Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Pages are Online! December coupon code special!

After nearly a year of work, questions, learning, trouble-shooting, revising, and making sometimes slow but always ongoing steps, our new web pages are finally up online! Come and see them if you haven't already . . .

There is a free e-book for all new subscribers-- this is a book about math games you can make yourself, called Six Easy-to-Make Math Games. The games are for kids ranging from preschool to fifth grade. For a couple of the games there are game board pages to print out. There are photos of all the completed games, and instructions for how to make them.

To receive this e-book (and sign up for our Gentle Shepherd email list), use the form at the top of the home page on the website.

ALSO, we are offering a coupon code for $5 off any order of $6 or more-- this is a one time use for the month of December. Use the code NEW-SITE.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Feathers

These turkeys are from Thanksgiving last year. I just found the picture. Adding feathers was an extra for these hand turkeys. The feathers are taped between two "hand" layers. Have a good time with family and friends this Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

U-Make Matching Cards

Our newest product is a set of farm animal matching cards. This is an e-book, and the animal card pages need to be printed out (twice, so you can play a matching game) on cardstock. It's easy to put the file on a jump drive and take it to a quick-print, if your computer doesn't do color.

These cards are very simple to make. After printing the pages, just cut them apart, following the gray guide lines. If you'd like them to be more durable, they can be laminated (usually this is available at a quick-print, too).

We use the cards with our middle grade kids (11 and 13) for Spanish practice; by the way, the words for all the animals' names and sounds are given on a couple pages of this e-book, for four different languages (English, Spanish, French, German).

They could also be used by younger children; memory match is a game for all ages.

To see some sample pages from this matching cards e-book, go here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stone Soup Homeschool Blog

Robin Foster Montoya of Stone Soup Homeschool Network has put an article I wrote as a guest contributor, on her blog and Facebook page. This is a more detailed account of our astronomy study, with lots of pictures made by Molly and James! Take a look!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Diligence I Have . . . Maybe not Patience!

        I don't remember asking God for patience . . . but that seems to be a recurring theme this year. Back in January, I had the silly notion that I could build a simple new website in about a month . . . the end of January seemed like a workable goal. Then it was the end of March . . . and then when I finally got the hang of how to build pages it was the end of summer. Got a long ways during summer-- but had a couple items to finish up, and beta testing, trouble-shooting, help from friends and family and God's sustaining hand . . . and now my end of September aims need readjustment.

        So even if I wasn't looking for it, I feel like patience is something I need-- like the children's song goes, "I need a little patience; I need it right now . . ."

        This journey of website building has been filled with learning more . . . learning to follow processes that took doing, and then re-doing . . . finding that if I tried one more time a different way (the right way) the eureka moment would finally come. Seeing the need to diligently follow every pre-planned step but also make some unforeseen twists in the trail . . .

        I'm so glad to have learned (in a basic kind of way) how to make web pages, and how to make them a united website. Now we are truly at the final stages (I think!) of this website launch. But I'm not going to wager a guess on when! Just going to keep creeping along, and like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, will eventually get there.

        But for me, this really isn't a race. That's something this year has taught me. So it's OK if things don't happen as fast as I'd like. I might even need to take a couple of detours along the road, or have a long snooze like the rabbit-- but I can still "get there."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Star Spangled States

This year we studied the 50 states. We used the Star Spangled States Book and workbook, by Joel King, as the backbone of our study, and this was a great way to go.

There is a page to read about each state-- we divided up each page's reading between the three of us who were doing the study-- Molly always read aloud a certain section, James read another section, and I read a third section.

We also read about each state from a book called,
The Arrow Book of States, by Margaret Ronan, published by Scholastic in 1972. This was a Goodwill find, and I was so thankful to have it-- the additional info was very interesting, and easy for kids to understand (not that the Star Spangled book was uninteresting or hard to read; it was just good to learn even more). By the way, this book is out of print, but can be found at used bookstores like

On the same day each new state was read about, the kids also each traced the outline of the state, by puting blank paper over a copy of a blank outline map. Then they colored their drawing in, while listening to the
Arrow Book of States. The kids liked trying out different media for coloring in-- that was fun-- like watercolor paints, chalk, crayons, felt pens, color pencils, and tempera paint.

There are some
Star Spangled States workbook pages to do after each new state is introduced. These are for review of states already covered. After all the states have been looked at, there are more review workbook pages-- to practice what states border other states, and what the capital cities are.

At the beginning of last summer, when I was planning for this study, the kids had the great idea of making a
huge wall map. Then they would paste on/color on some things related to each state.

Drawing is something that comes easily for me, but this was a bit of a challenge. I bought a tall roll of paper and put it up across our dining room wall the week before school started. Then, by referring to an atlas book that had a U.S. map, I sketched the states in-- starting at the east coast and going west. As the states started to take shape I found I had to examine them, do some erasing, and revise . . . and revise . . . trying to get close to the correct proportion and location compared to other states. So this project took a while. After a couple of hours it was finished, and I went over the outlines with a gray felt pen.

This wall map was an important part of our study-- we took one or two days to put up facts/figures/images for each state. Doing this generally took some preparation on my part-- I made a list of things we could put on for each state, and the kids chose a couple of items to make. I made several more. Sometimes I drew a picture that James would color in. Sometimes James or Molly or I would look for images on the computer, using "Picsearch" on the internet. We'd print them out, add color highlights, and cut out the images.

It was fun to see the map fill in, through the year. Since we were going through the states in alphabetical order, spots that had facts and pictures were scattered over various parts of the map. Eventually there were more filled-in states than blank ones. And then one day the map was all done. It had taken about 2/3 of the school year to do. And it stayed up the rest of the year; we liked having it on the wall and looking at the fruit of our labors, as well as being reminded of various facts and state locations.

When the kids had a question about what states were near a certain state, it was simple to just look up at our wall map and point out the states. I think I, myself, also found it easier to learn all the locations of the states from this extra large map than if I'd only been looking at a small atlas page.

And having the map up made for some interesting table discussions at dinner, sometimes. My husband like to see the new things we put up, and sometimes commented or asked questions about them.

A couple of other elements to our study, added in as memory aids and also for fun, were a song and a chant. The song, called
Fifty Nifty United States, has been around a long time. It is by Ray Charles, and is popular in schools-- I watched several different You-Tube videos of it, and we slightly altered the lyrics to come up with our own version. We sang this song together about twice a week.

The chant was one I made up, that we used many years ago when our oldest children were younger and they were doing a U.S. Geography study. It is for all the capital cities with their states. It is a fun chant to say, and I would lead while the kids chimed in. (If anyone wants to hear it/have a copy of the words, let me know; a recording is in the works). We said the chant together two or three times a week, and it took all year to get good familiarity with it. Doing this chant repeatedly helped us remember the capitals, which came in handy for the second part of the
Star Spangled States workbook.

Oh, one more extra part to this states study-- we also used a cookbook called
The United States Cookbook, by Joan D'Amico and Karen Eich Drummond. We tried out some of the recipes for regional foods as part of our lunches and snacks (both James and Molly usually make some lunches and some snacks, as part of their school schedule). Some favorite recipes from this book were "Banana Berry Pancakes with Real Maple Syrup" (for Vermont), "Cincinnati Chili Over Pasta" (for Ohio), "Baked Apples" (for Washington), and "Cheese Quesadilla with Vegetables" (for Arizona).

Monday, April 26, 2010


This winter we studied astronomy, and here is a picture of the balloon/small ball solar system model that has been hanging across our living room ceiling for the past few months. It was pretty easy to make-- Saturn was made by blowing up one of those extra long balloons and curving it around a regular balloon, attached with tape. All the balloons/balls were hung from thread and attached to the ceiling with pushpins. The dimensions were approximately to scale, except for being much closer together than in the scale of the real solar system, and Jupiter and Saturn needed to be bigger-- probably using a large punch ball would have been better for each of these planets. There was a handy list of approximate sizes to make each ball/balloon in the book we were using, Exploring Creation With Astronomy, by Jeannie Fullbright. We used a couple of small balls for the smallest planets--Mercury and Mars, and a large bead for Pluto.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Here are some pictures of our "grassheads." These little TP tube people were fun to make. We put a sandwich bag inside, attached with a rubberband across the top outer rim. They are filled with potting soil, then planted with wheat grains, to make wheat grass.

The "hair" came up within a few days. One picture is of a couple days of growth; the other one, after about a week, looked like a "bad hair day"!

This was a craft during our homeschool kids group.

When the grass was up and growing well, our kitten had a great time knocking over the tube people, and chewing on their hair; we had to grow her her own dish of wheat grass. But she still seemed to prefer knocking over the grasshead people, even when her own grass was up!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

About the New Website!

I forgot to explain about the new website in the last post...

We are constructing several new pages for our website. We are switching to selling e-books on our own site, instead of through Lulu. We will still be having hard-copy books be available through Lulu's print-on-demand services.

New Books! And a New Website!

I always feel much jubilation when I finally get another book finished! I guess that is because I have so many, many computer files for books that are pretty much ready to go, except for needing a little formatting and a cover design. And it seems like the cover designs are what take so much time, that making new books has gone very slowly...

So I am excited and happy to have these two new e-books available. My sons helped me with learning how to format the cover with computer text and graphics, but the underlying picture for these covers was a piece of marbeled paper that I and Molly and James made at the beginning of this school year, as our first craft project. We made lots of other pieces of marbled paper, too, but I especially liked this one. Will probably make some more covers with marbeled patterns, but using some different colors.

In case you don't know how marbeling is done, it's really very simple. You just put water in a rectangular pan, put some drops of oil paint on top of the water, swirl it only very slightly, and lay a sheet of paper on top. Then you lift up the paper and let it dry. And everyone who looks at these says, "Ooh, " and "Ahh."

Oh, ya, I guess I should tell about what's inside these new e-books, too!

These are writing prompt books. A topic is given, for making a picture, with a large box on the page for drawing in. There are lines for writing, under the picture box, so the child can write something about the picture or make a story about the picture.

There are two sets of these, because although we originally used these with 2nd to 4th grade kids, we later decided to try them with some of our middle school-aged kids, and found that they enjoyed them and did some very skillful and creative art and writing with them. Sometimes older school-aged kids don't have many assignments for creative writing; a lot of times their writing is mainly related to school subjects like history or science. But given an opportunity, like using these pages or other simple, open-ended projects, they will often come up with very imaginative ideas for both drawing and writing.

We needed to alter some of the prompts for the older ages set, and make more lines that are closer together for writing. There are 36 pages in each set. This makes it easy to do one page a week through one school year. Or, you can do one page every two or three weeks, and use the pages over several years.