Category Archives: Newsletter

Back to School

You can find out more about Todd, Debbie, his eight children, their RV, and ministry at

For the record… I hate back to school days. As soon as I see the first art box display at Wal-Mart I get a pit in my stomach and have the urge to scream and bolt out of the store. It doesn’t help when they start

showing up in center aisles right after the Fourth of July.

Schools around here are starting earlier and earlier. In fact, my mother just told me that the local school where I attended as a kid started around the first couple days of August.

It makes me want to take legal action against the state for cruelty to children and parents. Of course parents are the reason they go back to school so early. Schools serve as free day care and the sooner they get back in the sooner they don’t have to worry about them.

Ahhh… the joy of homeschooling where we can start the “official” part of school whenever we want knowing we cover more in a half a day that most institutional schools can cover in THREE days.

SCREEECHHHHH… (record needle sound)

So why for the love of MIKE are we homeschoolers starting so EARLY??!! I have a “friend” who started on August 1st!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, she means well. She counts back using her 180-day calculator, subtracting the days off for “non-school stuff” and the bottom line is that they had to start on August 1st. I don’t mean to be harsh… but she should be arrested for cruelty to children, her husband, and herself!!!

The thing is she can count everyday as a school day!!! Her children learn more on the non-book-days than they ever learn on a book-day. “Real” schools have non-book days all the time. They have pep-days, field days, and spend most of their days wasting time herding children.

Whew, I’m breathless! OK, calm down, Todd. Breathe…

Here’s the deal, Mom. Summer is not over, school can wait, and you’re cheating yourself and your children out of some eternal memories if you start too soon. Now, I’m not telling you WHEN to start (you’re a homeschooler and can start when you decide to start). But I know the state of Michigan won’t let their schools start until after Labor Day. I’ve always liked Michigan for that.

Besides, you still have at least one more Adventure to attempt.


P.S. – Need more help in smiling? Join us over at The Smiling Homeschooler Facebook page, website, or podcast. We want to see YOU and your children smile more this coming year, and we aim to help you.

Waste Not, Want Not Continued…

Uncle Salty is retired and spends a lot of time on and around the water. He goes fishing every chance he gets. He loves his wife and he is the proud dad to 3 children and granddad to 4 beautiful grandchildren. You can write to Uncle Salty at

Last week we started talking about how our grandparents were able to pull off the impossible. They taught our parents and helped us learn respect for people and the things around us.

The times are changing and now organic gardening, cooking, saving, repairing, reusing, recycling, conserving, and caring for our things and our surroundings is becoming increasingly necessary (and popular) for our environment and our finances.

We can’t go back to the old days, but there are some things we can do to help our children appreciate and respect the people and things around them. Here are a few ideas in no specific order:

  • Try taking on a few projects with your children instead of paying to have them done for you. Tear apart and fix something together. Get dirty. It’s fun!
  • Plant a vegetable garden together. Cook together!
  • Consider what some of the things you commonly throw away can be reused for. Brainstorm together. Reuse a few things.
  • Make family time a priority even if it’s difficult. Keep time set aside regularly. Eat meals together.
  • If you can personally live with it, allow your children the privilege of owning and caring for a pet.
  • Be a good listener. When a person is truly heard, it tells the person who is talking that they are important.
  • Teach your children to value hard work. If they have a good work ethic they will always be able to take care of themselves.
  • Grandparents have so much to share! Make sure to visit your grandparents and parents (their grandparents) often. They are learning from you when you do this. When your children grow up you are going to want them to visit you, right? Encourage outings with grandparents so your children can develop strong relationships and learn from them.
  • Consider making birthday and Christmas gifts from things you already have around the house instead of buying them. Make craft time a family time.
  • Try catching your dinner and preparing the meal together!
  • Hike and walk together and enjoy this beautiful country. It’s hard for our children to respect and appreciate what they haven’t seen or interacted with.
  • Explain why caring for other people is important. Visit the elderly together. Encourage them to engage in community service.
  • Also, as important, is to encourage them to volunteer in a state or National park and take the ranger classes. Our public lands and natural resources cannot be easily replaced once they are damaged.
  • Mirror the importance of taking good care of your things and our public resources by doing it yourself and inviting your children to help.

I love the signs that we see in our National Parks and National Forests. “If You Pack It, Then You Pack It Out. Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints.”

Our parents put in what they got out of everything: the things they owned, the land, and most importantly their relationships. Here’s the take away: Give your children yourself and your time. Do things with them and listen to them. Your children will learn from you – you are their window into understanding what’s important. Waste not, want not.

Put that fishing outing on your calendar and repeat it often. Yes, it is more work if you use live bait but worth it. Have fun and keep your bait wet!

Uncle Salty

Smart Gardener, Smart Water

Award-winning author D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children.
It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside,
and get digging.

We’ve all heard that water is crucial to our health, not to mention the health of the planet. But what are the best ways to conserve water in a home garden—ones that will actually make a difference? I mean, we can live without flowers and grass, but our fruits and vegetables need water to thrive (so that we may survive)!

Water Conservation Methods

Drip irrigation systems, compost, and mulch are the first line of defense in the garden when it comes to water conservation. Drip irrigation focu

ses water where it’s needed—a plant’s root system—so it won’t be lost to evaporation. Compost retains water while mulch assists in keeping it moist by preventing the sun rays from penetrating.

Compost can be created at home by combining old leaves and kitchen scraps. Mulch can be composed of pine bark or straw, black and white newspaper or cardboard, hay, or old leaves. You can also buy weed mats that provide the same benefits.

Know When to Water

Watering only when your plants need water and not according to a regular schedule plays an important role in conservation. In fact, not only does it save on water, but watering deeply and less often helps your plants develop stronger root systems. Another way to save is by watering in the early morning hours as opposed to middle of the day. This way, your plants can soak up every drop of water without competing with wind and sunlight. Morning is preferred over evening to limit the development of fungal diseases.

Make a Rain Barrel to Save Water

Rain barrels are another great way to conserve water and they’re super easy to make—especially if you have downspouts on your home from a gutter. First, you’ll need to find your barrel. You can purchase an empty barrel or make one from a plastic trash can. Next, you’ll need a spigot and a drill. The rest is simple. Drill a hole at the base of your barrel; size will depend on your spigot. Insert spigot. If the seal around your spigot isn’t extremely tight, you can use heavy-duty waterproof tape to seal it in the barrel.

If using a downspout from your home, place the barrel beneath the downspout so that water will dump directly into your barrel. If it’s an open trash can, this step is the last! If your barrel has a lid, you’ll need to drill holes in the surface area so that rain can penetrate the barrel. That’s it!

Tip: Place your barrel on an elevated surface so that you have ample room to collect your rainwater from the spigot.

New Study about Struggling Readers

Liz Sedley, the creator of Dyslexia Gold, a suite of neuroscience based computer programs to help your dyslexic child read, write and spell. Liz has 3 children with combinations of Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Aspergers. She spent 10 years researching these conditions, and what caused them, before creating her first computer program to help her daughter to read. She’s now created 4 programs to help children with dyslexia, and is very proud to say they all get fantastic results.

The latest study found that 98% of struggling readers have poor eye convergence. This means they can’t focus both eyes on the same letter and don’t ‘track’ across the page.

When we read, our eyes track across the page, from word to word. When struggling readers read, their eyes jump around the page, with both eyes looking at different letters. This makes reading almost impossible and causes eye strain/headaches.

When children with poor convergence read, each eye looks at a different letter. This may make words look blurry or letters appear to move as the brain alternates between images.

Students with poor convergence will find spelling hard. They don’t see the letters clearly when they read, so they can’t visualize the word later.

Comprehension is also difficult. Their brain is overloaded, trying to decipher what is seen. There’s very little processing power left to remember or understand it.

Poor convergence also causes erratic eye movements. Eyes wobble when reading, so they can’t track smoothly across the page.

How would you know if your child has poor eye convergence?

Children with poor convergence may:

  • Reverse ‘b’s and ‘d’s

  • Skip lines and words

  • Say that the letters move or are blurry

  • Read slowly

  • Have poor spelling

  • Have difficulty copying

  • Refuse to read out loud

  • Not understand what they have read

  • Get tired, headaches or sore eyes from reading

  • Need coloured overlays to read

Dyslexia Gold’s latest research tested eye convergence in children who are behind in reading. The results clearly show that this problem is widespread amongst struggling readers – 98% of them could not converge their eyes.

The great news is: eyes can be trained to converge using daily exercises. Dyslexia Gold has created an online program specifically designed for this called Engaging Eyes. Pupils play for 10 minutes a day for a few months.

The History of Our Nation’s Independence

This country, the greatest on earth, enables its citizens to live freely under certain guidelines of law. However, those of us who live in the twenty-first century often forget the lives that those American soldiers gave up in order to pass on that freedom to our generation. As we approach the anniversary of our nation’s independence, we ought to remember those who put their lives into the hands of their enemies in order to save this country. Since they sacrificed so much for us, it is only reasonable that we take time to teach ourselves and others about the history of our nation’s independence and the utter importance of keeping this country free.

After the new world was colonized, the pilgrims had little governmental regulations. When the French and Indian War ended in 1763, however, unpopular British policies began to plague this new country. Here is a list of things that spurred on the War for Independence and eventually brought about freedom in our nation:

  • In February of 1763, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the British still continued to fight Indian rebellions. As a result of the costliness of these wars, Britain imposed taxes and produced other regulations that began to anger the colonists.
  • The following year, the British passed the Grenville Acts and the Currency Act. These aimed to raise revenue owed from the French and Indian War and prohibited the colonies from issuing paper currency respectively.
  • In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which greatly angered colonists. This new act was the first direct tax placed on the colonies. By the end of the year, the citizens of the states utterly refused to use and purchase stamps, which stopped business almost entirely.
  • Next year, the Stamp Act was repealed, and the colonists continued to fight against other unpopular acts.
  • 1767 was the year in which the Townshend Acts were passed. These produced many more regulations which further angered the colonists.
  • In 1768, Samuel Adams and the Massachusetts Assembly sent a letter to the British Parliament protesting the Townshend Acts, and many other legislative assemblies promoted it also. However, Parliament continued to enforce their acts of taxation.
  • In March of 1770, the infamous Boston Massacre occurred. This action was later held as propaganda against the British government with the death of five colonists and the injury of six.
  • Later, in 1773, the angered colonists reacted by dumping a shipment of tea into the harbor, also known as the Boston Tea Party.
  • In 1774 and 1775, more and more actions of Britain angered the colonists. These events were at a climax when Patrick Henry said in his famous speech, “give me liberty or give me death!”

As you can see, these events would anger anyone under the authority of a government. The colonists of the New World knew what was going on would eventually lead to more aggravation and injury. In order to protect the rights of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, those who lived in the new-found land of America followed the path they believed to be right, even when those who had power over them were not. As we celebrate Independence Day, never forget from what you have been made free, and always remember to fight for those freedoms which cost the lives of so many Americans in years past.

Happy Independence Day! We at EverBright Learning wish you and your family a happy and blessed Independence Day! We’ll return to you next week with more educational and inspirational content to assist you through your homeschooling journey.

Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes

Ever wondered how to sun-dry a tomato? I mean, the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes is exquisitely intense, wonderfully versatile and makes an awesome base for “uncooked” tomato sauce—perfect for anyone living on the raw diet. Until my family and I tried to go “raw” for a week, eating only food that’s uncooked, I never wondered… Read More

How Can You Teach What You Don’t Know?

Here’s a question you are certain to hear during your time homeschooling: “How can parents offer the same level of high quality, single discipline instruction as is available from board certified teachers in the public and private schools?” After coming to terms with my own similar concerns I realized that parents must first overcome their… Read More

Time to Talk Bugs

When growing organically, the job of bug removal can be tricky. While others spritz chemicals from their spray bottle, or toss toxic powder over their garden beds, you refuse such tactics. There’s no way you’re going to add potential hazards to your otherwise healthy garden. Organic methods simply require a bit more creativity when it… Read More

The Educational Benefits of RVing

A little disclaimer: almost from the beginning of this writing assignment I’ve been asked about the learning benefits of RVing as it pertains to homeschooling. Ever since then, I’ve been dancing around the question with the dexterity of a presidential candidate. The truth is, I know what they’re asking… but I don’t like the question…… Read More

Military Mom: How it all started…

“So, what made you join the military?” This is a question I’m often asked. It’s funny; I’ve actually got a HORRIBLE memory, but the day I decided to look into going into the Air Force is one I remember clearly. I had graduated college and had come home to Anchorage, Alaska, where I grew up,… Read More