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Keeping math going during summer

Summer math IXL

I pay for a subscription to a math website called IXL.com for my children to do math during the summer. I like this particular website because it is progressive and tracks everything they do. I get email reports of what they have mastered, how much time they have spent, etc. With so much going on, following up on each child can be a challenge. I take at look at their summer scholar journals and get this. The best thing, though, is that they like to work on this website each day. 15 minutes is a short time (they often go longer because they are enjoying it), and it keeps their math knowledge base maintained and growing.

Xtra Math website summerAnother great website is XtraMath! Anna used this is third grade and it was great! It is FREE. I haven’t looked into it recently. I need to do that to save money! I’m embarrassed to say when I couldn’t remember it after googling/looking for it, I defaulted to IXL because we had used it in previous years and liked it. I may try the mobile app and see how that goes, just for waiting moments at the dentist or wherever when my children are waiting without a book on hand.



Click on this image to go to the video at values.com.

Click on this image to go to the video at values.com. (Want to have a fun date or family night? Spend an hour watching their great commercials!

Last night, Lane started out our FHE lesson with this commercial for love–lasting love. It was his lesson on setting attainable goals, but he started out with this commercial to make a point: most people don’t want to spend their lives alone. Most people have the desire to find someone to love and cherish for all of their lives. But strong, lasting love doesn’t just happen. You have to work, sacrifice, learn to be selfless, and repent and forgive to have that kind of love.

That was where goals came into the conversation, and he shared some absolutely great thoughts from President Kimball, Elder Ashton, and President Uchtdorf. He asked the children what big goals they have, and one of them said eternal marriage. So we talked about the steps needed to obtain that goal. He reviewed the “SMART” goal acronym and invited each child to set one goal for this summer that is a “SMART” goal that will help them obtain a bigger goal that they dream of attaining.

I especially liked the clip he shared from Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk on how focusing on a tiny lightbulb caused an unnecessary and tragic airplane crash, and the question that Lane asked us each: What are the “lightbulbs” that get in your way of accomplishing your dreams and goals?




Planning page for season changes

Click on the photo to go to a printable PDF.

Click on the photo to go to a printable PDF.

When we’re getting ready to transition to summer or from summer to fall, I pull this laminated page out and start making up the new schedule. Then I keep it posted on my kitchen white board until we all have the schedule in our heads (especially me!). Then I rinse it off (I write on it with wet erase markers) and put it away for the next time I need it.

Visual communication is helpful for me and the rest of the family. No one can read my mind (except God), so I need to communicate what is going on somehow, right?


Finding our summer balance


Note: This is the second in a series on our summer theme “Balance.”

Our FHE lesson for this week is on setting attainable goals. We’re talking about “SMART” goals before, so we’ll review the acronym and why it’s helpful. We’ll invite the children to set a goal for the summer that is SMART and reflects their priorities.

I changed the sign on the table to a laminated sign so that I could just write a new reminder quote on the right side and wash it off the next week.

jenga game

This week’s surprise? A JENGA game.  I’ve heard from my children about how fun it is to play, so I’m excited to try it out with them tonight!

Here is the balance table sign, just in case you’re interested in printing it out:




Scripture Journals

scripture journals 2016

A week or two or three ago, I had a prompting to get a scripture study journals for each of our children to use during the summer. I came across an article in my personal studies that was a young man sharing his experience using a scripture study journal; reading it affirmed my desire to follow through on this idea.

So I found some at Seagull Book last Monday and brought them home. I had prepared a bookmark with some scriptures on it that we are going to “ponderize”/memorize together each week this summer. I let each child pick the journal s/he wanted and gave them a bookmark as well.

They are using their journals during their personal study and sometimes we use them during family scriptures, too. I love summer! There is sometimes a little more time for study, and it just makes it easier to feel the Spirit when we’re not in a rush to get out the door for school.

Here’s the bookmark and list of scriptures, for those of you who are snoopers. OH I’M TOTALLY KIDDING! That’s what a blog is all about, right? Sharing! And I love to share!

Scripture bookmark

SUMMER 2016 Scripture Memorization bookmark

chocolate cake birthday 2016

This beautiful chocolate cake was made by a daughter for Lane’s birthday dinner tonight. She said she learned not to put strawberries in the middle or it will crack the cake. We all agreed that this recipe is amazing no matter what happens to it in the decorating stage. You can find the recipe under “Desserts” in our family cookbook (under the “Feed ‘Em” tab). Or just click on the photo!

It was Lane’s birthday last week, but we decided to do his birthday dinner tonight. He really didn’t want us to do TL’s, because he is NOT a spotlight kind of a guy. (What are TL’s? “Tender loves” are comments that we make about each person on their birthday–things we love about the birthday person.) I decided to record and share the comments that our children made this one time.

DISCLAIMER: You might think that we are sitting around being super serious and loving, but actually it’s more like love interspersed with some bickering or arguing, ample interrupting, a couple of jokes cracked, and all varieties of distracting comments being made the entire time we have this “TL” session. It’s kind of a hilarious/annoying/heartwarming experience. At any rate, here are our children’s TL’s for Lane:

“I love Dad because he works so hard. [He only takes a little time for himself.]…All the rest of his time is spent helping and serving others. He works hard fixing so many problems at [work] and when he comes home, he cooks food if we need it, or helps people with homework….He will make time for things that are really important…so, thanks, Dad.”

“I love Dad because he has so much faith in me for doing so many things, and treats me like I’m smart, and he doesn’t waste time on things that aren’t important….He always takes time to explain something I don’t understand…so I can know, too…He expects things from me, and I want to make him proud….Even though he’s super busy,…he’s really good at listening.”

“I love Dad because he always fixes things and…he’ll let me look at the news with him, and he’ll let me go wherever he goes with him, and you’re super nice….”

“I love Dad because he shares his peanut butter chocolate chips with me…He’s always kind to me…He takes me places…He lets me help him, even if it’s really late at night [they worked together on fixing a sprinkler until almost midnight last night]…During the school year on Saturdays, after we’re finished working, he would sometimes ask me if I want to go get corn dogs, so he’d take me to Weinerschnitzel and get some. And on my birthday, he always takes me to Panda Express, ’cause I love it, and then we’d go to his office and watch a movie…”

“I love Dad because he is really funny, and I love his laugh….And I love that he loves to cook, and I love to cook (“It’s a competition now,” Lane commented.) He has such a strong testimony and is a worthy priesthood holder. He is really good at talking about history, and I love history, and he’s really good at giving history lessons. And I love how Dad is such a hard worker and gets up early to do things and is always so concerned about Mom.”

“Dad, I love many things about you, but one thing I have appreciated lately is that Dad has very high expectations of each of us, and I was talking with another student recently and how we have a professor who has really high expectations, and how that has helped us. And going along with that,…Dad always wants to be a part of your journey towards those expectations. He doesn’t want you to do it alone. He doesn’t have unrealistic expectations….He is the last one to go to bed, first one to get in the morning, getting up early to make sure things that need to be done in the family get done–just seeing how he manages to do so many things. He still keeps his priorities. It’s something that I’m learning, that I really admire in Dad.”

“What I love about Dad is that he actually cares about you and everything you are doing, whether it’s in school or church or with friends or just like your own habits, and he…wants to help you get to the best place that you can be, and he sets those goals with you so that he can attain those goals with you. I also love that he is super loving towards his family. I know some families don’t show that…Since I’ve grown up in a home where I can go to you to get a big hug or to Mom, I’m just really grateful that I can go to you for a hug when I need it.”

(I didn’t record my TL because I can’t talk and type at the same time. But basically, Lane is my best friend, and I love him more and more ever year we are together.)

And what about the peanut butter comments? That was a slip of the tongue that I made at the beginning of our TL’s, when everyone was making little comments so that we could hardly even start. I meant to say, “And no comments from the peanut gallery!” But I said, instead, “And no peanut butter comments!”

And so it goes. You just have to translate what I say into what I mean. LOL. 😂



2016 Summer Theme: Balance

balance scale

Each summer for years I have chosen a theme. I get an idea, discuss it with Lane, and then once we are agreed upon how to proceed, share it with the family in FHE.

This year’s theme is “Balance.”

Summer theme Balance youth priorities Ballard

During our first FHE two weeks ago, I introduced our theme using a talk on balance by Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Keeping Your Life in Balance.”  We airplayed the article up on our TV and took turns reading paragraphs and discussing balance. I recounted a story about a see saw from my childhood that we made from a plank and a saw horse, and did a balancing act at our home carnival. I told the children we would have a little surprise each week that was part of the theme, just to make practicing balance a little more fun.

Summer theme balance goldminer's handheld balance

The next Sunday, I hung a goldminer’s handheld scale over the kitchen table. That was the week’s surprise. I put a little sticky note in each side of the scale with a “W” for work and a “P” for play in it. I gathered some of our plastic counting bears (from home preschool days) and put them in a little jam jar.

Summer theme Balance Establish priorities

Summer theme balance scale counting bears

Each person chose a color (of bear). I told them that each day when they finished their load, they could put their bear in the side marked for work. After they did something fun to balance the work, they could put the bear in the side marked “P.” Our FHE lesson that night was on the first item on Elder Ballard’s list, “Establishing priorities,” and I invited each person to consider what is most important in our lives and to plan with those priorities in mind. I prepared a little paper with reminder quotes and stuck it on a little easel under the scale.

I have some surprises that much more fun than the bears coming up. I’m excited about it! I’ll reveal each surprise at our FHE lesson, which will be taught by Lane and then one child a week for the next 8 weeks. I’ll post more later.





Executive Council

pioneer wagon wheel hub

Happy families require planning. At the center of planning is communicating as a husband and wife and God.

How do we do this?

We call it “Executive Council.” Lane and I meet together (at home, in our room, with the door closed…except when children barge in because we forgot to lock the door) with our laptops open and go over a set agenda.

Here’s our agenda:

Opening Prayer
Spiritual Thought
Schedule (upcoming week calendaring, including vacation)
Goals Review
Expressions of Faith/Gratitude
Closing Prayer

We had learned that communicating together is not just essential; it is critical to the happiness and well-functioning of our marriage and family. We highly recommend frequent communication, both formal (like this council setting) and informal (every day, date night, working together, getaways together, etc.)


Wishing for Tomorrow

Wishing for TomorrowI picked up a book for myself at the library this week: Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay, and today when the car battery was dead so that we couldn’t go to dance, and I felt exhausted, I went into my daughter’s room (where she was working on a project and listening to music) and took a nap in her bed. She was so nice to not mind my company. After I took a nap, I started reading this sequel to A Little Princess.

It was lovely.

First, I must say that it is quite the task to try writing a sequel to the well-beloved classic. But I love why Hilary McKay wrote it: because her daughter wanted to know what happened to the other orphans. So why not? There are plenty of other books we know and love written by mothers for their children. So far I’m enjoying it. I am not even half way yet. Had to get up and get going on some other stuff again. But I’m looking forward to continuing my read. I’ll let you know what I think!


The Load, revisited

Working on the load wooden rounds

“Oh what do you do in the summer time, when all the world is green?”

That’s both a song from my childhood that I love AND a question that, as a mother, I’ve worked on for years. A few years ago, after listening to a conference talk by Elder Bednar, I had an idea that became our summer home management plan. It’s called “The Load.”

DISCLAIMER: Before you read further, I want to say something about any system: the principle of the plan is the most important thing. Joseph Smith taught the people correct principles so they could govern themselves. The principle or heart of this plan is to help the children understand how work helps them move forward in life and feel happier. You have to teach them, before you begin something like this, about the blessings of work and the problems of idleness. If you don’t have a conviction of either of these principles, you should start with yourself. You can only teach a child to the level of your own knowledge/conviction. That’s why we have Family Night (FHE, or Family Home Evening) in our home: to teach correct principles and then we give them opportunities to apply the knowledge–to test it out–with something like this plan. 

And here’s the other thing: it’s not perfect. No system is. There always has to be flexibility, and adaptation to the needs of each child, depending on their age, ability, understanding, and maturity. We don’t do this plan perfectly, but it helps us move forward and accomplish good things. What works for us may not work in your family. 

The load variation 1

Each child has chosen their load storage system. Pete decided upon these plastic containers; another daughter is using a laminated list and no wooden rounds; a third child spray painted a quart jar gold into which she is putting her completed task wooden rounds.

So what is “The Load?” It’s what we ask our children to accomplish before they can go out to play. It’s a self-directed plan for nurturing growth in children who are old enough to be self-directed with supervision.

We give our children a list of assignments that they are to accomplish each morning during the summer. They write each specific assignment on a little wooden round (see this previous post for more details) which they move from one jar to another as they complete their assignments each day. When they have completed their “load,” they are free to play!

Interestingly, my children like having their load–most days. And I love it, because I don’t have to remind (i.e. nag) them every day to do things that will help them grow and progress during the summer. They know what they have to do. I am free to help them or drive a child somewhere and not worry that everything will fall apart. (My children are old enough to be able to be self-directed. I didn’t use this program when my children were a lot younger.) We both feel good about what they have accomplished. Remember this key principle of nurturing? When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (see Thomas S. Monson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 107).

Here is what we are asking our children to do this summer:

  1. Study your scriptures/pray/write in scripture journal 
  2. Make bed/get dressed/put pj’s away 
  3. Tidy room 
  4. Practice music 
  5. Do housecleaning job
  6. Do gardening job 
  7. Laundry/Nurturing job/DTG or Scouts or PP or FIG goal  
  8. Summer Scholar (45 minutes minutes)
  9. Service 
  10. Exercise 

The amount of time that this will take, depends on the child. But with the addition of family scripture study and breakfast, and for some of the children, a shower, it takes the entire morning.  We tell our friends/neighbors know that our children aren’t available to play until about lunchtime.

We do have summer classes that different children do, such as dance or swim or music lessons, so that interrupts the routine some days.  We just try to go with the flow and adapt as needed. We aren’t superhuman, and we don’t make our children work for 8 hours.

Here are some details that you may be wondering about:

What is a Summer Nurturing Job? This is a special assignment, chosen by parents and in some years also by the child, to help that child grow and become better able to nurture themselves and others. In previous summers, it was something like baking bread, sewing cloth napkins (learning to sew), growing a vegetable garden, painting a room, mending, ironing, planning family exercise, designing a family fun run T-shirt, etc. This summer, I have made a list of things that need to be done in our home that the children can help with. I’m just handing out assignments when the child says “What should I do today for my nurturing job?” Today it was helping clean up the food storage room. Some assignments are fun, others are work that can be fun if you have a good attitude. 😄

What are DTG/PP/FIG goals? Duty to God, Personal Progress, and Faith in God are all different gender and age-related goal programs in our church. They are excellent! (Click on the images below to go to websites describing the programs.



Faith in God booklets

What is SUMMER SCHOLAR?  This is doing subject area studies and then writing/reflecting on what you learned that day in a writer’s notebook. This summer, I am having my children do math for 15 minutes each day (online on IXL.com), then studying in a specific subject area each day, as indicated below:

Monday: History

Tuesday: Science

Wednesday: Geography/Anthropology

Thursday: Art

Friday: Musicsummer scholar the load

Life doesn’t go as planned, so there is always flexibility in our plan. Some days we just scrap the load and do what we want. Some days we go have fun on a field trip or family adventure. If family is in town, we forget about the load. When we are on vacation, we are ON VACATION. Summer is about balance and fun as well as learning and good work. The Load is simply a framework for accomplishing good work on regular summer days.

Note: This is our third summer doing the load. Here are previous posts from 2014 (#1)(#2), 2015.





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