Monday, October 31, 2011

Teaching Reading

teaching luca to read

Teaching my children to read is probably one of the most rewarding jobs I have as a home schooling mother.  There's nothing quite like watching your child make that connection and begin to blend sounds.  And then, to watch your children read on their own, and love doing it.   But I'll admit, it can also prove to be one of the most challenging jobs too.  For some kids, it takes longer and you must exercise much patience during the process.  It can be a tough job.

I've had the privilege of teaching five of my children to read so far. Presently, I am slowly working with two more of my children.

My goal for teaching my children to read is, first, to instill a love for reading.  And even though I understand that not all of my children will necessarily have a passion for reading, it's important that we plant those seeds early.  In the womb is a great place to start, but it's never too late to begin at any time.

We read to our kids every day!  I read aloud to the little ones and the older ones spend time reading throughout their school day and during rest time.  But a few of them squeeze in reading whenever they can.  As I write this, my seven year old is slouched half over the guest bed reading Little House in the Big Woods.  :)  In the evenings, Greg reads aloud to the whole family. 

Over the years, I've tried several different methods and books for teaching reading.  I've come to the point where I know what I love and what has worked well for our children, so that's what I'll share now.  If you're using a method or a particular book that you absolutely love, please share it in the comments.   (Click all images to enlarge)

There are two books I use to teach reading.  They are set up in a similar way, but one is scripted and one is not.  The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (OPGTR) is scripted for the parent/teacher.  If you're just starting out and feeling a little intimidated about teaching your little one to read, this is the book I recommend.  There is no guess work.  Simply follow the script in each lesson.  You can also purchase a magnetic board with letters, and flash cards that coordinate with the lessons here....or make your own.  Here is an example of the "A" lesson.

The second book is called Phonics Pathways.  This was my first real manual, if you will, that I bought to teach reading.  This one is not scripted, but the pages contain larger print and have less wording.  Each lesson will contain basic instructions or a particular spelling rule, but no more than that.  Here is an example of the "A" lesson.

Deciding which one I will use depends on the child.  When I began teaching Chloe, I started out using OPGTR, but found that there was too much information for Chloe...too much script.  So I decided to try Phonics Pathways with her, and visually, it was easier for her.  Simple was better.  However, with Sophia, OPGTR was perfect.  By the time we reached about 1/3 of the way through the book, she was reading well and took off from there. 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the "silent gh" lesson.  Phonics Pathways left, OPGTR right. 

As you can see, they are very similar.  I have had success with both books and appreciate how simple they are to use, but how effective they are in teaching reading and spelling rules. 

To sum up, here are some tips for teaching reading:

~Don't be afraid to teach reading!  You can do it! :)

~Read to your children as much as possible.  Allow older siblings to read to younger ones as well.

~Wait until your child is ready.  There is no right or wrong age to teach.  If you've begun teaching your 4 or 5 year old, and they're just not getting it, there's no need to rush them.  Give it some time, continue reading aloud, and try again in a few months.  One of my girls didn't take off with reading until she was six.  Now, she's a super star reader and reads everything!

~Find what works for your child.  With my older girls, I simply used letters.  No manuals, just letters.  But now, I switch between the two books I recommended.  There are many ways to teach reading.  Look online or borrow material first to view before buying.  Also, consider your family size/dynamics.  Some programs are more teacher intensive than others.

~Dont' be afraid to use helpful tools such as reading videos or online free programs.  When I first let my kids watch The Letter Factory, I felt like I was cheating a little.  ;-) I got over that real fast!  My then two year old learned ALL of her letters and sounds from watching that video.  It gave me a great head start. :)

~Once your child begins putting together sounds, incorporate books such as the Bob Books series.  These books begin with one-syllable, short vowel words that really boost a young reader's confidence.  It gives them something other than the manual to read and makes them feel like they're reading something on their own.

~Allow your child to read aloud to you often.  Whether it's Bible time, school reading, or just fun reading, find ways for your child to read aloud.  If we're reading a Bible passage, we divide up the verses so that everyone gets a turn.  If my beginner reader is working on math, I have him or her read the instructions aloud.  Reading aloud builds confidence....especially if those listening are encouraging.

So what are your best tips for teaching reading?  Please share in the comments below.  If you're just starting out, was this helpful?  Do you have any questions?  I would love to hear from you!

Photo Credit

Friday, October 28, 2011

Making Advent Special

Advent candles 2008


I cannot believe we're almost finished with October!  In just a little over a month, our family will begin reading the third book of our favorite Advent series. 

Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and Tabitha's Travels by Arnold Ytreeide are all beautifully interwoven stories that lead up to Jesus' birth.  Each character is lead on a different journey full of adventure and nail-biting cliffhangers.  Your kids will hardly be able to wait for the next day's reading.

Even though our older children have heard these stories numerous times, they still look forward to hearing them again every year.  And for our younger ones, it's a brand new story as they grow each year and begin to understand the beauty of Advent.  It's become a wonderful tradition in our that we hope they'll continue in their own families.

You begin reading the story on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and read a section each day until you finally arrive at Christmas morning...the reading of Christ's birth.

Our first night of reading, we sit around the table with big mugs of hot chocolate.  It is such fun time for our family.

On Christmas morning, the tradition is to eat breakfast first.....gotta feed those hungry vulchers.  Then, we do nothing else until we've read our final Advent story.  It really sets the tone for what Christmas means to our family as Christ-followers, and why we celebrate His glorious birth.

If you're not already reading these, I highly recommend them.  If you can only order one, begin with Jotham's Journey, and try to collect one a year until you've acquired all three. 

Your family will love these, and the time spent reading together is a time to be cherished!

"With these books you will begin a rich tradition of nativity celebration in your household."

*This post contains affiliate links.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quick Tip: Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Pumpkin Cup Coffee

Spice up your coffee with a little fall flair!

Add a little Pumpkin Pie Spice to your coffee beans and grind as usual. 

You'll end up with a delicious hint of pumpkin pie in your coffee.  And the aroma while it's brewing?  Oh my!

I add about a half teaspoon of spice per 6 cups of coffee.  Play around with it until it's just right for you!  Add some Heavy Cream for a rich cup of heaven.  Enjoy! :)

Photo Credit (top)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Soup Series: Basil Tomato Soup

Cream of Tomato Soup - from Ted's Montana Grill

With the cooler weather finally beginning to reveal itself here in south Texas, it's time to incorporate some of our favorite fall/winter meals...soups!

A good, hearty soup brings warmth and comfort to the home.  There's nothing quite like the aromas that fill our home when a delicious soup is simmering on the stove.  It says..."you're home", and comforts the soul, somehow.  It reminds me of childhood, the safety of my home, and the family being together. 

In this soup series, I will share three of our family's favorite soups.  All three soups are made special with the addition of fresh herbs...three of my favorite herbs:  Basil, Thyme, and Rosemary.

I've never been a fan of Tomato Soup.  But when I first tasted Tomato Basil Soup from La Madeleine, I was in love.  My daughter found this recipe online and it tastes very much like La Madeleine's.  It's very simple and quick to make if you're short on time.  Serve with a crusty Italian loaf or wonderful Artisan bread and you've got a hearty, homey meal that is sure to satisfy hungry tummies.


2 cans (28 oz) Crushed Tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) Chicken Broth, or Homemade
18 fresh Basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup Heavy Cream

In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring tomatoes and chicken stock to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add basil and sugar (the sugar helps to balance the acidity).  Reduce heat to low; stir in cream and butter.  Cook until butter is melted.

Serves 9.  

Photo Credit

Friday, October 21, 2011

FREE 8 x 10 from Canvas People

Another great opportunity to put a photo or your kids' favorite artwork on a beautiful FREE 8 x 10 canvas.

Christmas is just around the corner and this would make a wonderful gift for a family member or friend.

Go to Canvas People , choose your own photo, then choose your size (remember the free 8 x 10), choose a frame (optional), and choose your effect.  Canvas People will take it from there.  They coat each canvas with an environmentally safe protective coating, and then gallery wrap each canvas so that it arrives safely. 

It's very easy!  You may also click on image above to order.  Feel free to browse the site for testimonials and ideas. :)

*Contains affiliate link.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Sophia

Our Sophia is a big 9 today! She is a lovely young lady with many interests. Above, she is playing in a recital with Big Sis Cheyenne. Sophia loves the piano and is growing in the skill rapidly.

As you can see here, she has exceptional brain ability. lol She can cross one eye while leaving the other in the center. I'm tellin' ya...the girl is a genius! ;-)

Her other loves are reading, biking, running, baking, and art. She also loves to write recipes and music. She's a go-getter!

But Sophia also has a wonderful heart. She loves Jesus and she loves her family. She's always willing to help and loves to give. At present, she really wants to build a well in Africa, so we're brainstorming as a family to make that happen. She's our drive behind this project, so we hope we don't let her down.  I think we'll be baking and selling A LOT of bread!  :)

Happy Birthday, Beauty!  We are so thankful that God created you, and we pray you have a GREAT birthday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Busy Week

We have had a wonderful week of fellowship with our sweet friends.  We have enjoyed late night talks and early morning cups of coffee.  I've enjoyed runs with Dan, and talks about the faithfulness of God with Lori and Dan.  It has been such a blessing having them here and we're so privileged to have hosted them.  In a few days they'll be heading to VA to visit Dan's family...and then they head back to Costa Rica.  We will miss them dearly!

Aside from enjoying company, we've also had other things going on along with normal, crazy life, which is usually busy enough.  Here are a few snippets of what we've been up to and why I haven't blogged in a week.  :)

Wedding:  We've had a couple of wedding related appointments.  Saturday, all the bridesmaids went to Cheyenne's dress fitting.  It. fit. perfectly!  No alterations needed!  Woohoo!  The only thing we need to do is the bustling.  She looked incredibly beautiful!  After the fitting, we all went out for lunch at Panera.  Yum! 

Then, on Sunday afternoon, we met with my wonderful friend, Hollie, who is graciously making the wedding cake.  We had a "cake meeting" to discuss all the details and finalize a cake design.  I know Hollie will do an incredible job and I can't wait to see the final masterpiece. :)  If you get a chance, head on over to Hollie's Food for Missions blog and check it out!

All the other details are coming along.  We have the invitations in hand.  Cheyenne made return address labels and put them on, as well as stuffed the envelopes.  All we have to do is address them.  We have the wedding dress, of course.  Now we just have to protect it form the elements of the Sabo household.  lol  Sunday after church, we picked up Celeste's Maid of Honor dress and my niece's bridesmaid dress.  We reserved most of the linens, and will only add more as RSVP's trickle in.  We have the venue reserved.  We have most of the centerpieces purchased for assembling.  Most of the groomsmen have been measured for their tuxes.  We have a few friends who have offered to sponsor desserts for the wedding, or other things.  Isn't that awesome?  Whew....I think that's it so far.  Things are progressing so I am feeling less overwhelmed with wedding details. 

House Hunting:  No...not for us, but for my other best friend, Stacey.  They Cambrons are moving back to Texas from Colorado Springs and I have had the honor of looking at homes for my sweet friend.  As she has found homes online, I've gone to look at them in person to report back to her the details.  It's been fun...and I can't wait to have the Cambrons back in Texas!  YAY!

Painting:  I finally painted a room in our home.  I started with the master bedroom.  It looks FABULOUS!  I have never been so pleased with a color before.  It's called Weeping Willow.  It's a muted, sage-y, very earthy green.  It's peaceful and tranquil and I just LOVE it!  My older girls moved all the furniture and took off the hardware and got everything prepped and ready.  Then, Dan, the girls, and I painted.  We did it all in the two hour rest time that all the little ones were down.  It was perfect!  Team work got the job done FAST!  I've still got to get up a few pictures on the wall and then I'll post pictures.

Church:  Since Greg is a deacon, we've had a few deacon related responsibilities that have kept us busy too.  Our church just had our annual family retreat and then we celebrated Pastor Appreciation Month to honor our wonderful pastor.  It's a privilege to serve along side my husband, helping him with various tasks while he serves his church family.

Chicken Pox:  We exposed our four youngest kids to the Chicken Pox yesterday evening.  We're hoping within the next couple of weeks that we'll see spots.  We've chosen not to give our children the vaccine, so it's very important that they get the Chicken Pox as children to gain lifetime immunity.  So here's praying....   Oh, and if you live in San Antonio and need to expose your children, contact me and I'll let you know if we're successful!  :)

I think that about covers our week.  It's been busy, but wonderful!  Hope you all have a great rest of the week...and check back for more posts.  I have about four that are nearly ready for posting. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Company's Coming

I'm SO excited about who is coming to stay with us for several days. One of my best friends of twelve years, Lori, and her sweet husband, Dan, are making a trip to Texas from Costa Rica, and arrive TONIGHT! They serve as missionaries there, and they're coming back to visit family and friends.

They blog about their mission work in Costa Rica over at Dan and Lori's Journey.  They have three wonderful children, and are expecting their fourth child in January.  We are very excited to see them, and I personally can't wait to see her sweet baby belly.

Today, I will be heading to the store to pick up a few foods that Lori has been craving, but cannot get in Paso Marcos.  We will also be sharing a few of our favorite meals that we used to eat together all the time.  You know, those meals that somehow became special to that friendship, even though the meals themselves weren't all that special.  It was the time spent sharing those meals together that was special.  For Lori and I, it was Chili Dogs (I craved them during one of my pregnancies) and Wing Stop.  lol  Not exactly girlie food, but it's what we loved, and can't wait to eat together while she's here!  ;-)

I pray that their time back in Texas would be a blessing and that God would keep them safe during their travels and their time spent here. :)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thankful Thursday: God's Provision and Refining

Why is that we are always so amazed that God provides for His children?

As Christians, we know that He provides.  But there are times in our lives when we may not see His provision as "abundant".  We feel like we're just scraping by and waiting for God to fill in the gaps spiritually, physically, emotionally, or financially.  With our finite eyes, we only see what's right in front of us.  We have moments of plenty...and moments that leave us wondering if God will truly meet our needs.

Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Sometimes, it may seem as though God is not meeting needs because He's not doing it on our time table, or the way we want Him to.  It's easy to slip into a period of questioning. 

These are the times we must cling to His word and trust that He is at work in our lives.  Trust that He knows what's best for us.  Trust that He's working all things together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).

Recently, our family has been going through a period of refining.  A period of waiting on the Lord for provision. 

We've had a string of financial burdens which have caused us to tighten our belts and pinch practically every penny.  Aside from planning a wedding, which in itself can exhaust resources, we've had major medical expenses; Jonathan's testing for his seizures, Genevieve's stay in the hospital, vehicle repairs, and Greg's pacemaker surgery to name a few.  With the economy already putting pressure on the budget, these added things cause us to scrutinize every area in which we can cut back. 

We've also endured a string of emotional burdens; Jonathan's seizures and tests, nearly losing Genevieve, and Greg's surgery.  These have caused us some heartache and worry.

But they also cause us to ask, "God, what are you doing in our lives?  What are you teaching us through this?  How will you provide for all these needs?"

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

The verse above is one that I personally have been clinging to over these last months.  God has shown us time and time again that He not only provides, but that He has a much greater plan than we do in how the provisions come to fruition.  In one sense, it's very easy to worry when things don't add up.  But in another sense, it's exciting to see how God will work in these situations because you've seen Him faithfully provide in the past.

We've been so humbled to see God at work.  He's used prayer, His people, our wonderful church family, and His word to provide for our every need.  Prayer has comforted and bolstered our spirits, His people have blessed us by modeling the hands and feet of Jesus, and His word has assured us and equipped us with important truths in times of doubt. 

God uses these times for our refining. When I've been tempted to wallow in pity, I'm reminded that refining is good.  Refining grows us closer to Him.  As Christians, isn't that exactly what we want?  To draw closer to Him?  Of course.  But refining isn't fun.  I don't know about you, but I've caught myself on more than one occasion asking God if He would please go and refine someone else..... 

How thankful I am that He loves me enough to refine me, for it changes me just a little each time.  Changes that have eternal value!

THAT'S what I want!  THAT'S what I'm thankful for! not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 

What are you thankful for?  How has God provided for you recently?  Please share here.

And if you're a blogger, link up with The Marathon Mom.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Home Depot Savings

I finally picked up paint to get started on my bedroom. We moved into our home for just over three years ago, and have been staring at the "builders off white" walls ever since. But with so much going on, I haven't had the time or energy to think about paint colors, let alone actually doing the painting.

My sweet daughter gave me a gift card for our anniversary. I was so glad to have had a coupon to reduce the cost of my purchase. I still don't have much time, but getting the gift card gave me that spark of desire to at least tackle our master bedroom.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Would a coupon be helpful? Would tips and guides be helpful? Sign up for the Home Depot newsletter and begin receiving special deals and offers, How-To's, Garden Club, and much more.

Click on photo above or click here to sign up.

*If you sign up, I'll make a bit of helps to feed nine children.  ;-)

Monday, October 03, 2011

How To: Homemade Chicken Stock

One my routines every two weeks is to cook up a bunch of split breast chicken and then store it in the fridge or freezer so that it is ready to use to expedite meal prep.  As a result of  making my chicken, I get delicious, free stock.  My kind of bargain.

I use chicken stock a lot for various recipes, but I also like to cook rice, and sometimes pasta, in stock instead of water. It's a chance to infuse plain rice (or pasta) with tons of flavor.  If I had to buy the stock for all our uses, that would get quite expensive.

Here's an easy way to make your own...and also have cooked chicken on hand to add to your dishes. I used to do this process with a whole chicken in a large stock pot, which was fine.  But now, thanks to my friend Dawn, I use Split Breasts in a crock pot.  It's much easier to prepare, I get all breast meat, and I don't have to deal with picking the meat off of a whole chicken. 

(You'll definitely want to use bone-in meat to get a fabulous, rich stock.  And, split breasts are much cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken.)

First, place a few carrots, celery stalks, and quartered onions in a crock pot.  (I was out of onions the day I made this batch, so I just used minced onions)  If you don't have these veggies on hand, you can still make a basic stock without them.  The veggies give your stock a richer taste, but you'll still have a great stock without them.

Next, place two to six split breasts (or a whole chicken), depending on how much chicken and stock you want, on top of veggies.  Remember, you can freeze your meat and stock, so go ahead and max out your crock pot so that you don't have to do this as often.  Season your chicken with pretty much whatever you want.  You can keep it as basic as salt and pepper or go to town with lots of different seasonings.  Just keep in mind to go easy on the salt because you will be using your broth in other recipes that may already contain salty ingredients, so go light.  Here, I used a little salt, pepper, marjoram, a couple bay leaves, and garlic powder.

Next add water.  It doesn't really matter how much you add.  The general rule is that less water equals a more concentrated broth....more water, less concentrated.  I usually make six split breasts at a time, and I add about four to six cups of water.

Now, cover those babies up, set your crock pot on high, and go do something fun and exciting for the next four hours.  Or, school the children, nurse the baby, and change diapers like I do.  ;-)

Okay...four hours is up.  Doesn't that look yummy?  And doesn't your house smell soooo good?  Now, take the chicken out and set it on a plate to cool.

With a slotted spoon, fish out all the big chunks of veggies and carefully pour the broth through a strainer

EDIT: Nowadays, I de-bone the chicken and throw all the bones, skin, cartilage, etc. back into the crock pot and cook on low for about 24 hours. This yields a much richer, more nutritious stock. If you're short on time, however, my original method is still great!

Allow to cool before placing in fridge or freezer.  Stock will keep up to two weeks in the fridge if stored in air tight container.  You can store in the freezer for months.

Once chicken is warm to the touch, begin de-boning and de-skinning.  Is de-skinning even a word?

It's easier to do if the meat is slightly warm.

And here you have it...shredded chicken and wonderful, homemade broth.  Wasn't that easy?  ........Say yes!

Once your broth cools in the fridge, the fat will solidify at the top.  This is great because you can scrape it right off and either toss it out or use it to make gravy. 

Here are the stats:  For my six split breasts, I got a little more than 6 cups of stock and 10 cups of shredded chicken.  Not bad, huh! 

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Are you already making your own broth and have any tips or helpful hints to add? Please share!  :)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

She's Nineteen

Our sweet Cheyenne at five years old.....

Now she's a grown woman, about to be married this coming January.  (Cheyenne on right)

One of our family traditions is to take the "birthday kid" out to lunch. Usually, it's a special time with Mom and Dad alone, but this year, Greg wanted me to take Celeste and make it a special "older sisters" lunch since Cheyenne will be leaving home soon. We had fun talking about some of the girls' favorite childhood memories....many of which they shared together.  It was a sweet time with my big girls!

Happy 19th birthday, Cheyenne! You are such a blessing to your family and to others. We love you!
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