All posts by Lea Callahan

Curriculum Crutch

Standing around our kitchen the other day, a friend expressed her frustration with getting her 9-year-old son to listen and absorb her instruction. She had a few examples, but one that really highlights this common struggle from moms is her clock example. She was trying to get her son to learn how to “do” time/clock problems in his math curriculum.

Analog Clock
Play with a clock to learn to tell time.

She had explained to him that 30 minutes after the hour could also be expressed as half-passed the hour. When she asked him to do the problems on the curriculum sheet, he couldn’t repeat or remember these different expressions on the paper.  My immediate response was to ask if she’d played clock games to help him with clock/time expressions.

Later, as I reconsidered her issue and my response, I thought, “Why are we so curriculum dependant, especially for the most basic of life lessons?” I remembered months earlier a mom asked me what’s the best curriculum to use to teach the days of the week.  Do we need a curriculum to teach children to tell time, know the days of the week, or months of the year? No, we don’t. And not only do we not need a curriculum for these lessons, its not even the best way to teach them. What we need is a clock and a calendar.

We probably already have clocks and calendars in our home. We just need to remember to point out what they tell us when we walk past them. Point them out everywhere you go.

Nasa watch at the Space Center in Huntsville, Al.

It’s especially instructive to identify dinnertime, leaving for church time, or friends coming over time. My children really track the time on the clock waiting for that time the friends are due to arrive. Its a great opportunity to use all the different phrases to express the time and to point out the minute lines, five minute marks, half hour and quarter hour. As an aside, the clock is also a great place to learn fractions.  Have our children had experience with the clock before they have to answer questions about it on a curriculum sheet?

When we try to teach children something in the curriculum that they have no experience with, it is very hard to learn it just for the sake of learning something. Kids need a purpose. Like all of us, they need a reason to do what they do. Busy work (or work that seems to have no purpose) frustrates and rarely teaches. If they’ve experienced the clock as it

Different clocks.

relates to their lives (and things they care about), then when it shows up on their math curriculum, those will be the easy pages to fly through. What time ice cream is going to be served makes a child want to understand how to read the clock.

Curriculum dependency is a problem in other areas as well. So watch out for it! That’s not to say we don’t need curriculum, but overly depending on it can leave us missing the opportunity to teach the real life lessons that present themselves through the course of our day. Curriculum not only helps us keep forward momentum, but also reminds us to cover things we might forget needs to be taught. Maybe we didn’t think of the analog clock until it came up in the math curriculum.

Time to flight = FUN learning!!

If so, our child will need some real life experience with it before the on-paper clock exercises will make sense.  Curriculum is not a crutch. Curriculum is a useful teaching tool, but life is the lesson.


Schooling at home or Homeschooling?

Met the sweetest lady today at our monthly homeschool mom’s discussion group. Her only son, 8 years old, has struggled through public then private schooling. They’ve even tried homeschooling once before. The troubles have persisted. Now they are trying homeschooling again and she came to our group for the first time looking for encouragement and insight.

As her story unfolded it became clear that the problem her son was having was that the school method did not work with her son’s learning style. He struggled to learn under the group techniques. The reason homeschooling wasn’t working? She was using the same methods or techniques at home. She was doing school at home instead of homeschooling. It’s a snare many of us fall into mainly because it’s the way we were taught and it’s the conventional wisdom of our time. Questioning it and branching out is often met with disapproval and even rejection from friends and family.

Our son learning his letters and colors on our back porch.

Learning at home is by definition different from learning in the classroom setting or the conventional teaching environment. In additional this so called conventional wisdom is more aptly named modern education. When reading biographies of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and so many others, we see they weren’t educated this modern way at all.

Colors, numbers, letters, expression, collaboration, and so much more with sisters on the driveway!



They enjoyed learning throughout their lives, rather than being in the mode of get educated and set that task aside as if it’s a necessary evil.

My best advice when at this frustrating crossroads or when first starting out, is to read biographies of great people from at least 100+ years ago,then tailor your educational environment more along theses examples instead of today’s four walls confined educational model.


Now we're just getting carried away!! Feet painting?? :):)

You’ll find reading good books including biographies and books about topics of interest rather than textbooks and doing or experiencing your interest will not only educate your children beyond your wildest hopes, but also excite them to love learning for a lifetime.


Final result!! All washable - except the lessons & memories - they are there for life!




Follow your instincts of what works for your child. When they are having fun learning, learning will be a way of life.


You Should Let Her Die

A Tale of Two Mothers

 When our daughter was born at 28 weeks gestation in 1985, she weighed only 2 lbs and 8 ounces.  She lost down to 1 lb and 8 ounces after being born 12 weeks early.  The doctors gave her a 30% chance of living. They gave her 100% chance of being blind due to the oxygen in the incubator, cerebral palsy due to undeveloped lungs, and several heart surgeries in her future – if she had a future. Lots of people told us “You should let her die. What kind of life will that be? She’s going to die young, it might as well be now before she suffers.” They were educated and seemed to know what they were talking about. I was young and had no idea what we were in for. I did have one sweet doctor who encouraged me, and a still quite voice that said “trust me.”

She stayed in the hospital eight weeks, came home at 4 lbs and 8 ounces. She was a tiny little spitfire! She never did have any heart surgeries, never developed cerebral palsy, and no eye problems, well, she is near sighted – like me.

Here’s a photo of our daughter and her son. How thankful I am that Christ held me up, made me strong, and we ignored the educated advice.  Happy Mother’s Day to our sweet daughter who’s now the most amazing mother!

When my mother was 63 years old, she suffered what they call sudden death or cardiac arrest.  Her heart just stopped beating in her sleep at 2 in the morning. Paramedics were able to get her back, but not before her brain was severely injured. She didn’t wake up for weeks. The experts told us “You should let her die. What kind of life will she have?” She finally woke up. She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t even swallow. Her memory was missing the most recent 20 years. She couldn’t walk or use her hands well.  The doctors gave up on her and we brought her home.

She could, however, smile the biggest and most warming smile and a still quite voice said, “trust me.” My dad worked tirelessly with her and soon she was talking with us, crying with us, and laughing with us.  We enjoyed ice cream, reading, talking, two more Christmas mornings, and just being together. She lived 22 months before the Lord took her home. Those months were such a sweet gift.  On the last Mother’s Day before she died June 4th, she and I sat on her deck together and planted container plants.                     I planted and she sat in her wheel chair and talked and laughed with me.

Here’s a photo of my beautiful mother. I am so thankful the Lord gave us those 22 months to let her know how much we love and appreciate all she is in our lives. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!

This Mother’s Day I am acutely aware that my savior, Jesus Christ, gave me both of these sweet mothers in my life.  They both have impacted me beyond words and I’m glad I listened to His quite voice instead of the experts.


Scout’s Blue and Gold Banquet. Who, What, When, How?

Blue and Gold Banquet and Crossover Banquet for our scouts is one and the same.

Where? This was easy.

Our church fellowship hall was booked a year in advance.

Who? Me –  Decorations and food!

What I didn’t know when I volunteered? Low popcorn sales means little money for banquet!

When did find out my limitations? One week before the big night!

How was I going to get this accomplished for 17 excited 10 year olds and close to 100 of their families? God’s grace, mason jars, and a wonderful older daughter.


Searched the Internet for ideas and got a few. Most of them were very involved, amazing crafts from Mama’s that are more talented than I and seriously more time than my week to pull it off.  My sweet grown niece was doing the same banquet for her son NEXT year and told me what she was doing with Mason jars for the big night. She had already started getting them ready.  Did I mention her’s is next year and mine was next week!  But the Mason jar idea got me encouraged. I knew I was hanging on to all those old mason jars in the basement for a good reason.


Time to shop & brainstorm.  The boys and I walked around Hobby Lobby looking for ideas.  Many were to be had, but at what expense? Finally, we came upon a Scout-symbol looking stamp. Hummm… I could put that on all those mason jars. Blue and Gold ribbon on large rolls very cheap today. After a bit we happened up on a big stack of American flag bandanas – $1 a piece.  All right, now we’re getting somewhere. Okay tea lights are cheap. Get word from my husband that two half rolls of blue table coverings are left over from last year. Okay so the tables will be blue. To Walmart! Got blue and gold balloons and helium. What to put in those jars?  After a while, we’re down the candle isle. Where else could we go to ease our despair? But there on right in the middle of the isle what was hanging but bag after bag of butterscotch candy wrapped in beautiful gold wrapping – $1 a bag! YAY!  Last to Party City to get the rest of the table covering and 100ft rolls of table cover is on half price sale. Thank you, God!


I spent two days stamping those jars with the scout symbol using my son’s finger paint, filling the jars with butterscotch, and tying on ribbon round the tops. My college daughter took the afternoon/eveing off to help me set it all up.  It all came together beautifully. The boys had a blast and each got to take home an American Flag bandana, candy, and balloons.  It was a good night for $95. That’s less than $1 per person.



Oh yea – food!! Full Moon BBQ had agreed to do the banquet weeks before. Upon hearing of our money crunch, they lowered their quote and agreed to do the banquet for what we always charg

ed in the past for admission – $10 a person.

Thanks to the good Lord, great family, good friends, parents in the scouts, and Full Moon, it was a wonderful night of food and
fellowship and crossing over!


Thanksgiving 2010

Cooked all day for Thanksgiving. Its at our house again this year. Earlier in the week I fixed chicken dressing, pecan pies, and sweet potato casserole. Today I fixed lemon icebox pie, deviled eggs, congeal salad, carrot slaw, and giblet gravy. I think that’s got it all!! My second daughter was here the second half of the day to help. She worked at her job the first half. She helped me cook, cleaned the house, and decorated the tables. What would I do without her?? I hope when she moves out someday, she comes back to help or maybe our boys will be inclined to do more then. They helped a little this time, but they are young and something their help is only helpful so long. ☺ Our oldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson came by for a visit today too, which is always nice. ☺ They’ll all be back tomorrow along with my Dad and my sister and her family. We’ll eat and laugh too much and then all be on our way to other events. For us it’s my husband’s family for the afternoon where we’ll eat again, laugh again, and then hope to never eat Thanksgiving food again. Of course, when we get home late that evening, we’ll dig into those leftovers for midnight snack. How BLESSED we are to have so much family to enjoy so much food to consume and such comfortable houses and cars to do it in. God has surely shown us mercies beyond measure and we are truly Thankful.


What kind of pilgrim am I?

I’ve been reading “Stories of the Pilgrims” by Margaret B Pumphrey and Lucy Fitch Perkins to my sons. Our homeschooling friends Laree Hart and Carlene Raspberry recommended it to us. It’s wonderful. It starts with the Pilgrim’s hardships in England trying to worship during the reign of King James. We follow the pilgrims to Holland and finally to America. We read a few chapters (they are short) each night as we go to bed leading up to Thanksgiving.
Today, while I’m cooking for Thanksgiving and the boys are eating lunch, we are watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. The boys start to notice the similarities between the two stories like Captain Standish, the long voyage across the Atlantic, and of course the Indians – especially Squanto! As I cooked and listened, it struck me that only 20 adults and 30 children survived from the 102 people that arrived. As they watched one after another die – friends, spouses, parents, children – and it got down to just 20 adults, what must have gone through their minds as they looked out and no one – no one – else was around anywhere. Would you be the next to die or would you be left completely alone – the sole survivor – in this new wilderness?
I’ve suffered heartache, some that don’t heal. I’ve suffered hard times, some I thought would never improve. But I’ve never faced that kind of hardship. What kind of pilgrim would I have been? With those folks in mind and the difficulties I deal with this day, I believe I have more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving than I can possibly even recognize myself.
Praising God for ALL my many blessings and prosperity. Thankful for my family, friends, home and country, but mostly thankful my redeemer lives!!


June 1st

The first of June has come again
For most another day
But you went home six years ago
And here I still stay

My sweet Mama
The most wonderful Mother ever!

I long for you to talk to
To tell me all is well
You never tire of listening
To all the tales that I tell

Heartbreak I know I brought you
Though you’d never let me know
Shortcomings I have a plenty
But you’d say they never show

Many difficulties you faced
And overcame them all
You finished well faithful servant
And responded to His call

While you enjoy sweet Heaven
All of paradise without a care
I pray I teach your grandchildren
The path that leads them there

For Christ alone can soothe this pain
That rears it ugly head
The time is short. The war is won.
The Lord Christ Jesus said.

I’m so thankful that you taught me
And so I’ll see you there
Someday when our work is done
I’ll have years of stories to share

I know you’ll listen lovingly
And show me your heavenly gardens
While we wait I’ll teach what you taught me
To my blessed little darlings


More Than One Way To Obey

David, our four year old, keeps getting into the fireplace and playing in the ashes with his trucks and cars. He drives them all in there and then back out onto the hearth, rug, and chairs. Taking all the ash with them. He’s been repeatedly told not to play in the ashes. He keeps going back. He’s been given every discipline available by the law and the prophets and a few used in the parenting books. He’s had to help clean up all the mess and even had the cars & trucks taken away. He CANNOT stay out of the ashes. Finally, today, at the end of my rope (and it is springtime), I decide that I’m tired of fighting this battle and we are just going to completely clean out the fireplace so there are no ashes to make a mess in. Feeling like I’m giving in and lost the battle cause I’ve been using this disobedience problem to try to instill obedience. I’ve hardheadedly insisted that he “stay out of the ashes.” But, I can’t take it anymore. I’m tired of cleaning all that up and he obviously just can’t learn!! This being where I’m at, I insist he help me clean out the fireplace while his brother plays outside.

A Clean Fireplace instead of a place of temptation

We could have been in mourning from the Old Testament, as with tears and ashes we only needed sackcloth to completely fill the bill. As we’re cleaning it all away, he asks me why we have to throw out all the ashes. I’m explaining to him that it’s because he can’t stay out of it so we have to get rid of it. I’m going on and on about how it’s ruining our rug and furniture and since he simply will NOT stay out then it has to go. Suddenly I realize that in my one sightedness of trying to teach obedience, I’m missing this chance to teach fleeing temptation. Exactly!! He really cannot stay out of it, and since it’s wrong to play in it – it has to go!! This way we CAN be obedient. There is more than one way to be obedient to God. The obvious way of doing what He says and the other way which is to remove other options if necessary. If there are no ashes to play in, then it will be easy to obey the command to not play in them.


Science Adventures – V1.0

We’ve gone through lots of different things for elementary science and it was fun in K-2nd grade. But now we find most of what we’ve seen geared for primary school is just dull and boring past the 2nd to 3rd grade level. Too slow paced and lacking action for my action packed little boys. As they begged for more science experiments – cause we LOVE those – with some meat, I’ve struggled to find something that will meet their expectations without using chemicals and such that might hurt their less than careful mentalities. The other night I remembered that I have in my library the Apologia 7th grade science program – Exploring Creation through General Science. Our daughter used this when she was in the 7th grade. While the textbook was excellent for her “own your own” reading level and the questions were appropriate for her, we found ourselves delving deeper through research assignments and searching for more challenging experiments. She kept saying “This experiment is cool, but we did it in elementary school. Can’t we do something new?” Of course we didn’t home school the girls through most of elementary school. They went to a private Christian school. Therefore, we had to enhance the experiments as well.

David and Daniel with their Atom Experiment - Density in Nature
That got me thinking that maybe my 8-½ year old might like that course. Now, it’s too much reading and hand writing for him on his own. So we began yesterday with the first section of the first chapter. I read it to him and he answered orally the “On your own” questions and then we all (little 4 year old brother included) did the experiment and discussion of the findings. He made a laboratory notebook and recorded his findings. It was amazing. They both seemed to really enjoy the experiment. The four year old not so much following the reading and discussion, but the 8 year old really responded well. He got up this morning asking if we could do more. Ha! Now I’ve got bait to get that other seatwork completed. ☺
Daniel's Laboratory Notebook
Syrup, Water, Oil - Pebble, Grape, Corks


Time marches. Better keep up.

When I was a child we always went to my maternal Grandmother’s house for Sunday, Easter, and Christmas dinners. As my Grandmother aged and was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease someone had to take over these duties. So it moved to our house. My Mother took that over very easily, or so it looked to me. Looking back I remember occasionally having it at this Aunt’s house or that one’s. But quickly it moved to always being at my mother’s house and with time the Sunday dinners turned into just our family and Christmas moved to another Sunday in December. Then we moved our Grandmother’s birthday in with Christmas since it was the same month and consolidated two get-togethers into one since there were so many folks (not just grandkids, but great grandkids) to coordinate with now. Time passes and now my Grandmother has moved to Heaven and my mother too. And the duty and honor has to fall to someone if the family is to continue to get together. Now I’m the mother and grandmother. My sister, female cousins, and I are in that transition mode of trying to keep it going. We haven’t landed on a “we always go here for holidays” just yet. We had Christmas at my cousin’s home. This year we are having Easter at mine. So we’ll get together here the Saturday before Easter. No mother and grandmother for me. My cousins, sister and I are the mothers and grandmothers. I’ll be hosting the get together not just for my children and grandchildren, but also for their siblings and cousins, nieces and nephews.

My sister, cousins and me!

My mother’s great grandchildren will be here, my grandmother’s great great grandchildren. What an honor to know these ladies who went before and have shown us the way. What an honor to pick up the quilt and keep the family wrapped together. Women do this. Sorry – two cousins are missing in this photo!