My son has seen it flitting in and out of the open garage door.  I saw it on the driveway and tried to get a closer look, but that was the fastest little critter! I couldn't keep up with it despite my much longer leg span.  From my brief glimpse and my Handbook of Nature Study , I think it might have been a skink.  The book said its territory only goes as far east as Kansas, but that was written in 1939 so maybe they've ventured further to Missouri.

The next encounter, and perhaps the funniest was when our dog Della met a large bullfrog cruising the road.  Little miss inquisitive stuck her nose right down on the frog's back and when it jumped forward to get away she jumped twice as far backwards.  Then she started following the frog, jump for jump, and she was taking off and landing on all four legs at once.  I was laughing myself silly by the time the frog made it to the culvert on the other side of the road.

Della also discovered our last reptile.  She was sniffing around the rock wall where I had last seen the lizard.  Imagine my surprise then when she pushed a large rock off and revealed a snake!  She was trying to paw at it and sniff it.  I was a little disappointed to see her curiosity was stronger than her survival instinct, for while this was just a garter snake, we do have copperheads on the property.  Maybe she'll know to stay away from the bigger ones if she comes across them. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review: HomeWork

As I mentioned in my introductory entry, when we moved to Missouri I gave up my outside-the-home job to become a full-time homemaker and homeschooler.   While my husband’s new job increased his earnings, our family’s income was still cut by a third.  Gas prices have started creeping up for the demands of vacation season and the grocery budget doesn’t seem to go as far as it used to (has anyone else’s milk prices jumped 50 cents per gallon in the last month?) I’m sure I’m not the only mom pondering about working from home.


TOS’s ebook Homework: Juggling Home, Work, and School Without Losing Your Balance  may be one of the best resources to help you decide if a home-business is feasible for your family.   This is not a “10 Easy Steps to Start Your Own Business” type of book, in fact I wouldn’t label it a “how-to” book at all.   More than two-thirds of the articles are homeschooling/work-at-home parents sharing from their hearts—how and why they started their businesses, how they schedule their days, how they cope.  These are real families, warts and all; they describe bumpy roads to success and sometimes failures leading them right back to square one.


Coming from a work-outside-the-home background, I saw my job, teaching my son, and home life as separate, albeit connected, compartments of my time.   Having read these testimonies, I can see where my point of view would hamper my ability to be a successful work-at-home mom.  All of these aspects have to fit into one container—a 24 hour day.  For some it meant putting formal schooling completely aside during the rush of harvest time, allowing that for a time it was enough for their sons to learn what it takes to support a family.  In another instance, living out of a motorhome required a family to find a portable money-making opportunity that wouldn’t take up too much room. 


Some of these families make, grow or raise the items they sell, others provide specialized skills.  While you’re reading, don’t try to match your family to those in these stores or try to find your ideal vocation.  Just like one curriculum can’t suit everyone, each reader is going to approach working at home with a different set of skills, different priorities, and different family dynamics.  I do believe these stories will help you set realistic expectations if you decide to move forward and develop your own business. As I read, I kept pen and paper handy to jot down questions that came to mind.  Some will require researching: how do I market myself, are there too many others doing the same thing, what are the upfront costs?  Other questions will require soul searching: will I respond or react to stress (Zig Ziglar will tell you one is positive and one is negative), do I have enough confidence to be a salesman?  


The end of the ebook has some very basic organization and accounting tips.  You will need to find another source to educate yourself about small business accounting and regulations that would apply to your situation.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Field Trip: Lewis and Clark Heritage days

The month of May means Lewis and Clark Heritage Days in St. Charles.  (The Corps of Discovery departed from St. Charles on May 21, 1804).  My Schnickelfritz and I went to early church service so we could head over to the encampment in time for the Fife and Drum parade at noon.  Here they are being reviewed by Lewis and Clark--and Seaman, the dog.

The loudest part of our adventure was the firing of the cannons--two and four pounders.  These reenactors are wearing red coats but I don't believe they were portraying British soldiers.  The commands were all given in French.  We had advance warning to cover our ears, but some fisherman on the Missouri were nearly surprised right out of their boat.

My best advice is to let your children interact with the reenactors.  Whenever Fritz would ask me a question, I'd say "Great question! Let's find somebody we can ask."  These men and women are full of passion (they'd have to be to sleep in those tents and suffer the heat in wool costumes) and it was contagious.  Fritz spotted one man at the information tent with "a gun."  He hasn't had much exposure to guns (no hunters in the family) so I suggested he ask the man to show it to him.


This man (dressed as Spanish Militia, by the way) took a great deal of  time to explain the flintlock musket; even starting a fire with his flint and steel to explain what was going on in the musket and couldn't be seen.

We watched craftsman tanning hides and making bows and arrows.  There was a ghastly display of frontier medical tools (I hesitate to call them instruments because they were neither fine nor sanitary).  The "doctor" explained that medicine used to be a trade with apprenticeships just like a blacksmith or barrelmaker.   Even the clergy was represented in this camp--the "Reenactor's Reverend" has a display of artifacts representing our Christian heritage.  I asked him for a card to see if he would bring the display to our homeschool co-op.  He said he wasn't set up to do that just yet and then remarked that he'd talked to a lot of homeschoolers over the weekend.  I said "Of Course.  This is fun, educational, and free."

Speaking of free--here's a wonderful opportunity if you live close enough to the St. Charles area.  On Monday, June 22 at 7pm there is an informal meeting to introduce the Lewis & Clark Fife and Drum Corps.  It's open to kids ages 10-18; uniforms, equipment, and instruction are free.  You just have to commit to the rehearsal schedule.  More information can be found at

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A last minute field trip

Well the winds and rain came last night as expected.  We were spared from hail and tornados, but they hit in northern Missouri.  We had the computer shut off last night, but in the morning I learned that more "stormy weather" for home schoolers had been brewing in our state legislature.

HSLDA Members and Friends,

We urgently need your attendance at a rally tomorrow on the steps of

the Capitol in Jefferson City at 1 p.m. to stop an extremely serious

threat that has emerged with literally no warning.  There is no time

for phone calls or emails to be effective.  We need thousands of

homeschoolers physically present tomorrow!

 This dramatic threat would massively increase government control over

homeschooling.  Every home schooled child (except those in St. Louis

City)--whether 16, 17, 18, 19, or 20-- would be subject to compulsory

school attendance until they could prove to the state's satisfaction

that they had completed "sixteen credits towards high school


 This would suddenly give the state power to control and define what a

home school "credit" is.  It would immediately give the state power to

control what is required for home school graduation.  This would

destroy liberty for homeschoolers in Missouri on an unprecedented

scale and cause unimaginable problems.


 We need 5,000 homeschoolers tomorrow at 1 p.m. on the steps of the

Capitol in Jefferson City to send a message: VOTE NO ON S.B. 291.  Car

pool if possible to make parking easier for others.  Forward this to

other homeschoolers.


 The legislature closes this Friday.  This bill could be voted on late

Thursday or Friday. S.B. 291 posed no threat to homeschoolers until it

was very recently amended to add the credit and graduation provision. 

Immediate action is required.  Families for Home Education (FHE) joins

HSLDA in calling for this rally.  Brad Haines of FHE will lead the


 This is our hour of need.  Can you set everything else aside for

freedom and be ready in a minute, like the minutemen of old?

 Thank you for standing with us for freedom!

A member from my support group emailed that she had room in her van for anyone wanting to attend.  I accepted her generous offer.  My schnickelfritz had the company of five other kids for the 90 minute drive and I didn't have to worry about finding directions or getting lost--what a blessing.  


We rallied under the statue of Thomas Jefferson and then, like the children of Israel, marched one time around the stronghold; believing God would give us the victory.

When I checked this evening, the amendment and bill had both passed.  Homeschoolers now know 100 hours is equivelent to one credit for graduation purposes.  We also received a bonus in the text of the amendment--it is now illegal for anyone other than the county prosecutor to review our records.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lovely Flowers

We interupt this string of reviews to bring you pictures of the gorgeous flowers in my yard.  I had to run out and take pictures today because the forecast tonight is for high winds, hail, and possible tornados.  We moved here in late fall so it's been like finding surprise packages under the Christmas tree every time something new pops out of the ground and blooms.

 Iris growing along the roadway.


Peonies along the driveway

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: Fundraisers

When I was browsing the WeE-book selections, Easy Fundraising for Homeschool Organizations caught my attention.  I had just come from a co-op planning meeting where we had come up with several speakers we’d like to book, but the question always arose: “How do we pay the speaking fee?”  That led the conversation to wishlists of equipment and supplies we could keep at the church for our meetings and how could we afford them.   Perhaps this book would provide some answers.  I was also curious about the more technical aspects of fundraising—I was an accountant for large non-profit organization for the last 13 years (think of little girls selling baked goods door-to-door). 


There is a lot of ground for this little e-book to cover—fundraising ideas, tax implications,  reporting,  legal issues, etc.  The author relies on several links to direct you to websites where you can do more research on your own (I would consider the additional research essential).  You should note that one of her links to does not work—the “c” is left out of the embedded link even though it appears in the text.


I was pleasantly surprised to learn homeschool organizations can qualify for coupon and reward programs I would have thought were limited to schools.  This will be one of the first things I share with my co-op ladies next month.  How great that our group can benefit from the shopping I have to do anyway.  A further step would be to set up an affiliate program where the group can benefit from other people’s shopping. Both ideas are covered well with links to established programs.


Another topic involves soliciting donations.  The author mentions that it’s very helpful to obtain  501c3 status so donors can deduct their contributions.   I would suggest that it’s almost mandatory if you want to deal with national corporations.  In my old job we were constantly receiving monetary grants from corporations and having to issue checks to pass the funds on to the troops because the council had the 501c3 designations and the troops did not.   The article does not mention how much time and effort is involved in obtaining the status (setting up a board of directors, establishing bylaws, annual reporting) which I believe puts it out of consideration for most parents.  We have enough trouble fitting  housework, schooltime, and church activities into our schedule.  It may be possible to receive merchandise from these corporations without the 501c3 status, or perhaps you can deal with “mom and pop” stores or individuals who do not care about charitable deductions.


Lastly, the WeE-book does mention reporting funds raised  to the IRS.  The  few examples listed lead me to believe in most cases this is not necessary, but there is a link to IRS guidelines to investigate further.  There is also a link to a website dealing with reporting requirements at a state level.  There is no mention of other legalities that should be researched before undertaking a fundraiser.  I understand that this is a brief e-book and the laws of individual states and municipalities is beyond the scope of its content, but I think there should have been a warning that further research is necessary.  For example, a common fundraiser is to host a spaghetti supper or bake sale.  In the state I moved from, there is new legislation requiring certified food handlers for these types of events.  Is it worth the trouble for a member of the group to go through the certification process?

A Naturally Clean Home

Hello friends!  I’m sorry to have missed several days of posting, but I was doing my homework.  “Homework?” you ask.  “Maybe you’re new to homeschooling.  The moms assign the homework, not complete it.”  I am new to homeschooling—this is our first year and it was kindergarten at that.  My homework was reading and evaluating three WeE-books as part of the application process for the new Homeschool Review Crew for The Old Schoolhouse magazine.  I’ll review each of these in its own post.

There are currently more than forty WeE-books available at the Schoolhouse store covering  animal studies, arithmetic, devotionals, transcripts, etc.  After scanning the titles and viewing the samples I chose to download A Naturally Clean Home and Baby, Easy Fundraisers for Homeschool Organizations, and Beating the Summertime Blues.  These titles were 16-19 pages in length, which I would assume is average for all the WeE-books.  The length is a little deceiving because they all included an identical, seven-page appendix on beginning homeschooling and other online TOS publications. 

A Naturally Clean Home and Baby is an extension of Lisa Barthuly’s article in the Fall 2008 edition of The Old Schoolhouse, in fact the cleaning formula I tried was listed in both.  I made the scrubbing cleanser and tried is out in our shower.  We are fortunate to have very little mineral build up in our water (our water heater is 24 years old and still going strong), so I was mostly dealing with shampoo and soap scum.  The cleaner was very effective and I didn’t have to worry about what was being washed down into the septic tank. 

Next I tried her natural weed killer on those pesky plants growing through the cracks in my driveway.  They started drooping but then two inches of rain fell and perked them back up.  Perhaps I’ll try again during a dry spell with more frequent applications.

 There is also a recipe for laundry detergent that I want to try as soon as I track down one of the ingredients.  It would have been helpful if the article explained what the ingredient was and where it could be found, but it was rather easy to Google it.

The second half of the WeE-book is devoted to items for the baby.  My baby is now six years old so I didn’t need to try any of these.  I did find a recipe for wipes similar to the one I used for two years with a lot of success.
2014 Update:  The WeE books are now part of the program.  The longer your subscription, the more free WeE books you'll have access to.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our first Lapbook

I've been wanting to try a lapbook with my schnicklefritz to see how he takes to the idea.  Like many boys, he's not excited about writing so we keep it in small portions.  He needed to make a poster for Royal Rangers and I decided to alter the project into a lapbook.

Here is the cover.  We scanned an image from the handbook and enlarged it.  Fritz cut the circle out with one of my scrapbooking tools.

On the left hand side are the blue points of the Ranger code.  The four pledges can be unfolded on the right and a blue pocket hold all his Bible verses for the year.  I penciled in the words to give Fritz an idea of their size and spacing then he wrote everything with a Sharpie marker.

Under each blue point flap is the part of the code he must memorize.  I typed everything and he cut it out.  I ran it through the xyron and he applied it.

I hope you can see how everything unfolds.  I typed the pledges and found clip art to identify each one.  Fritz cut out the texts and decided where everything would be placed.  I helped cut out the clip art to make sure it would fit on the flaps.

This is supposed to be a reviewing tool so we laminated the Bible verses.  Now he'll be able to pull them out and we can go through them together.

His commander loved the lapbook and wants to put it up on the church bulletin board.  It's our first one, so I'm reluctant to part with it.  Maybe we'll let her display it for a little while.  If it gets damaged, at least it is documented here.

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