July 31, 2013


This spring I was too pregnant to oversee our square foot garden.  And to be honest, I've been so discouraged by the stink bugs the last few years, I wasn't sure it was worth the effort.  But, we garden.  In the summer it's like breathing and eating.  Very literally at times because we feed our family from it until the frost and can what's left to enjoy the taste of sunshine throughout the winter.  My big boys took full charge of the vegetable garden this year.  And they have done an amazing job.  They started spring by building 9 new boxes for a total of 25 boxes.  The garden looks better than all the years Allen and I were in charge.  They are experts at rotating crops and getting new seeds going as soon as we harvest a finished crop. 
 And true to who my boys are, they have exhibited adventure and daring in the garden.  When they caught wind of the new designer vegetables, blue potatoes, Swiss chard and purple beans appeared on our table.

Last week the stink bugs appeared in full force.  Oh, boy!  I sure was discouraged at the concept of watching all that hard work go before we had even gotten a single tomato.  But God is so good to give, even in our loss.  Saturday my in laws called to say they had extra produce from their garden.  And they were not kidding!  We took home 2 cabbages, 2 cantaloupes, 100 ears of sweet corn, enough zucchini for 25 jars of pickles.  And then there were the tomatoes.  It was probably about a bushel.  They taste like only summer can taste.  Tomatoes and yogurt has been our primary diet this week.  Not because we don't have a refrigerator full of food, but because it is so delicious no one wants anything more.

And if that wasn't enough, God had to top himself.  Monday a neighbor and nearby farmer blessed us with sweet corn. Sweet corn in Maryland is like no corn you will ever taste anywhere else.  When our corn is ready for harvest, we eat the first batch for breakfast.  Yeah, it is that good.

My kids eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They eat it cooked.  They eat it raw.  They eat it plain.  They eat it buttered.  Actually, it's the only thing besides tomatoes they've eaten in two days.

So they picked and picked and picked.
In fact, they picked a truck full. 
And a pink pool full.  Twice.  Monday and Tuesday this is what you would see if you dropped by for a visit.
And so the canning season is upon us.  It's hard and hot work.  It's down right exhausting.  And at the end of the day, you ache all over.  And if you are as clumsy as me, you drop a quart of corn on your foot and injure it enough to forgo a week of running.  

But oh how we love it.  And do you know why?  I can spend a good hard day working at cleaning the house or cooking a meal.  But at the end of the day, the place is dirty before I have even washed the dust out of my hair.  But at the end of a good day of canning you have something beautiful to show for it.  There aren't many jobs in homemaking you can say that about.  

This morning we finished putting up the corn.  It felt so wonderful.  This kind of work makes my spirits bright.  Just look how sweet it is!  86 quarts of Glorious beautiful summer goodness.

July 19, 2013

Home School Spelling

Hi Kat! 

I’m sorry to spoil a moment of your summer with a school question. I’ll keep it quick and relatively painless! What do you (or have you) use(d) for spelling? We’ve used a plethora of things ranging from formal to informal methods. My youngest (age 10, but reading at a lower level) used Spelling by Sound and Structure Grades 1 and 2 (in 2nd & 3rd grade). Since she is entering grade 4, do you think it would be ok to skip the 3rd grade book and move her right into the 4th? I’m also open to starting something completely new. Any suggestions are welcome! 



Hi, Lisa.

It is always a treat to hear from you.  It's probably good for my brain to get a little stimulation during our summer hiatus.  Don't feel too sorry for me.  As you can see, I have not been busy blogging lately.  Your question may be the only thing keeping Art's Chili Pepper alive this week!

So spelling.  I go back and forth on the importance of spelling.  Not that I don't think it is important.  But sometimes in schooling I have to step back and say is it really important or is it just something I am obsessed with?  I was raised to believe the finer arts of spelling and handwriting were very important and in some ways even defined who you were.  That was before electronics took over our lives.  It was before an era when kids had to learn so much more like keyboarding and computer language.  It was before email, text and spell check.  The truth is, it's a different world we live in and except for a few dying of the breed, like myself, no one could care one bit if anyone has neat handwriting or good spelling.

Language arts is my area of expertise and it really has always come easy for me.  But not so much math.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  Our first daughter, Kaitlin, too is gifted in language skills.  She could tell you the etymology of just about any word we use on a daily basis.  That's taking it too far, even for me.  But she enjoys it, so we humor her.

Then along came our second daughter, Brianna.  Who happened to be dyslexic.  Needless to say, language did not come easy to her.  She is an extremely talented writer and loves to read the most challenging of literature.  She obviously overcame her trials with language.  But she is a LOUSY speller.  We tried for years and then it finally occurred to me, if she can read and write and communicate with the world at large, why should we continue to push in an area that she will likely never be able to master?  She knows how to look words up in a dictionary and she knows how to use spell check.  And just to be sure, she often has someone proofread her writing.  If you have ever read Brianna's blog, I am sure you have come across at least one spelling or grammar error in just about every post.  When we see them, we try to point them out so she can correct them.  But you know the thing is, many people visit her blog and write comments or send email about how her writing has reached and inspired them to walk closer with the Lord.  She has also formed many real life friend ships with very lovely young ladies who contact her for counsel and direction.  She will not officially graduate until August, but you know what?  This dyslexic, who can't spell very well, has been reaching the world for Him since she was 14 years old.  And all with her lousy spelling.

I share that to point out, with spelling, or anything, teach what they need to do the job He has put us here for.  After that we can let up a bit.

With that out of the way, we have used several spelling programs over the years.  As with all curriculum I found that not every spelling program worked for every child.  Each child learns differently so it is important to find what works best for your child.

Wordly Wise... This was the earliest spelling curriculum we used.  It was a simple but adequate program.  They still sell these books and in fact they are on sale at Christian Book Distributors right now.  Before you buy, you may want to check out their web program, though.  This is a nifty free interactive setup and even includes a free iPhone app.  This is excellent for the child who prefers technology learning.

Rod and Staff Spelling By Sound and Structure is a very thorough, comprehensive, and no frills program.  It
is the same program I used in parochial school 30 someish years ago.   It worked great for me but Kaitlin found it dry and boring.  Brianna, remember she is the dyslexic, found it overwhelming while struggling to learn to read.  But Emma, she's my simple girl.  She loves the "basicness" of Rod and Staff text books and still continues to choose them over the newer or fancier stuff.

Abeka, as with all their books, offers us the beautifully illustrated and fun Spelling, Vocabulary and Poetry program.  I always enjoy their text books because the kids go at them as if it is the current Hardy Boys book. A bonus with the Rod and Staff Spelling is the Poetry section.  My children love these poems and enjoy memorizing them.  I still hear the big girls reciting these poems to the preschoolers.  These books are excellent for kids who need a little more visual to hold their interest.  When you have a book your kids read and do in their free time, you know you have a winner.  This is the case with any Abeka text or work book.

I have also heard great things about Spelling City.  This is an online program that customizes games for your child based on the word list you enter each week.  I don't have any personal experience with this program because, as a general rule, I like to steer away from electronic teaching.

Make sure to mark your calendar and check out World Spelling Day during the online World Education Games 2014.  My  children have taken part in this competition for the past several years.   They not only have fun but I am repeatedly impressed at how much they learn in such a short time.  I just checked and the dates have not been released for next year yet.  You can learn more at their website.  Registration usually starts the first of February with the games being held the first or second week of March.  The online program usually costs several hundred dollars a year per student but during the month of February all registered competitors have access to the website for free.  At the end of the games there is usually a special discount for kids who participated.

While you are at it, consider taking part in World Maths Day.  This is by far the best of the three subject areas offered by Mathletics.  (The third being Science.)  I love their Math site and would definitely use it in our home school, if it were not so expensive.

In answer to your question about what level to use, although I would not suggest it with Math, in many other subjects you can easily skip a level.  And spelling is definitely one of those.  At each level you are typically reviewing rules and how they apply to groups of words.  The words change but the rules do not.  The lists and illustrations are typically geared toward their age so it will help to make it more interesting to your daughter.  Start your daughter in grade 4 and she will be good to go.

Happy Summer!


July 16, 2013

The Love Dare For Parents by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

The Kendrick brothers are at it again!  Yeah for all of us who are striving to live every moment of this life intentionally for our creator.  We Wachters are huge fans of their films from Flywheel right on through to Courageous.  Although I don't mind saying, Fireproof is our all time favorite.  It's right up there with Disney Cars, which my kids have watched a hundred times if they watched it once.  And they certainly did watch it once.

This time the Kendricks have combined the Love Dare they created with Fireproof and the idea of being a purposeful parent they stressed in Courageous to write The Love Dare For Parents.  When this came across my email I jumped at the opportunity to review it.  The Love Dare has helped so many couples get back to God's way and purpose for marriage.  I couldn't wait to see what they would do for parents and children.  If you are familiar with the original Love Dare you may be asking some of the same questions I was.  As the mother of nine children my primary question was how can you implement a one on one plan with so many hearts to reach?  Is this going to be the same old kind of parenting book you read day after day?  Or will it be like so many sequels to popular Bible studies that are just the same deal with a different cover?

Alex and Stephen answered all my questions right out of the gate.  They suggest several different ways to carry out the love day with more than one child.  What I decided to do was to follow each day with each of my children.  Some days can be carried out with all the children at one time.  And when the time comes where I need a day for each child I will do that day for nine days and then pick up again with the next day.

For example day 1 is all about telling our kids we love them.  That's something I do all the time anyway.  And it is something that is easy to do with all nine kids on the same day.   Day 30 instructs us to talk through a recent crisis with our children.  Help them to respond to it and pray with them.  We do this as a natural part of our family anyway but it will be easy to sit and have such a discussion with our whole family together during devotions, happy hour, dinner or bedtime.  And with so many life changes on the Wachter horizon, there is no lack of topics for sure.  So Day 30 will be a group dare.  Day 40 invites us to write a legacy letter to our children.  I can not see myself doing this quickly.  I think I will take at least one day per child to do day 40 or maybe even wait until vacation where I can have several uninterrupted weeks to work on it.

At the end of each day the authors have included a place to check when you have completed the day's dare and a place to write how you have carried it out.  After forty days you will not only have a closer relationship with your most precious asset but you will also have a wonderful journal .  I have a paper back edition but I could see a beautiful leather bound version being a wonderful gift to any parent.  When you read this, Alex and Stephen, perhaps you could send a note off to your publisher?

To accompany The Love Dare For Parents the Kendricks have created an online assessment test to help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.  I clicked over there on my iPhone and took the test in just a few minutes while I was nursing Addison.  It was that quick and simple.  Unlike many of those sort of things, I found this one to be very accurate as far as I see my parenting.  After taking the evaluation, you are directed to specific days to help strengthen each of the six key areas of parenting.  This online tool takes a great book and makes it even greater.

Note:  I did have trouble adding multiple children to the website, but adding my children to the page does not change the effectiveness at all.

Thanks to the Kendricks for another great way to grow our families stronger.