Christian Parent

The Bean Jar

I have been reading a great homeschooling book called Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver DeMille. I’ll talk more about that in another post, but I wanted to share a great idea that was in that book that rewards your children for good behavior.

bean jarIn the book they call it the “Bean-Counter Game”. We are just calling it our “Bean Jar”. It is simple, really. You fill a jar with dry beans, and when you want to reinforce good behavior in your children, you let them move a bean from the full jar to the empty jar.

When the jar is full, you can decide how you want to reward your family. With everyone having opportunities to place beans in the jar, everyone is encouraged to exhibit good behaviors in order to receive a bean.

DeMille shares that in his family, when the jar is full, there is two parts to their reward. They get to go do something fun, like go swimming at the public pool, but they also go perform a community service activity such as serving lunch in a local soup kitchen.

There are many things your children can do to earn a bean. If you are homeschooling, you can use beans as incentives to complete schoolwork with a good attitude (completing work without being asked), memorizing times tables, doing well on a spelling test.

I like to reward my children for good behaviors such as preparing a snack or pouring a drink for one another without being asked. This system is working particularly well with my 5-year-old. All of the sudden he is doing things for himself that he always wanted help with before, even going back to bed at night when he gets up to go to the bathroom instead of crawling into bed with mom and dad. He is really loving earning those beans.

It is also working well with my 10-year-old twin boys. One of my boys in particular has a hard time thinking of others. It really seems to come more naturally for some children than others, and for him it definitely does not come naturally. Now that he knows he is going to earn a bean for doing something nice for one of his brothers, he is more actively looking for ways to contribute. I’m hoping that this exercise will help get him into a habit that will last him a lifetime.

Copyright 2015, This article may not be reprinted.

Classic Read-a-Loud’s for 7- to 11-Year-Old Boys

Sometimes it’s hard to get young boys to pick up a book to read. One way to encourage young children to read is to read to them. Start a family story time, and in time your boys will want to read great stories like these on their own.

books for boysOf course these books are enjoyed by a lot of girls, too, however, I picked books that my boys ages 5, 9, and 9, have either already enjoyed or have shown an interest in reading.

Many of these books can be purchased very inexpensively on Amazon, for as little as a few pennies. I have also had good luck finding some of these books at yard sales and thrift stores.

We are currently reading The Black Stallion out loud together, and my boys are really enjoying it. I read it as a child and I had forgotten at how well the author gets your attention, right from the first page. One of my sons said that most books are boring at the beginning before they get to the action, but not this book! It is all action from page one, perfect for a boy who likes a good adventure.

So far their all time favorite is Where the Red Fern Grows. When we first started reading out loud together I was skeptical that they were really enjoying it. When I started reading that book they didn’t want to put it down. They just loved it, and it made me realize I wasn’t wasting my time after all. Here are our favorites, in no particular order.

Have fun on your reading adventure! If I have left out any of your family’s favorite stories for boys, leave me a comment below and I’ll add it to the list.

Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling Kindergarten

This year my youngest son and I have embarked on an adventure together–homeschooling kindergarten. I brought my older two boys home from public school after second grade, so this year is my first year to homeschool kindergarten.

I was really worried at first. Worried my son would miss out on “going to school”, worried that I wouldn’t be able to teach him.

homeschooling kindergartenSo far neither of those fears have come to pass. Our year has gone really well so far and I wanted to share some things that have worked for us.

Deciding to Homeschool

People decide to homeschool for a variety of reasons. Some kids have learning disabilities or other physical disabilities that make it hard for them to attend public school.

Some parents are unhappy about Common Core or are unhappy with the current social atmosphere of public schools.

Others homeschool for religious reasons.

For myself, and as for many others, my reasons are not straightforward and are a combination of all of the above. I also desired for my children to spend more time together bonding as a family.

Whatever your reasons, there are resources out there just waiting for you to discover. You don’t have to go at this alone!

ALE vs. Independent Homeschooling

I will go into depth into this in another article, but when you decide to homeschool you can either do it through an ALE (alternative learning experience) or do it independently. ALE’s are through your public school system. Many school districts give parents the opportunity to do “public school” at home, and your books are paid for by the school district.

This ALE option is becoming increasingly popular and works well for many families, including my own. It depends on how flexible they are with you about curriculum choices and requiring you to spend a small amount of time on-site with a consultant who monitors your children’s progress, either weekly or monthly. They will also not pay for Christian curriculum, although I have found that they have many acceptable curriculum choices (many not Common Core), and you can add any other curriculum you like for religious purposes, you just have to pay for that yourself.

If you homeschool independently, you buy all your own curriculum. In most states you just have to file a “declaration of intent to homeschool” form and submit it to your local school district. In most states this must be done every year starting when your child turns 8 years old. Some states also require yearly testing to make sure your child is at their grade level, although this widely varies from state to state. You also need to make sure you are “qualified” to homeschool your child in your state. In WA state, you need some college credits or you must take a parent qualifying course in order to homeschool your children.

What Age to Start?

You will find many different opinions about when to start homeschooling your child. Some people think that a child in kindergarten should still spend most of the day playing and not be doing book work yet.

After homeschooling three boys, I have found that it really depends on your child when deciding what age to start book work.

My older two boys really struggled with reading and writing in kindergarten. They made progress, but it was very slow. I think if they had started all of that a year later they would have progressed much faster and enjoyed it more. Book work just isn’t “their thing”.

Then my youngest son came along. I was prepared to be patient and follow his cues, and then he decided he wanted to start learning to read when he was four. We started with reading first, and by the time it was time to “start kindergarten”, he sped through his kindergarten work and was ready for first grade work in reading, writing, and math within three months. That is the wonderful thing about homeschooling, you can slow down, speed up, whatever your child needs.

Language Arts

If your child is showing no interest in reading yet, just relax and wait. Read, read, read with your child. I have read with my children practically every day since they were born.

My youngest was very anxious to learn how to read so we started out with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We went through a couple of pages a day, and within a couple of months my son was on his way to reading.

If you are looking for an all inclusive package, you might want to check out Primary Arts of Writing and Primary Arts of Reading from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). What I like about these programs is that they cover material from K to 2nd grade in each package so that if your child is going through it quickly, it will still take at least a year to go through it all. It has a really good phonics program. This is the curriculum I am currently using with my son, and after several months into the program, he is not only sounding out words but spelling them too.

Saxon also offers Saxon Phonics K: Complete Homeschool Kit First Edition. This is also a good phonics program. You wouldn’t need to do this and the program from IEW, but it is a good alternative. Just keep in mind that the Saxon one is just for reading, it does not cover writing too.

Again, wait until your child shows an interest in reading. You don’t want to discourage him before he’s ready. You’ll be surprised at how fast they can learn when they are ready!


There are many different math programs you can use. We are using Saxon for math and my son is doing well with it. Here is their Saxon Math K Homeschool: Complete Kit 1st Edition. If your child is already counting to 20, understands basic addition and subtraction, and can recognize basic shape patterns, you might want to check out Saxon Math 1 Homeschool: Complete Kit 1st Edition, which is the first grade package.

If I had to do it over again, I would have bought that one first. The kindergarten version focuses a lot on shape pattern recognition and I didn’t realize that my son already knew a lot of what was presented in that book.

The first grade book has counting to 100, counting by 2′s, 5′s, 10′s, counting money, telling time, etc. This was just what my son needed. He’s excited he’s doing first grade math.

Social Studies

You may find that reading, writing, and math is plenty for beginning kindergarten, but there are fun ways to add in other subjects.

We recently found a fun Kindle app (I think they have it for tablets too) called Stack the States. It’s a really great way to learn the state names, capitals, state shapes, flags, etc. I actually purchased it for my fourth grade boys but my five-year-old loves it too. He’s learned a lot about the states just in the couple of days since I got it.

There is another app for learning countries call Stack the Countries. We downloaded that one too.


People homeschool science in a variety of ways. I don’t use a curriculum for science with my kindergartener. There are tons of fun science experiment ideas on Pinterest. Here is the board where I pin the fun ideas I find.

One fun way to explore science is by observing nature. We have ordered many kits from Insect Lore over the years. They have a great Live Butterfly Garden we’ve done many times. We’ve also tried Ladybug Land. They also have a fun Roly-Poly Playground.

On this web site you will also find ideas for a Worm Farm, Snail Races, and a Roly Poly Hotel.


Art projects are a great way to add variety to your day. A quick search on Pinterest will bring up hundreds of ideas for easy art projects to do with your child. We love to do seasonal projects centered around the time of year or holidays.

If you are looking for a more structured art program, I have been using Atelier’s DVD based art instruction program for my older boys. They have a Level 1 program that can be used for Kindergarten. These are very structured, basic art lessons and a great way to introduce to your child to more formal art lessons.

Planning Your Day

You will find that your kindergarten aged child will not want to sit down and do lots of book work at one time, if at all.

My five-year-old will sit for about an hour of book work if we do different sorts of activities to keep his interest.

It seems to work well to mix in things he doesn’t like with things he likes. He loves to get stickers for good work so he always picks out a sticker after he completes a page. Another incentive I use is to tell him I’ll play a board game with him after he is done with his school work.

Saxon math has a lot of manipulatives that make learning math fun, so I spend as much time with those as possible to keep his interest. They are more fun than just writing answers on a page.

My son loves me to read books to him so I start his homeschool day by reading with him. I recently got him a subscription to Zoobooks magazine, and he loves it. We often start our day by sitting and reading out of his magazine, and sometimes he will even read it to me. Your local library will carry subscriptions for a variety of children’s magazines, so you might want to check there too.

I generally spend about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours a day maximum with my five-year-old doing “school” each day. That is plenty of time for him to absorb a new math concept or practice a new consonant or vowel blend. He spends a lot of the day playing with his brothers or with friends or extended family.

Kindergarten on a Budget

If you have a limited budget and do not have access to an ALE that will help pay for your books, then you might consider checking out resources like Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. That web site gives you links to free resources that covers many aspects of homeschooling, including free books that you can read online. It lists daily lessons you can do with your child. Many people use that web site to homeschool their children, and it is an option that is out there if money is an issue.


If you have more than one child, you don’t need to worry about socialization much at this age, but if you have only one child you might be worried that your child will not get enough socialization if you teach him at home.

There are many ways to provide socialization for your child. Play dates, sports, church…these are just a few possibilities.

If you are part of an ALE or homeschooling co-op, there may be workshops your child can attend or field trips that you can join in on. Just do a search on Facebook for local groups in your area, and you will be surprised at how organized most local homeschooling families are about getting together and spending time with one another.

I’m sure there are many things I forgot to cover here, but my intent was to show you what homeschooling my son looks like. It is working well for us, and he is doing great so far. There are many different ways to homeschool, and you have to choose what works for you and your children. If you start one thing and decide to try something else down the road, that’s okay! Homeschooling is a journey, and it is a journey and I feel blessed to share with my children every day.

DIY Valentine’s Day Heart Stamp

I am always looking for fun, easy Valentine’s Day crafts to do with my kids. I saw this easy DIY heart stamp on Pinterest and just had to give it a try. It is such a cute idea. I mean who thought to turn an empty toilet paper tube into a heart stamp?

This would be a fun project to do with preschoolers. You could use the stamps to create custom gift wrap, gift bags, Valentine’s Day cards, or to just use to stamp on paper for fun.

heart stampSupplies Needed:

  • Empty toilet paper tube
  • Red craft paint
  • Paper plate

First bend the toilet paper tube into the shape of a heart. I thought it was going to be hard at first, because the tube was a little stubborn when I tried to bend it.

Finally I pressed the long side of the tube into the edge of my kitchen counter, and this created a long crease for me to work with. Just keep bending and molding until you get the shape you want. I found that after I got it the shape I was looking for it stayed in place fairly well when we used it to paint.

Place some red craft paint on a paper plate and then help your child get some paint on the entire edge of the toilet paper tube. Show your child that it is important to press evenly when creating a stamp on the paper or the heart will not completely transfer to the paper.

That’s it! This simple stamp only takes a few minutes to make and will provide lots of fun for your kids. I think I’m going to keep mine to use to make homemade Valentine’s Day cards. I really like how this heart stamp turned out.

Copyright 2015, This article may not be reprinted.

Follow my Valentine’s Day board on Pinterest.

Bubble Snake

My boys have been having a lot of fun trying out science experiments that they have seen on YouTube. Just search “bubble snake” on YouTube and you will see bubble snakes of all sizes, shapes and colors.

bubble snakeThis experiment is very easy. All you need is:

  • Water bottle
  • Food coloring
  • Wash cloth
  • Bubble solution
  • Shallow bowl
  • Rubberband
  • Sharp knife

Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the bottom off of the water bottle.

Wrap the wash cloth around the bottom of the water bottle and hold in place with a rubber band.

Place an inch or so of bubble solution in the shallow bowl. Add some food coloring if you want a colored snake. You can also put food coloring directly on the wash cloth (make sure to use an old washcloth for this activity).

Dip the wash cloth in the bubble solution and blow through the drinking end of the water bottle and watch your bubble snake grow and grow!

This is a fun activity to do on a rainy day or anytime your kids need a break from watching YouTube. See more of our fun science experiments in the related posts below.

Here’s the video we made of our bubble snake.

Copyright 2015, Christian This article may not be reprinted.