Stress Therapy

We have a lot going on at the Simmons house these days. We’re still trying to settle into the new house, homeschool, work through our Alternative Certifications and find jobs for the fall. Needless to say, I’ve been stressed.

What do you do to relieve stress? One of my favorite stress relieving activities is pen and ink drawing. I don’t know why inking a drawing is so relaxing to me but it takes me to a place of calm.

This is a drawing that I’ve been working on for some time now. I pulled it out again to do a little more inking today.

Doodle Art

I pulled out an old sketchbook to start working on again. How is it that I never quite have time to get a sketchbook finished? Oh if only there were more hours in the day to just doodle.

I observed at a middle school last week that was working on doodle art which, of course, is my absolute favorite kind of art to make. I can remember as a child loving pen & ink when I took art classes. I still love the feel of a great black pen making thick and thin lines.


Georgia O’Keeffe

Today we’re learning about Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful flowers. Any day that we use watercolors is a good day in Layla’s book. To learn about O’Keeffe we read “My Name is Georgia” which is an excellent picture book for kids. Then, we used black oil pastels to make a flower and watercolors to paint them.

One man’s trash …

We haven’t had a coffee table since, well, we had children. However, we are finally past the falling and bumping heads phase so I have been looking everywhere for this coffee table. I’ve looked at garage sales, online and at thrift shops. I’ve looked everywhere for this exact coffee table with no luck at all.

Ok, now I’ll confess to you the real reason I hadn’t found a coffee table – I had in my head that a coffee table wasn’t really worth more than about $30. Seriously I have this problem sometimes. Needless to say, I hadn’t found my perfect $30 coffee table. Apparently other people think they are worth more than that!

Fast forward many month and we’re headed to a playdate with all three kids (in the MINI). We’re running late when I round the corner in my neighborhood and someone had sat MY coffee table out for trash day! Finally someone on the same page as me that knows an all wood coffee table is surely not worth more than $30!


I loaded that baby up and brought it back to the house. The only thing I had to do to it was wipe it down and tighten the screws on each leg so it wouldn’t wobble anymore. And if you are wondering – YES! Three kids and a coffee table will fit in a MINI.

I was in the process of remodeling our bathroom and repainting our cabinets so I used some of the paint to refinish the coffee table. I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in French Linen. I painted two coats of the French Linen paint, sanded the edges to make them look weathered and then used the Annie Sloan Dark Wax.


After the dark wax, I applied a coat of Annie Sloan Clear Wax.

IMG_7595.JPGAnd now one of our favorite new things about homeschooling this year is the fact that we have a coffee table to use for school work. I don’t know why this makes so much of a difference. However, my kids will gladly do school work at the coffee table but balk at sitting at the kitchen table. I guess the kitchen table seems more formal.


I keep a basket under the coffee table with our sketch books, markers, bibles and our free write journals in it for easy accessibility.

Writing a Book Review

When you homeschool it doesn’t take long to find your child’s strengths and weaknesses. While Lex breezes through math he struggles with writing. This year I am trying some new techniques to help Lex in his writing. One of the things that we are doing is working on a book review for each book that he reads. He reads quite a bit and he thought the idea of “being published” was amazingly awesome. One of the best pieces of advice I have for new homeschoolers is to find what works for your child and go with it. What works for Lex usually doesn’t work for Layla and vise versa.

Here are some resources on teaching kids to write a book review.

Book Review Writing Lesson – I think we got the most out of this lesson. It is written in a format that is easy to understand with lots of great examples. I really liked the way they explain the difference in a book review and a book report. I think that may be one of the most important parts of this lesson.

Exploring the Genre of Review Writing – This resource is fantastic though it isn’t just for book reviews. It includes restaurant and movie reviews as well.

Spaghetti Book Club – This website is dedicated to kid’s book reviews written by kids. There are some great examples for all ages to see.

Following is Lex’s first book review of the year. He will be posting more in the weeks to come.



A Child’s Swiss Family Robinson: Beautifully Written Adventure Tale

This adventurous tale of a shipwrecked family stranded on a deserted tropical island was written by Joan Marlow Todd. The 19 chapter book is easy to read with lots of great illustrations. This is an abridged (shortened) version of the popular book Swiss Family Robinson.

The Robinson family was stuck on a big island with lots of fertile crops and trees. The beautiful island has an abundant supply of fruits and many animals that the Robinsons’ used as food. They started to love living on the island. They work together to get off the island but will they?

I like this fantastic novel that ages 7-12 would love to read. I rate it 5 stars but I would rate it 10 if I could.

I recommend this easy chapter book to boys and girls because it gives a great example of family time together. If you would like to read it too, you can check it out at your library or buy it at A Child’s Swiss Family Robinson or The Swiss Family Robinson (Puffin Classics).

~Lex, age 9


If you would like some creative activities to go along with Swiss Family Robinson check out my pinterest board. I found lots of great literature units, candle making activities, treehouse building and more.

Welcome to the all NEW Sugar Giggles

Friends, I am so excited about getting started on my new blog. I started this blog in 2006 as a way to document the crafts, recipes and scrapbooking projects that I was working on and as a way to let my out-of-town family keep up with us. 2006 (which seems like a million years ago) was before kids which means I had lots more time to blog. Somewhere along the way Facebook came into the picture and took over as my craft diary since it was so much easier to make a quick post.

Now I really want to get back to blogging on a regular basis because of the valuable experiences that I can share with you about our homeschooling journey.

I hope you will join me in our future adventures!

Homeschool Year 2

IMG_7622August brought the start of our second year homeschooling. Honestly I can’t even believe that I am typing that. Our first year was a whirlwind of successes and failures. Most importantly, I feel I learned many years worth in such a short span of time, met more friends than I could have ever imagined and actually learned to love planning for school days. When God was pushing for us to homeschool and I was saying “NO NO NO!” I could never have imagined all the blessings this would have for our family. 

Last year I researched for months, bought tons of workbook-type curriculums that greatly resembled what public school education looked like to me, and started with a vision that my children would absolutely love the days of working through these workbooks. I laugh now because I have talked to so many first year homeschoolers that did the same thing.  We spent many days of me pointing fingers and telling my kids to hurry up and finish their workbooks. Until one day I realized that our homeschool didn’t have to look like a classroom at all.

5149+lKO66L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A few months later I read Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace and was forever changed. I will probably read this short book every summer before planning our year. This year our days are peaceful (as peaceful as it can be with a 9, 7, and 4 year old). I threw out most of the workbooks (the only thing we kept was our math) and bought things that would allow me to sit down and work with my kids.

The difference in making them do work and doing work with them has made our homeschooling experience enjoyable again. When they write, I write. When they draw for art, I draw. I read to them. We do the nitty gritty work together and they are loving every minute of it because instead of investing in loads of curriculum I’ve decided to invest in time with them instead. We’ve put the “Hurry up and finish!” behind us and moved on to the “relax and learn”. It makes me happy this year to know that we are learning and not just completing.

First, we do a Morning Basket. This includes some of the things that we do together – like our daily devotion, Bible memory verses and any other family type activities. We also talk about our daily goals so that everyone has a fresh reminder of what is expected of them. This can really be anything. If we’ve had problems with being gentle with each other we might address that or whatever the problem may be. After we do our morning basket together, we move on to our other work.

{Stay tuned for Ridley’s Pre-K curriculum. I’ll post it soon}

We kept our Math Curriculum from last year because it worked so well. Last year my 9 year old did Teaching Textbooks 4 and half of 5. We started where he left off with 5 last year. At the pace he is working we will probably do year 5 and 6 during this school year. This is one of the many reasons I love homeschool. He is a math whiz. In most other subjects he is in 4th grade, but as homeschoolers we are able to go at his pace. My 7 year old started Teaching Textbooks 3 and is also working through Mathematical Reasoning, Level C: Developing Math & Thinking Skills. This book is from Critical Thinking Company and we simply adore it. There are so many critical thinking exercises in these books so we use it as a supplement to TT3.

5120629_origWe are using Cottage Press’ Primer 1  for my 7 year old and Brave Writer’s Partnership Writing and the Arrow for the 9 year old. We absolutely love the Brave Writer lifestyle and have adopted many of it’s practices. Dictation, Nature Study, Free Writing, Poetry Teatimes and Picture Study. I am simply amazed at how much our family has enjoyed this curriculum. Last time we went to the library my 4 year old said “Please don’t forget to get poetry books! We cannot miss Tea Time this week!!”. We also started using this little language book, Language Arts: Grade 2 (Flash Kids Harcourt Family Learning), to reinforce some language concepts that I felt like we weren’t getting enough of in Cottage Press. This book was only $6 and I think we’ve gotten more out of it than any workbook I’ve ever bought. 

Last year science was just a complete bust. The curriculum I bought was just not the right fit for us and it never went well. This year we went with Pandia Press Life and it so far is perfect for teaching to multiple age groups. The kids love the lab work but it isn’t super intensive for me to get together which means it will actually get done. I also bought a Scholastic Human Body book that we use to print out and make models and manipulatives. I ordered it on scholastic’s website and it is in pdf format which makes it super easy. I’ve also found that there are tons of kids health/biology videos on Youtube that are fantastic. Every once in a while I even put Mr. Good Body on. Who else remembers Mr. Good Body??? If you don’t, well, your childhood just wasn’t complete!  

We are also working on an art journal this year. We do two projects each week that include different concepts and projects that I’ve collected for some time now. I’ve found this method to work fantastic for us because everything is contained and the kids can quickly see how much they have accomplished (more to come on this later).

I’m saving the best for last: READING! We are a reading family. Every day each child has a few chapters of a book that is assigned with comprehension questions and a short writing assignment. Below are each child’s book list for this year. This is my 2nd graders first year for larger chapter books so I’m not sure if we’ll get through her list by the end of the school year or not and my 4th grader is a very quick reader so we may end up adding more to his list.

2nd Grade Reading List

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Sarah, Plain and Tall 30th Anniversary Edition by Patricia MacLachlan

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Stuart Little by E. B. White

The Trumpet of the Swan (full color) by E. B. White

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

4th Grade Reading List

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha by Lloyd Alexander

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Amazon Classics Edition)by Mark Twain

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow (Living History Library) by Allen French

The Swiss Family Robinson (Puffin Classics) by Johann Wyss

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Cheaper by the Dozen (Perennial Classics) by Fran B. Gilbreth, Jr.

The Twenty-One Balloons (Puffin Modern Classics) by William Pene du Boise

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling


Stay tuned for more frequent updates on our homeschool progress.



Life often gets complicated when you have 3 little monkeys running around you all day, and blogs get shoved to the side and not updated. I'm working on a plan to update more often, hopefully with some helpful free downloads. This year we've had many changes in our family but the biggest has been our decision to homeschool our children. We are at week 9 and I honestly can't believe I'm saying this but I hope they never have to go back to "real school" as they like to call it. They are flourishing and learning and I've enjoyed every moment with them at home. And honestly I’ve learned a lot too on this journey. I’ve learned that I spend way too much time on my computer and not nearly enough time in my bible. I’ve learned that sometimes just sitting with your daughter on the couch can completely make her day. I’ve learned that a messy house means it’s lived in. I’ve also learned that planning and scheduling can lead to joy. 


Now I'm not going to say homeschooling is easy – it is anything but easy. I spend hours each week planning the perfect lessons for them. Sometimes it works and sometimes we just throw it out the window and start over. We read crazy amounts of books. We study our bibles. We make art and listen to music. We watch documentaries and we play. We play a lot! 

Now for the truth. My house is usually a mess. My laundry is hardly ever caught up. I often forget to respond to emails and text. When I go to the grocery store there are normally three kids with me that typically don’t want to be there. I seldomly get a break except on weekends when my husband is home. And occasionally I hide in the closet just to get away for a minute. And even more truth – I know that God called our family to homeschool and I know that I am right were he wants me to be, even on the days when hiding in the closet seems like my only escape. I can remember many years ago my Mom telling me that in some of her darkest moments she went to her closet to pray. 

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  Matthew 6:6

How often do we really go into the darkness of our closets and call out to Jesus? I don’t do it often enough. Turn everything off around you and really call out to Jesus and you might be surprised to hear his voice very clearly.

This week I am trying much harder to be present in my home. I’ve turned off Facebook (If you can’t seem to do it yourself try the SelfControl app). I’ve put my phone down. I’ve tried to listen more to what my kids are actually saying and I’ve played when I really didn’t want to play. What are you doing to be more present with those around you?


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