Busy Bag: Odds and Ends Matching Games

Busy Bag Odd & Ends Matching Game   5 Solae Academy


1 week until we officially start homeschooling! I have a pretty good start on lesson plans and Malachi just asked me today if we could do reading called “reading” the first day we start school. I wasn’t planning on jumping right into phonics on the first day, but he is SO ready and willing how can I say no?

Two year old twins means I need lots of “stuff” to keep them busy while I teach the older kids. This week will be all about busy bags for the littles and independent activities for the bigs. All the activities must fit into my “dollar store budget” which means a lot of DIY and using things I already own.

Last week, I did a giant purge of the bigs’ bedroom which is basically a playroom. I sorted every toy into one of three piles: keep (the smallest), donate/sell (the largest) and trash. As I was sorting I kept out some small odds and ends that I could use for sorting and matching puzzles. These were mostly items that were originally part of larger games which were unusable because the other pieces were missing or broken.

After I was finished I had this box of items to work with:


I sorted them into groups of like items to make the matching games. I tried to make sure I would have easier games for the littles and harder games for Judah, my lover of puzzles (and the littles as they grow). I also broke out the new pad of white craft paper and brand new markers. One great thing about homeschooling is I get to use the new school supplies too.


 Several of the games I made two sided. On the games below, one side is self-correcting by color; the shapes were traced in the same color as the object. The other side is more difficult with all the shapes traced in black.

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The littles “helping”:


After 20 minutes or so of tracing, I  now have 8 games (3 pages are double sided) for my busy bag boxes.


What are your best homeschooling on a dollar store budget tips?


Our Homeschooling Vision Statement (And Why We Have One)

mission statement

I recently asked on couple of homeschooling Facebook groups about vision/mission statements and did not get a huge response. I am sure it is not because families don’t have a vision for their homeschooling but instead that they don’t have a written statement. If I asked any homeschooling family these questions: Why do you homeschool? Why is it important to your family? What do you want homeschooling to accomplish for your children? they could tell me. That is their vision.

For our family it is important to a have a written statement that will hold a prominent place in our home.

I like this explanation of the purpose of a vision statement from Psychology Today:

A Vision Statement:

Defines the optimal desired future state – the mental picture – of what an organization wants to achieve over time;

Provides guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years;

Functions as the “north star” – it is what all employees understand their work every day ultimately contributes towards accomplishing over the long term; and,

Is written succinctly in an inspirational manner that makes it easy for all employees to repeat it at any given time.

Switch out organization with family and employee with family member and you have 4 great reasons to write a homeschool vision statement (or a family vision statement if you are not a homeschooling family).

Defines the optimal desired future state – the mental picture – of what a family wants to achieve over time: The ultimate goal of parenting is to “[t]rain up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Though it is very easy to get caught up in the minute by minute “crisis management” that parenting, especially with young children, can feel like, our eyes need to be focused on developing our children into adults who have the tools to achieve their fullest potential. Those tools are not only academic; they are also social, spiritual and mental. How many times have you heard of someone with a community college degree or no college degree managing an employee who graduated from an Ivy League or prestigious university? Why does this happen? Because success depends on multiple factors including social abilities, problem solving skills and confidence in a variety of situations and with a variety of people. A vision statement should look beyond academics to the tools our children need to be successful adults.  

Provides guidance and inspiration as to what a family is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years: This will be my first year homeschooling and as my youngest are two, I am looking forward to 16 more years of homeschooling. In the homeschooling world where families often homeschool all of their children from preschool to college and large families are not unusual, 16 years is a short time. For some families, homeschooling may be short term (1 year, preschool and kindergarten only, elementary school only) but that does not negate the importance of having a vision for family life. In developing a vision statement, we need to be looking for long term goals and asking ourselves: what do we want for our children as they enter the world after their education? Where will our focus be in the coming years? How will we achieve our goals? What will inspire and guide us?  This is different than short term yearly goals (which may include things like, read a book, learn multiplication, or write an essay). Hopefully this vision statement will be as applicable, true, and inspiring in 5, 10 and 16 years as it is now.

Functions as the “north star” – it is what all family members understand their work every day ultimately contributes towards accomplishing over the long term: For now, the family members doing the majority of the work are Cliff and I but over time that will change. Our children will be held responsible for chores, completing school work independently and impacting our home environment among other things. Holding Scripture as our foundation and glorifying God in all we do will make straight our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). It will direct our interactions and the choices we make. We already talked about long term goals, now we must ask how will our daily work (housework, school work, church work, etc) contribute to those goals? A vision statement must set the standards by which we treat each other and accomplish our daily work.

Is written succinctly in an inspirational manner that makes it easy for all family members to repeat it at any given time: A vision statement should be short, a sentence or two at the most, which inspires your family to do better and be better while keeping the long term goals as the focal point. I plan to hang ours in a prominent place in our home where we can be reminded of and inspired by what we are trying to accomplish with a quick glance.

Do you have a vision statement for your homeschool or family? I would love to hear it.

If not, do you think the development of a vision statement would clarify your long term goals and provide inspiration for your daily work? Let me know what you think below.

Japanese Teapot

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. CS Lewis    5solaeacademy.wordpress


I am a tea drinker and for years, I have wanted a beautiful Japanese teapot. Every time I go into a tea shop I ogle and caress the cast iron pots. 

Yesterday, my parents surprised me with the butterfly and cherry blossom decorated teapot in the picture above. I am so enamored with it I just had to share a picture with you. 

And what better to go with a teapot, than one of my favorite quotes.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ~C.S. Lewis

Jesus & Chocolate

jesus and chocolate

“I don’t know how you do it!”

With four kids under 7 including two year old twins, I have heard this more times in the last two years than I can count. Also “you’ve got your hands full!” (Really? Thanks for pointing that out.)

Honestly, I don’t know how I do it either. My house is a mess more often than not. Laundry lives in baskets, clean or dirty (not usually together). I am often too exhausted to think of anything new for dinner so we eat tacos, fajitas and pan fried chicken every week.  Once in a while I change things up and make spaghetti sauce in the crock pot.

This morning I was sorting piles of toys for the 1000th time switching out upstairs and downstairs toys. Eden was standing on the block table I had just brought down instead of being thoroughly engaged in the “new” toy like she was supposed to be. I guess 2 year olds don’t read parenting books and blogs. Suddenly, in my mind I was transported 30 years into the future. I saw myself sitting on the couch watching TV I was only mildly interested in, missing the noise and chaos I am now in the midst of. Then I was transported back 10 years ago when all I wanted was to be a mother. I was moderately obsessed by motherhood, though I wasn’t one. I read parenting magazines and blogs and joined online parenting forums.

I was reminded that I am, right at this moment, living the life I always dreamed about and prayed for.

Being a stay at home mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. The first two years I was a mother, I also worked full time. For me that was easier. Motherhood is a 24/7 job, there is no doubt about that and staying at home means that often there is NO break from your job for days. I was very sick while pregnant with the twins and the first year of four children under 5 was extremely difficult. I felt as if I was simply surviving from the time I woke up until I went to bed (with the kids).

More days than not, I woke up with one thought, “I can’t do this.”

The truth is I couldn’t. I still can’t. None of us can get through one moment of any day without the grace and mercy of God.  Children are clearly a blessing. (Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3, ESV) Yet, the Lord used these blessings as disciplines to break me down and bring me to the point where I have no choice but to be wholly dependent on Him and leave myself behind.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11, ESV

He gave me everything I wanted and had prayed for (4 children, becoming a SAHM,homeschooling, even the community and Church where we live  and worship are answered prayers) but He gave it to me in a way that broke me. Within one year, we moved from Chicago to Southern California where we didn’t know anyone, I changed from working full time to staying at home full time, we purchased our first home, Cliff became a full time solo Pastor, and then I found out I was pregnant and with twins no less. All of my prayers answered in one year. Whew, what a whirlwind.

It broke me, in a good way, in the way He intended. Every morning I wake up knowing I cannot not make it though on my own, under my own power. I also know that I don’t have to. I have to place it in His all powerful hands and trust Him to pull me through. That doesn’t mean all my days are easy and I am the perfect mother, far far from it. But I rest in the knowledge that I am living the life He intended for me even when I am asking, why me?

So faced with the prospect of homeschooling with two year old twins, I ask “How can I do this?” The answer is I can’t. What I can do is rest in His plan for my life and my children’s lives. And eat chocolate, lots of chocolate.

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV

Has the Lord used blessings as disciplines to form you into the person He wants you to be?


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My babies are 2!  I have heard dozens of times that when you are a parent, time goes by too fast. With my first, baby, Malachi I didn’t really see it. I distinctly remember when he was nine months old not understanding what everyone was talking about. I still don’t really feel that way. Yes, he’s getting older and I miss when he was a baby (especially those days when he wakes up with an attitude as big as our mountain) but his age seems to be moving along as it should.

This is not true with Eden and Asher, I feel like time is flying by and I am desperate for it to slow down. Maybe because they are my last babies and I know that each moment, each phase will be my last. Maybe because they are children #3 & 4, twins no less, and I am so busy time can’t help but fly by. Whatever the reason, they are two and all too soon.

Despite how we may feel, time marches on, birthdays come and our children get bigger and older. But birthday means party!

I decided to do a shared party with a friend from church who is almost exactly one year older. We don’t have a theme, which in the time of Pinterest  seems almost unthinkable,  but the cake we chose has a caterpillar on it. So I wanted to make an inexpensive caterpillar decoration. I went to Hobby Lobby (yay!) to find inspiration. I had several thoughts, tissue paper balls, Christmas ornaments (yes, Hobby Lobby has Christmas decorations out in August), fabric covered styrofoam balls. But none of them was just right.

A week later I was in Target looking at party decorations and favors. When I spotted this I knew I had found what I was looking for: inexpensive, primary colors and so cute.


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Now I needed to change a garland into a caterpillar.

The garland was held together by white ribbon and  while I didn’t want the  ribbon to hold the balls apart, I did need it to connect the balls. So I left the ribbon intact and used double sided tape to hold the ribbon to the back of each ball. Luckily, each section of ribbon was the same length as the ball. Because of the way the ribbon was originally attached I found I had to tape two pieces of ribbon to every other circle. Confusing? I took some pictures to show how I taped the ribbon.
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Since the colors repeat, I decided to cut it in half and make two. When I had the balls attached close together, I needed feet and eyes. Scissors, construction paper  and more double tape and two caterpillars were complete.

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Do you find that time moves faster with your younger children than with your first?

5 Solae Academy

Bible 5 Solae


Alternative Title: 5 What-ay? Academy

The 5 Solae (so-lay) are Latin phrases that emerged during the Protestant Reformation. These were not new ideas, they are entirely Biblical, but they point to key issues of the Christian faith which were at risk during the Reformation. In summary the 5 Solae are:

We are saved from the eternal fire by means of faith alone (Sola Fide) in Christ alone (Solus Christus) as a gift of God’s grace alone (Sola Gratia) which was done for the glory of God alone (Soli Deo Gloria) as authoritatively taught in Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura).

That’s great, but why the 5 Solae Academy?

My husband Cliff and I have decided that these five principles will not only define our faith but also our worship, our ministries and, most importantly, how we raise our children.

We are commanded in Deuteronomy “to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (11:13b) and to “lay up these words of mine [the Lord’s] in your heart and in your soul” (11:18a). But that’s not all, we are also commanded to “teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (11:19)

Keeping all of this in mind, I am embarking on a new journey this fall: I will begin homeschooling our two oldest sons. After much discussion, we have decided to homeschool independently. (Look for a future post about this.) In California this means we need to file as a private school.

We chose 5 Solae Academy as the name of our school to reflect how these principles center our lives.

This blog will have two primary functions:

~ to record our homeschooling days as a kind of online diary, recording our philosophy, activities, curriculum choices and lessons learned. I look forward to having a permanent record, if you will, of this journey for my children and myself. They say what goes on the internet, stays on the internet FOREVER, right?

~to share those things Cliff and I are teaching in our ministries. You can look forward to recordings of Cliff’s sermons, his Bible studies and other writings. From me, I plan to share Bible studies and resources I have written for the Ladies group at our church and random musings on a variety of subjects.

We are so glad you will be joining us on this new adventure and hope you find inspiration along the way.