Students At Home

For Everyone Who Learns at Home

Feeling Tired? Try 9 Quick Energy Boosts!

I don’t know about you, but I get tired every afternoon! My energy level drops, I have trouble concentrating and I just want a nap. But my kids come home from school around 3 every day, and I have to be alert and focused! Usually, I grab a cup of coffee and a cookie, but I know this solution isn’t the healthiest option for me. After doing some research, I found these quick energy boosts.

Eat the right lunch. Ideally, it should be packed with fiber and protein. This combo keeps blood sugar levels – and energy – steady so you can stay focused all afternoon.

Take lots of short breaks. I have tight deadlines on my job, and I’m always tempted to work for long stretches without taking a break. However, several short breaks actually give your body and brain a chance to reboot. I’m going to set a timer and take a five-minute break every hour to stretch, fold laundry, text a friend, clear clutter off a counter or get dinner started.

Go for a walk. Fresh air boosts your concentration and mood. Sounds like a perfect excuse to walk to the mailbox, around the block or through the woods (below is a pic from my morning walk yesterday at Mt. Gretna)! Can’t get outside? Dance, jump rope or vacuum.

june 19 mt gretna

Change the way you snack. My coffee and chocolate snack tastes good and spikes my blood sugar so I feel more energetic right away. But it actually makes me feel more tired in the long run. A smarter snack is high in fiber and  protein like an apple or banana with peanut butter, a handful of nuts with fruit or whole-grain crackers with cheese.

Meditate. Spend five minutes meditating, and you’ll feel more awake and less stressed.

Drink water. When you’re dehydrated, the oxygen levels in your body drop. It’s time to get drinking! Make your water tasty and refreshing with fruit juice, crushed berries or lemon (my favorite water additive!), lime or cucumber slices. (photo courtesy VisitPlano)

water pitcher visitplano

Breathe deeply. A few deep breaths – in through your nose, out through your mouth – slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, increase oxygen in your blood and relax tense muscles. Your brain needs this boost, so relax and breathe.

Brush your hair. Repetitive movements relieve tension and help you relax. Even better, stimulating your scalp boosts your energy and alertness!

Laugh. Your muscles relax and you feel more energized when you laugh. I like listening to comediennes on YouTube, or you can read through a joke book or recall a funny memory. (photo credit unknown)


These tips boost energy and fight fatigue. What other tricks work for you to keep you alert when you’re tired?



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Organizing with Kids



Play time!

I’m always looking for new ways to keep our toys organized. My son collects toy cars, and I find them all over the house – under the kitchen cabinets, in my bedroom, under the sofa and yes, in the toy box.

Because of his autism, he sometimes decides that he wants to play with a particular car or truck. If we can’t find that particular toy, he gets anxious and upset. That’s one reason why we need a toy organization method that works! Plus, I want my kids to enjoy playing, but I don’t want someone to get hurt or the toys to get broken.

So far, we’ve tried a few toy organization methods.

  • Bins – He sorts his toys into a cube bin: one for cars, one for water toys and one for figurines. The key is to get him to put his toys in the bin AND to sort them so he can find what he wants quickly.
  • Toy box – Our neighbor gave us a cute wooden toy box that’s decorated with animal pictures. It reduces clutter since most of the toys fit inside it, but finding anything inside is a mess.
  • Rectangular bins with lids – He can toss his toys into a bin and stack them in his closet. The toys aren’t sorted by type, but at least they’re off the floor and out of the way! The bins are clear, too, so he can see what type of toy is inside.

I asked Candy at Finding Order in Chaos for suggestions on ways my family can stay organized. If her tips help, let her know!

And I’m always open to additional suggestions. What toy organizing solution works for you? Please share your ideas here!

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Breaking a Finger Sucking Habit

My daughter has sucked her fingers since we was a baby. During her first year, every picture shows her with her fingers in her mouth. I accept part of the blame because I didn’t want to use a pacifier. I did change my mind after two months, but she wasn’t interested despite the variety I tried shoving in her mouth.

Her teeth now show the effects of her habit. At the dentist yesterday, the hygienist mentioned that a partial spacer helped her 8-year-old son stop sucking his fingers. I scheduled an othodontist consultation for next year–the earliest we can get an appointment–but the habit needs to stop before then.

In the past, we’ve tried to help her stop. Gloves, punishment, pulling her fingers out of her mouth, pepper. As a mom, I knew the only effective habit breaker would be for her to decide to stop. Because she wants a straighter smile, she recently decided to give up her finger sucking habit. She’s doing a great job keeping her hands occupied, and I’m really proud of her.

This lesson makes me think of how we educate our kids. We can preach facts, review spelling words and push phonics until we’re blue in the face. If the child doesn’t want to learn, the lessons go in one ear and out the other.

I’ve found more success when I tie an important lesson to an interest my child has. My son loves matchbox cars so we place them in rows and count them during math class. My daughter enjoys reading books about girls her age so she read Katie Kazoo and American Girl Doll books for Language Arts.

All kids won’t eagerly embrace every lesson they need to learn.  Give them a motivation to learn, though, and they’ll surprise you with their ability to master the material quickly. Have you noticed that with your kids? Have you figured out what makes them want to learn?


Cooking in the Kitchen with Boys

Any time I ask for help in the kitchen, my son finds something else to do. His Hot Wheels, cleaning his room or toe jam suddenly become the greatest thing since sliced bread. I know he needs to learn how to cook, but the fight is just too challenging. If we have to fight, I’d rather it be over taking a bath and not cooking.

Enter our wonderful Occupational Therapist and her brilliant ideas. She shared Aggression Cookies, and these are a hit–literally. Just place the ingredients in a bag and bang until combined. Cook and eat or enjoy raw.

This recipe is a great way to get energetic boys into the kitchen. While the cookies bake, mix dinner and engage your energetic boys in creating the food they so eagerly consume.

  • 1 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup margarine/butter
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 cup chocolate, peanut butter or butterscotch chips

Combine ingredients in a bowl or resealable bag. Mix, shake and knead until combined. Roll into small balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.

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Do students need a desk?

My husband is home this weekend, a rare treat.  However, he’s also playing Wii with the kids.  They saved their coins, we searched for a secondhand console and games, and we finally found one this week.  As a result of the fun and games, I’ve had to give up my favorite working chair that sits in the middle of the gaming action.

At a chair at the table, I attempted to meet several deadlines.  Somehow, the dining room chair and table just didn’t seem right.  I found myself struggling to concentrate and mentally write what otherwise would have been easy assignments.    

This involuntary move started me thinking about the upcoming school year.  Would my son be able to better concentrate if we established a regular spot designated solely for school work?

Nearly every professional agrees that a routine helps them concentrate and prepares their mind for work.  Why is school any different? 

I know I perform better when I sit in my favorite writing chair.  In the next few weeks as we prepare to head back to school, I plan to find a designated spot for my son.  At his desk, he can complete worksheets, listen to lessons and hopefully find the concentration he needs in order to succeed.  


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What Do Housekeeping and Education Have in Common?

While cleaning up the kitchen today, I thought of my pastor’s sermon from yesterday.  He shared how evangelism is a process rather than an event.  As I pulled dishes out of the dishwasher only to immediately refill it, I realized that housekeeping and education are also processes rather than events. 

Just like doing dishes, sweeping floors and washing clothes must happen over and over and over again, our children need to be taught educational concepts, character traits and manners over and over again.

We can’t expect them to learn new concepts from a single lesson.  Like they can’t learn spiritual lessons or character traits with one Sunday School lesson, they need repeated instruction for school subjects.

The process grows wearying.  It’s hard to persevere, especially if a child struggles to “get it.”   Perhaps the mentality that it’s a process rather than an event will give us the strength we need to keep going, the motivation we need to keep teaching and the hope we need that one day they will learn.  May the process rather than the event help us as we educate our students at home.

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I Want to Break Something

No, I’m not angry enough to actually throw something or smash my fist into the wall.  My preferred MO when I’m angry is to give the silent treatment to the object/person who’s the subject of my anger or I stomp around as I clean the house like a madwoman.  (That’s tough to admit, but we all get angry sometimes.)

The break I need today has to do with school subjects that are a bit tougher for my children.  For my daughter, it’s reading long chapter books loaded with words in small print or completing pages of math problems.  My son balks at reading nonsense words or long sentences as he practices Phonics.  I could push them to finish in one sitting, but why fight?  Instead, letting them take breaks means we all accomplish what needs to get done.

I see them enjoy school as they work is small doses with plenty of play breaks or chances to ride the tire swing, do jumping jacks or dance.  They accomplish the task and enjoy it while learning how to read.

There’s no reason to fight with kids to make them do stuff that’s challenging.  While the work needs to be done, it can be fun, entertaining and filled with breaks instead of misery and gloom.  Small chunks make the work go faster and increases productivity and enjoyment. 

With that wisdom in mind, I’m off to break something.  In fact, I think it’s time to take a break and make cookies!  That’s one task we all agree tastes great in one big bite or several small pieces.  🙂

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I’m Just a Mother? Excuse Me?

Thank you, Tammy at Speak in Love, for posting this encouraging reminder. Cheer up moms, and share your unique vocational title!

Speak In Love

I’m wrapping up my stay at home mom series today.  I’m sure as a stay at home/homeschooling mom myself shades of this topic will continue to find their way into my blogs.  My kids are growing so fast and even though next year will be my final year of homeschooling I know I’ll always be a stay at home/homeschooling mom at heart.  Home truly is where my heart is. 

When I told Cliff’s step mother, Sue, that I was blogging about stay at home motherhood, she went and dug up the following little gem.  She told me that someone gave it to her years ago and she thought it would be good to share.  I have found it online, but the author remains unknown.  Enjoy!

I’m Just a Mother? Excuse Me?

A few months ago, when I was picking up the children at school another mother I knew well rushed…

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Wisdom from a Stroke Victim

The other week, I wrote an article about The Brain Extravaganza in Indiana.  Organized by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the summer-long event is designed to draw attention to the brain’s functions and beauty.  Curious to know more about the neuroanatomist who felt herself suffer a stroke, I borrowed her book from the library.  A Stroke of Insight touched me intellectually, emotionally, professionally and personally.

Of particular interest to me as a teacher was her list at the end of the book.  She lists 40 things she needed the most as she relearned how to read, walk and talk.  As I read, I thought about my precious students at home and how many of the items on Dr. Bolte Taylor’s stroke recovery list apply to my children.  I will share my favorites here.  

4.  Be as patient with me the 20th time you each me something as you were the first.

6.  Be aware of what your body language and facial expressions are communicating to me. 

9.  Touch me appropriately and connect with me.

16.  Trust me that I am trying–just not with your skill level or on your schedule.

22.  Cheer me on.

28. Celebrate all my little successes.

37.  Love me for who I am today.

As I parent and teach my children today, I will remember these tips.  If my children could express their feelings and needs, I think these phrases are what they would request.   I’m sure Dr. Bolte Taylor did not write them with home schoolers in mind, but I am grateful for her stroke of insight.


How to Motivate a Reluctant Reader

As an enthusiastic reader, I long to share my love affair with my students at home.  While my daughter loves to read, my son struggles to even recognize the letters of the alphabet sometimes.  Despite regular practice and a daily online Phonics class with his kindergarten teachers, he still struggles to differentiate between P and T, G and J and B and D.  Yesterday, he read the word “can,” and two words later he stopped in frustration, unable to put the sounds together.  

Our reading journey has been one struggle after the other.  After countless tears from both the teacher and her son, I found a new approach. 

 Today, I hid two sight word flash cards around the house.  I told him he could earn one M & M for each word he finds and reads to me.  He couldn’t wait to find each word and earn his reward.   Candy motivates my son.  I know it’s not necessarily a healthy approach, but he responds to this motivational tool. 

During my six years of homeschooling, I have heard of other moms finding innovative ways to motivate their children.  A friend takes advantage of her son’s enthusiasm for outdoor exercise.  She tapes several capital letters to one tree and the corresponding lower case letters to a second tree.  Her son runs from tree to tree matching the letters.  

Another home schooling mom teaches her daughter to read by accessing her daughter’s passion for color.  With brightly colored markers, her daughter colors large bubble letters from a coloring book.  As she colors, mom reads a story that reinforces the letter’s sound.  

My son is not super interested in reading.  He would rather be riding his bike, fixing bikes or playing cars.  I’m hoping he learns many more words and becomes a confident and enthusiastic reader, thanks to the power of a tiny piece of chocolate.        

If you happen to be the parent or teacher of a reluctant reader, I encourage you to persevere.  Find what motivates your student and create a positive work environment.  Read interesting stories to him or her.  Smile often.  Offer praise for each correct sound.  Model a joy for printed words.  

I welcome your success stories or reading struggles.  What motivators work for your children?  What tricks have you found for helping your reluctant reader find success?   The journey is challenging for reluctant readers and their teachers.  We can help them reach success when we practice patience and find effective motivators.