Silver Springs

November 10, 2017

The Real Florida

What comes to your mind when you think of Florida?  Sunny beaches, theme parks, high priced T-shirts, Publix supermarkets?

How about alligators, turtles, cypress trees with diameters of fifteen feet, shimmering sunlight streaming through dissolved limestone particles in gushing spring water to give a silver blue tint to the crystal clear water?

This is Silver Springs

As the sign says (it’s the Florida State Parks logo) “the Real Florida!”

History is alive with the mementos of past years when numerous television shows and movies were made in the beautiful surroundings.

Tourists were riding on glass bottom boats in the 1870s – and if you want to feel like you are swimming with the critters without braving the cold springs water, you have to take the glass bottom boat ride!  (And you are safe too; the alligators, turtles, and snakes are outside the boat and your windows have bars!)

The Captain will say “this is 81 feet deep,” and you stare down at magical swirling waters pushing fish up in rising natural roller coasters.  (You can hear them squealing “weeeeeee” as they spiral up from the bottom with their tails wagging behind them.)

If you want to get even closer to the water wildlife, rent a canoe or kayak!  In one of these sleek craft, you can paddle down the beautiful river and feel like you are part of the unscathed beauty of nature.

There is a boardwalk through the swamp where you can get close to the huge trees and look down into the water.  Amazing birds are easy to hear but hard to catch on camera when your assistants are pretending the boardwalk is a drum for feet!

On the magnificent nature walks, you will see gigantic ancient trees and could possibly run into the wild monkey troupe!

(Or you may have your own wannabe monkey riding on you.)

Some of these trees have fallen and create amazing obstacle courses for the more adventurous in your group.  (You can play “don’t step on the ground” and jump from fallen log to fallen log – just be very careful not to fall off!)

Or you can sit at the top of a leaning stump where no one can reach you.  (Unless you are surrounded by wannabe monkeys who race to see who can reach you first!)

The cost to get in is only $2 a person!  It is extra to ride the glass bottom boats or rent a canoe.  This wild, historic destination is a perfect setting for a wedding among the wild flowers and rustic wooden arbor.  Research this gem at www.SilverSprings.com and check out the Real Florida any day of the year!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Home School Organization

November 2, 2017

Home School Organization

So I’m one of these crazy people who can’t stand anything to be out of order.  I use to freak out trying to keep the house looking like a picture in a magazine…

This was until God smashed me with the realization that while life is in my house, it will never be perfectly clean.  (Note to self: NEVER be PERFECT!)

We also homeschool.  This means in addition to the normal kid toys, clothes, and assorted paraphernalia, we also have a stupendous collection of schoolwork items.  This all has to stay organized.  (Organization has paid off repeatedly as the girls move into high school level courses and dual enrollment.)  So I looked for an easy way to keep organized.

My first step at this organization was the purchase of three letter envelope sized Boxes upon which I wrote “Christina’s Schoolbooks,” “Rebeccah’s Schoolbooks,” and “Kimberly’s Schoolbooks.”

These boxes hold all current textbooks, notebooks, and school “tools” (pencils, pens, crayons, etc.) for that student.  I only had one “student” at the time, but the littler girls felt big to have their crayons, art supplies, and activity books in a “school box” too.  They also aren’t too heavy for a 5-year-old to tote around.

The students are responsible for their box and keeping their books and supplies in good order.  (Mom “issues” normal supplies like notebooks, primary crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, mathematical instruments, and books.  Usually, they like to buy their own “extras” like markers, colored pencils, or work pens inscribed with their name.)  This helps with responsibility.

Bingo!  I scored a short, sturdy wooden bookshelf that held my boxes perfectly!  **One (Jaquline’s) is missing in the picture, but that’s because she was using it!**

This allowed me to add the next 2 boxes (they were only 1 and 3, but Jaquline kept asking about her school box) and a third set for notebooks, charts & flashcards, and shared coloring & art books.  (Granted, we have a full-size bookshelf with art supplies and games and three full-size bookshelves with the supplemental school books – mostly history, science, technology, readers, and encyclopedias.)

Later, Rebeccah decided we needed a “non-reader” system on our boxes so we added “pictures” to the labels.  She likes everything organized too.

I created a book I call the School Planner.  (Rebeccah calls it “The One Book” as in “The book to rule all school!”) **Deceptively plain, isn’t it?**

It has everything school related in a very easy, homeschool-mom-friendly format.  (This means I can quickly enter information and file papers within my 10 or 15 minute time crunch.  I love organization, but hate spending time on it.)  One file drawer turned into the workbook paper file with one file for each student’s work by school year.  They look like steps and Kimberly has called them “the steps to college.”

Our School Shelf still holds everything current for 6 students (okay, Lucas isn’t a student yet, but he does have a backpack, crayons, and two coloring books in his school box).  Our School Planner sits on top of the School Shelf, and two sturdy boxes (perfect size to keep the workbooks snug and dust-free) sit on the other side against the wall holding all of the “next-ups.” (Core curriculum workbooks to be used by the next student.)

Our School Planner is organized by student in 4-week snapshots on each page.

On these pages, I keep a running list of reading books completed, courses completed and their GPA & weight (for high school-level), extra-curricular projects completed, and educational extras like field trips, community service, or practical learning.  The first page in my planner is my “base grade level guide” (texts I expect each student to pass at said grade level).

At the end of each school year (for us, the last Friday before our annual evaluation), I spend about an hour or two and compile all this raw data into a concise one or two page “report” I call a school year summary.

I attach a reading book list (gathered from the same data!) and if any high school level courses were completed, I add them into the student’s high school transcript.

For portfolio evaluations, I just grab the School Planner (reports go in the front in age order) and the file folder for each student for that year.  It’s easy and keeps me mostly stress free.  After evaluations, I rubber-band the School Planner pages together and set them in the file drawer with the previous years, print out the new pages with the changed dates and continue… the story of each school year in less than 1.5 inches of paper. The copy of their evaluation report (the copy of the official report on file with St Johns’ County) goes in a file folder with their name on it.  This has all evaluations and communications from the school district.  (This was a life-saver when the county changed computer systems!) **Lucas’ folder doesn’t have his name on it yet because they get to pick their colors**

Everything important with our school is in one long file drawer and one shelf.  This makes school time fun and easy – and organized!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

New Story Release!

October 30, 2017

New Story Release!

Welcome to the ninth book in the “Five Alive: Stories of the Funny Sisters” series.  The title is “Happy Hurricane Helpers.”

Following Hurricane Irma’s attack on their town in Florida, the sisters join with their neighbors and help clean up.

Hurricane Irma was a powerful storm that did reach category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (over 155 mph).  Hurricanes usually decrease in power as they travel over land.  Hurricane Irma had traveled almost straight up Florida’s peninsula from the Keys.  When this storm hit Saint Augustine, it was a category 1 storm (75 to 95 mph).

In coastal areas like Saint Augustine, most hurricane damage is caused by flooding.  The strong winds can fell huge trees, rip debris off houses, throw limbs through windows, and cause heavy damage as well.  Trees falling on power lines caused the sisters to be out of power.  For more information about hurricanes in general, see “Hurricanes,” one of my Home-Edge Readers!

For now, how about a preview of two scenes from “Happy Hurricane Helpers!

Kim awoke this morning before the sun even started to turn the edge of the sky pink.  Last night, the power had gone off and the sisters had camped out in their sleeping bags under the huge, sturdy wooden table in the safe room where there were no windows.  Last night they had heard the deep rumbling that sounded like standing next to train tracks when the train raced by.  Last night Hurricane Irma had hit Saint Augustine. 

   As soon as the tree on the dirt road was clear, Tina, Becky, Kim, Ellen, and Jill followed Mom and Daddy and started helping with limb cleanup.  Some of the Tree family kids were out cleaning limbs too.  Two other children from a house down the paved road joined in the fun.  The Tree men had left a trail of sawed-off branches scattered where the big trees had fallen.  They had stacked big round stacks of trunk wood by the road because those were too heavy for little kids.  But the branches were perfect for kids! 

   Six-year-old Kim flexed her muscles. 

   “I can drag this BIG one to the road!” She challenged, dragging a limb to the edge of the road. 

   “I got a bigger one!” said Tina. 

   Becky and Ellen laughed.  “We are doing teamwork!”  Ellen announced.  She was four and her blankie was draped over her shoulders like a boa.

   “Me too!” Jill called.  Jill was only two but she loved to help.  She had a two-year-old-sized branch and was making funny faces as she fought it to the edge of the road.

   “Let me help you, Jill,” offered Tina. 

   “No!” Jill yanked the branch and it flew out of her hands and right to the edge!  Jill stood up straight, brushed her hands on her jeans, and said, “I can do it myself!” 

   … (continued reading Happy Hurricane Helpers here!)

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Birthday Day Off

October 26, 2017

Birthday Day Off

We are a homeschool family.   Sometimes this means we goof off and play games on birthdays instead of do bookwork.  But consider how much learning is crammed into everyday life!

Money skills: Today’s practicum included working and saving (racing around to do enough chores to raise the difference from their savings to whatever toy they wanted to buy for birthday sister), budgeting (oops, that pony figure is outside of my budget!),figuring tax, and checking change received.

Math and Science Lab: This included addition (1 cup milk + 1 cup milk = 2 cups milk), subtraction (Lucas dropped an egg!), fractions (1/2 cup sugar, please?), chemistry (solution versus compound, various states of matter, and a lengthy comical discussion of how the ingredients became a cake!), and even biology (answering our first-grader’s question of “does the sun help grow sugar?”).  Finally, our “home economics laboratory” produced a gluten-free chocolate cake with buttercream icing as requested.

They brought home the “best addition” to the cake – a miniature model of the Millennium Falcon, birthday girl’s favorite Star Wars ship.   (It’s her dream to have the Millennium Falcon Lego set – oddly enough, same one Mom wanted as a teen!)  We perched this on a good spot.

Language and Creative Writing: (each student wrote and colored a birthday card for Rebeccah).

Pyrotechnics and Fire Safety followed.  (This is otherwise known as lighting candles and hearing Mom’s 275th lecture on keeping hair away from flame!)

Music: (where everyone tries to get “…and many more” in the lowest baritone possible and the kazoos attempt to play some tune!)

Now for the guinea pigs to taste the experimental laboratory creation!  (A+ everyone lived!)  Creativity flowed during Art – the party hats turned into eye patches, unicorn horns, and noses.

Sometimes life takes over our classwork.  That’s okay.  We get a lot of practical work done on “days off!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

What to Say?

October 20, 2017

What to Say?

It doesn’t matter how you get the message.  A man in uniform, a hospital doctor, a call from their job, a letter from a mission council: it doesn’t matter the messenger, when you hear “we regret to inform you…” with the universal calm sadness people use, you don’t hear anything else.  It doesn’t matter if the name they give is your husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, or child.  Your world just imploded.

You are devastated; and that word falls flat when trying to convey the emotion coursing through your veins like blood.   You stare blankly, scream, yell, cry, hit, punch, or politely slam the door in their face and curl up into a tiny ball just behind it to bawl the remainder of your heart out.  Every dream you had with them has just died.  The messenger knows this and stays silent even if you lash out at them.  They usually leave you to your grief.  No more words are needed.

Your heart compresses into a lump of coal; furious at the job, war, accident, drunk driver, sickness, or whatever that stole your loved one from you.  Your heart constricts as your emotion rises into a whirling series of blades and swirls from inside your heart to rip apart everything inside you.  Anger is a part of grief.

This just happened to someone you know.  What to say?

There is nothing you can say.  Not even the most eloquent speech from the best orator on the planet will breathe life back into the lost loved one.  No one can say “I’m so sorry for you” with just the right tone to shoot back time and change the events that have happened.

We’ve all been there (most of us have been in this insane horrid sorrow of loss ourselves).  We’ve also been the friend of someone who is still reeling from the shock of extreme loss – and if we are wise, the best we can do is say nothing.  If our eyes meet the survivor we offer a smile of encouragement, a hug, or simply cry with them; just so they know we are here.

We’ve all heard someone at a funeral say what they intend as an encouragement but it actually stabs the survivor in the lungs, sucking out their air and life, tearing into their mind.  Inwardly, the animal of attack is shredding that person – but the survivor usually realizes they meant well, it just didn’t come out that way.  (“It was just her time,” “you could always have another,” “he lived a full life,” “at least she’s not hurting anymore,” or any other cliché soundbite.)

In our current techno world, grief doesn’t have a chance!  Someone loses a precious loved one and instantly society wants heart-stopping news stories, social media posts with pics and vids on all outlets, and 24/7 access into the private life of the grieving family.  Politicians want to be on stage with them.

NO!  Just let them grieve!

Pray for them if you hear of their loss.

Deliver them a meal, send them a card or flowers, or be there at the funeral to show your support and empathy if you know them.

If you are family – protect them from this ruthless media assault.

Why must society know everything about everyone in such a callous way, so distant, so superficial?  If a person really cared, they’d do something meaningful to help the family – and not go on TV to highlight their perfect generosity, excessive understanding, and absolute empathy.  Their grief shouldn’t be our profit.

Please, let them mourn for the loved one they lost and the dreams, hopes, and life they had – and no, it will never “return to normal” (something will always remind us; a uniform, policecar, firetruck, work truck, cane, wheelchair, the ocean, the hospital, the outfit they last bought us, the ring on our finger, our children, our grandchildren – these will flood us with memories and emotion at times) but yes, life does continue.  Hope allows life to continue and restores happiness, but first they must grieve.

 

In memory of all those we’ve lost…

~Nancy Tart

 

Interview with Alfredo

October 16, 2017

Meet Alfredo

*** We are attempting to interview Alfredo, a rooster in the series, “The Adventures of Long Tail” but he doesn’t seem to think his microphone is working…***

Alfredo: So, are you going to interview me?  Oh!  Hello there!  Didn’t expect a beautiful white rooster like me to be talking, did you?

Alfredo whispering: (Guys, are you getting this on video or audio only?)

Us: Audio only.

Alfredo: (Oh, just sound… bummer.)

I’m Alfredo, the most beautiful white rooster to ever walk the planet!  And I live on this lovely farm with a sturdy henhouse and yard filled with beautiful hens and pullets… all my lovelies.  (So, just ignore that mean-sounding jealous crow in the background, that’s only a tiny, little, dull, worn-out, old rooster who’s jealous of my harem and my beautiful white feathers.  Can you guys filter him out in the final cut maybe?)

NOT Alfredo: “ALFREDO!”

Alfredo: Okay, maybe that yellow rooster in the picture is the king rooster of this henyard and I’m the second in command… (but a guy can dream, can’t he?  Guys, you can remove the first half of the sentence later.)

Anyway, so there are humans in the human house (scary thought, isn’t it?  Guys, have you ever seen a human?) and there are giant creatures all around outside of our sturdy fence and solid wooden henhouse but I have defeated many enemies!

NOT Alfredo: “ALFREDO!”

Alfredo whispering: (Can’t a guy do his own interview without interruptions?)

Us: This is live, Alfredo.

Alfredo: (This is live?  Bummer… maybe I should flatter him then so he’ll be quiet.)  So, I’m not the big hero all of the time.  Mr. Big Yellow Long Tail the Magnificent is always the hero.  It says so in the books… every one of them says “Long Tail, the great yellow chief” and he always is the big hero.

I’m done now!  Signing off, is that okay Mr. Long Tail?  (Is he gone?  Okay, so maybe I should ask my human writer to start the next book with “Alfredo the Beautiful whom the hens and pullets adore…”)

Us: ALFREDO!  That isn’t the book format!

Alfredo: That wasn’t a rooster crow!  Who said that?  Yikes!  A voice I can’t see!  Maybe there are more of them!  Alfredo is hiding in the hay until they leave – better yet, you go fight them for me, will you?  Bye!

*** We were unable to get Alfredo to return to the microphone and face the unseen voices.  So, this ends the interview with Alfredo the Rooster.  Read more about his hiding (ahem, his “bravery”) in “The Adventures of Long Tail.” ***

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Power of Music

October 15, 2017

Power of Music

Sometimes music is just the perfect thing to lift you up.  Today, I needed an energetic soundtrack for work.

I love how God seems to know exactly what to play and in what order.  It never matters what station: it’s always the right playlist!

So, my radio started with “That’s How You Change The World” by Newsboys.  (Absolutely perfect!   Skyrocket volume up, windows down!  I’m sure anyone outside on my road wondered if I was deaf.  My Daddy taught me to enjoy music by feeling it like a bass drum is your heartbeat.  Oh, I love that song too! Beckah Shae does it… But it wasn’t in the mix today.)

Just as that one is finished, I crawled to a halt at a red light and “The River” by Jordan Feliz started.   (Now in the middle of traffic, my hands stay on the wheel but my head is bobbing like a doggy on a dashboard so I’m pretty sure people think I’m crazy – but that’s perfectly fine for them to see me as I really am.)

This wonderful selection was finished with Britt Nicole’s “Amazing Life” (This one caused the volume to increase another notch) and “I Feel So Alive” by Capital Kings.  (Halfway through I had to turn this down to a manageable super-sensitive-ears-person-enjoying-music volume so I wouldn’t blow away my passenger.)

The power of music is to energize and refresh.  I love worship songs – I love songs I can make motions and signs to because that feels like dancing.  I imagine the music entering my body, refilling me with some kind of electron fuel, and exiting as a broad grin and my attempt at singing along. (At least, that’s what happens in a car… when my feet are free to dance?  “Shackles” by Mandisa; let the song do the talking!)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

“I am Lucas!”

October 9, 2017

“I Am Lucas!”

It had been a very hectic day!  As Christina and I sorted the folded clothes, I imagined how much money we would make if we designed a Roomba-type total-clothes robot.  You know, you would dump dirty clothes in a bin and this robot would suck them in, wash them, dry them, fold them, and put them away in the correct drawer.  (I was imagining coding for the brain and a lego technic body rolling around the house in an endless cycle – it would have to be powered by a rechargeable battery that plugged itself in at night so I wouldn’t forget to charge it.)

(With Christina’s cap!)

Lucas ran down the hall with lightning speed.  (On second thought, maybe I should just discover a way to harness 2-year-old energy to offset electric costs!)

He tapped Rebeccah’s knee.  “You are Becky!”  He screamed.  (He and his best buddy at church had amused themselves by yelling “I AM…” *insert toy, like BIG TRUCK, BLUE CAR, LITTLE PUPPY, etc.* This was the first “You are…” I had heard.)

Rebeccah, Kimberly, and Christina applauded.  Lucas loves attention even though he plays shy.  He ran into Kimberly doing dishes.  “You are Kay!”  (This is the sometimes-nickname the girls use for Kimberly.)

“He knows my name!” Kimberly laughed.

Jaquline stopped with an armful of clothes to be put away, “who am I, Lukie?”

Lucas got that crooked boyish grin. (She had said Lukie instead of Lucas!)  “You are BECKY!”

Jillian stopped gathering Lucas’ army of trucks that lined the hallway and laughed, “am I Becky too?”

“You are Prim!”  (This is Christina’s dog!)

Christina and Rebeccah laughed.

Jillian thought this was hilarious.  She started nudging trucks with her nose and yipped as Lucas raced past.  Lucas ignored the newly-discovered doggie and ran full steam back through the house.

He called out names as he touched or ran into people, “You are Ki-tina!”  (Best version of Christina so far.)   “You are Mommy!”  (Can’t really get that wrong; he’s been saying it correctly for a year and a half.)  “You are Becky!  You are Kay!  You are Jaqu-line!  You are Jillian!” This continued until the clothes were put away.  (The energizer bunny would run out of power before Lucas slowed down!)

Christina laughed, “who are you?”

Lucas giggled and yelled, “I AM LUCAS!”  This sound echoed off the hallway walls as he raced back into the playroom.

There is one little guy who knows who he is!  (Some of his energy does actually leak out to us; he can race through and brighten the mood of a whole room!)

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Meet Matthew

October 8, 2017

Meet Matthew Taylor

Matthew is one of the Taylor boys.  He lives with his father, mother, brothers, and baby sister on the first settled family plot in Covenant.  Although he must help with chores on his family’s farm first, he prefers to spend time around the Summers’ farm and learn about Brown-Sheep.

Matthew has a twin brother named Stephen.

Matthew and Stephen don’t like to wake up early.  Sometimes their little brother, Jacob, will jump on them to wake them up!

Matthew sometimes likes to set pranks for others.  This isn’t a good trait, as he discovers every time he tries, but that doesn’t seem to stop him.

You can read more about Matthew and his family in The Devonians series, starting with Daydreamer.

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Level Up!

October 2, 2017

Leveling Up

On this nice warm day Jillian, Lucas, and I sat playing a video game on the couch.

We like to play this game together because Lucas can push the buttons (he thinks this is super) and Jillian narrates (this is Mommy getting creative about reading practice).   Some monkey bandits approach and Lucas tosses the controller to my lap. (I get to fight the battles.)

Afterward, Jillian reads “Alena has increased!”  She adds, “I like it when they level up.”

“Why?” I ask.  Lucas is walking the character around again.

“Because they learn new stuff.”

“I’m about to level up,” laughs Christina from the kitchen table.  (How is she following our conversation when she’s nose deep in chemistry?)

“In your game?” Jillian asks.  (Everyone has a saved game for this game; it’s a family competition.)

“No,” Christina laughs, “in real life.  I’m about to enter level 14.”

“Oh,” Jillian says thoughtfully.  She grins like Davy Crockett and starts bouncing (she does this when she figures something out), “you mean your birthday!  I love birthdays!  So I really love leveling up in real life.”

This made me smile.

It also made me think:

Our lives are quite like a game.  We go through “stages” in life that change as we grow.  Sometimes entering a new “level” is challenging, and we need help to get through this trying time (aka handing the controller off to mom).  Sometimes we are perfectly happy with the level we are at and don’t want it to change (Why can’t we stay in this land?).  Just like our goal in games is to “level up” by moving into new territory with new challenges, our goal in life is to “level up” by continuously learning, growing, and moving beyond complacency.

This also means we enjoy the journey as we go.  (Who would play a video game they didn’t enjoy?)  We find something fun in any situation and depend on God for direction, strength, and the wisdom to meet all challenges.  There’s even a guidebook!

The goal of our game is to make good choices and collect enough skills to win at the end.  In life, since being with Jesus in heaven forever is our end (we already know we will win!), our life choices should be made with this goal in mind.   (Being careful that what we do and say reflects Jesus is a good start!)

I never thought video games could be such good parodies of real life!  Oops, I’ve got to go get a “level up” cake ready for tomorrow!

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart