New Paperbacks!

January 17, 2018

New Paperback Books!

Introducing the paperback versions of The Brown Sheep Prank and A Foundling Furball!  These two short chapter books are parts 2 and 3 in The Devonians (following #1, Daydreamer).

Christina Tart did the illustrations except for Rebeccah’s design of Tawny, the “foundling furball” in book 3.

The Devonians are space castaways who have made their own life on a new planet called “Devonia” in a village named “Covenant.”  Each book follows the adventures of some of the younger colonists.  Daydreamer introduced the Taylor family with their five boys and baby Rose.  The Brown Sheep Prank highlights on the Summers’ family farm because Alena’s family keeps the only herd of Brown-Sheep.  Alena Summers and Joseph Taylor are best friends.  Alena gives readers a tour of her snug little house and you get to see where Alena, her two sisters, and younger brother, Michael, sleep.  In A Foundling Furball, the older of the Taylor and Summers children find a strange orphan animal at their favorite fishing spot!  Matthew Taylor and Janine Summers have a fun way to catch fish using teamwork.   Mr. Summers, Alena’s dad, tells the children stories as he tries to decide what they have to do with this unexpected little creature.

Enter the world of Devonia and be ready for engaging stories of adventure and friendship.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

A New Step

January 8, 2018

A New Step

Saturday afternoon we got Christina back from her week-long Civil Air Patrol encampment.

Today, Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Lucas are doing school at a stone table on the beautiful grounds of our state college waiting for Christina and Rebeccah to finish with their first class.

My younglings are growing up too quickly for me!

The sweet lady in the college bookstore was very helpful and encouraging.  She handed the girls a copy of the eleventh edition of their Biology… I have the seventh at home (from when I went here only a few years ago).  Honestly, I’m so excited for the girls in this next step.  (But I won’t say that to them; I try to make this as normal as possible.  We’ve treated every step in their educational journey as simply another textbook to study.)  I’m very thankful for the awesome opportunities available to students in our county.  (This is a big difference from growing up when home schooling was illegal!)

I’m remembering them at the preschool level (Lucas: counting pinecones and creating stickmen from oak leaves and pine sticks), kindergarten level (Jillian: reading and doing her math problems), and working through book steps like Jaquline and Kimberly. (I “stair-step” arithmetic and language arts in a progression they move through and they get to pick one, two, or three “study books” from history, science, and other subjects.) Then they get through independent learning in preparation for college or vocation. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, various social studies, upper level literature studies, etc.)  Now, Christina and Rebeccah are at the next step: dual enrollment (college credit classes!).

The nostalgic part of me wants time to slow down.

The logical part of me is thoroughly enjoying each new step each one of my children take.  I love the baby stage, but I get excited when the baby steps up to dress and feed themselves.  I love the learning-independence toddler stage, but I love it when they discover reading!  I love the everything-is-new discovery stage, (I try to keep that going as long as I can) but that is too quickly followed by the totally-independent-learning stage.  Yes, I get a little sad when they complete their lesson goals without my help, but I am proud and excited as they jump ahead of my goals by making and achieving their own personal goals.

I see the goal of my “teaching” job as helping my students learn how to teach themselves.  This means inspiring a lifelong love of learning, challenging them to reach higher and higher personal goals, and instilling core principles like academic integrity and determination.

I’m sure they will do well.  They love to learn and are thriving in their “adult” environment where their fellow students are all serious about their work.  I have to smile because I feel like I’ve accomplished my teaching goal – at least for these students – they are fully independent learners with their eyes on future careers and their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

Of course, I will never truly stop teaching.  I’ll be asking, “so, how was school?” even when they call me from their university in years to come.  That thought makes me smile again.

“Jaquline,” says Kimberly, “why aren’t you writing?”

Jaquline is sitting at the stone picnic table, her paperwork on a clipboard, smiling and staring at the sky.  She sighs and says dreamily, “I’m doing my school at college!”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Chilly Hill Fun

December 10, 2017

Chilly Hill Fun

We’re usually busy on the weekends.  Because of an unexpected break, we discovered we could go to the bayfront to watch the boats parade by dressed up in Christmas lights.

So, Mom, sisters, cousin, and brother all gathered into the van (we had to go pick one sister up from her event to join us!) and made our way to the free “nights of lights shuttle” parking area.  This was my first time using this service, and it was fantastic!  We arrived at the bus stop (county health department) about 4:30pm.  The girls played “rock, paper, scissors” and softly sang along to the Christmas songs while Lucas announced the passing of every bus, big truck, and string of Christmas lights; usually adding “we on a bus, Mom!”  We were at the parking garage drop off & did the short walk to the fort to arrive just before 5pm.

At that moment, although it was Florida chilly (low 60s) the wind chill wasn’t too bad.  I kept reminding the girls to put on their jackets (which, like most younglings, they had tried to “forget” both at home and in the van).

Four girls and Lucas rolled down the fort hill (Lucas actually rolled in the flat dirt, much to the entertainment of his older sisters), ran about playing some version of “Tag” with any other child who crossed their path, and periodically bounced to the older girls’ perch on the bayfront wall asking, “are the boats coming yet?”

Kimberly, Jaquline, Jillian, and Anastasia spied a Fire Department boat with red lights and a Police boat with blue lights that appeared to be racing!  They each cheered for their favorite color – blue won.  But the red one stayed right in front of our spot so Lucas yelled “Hi, red fire boat!” almost every time he glanced that way for the next 20 minutes.

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Finally, the boats started to line up.  It was nearly 6pm and the temperature was reading low 40s with 30s wind chill!  The girls were huddled together like ducklings next to mom while Louis turned into an “emperor penguin” wind barrier.

The boats were beautiful!  (I have to get a camera that takes good night pictures!  Everything after dark was blurry.)   The first was a pirate ship!  The cannon from the fort fired three shots!  The girls claimed the pirate boat fired back… they were too cold to duck and cover.  Then came the gingerbread-cookie boats.  Anastasia and Jillian decided they tasted good and began to make chomping noises and say “yummy boat” in deep voices.  By the time the neon purple one circled to the far side, the girls were frigid and when Anastasia said, “can we please go to the warm bus?” Lucas added, “bye bye boats!” and we started back.

We also had to get Christina back to CAP before 8pm!

After the fastest .7 mile family walk with Louis timing (aided by a sturdy double stroller), we boarded the warm bus and sang songs while Jillian and Anastasia goofed off and Lucas reminded everyone about each boat he had seen.

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We got Christina back in time.  Before we got home, only Mom and Rebeccah were still awake.  So we will leave you as we snuggle with the sleepies on the couch and start watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” to end our perfect day!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Enjoy the Journey

November 25, 2017

Enjoy the Journey

The world through the eyes of a 2 year old is amazing.

He spies Daddy cutting strawberries for a pie!  Lucas yells “yeah!  Yummy strawberries!  Red berries!   I eat?” and half of the strawberries destined for pie filling instead fill Lucas’ tummy.

On the way to Grandma’s house, 2 year old boy yells, “Mom! Look!  Big trucks!  One! Two! Three! Four-Five Big Trucks!”  (Everything from his mouth comes in two volumes: mouse-whisper or top-of-the-lungs yell )

Sometimes he helps me to slow down and enjoy the things I often take for granted… like time.  It’s easy to find fun in the chore when you share the wonder of a 2-year-old.  For instance: An attempt to transfer toddler chickens from one pen to another and they excitedly hop-fly off in all directions yelling “FREEDOM!”  Lucas giggle-screams and chases them around.  This turns the frustration into laughter and a lesson on counting as they scurry over to the day pen and wait for us to lift them in where the food is.  “One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight!” Lucas screams it all together as if it was a single word.

Lucas finds wonder and excitement in everything.  From washing dishes (he always wants to help) to being stopped by a train (one-two-three-four-five-six trains!), everything is fun.  Sometimes he helps remind me to enjoy life as it is presented to me.  Goals (finishing the dishes) and plans (getting to the produce market before it closes) are good, but enjoying the journey is just as important.

Stopped in slow traffic turns into “Dance Party in the Car” and the backseat is bouncing to “Pink Shoelaces” and “Rockin Robin” (two favorite oldies).  Lucas spots birds and shouts to tell everyone.  Rebeccah looks in her book and gives their names.  Taking in this special time is part of me slowing down and enjoying the journey.

I hope you join me in enjoying the journey today.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Thanksgiving 2017

November 23, 2017

Today is Thanksgiving.  It is also the day after my fifteenth wedding anniversary.  

I feel amazed by the things God has given me.  

I’m thankful, so very thankful, for all these special gifts:

Thankful for my life.  Thank you Jesus for the gift of another sunrise (or rainy Florida twilight-sunrise).

Thank you for my husband.  As a girl, I dreamed of a boy who would love me and cherish me like most little girls do… the man I have is way better! (God’s reality was far better than anything in my dreams.)  

Thank you for our children.  Christina, who made me a mom; Rebeccah who was caught by both grandmothers; Kimberly, our bouncy sunshine; Jaquline, whom Grandma Honey called “Little Louie Jack”; Jillian, our nature loving discoverer; and Lucas, our thoughtful problem solver.

Thank you for our family.  Our parents (who raised us), siblings (who put up with us), new sisters and brothers (who decided to join our crazy fun families), nieces and nephews (the bonuses for allowing our siblings to live). 

Thank you for others who inspired, encouraged, and befriended us in our journey.  

Thank you for the struggles, accomplishments, heartbreaks, and excitements that have shaped our life into the beautiful, wonderful thing it is.  Together.  I thank you, God, that we are together!

Here’s hoping everyone enjoys their family and friends this day and every day.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~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

 

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

 

“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

 

Ghost Town

September 10, 2017

Ghost Town

Walking through our town, we felt like we were in a ghost town.   The streets, normally flooded with tourists, were instead empty.

In between the bands of rain, what started as gentle winds of about 15 miles an hour began building strength.  By the time we walked from the Village Inn to the Fort, the winds were tossing waves over the seawall and shooting spray and rain into our faces like atomic arrows.

At the wooden walkway at the north edge of the Fort, we stopped to watch the ocean beat against the seawall.

Lucas spied every vehicle that slowly drove down the small river that used to be Avenida Menendez and squealed “Big truck!” or “Police truck!” (Sport utility vehicles are trucks to Lucas.)  Three or four big jacked-up trucks moved through the river.  A police SUV appeared to be patrolling.

The girls raced up the Fort’s hill.  The walkway was underwater!

We didn’t check the depth, but the people behind us with the cute black and brown dogs were wading along the walkway up to their knees!

 

We stood on the Fort hill and surveyed the area of downtown in our sight.  Outside of those few vehicles, there were only a handful of scattered walkers.  (Our party of 8 made up about 50% of the walkers.)  The beautiful city was boarded up and sandbagged.  Colorful tape blocked the few windows that didn’t have boards or shutters.

After spying water in the moat, the girls decided not to roll down the hill because of the giant “lake” of water.

So off we went toward St George Street. (Back toward the car, because now the icicle raindrops were “too hard.”  This also meant no more pictures as our camera isn’t waterproof.)

On our way back home, Rebeccah said, “Mom, that was like a real ghost tour through a ghost town.”  With that began the ideas for what will soon  be released as another in the Five Alive: Funny Sisters series!  Gale at the Ghost Town

We left praying for those who would be affected as the flooding we observed was over 12 hours before the storm’s highest winds and storm surge were to reach us – and our city wouldn’t be the hardest hit.  Hurricanes display such raw, natural power that a mere human can only stand in awe.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

The Shelly Seashore

September 4, 2017

The Shelly Seashore

In Sisters at the Seashore, the Funny Sisters, Tina, Becky, Kim, Ellen, and Jill visit the seashore with Mom and Daddy.

Like the Funny Sisters’ home, this seashore is actually a real place!

As a family, we end up meeting our family at this specific beach because it’s closer to most of them.  It isn’t the girls’ favorite beach because of the tiny broken shells that replace sand as the shoreline.  They have a special nickname for it: “the shelly beach.”

Whenever we go there, these shells get everywhere!  They get stuck in between toes, in bathing suits, and I think they even use the salt as a glue to attach themselves to human bodies.  Oh, there’s a beautiful stretch of pretty white sand up to the waterline, but past that are tiny shell fragments that carpet the beach even out into the water.  One must carefully step so as not to cut the bottom of one’s feet.  The good news is that, just like a carpet, the shell blanket is not very deep.  Usually, someone has already shuffled their feet through the shells like a bulldozer to make a thin shell-free sandy path into the water.  We look diligently for these tiny safe-foot-paths.  If we can’t spy one, we make one.

The water here is slightly greenish and usually clear enough to see various sea life in the shallows.  Often as the tide changes the younger girls will dig for various mollusks and crabs.  These tiny creatures are usually less than a quarter of an inch in length!

Once, though, we saw a giant conch!

Rebeccah loves to collect very small complete shells; these you have to uncover in the sand as the water grounds them to fragments quickly.

This is the beach that the Funny Sisters visit.  We have many fun cousin-time days here!  Because of the unique properties that make this one of my favorite beaches to play at, North Vilano Beach at the walkover has become “the beach” for the Five Alive series!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart