Wreck this Blog Post

When I was a little girl, maybe in first grade, I remember taking a class trip down the hall to the school library. I loved books and was so excited to look through the shelves and pick one out all by myself. However, before my classmates and I (certainly germy, dirty children all) were allowed that sweet privilege, we had to have the fear of God, or at least the librarian, put into us.
My carpet square was itchy and it was hard to sit still, but there would be no books until we were all clear on the rules.
Never touch a book with dirty hands.
Never dog-ear the corners.
Never lay an open book face down.
And never, never ever, write in a book.

Those rules became printed upon my little book-loving heart.
I promised.
I obeyed.
I didn’t even like marking in my college textbooks, though I did when absolutely necessary. Books were too special to treat so cheaply.
When Newt entered kindergarten, she received the same lecture. To a child with slight OCD tendencies, the rules were law.
She promised.
She obeyed.
A few years ago, while embarking upon a serious study of the classics, I learned a couple of new rules:
Never write in a book you do not own.
Always read with a pencil in your hand.
Treat your books like workbooks: Dog ear the pages, make notes in the margins, circle words to define, underline.

My rebellious side was intrigued. My obey the rules side was horrified.
And so my rebellious side wrestled my obey the rules side to the ground, rubbed dirt in her face, and sent her crying to mama. With guilty pleasure, I underlined and dog-eared my paperback version of Don Quixote.
Newt observed and was scandalized.
I tried to teach her the new rules, but her rebellious side is not a strong as mine (thankfully). She couldn’t bring herself to do it. Until now…
Upon the advice of my dear imaginary online friend Soliloquy (who really should start blogging again), we bought Newt a special new journal for Christmas. My girl carefully unwrapped the book, then gently thumbed through its pristine new pages. At first she looked confused. And then she began to smile.
A lovely, wicked smile.
Clearly, this is not your average journal: Wreck This Journal Occasionally, Walt and I will be startled by a scream accompanied by the book being thrown against the wall.
This display of violence is always followed by a giggle.
Wreck This Journal

I have received Newt’s permission to share a few more of her journal pages with you:
Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

Here are a couple she has not completed yet, but is looking forward to:
Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal

In the few days since Newt received her new journal, both she and it, have undergone a remarkable transformation. It now looks like this:
Wreck This Journal

And Newt has learned that not every rule is law. Sometimes, it’s okay to let your hair down, to do something wild, to dog ear a book.

I’ll leave you with my favorite page, for it shows the sweet innocence of my “rebellious” girl:
Wreck This Journal

Now it’s your turn: Go ahead and wreck this blog post.
Leave me an ugly comment.
forget about punctuation
Use the word “poop”.
Print out this post and use it as a doormat.
Sneeze on your computer screen. Wipe it off with your sleeve.
Let your imagination (and your rebellious side) run wild. Glory in the feeling. Then tell me about it.

Disclaimer #1: This review was not solicited, nor has it been compensated in any way. However, if you purchase Wreck This Journal from Amazon, I’ll receive a small commission.

Linking up with Book Sharing Monday

Disclaimer #2: It was really hard for me to “mispell” misspell.

Heidi Homeschools: Chores (Again!)

Good morning everyone. I hope you had a good night’s sleep.
Yes, you there. You in the back – did you have a question?
Heidi, what in the world does doing chores have to do with homeschooling?
Good question. The answer, I suppose, has to do with your views on homeschooling and parenting, as well as how much beauty you find in vacuum lines. For our family, chores are an important part of the educational process. Learning to stick with a task, even when especially when it feels tedious, and complete it with excellency is a very important skill to develop. And one that will certainly come in handy in school.
Plus, I love vacuum lines.
But Heidi, haven’t you covered all this before?
Yup. But even great chore systems become stagnant after awhile. Change can be very motivating. And here we are, in a brand new year, the holidays behind us. We’re ready for some change.
When it comes to chores, our little clipboard system has been pretty successful, but sadly, it is no longer all that motivating. In fact, the clipboards haven’t even left their hooks since before the great flood. It’s time to shake things up a bit.
The people behind Goal for It, an online chore chart, couldn’t have had better timing when they asked me to check them out and offer my opinion.
Well folks, check out the chore chart I did. (When I reread that sentence, my inner voice sounded a lot like Yoda, but strange like that, I am).
As for my opinion? I like it.
Here’s why.
1. The site is simple to use. I can easily pick what type of chart I want (for myself, a young child, or a tween/teen). Then I simply choose goals/chores from their menu or create my own.
2. It goes beyond the typical. Here is a screenshot I took while creating Newt’s chart.
Goal For It Chore Charts
On the left is a menu with items to add. I have it open to the section listing usual household chores. But if you look above that, you’ll see drop down menus for Health (Example: Eat More Veggies), Traits (Be Patient), and Fulfillment (Nurture Faith). I love that there is motivation to set goals beyond Pick Up Your Socks.
Sidenote: I’ve decided to use this in conjunction with our clipboards. I added Manage To Do List to Newt’s chart. Her clipboard will hold that information.
2 1/2. (I think I like this one.) I have the option to assign points to each item on the chart and create rewards that the points can be redeemed for. When the items are complete, Newt can check them off on her chart and Goal For It will place her points in a bank until she is ready to cash in.
Goal For It Chore Charts
I’m not crazy about external rewards for chores. However, I have kept the points low and the rewards simple, so we’ll see how it goes. If I find that I don’t like it, I can remove all points and awards and not use that part of the program.
3. You don’t have to do it all online. I have printed copies of our charts (of course, I made one for myself). Every few days, when convenient, we’ll log on and update the online version. If I had to remember to to do it every day, I’d get distracted by facebook or pinterest and it just wouldn’t happen.
4. Newt seems to like the system too. She added plenty of input as to the things she would like on her chart (like Study and Think Positive. I was happy to see that she was all fired up to try it out, starting Monday (because she is a starting Monday kind of gal). Sadly, Monday was the day that she was hit with that yucky stomach bug. (I guess she’ll have to be a starting Wednesday kind of gal this week.)
If her excitement over her chart is any indication, I think it will be a success.
Until it’s not anymore, and we have to change things up again…
Let’s hope that’s not for a good, long time.
And also that I get to see some vacuum lines around here more often.

This post has been sponsored by Goal For It. All text and opinions are my own.

Christmas List


  • These last felt nativities bring my total up to eight this season. I’ve gotten a bit faster at them, but each set still takes about five hours. I’m looking forward to making something else now.

2011's Needlefelted Nativity #8

Plan To Do

  • I still haven’t started a handmade gift for Newt. I’m thinking of felting her a Princess Leia – if I can bear to pick up my needles and roving one more time before Christmas.
  • I have plans to take Newt out to buy her Dad a gift. I did 99% of my shopping online this year; it should be fun to go on a shopping date with my girl.
  • The turkey that I didn’t cook for Thanksgiving is defrosting in the fridge. We’ve invited Grandma to sleep over on Christmas Eve. After church on Christmas morning, we’ll open our gifts and then I’ll get cooking (the meal, not Grandma).

Cross your fingers for this:
turkey dinner 2008
Not this:
turkey fail

Not Going To Do (and I don’t feel even a bit of guilt)
I feel like I got a late start this year, so there were some things I just didn’t get around to doing.

  • I didn’t send cards this year, though I do have a letter half written. Maybe I’ll send it for Valentine’s.
  • I didn’t bake a thing, but I’m okay with that. Besides, I think Newt will have all the baking buttoned up for us this week. She’s making cookies at a 4H workshop this afternoon and fudge or peanut-brittle with some friends later in the week.

I can live with no baby Elvis in the manger this year.

I’m feeling the need to draw inward for a bit. To spend some time at my home and hearth, enjoying my family.
Things will likely be quieter around here for the rest of the year. Not completely silent, mind you: I have plans to share a recipe tomorrow and a book review sometime next week, but if I’m not here every day, don’t worry. I’ll just be alternating between lounging around and making merry with my two favorite people:
mustachioed trio
That reminds me of one more thing I didn’t do this year: family photos. This one will have to do. Newt is actually about that tall now anyway, without having to stand on a chair.

Just in case I don’t get around to saying it: I hope that your Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanza, Solstice and/or Festivus) is very merry and that you are surrounded by those that you love.
I also hope that if you have a chance to wear a fake mustache, you embrace it wholeheartedly.

The Reading Chair

As of yesterday, we are officially on a homeschooling break until January. To kick things off yesterday morning, we took Pepper on an extra long walk, came home and hurried through our chores and then changed back into our Pjs. We spread a couple of sleeping bags under the Christmas tree and spent the day reading, both together and on our own. Newt plans to do some math, “just for fun” later today.
This vacation is getting off to a great start.

Neither one of us is reading anything new, even with yesterday’s lovely pj read-in. Since I don’t have something new, I thought I’d share with you some of our favorites.

My Favorite Books
I have such a hard time whenever I am asked this question because I have it’s so difficult to narrow it down. Plus, it varies depending on my mood. However, there are a few books that would always be on the top of my list:

Anything by Jane Austin
Wit, romance, dances and whist, not to mention the promise of a wedding at the end… What’s not to love?

J.M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird
I really enjoy the way Barrie writes; if you are only familiar with Peter Pan, you should consider taking a look at some of his other work. Little White Bird is sweet and whimsical while at the same time being filled with sadness and longing. I love it.
It is also notable for being the birth, so to speak, of Peter Pan. His origins and pre-Neverland life are told as a story within a story. Later that section of the book was published as a stand alone novelette, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

The Harry Potter Series
What can I say? I love them like Hagrid loves Norbert.

Newt’s Favorites
The Spiderwick Chronicles Series
I have been reading to Newt since before she could talk. We share a particular love for fantasy. When she learned to read, she was so excited to dig into a great story on her own. Sadly, neither Jack and Annie or June B. could satisfy that desire. The stories were simple enough to read, but not engaging enough to hold her interest.
When I discovered them, I considered Spiderwick a blessing. The books are short and easy to read, but filled with all kinds of fantastical creatures. She was hooked. Even though she has moved on to longer and more complex books, she still loves these ones and rereads them often.

The Gregor the Overlander Series
This is Newt’s absolute favorite series. When I asked her why, she told me that one thing she loved was that the characters were all so different. They were not all human; they had different cultures and values. She also likes that the problems in the book were not easy for the characters to solve. Even at the end, things were not “all better”. She really appreciated that.

The Little Britches Series
Ooh! Put that one under my list too.
If you have been reading this feature for any length of time, you won’t be surprised to see these books here.

A Christmas Carol
We are rereading this one together for the third or fourth time. This time around, Newt mentioned that she now knows the story so well, it is easy to understand. It’s sweet, touching, hilarious, and delightfully creepy. Long live Scrooge!

What are your all time favorites?

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Guest Post: Newt Shows How to Make a Holiday Centerpiece

Hi this is Newt. I made a greenery centerpiece at a 4H class. My mom asked if I’d teach you how to make one, so here you go.
Greenery Centerpiece
You take this weird square thing [floral foam] and get it wet.
Greenery Centerpiece
And then you put it in a bowl and you stick little or big pine needle branches in it.
Greenery Centerpiece
And then you put decorations in it.
Greenery Centerpiece
And that’s pretty much it.
Greenery Centerpiece


History’s Heroines: Our Homeschool History Club

I truly believe that everyone is remarkable. Even the most seemingly average person has amazing stories inside of them. The trick is getting them to tell their story and being prepared to listen.
I think that is one of the reasons I love history: sweeping sagas about great nations, great circumstances, great courage… all taking place in the lives of regular people – people who may be a lot like me. Thinking this way about them makes it possible to look to those heroes of the past and think, if they could do it, why not me?

For the past three years, Newt has been involved in a girls’ history club. Each month the girls would study a different woman from history, then meet to discuss and participate in activities. I took on a leadership role, helping to plan field trips and work out scheduling details. The other moms and I operated the club as a co-op, taking turns hosting. It was pretty successful and a whole lot of fun. However, toward the end of last year, I began feeling that the co-op structure was not working as well as I would like. I was wanting to see the girl’s discussions become deeper and for the meetings to have a stronger emphasis on writing and narration. After much thought, I decided to step down as a leader in the co-op and create a new group that would meet at my home each month.
I was hopeful, but our meetings have been even better than I expected. We have six girls, aged 9 – 11 and one 16 year old assistant leader. Each month, I assign a particular woman from history. The girls choose their own sources to study about her life and come prepared to share.
History's Heroines - G'ma Moses
The “Heroines in Training” take turns leading the monthly discussion. To help them have a starting point, I have prepared a list of basic discussion questions, such as:

  • Did you learn something about this month’s heroine that you didn’t know before?
  • What is she well known for?
  • What were some of the challenges she had to overcome?
  • What are her strengths?
  • What are her weaknesses?
  • In what ways are you similar?
  • In what ways are you different?

These questions have led to some interesting discussions, particularly about what is the difference between weaknesses and challenges. It is exciting to see the girls begin to know great women of the past. It is even more exciting to see them begin to believe that they too can do great things.
I have tried to schedule an eclectic group of heroines to study this year. We run the gamut from writers, artists, scientists, chefs, political activists and humanitarians.
Last week we met to discuss Grandma Moses, the American folk artist.
I hope the girls were as inspired by her as I was. Moses was a hard-working farm wife who loved making breads, jams and jellies. She found artistic expression in needlework until arthritis set in and made it too painful. Her sister suggested she try painting and a new passion was born. At the time, Moses was 72 years old. She painted for nearly 30 years, becoming well-known for her idyllic country scenes.

After our discussion, we spent some time looking through several art books at her work. I then passed out canvases and we painted. I asked the girls to each paint a band of white snow, a blue sky and a brown leafless tree. Then I asked them to add in something red. They could use other colors as well, but they were to make red a predominant color.
History's Heroines - G'ma Moses
Even though they all had the same instructions, all the paintings turned out very different. One girl painted a person in a red jacket making snow angels. Another painted a sled. Ice-skating, a woodsy cabin with a red front-door, a cardinal and even a more pop art style Pac-man and red ghost made an appearance in the snow. They all looked wonderful; I was so proud of the girls’ creativity.
I hope that through an association with great women of history, “my girls” will come to see that they too can be great, if they are not afraid to try.

PS: I always get so busy during our meetings that I forget to take photos. Lucky for me, Newt has agreed to become our official photographer. Look for her pictures after next month’s discussion and service project centered around Mother Teresa.

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