Category Archives: Activities

Khan Academy – A Great Learning Resource!

If you’re like me, you’ve found that nearly the whole summer break has passed, and you pretty much forgot about any plans you made to help your kids keep up with the new skills they learned during their past school year. Between summer trips, camps, VBS, sleepovers, library trips, and finding a way to keep out of the heat, homework and study time was left far behind.

My husband mentioned to me a website that a friend of ours recommended, Khan Academy, especially for helping kids obtain or keep remedial math skills. I signed up through my Facebook, just to check it out … and was hugely impressed! First of all, it’s free. And I was able to create an account for each of my kids. They chose their user name, and chose a math “mission” for their respective grade level, which leads them through quizzes and questions that takes them through a well-rounded series of lessons. If there is anything they don’t understand, they can click on a short tutorial video to teach them that particular skill.

When they complete a certain number of minutes or lessons in math, I let them click on one of the other areas. (Computer animation is a favorite for all of them. It’s a series of videos, which show how math, geometry, and similar skills can be used in real life … and fun stuff like creating Pixar animation!)

At the end of the week, I received an email that told me what my kids had been up to on their missions at Khan Academy. At a glance, I could see how many minutes they had spent on the website, how many points they had gained, and how many minutes and questions for each area (such as “rational number word problems” or “multiply two-digit numbers”).

With just a few weeks before school begins, Khan Academy is a great way to help kids recall math skills they might have forgotten over the summer, and give them a head start in learning new concepts. And have fun all the while!

My 11-year-old daughter, Jessica commented, “It’s really fun. While doing homework, you can also build up your avatar and score more points. Plus math isn’t the only thing to do there. There are a bunch of other subjects. My favorite is computer art with Pixar.”

My nine-year-old son, Allen, said, “I like the math and I also like the avatar thing. And one of the things I especially like is the computer art and that I get to watch things on the website.”


Eleven Alternatives to “Pokemon Go” … Stimulate Your Child’s Summer

child taking a picture

Child taking a photo at a museum.

Maybe you have time limits to your kids’ screen time and all you hear is, “But Mom (or Dad), there’s nothing ELSE to do!”

Maybe you don’t want your seven-year-old running across space, dodging vehicles, and landing in a canal or reservoir on their mad dash for Pokémon Go characters.

Maybe you don’t allow video games in your household.

Maybe your conspiracy radar is going off like a beacon because if Pokémon Go has really been downloaded that many million times and created such an interest … there must be something funny going on and you don’t want your children to be a part of that.

Maybe you just want to do better with the whole parenting thing this summer and seeing your kids with their faces buried in smart phones or tablets doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies.

Here are eleven activities you can do with your children to escape summer blues … and avoid chasing Pikachus.

1. Make cards for friends and relatives … and send them snail mail.

How many relatives, especially elderly ones, can you think of who would love to receive a homemade card in their mailbox?

2. Read a Shakespeare play, or some of his sonnets, aloud and perfect your British accent.

Or Irish accent. Or Western or Southern. You can even memorize a sonnet together and have an accent competition.

3. Make a list of original photos for your child to take.

You could also have a family (or pet) photo shoot with your child as the photographer.

Or a photo scavenger hunt.

4. Write and illustrate a story together.

Let your child run free with imagination and help out in places where he or she gets stuck. You might be surprised with what even the youngest children can come up with.

5. Learn fruit cutting or flower arranging.

You will find plenty of YouTube tutorials to help you get started, and create some great treats or gifts for family or friends.

6. Make chocolate.

Anything goes: bacon chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, orange mint chocolate, cinnamon chocolate.

7. Have a bake sale.

Or a homemade chocolate sale … and raise funds for a favorite organization or ministry.

8. Create a time capsule.

Decide together on what date in the future you will open it.

9. Put together a summertime scrapbook or journal.

Add something to it every day.

10. Create a long-term “bucket list”.

You might or might not have heard of John Goddard. He made a life goal list at 15 years of age, and accomplished over 100 of them. Encourage your children to do the same (and if you don’t have a life goal list, make one yourself!)

11. Start a blog together on a theme you and your child enjoy. 

My 11-year-old daughter loves reading, as do I. This summer, we launched a book review blog, Jewel Rose Reviews, where we hope to publish a review once a week on a book we’ve both read. That way, readers get input from two perspectives: mother and daughter, and Jessica and I get to read, write, and take photos together. All fun stuff!


So there it is. Some ideas to keep you and your kids busy this summer, whether or not you’re playing Pokémon Go. And if you have any tried-and-proven family activities you would like to share with other readers, please leave a comment!

On the Farm “I Spy”

Can you spy 15 sheep among this equipment on the farm?

On the Farm I Spy

Art and concept by Aiden, 6 years old.

Please leave a comment if you’ve found all the sheep (or even if you didn’t). Aiden would be thrilled to hear from you.

The Rocking Chair Project

Rocking chair before fixing it up

Rocking chair before fixing it up

It wasn’t really my idea.

It was my mom’s idea.

Well, it was her chair, actually.

It had been sitting in her backyard for years, probably serving as a perch for some of her plants.

But she was moving it on, and asked if I wanted it before she placed it on freecycle.

Of course I did! I pictured sanding it down and letting my husband varnish it and do the finishing touches.

Then I had a second thought.

What about turning it into a summer project with my daughter?

I knew she’d be more than happy to help.

And she was.

She claimed the seating area as hers to work on.

Sanding in the sun

Sanding in the sun

I showed her how to sand it down as we spent a couple sessions sanding.

Then I showed her that steel wool is similar to sandpaper, in that you still have to follow the grain of the wood as you smooth it down.

The wood burning was my mom’s idea too, and, as Jessica couldn’t help with that part, she had a blast taking pictures of me as I worked on it.

Her favorite part was “painting” the chair with shellac.

After it dried, we smoothed it down one last time with steel wool and brushed it with a second coat.

We presented it to my husband upon his return and she cheerfully informed her dad that she had done part of it “all by herself.”

Painting the rocking chair

Painting the rocking chair

I knew that letting her help with it had been the right decision.

I asked her, a few days later, if she learned anything interesting from the project. “Make sure you know which way the wind is blowing before you start to sand.”

Hey, you never know when information like that might come in handy.

The finished product on our balcony

The finished product on our balcony

Choose Togetherness

Choose Togetherness

Lasting Impressions

Lasting Impressions

Point to the Stars

point to the stars

Singing, a Joy of Christmas

Singing, a Joy of Christmas

The Joy of Giving

The Joy of Giving

Togetherness Moments

Red Ornament on snowy Christmas tree