Read to Succeed {Earn FREE Tickets to Six Flags}

Reading is a huge part of each school day, but the kiddos love to read on their own, too. Once the twins become a part of the story they are reading they can’t put it down. And, Julia? Well, she can devour a book in one afternoon, just like her mama! Josh isn’t quite reading chapter books yet, but he reads everything in sight and loves to sit and read short stories to his younger brothers.

Read to Succeed is a free educational program sponsored by Six Flags to inspire kids in grades K through 6 to engage in recreational reading. Children who complete six hours of recreational, nonschool-related reading are eligible to earn a free admission ticket to a participating Six Flags theme park. Even homeschooled kids are eligible! You can even earn a 20% discount in the Discovery Education Store through June 30, 2011.

To build your kiddos” enthusiasm for reading throughout the program, you can visit for resources, family activities and more.

Happy Reading!

This is NOT a sponsored post. It is my goal here at From Dates to Diapers to bring all of my valuable information… I know my homeschooling friends will especially appreciate this one!

Play and Learn

I have many fond memories of this time of the year, growing up…. With so many family gatherings and school group activities, we were much busier than usual. Because of the hustle and bustle, it seemed we took many days off of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sure, we were still learning, but they were days spent baking, visiting family and friends, shopping and preparing for these special days of celebration.

This is just a fact I now have to embrace as I struggle with trying to get everything done this month – December is a busy month. And just as my Mom made up for our lack of full bookwork-laden school days, I am trying to make up for them with my kids, guilt-free.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been introduced to some great resources for helping to keep my children’s minds active when I may be busy addressing Christmas cards or we’re waiting for the cookies to bake. Instead of making myself feel guilty for the many days in December when the book learning gets pushed aside, I set my kids (yes, even the younger ones) up at the computer, or with some great books, when we’re not busy with Christmas festivities.

Here are some great sites and book series in my arsenal for such days :: :: DreamBox Learning K-2 Math is a solid math curriculum wrapped in fun web-based adventures that my kids love. With individually-tailored instructions, my kiddos are learning without even realizing it! Sign your kiddos up for a free trial now and you’ll see what I mean! :: One More Story is an online library of some fun classic and contemporary children’s literature. The site doesn’t replace “real” books, but it is perfect for times when I’m busy. The great thing about One More Story is that it can be utilized by both pre-readers and early readers, which means it’s perfect for most of my kiddos. Josh and Ben can choose a book, see the illustrations and have the book read to them, while the I Can Read It mode allows Julia to mute the sound, but lets her click on an unfamiliar word to hear that word spoken by the narrator. This site provides a great way for my kiddos to independently explore literature. :: My oldest three kiddos are big fans of Big IQ Kids, as am I. What I like about it is that it supplements our regular lessons perfectly. We happen to be learning about the geography of the United States and at Time 4 Learning they can brush up on their knowledge of the states. In addition to U.S. Geography, Math, and Vocabulary, I can add their spelling words (or use the words already included) for extra practice, so they’re ready for their test at the end of the week. They get in some study time and I get time to get some presents wrapped – Now that’s a win-win!

First Encyclopedia of the Human Body :: The human body is most certainly a fascinating study, and one in which all of my children are quite captivated by. The simple text, stunning photographs, detailed illustrations and fun activities are perfect for my kiddos to explore all on their own, although I’ve also used this book as part of our formal lessons, as well. My kiddos never tire of learning about the wonders of the human body, but the First Encyclopedia of the Human Body certainly adds to their enjoyment.

Junior’s Adventures Books, by Dave Ramsey :: These books are so much fun and all of my kids enjoy them, especially Josh. Just yesterday I found him all snuggled up on the couch, with one book in his hands and the rest of the set scattered around him… so cute! Anyway, my older three have learned a few valuable lessons from Junior’s Adventures; lessons they have actually begun to put in to practice. Lessons about saving money, giving to others, and budgeting – all on a level they understand fully.

Are there any sites or books that you think I should check out? What do you do to keep your kiddos’ brains busy while you are?

Benefited Review

A Great Start

My kiddos were eager to start lessons again and we’ve now almost completed our second week back at school. I must say that if we can maintain the momentum with which we began, this year will be lovely!

school supplies I’d like to think that my children’s eagerness to get back to school was due to the fact that they love to learn, but I’m afraid it was more because their neighborhood friends began to disappear every day. At any rate, I’m hoping and praying that this enthusiasm will continue throughout the entire year as we memorize Scripture and as some of my kiddos learn the sounds of the letters, while others study fractions and explore how the human body functions.

Now, I’m not much of a list-maker, but I’ve always benefited by writing out my goals for a new year, whether it’s a new school year or a new calendar year. While my number one goal as a teacher is to instill a love of learning, there are many things I resolve to do every day to accomplish this goal and I’ve managed to keep my “school year’s resolutions”… I know that today only marks the eighth day of our school year, with many days left to go, but it is certainly a good start, right?

One thing I need to work on is encouragement. I suppose encouragement can show itself in many forms ::

  • Helping the kids through a rough problem, while ensuring them that they can indeed do it
  • Providing opportunities for them to excel in an area of interest
  • Allowing ways for them to encourage and uplift each other

Whatever form it takes, I need to remind myself that my kiddos need my encouragement, no matter how difficult it may seem at the moment.

There are so many great things in store for us this year…. I’m exhausted just thinking about it all! To stay refreshed and rejuvinated, I’ve finally connected with other homeschool families in our community, which was something my kids and I really need this year. We now plan to go on some fun field trips with this new group, connect with old friends who homeschool, and continue to learn about life and the world around us.

I am so excited!

Going back to school is an exciting, fun and sometimes, hectic time. To calm the butterflies and build your kids’ confidence, Hallmark has put together this great resource to encourage moms like you. Just for sharing a bit of advice, you’ll be entered to win a prize package valued at $500… Check it out!

You can also win a $50 Hallmark gift card, right here at From Dates to Diapers! Just leave a comment here about your kiddos’ first day, week or month of school. I would love to hear about any fun traditions you may have started this year. You may receive additional entries (up to one per day) by tweeting a link to this giveaway, using the hashtag #D2Dgvwy. Be sure you leave me a separate comment for each tweet. A winner will be chosen, and contacted via email, on September 30th.

This post and giveaway are sponsored by Hallmark. The views and opinions are mine.

A New School Year Has Begun

We made it through our first day back at school.

How’d we do?

Well, I only raised my voice a few times, but never in anger. The computer and telephone remained off during lessons, and we finished everything on today’s agenda. Well, everything we finished went on today’s agenda. wink, wink

My kiddos did so well.

I took joy in teaching them.

It was a good day.

Tips for Teaching a Middle Schooler at Home

For those who don’t know me I’m Tonya and a friend of Christine’s.  While Christine is off having a much deserved vacation, I’m one of the lucky bloggers who she asked to write a guest post.   I was a little stumped as to what I should write about at first, but then I got to thinking about what Christine and I have in common.  We both have twins and we both homeschool.

So I decided to go with a post about homeschooling.  I thought I’d offer up a few tips that I’ve learned in the hope of helping others who are considering homeschooling too.

Although my 13 year old son went to a combination of private and public schools until he began 7th grade, we decided that homeschooling was going to be the best approach for him for at least the remainder of Middle School (Jr. High) and possibly High School too.  We learned very quickly that moving a child from a traditional school into homeschooling was going to be quite a challenge.  He thought he was on vacation, we insisted that he in fact wasn’t.

So here are my 5 tips on helping your homeschooler and you survive the school year.


Have your child get up at the same time each morning and go through a normal routine as if they were going to a traditional school – so breakfast, shower, morning chores and getting dressed.  This helps to establish a routine and start them off in a mindset ready for their school day.  Let them know what their day will consist of.  Make sure that their work environment is clear from distractions (such as video games and television) and they have everything available that they will need such as stationery supplies and paper.


Just because you are homeschooling doesn’t mean that field trips aren’t important.  They are beneficial.  Whether you choose to visit museums, art galleries, a farm, the beach or the dessert, hands-0n activities can be very educational and make learning fun.  Here’s an idea:  if you are heading off on a hike, give them a trail map and have them identify things along the way such as insects and plants.  Maybe the could take some time to sketch what they see or you could take photographs so they can look up each thing they have found when they get home and do a report about it.


One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you are able to add more time for art and physical education into your child’s schedule.  Unfortunately too many public schools in the U.S. are cutting back on these fundamental learning experiences.  Have your child hand make greeting cards that your family can use throughout the year, maybe writing a little poetry for some and paint masterpieces on butcher paper that you can wrap gifts in.  Take them outside to build things like this or keep an eye on sites such as The Crafty Crow for a plethora of crafts for all age groups.  For physical education take them on hikes, ride bikes, go to the beach for some boogie boarding fun, or have them join a sports team.


Get your homeschooler involved in volunteering.  Not only will your child be contributing to helping a local organization and people in their community, but it will give your (older) child work experience and job skills.  Here are a few links to get you started.


I feel that it is imperative that homeschooled children maintain friendships.  They spend a great deal of time in solitude studying, however they still need to communicate and play with children their own age.  Organize play dates or get them involved in groups, whether it be scouts, church groups, sports programs or extra classes outside of the home.  Seek out other homeschooling families in your area for field trips or study groups.  It will help their social skills.

You can learn more about me and my family over at my primary blog A day in my life …