Thursday, March 26, 2015

Year Round Homeschooling - Sometimes It's a Necessity - How the Tinkels Do It - Part 1

I used to stress over schooling. When our oldest, John Allen, was younger, I was always on a strict schedule. We started homeschooling around 9am at the kitchen table and worked until we were done. He did great. He was that type of learner.

Then, Joshua came along. Joshua is not someone who I can force into a schedule. Being on the autism spectrum, maybe I should try harder, as spectrum kids really need a schedule, but that just doesn't work for us. Some things can and need to be scheduled for him, but school is not one of them. We need to watch and wait for the best learning time and environment. As I mentioned in my two part series, Oh No! Could We Actually Be...*Gasp*...Unschoolers?!?, we try to use the things that our children our interested in to our advantage when we homeschool. For example, when Joshua was fascinated with football, we used football a lot in our homeschooling. From math to reading, it was about football. Joshua thrives when we do that. But I stressed about whether we were getting it all in or not.

Jacob is a mixture of John Allen and Joshua. We can sit him down to do work and he is usually okay. When he has had enough, though, we know it is time to put away the books and not do anymore for the time being. So again I stressed.

Because of their different learning styles and schedules, although we work with our kids every day, we can't always fit everything in. Our schedule as missionaries also necessitates us taking days off here and there. So, a few years ago, we decided to be more of a year round school. It's relieved a lot of my stress!

Don't get me wrong, we still allow them to enjoy the usual summer activities, we just use those activities to our advantage. Here are some things that we try to do on a consistent basis year round.


  • Do something academic every day. - Even if it just one subject, we do it. I'm not talking about regular homeschooling days, I'm talking about days when life is busy and we can't pull it all together. When that happens, we at least do something. We might assign Joshua to read a chapter in a book, work in his geography book, or spend 30 minutes with one of his Russian language apps on his tablet. John Allen might need to do a few lessons in math or one worksheet of Latin. Jacob might read a story that is on his reading level or work on a math sheet. Whatever it is, it is usually something that they can do fairly independently and doesn't require a lot of explanation from me or Sarah.
  • Make everything a field trip. - When we have to take the boys with us to run errands we try to make everything a learning experience. I remember a day recently when we were in Knoxville buying them shoes. Since all three of my boys are blessed with one leg shorter than the other, we have to buy special shoes for them and then have inserts made for them. The shoe buying is an adventure in itself, but after we bought the shoes, we went to one of those humongous grocery stores - the kind that we don't see around where we live. The kids loved sampling different spreads and crackers, looking at the huge circles of cheese and the fish on ice, and buying international snacks that they aren't use to eating. Everything was fascinating and was always accompanied  by many questions and  discussion. We try to do this type of thing every where we go. Make life interesting.
  • Talk a lot about current events or things that we are interested in. - In this day and age, kids cannot escape hearing about things going on in our world. Information is everywhere. It's on 24 hour news channels, the internet, newspapers, magazines, etc. We always try to discuss the news of the day with the boys. We also discuss things that we are interested in now or that we were interested in in the past. Just telling an old story about yourself can bring about a lively question and answer session and discussion.
Let's recap what we have talked about so far. Always try to do something academic every day, even if it is little. Try to make even humdrum errands into an exciting field trip. Use present day news and interests to your advantage by discussing them with your kids.

Tomorrow we'll talk about three more things that you can do with your kids to enrich their learning and make your homeschool into a year round learning experience.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Fruit Leather - So Easy a Caveman. . .I Mean a Kid Can Do It!

I had this scheduled to post tomorrow and was working on something else for today when I was called away to some ministry things. So, I am you are getting my "Throwback Thursday" post on Wednesday! Enjoy!

I was thinking about Fruit Leather the other day so I looked up this old Angelfire blog post and thought I would share it this week. It was originally published on January 23, 2011. We love home made Fruit Leather. However, even more fun than resurrecting this recipe was seeing Joshua from four years ago! I even kept the horrible orange color. What was I thinking? Anyway, have fun and let me know what you think of the recipe.

What do you get when you add applesauce, unsweetened koolaid and sugar? Fruit Leather! Well, you have to dehydrate it first. Here's the deal.
My friend, Brenda, left a comment after yesterday's post saying she knew the answer and, since she was the one who gave me the recipe, then I'm pretty sure she's correct. So, here's the official Brenda Emmett fruit leather recipe:
  • 32 oz of applesauce
  • one packet of unsweetened koolaid mix
  • one quarter of a cup of sugar (adjust to your taste)
Mix all ingredients together and pour on to dehydrator trays covered with plastic wrap. We were out of plastic wrap so I cut up a couple of gallon freezer bags and placed them on my trays and they worked perfectly. You can set your dehydrator at any temperature, but if you put it on high keep an eye on it. I put ours on low and leave it running all night long. In the morning we have delicious fruit leather. It's really so easy that our 10 year old, Joshua, could almost do it by himself. Here's proof!
Pour 32oz of applesauce in a bowl!
Pour in one packet of unsweetened Koolaid ~ this time we chose lemon lime.
Pour in about one quarter cup of sugar ~ a little more or a little less depending on your taste.
Mix well.
Pour onto dehydrator trays covered with plastic wrap,  spread evenly and dehydrate.
Here's Joshua with some grape fruit leather that we fixed a couple of days ago. We have also fixed orange. We'll make a batch and store it in plastic sandwich bags to be munched on for a healthy snack.
There you have it. Our fruit leather recipe. Thanks Brenda! If you don't have a dehydrator, you can put it on a cookie sheet, place it in your oven on low with the door cracked open a bit. Try it! I'll bet you'll like it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pets - You Gotta Love 'Em!


What is it about pets that make us get so attached? Is it the unconditional love that they give? Is it the unique personalities that we grow to love? It is the way that they always want to play with us and always seem to have boundless energy? Is it all of the above and more?

Whatever it is, most people treat pets like they are members of the family and love them as such. Tonight was one of those nights when we really felt how much our pets are loved and cherished.

Sarah's mom's boyfriend, Tom, become very ill last November. He ended up in the hospital and knew that it was going to be for a long time, so Mom asked us if we could take care of his 8 year old Dachshund, Wiggles, until Tom was well enough to take her back. Well, Tom didn't get better and passed away in January, so Wiggles became ours to keep. We had already fallen in love with her anyway so it wasn't a hard decision to make her part of the family. Jojo,  our 5 year old miniature pincher,  loves her as well and would have been lost without her.

Jojo and Wiggles are complete opposites. Picture the characters in the Winnie the Pooh movies and you'll have a good idea of the personalities of our two wonderful dogs. Jojo is like Tigger, always bouncing around and hyper. Wiggles, like Eeyore, moves around slowly and is never in a hurry to go anywhere. Jojo always has to be front and center while Wiggles is just as content to go back into the bedroom and crawl under the covers all day long.

That leads us to our problem this evening. I was getting ready for bed when I casually asked Sarah where Wiggles was. We had seen her earlier this evening but hadn't seen her in a couple of hours. Since she is quiet, though, that wouldn't necessarily mean anything. After calling for her and unsuccessfully checking in all of the other rooms of the house, we came to the conclusion that she was gone. She must have slipped out  when some visitors left earlier and we hadn't noticed. Sarah and I quickly got dressed and went to look for her. Poor Joshua was in a panic thinking she had run away or gotten hit by a car and Jacob and John Allen were worried as well. Fortunately it didn't take long to find her. She had just wandered down the street a bit. Her short little legs didn't get her very far. We were all very thankful and it made me realize, again, how much we love our pets.

We are praising the Lord for our found Wiggles. All is well in the house again. What about you? Do you have any lost pet stories or stories about when you first realized how much you love a particular pet? Leave us a comment below and share your pet story.

Before you do, however, enjoy these pictures of our beloved pets, Jojo and Wiggles.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My 5k Running Journey - I Made it Through Prep Week!

Well, if I must say so myself, this 54 year old body did pretty good for the prep week of training.
If you recall, last week I read a blog post written by "The Unprepared Father" titled Training for a 5k- Preparation Stage (click on the link to read it) and decided that I wanted to give it a try. I used to run when I was a teen and enjoyed it and had dreamed of possibly doing it again. After reading the article I thought that now was the time.
So I began with the prep stage. The first week, all he suggested was walking for 20 minutes a day. That seemed simple enough. I had been walking all last summer and autumn around the low income housing area where we minister but hadn't been able to walk in about three or four months so I thought that walking would be a good way to start training. I was worried that I might get a little out of breath and tired, but I was pleasantly surprised. It almost seemed like I had never stopped walking and was just picking up where I left off. The only side effect was being a little sore.
So, the next day I went out and did it again. This time I was able to go a little further in the 20 minutes. I actually felt pretty good. It was easy to keep track of how fast and how far I was going using a free app on my phone called "Map My Walk". The fact that we were visiting my mother-in-law and she lives on a loop that is almost exactly 1/5 of a mile helped a lot as well.
Then, on the third day it happened. After the first lap, I felt like running. "But that's not in the plan!" I thought. I resisted it for a lap but couldn't resist on the third lap so I began to jog. I would jog one lap then walk one lap. I did that for the next three days and it was great. Did I get a little winded? Sure, but each day I got a little better.
We took a day trip to The Great Smokey Mountain National Park (see "Cades Cove and Pigeon Forge With Three Unique and Crazy Boys") so I took a day off from my run/walk schedule. Then on Sunday I was only able to do about a 30 minute walk so today I got back on schedule.
It is tough being back home. The loop where mom lives is pretty level. Around here, however, there are a lot of hills. Especially on the route that I took. Plus, I didn't have the convenience of a measured lap to run one round and walk the next. "The Unprepared Father's" plan for the first real week was to run for three minutes and then walk for two minutes and do that three times. The fourth time you can just walk the rest of the way to complete your 20 minutes. Let me tell you, by the end of the 20 minutes I was tired.
It's going to be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. I may have to consider another route that is more level. I am going to keep on going though. I have been looking for a 5k to enter in about eight or nine weeks. Any suggestions? I'll let you know what happens in the second week of my training next Monday. Until then - Happy Running!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Scripture Sunday - The Tongue

James 3:3-10
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
I've been thinking a lot about the tongue lately. As the verses above say, the tongue can be an evil thing or it can be a blessed thing. Sarah and I have been blessed and encouraged by the words of others, and, I would hope and pray that others have been encouraged  by what we say as well.
Unfortunately, we have also experienced the evil side of peoples tongues and, yes, I am ashamed to say, God has convicted us when we have been on the giving end of hurtful feelings caused by our own tongues. 
I have begun writing a series of blog posts about gossip and its dangers. I plan to include how we can be healed from the hurt of gossip and how we can be forgiven if we have hurt others. For now, though, since this is Scripture Sunday, I am going to let the verses above stand for themselves and allow God to speak to you and say whatever needs to be said. That's the way it should be anyway. Man's words can never top God's words.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cades Cove and Pigeon Forge With Three Unique and Crazy Boys

We are very blessed to have Sarah's mom live close to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Oak Ridge is a unique town in and of itself, but is also very close to Knoxville and, of course, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the tourist towns near to it.

We love going to the Smokeys, especially to Cades Cove and today was a beautiful day to go. It also was a day ripe with opportunity for each one of the boys to show their unique personalities and their favorite things.

Joshua went through a short stage where he was fascinated with cemeteries - especially old cemeteries. Well, he has since moved on to other fascinations, but, as with most aspergers kids, once they've had an interest in something, the interest never totally goes away. We've explored the old graveyards in the cove before, but, today, he wanted to stop by one again. No one else wanted to explore, so it was a great occasion for just Joshua and me to spend some time together. I was amazed at the little things he remembers. As we were walking he mentioned that one of the graves up ahead has a picture of the person buried there on the grave marker. Sure enough, a few steps more and we saw it. He was very pensive and a bit sad as we looked at the head stones. He seemed to spot every marker where a child was buried. One section was especially somber as there were two tombstones side by side. One was for a baby girl born in September of 1916 and died two months later in November. The other was for a baby boy, brother of the little girl. He was born October of 1917 and died January 1, 1918. Two years in a row a mother gave birth to a baby only to lose the child a few months later.  Joshua and I had an interesting discussion about how hard life was back in those times for people who lived in the cove. It wasn't necessarily a depressing and morbid time that we spent walking, just a time for each of us to be together and reflect together. It was a good and special time.


A few miles further down the road we stopped at one of our favorite places - The Cades Cove Visitors Center. Although we knew it was Saturday, we had forgotten how much weekend activity there is at this beautiful spot that contains an old mill, forge, a settlers cabin and other historic buildings as well as the Visitors Center and shop. Today they were also having a lot of demonstrations and nature classes. We were blessed to make it just in time for the "WILD Program" which is a short talk on the wild things in the park. First a ranger talked about what the National Park Service was all about then another ranger set out several pelts and furs from animals found in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. As she talked about each animal and pelt, all three boys were fascinated (as was I) but Jacob was especially enthralled. He is our resident animal enthusiast. Afterward, the ranger invited us up to touch the furs and ask questions. We were even permitted to try on the fox fur which, although from the park, was almost 100 years old and originally made to be a ladies stole. Later, Jacob wanted me to ask one of the workers how to become a National Park Ranger and then I bought a Junior Ranger Program book from the shop so that he could work on the requirements to become a Junior Ranger. Hmm. . .my son the National Park Ranger. . .I kind of like the sound of that.

As we were finishing the Cades Cove Loop the topic of discussion turned to what to do next. The day was still young so we decided to drive through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. When we mentioned Pigeon Forge, John Allen's ears perked up. Somehow, John Allen has become a fan of the Animal Planet television show "Tanked" where a group of aquarium builders are hired by different individuals or businesses to build a custom aquarium. John Allen remembered one show in particular where they were hired to build a special fish tank for the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge and asked if we could stop by. So, off we went trying to find the dinner theater. We drove through part of Pigeon Forge and then Gatlinburg and finally decided to look the address up on my phone and plug it into the GPS. Soon, amongst great excitement from the boys, we arrived. The outside is fascinating by itself with live animals, porches with rocking chairs, and an outhouse that talks to you as you look in, but, then, you arrive in the lobby/gift shop area, and there stands the tank. It is shaped as a giant moonshine jug. All three, but especially John Allen, were thrilled to actually see a tank that was designed and built by the Tanked builders. Hey, I even thought it was pretty cool!

So, how much did this fun filled day cost? Well, outside of the gas and the picnic lunch that we bought at a grocery store, it was absolutely free. NO! I take that back. I spent $2.50 on Jacob's Junior Ranger book. So, there you have it - $2.50! I think it was money well spent for a great day with Grandma, Sarah, and especially our Three Unique and Crazy Boys.

If you want to find out more about any of the places we visited and make some memories with your unique and crazy kids just click on the highlighted links above.
Have fun and leave a comment to tell me all about your special time!
I've linked up with
Mama's Happy Hive

Please click the above link and check them out!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Photo Friday - God's Missionaries

Jacob was singing away today while playing a game and grandma jokingly told him to "keep your day job". Jacob, without hesitation, responded, "Grandma, telling people about God is my day job".
That really touched my heart when I heard that. That is the lifestyle that I want my children to live. I want them to see Sarah and I sharing Christ with our lives and I want them to share Christ with their lives.
It reminded me of the above picture that Sarah snapped last year when we were passing out bread. From time to time we will receive pallets of bread to pass out in the low income area where we minister. We usually spread it out on tables, bag it up, load it up in our van and hand deliver it to people's homes. Our whole family gets involved and it helps people to get to know us and for us to get to know them.
When we saw the picture we thought that it represented perfectly what our family was - a missionary family. Not a couple who are missionaries with three boys, but a missionary family.
God's missionary family. That's what we want to be.