Tuesday, April 1, 2014

School's Out—Learning's In

  What adventures are in store for your nature lovers? 

It is intriguing to me what is accomplished, even when home school is officially out.

Our nature enthusiasts, Gideon, 8, and Benjamin, 5, had taken me on many turtle hunts near our farmhouse in Washington state, with no luck. Praying about it, Gideon finally captured an orange spotted painted turtle. Soon after, we found ourselves on an adventure: we moved to Arkansas. 

The boys loved getting to know many new creatures: armadillos, fireflies, ground hogs, slugs, giant beetles, crawdads, many new insects, even a skunk. Our animal encyclopedias were in constant use. They found the remains of turtle shells, and then discovered a box turtle, who they studied closely for five days. Box was scared and stayed hidden in his shell whenever the boys got near. He also did not eat. Two weeks later, we found another they named Friendly Ted, who allowed the boys to hold him, stroke his head, and feed him lettuce from their hands.

Teaching Gideon to use the card catalog at the library, we found a reptile field guide and read all about turtles and snakes. We identified states on maps which told us where the different species lived. On his own, Gideon got out his dad’s 25 ft. tape measure, and discovered just how big that python was if it was all stretched out. The boys both learned about measuring in inches, feet, yards, centimeters, and meters.

During all of this, their Aunt just happened to send them a book, The Practical Entomologist. It was a perfect book to further excite their curiosity. On one of our library trips, Gideon picked out a fascinating video on turtles. He also brought home Minn of the Mississippi, by Holling C. Holling, a delightful story that follows the travels of a snapping turtle. We read this together and even older brother who isn’t that much into critters, listened in. We learned about some U.S. geography from this book, too.

Gideon entered a contest in a children’s newsletter by writing an account of his summer activities, including his wildlife observations. He also answered a pen pal request and wrote a letter about his discoveries and interests in nature.

Being very artistic, Gideon drew numerous pictures during these summer months of insects, turtles, and underwater scenes. With my suggestion, he started a scrapbook for his nature drawings, and wrote titles and captions to explain them. He was inspired to view a collection of shells on display at the library, owned by a ninth grade boy. We read up on their favorite shells. Their Dad divided up his old seashell collection among our four boys, which they arranged in a new showcase in the living room. Out came the field guide on shells, and the 25 foot rule. "Wow, that Giant Conch gets to be this big!"

The boys went rock collecting and compared specimens to a book on rocks and minerals. When their Grandpa visited recently, together they picked out many new additions to their collections. And what a thrilling experience it was for us all when we were invited to visit Hurricane River Cave!

Earlier in the summer, we picked wild flowers on our daily neighborhood walk, and made nature notecards from dried flowers and leaves. Another display at the library detailed exquisitely painted Arkansas wild flowers by a local artist.

Many biblical and scientific discussions took place, including talking to God, how God answers prayers, the story of creation, the beauty of nature, clean and unclean animals, food chains, taxonomy classifications, and animal reproduction.

As I look back over the past two months I am amazed at the learning that has taken place with almost no planning from me. A love for nature, curiosity, a few supplies, and a shared enthusiastic interest from Mom and Dad provided a wonderful home (summer) school education for two young brothers. It makes me wonder if I could have ever planned anything better!

-The above post was from my journal, Fall, 1997. Mary Hood (the Relaxed Homeschooler) used this in her newsletter back then, and this was the inspiration on which I wrote an article for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine in their summer 2011 issue. Of all the summers we had I think this one was the best, and our introduction to Arkansas as well! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

From Expectation to Miscarriage - Free E-Book

From Expectation to Miscarriage—True Stories of Faith, Hope and Healing

"One moment you are rejoicing at the news that you are expecting a baby—all of a sudden your joy turns to sorrow when you learn that you are going through a miscarriage.

You feel scared, alone, and devastated. You wonder if there is hope after miscarriage."

I have a personal story that I share in this free E-Book compiled by many authors who share a similar yet different journey through miscarriage.

Having children was always in our plan. Several years of barrenness was not. Our first two pregnancies resulting in miscarriage within a year of each other left me devastated. The only one I could turn to was God.

If you've found yourself alone in a world where the heartbreak of miscarriage consumes you, like I did, it may help to talk to others that have felt your pain and walked in similar sandles. 

Of course no one has the same exact story, but many have found a semblance of healing by searching the facts and discovering the grace of God through faith and hope and the love of family and compassionate friends. 

If miscarriage is not part of your story, but you know of someone whose it is, this is a great resource to pass on to them.

You can read my miracle story along with the other heartfelt stories of precious Moms who have left tiny angels in heaven through miscarriage by clicking on this link:
From Expectation to Miscarriage—True Stories of Faith, Hope and Healing

May this E-Book treasure be a blessing to you and others. 

Thanks to Dollie at Teacher's of Good Things for producing this valuable resource.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

50 Project Oriented Ideas for Homeschooling

Scrapbooking is a great way to save homeschool memories.

Over the many years of homeschooling our four sons we've enjoyed some wonderful projects—perfect for school subjects, fill-ins, rainy days, or simply just an enjoyable part of family get-togetherness and learning.

Hands-on projects are one of the best ways for children to learn. They become engaged in something worthwhile and produce a finished product which they can save or share, and they gain and grow in numerous ways from each accomplishment. Unit studies were the norm for us through the years, and had I known about them earlier, notebooks and lapbooks would have been utilized a bit more.

These are ideas from a list I made awhile ago, fashioned from the top of my head and from resource books that I have read. Reading through this list often gave us an offshoot of something creative that worked for us, and perhaps you'll find ideas of something that will work for you. 

They are geared for middle to high school years, though you can adjust the activity to meet each child's capabilities. Our four boys were approximately three years apart and we worked on many of the same units and projects on different levels at the same time. It most always worked to our advantage!

There are endless exciting activities you could add to your own list, but above all—

Make it Fun!

1. Make a list of all of the things you would like to do someday (be creative); then start doing them, crossing off one at a time.

2. Write a simplified children's book utilizing information that you are learning and studying about. Illustrate it. Or make a poster.

3. Teach your younger siblings something you find fascinating. Write an evaluation.

4. Make a detailed (to scale) floor plan of your room or house. Or make one of an imaginary room/house.

5. Create a card game to play with your family, utilizing facts or information you are learning.

6. Start an anonymous letter writing ministry to encourage others.

7. Make a scrapbook page using photos or newspaper/magazine clippings or drawings.

8. Start a collection of favorite scriptures and quotes. Find a new one each day.

9. Keep a "book of the centuries" timeline.

10. Do research on the Internet about a famous person you have met through your reading. Write a short essay and share it with your family.

11. Make up a true/false questionnaire using the material you are studying and have family members participate.

12. Interview relatives and start a family memories album. You could also ask relatives to write their own stories to include in your album. Or write a family newsletter to share with others.

13. Do map work of one continent at a time, learning all of the country names and their positions on the map. (Make an outline map and fill it in as you go.)

14. Plan and cook a meal for the family.

15. Write up an exercise plan and stick to it. You could include other family members to participate.

16. While reading a book (biographies are great) jot down notes of the important aspects after the reading of each chapter, then rewrite the story in your own words. You could even make it into a book, booklet or e-book.

17. Keep a spiritual journal.

18. Memorize and/or act out a favorite poem.

19. Rewrite a poem, scripture, or paragraph by changing many of the existing words to a word meaning the same or something similar (synonym) and see how it changes.

20. Do a character study—choose a person and study their life, actions, character traits, mission, message, etc.

21.Write for a young ladies magazine (get a subscription to one) and/or critique or review articles.

22. Write a book review for Amazon.com or your local newspaper.

23. Listen to "Weird Al" and "Mark Lowry" type parody songs. Write and/or sing one of your own.

24. Do a nature study project. Keep a nature journal including drawings.

25. Find (or write your own) monologue and perform it for others. (Choose a character that is much different from your own.)

26. Make up an ad or commercial for a real or make believe product (written or oral).

27. Choose a famous painting you like and describe it. Convey the mood you feel. Try to capture the essence on your own similar painting or drawing.

28. Choose a craft and/or an experiment to do with your younger siblings.

29. Make up a healthy daily menu for your family, finding out what vitamins/minerals are necessary for optimum health.

30. Research and explore your neighborhood to find out what wild edible plants grow close to your home.

31. Study the night sky and your favorite constellations. Graph one of your own and name it.

32. Attend a play or concert and write a review or evaluation. 

33. Each child gets his very own garden plot to tend.

34. Start a new collection, and make plans for organization.

35. Learn/make calligraphy of your favorite quotes or scriptures.

36. Listen to classical music and write about the feeling or imaginations you feel while listening to it. Can you name the instruments you hear?

37. Study the life of a favorite author. Tell why you like his or her writing. (E. B. White and Beatrice Potter were two favorites.)

38. Write a short biography of a bible character, filling in from your imagination the details not provided in scripture.

39. Write a historical record of something that happened as if you had been there.

40. Take notes on a presentation, video or cassette lesson. This practice will come in handy!

41. Keep a record of all finances for your family for a month. Include all expenses, food, rent, payments, items purchased, bills, etc.

42. Make a chart or graph utilizing information gained by a topic you studied.

43. Research and compile information on an exotic place you'd like to visit.

44. Visit a museum (the one at the College of the Ozarks in Hollister, Missouri, is incredible) and tell/write about the one thing that amazed you the most.

45. Do a mural project with the whole family. (One idea is to make a family tree.)

46. Make a paper construction 3D model of something, (or just a creative original design.)

47. Make a pop-up 3D card for someone special.

48. Plan a surprise party for dad for no special reason.

49. After watching a TV program or movie, analyze it in light of Philippians 4:8.

50. Keep a memorable photographic journal of your hobbies and school projects. 

I'd love to hear some of your special homeschooling projects you've done or added to your list!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Easy-Peasy "Paleo" Pizza - No-Wheat Crust!

Easy-Peasy "Paleo" Pizza 
—No-Wheat Crust—

So many families today have special diet concerns and restrictions: no dairy, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc. I'm right in there with them, following an anti-inflammation diet that includes not eating wheat and limiting dairy among other things. 

I love pizza, but it always gave me headaches
and I've missed eating it!

Well, I stumbled upon this different-kind-of-crust and EASY-to-make pizza via FB Econobusters with Molly Green who featured this recipe: Paleo Pizza recipe.

Since it was dinner time, I hurried to the kitchen and had the crust ready-to-go in just a matter of minutes.
Very tasty indeed—
My Hubby loved it too!

 Here is the recipe as I made it:

Crust Ingredients:
2 cups almond meal (flour or ground almonds)
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

1 Tbs seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley, onion and garlic powder)

Beat egg with all ingredients to form a dough. It will be sticky!
Press onto an oiled baking sheet and make a large round, thinning as you go.

Pop it in the oven and bake at 375 degrees for approx 10-12 minutes.

Top with your choice of tomato sauce and toppings. I made mine with sliced onion, cut pineapple and diced red bell pepper. Since I don't eat cheese, I made only half with mozzarella for Hubby. Know what? I don't miss the cheese at all!

Now, place it in the oven for 10 minutes or longer until cheese is melted and slightly browned. 

What an easy lunch or dinner this is! I bet your family will love it too!

 My Cheese-less, Wheat-free Pizza—
Yummy indeed!

Where do you find almond meal or flour? Apart from grinding your own almonds, I bought a bulk bag from a local co-op group through Country Life Natural Foods. I've also seen it in Health Food stores and in a special section at a local grocery store.

Another thing I'm doing for my health is eating more raw foods prepared in some interesting ways. I'm desiring a 50% raw diet but I'm not entirely there (yet) and I'm making some healthy habit changes to regain my health, look good, and feel great. Please visit me at Kathy's Kitchen & Raw Nutrition to see what I've been up to.

I'll also share with you a fantastic "RAW" Pizza from Kathy's Kitchen that does take some time since it has a dehydrated crust, but it is so very good tasting and great for you!
What are some of your favorite pizza toppings?

Friday, January 11, 2013

My One Word for 2013

Many of you have chosen one word to represent what you want to accomplish in 2013. This word represented what I most hope God will do in me this year— 

That's my main focus for this year.

Rejoice makes me think about a church song we used to sing when the boys were little: "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice." The chorus goes something like "Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice". It's a fun song with a peppy beat and we used to sing it in rounds. When you sang it, the happiness bubbled up all over in you. You couldn't sing it with a sad face—that just wouldn't be right—you smiled or laughed and sang with, well . . . joy! (Overjoyed is another good word.)

Many years back I went through a huge life challenge. My mind had a blow-out with repercussions to every other part of me, and my joy vanished, along with my ability to think and respond sensibly. Fortunately, the cave in which I lived had a subtle glow from the hatch so that in time, I emerged back into the light of a busy life as a wife and homeschooling mom to my four sons. It was a rough time though, and my point is that I know first hand what the opposite of rejoice is. 

I think there are many others out there that have also felt a lack of joy—it might even be epidemic, considering the times we are living in and the crazy things that happen to people and their loved ones.

Well, this year will be a special time to reclaim my joy! I want to live life fully, get excited about it, let it seep into my bones, heart and mind. I want to face everything, even negativity, heartbreak, and disappointment in the face of joy—that my attitude of rejoicing does not waver, and if it does, it can bounce its way back.

Rejoice means to: feel joyful; be delighted; to fill with joy; gladden; feel happiness or joy. It's related to: being on cloud nine; exultation; jumping for joy; walking on air; triumph, glory, and elation.
How often do You Jump for Joy?

I just finished a wonderful book . . . Bird by Bird—Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott that my son gave me at Christmas. I don't want to give away the punch line but here's a quote: 
"When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship."
Sounds like rejoicing to me! And there's courage in that boat too. A big part of it is that we are interconnected, sharing those happy as well as crazy moments, with each other.

Some Questions I have to Ask Myself. . .

What is my source of joy? Is it found in material things? Family? Relationships? Egotistic ideals? God?

What are my foundations? How am I programmed to view the world? What expectations do I have? What or who do I trust? What happens if that trust is broken?

What am I thankful for? How often does prayer fit into the overall scheme? What am I afraid of?

There's more . . .  

What excites me? What makes me dance when no one is looking? What do I find myself doing that I can't live without? Who is on this rousing journey with me? Do I hang out with uplifting people? Who are they?

Who do I love? What makes me feel great about myself, and others? Can I visualize the person who I want to become? What does she look like, what does she say, what does she do?

These are all good questions to contemplate and ones that I'll be examining in the weeks to come. 
 "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."     
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Grain-free Banana Blueberry Pancakes

Grain-free Banana Blueberry Pancakes

We tend to eat the same things for breakfast each morning, and I'm looking to add more variety. I'm also in the process of embracing an anti-inflammatory lifestyle change which ideally includes eating gluten-free. I decided to try these this morning and served them to my husband and teenage son who gave them a big thumbs up.

Though a bit different in consistency from regular flour-based pancakes they were delicious, but the first batch were too large and fell apart when I turned them (I got to eat those), and you have to be careful that this banana/egg-based pancake doesn't burn. 

This recipe is very similar to the one from the book: More Anti-Inflammation Diet Tips and Recipes which I highly recommend.

2 bananas
4 eggs (farm fresh preferred)
2 Tbs raw almond butter (or other nut butter)
2 Tbs melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Dried blueberries (or fresh)
Whip cream and maple syrup (optional)

Place the first five ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until smooth. Pour a minimum amount of batter into a hot greased pan or skillet making small-sized pancakes (not too large or they might break apart when turned). Add blueberries on top.

Cook on medium low heat and watch for bubbles while the bottom is browning. A good indication to turn them is when you see steam or smoke appear and bubbles cover the top and the pancake is firm enough to flip.

You can substitute for another nut butter in this recipe. The original called for sunflower butter. It reminded my husband of a cross between a pancake and a crepe.

I gave those remaining pancakes a squirt of whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon! Not bad at all for a grain-free pancake!

GO here for a printable pdf of this recipe!

Are you making diet changes and honing in on developing better habits this year? If interested check out my Kathy's Kitchen & Raw Nutrition blog to follow my progress there and check out some great raw foods recipes. Thanks!

Linking up with Wellness Wednesday
Grab button for Wellness Wednesday

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Goals for Healthy Habits 2013

The following is a guest post from my other blog: Kathy's Kitchen & Raw Nutrition. Please visit me there!

For breakfast this morning I’m sipping a thick, icy, delicious, “green” apricot-peach smoothie topped with a dollop of whip cream as I write out my Health and Happiness goals for the coming New Year. I have an emotional attachment to food—healthy or otherwise—and that’s just one of many concerns I’m dealing with. But for now, I’m simply going to enjoy the pleasure of this marvelous treat! Ummmm.

We all have our individual bents and devices. Whatever yours are—they are unique to you, and you owe it to yourself to pay close attention. Our bodies are God’s temples and they deserve respect. Migraines, fatigue, insomnia, and thick fungal toenails do not make life enjoyable! I got myself to where I am today and there’s hope to living a better life, if I treat myself well and feed my body what it needs and craves. (No, it’s not Junior Mints, chocolate éclairs, or beef jerky.)

What will make you healthier?

As you know, or can guess, eating raw, enzyme and nutrient rich foods is a priority that I believe can help heal what ails me. Do some reading at Hallelujah Acres or the Gerson Institute and you’ll glimpse some of the amazing benefits of adding more alkalizing fruits and vegetables to your diet and their relationship to the disease process. But that’s just part of my plan, and no, I don’t aim to eat all raw foods , but I am desiring a healthy lifestyle change and mostly raw is a part of it (and I’ve been at it for awhile).

Three months ago I fit into my clothes better than I do now, and eight years ago, I was 30 lbs. smaller and had kept it off for several years, but the weight slowly crept back up. I need more balance. Losing 30 pounds again is one of my goals, and I’m giving myself a whole year in which to do it, BUT, weight loss is not my main goal—Health is! Physical, mental, and spiritual.

I had an excellent Christmas 2012 with my family. 
I'm 5'10" though I look like a midget next to my very tall sons and husband.

I’ve outlined my goals, with extensive plans to implement them for the coming year, and part of my new plan at Kathy’s Kitchen blog is to break them down, concentrating one week at a time on just a few individual things to put into practice. I’ve selected four category titles to concentrate on each week to share: Move, Munch, Motivation, and Mindset. You can follow me there and on Facebook to see what I’m up to and if you are joining in on the Healthy Habits Linkup fun and community accountability, I’ll be following you and gaining inspiration from you all as well.

My Simplified Health Goals for 2013

  • Improved overall health (#1 priority)
  • Look good / feel good
  • Assert a positive outlook and attitude
  • Increase knowledge of health, fitness, and nutrition
  • Maintain excellent eating habits specific to my health issues (including anti-inflammatory diet + raw foods-based diet)
  • Lose weight—30 lbs total for the year (2.5 lbs per month)
  • Increase energy, strength, and flexibility
  • Exercise routinely
  • Minimize stress
  • Experience less frequent migraines and untoward symptoms of disease
  • Have a well-fitting, slimming, wardrobe
  • Reach out and help others, sharing similar interests and needs while following the Health Habits Linkup and post my weekly response
  • Experiment, update, and add new healthy recipes and information to Kathy’s Kitchen . . . blog

Let’s Start . . . Week One:


Exercise! I’ve been lax with exercise recently, but I feel so much better and my energy level increases when activity and exercise are part of my routine. For me, this is crucial, so it’s a priority. I simply won’t drop an ounce if I’m lazy. I like to pop in a Jazzercise DVD and I’m just starting to do a yoga routine (Yoga for Inflexible People) which I find very relaxing. In nicer weather I need to start walking around my neighborhood again. My aim is for exercising five times per week, put my feet up and relax in the afternoons for 30 minutes, and otherwise make a conscious effort to keep moving.


Drink My Greens! I like to do fresh fruit and vegetable juicing, but it’s time consuming and I don’t do it but several times a week if it’s a good week! But I can make green smoothies kind of quick and I can put organic dried green powder into a cup of water (with lemon, and stevia) for a quick nutrition boost. The plan is to drink my greens every day—fresh juicing, added to smoothies, or just in a cup. (Scroll down this page to see my basic smoothie recipe from an older post titled Breakfast in the Raw.)


Something new! I’m excited to be alive today—the first day of the New Year, and I’m looking forward to this opportunity to renew my promise to love and care for myself, while working on some healthy habit changes along with other ladies through a Health Habits Blog Hop. Thank you, Dollie at Teacher's of Good Things for sponsoring it!


Baby steps! I know the right answers; it’s implementing them that are the tricky part. Taken in steps, I can accomplish much and so can you. It’s like I’m starting over . . . One thing I am good at is that if I blow it, I will start again. So, while I’ve come a long way in changing my lifestyle and eating habits . . . say in the last 10 years, there’s much more I can, and want to do and learn.

Some sweet day in the future, maybe I’ll be able to share with you some before and after pics (I love those, don’t you?) but if you want added inspiration and care to read some very encouraging stories check out this link: http://www.welikeitraw.com/rawfood/before-and-after-photos.html Two ladies that have positively motivated me to take a closer look at the way I eat and the choices I make (included on that page) are Angela Stokes and Tonya Zavasta! Keep in mind that we are not all Angelas or Tonyas but there are lots of things we can learn from others.

Excuse me while I pop in that Jazzercise DVD!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trusting—Then, and Now

It used to be easy—trusting God. 

When the boys were young, they were hardly ever out of my sight—and for good reason. I was the ever watchful Momma Bear, and frankly, since no close family were around when the boys grew up, I just didn't trust anyone else to care for my boys.

It was so natural to homeschool them. And of course, I was delighted in that I didn't have to send them off to be taught by strangers. Wasn't it important, who I entrusted to teach my child? 

As a young girl, I used to play school all the time with my sister who was four years younger than me. I fashioned worksheets for her and loved teaching her what I knew. In high school I really wanted to study art and possibly teach it. But art teachers were not getting many jobs at that time, and well, I went on to study nursing which was high in demand. I would have never guessed that one day I'd become a teacher of language, science, history and (gulp) algebra! And yeah, I got to teach art too. All through the years I've truly felt that guiding my boys through homeschooling was my true calling, and my greatest joy.

  God is so good.

But as some of you know, 2012 was the last year for us homeschooling in the traditional sense, though these last several years seem nothing at all traditional to me. The boys grew up, and guess what? They had minds of their own. They asked even more questions than when they were small. They weren't always patient with me! They became very determined and independent minded—a good thing, right? Plus, I could no longer follow them around everywhere to keep an eye on them. The time I spent instilling character in the younger years was over. Their outcome surfaced. The guilt crept in.

Did I do okay?

While I'm very proud of my sons, and we did some very creative projects, learned a lot—even independently, and had a love for learning and a heart for God, at times I am overwhelmed, especially when I am confronted with worldly things, and those sinister mindsets that lurk out there.

Not only do I have to trust God to guide my sons and keep them in His care; I have to trust myself, that I did the best I could, and simply let go. But now, I  think of many things I should have spent more time on. I wish I'd done a few things better. I wish I'd known some things earlier on. I wish I hadn't been so darn lazy sometimes.

 My faith reminds me that whatever the circumstances, the One who knows ALL is in charge. He's got my back. He loves us even more than I love my own family (hard to even comprehend). He's been there for us more times than I can count. In times of stress and doubt, I can trust that what happens in life is meant to be for a purpose, and I can look for the learning moments in each one. Then, I can use those lessons of life, make them part of who I am, and use them to benefit others.

Just a few weeks ago, I came the closest to death I had ever been. Though it was a scary experience, and I did not want to leave my family this soon, I was ready to go meet my Maker. Feeling scared and peaceful sound like opposites, but that's how I felt at the same time. I remember thinking, "Mom, I'll be with you soon." But I was ambivalent to actually go, and thankfully, the hospital ER probably saved my life. (Atrial Fibrillation, in case anyone wants to know.)

Each day is a gift from my Creator.  

I have so much to be thankful for! How cool it is, that I just found out that I won a copy of Mary DeMuth's book "Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus." I look forward to reading it, and I imagine I'll come away with much needed inspiration, something we all need. 

Resting in Him. Relying on Him. Thanking Him. Loving Him. Counting my blessings and trusting Him today and everyday. 

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
—Romans 15:13

Friday, October 12, 2012

Convince Me—How to Write Compelling Ad Copy

As a homeschooler, you are determined and driven. 
You invest time and resources.  
You create, with ideas and inventions.

 Now that you're ready to strut-your-stuff to the world . . .
What do you say?

Many of you turned your creativity into merchandise or a service worth promoting—a web site, unique product, or family business. You may be interested in self publishing: professional blogging, writing curriculum, or plugging your E-Book.

What do you know about marketing? Or writing advertising copy?  

With my experience as a marketing copywriter in the homeschool sect, I'd love to share a few things I've learned with you. How you present yourself and your product is essential, and writing effective ad copy could make a big difference for you. Read on, and utilize these tips to help you look your best—writing fresh, inviting, and exciting ad copy. 

Convince Me—
How to Write Compelling Ad Copy

 Advertisements are almost everywhere, used in a wide variety of mediums. Do people want to be bored, or engaged by what they are reading? Which ads do you like best?

What's the focus behind every ad you see? Securing the SALE—how to reach those millions who need a particular product or service, and how to get them to buy, sign up, support, or take that one-step leap to purchasing. 

Writing ads could be compared to writing in general. Its words should appeal to the reader (the audience) and in the case of an ad, it appeals to the reader/buyer. All writing has a purpose intended to cause a reader to react or act

Compelling ads aim to get the viewer to do something in particular. This is the call to action, the essential part of all ad copies. Competition is great, so what compels a potential customer to act or buy?  . . . A well composed spiel or ad copy that meets the consumers’ need, along with several extras!
A persuasive ad contains certain elements enabling it to succeed. Some would appear to be common sense items you'd expect to include: 

  • Gripping, enticing headline (it pulls you in)
  • High-interest features drawing attention to your message
  • Attractive display
  • Relevant information
  • Informal style
  • Explanation of benefits
  • Believable, credible, and excellent content
  • Positive and cheerful approach (keep away from negatives)
  • Correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Legible, concise, and complete
  • Business contact, endorsements, and ordering information
  • Reasonable price range (too high or low could cost you the sale)
 To write advantageous ads, you'll consider including: 

  • An active “personal” voice (individual style or rhythm)
  • Promise of benefits (with reminders)
  • Testimonials
  • Freebies, demos, sales, deals, deadlines
  • Carefully chosen words and illustrations
  • Short headlines of up to three words
  • Bullets, side bars and text displays
  • Italics, underscoring, highlights (not to excess, and don’t use all CAPS)
  • Short paragraphs
  • A separate, specifically crafted order card
  • Key words (wanted/why/how/which) used to capture a striking headline
  • Signature, logo, and identity information
There's more to consider though, if you want to be the one scoring phone calls and making sales.

Ad-copy writing is a creative, artistic one, endorsing your company’s exclusive expression of ideas. There is more than doing an “A to Z” on your check-off list. It attracts attention by sight, ear, or emotion. 

The overall design or style of the ad is pleasing to the eye, visually balanced, and in unity with the text. The visual imagery is impressive. Use of color and artistic elements are included in your design, and this is where a graphic artist/designer can assist you. I encountered this expression in my marketing study:  
“The finished ad is the symphony composed of many perfect notes.” 
I like music and I like that picture thought!

The rule of thirds is a helpful guideline as you sketch the first rough of your ad. The first third designates the headline, the second is reserved for the illustration, and the last third is for the copy and signature

An important component is the white space included as part of the design. Adequate white space generates a feeling of being open-fresh-clean, and enhances readability.  I like to think of white space as frames and boarders that set off your important information. Simplicity should rule, not clouding your single message with clutter. This includes text as well as illustrations. 

What works for one product may not work for another, and your particular product won’t interest everyone in the world (in most cases). Individuality plays an important role here. Speak to your specific viewers addressing them as such (college students, teachers, classic car owners, loved ones of cancer victims, etc). Customize and adapt to their interests.

The ad copy’s unique style is a representation of you or your company and its voice has to fit its image and be compatible with your target audience. This is a major selling point. Logos, captions, banners and graphics used in connection with company image are remembered. 

Customers will be impacted to repeat business with you.  Know what your business represents and can do in detail. Take a close look at your competitors. Keep the needs of the customer in mind, not the needs of the company’s. Think in terms of the benefits for the consumer that you can offer him. Knowing your prospective customers and what they want, and knowing your business in terms of what the shopper will buy, are basics to success.

These three essential “E"s will grab and influence the viewer in a profound way: 

  • One is the advantageous role that emotion plays. Making an emotional connection with your readers links your product (or service or company) to them. The readers identify with something in the ad and it incites them, desiring them to be like what they see or envision in their mind, or may be to help-a-cause or fill-a-need. Most often this comes from a photograph but sometimes an illustration will work. Emotions like love, anger, passion, pride, freedom, or fear, are often used. As an example, think of a photo of an attractive couple embracing, featured on a cabin rental advertisement in a magazine. (That could be me!) The National Guard ads are also great examples. (Be all you can be!) Sometimes a few well chosen words alone can stir up an emotional response. I'm thinking of a certain ad that I hesitate to include here, but the headline alone conjures up imaginary images in your mind (it may even shock you enough that you simply can’t forget it!) It could elicit a negative response on purpose (somewhat risky), though it’s better to stick with positive based promotions. Humor is another touchy area that may be difficult to use effectively.
  • Empathy is emotion's sister. You are establishing a trusting friendship with your clients through your ad, and it lets them know that you understand their problem and that you can help provide the solution. A homeschool product ad with a photo of a mother seated at the table with smiling children reading a book together, with a message offering to make my job easier (because they know how difficult it can be at times) is sympathetic to my situation. It just may be that what you are offering is exactly what the customer needs and desires (sold!).
  • You’ve heard that enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s fundamental to dazzling, convincing ads. Get excited! Write in a conversational tone with zeal! Help fulfill the dreams of your patrons while you fulfill your own.
 When you've completed your work-of-art ad and after following all the rules of the advertising game, you can be pretty sure it'll work to its best capacity for you. But, there are always exceptions and occasionally it's fine to break those rules on purpose. I'm thinking of a Lambert's (throwed rolls) Cafe billboard in Springfield, Missouri where the entire sign is upside down capitalizing on its Heads Up theme in the headline! A little distance down the road you find the exact same sign is placed right side up. That’s a successful ploy done deliberately. And Lambert’s always has lines of people outside waiting their turn for that fun roll throwing. I am sure it’s just one little element in their marketing scheme.

These four “D” reminders will assist you in writing good ad copy:
  • Dazzle your prospects
  • Draw them into the ad’s content creating a sense of urgency
  • and Drive them  
  • to Do what you want.
There’s a lot of creative energy, imagination, skill, intuition, common sense, courage and plain old experience involved in ad copy writing. While I believe it is a fun process, I hope you have a new appreciation for writing artistic ad copy and are eager to apply this material that will aid you in reaching your marketing goals.

About Kathy: Back in 2008, she put into practice what she learned through personal study and in a marketing class  taught by the professional ladies at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine where she worked as a marketing copywriter for several years. She is an RN, a freelance writer, and contributor to the E-Book: To Market, To Market: Selling to the Home Education Sector

Could you use an opinion or a little help with writing your ads?  Email Kathy at: simplynaturalhomeschool@yahoo.com.