A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Saturday, July 31, 2010

If I Had It To Do All Over Again

Ever wonder about what you would do differenly if given the chance? Would you be kinder to the kid going through an awkward phase in your high school gym class? Maybe you would spend less time tidying your house and more time rocking your baby. Would you save more for retirement? Or give more to those in need? Major in the majors of life instead of majoring in the minors? Worry less and laugh more?

Since we can't go back and do things over again, the only good that comes from thinking about what we would change if we were able is allowing our "wish-I-coulda's" to alter our reality right now. And that is easier said than done, right?

We have all experienced epic moments in life that cause us to pause and think about what's most important. Every one of us has watched others live their lives in ways that matter - and we've seen people miss the most important stuff by a mile. Human nature lends itself to the envy of those who are getting it right and the urge to knock some sense into those who aren't. The hard part is looking in our own mirror, allowing the Lord to show us what's in our hearts, and trusting Him to lead us along paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

I've got a laundry list of things I wish I had done differently. But I've also got a laundry list of things I'm glad I did "right", thanks to God and His grace working in my life. I'm glad I've been able to homeschool all these years. The time spent with my family has been the best investment I could possibly have made. I'm glad I've taken trips with my family, gotten to know my nieces and nephews, urged my children to try new things, encouraged my husband in both his civilian and military careers, and put aside my own "wants" to meet the "needs" of those around me. When I reflect on my laundry list of things I wish I'd done differently, I hope it pushes me toward the Lord, His Word, and a life lived for the good of others and for God's glory; it's pointless to allow my "shoulda dones" to drive me to a place of useless despair. I can't glorify the Lord if I don't continue to daily press on toward the mark and the prize of my high calling in Christ Jesus my Lord.

Keep focusing on Jesus and enjoying the time you have with your family, even doing the day to day stuff. You really might realize that was the most important stuff after all. It really is worth it - trust me on this, you're doing the right thing by being a mom to your children & by being a wife to your husband, by clinging to Jesus an leaning on His Spirit one day at a time. You may not be able to see it from where you are today, but the day will come when you will see clearly and you will see that if you had it to do all over again, you'd do exactly what you're doing: loving your family as a homeschool mom!

Watch for a special post next week on August 3rd.

Day 35 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel Kits E-book Review


Today's post is a review of an e-book I have recently read entitled, "Travel Kits; A Simple Way to Bless Others", written by Donna Rees. This e-book contains 14 chapters contained neatly in 93 pages & also includes some very nice "Bonus Features"...and let's be honest, EVERY homeschool mom likes "Bonus Features"!!

The topic of this e-book struck a chord with me, probably due to the fact that our large family drives pretty much everywhere we go; but also because I remember receiving a lovely gift from some dear friends a few years ago. Reading Donna's heartfelt words and seeing the pictures of some of her travel kit ideas brought back memories of the special "travel kit" we were blessed to receive. So, my review may be tainted with some personal bias as I can honestly say, it truly is a simple way to bless someone!

In the introduction, Donna discusses the advent of her travel kits: "Car Time"! Homeschool families really do spend a lot of time together - and some of that time is spent in the car. I TOTALLY understand why she came up with this idea! Beyond simply blessing the kids during "car time", the driver of the car will also be blessed. However, Donna did not stop by thinking only of herself and her family; she found ways to bless others with travel kits. She has a short list of reasons to give travel kits as gifts - end of the school year; a family leaving on vacation; birthdays; or simply just to bless another family.

Chapter 1 - "The Basics"
This chapter is an overview. She clearly states that you can read only this chapter and then "skim" over the rest of the e-book and be ready to create some wonderful gifts. As a very busy homeschooling mother of 5 children, I really appreciate having this option! I have been known to dread reading a book or using a curriculum that doesn't allow me to "skim read" if I need to. (I'm pretty sure that a few other homeschool mamas feel the same way!)

"The Basics" chapter covers the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of preparing travel kits.
Some highlights include:
*Each item should be wrapped; all items go into a container that is able to fit in the recipient's vehicle.
*Travel kits can be used for regular drives (orthodontist appointments or while waiting for bis sister at piano lessons) OR for longer drives (vacations, trips to visit relatives or to visit a sibling at college)

Chapter 3 - "The Plan"
One of the key things I learned in this chapter is that the size of the car matters when it comes to travel kits. Don't give "big" travel kits to a family driving in a "small" car. This will only lead to frustration, which defeats the purpose of blessing another family.

I also learned Donna's travel kit philosophy in Chapter 3 - "The less costly the gifts are the more I can buy; and the more gifts there are to open, the happier the children will be!" She also has ideas for stretching your dollars in order to stretch the blessing, such as buying in bulk, utilizing the local dollar store, and wrapping the gifts in leftover fabric from sewing projects. And she lists some of her favorite "toys" - like the Travel Doodle (a mini version of the Magna Doodle) and Fisher Price toys, which are typically durable, portable and often educational.

Further travel kit ideas include kits for Mom and Dad; specific ideas for boys versus girls; unique suggestions for teenagers; she even includes the family pet! Donna also has wonderful ways to build a travel kit around a library book - the end result is both entertaining and inexpensive.

Chapter 4 - "The Presentation and Distribution"
Here I learned how and when to hand out the gifts. Now, before you roll your eyes and think, "How hard can it be to hand out the gifts? You just hand them out, DUH!" let me inform you that Donna has some truly fun and creative ideas for this. I'm not going to tell you everything that's in the e-book, of course, but trust me on this one - she has thought of EVERYTHING to make these kits the biggest and best blessing possible.

One key is to WRAP! every single gift. That is a huge part of the fun...the anticipation...knowing someone wrapped this gift so beautifully just for you...and finally you get to open it! It's exciting just imagining it, right? So the wrapping is important. (Her wrapping ideas are pretty cool, BTW)

And of course she reminds her readers to remember the purpose of the kit is to bless the family. So, feel free to give ideas as to how to distribute the gifts, but leave plenty of room for the family to use the travel kit as they choose. I'm sure I'm the only homeschooling mom that ever comes across as a bit pushy, something of a know-it-all, maybe a wee bit overbearing as I try to "help"...

Chapter 5 - "The Package"
Wrapping in fabric can be more cost efficient than gift wrap - look in the clearance bins and you can find fabric for $1/yard. And some crafty moms may be able to use the fabric for something else in the future.

Donna also talks quite a bit about making travel kits count when there isn't a lot of room in the car. She says that pill boxes are often free at pharmacies and grocery stores - and she has several fun ways to use them. I never would have thought of this - but I can see myself using this idea in the future.

Chapter 6 - "The Presents"
Lots and lots of pictures in this chapter. She shows us several of her completed travel kits and has a pretty comprehensive list of gift ideas, including snack suggestions and ideas for holding the gifts. The travel kit doesn't have to come in a gift bag - in fact, I didn't see one single gift bag in any of the pictures. Donna's ideas are a lot more fun than an average gift bag.

Chapter 7 - "A Little More Detail About Edible Gifts"
A much more exhaustive source of information about food. She has wise advice about food allergies, checking with parents first when it comes to snack foods, and she has a great tip about food and drinks in the car. Some families don't eat in the car, even when they travel. And in newer or rented vehicles, mom and dad might not appreciate food and drinks as travel kit gifts. Donna also reminds gift givers to include a garbage sack for all the trash - whether it's food wrappers or wrapping paper.

Chapter 8 - "A Lot More Detail About Books and Stories"
Now, for a homeschool mom, this chapter is full of useful info and tips. It's all about books, books, and more books!! What could be better than books?!

Donna gives websites for downloadable, free recordings (see And she includes ideas for using coloring books, Mad Libs, sticker books, sketch pads, college brochures and catalogs in the travel kits. The J. Peterman catalog is even mentioned! If you have never heard of it, give it a look - reading the product descriptions in the J. Peterman catalog is a great way to pass the time. There are Department of Tourism resources mentioned here, along with links and historical information. Donna thought of it all!

Chapter 9 - "A Little More About Games"
Just a few words about this chapter: scavenger hunts, post cards, Donna's "Simple Fun" section - you have to read this chapter because you really will use these ideas when you travel.

Chapter 10 - "More Inspirations"
This chapter discusses where to find good buys on travel kit items, master list ideas, and products to look for (such as gift cards & Crayola).

Chapter 12 - "Variations on a Theme"
Here she includes gift ideas hat are similar to travel kits - she has great ideas for teens that I know would be a hit in my house. There are wonderful ways to make the gifts personal by using Bible verses specifically chosen for the recipient - which really is one of the most touching and lasting gifts one can give. Missionaries, short or long term, would be blessed to receive a gift like the ones mentioned in this chapter.

She also gives samples from a gift box she made for her teenage daughter. Donna placed a daily message in an envelope - one for each day of her daughter's trip. The gift was something special from home on a daily basis. Is that a great idea or what?! I LOVE it!!!

Chapter 13 - "Helpful Websites for Traveling Families"
The title of this chapter says it all. This is a smorgasbord of websites regarding travel and tourism for every state in the Union. I'm from Kansas - our website is - check it out and see if there's more to Kansas than Dorothy and Toto :)

The U.S. Territories are also listed with web resources. Don't know what all the Territories are? Well, any good homeschooler can turn that into a lesson! Have the kids figure out what they are - here's a hint: There Are Five U.S. Territories.

All in all, this book went far beyond what I expected. It's very thorough and I felt as if I could bless others with travel kits without much expense or time commitment. Donna's writing is engaging and informative, and her personal touch drew me in as I read. I will refer to this resource again and again.

And one of the best parts of the book? The "Bonus Features" at the end of the book! There are several pages of recipes, helpful hints and travel tips sent to Donna by readers of "The Homeschool Minute". (The Homeschool Minute is a weekly newsletter sent straight from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine to your inbox - check it out if you don't already subscribe to it.)

Last but certainly not least, Donna has included a "Recommended Books" list, divided into age groups. Again with the books - I love this homeschooling woman!! No matter what, I always make time to read book lists. Can I say that again, just in case I didn't make myself clear? I really, really love books! And this e-book by Donna Rees, available in The Old Schoolhouse Store, ($12.45) is one book I am sure to enjoy for years to come.

Lord bless you & happy travel kit making!

Day 34 done :)

Jan L. Burt