Advent Conspiracy


The Journey of Learning to Read

At first, I didn’t see it when we began our learning-to-read journey with Hailey. But as we slowly progressed I noticed it more and more. At first it was that she was having problems with d’s and b’s then I noticed that she would throw letter sounds in the word that weren’t there. So, I backed off. I thought maybe she just needed a bit of time before we pushed forward. When we started back I noticed that while she was progressing in every other aspect of reading, she kept hitting the same stumbling blocks. I also tried to pay close attention at where she was having problems. I noticed that she would also sometimes flip a whole CVC word when reading – frequently.

I tried to keep it upbeat, but eventually decided to try something new and different. I dropped reading altogether. I liked the philosophy behind Spell to Write and Read, but it seems to have a number of steps and I was really hoping to find something that didn’t require me to study in order to teach. I found All About Spelling and decided we would give it a try.

AAS is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, as is SWR. However, I love the fact that AAS is an open-and-go curriculum. It also utilized colored letter tiles for illustrating spelling that we have magnetized and keep on a magnetic white board.

While the program is broken into steps we often spend two or three days on one step to assure mastery, but you can easily move quickly through each step as well. The steps have review for reinforcement and additional practice included at the end. It is truly made for moving at your own pace!

New concepts are introduced with the letter tiles. After introduction you can have your child write on paper (I like watch as Hailey traces words on a Ziploc bag filled with liquid soap).

I like the way that the sounds that might be visibly confused are introduced separately. This has been a huge help in getting past the dyslexia problem. Once mastery is achieved then they are mixed in for review. I can already see a marked improvement in comprehension.

The program does not include handwriting which was actually very helpful as we are teaching cursive first in order to help avoid letter reversals. It also does not cover grammar such as parts of speech or punctuation, but does introduce suffixes.

While we do read every day, we still do not have an official reading program. I really feel that by learning to spell the words first the reading will come much more naturally. I am excited to watch her grow into her reading capability through spelling!

St. Lucia Day


So today was St. Lucia’s Day and I had a bunch of things planned to celebrate. I was really excited. Unfortunately life interfered again. Mike is working nights and came home red eyed and sleepy. Charlie was up early. Really, really early.

So, while we didn’t do more than read the story of St. Lucy, I do plan or trying again tomorrow.

Lighted Wreath – Legend tells that St. Lucia wore an evergreen wreath of candles upon her head as she ministered to the poor and persecuted.

Making Braided Sweet Rolls – Traditionally the oldest girl wakes up early and serves the other family members breakfast in bed.

Making Playdough

I love playdough. So do the kids. In fact I don’t think I have ever met any kids that didn’t like that satisfying feeling you get from squishing playdough into some wonderful shape – or just the squishing part. The problem laid in the fact that every time I got the playdough out the wonderful creations were invariably left out to dry.

After going through oodles of playdough jars and restrictions of one jar at a time, I simply stopped buying it. Now I know that I must be a terrible parent for not allowing my children to play with playdough, so in remedy I decided to finally try my hand at homemade playdough.

I searched for a recipe and found that most required that you cook the playdough. However, for it to be worthwhile I decided that it should be something simple enough for a 5 year old to make. After all, the whole point is to entertain the little one, not the adult. Here is our no-cook playdough recipe.

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • food coloring
  • 1/4 cup water

Mix together flour and salt. Combine food coloring with water and oil. Combine water mixture and flour mixture. Add more flour or water as needed for proper consistency. Store in a closed container in refrigerator.

Voila!  Playdough. Content child. Happy mom.

Advent Tree

We started this last year after my futile search for an appropriate advent calendar. I had two wishes for our advent calendar – It should focused on the nativity and it should not break the bank! As I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for I went in search for other ideas.

Last year I ran in to these adorable little pockets and decided that they would be perfect for holding small nativity scene characters. So I ran to Target and got some extra plastic animals to include in the pockets.


Each night we took one pocket down, placed the figure enclosed under the tree in the nativity scene, and placed the pocket into a basket on the side.

Unfortunately my cutie little advent pockets had milk spilled all over them before I put them away for the year. So, this year I decided to go with a simple little buckets that I picked up last year after Christmas.


They were about $ 0.25 each in the clearance section of Hobby Lobby and they are only about an inch and a half tall, perfect for the little tree. When we aren’t using them during the Christmas season I keep  them in craft drawer to hold little odds and ends.

Our Jesse Tree

So, this year is the first year that I had ever heard of a Jesse Tree. What a wonderful way to weave the meaning of Christmas into the busy holiday season! By placing a new ornament with a meaningful symbol on our tree each day we are sure to take the time to reflect on what is really important.

I am going to use the same tree that we started using as our advent calendar tree last year. So we will have our advent pocket ornaments covering the tree to begin with and replace them with the Jesse Tree ornaments as the season progresses.


Many folks take the time to make their own ornaments using sculpey or by finding items that fit the theme from around the house. Of course, I am going to go the simple route this year or it might remain one of those things that we had every intention of doing, but just couldn’t find the time. I found some free printable ornaments here. They also have a sample sheet of reflections to use through the month, or you can change it to suit your family needs.


I laminated the sheets with my very addicting new laminating machine that I got from Walmart,  cut each ornament out, and punched a hole in the top for a piece of ribbon to hang from the tree.

I love that we are going to be able to do a wonderful review of the Old Testament in preparation for the birth of baby Jesus.

The Rag Coat

We had  a wonderful time rowing The Rag Coat. Although we read this book several times over the course of two weeks I could not manage to get through it once without tearing up a bit. It was beautifully written and the illustrations are vibrant.


We made butter during the course of our study which has nearly replaced the purchase of butter at the store. My dear husband has decided that it is the perfect compliment to his homemade bread. So now we are not only blessed with the wonderful wafting aroma of bread baking, we are also privy to the “butter dance” as he excitedly shakes the cream past it’s frothy prime and into a nice yellow clump of butter.

While we did have lofty ideas of putting together a quilt we decided to settle for making rag dolls as Minna does in the story. We made our dolls out of knit gloves by cutting off all but the middle two fingers for legs and then sewing it together.

I was quite impressed with Hailey’s manual dexterity with a needle and thread. Just a couple of months ago I recall trying to explain cross stitch with one of those plastic needle kits that you purchase at the craft store. We both ended up getting frustrated and decided to put it away. So when she managed to sew the arms together and then attached them to the body I was quite proud of how well she did.



I did purchase the Hands of a Child project pack to go with this book, however the majority of the items within the pack require answers to be filled in. While perfectly suitable for children a bit older it did not suit our needs at this time.

As Minna’s father was a coal miner in Appalachia I took the opportunity to discuss the formation of coal. We decided to place our story disk on West Virginia after discussing where the Appalachian Mountains were as well as our top coal producing states.

We also covered three of the basic formations of rocks – igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Hailey had a difficult time understanding the word “sedimentary” so I filled a glass with water and sprinkled in some sand, dirt, and leaves. We watched it settle on the bottom and discussed how it could eventually turn to rock.

We also made igneous rocks by watching our chocolate “lava” cool off. Although we did speed up the cooling process by popping it in the freezer!

In order to solidify her understanding of the variations of rocks how the earth is constantly changing, I explained the rock cycle. I tried to find a basic illustration, but all of the pictures seemed to be too complex for the early elementary level. I ended up making my own illustration for her to color and labels to place . Please feel free to download it for your own personal use.